Also, check out our other books and videos – Click here
Covers the following cameras:
Nikon D6, D5, D4, D4s
Nikon D850, D800, D810,
Nikon D780, D750
NIkon D600, D610
Nikon D7500, D7200, D7100
Nikon D5xxx series, D3xxx series
Format: PDF e-book (v 1.6.2, updated 5-26-2023)
Delivery: Instant download
Note that the vast majority of the information in this book also applies to older bodies as well (D7000, D3, D300, D700, etc.), it’s just that their specific controls layouts / external switch locations are not covered (this also applies to the Df). The functionality of the modes and menus are covered.
NOTE – This edition of the book covers Nikon’s DSLR cameras.
For the Mirrorless edition, click here.
Find out what everyone else thinks – click here for reader testimonials!
We’ve all been there before – staring at our camera, struggling to decide exactly what AF settings will help us nail the tricky scene unfolding in our viewfinder. I mean, let’s face it – the Nikon autofocus system is one of the most complex AF systems on the planet! There are so many settings, options, and features that it’s easy for anyone to feel overwhelmed. However, learning to leverage everything the system offers is the difference between consistently tack sharp images and a worn out delete key!
Sure there’s the autofocus section of the instruction manual, but the truth is, we’re only talking about a handful of pages. That’s barely enough to get you started!
So, that’s where this new e-book, Secrets To The Nikon AF System comes in!
This is over 450 pages of everything I know about the Nikon AF system. It’s far more than just a supplement to the instruction manual, this is a guide that will teach you, step by step, how to really use the system! Each page will instill advice and confidence so you’ll feel completely comfortable each time you adjust your AF settings in the field.
We’ll examine everything from the basics of autofocus to how the AF system actually works inside the camera. We’ll look at all the different AF area modes (like Dynamic, Group, 3D, etc), I’ll show you new ways to focus that you may never have been exposed to before, we’ll discuss how the Live View AF system works, we’ll go over every custom setting for autofocus – what to use and why, we’ll look at all the AF controls on your lenses, we’ll cover AF fine tuning, killer focusing tips and techniques, and the top ten reasons you aren’t getting sharp images! WHEW!
Oh, and this isn’t some book filled with a bunch of “cookie cutter” settings either. This is written and designed to give you a complete understanding of the AF system from top to bottom. Once you finish this guide, you’ll not only know what all the AF features on your camera do, but more importantly, you’ll understand how they work. You’ll know when, why, and how to use every feature and you’ll always know exactly the right settings for any scene unfolding in your viewfinder!
By the way – it’s time stop feeling overwhelmed by too much tech talk! This book is written in a friendly, easy to read format that makes comprehension of even the most complex topics a walk in the park. In fact, this book is loaded with explanations, examples, and real world advice the truly cement the ideas presented.
BONUS! Not only is the Nikon AF system (more than) thoroughly covered, we also look at dozens of advanced techniques for better sharpness! In fact, we even troubleshoot the reasons may not be getting the sharpness you expect in your photos.
Also, while I use my own techniques out in the field and thoroughly share them in this book, I also understand that my way is not the only way. As such, I present EVERY option and let YOU decide which one is the most advantageous for YOUR photography!!!
Finally, I know that the cover and sample photos feature nature photography, but not to worry. Although most of the examples come from my background as a wildlife and landscape photographer, the advice in this book applies to any type of photography.
What’s covered? Heck, what’s not? Check it out – and this is only a partial list!
