AF Fine-tuning of the Nikon 500mm f/5.6 PF Lens. And a Nikon AF Fine-tune e-Guide Free Update « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

AF Fine-tuning of the Nikon 500mm f/5.6 PF Lens. And a Nikon AF Fine-tune e-Guide Free Update

When I Got on the Ship …

When I got on the ship, Berger Brothers on Long Island, NY had a Nikon 500 PF in stock right and there is a possibility that it is still available. As they are pretty much impossible to get, give Brad Berger a call if you would like to find out and possibly own this lens: Brad Berger President, Berger Bros Camera, P 516-496-1000.


As I am traveling in the Southern Ocean, I will be without internet access from the afternoon of October 19 until November 1. When I left, there were only two people signed up for the Early Winter DeSoto IPT; do consider joining us.

Galapagos Photo-Cruise of a Lifetime/Limit 12/Openings: 3

Right now I have nine folks committed to the 2019 Galapagos Photo Cruise. A friend who had committed to the trip learned that he and his wife might not be able to attend. Thus, I have room for a couple or for two same-sex roommates, and for a male single. If the archipelago is on your bucket list, please get in touch via e-mail asap with questions. If you might be registering with a friend or a spouse do ask about the two at a time discount. See the complete details here.


BIRDS AS ART is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Selling Your Used Photo Gear Through BIRDS AS ART

Selling your used (or like-new) photo gear through the BAA Blog is a great idea. We charge only a 5% commission. One of the more popular used gear for sale sites charged a minimum of 20%. Plus assorted fees! Yikes. They went out of business. And e-Bay fees are now up to 13%. The minimum item price here is $500 (or less for a $25 fee). If you are interested please scroll down here or shoot us an e-mail with the words Items for Sale Info Request cut and pasted into the Subject line :). Stuff that is priced fairly — I offer pricing advice to those who agree to the terms — usually sells in no time flat. Over the past year, we have sold many dozens of items. Do know that prices on some items like the EOS-1D Mark IV, the old Canon 100-400, the old 500mm, the EOS-7D and 7D Mark II and the original 400mm DO lens have been dropping steadily. You can always see the current listings by clicking on the Used Photo Gear tab on the orange-yellow menu bar near the top of each blog post page.


For the past few months, I have been hearing folks use the word Airbnb, most notably, Amy Novotny. Out of curiosity I asked a few questions. What I learned amazed me. Join Airbnb and become part of a community that connects global travelers with local hosts across the world. Find a place to stay and discover things to do. Airbnb lists more than 4.5 million homes across 200 countries; you’ll find spacious, affordable options for every occasion. With Airbnb you will travel with confidence as reviews from past guests help you find the right fit. Once you do, our secure messaging makes it easy to coordinate with your host. And Airbnb support teams are available 24/7. Last night I made a reservation for an Airbnb apartment for my upcoming January San Diego visit: 13 nights with a full kitchen and two bedrooms.

Yikes. I almost forgot the best part: Airbnb rates average less than half of even the least expensive chain hotels and motels. If you would like to save $40 on your first booking sign up by using this link: Airbnb. Airbnb does charge clean-up and service fees that make short stays less attractive bargains than long stays.

Those who prefer to stay in a motel or hotel are invited to use the link below to save $25.00.


Several folks on the UK IPT used the Booking.Com link below for their Edinburgh hotels, got great rates, and saved a handsome $25.00 in the process. If you too would like to give Booking.Com a shot, click here and to earn a $25 reward on your first booking. Thanks to the many who have already tried and used this great service.

Money Saving Reminder

If you need a hot photo item that is out of stock at B&H, would enjoy free overnight shipping, and would like a $50 discount on your first purchase, click here to order and enter the coupon code BIRDSASART at checkout. If you are looking to strike a deal on Canon or Nikon gear (including the big telephotos) or on a multiple item order, contact Steve Elkins via e-mail or on his cell at (479) 381-2592 (Eastern time) and be sure to mention your BIRDSASART coupon code and use it for your online order. Steve currently has several D850s in stock along with a Nikon 600mm f/4 VR. He is taking pre-orders for the new Nikon 500 P and the Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera body.

