Hi all, I've been an amateur animator for over a decade now but am totally new to these forums, was hoping someone could help me with a major problem I'm having. 

Having been animating at an amateur level for sometime, I really wanted to step up the quality of the work I was producing. I have the demo of dragon frame to test it out, with the hopes of buying it soon, and a brand new Nikon D3300. The two go hand in hand beautifully, save one thing: the flicker. After looking through the forums and on the dragon frame website, I found that my problem is probably the lens. I quickly spent the last bit of money I have saved for this sort of thing on a Nikkor AF 50mm lens. Much to my dismay, it arrived yesterday, and doesn't actually feature a focus feature, and my camera, as far as I can tell does not autofocus. I understand I should have looked this up beforehand, but am not well educated in photography and thought a focus wheel was standard!

I'm not sure where to go from here. I have looked online and can't find a nikon lens that features an aperture ring AND a focusing one. In the meantime I'm having to grin and bare it with the flicker, but would love to know the best path to take to get rid of it. Will be returning the lens, unless anyone knows of a workaround?

Any advice would be much appreciated! 

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The problem is the AF in the name of the lens - it means autofocus, and is what you need to avoid. You need to get an older manual focus lens and an adapter to make it fit your camera. 

I've listed a bunch of informative threads here:

Link list - Handy links to useful information on the forum

At the very top are several relating to exactly what you're doing that are filled with loads of info. If you go through the first 2 or 3 threads you'll understand the situation. This is a very common question and has been asked and answered many times. And if you have any questions, fire away here. 

Wow, I've never seen a lens without a focus ring - even the kit lenses, which can be set to auto focus, generally have a focus ring!  What the kit lenses, and all Canon lenses now don't have is an aperture ring, which is why I use older manual lenses from Nikon or Olympus or other makers where there is a suitable adapter.

Here's what I use on my Canon 7d -  old manual Nikkor lenses made for Film SLR cameras, with a simple Nikon-to-Canon EOS lens adapter (no auto-confirm, or any electronic connections).

I can't judge the condition of a lens on eBay, but here are some current sale ads that are similar to the ones I use.

28mm - ( I managed perfectly well with a 28 and a 55 macro.) -  http://www.ebay.com/itm/Nikon-Nikkor-28mm-F2-8-Lens-Excellent-Condi...

Cheap but "ugly" 24mm  -   http://www.ebay.com/itm/Nikon-24mm-F-2-8-AIS-Manual-Focus-Lens-/291...

Nice but expensive 24mm - http://www.ebay.com/itm/Excellent-Nikon-Nikkor-24mm-F-2-Ai-S-Lens-f...

55mm macro (called "micro" by Nikon.  There are several of these that came up.    http://www.ebay.com/itm/NIKON-MICRO-NIKKOR-55MM-F3-5-AI-Manual-Focu...

My update failed to update - so I was adding, that I used these lenses on a Nikon D70 before, and partly unscrewed them to disable the lever that opens up the iris between shots, and that worked.

I've tried the method for using a kit lens on a Canon, and that worked too, but I haven't tried it with a Nikon.  You set the aperture with the camera, then press the Depth of Focus button so the view goes darker and the iris stops down to where you set it, then you partly unscrew the lens so the camera loses electronic contact and can't control it.  So it should stay stopped down all the time, and not vary.  Don't know if you can do that with a Nikon, but you could try it I guess.  But the lens you bought sounds like it is no improvement on the kit lens that came with the camera as far as animation is concerned.

Thanks for the advice guys, I greatly appreciate it!

So it turns out that the lens isn't compatible with the camera at all, so at least there's that out of the way. I'm also looking at the ebay listings for 'non-cpu' 50mm lenses (as suggested by the powers that be at nikon), and am unfortunately coming up short. The lenses above do not state whether or not they would be compatible with a D3300, and I am very worried about wasting more money (which I really don't have, though if I can return my current lens at least I'll get a bit back), do you think it would be worth messaging the sellers and asking? 

Flicker is such a frustrating problem, it's so small yet obvious and so expensive to fix!

At this point I'm beginning to wonder whether or not it might be worth selling the camera itself. Seems to be the problem is with it's lack of functionality, though It'd be great if there was an alternative to selling.

I've never heard of anything called a "non-cpu" lens, and I've definitely never seen any lens listed that way. I doubt you'd turn anything up with that kind of search parameters. But one thing we need to understand as stopmotion animators is that camera people - in fact all other kinds of people who work in various related industries where we scavenge our parts and equipment from, know absolutely nothing about our needs. In their own field they might be absolutely genius, but as soon as you try to tell them the special needs we work under their eyes go blank and something in their heads says "no available data - this does not compute". And usually instead of trying to comprehend our special needs, they instead revert to their normal programming and start spewing stuff they do know about, which is completely off target for us and doesn't help at all. 

What you do need to look for in a lens is what was mentioned on those threads I linked to earlier - AS or AIS are good for our needs - they have all necessary functions and can be used in full manual mode. Also, the lens does not need to be 'compatible' with your camera - the idea is to get one that isn't. Compatible means that it has the right attachment and the right kinds of electronic connectors to allow it to be controlled by the camera (auto focus, auto-exposure etc). So what you want are lenses that are not compatible. This is why you also get an adaptor (if the lens uses a different kind of attachment than your camera does), which allows them to work together. 

UPDATE: So I went back to basics, as I was sure there was something I was missing. Going all the way back to the dragon frame website, I found the link to the adobe suggestions on stopping flicker in stop motion films with DSLRs. There, it suggests nikon users try masking tape over the connectors in the lens to try and stop communication between the camera and the lens. 