CH 1 – System Basics And AF Modes
- Tricks to using the Focus Mode Selector
- The secret to always knowing the right AF mode to use – AF-S, AF-C, or Auto
- The key to leveraging AF-S to your maximum advantage
- How AF-C works and why it’s your best friend for action
- How Auto Servo AF works – and how it can betray you
- Finally discover what the Focus Tracking With Lock-on custom setting does
- Learn to leverage Focus Tracking With Lock-on to get more keepers on your cards
- Tips for knowing when you have Focus Tracking With Lock-on set incorrectly
- Discover what the new Subject Motion option in the D5/D500 really does
- What AF-S and AF-C Priority Selection really do – and what each option does
CH 2 – Alternative Focusing Methods
- Discover why so many pros are using Back Button Autofocus
- The killer AF advantage you enjoy with Back Button Autofocus
- How to set up Back Button Autofocus for ALL current Nikons
- How to use Back Button AF to get more keepers
- The three knock-out advantages of using Back Button AF
- Front button AF – without the shutter release! (Killer new trick)
- Why Front Button AF might be even better than Back Button AF
- Tricks for using Shutter Release AF with AE/AF Lock
- Customizing AE/AF lock to work better for Shutter Release AF
- The alternative AF Q&A that answers every question you have
CH 3 – AF Area Modes
- The easy way to swap AF Areas
- The real advantage of using Single Point AF
- A killer guideline to knowing when you should NOT use Single Point AF
- What Dynamic AF is, how it works, and why you’ll love it
- The trick to knowing which Dynamic mode you should use
- How to use the new Dynamic Mode on the D5/D500
- Why and when you should use Dynamic AF instead of Single Point (or another mode)
- Learn the limitations of Dynamic AF and when it sabotages your efforts
- The dangers of large Dynamic areas and how to avoid them
- How Group AF works
- The tricks to leveraging Group AF mode to your advantage
- A secret about Group AF almost no one talks about
- Why Group AF is better for subjects close to the background or on busy backgrounds
- The key differences between Group AF and Dynamic AF
- The secrets to when you should use Group AF and when you should use Dynamic AF
- How 3D AF works
- The wonderful world of 3D face recognition
- When 3D AF can let you down
- Where 3D AF works best
- How Auto Area AF works
- The key to leveraging Auto AF to your advantage
- How Scene Modes can sabotage your Autofocus efforts
CH 4 – Live View
- Unlocking the power of Live View
- Understanding what the AF area in Live View means
- New Live View tricks with the D5/D500
- The best way to use magnification in Live View
- Discover the Live View AF-S and AF-C counterparts
- How AF-F really works and when to use it
- Tips for manually focusing in Live View
- Learn to use Live View AF Areas (including the new pinpoint AF area!)
- The easy way to switch Live View AF Areas
- Using the standard Live View AF Areas of “Normal” and “Wide”
- Understanding Face Priority in Live View
- Master Subject Tracking in Live View
- Learn all about focus peaking
CH 5 – Custom Settings For AF
- Unlock the custom settings of your AF system
- Learn what the Number Of Focus Points Setting really does (it’s not what you think)
- Why you’ll bag more shots using Store By Orientation
- How Limit AF Area Mode Selection makes life WAY easier
- Discover why Autofocus Mode Restrictions can save you hundreds of deleted shots
- How Focus Point Wrap Around actually works
- The key to making your AF point display work for YOU
- The secret setting that gives you a mask in crop mode
- Taking control of the AF Assist Illuminator
CH 6 – Special Customizations
- Incredible customizations to your AF system via the Pv, Fn, Joystick, Multi selector buttons
- Full instructions for every covered camera (D5and D500 included)
- Dialing in AE/AF Lock
- Why you may love using AE and AF lock on separate buttons
- Discover how to set nearly any button for AF-On duty
- Using custom buttons to change AF area modes in the D5/D500 (GAME CHANGER!)
