Get The Most From Nikon’s Auto AF Fine Tune System

Do you have a Nikon camera that features Auto AF Fine Tune? If so, then this video is just what you need to get the most from it!

When Auto AF Fine Tune first came it, it was pretty exciting – In fact, I think we all had visions of never going through a tedious lens calibration process ever again. However, the reality is, it didn’t seem to work all that well and many people – myself included – were disappointed. 

As it turns out, there IS a way to get good results from the system, it just takes a little more effort than we were lead to believe – and that’s what this tutorial reveals. In the video below, I’ll cover what AF Fine Tuning is, how to do a proper setup (including a handy focus target I made for the purpose that you can download), how to avoid pitfalls, and an Auto AF Fine tuning technique that works as well as using a commercial product. 

If you’ve had problems with Auto AF Fine tune before, you’ll discover the method in the video will work far better and give you much better results. Currently, this only applies to the Nikon D850, D7500, D500, and D5, but I’m sure as other cameras are added they will also include this feature (i.e. like the upcoming D850). 



AF Target download (zipped PDF file) – Click here

Getting an error message? Here are the most likely culprits:

1. Make sure your Live View AF point is perfectly centered (it should show a small red dot in the middle of the AF area if it is). Also, use the “Normal” or “Wide” AF area in Live View.

2. Make sure your are in AF-S mode, VR is OFF, and the lens is wide open. 
3. Make sure you are on a VERY secure tripod – any motion at all during the test can cause failure.
4. Make sure you have a good, well lit target. 
5. Make sure you are in single point AF and that you are in the exact center of the viewfinder. 
6. Focus on the target using Live View AF and make 100% sure you are perfectly sharp – zoom in. If it’s not sharp, you’ll get an error.


If you enjoyed this article, I think you’ll REALLY like my e-books, Secrets To Stunning Wildlife Photography and Secrets To The Nikon Autofocus System. They’re filled with hundreds of pages of information just like this. Check it out – click here (hey, it’s free to look 🙂 )

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This entry was posted in Nikon Gear, Photo Trips, Techniques, Using Your Gear.

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27 Comments on "Get The Most From Nikon’s Auto AF Fine Tune System"

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Eric Harmon

Thank you for this! I printed out your calibration target and calibrated my new 80-400 with both my D5 and my D500, with and without my 1.4 Tele. It made all the difference in the world.

Hey Steve! Love the video and book! Just bought the D850 and spent the day fine tuning focus. Most of my lenses were pretty straight forward except for my Nikon 24-70/2.8. The values I got on that were +13 at 24mm, +5 at 35mm, -11 at 50mm and -8 at 70mm. I followed your advice to a T and took 12 readings (minus the 2 outliers) per distance setting. What the heck do I set it on…-1 (the average of all four readings) since I use it at both 24 and 70? Or is this a lens I should send… Read more »

what was your result after setting -1? any improvement from 24mm to 70mm?

Anthony (Tony) Smith

Hello Steve, I have AF Fine tune under Set Up menu on my Nikon D300, so would imagine it would be found on the D300s as well. However, not on my Nikon D80. Anyone know if it is available on the 7xxx series? I was always fond of the D7000 when it came out, but now we are up to the D7500. My preference has always been with the DX sensor as I get the central (thus better) are of many older lenses.

Regards from Australia

Ole Thielemann

Steve, just found out that issue was caused by face recognition was engaged – switching it according to your description (Wide mode), solved the issue.
Now D850 Auto AF Micro Adjustment can be engaged.
Thank’s again Steve.

Ole Thielemann
Hi Steve Thanks for the video reg. AF fine tune on the D850 and for your work for providing useful information for photographers in general which is highly appreciated. Even for an old rat like me some of your tips comes very handy. About the video AF Fine Tune on the D5x and D8x series, it would be nice with a work around when AF Fine Tune Cannot be engaged because of settings – seems like it’s a bit more complex than just adjusting the settings in you video (Probably have to go back to a factory reset to find… Read more »
António Caiado

I have a Nikon D7200 and I would like to know if it is possible – and how – to fine tune the AF system of the body and the lenses. Thanks!


