Letters to the Editor: Problems with an Older Camera

Letters to the Editor is a recurring series where Chris answers specific emails/letters that could benefit more than one photographer, interesting questions or questions that come in often. Have a question? Send it to chrisgampat[at]thephoblographer[dot]com with subject: Letter to the Editor: (Your name here).

You guys, this is the last edition of Letters to the Editor because I’ve decided to become a professional pizza photographer: travelling all around the United States to take pictures of the beautiful food in hopes that when I start a blog about it that someone like PaPa John’s or Dominos will buy me out.

I’m kidding; I’m just hungry!

Today’s Letter comes from Emmanuel, who is having a problem with his Nikon DSLR. In fact, it seems to really be having some big problems.

Also, super big important announcement: I tend to get an overwhelming amount of email, but if you want your letter shared here in this weekly column, I NEED your permission to do so by asking you to simply follow the directions up above. Thanks!

Hello Chris,

I’m having an amazing journey with photography and I’ve learnt a lot on the Phoblographer.com

Recently though, I noticed that only top two levels of the focus points on my Nikon D700 are working properly (can lock on a subject when in auto focus).

I’ve switched lenses and still the same issue. I also tried the lenses on other Nikon bodies (D3300 and D5300) and they work perfectly.

I’m wondering if you know what the problem could be and what could be the solution to it because it’s a serious challenge when in low light situations as the auto-focus assist light won’t come on unless I use the centre focus point which sadly doesn’t lock on subjects.

Thanks a lot.



Hi Emmanuel,

Kevin Lee The Phoblographer Nikon 20mm f1.8G ED 20 mm 1-100 sec at f - 1.8 ISO 2000-4

Uhhhhhh, dude: your camera sounds kind of screwed. I honestly want to tell you that it’s time for an upgrade but I understand that you may not have the income. So what to do:

  • Try using the AF Fine Tuning. This is a complicated process and is best done with lots of constant, available light, a tripod, and the delay shooting mode. Essentially what you’re doing is shooting with the same autofocus point in the same spot over and over again. You’ll need to aim the camera at a subject, shoot, pixel peep to check for sharpness, and then adjust the focusing forward or backwards via the camera’s AF Fine Tuning. If the camera and lens and front focusing, then pull it back a bit and vice versa. To be honest though, this is one of the reasons why I left DSLRs.

But in this case, that doesn’t necessarily sound like the problem though it very well could be. The other solution: the lenses or camera contacts could be rather dirty and you may not even know about it. To improve their performance, clean them with Isopropyl Alcohol. I’ve got a whole guide to lens maintenance here.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon D810 high ISO samples Speakeasy Dollhouse NYC (4 of 9)ISO 8001-60 sec at f - 2.2

There is also another problem: you tested the lenses on cropped sensor cameras: which don’t render the full area. You should test it on another full frame camera. If the same results happen, then it’s a lens issue and you probably need to send them in to have the elements realigned. If the camera focuses with the lenses flawlessly, then it’s a camera problem.

The other workaround: focus and recompose. Though I generally advise that no one do this because loads of people don’t know how to do it and get the best results, it can work. What you’ll need to do is focus on a subject using the top points, and then slide the camera up, down, left, or right vs pivoting–which is what lots of photographers do. By sliding, you’ll have a better chance of staying on the same focusing plane.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon 35mm product images (4 of 6)ISO 4001-50 sec at f - 2.8

And yet another workaround: using an LCD screen magnifier and focus manually using the LCD screen.

I hope this helps!

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.