- Killer tricks with the Multi selector button
- The best use for the Multi selector center button
- The worst use for the Multi selector center button
- The easy way to zoom into 100% on captured images – you’ll love this
- Jaw-dropping options for Live View you never knew were there
CH 7 – Lens Controls
- Finally discover the real power behind all those switches on your lens barrel
- Unleash the power of the Focus Mode Switch
- Finally understand A/M and M/A modes – and when to use them
- One focusing operation you must NEVER do to your lenses
- How to grab way more keepers with the Focus Limiter
- Understanding VR modes
- Discover the difference between Sport, Normal and Active VR
- Unleash the power of the Focus Operation Switch
- Setting up Memory Recall
- Killer tips for using Memory Recall
- Unlock the hidden power behind the lens’s AF-L switch
- Use the lens’s AF-L switch to change AF area modes (really)
- How to use your LENS to focus your CAMERA
CH 8 – How Your Autofocus System Thinks
- How Live View autofocus works
- Discover how light travels from the lens to your AF sensors
- Step by step guide to how Phase Detection AF works
- How your camera tracks a subject
- The critical thing you MUST know about Linear AF sensors
- How Cross-Type AF sensors work – and why they’re your best friend
- The clever field trick to knowing where your best AF sensors are located
- Unlock an easy way to map out your camera’s BEST AF sensors
- Discover the REAL reason why your camera can’t focus past F/5.6 or F/8
- Why Cross-Type AF sensors revert to Line-Type sensors
- Lies revealed – the TRUTH about the AF sensor outlines in your viewfinder
- The smart, easy way to see where your AF sensors REALLY are
CH 9 – Autofocus Fine Tuning
- Why AF Fine Tuning is sometimes necessary
- The difference between front focus and back focus
- Why a lens that needs AF Fine Tuning isn’t “broken”
- The dirty little AF Fine Tuning secret no one talks about
- The critical mistake most people make when AF Fine Tuning based on internet “help”
- How you can make things WORSE if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing
- Reasons for and against AF Fine Tuning
- The secret to handling zoom lenses when AF Fine Tuning
- Learn how different circumstances can influence AF Fine Tuning
- Discover the best setup for AF Fine Tuning
- Understand how the four top methods for AF Fine Tuning work
- How to get the most from LensAlign
- Using FoCal for AF Fine Tuning
- Master Auto AF Fine Tuning in the D5/D500
- Use the free DotTune method for quick, easy AF Fine Tuning
CH 10 – Focusing Techniques Part 1
- Discover the secret to composing with AF points
- Learn the basics of tracking a subject
- Uncover tons of practice tips that will help you master tracking your subjects
- Learn how to “see” around mirror blackouts
- How a static subject can make you better at tracking
- Discover the wonderful world of Trap Focus
- Make your DSLR shoot when a subject walks or runs into sharp focus
- How to set your DSLR for Trap Focus
- Using Trap Focus remotely
- How to shoot “through” obstacles
- Killer tricks for shooting through glass
- Learn techniques for shooting though fencing and mesh
CH 11 – Focusing Techniques Part 2 – Deep Focus
- Learn how to get sharp photos from foreground to background
- Why F/22 isn’t the answer
- Learn how diffraction can kill sharpness
- How to avoid diffraction
- Discover how Hyperfocal Distance works
- How Hyperfocal Distance can help keep diffraction at bay
- Learn how to use Hyperfocal Distance in the field
- See the difference between Hyperfocal Distance and small F/Stops
- Why the typical Hyperfocal Distance table is a problem
- How to get better results with Hyperfocal Distance
- Adding a bias to Hyperfocal Distance for specific shot requirements
- Learn about my favorite sharpness method – Focus Stacking
- Why Focus Stacking is the ultimate diffraction killer
- Use Focus Stacking to get astoundingly sharp images from foreground to background
- How to Focus Stack in the field
- Discover Nikon’s Focus Shift Shooting setting for automatic stacking! (D850)
- Software for Focus Stacking
- Step by step instructions for Focus Stacking in Photoshop
- Compare Focus Stacking to Hyperfocal
CH 12 – Overcoming Tough Focusing Situations
- The secret to using continuous frame advance for sharp photos
- How utilizing an edge in the photo can help secure focus when the light is low
- The one AF sensor that gives you the best chance of an AF lock
- The AF Area Mode that nearly always gets a lock – even in poor conditions
- Secrets to learning manual focus
- How to manually focus quickly
- Why manual focus rocks for macro shots
- How a faster lens or dropping the teleconverter can help in low light
- Tricks for focusing at night
- Discover the ideal way to focus a night shot
- How your nighttime subject itself can help you focus
- The killer flashlight focusing trick no one knows (no, it’s not lighting up the subject)
- Using a laser pointer or flash unit to get focus at night
CH 13 – 10 Reasons You’re Not Getting Sharp Photos
- The importance of realistic expectations
- Discover the critical camera setting everyone overlooks for sharp images
- Learn better techniques for camera stabilization
- How dirty AF sensors can ruin your day – and how to clean them
- Understand how heat distortion can kill your images
- Why subjects that are too far away are always a disappointment
- Learn how dirty contacts can sabotage your efforts – and how to clean them
- The zoom lens technique you must never use
- How VR can work against you for sharpness – and how to get the most from it
- Discover when slower AF speeds really cause problems
- How to test your lens to see if it’s sharp
And that’s only a taste of what you’ll find in this book
In all, it nearly 450 pages of rock solid, field tested information you can use every time you’re out shooting.