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA IPTs and dozens of photographers whom I see in the field and on BPN, are–out of ignorance–using the wrong gear especially when it comes to tripods and more especially, tripod heads… Please know that I am always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail. Those questions might deal with systems, camera bodies, accessories, and/or lens choices and decisions.

Fine-tune Values for the 500 PF

AF Fine-tuning of the Nikon 500mm f/5.6 PF Lens

When I finally got my hands on the Nikon 500 PF early on Monday morning, October 15 — thanks to the kindness of IPT veteran Michael Goodman, I set to work fine-tuning the focus (aka, micro-adjusting) the new lens with my two D850s, each — as you can see above — with both the TC-E14 III and the TC-17 II. To learn how the lens arrived at the last possible second, see the Last Minute Miracle blog post here. I keep a careful record of all micro-adjusting in an Excel file. This is doubly important with Nikon as the Nikon camera bodies do not recognize different teleconverters (or lenses) by serial number. This is a huge problem for professionals and serious amateurs who often own two of the same TCs (or lenses).

I love micro-adjusting my D-850 bodies because of the Focus Peaking feature that, among Nikon bodies, is available only on the D-850. I check the Focus Peaking with AF fine-tune set to zero two or three times. In less than a minute (after setting up and carefully aligning my LensAlign), I can tell if the combination of gear I am testing is pretty close to right on or is front- or back-focused. Next I change the AF fine-tune value as indicated. You can learn the details of Focus Peaking Fine-tuning in the Nikon AF Fine-tune e-Guide here. Once I have an approximate value I run an Auto Focus Consistency (AFC) test using FocusTune. You can see the results of two AFC tests below. And you can learn how to do them (and lots more) in my LensAlign/FocusTune Micro-Adjusting Tutorial e-Guide here. I should have mentioned that in order to do any type of AF Fine-tuning or micro-adjusting as detailed in the two e-Guides above, you need to have purchased the LensAlign MK II kit including FocusTune here.

The six AF fine-tunes above took well less than two hours. And half of that time is spent setting up the tripods and aligning everything using Michael Tapes’ brilliant True Parallel Alignment (TPA) system, available only with the LensAlign kit. TPA is what sets LensAlign head and shoulders above all other micro-adjusting devices, all of which BTW, are (not unexpectedly) a lot cheaper than LensAlign MK II kit including FocusTune Kit.

Some folks who own D-850s might wish to get by with the Focus Peaking fine-tuning and the single Nikon e-Guide. But, as above, I use the Focus Peaking feature to point me in the right direction and then use an AFC test or two to fine tune those results. Once I get a great AFC test and confirm it, I am 100% confident that I will get the absolute sharpest images possible with a given gear combination. In some cases the fine-tune value determined by Focus Peaking may be exactly the same exactly the same as the value as determined by an AFC test(see two of those below). At other times they may be a bit higher or lower by +/- 4. In those cases I always go with the AFC-determined value. Note that once I get an excellent result with an AFC test, I will always run it again to confirm it. .

Yes, focus fine-tuning and micro-adjusting can be frustrating at times and time consuming to some degree, but for me, it does not make sense to own a $10,000 lens and a $3,000 camera body and not put in the time and expense to ensure that you will be making sharp images (barring operator error of course). 🙂

The Big Misconception

When folks see a large AF fine-tune value such as -15 above for the 500 PF/1.7TC-E, they think that something is wrong with the gear. Be assured that there is nothing wrong at all. Different combinations of gear need different fine-tune adjustments depending on how the tolerances fit together. The images that I make with the 1.7 TC with my main D-850 (-7) will be just as sharp as those made with my back-up D-850 (-15). The next blog post will show the first test images of birds in the field, images that will confirm the accuracy of my Focus fine-tuning efforts.

AFC Fine-tune FocusTune Graph for my main D850 and the 500 PF

AFC Fine-tune FocusTune Graph for my main D850 and the 500 PF

Above is the AFC Fine-tune FocusTune Graph for the D850 and the 500 PF. The results with the fine-tune value set at +2 are about as close to perfect as you can get. The small grey dots, the shot deviation, on the -300 line show that AF with this combo is very consistent as the clusters are tight. In a perfect world, every AFC value would be exactly the same and the graph would be a perfect straight line right on the horizontal axis of the graph. In the real world phase detection autofocus is never perfect; you can expect variation in the AFC values and an occasional outlier, a value that is obviously out of pattern and seems to make no sense at all. Note that the smallest grey dot is on the vertical 3 axis. This shows the tightest cluster. Compare the grey dots on this graph with those on the graph below.