Many thanks for your video on AF fine tuning. Like the way you convey your passion for the craft and do appreciate your sense of humor.
Just one question regarding averaging the values when using the builtin AF fine tune feature: why averaging and not taking the median value?
Thom Hogan seems to recommend the ‘median’ approach; quote “As I’ve noted in my work on AF Fine Tune, don’t average the results, select the median.”
What’s your take in this?
All the best from Switzerland.

Fernando Giménez
Hi. I would like to know if it’s true that nikon d810 has a firmware version that accounts for focus shift compensation. If it’s true ( I’ve seen comments with the new 70-200 FL) I like to know if newer bodies as d500 or d850 have the same ability. You focus at f1.4 but when you press the shutter close the diagram to the aperture desired (say f4), and boom you noticed the plane of focus comes backwards. I have observed this specially with 50mm 1.4 g nikkor and in close distances (1-2 meters) and not so heavy on 70-200vrii.… Read more »

Hi Steve
I tried to do the fine tuning of my D500 with a 50 mm Nikkor and I got info from my camera that with current focus settings authomatic fine tuning is impossible. I followed all the steps as you described, apperture wide open, single focus point, wide and then normal focus area but every time I got the same message. Any suggestions what went wrong?

Graham Bostick

Great information in all respects . Would appreciate it very much if you speak just a little slower for we people down South . Due to the heat and humidity everything down South moves at a slower pace . Keep up the good work


[…] « Get The Most From Nikon’s Auto AF Fine Tune System […]

James Harrison

Steve, I purchased both of your books earlier and my computer Blew up and I purchased a new computer. I’ll need to re download the books. What do I do to re-download? Thanks so much for your help. By the way your instructions videos are the best. Thanks James Harrison
here is my email address [email protected] . thanks again

Vincent VdB

Get yourself a cloud drive such as Dropbox, Google Drive, One Drive, … and copy all your important files onto that drive.
Doesn’t matter if your PC blows up, get stolen, … your files are securely stored.

Johnny Anderson

I really like your reviews and tips. I bought both of your eBooks and love them both. There’s many years worth of knowledge in those books. You give very balanced reviews and I loved the one on the D7500. I bought one about 3 weeks ago and love it so far. Upgraded from D90 that was showing it’s age. I’ve also converted to back button focus and it’s much better way to focus for me!

Thanks for your time and effort it’s much appreciated by a lot of us.


Very nice, as always. I wonder why Nikon hasn’t added a visible short timer to the AF fine tune function like “1 … 2 … 3”. Also Excel/OpenOffice will be your friend for numbers, but I like your hands on version of ‘robust statistics’ very much.

Jim Edmonds

I have a Nikon 70-200mm lens. If I Auto Fine tune the 200mm range is it possible that it will degrade the 70mm end? Or should I just Auto Fine tune both ends to see if I can find a compromise? Thanks for your videos, I always learn something.

Douglas J Heckler

How timely! I saw the first hummingbird of the season today. Took a series of about 12 captures using D500 and 300mm f4 lens. I was very disappointed with the focus on these, and I was on a TV-33 tripod with BH-55 ballhead at the time. So tomorrow, I will attempt this procedure and see if that does not help…and also hope for another opportunity with the wee bird.

Tom Ford
I’m really enjoying and very much impressed with your Nikon Autofocus System E-book. Worth every nickel I spent for it. Unfortunately, my daughter is a Canon user but a book of this kind would do wonders for her images. I’m having difficulty even convincing her to switch to BBAF. My question is, is there a similar book on the market specifically for Canon DSLRs that you know of? I’m going to cull some your suggestions from your book and pass them on to her because I know that many of them will definitely apply to her Canon. But reading about… Read more »
Ken Holmberg
Your book Nikon autofocus system is a Coup! Wish I had it before our trip to Tanzania in February am sure would have had a higher success rate in sharper images. Almost all my images were shot from back of a Toyota Land Cruiser off a monopod. Few of us will ever achieve your level of experience ok maybe in our dreams so your books website and emails are invaluable! FYI have two Canon shooters asking the inevitable question? Ok I selfishly don’t want you to stray away from nikon for to long. Thank you to your family for sharing… Read more »