If you’re tired of frustrating soft photos and really want to get the most from the Nikon AF System, then you just found your new best friend. Here are just a few sample pages to give you an idea of what you’ll find in the book:
Finally, if you’re still on the fence, think of it this way…
So many times we spend countless hundreds or even thousands of dollars purchasing gear that we hope will help us create more powerful images.
The truth is, gear is only a small part of the equation. Amazing imagery comes from YOU – the person standing a few inches behind the viewfinder.
However, when offered an opportunity to improve the part of their photography that could generate a quantum leap in quality, people often hesitate. I know for a fact that my best images were due to hundreds, even thousands of hours spent studying educational materials, not because of the gear.
So, that brings us to price. I’ve tried to make this completely affordable for any photographer – just $24.97 and it’s an instant download.
That’s basically less than a lunch date for a product that could improve your photography exponentially. Heck, even if you only discover ONE new trick or technique that helps you create an amazing image, wouldn’t it be worth it?
Check it out, you could be enjoying this new e-book in just a few minutes.
So, order now and you’ll have the book in a matter of moments!
PS – I’m 100% confident you’ll love this e-book. If you’re not satisfied, let me know and I’ll give you your money back – nothing to lose by giving it a try!
Alain (verified owner) –
A must read.
Not only for the Nikon shooter, it is clearly explained, with real exemples. You’ll know how AF works, how to choose the right mode, how (and why) to remap the AF-on button, how to address the micro focus adjustments…
Honestly, it’s well written, with humor, great exemples. It definitively worth the purchase.
Miguel Campos (verified owner) –
Thank you for putting this book together. I purchased it a couple of weeks ago, went through it in 3 days, I could not put it down.
I am am an amateur Nikon guy since 1972, my first digital was the D300s, nowadays I use a D500 and D750. I am doing a lot of high school sports for my kids, I have always played around with settings, but your book has opened a whole new world which is helping me get much better action shots.
As soon as I finished the autofocus book I purchased the one on the exposure system.
I also enjoy your sense of humor, I was going to post some snide remark, but I figure why mess with success!
Lutz Lehmann –
As a hobby photographer I somehow got stuck in landscape and architecture photography partly because I regularly failed to use the autofocus of my D750 properly for wildlife. Steve´s youtube videos brought me to this ebook and it was the best photographic investment I ever made. His explanations and examples are very descriptive and tremendously help to internalize the information and recall it when necessary. The day after I AF fine-tuned my telephoto lens with Steve´s help I went out for an early morning walk in the woods and came across a deer. I patiently followed it until it was looking right at me and took the shot that made me rediscover my hobby and happy as a kid after the first meters on a bike 🙂
Abdulrahman saleh –
Thank you for your good book
Leland LINDQUIST (verified owner) –
Secrets to Stunning Wildlife Photography was my first purchase. Last week I purchased “Secrets to the Nikon Auto Focus System. I was thoroughly impressed with the first book! It is so well written and has so much information written in a very easy to understand format. I was hesitant in buying the second book because I thought that the first book either provided what I needed or would be “way more detail than what I could understand”. I found the AF System book to be very captivating! The additional detail on BBAF, the AutoFocus Modes, AF Area Modes and Live View have really expanded my knowledge and understanding. Only about a third of the way through the book, but spending time each day furthering my knowledge – only quit when I reached the point my brain has all that it can absorb. While I have taken pictures for fifty years, I hate to admit that I was pretty much an “Auto” person until I got my Nikon D500 – LOVE IT!
NOTE: One thing I have found helpful is to print out the Table of Contents so when Steve gives one of his “tips” that isn’t directly referenced in the TOC, I make a note/reminder on the TOC I printed – saves a lot of time going back looking for something.