AFC Fine-tune FocusTune Graph for my main D850, the TC-E 17, and the 500 PF

AFC Fine-tune FocusTune Graph for my main D850, the TC-E 17, and the 500 PF

Note that the focus deviation on this graph is wider than onthe first graph. This is to be totally expected once you add a teleconverter to the mix. The larger the teleconverter, the more light is lost to the AF system, and wider the shot deviation will be. That said, the results of the AFC test at -2 immediately above are quite good.

A Nikon AF Fine-tune e-Guide Free Update

Contrary to what I wrote in the guide, I have realized that using the AF/M switch on the left side of the camera body to turn AF off and then on again is much easier than moving the slider switch on the lens; the switch on the camera body is more accessible and there are only two positions as compared to three on the lens … I tried it and liked it. A lot better.

San Diego offers a wealth of very attractive natural history subjects, including and especially the Pacific race of California Brown Pelican. With annual visits spanning more than four decades, I have lots of photographic experience there … Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

2019 San Diego 4 1/2-DAY BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT) SUN JAN 20, 2019 thru and including the morning session on THURS JAN 24: 4 1/2 days: $2099.

(Limit: 10/Openings: 7)

Introductory Meet and Greet at 7:00pm on the evening before the IPT begins; SAT JAN 19, 2019.

Please see the Dancing Grebe Morning Add-On Info below

Join me in San Diego to photograph the spectacular breeding plumage Brown Pelicans with their fire-engine red and olive green bill pouches; Brandt’s (nesting with eggs and possibly chicks) and Double-crested Cormorants; breeding plumage Wood and Ring-necked Duck; other duck species possible including Lesser Scaup, Redhead, and Surf Scoter; a variety of gulls including Western, California, and the gorgeous Heermann’s, all in full breeding plumage; shorebirds including Marbled Godwit, Willet, Sanderling and Black-bellied Plover; many others are possible including Least, Western, and Spotted Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Black and Ruddy Turnstone, Semipalmated Plover, and Surfbird; Harbor Seals (depending on the current regulations) and California Sea Lions; and Bird of Paradise flowers. And as you can see by studying the IPT cards, there are some nice bird-scape and landscape opportunities as well. Not to mention a ton of excellent flight photography opportunities and instruction.

Please note: where permitted and on occasion, ducks and gulls will be attracted (or re-located) with offerings of grains and healthy breads.

Learning Exposure, Whether You Like It Or Not

Whether you like it or not, we will be beating the subject of exposure like a dead horse. In every new situation you will hear my thoughts on the exposure situation along with my thoughts on both Nikon and Canon histograms and the subject of blinkies. Whether you like it or not, you will learn to work in manual mode and to get the right exposure every time as long as a bird gives you ten seconds with the light constant.And you will learn what to do when the light is changing constantly. What you learn about exposure will be one of the great take-aways on every IPT.

Though the pelicans will be the stars of the show on this IPT, there will be many other handsome and captivating subjects in wonderful settings. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

It Ain’t Just Pelicans

With gorgeous subjects just sitting there waiting to have their pictures taken, photographing the pelicans on the cliffs is about as easy as nature photography gets. With the winds from the east almost every morning there is usually some excellent flight photography as well. And the pelicans are almost always doing something interesting: preening, scratching, bill pouch cleaning, or squabbling. And then there are those crazy head throws that are thought to be a form of intra-flock communication. You will be guided as to how to make the best of all of those opportunities. And depending on the weather and local conditions and tides, there are a variety of fabulous photo chances available in and around San Diego.


Did I mention that there are wealth of great birds and natural history subjects in San Diego in winter? Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

The San Diego Details

This IPT will include five 3 1/2 hour morning photo sessions, four 2 1/2 hour afternoon photo sessions, four lunches, and after-lunch image review and Photoshop sessions. To ensure early starts, breakfasts will be your responsibility. An so that we can get some sleep, dinners will be on your own.

