5 Troubleshooting Steps for When Your Nikon’s Autofocus Stops Working

You’re in the middle of a photoshoot and suddenly you notice nothing in your viewfinder is in focus. Your shutter and AF-ON buttons (if using back-button focusing) do not seem to work. All eyes are on you, and the pressure is on to quickly fix the problem. Where do you start? Or perhaps you have just changed lenses and suddenly nothing works.

Where might you have gone wrong?

This has happened to me one too many times, so I have now come up with a system of troubleshooting in the quickest time possible on the spot. It goes without saying, of course, that your camera needs to be switched to ON and the lens cap needs to be off.

#1 Autofocus not Manual

Check that both the lens and the camera switches are both pointing towards Autofocus. On the camera it must be set on AF, not M, and on the lens put it to M/A (A stands for Autofocus and M for Manual, M/A allows you to use both). Flicking the lens switch to Manual can be done unwittingly and fairly easily, especially if you are in a rush to change lenses.



#2 Back dial is not Locked

Check that the dial is pointed towards the camera icon and not the L, which stands for lock.  You can easily flick this dial, especially if you are back-button focusing and your dial sees so much action.


#3 AEL / AFL

Check your AEL/AFL button that you haven’t locked focus. Clicking it once locks focus so click it another time to unlock focus.


#4 Check the lens

Remove the lens. Inspect the front and rear lens aspects for smudges or dirt. Check also that no part of the lens is broken. If you have filters on your lens, check that they are clear and there are no cracks. When you re-attach the lens, make sure you hear a click once the lens is twisted in place.  If there are any smudges on the lens, make sure you clean it with a lens cloth, and do not blow on the lens.

Lens cloths are usually lint-free pieces of material, and should be used with a lens cleaning solution, rather than anything with solvents. Blowing on the lens can contribute to lens damage since a person’s breath can contain harmful acids. If you feel you have to blow, use a lens bulb blower and a brush.


#5 Viewfinder

Finally, check your viewfinder and make sure there are no oils, smudges or dirt covering your sight. You can clean the viewfinder the same way you clean your lens. If your viewfinder is very dirty, your camera will still focus and the image won’t be affected but you won’t be able to see anything in focus!


#6 Bonus

This applies to any camera, not just Nikons. If something is going on with your camera that is odd – turn it off for a few seconds, then turn it back on. It’s like a reboot for your camera, just like you do with your computer. If that doesn’t work you can also try removing the battery for a minute or more (remember to turn the camera off before removing the battery). As a last ditch effort you could try resetting all functions and settings on the camera to factory default. If it still isn’t working test the camera with another lens, if that one works you may need to take your lens in to get serviced. If the

I hope this little troubleshooting guide helps when you get stuck with focusing problems. Do you have any other quick focus troubleshooting tips to share?

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