You will definitely enjoy and learn a lot! I have not seen anything that is so full of information and so easy to understand! Other resources, including books I have looked at, at least for me, are like reading a dictionary! Enjoy
Leland LINDQUIST (verified owner) –
Just an additional thought to my review above. When I mentioned printing the TOC and making “margin notes” in regards to TIPS that Steve makes along the way, I came across an additional very time saving approach! In most, if not all of the topics, there is information related to anyone of 5-6 camera bodies. I have a Nikon D500. As I continue reading the information, I found that by putting the page number down in the right margin that relates to the Nikon D500 saved me a lot of time. Any given topic can have up to 20 pages of information, but if I put the page where the D500 info starts, it saves me a lot of “scanning” time looking for the specific information that relates to the D500! Just a suggestion.
Fredrik Strandin (verified owner) –
Great book! Gives a deep understanding of what is actually going on, and how to use that to your advantage in varying situations. Written in a very accessible way, without loosing information and detail it feels like. Highly recommended!
Delmar Mineard Jr –
I bought the Secrets to the Nikon Autofocus System when it first came out. It’s a terrific book and I have used it to master my D7100, D750 and D780 AF system. When you seldom shoot fast moving items like BIF (birds in flight), race cars, basketball and baseball games it was great. I increased my keeper rate from 20% to 85%. I was doing a lot of incorrect things.
The examples are helpful and the sense of humor is refreshing. The key for me is I move from shutter release to back button focus and love it. Highly recommended the DSLR Edition.
Rachel Watson (verified owner) –
I’ve been immersing myself in this book for the past week, and I have to say it’s some of the best money I’ve spent! I used to struggle with focusing with my D700 and D750. But now, I feel like I have an understanding that I could never get from just reading the camera manual. I had a shoot today, and felt so much more prepared for it! “Secrets To The Nikon Autofocus System: DSLR Edition” is so comprehensive, detailed, and funny! Thank you, Steve, for making the world of photography feel more attainable. I think you might have poured your whole brain into this book, and I truly appreciate it! Ok, I will stop raving now. Thanks again!!
Steven Heipel (verified owner) –
Truly a must read for any photographer (using any camera brand), from the seasoned, to those who aren’t yet quite sure what AF is an abbreviation of. While this book does provide the information found in a technical users manual (drowning in Nikon menus is now less likely! 🙂 ) the real value comes from Steve’s ability to explain the why and the when to use of the multiple AF options available to photographers using modern cameras (thus the value no matter the camera you use). The reader also gets the full weight of Steve’s seemingly fathomless practical and useful insights. Truly, I spoke out loud to my computer a many times with a, “Well, doesn’t THAT make it easier!” or a “Oh, after all these years, now I get it!”
AND the book is a very good read written, by someone who is clearly a talented, natural teacher, with incredible clarity and a lot of fun and humour.
A cliche, I know, but this book will be a good investment in your photography! I simply started to get more keepers after reading this book. I have made it a habit to re-read sections I’m still not overly comfortable with, or want to work on, and then I go into the field (even if it’s the park next door) to practice what Steve has taught.
Andy Lamberson (verified owner) –
An excellent book that I could actually understand!
Very good explanations of “why”.
I learned a lot by reading the book.
I learned even more by going out and using what I learned.
I learned more again, re-reading it!
Ronnie (verified owner) –
Ronnie from the Netherlands here… i just wanted to thank you for this book on how to learn more about this complex stuff inside my D7200 now i know what to do and how to take really sharp photo’s when me and my wife are traveling around in Europe and taking shots everywhere.
Thank you for al this work it helped me a lot.
Thomas Otterbein (verified owner) –
It’s the same with all books from Steve.
The books opens the secrets and explained it in a usable way.
It’s always amusing to read it an study it.
The books a worth to buy it.
For me it was full of new topics. And I can say I am not a beginner…..
wjwheaton (verified owner) –
Just remarkable! As clear as his YouTube video. He is obviously more interested in teaching me than he is in showing me what he knows. My first Nikon was an F2 and one day I found my self staring blankly at a D500 menu. I basically just bought newer cameras and grudgingly moved from film to digital without much interest in what they might be capable of. After this first book for me, I can cruise the menus and actually set up some pretty cool stuff. If you have a D300 or newer, you need this book, whether you know it or not. Exposures is next and I can’t wait!