A $599 non-refundable deposit is required to hold your slot for this IPT. You can send a check (made out to “Arthur Morris) to us at BIRDS AS ART, PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL, 3385, or call Jim or Jennifer at the office with a credit card at 863-692-0906. Your balance, payable only by check, will be due on 10/11//2018. If we do not receive your check for the balance on or before the due date we will try to fill your spot from the waiting list. Please print, complete, and sign the form that is linked to here and shoot it to us along with your deposit check. If you register by phone, please print, complete and sign the form as noted above and either mail it to us or e-mail the scan. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me via e-mail.


Variety is surely the spice of life in San Diego. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

Getting Up Early and Staying Out Late

On all BIRDS AS ART IPTS including and especially the San Diego IPT, we get into the field early to take advantage of unique and often spectacular lighting conditions and we stay out late to maximize the chances of killer light and glorious sunset silhouette situations. We often arrive at the cliffs a full hour before anyone else shows up to check out the land/sea-scape opportunities.


This image was created in San Diego, CA with the Induro GIT 304L/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III, and the simply amazing, astounding, mega mega-pixel Canon EOS 5DS R. ISO 500. Evaluative metering -2/3 stop: 1/2500 sec. at f/6.3 in Av mode. AWB.

61-Point (Automatic selection)/AI Servo/Shutter Button AF as originally framed was active at the moment of exposure (as is always best when photographing moving subjects). Though the optimized image above was a healthy crop from the original the result was a high quality 148+ MB 16-bit file. Click on the image to see a larger version. The AF system selected two AF points, one above the other, between the two birds;the eye of the bird on our right is razor sharp.

Clarke’s X Western Grebe courtship rush

The Dancing Grebes Add-On. FRI JAN 25, 2019: $399.

Those registering for the 2019 San Diego IPT might wish to join me for the Dancing Grebe Add-On Morning as above. Please read the details carefully. You will need to wade at least mid-thigh deep with your tripod over an uneven bottom. Lightweight chest waders are advised. Long lenses are needed; a 100-400 will not cut it at this spot, even with a TC. Chances at this location (easily accessible from the IPT hotel), vary from day to day so there will be no guarantees. But when those grebes dance, it can be an amazing rush. We may also enjoy chances to photograph both species, Western and Clarke’s Grebes, at fairly close range.

Help Support the Blog

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If in doubt about using the BAA B&H affiliate link correctly, you can always start your search by clicking here. Please note that the tracking is invisible. Web orders only. Please, however, remember to shoot me your receipt via e-mail.

Please Remember to use my Affiliate Links and to Visit the New BAA Online Store 🙂

To show your appreciation for my continuing efforts here, we ask, as always, that you get in the habit of using my B&H affiliate links on the right side of the blog for all of your photo and electronics purchases. Please check the availability of all photographic accessories in the New BIRDS AS ART Online Store, especially the Mongoose M3.6 tripod head, Wimberley lens plates, Delkin flash cards and accessories, and LensCoat stuff.

As always, we sell only what I have used, have tested, and can depend on. We will not sell you junk. We know what you need to make creating great images easy and fun. And please remember that I am always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail.

I would of course appreciate your using our B&H affiliate links for all of your major gear, video, and electronic purchases. For the photographic stuff mentioned in the paragraph above, and for everything else in the new store, we, meaning BAA, would of course greatly appreciate your business. Here is a huge thank you to the many who have been using our links on a regular basis and those who will be visiting the New BIRDS AS ART Online Store as well.


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In all blog posts and Bulletins, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors. Just be right :).

4 comments to AF Fine-tuning of the Nikon 500mm f/5.6 PF Lens. And a Nikon AF Fine-tune e-Guide Free Update

  • avatar juan Tolentino

    Hello Artie,

    Thank you for all the time you invest on putting together this blog.
    I’m a little confused here. On the first graft, why the AFA of +3 is not a better choice since the cluster is tighter and the shots deviation is smaller?

    On the second graft, isn’t that showing +2 instead of -2?

  • avatar Anthony Ardito

    Thanks Artie, keep the 500PF stuff coming! I like Clark’s courtship photo. Is that 16×9? I like it!