Nikon D800/D800E Autofocus Problems, Part 2

Five weeks ago I posted my analysis of the autofocus problems with my new Nikon D800E. I sent the camera to the local Nikon Service Center for repairs. 11 days later the camera was back and I’ve now had a chance to evaluate the results.

In one word: Unchanged.

Here are the latest tests, performed after the Autofocus Adjustment performed by Nikon. The superimposed images below are crops of the a test pattern centered on the left-most autofocus point. For the “before” image, I focused manually using LiveView. For the “after” image I used regular (non-LiveView) autofocus selecting the left-most focus point. (It may be hard to see, but there’s a vertical line in the center of the image with a draggable handle near the middle of the chart. You can move the slider left and right to hide and reveal the images.) As you can see, the auto-focused (after) image is noticeably softer. And if you compare it to the before-adjustment tests, it’s virtually unchanged.



Not shown here are the same tests performed with the center and right-most autofocus points. Those images appear as sharp as the manually focused images.

I’ve got an important landscape workshop coming up later this month, so I’m going to wait a few weeks. But after that I plan to call the Nikon Service Center and discuss this with them. Stay tuned for another episode in this saga.

Update 10/10/12: On 10/8/12 I called Nikon and asked to speak to a supervisor. I was told someone would call me back. On 10/9/12 I received email asking me to send in my test shots, which I did. Now waiting to hear their response.

Update 10/16/12: After another week, I called Nikon yet again on 10/15/12. I was told by Nelson that a supervisor (Stacy) would call me back. Nothing. On 10/16/12 I called again. Josh said they had sent me an email — nothing received, even in spam folder — and asked me to send RAW files instead of JPEGs. Give me a break. I’ll do that later today. In the meantime, Nikon sent me an online customer-satisfaction survey. I told them exactly how I feel. I can’t believe they’re dealing with me in this way particularly since this is an acknowledged problem on many of these D800/D800E bodies.

Update 10/22/12: Yes, yet another week has passed without a response from Nikon. I called today ans spoke to “Charles”. He said the problem had been escalated to “Level Three” (senior management). He had no explanation as to why no one had returned my call as promised, what might happen next or how long it might take. He would not give me a contact name, phone number or email address. He would not let me speak to his own supervisor since the incident has already been escalated. It has now been seven weeks since I first sent the camera to Nikon for repair.

Update 10/31/12: It has now been nearly eight weeks since I first sent my D800E to Nikon for repairs. On 10/24/12 I received my first response from them, email from “David” in New York. He asked me to send yet another set of JPEG images, which I did on 10/25/12. He also said he’d included a shipping label as an attachment, which he did not. He asked me to reply, but the email had a Do Not Reply message and indded my reply failed. So I posted my response to their service database.

Today I called again and spoke to “Crystal” a first-level contact. “I see this has already been escalated to Level 3 so there’s nothing else I can do. No, I have no way to contact him [David in New York].” I was also told that the New York facility was closed due to hurricane Sandy.

But ten minutes later Crystal called me back! The first time anyone from Nikon has ever called. She asked me for the serial # and to FAX my proof of purchase. Sill, of course, since I’d already sent the camera to them weeks ago along with a copy of the receipt. But hey…at least someone called! No idea where it might lead. Crystal didn’t say what to expect in response.

Update 11/5/12: Making progress. I’ve received a few emails from David, and I’ve sent him a few more test files as requested. Today David sent me a prepaid UPS return label, not to send the camera back to El Segundo, but to him in New York. The camera is on the way to him and I’m looking forward to getting his response.

Update 11/17/12: I got email from David that he couldn’t find any problem with the camera, so we agreed he would just send it back. The camera arrived on 11/13/12 and I ran some more tests using some new tools. Inconclusive. As you get away from the center focus points, all of my bodies have some degradation in autofocus accuracy. It’s just worse on the D800E. At this point, I’ve decided to sit tight and see what evolves over the next few months since so many people are reporting this problem. The fact is I rarely use autofocus with the D800E. I have a D3s that I use for handheld low-light and action photography. And I picked up a D600 for more general use. (Great camera, BTW.) The D800E is my tripod/hi-res body, and I almost always use manual/LiveView focusing with it. Every time I think about just selling the D800E I look at one of the images I’ve captured with it. The detail and dynamic range are remarkable. There’s really nothing like it without going to medium format. So although I still think there’s a problem with the camera, it’s a defect that doesn’t currently affect me.