Nikon D3000 Autofocus Settings
Many of these settings are locked-out when the D3000 is in the green AUTO mode, set on the big top dial. I shoot in the P mode, which allows all these settings. See my plain-English D3000 User's Guide for more than you'll ever need to know about the various exposure modes on the top dial, as well as every other aspect of the D3000. For this page, use the P, S, A or M modes and you'll have access to all these settings.
If you're trying to do something below and it won't work, it's because you have the top dial set to AUTO.
The D3000 only autofocuses with the latest AF-S (and old professional AF-I) lenses. Most traditional (screw-type) AF lenses from 1986 through today will not autofocus on the D3000. If your lens says "AF-S," you're fine.
Most lenses sold today for the D3000 are AF-S, and so is the included 18-55mm kit lens. Many non-Nikon lenses from Tamron, Tokina, Quantaray, Sigma and anyone other than Nikon still won't autofocus on the D3000. Try before you buy, but honestly, there isn't much the included 18-55mm VR lens won't do.
Autofocus systems are fast, but not usually instantaneous. You have to hold the shutter down halfway as you compose the first shot so the AF system can focus and lock, and then the camera fires instantaneously when you press the shutter the rest of the way. See Preventing Shutter Delay for more.
AF Sensor Selector (rear)
Rear Multi-Selector, Nikon D3000. enlarge.
There is only one exterior AF control on the D3000 itself, the rear multi-selector. It's the round thing that surrounds the OK button.
This selects which autofocus (AF) sensor is used. Press it left, right, up or down to select a sensor, which will highlight in the finder.
If you press the center OK button, you return to the center sensor.
Focus Mode Switch (on many lenses)
The D3000 has no Focus Mode Switch of its own. If there are any exterior controls, they are on the lens.
M is manual focus, like the 1950s. Turn the focus ring on the lens and look for the focus confirmation dot in the finder.
AF is autofocus, which is how I use the D3000 and what I'll describe below.
Some lenses say "A/M - M." A/M means autofocus, and that you may simply grab the lens' focus ring at any time for manual focus. M means manual all the time.
Nikon is able to make the D3000 at a very low price with extremely high quality by eliminating many mechanical controls found on more expensive cameras. Most D3000 users don't use these controls, but everyone would have to pay for them if Nikon included them.
By burying these controls in menus, the few people who want to use them still can. Otherwise, everyone would have to pay for mechanical controls, even if they didn't use them.
The D3000 has the same controls as a $5,000 Nikon D3, just that you have to stop and piddle with menus instead of having direct controls.
You set these by pressing MENU > WRENCH > FOCUS MODE.
In this menu, your choices are:
AF-A is the default I use.
It magically selects between the next two modes.
This clever AF-A mode looks at the subject. If it's holding still, the D3000 locks the focus. If the subject is moving, the D3000 tracks it as it moves nearer and farther.
I don't think I've ever needed to select any of these modes below. The AF-A mode is that good!
AF-S is AF-Single. The D3000 focuses once, then locks AF for you to recompose and shoot.
AF-C is AF-Continuous.
The D3000 keeps focusing as the subject moves. Use this for sports and vehicles in motion, like cars, birds and aircraft.
M is Manual focus. Turn the focus ring on your lens until the picture is sharp, or look for the electronic "Focus OK" dot on the lower left of the viewfinder.
AF Area Modes
You set these by pressing MENU > WRENCH > AF Area Mode.
Once in this menu, your choices are:
[ o ] Single point uses the selected area, period.
[ x ] Dynamic area lets the D3000 start with the area you selected, and move it around if needed to track a moving subject. This is an old mode; 3D below does the same thing but even better.
[ xxx ] Auto area selects AF areas completely by magic. Set this mode when handing your D3000 to a stranger.
[ 3D ] 3D Tracking magically tracks the subject as it flies around the frame, due either to its own motion, or your recomposition. I usually use this mode for everything.
My Favorite Settings
I use Nikon's default AF-A mode MENU > WRENCH > FOCUS MODE.
I set 3D at MENU > WRENCH > AF Area Mode.
When shooting, I select a sensor and shoot away.
The D3000 locks-on to still targets, and tracks moving targets, all automatically.
I'll go to one of these next settings only if my usual setting isn't working for me.
For still subjects, I leave it as above.
For sports and moving subjects, I leave it as above (AF-A) , or might force it to AF-C in MENU > WRENCH > FOCUS MODE.
Select the AF area with the control on the back to select your kid, then as you keep the shutter button pressed halfway and keep shooting, the D3000 will keep your kid in focus as he runs down the field and scores his goal! Ditto for birds in flight and most other things that move.
Handing the D3000 to a Non-Photographer
Ryan and Daddy, photo by mom (with D40 set the same).
The D3000 makes great photos, even when used as a point-and-shoot.
When I hand my D3000 to a non-photographer (like my wife), I leave it at AF-A as above, but I set Auto Area in MENU > WRENCH > AF Area Mode. This lets the D3000 figure out where to focus, and it works great.
There's an obvious trick to get into this mode: just set the D3000 back to AUTO on the top dial! In AUTO, the D3000 locks into AF-A and, if you haven't changed it yourself, sets the AF Area Mode to Closest Subject. I prefer to use the menus.
More Information: See my complete plain-English D3000 User's Guide.
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