Mike Apoc (verified owner) –
I’m new to photography and at this stage I’m like a sponge, absorbing everything I can find on the subject. YouTube has be a big help and that’s where I religiously started to follow Steve’s channel. So, who needs to pay for a written manual, right? It’s all on YouTube so why spend money?
Well, somehow I decided to spend 30 bucks (I’m in Canada) to pick this up. Why? Because it’s Nikon specific and a lot of information out there is for other cameras and, as I mentioned, I’m beginner and confuse easily. Best 30 bucks I spent! The eBook is to the point and it answered many, many questions that were in my head. The extra bonus was the plethora of tips, tricks and some concepts that I had not encountered before. Their implementation has made me a better (that’s relative) photographer and has laid a good foundation for the future.
Tonight I’m back to purchase “Secrets To Exposure And Metering”
TLTR; Great Nikon photography ebook, buy it!
Sean Markus –
This should be required reading for every Nikon Shooter.
I enjoy reading photography books, and the more books I read I realize how much more I wish there were more books like this one. So many photography books try to cover photography in broad terms, and seldom have anything original to say. And that’s what I like most about Steve’s book, it takes an in-depth original approach. It is one of the few books where I learned something new, and feel like a better and more informed photographer for it.
Emilio Laguna Hurtado (verified owner) –
Excelent book! It exceeded by far my espectations. Is a mix of simple but at the same time tecnically very sofisticated explanations. The book do not miss anything you can have in mind on the subjet. If you have a Nikon you cannot miss this book. It is the right way to use next to 100% of the Nikons focus facilities. Great Steve! it has been one of my best purchases regarding photography books.
I recomended all the Nikon users to read it.
Guido Van Belle (verified owner) –
I own this book from the first version or so, bought it back in 2017. And I was glad to see that, indeed, the upgrades came in for free.
But I still go back to it to hone my use of my Nikon D7500.
I bought a second D7500, not a mirrorless because I like to travel with a single lens, 18-300 mm.
To set up my second body, I went over the book again.
When I look to set up for a specific situation, I go back to the on-line Manual from Nikon and for the best implementation, I use Steve’s books, Secrets To The Nikon Autofocus System and Secrets_To_Exposure_And_Metering_For_Nikon.
Scott Harrington (verified owner) –
A terrific book–easy to read with (admittedly lame) humor. I had previously read the DSLR version to help with my d7500, and this version really helped with my Z5. It’s a great complement to Thom Hogan’s detailed guide to the Z5.
Cookie Segelstein –
OMG, leave it to Steve to right my wrongs. I am sitting on a plane on my way to The Galápagos Islands with my new mirrorless Z9 set up (after selling most of my F mount lenses and DSLR bodies, reading this book cover to cover (the movies on the plane suck anyway). I have said “Aha!” so many times, my seat mates think there is something very wrong with me. Other than no regard from money and poor impulse control, I am perfectly normal. But seriously, this e-book has the best explanation of focus modes and focus areas of anything in print. This is invaluable. I am actually taking copious notes while I’m reading (which of course if I had done in school, I might have a better job which would allow me to take more trips.) I had the DSLR version of this book, and now that I have gone over to the other side, this is my new manual.
Linda Reed (verified owner) –
This e book was recommended to me by a friend and I am forever in her debt. I have had my D780 for 18 months and was fully aware that it was way cleverer than me and my progress in understanding it’s capabilities has been slow. But Steve’s book is helping me unlock my camera’s potential.
I have only completed as far as the Area Focus modes but have already learned so much. His presentation makes it easy to understand (unlike the Users Manual) and my fuzzy understanding of the various modes has become much sharper.
Although todays play with the various Area Focus modes has led to many deletes I already feel much more confident about my camera.
I am so excited about what else Steve will teach me. The book is written with humour and is not in the least bit dry or over technical in it’s terminology. It is full of examples and I sit with my camera in hand putting the theory into practise.
If you are thinking about purchasing this e book but hesitating in doing so just DO IT. I guarantee you won’t regret it.