I had tried this before, with the lens that came with the camera in the first place. Not only did this not work, but the camera refused to operate (it wouldn't take any pictures). However, I've just tried this with the lens with an aperture ring, and it does in fact work (!!!)

I won't get to test it out properly until tomorrow, so I'll update this thread when I know it works for sure, but in the meantime, does anyone know whether or not this 'masking tape' method is at all damaging to the lens / camera? I've heard that so long as the camera doesn't overheat it's not a problem, but I better double check to be safe. 

I went to eBay, Shop by category, Electronics, Cameras and Photo.  Then I clicked on Lenses and Filters.  In that category, I searched for Nikon Manual Lenses.  Look for AI or AIS lenses, they are definitely ok to use on a modern DSLR body.

In google generally, I searched for Nikon Manual Lenses for sale, to see what I could find from other places than eBay.  I got this hit, where it says that there is renewed interest in manual lenses for DSLRs that also shoot video, so Nikon is still making them.  http://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/content/nikons-manual-focus-lenses   There are links to various lenses like the 24mm, bad news is it costs $469 new, but at least they do exist.  (My 24mm was about $100.) 

I've never heard them called "non-cpu lenses" either, because when they were made there was no such thing as a cpu in a camera to be all "non" about.  It's a fair way to describe them now I guess, but I doubt you'd find anything described that way.  They are older lenses, but that's not a bad thing, they are much more solidly built than the plasticky things made now.  Also they are made to cover the full 35mm film area, like the full-size sensor camera models, so if you ever upgraded to one of those the lenses would still be good.  Some lenses today are made to cover only the smaller DX sensor and are no good for the bigger sensor.  And if any cheaper lens had a bit of distortion or darkening around the edges, that's ok on the smaller sensor because you are cropping off that bit anyway.

I got my first 2 lenses, the 55mm and the 28mm, from a second hand camera store, and was able to try them on my camera body before deciding to purchase.  It cost more - about $500 for the two - but I could be sure they were in excellent condition.  The 24mm from eBay USA turned out to have a sticky iris - oil on the blades - that make it very slow to stop down (about 1/2 sec!), but that's fine for animation because I have it stopped down all the time, I don't let it open up between exposures in the normal way a still camera lens does.

A good site to read about old Nikon lenses, what works with what camera, what the differences are:  http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/nikortek.htm  - but bearing in mind what Strider said about stills photographers not really knowing about what animators need.

I don't see how masking tape would cause any problems, it just disconnects the lens from the camera which is trying to change the settings.  But if there is no aperture or focus ring on the lens, you would need the camera to be connected to set those things initially, then press focus preview button and disconnect...  so you'd have to put it on without the tape, set it, then remove it and add the tape, and attach it again...  I don't see that working.

Someone else had a concern about partly unscrewing the lens - like maybe the wrong contacts could then line up and send a zap where you don't want it  - but it wasn't a problem when I tried that on my Canon with a Canon kit lens.  The only issue was doing it while connected to Dragonframe, both DF and the camera got the sulks.   I had to set the lens and untwist it first, then connect the USB cable from the camera to DF.

Here's a demo of the 'lens twist method':

The Lens Twist Method by Dustin Farrell from Dustin Farrell- dustin@dfvc.com on Vimeo.

It's posted on my blog right under the threads about lenses and adapters for DSLR cameras, not sure if you saw it or not. But this is what Nick is talking about. 

Jimothy, I have the D3200. I just had the basic AF lens that came with it, but I had a couple of old manual lenses from my Chinon 35mm, the regular (Chinon) and a Quantaray zoom. The Chinon uses a Pentax K mount, so I got a Pentax K to Nikon adapter on Amazon. I tried both on the 3200 and the camera worked. I believe it notified me that only manual settings were available, but that's what we want, right? I haven't actually used it yet though, lol.

Anywho....I guess the point is, you can find older manual lenses pretty cheap now since most people have them collecting dust in the attic and with the proper adapter, Bob's your uncle!

I really don't think most 50mm lenses are very good for stop motion anyway due to longer minimum focal lengths, my nifty 50 can only get as close as 2 feet without some kind of adaptors, if you don't feel safe buying lenses on eBay Keh.com sells them and are very trustworthy. Here is the 55mm micro you should start with.

Last week I made a video on the lenses I recommend for stop-motion, spoilers, I recomend the Nikkor 55mm micro f/3.5 AI, Nikkor 35mm f/2.8 AI, Nikkor 24mm f/2.8 AI, and Nikkor 105mm f/4 micro. In the video I show footage with each recommendation at it's minimum focal length and give an idea how I use it in my animation.

Be wary of masking tape. It is designed to be attached to surfaces only for a short time. The glue does something strange after a few days, makes it hard to remove without leaving a residue. And heat will make it worse. So if you use masking tape, be sure to remove it at the end of every session. Don't be tempted to leave it or you may wreck your contacts.

Thanks for the suggestions everyone, I'm learning a great deal! 

Chris, I've been working with the lens for a couple of days now, and while it does suit my needs, I have noticed the focal length is a little below par. I've added Keh.com to my list of stores. I'll be checking them out soon, though it is looking as though they don't ship outside the US. I'll double check, but either way thanks for the recommendation!

I've been ensuring I animate in two hour bursts Simon, taking off the masking whenever the camera isn't in use. Hopefully this is enough to avoid such a problem occurring (I've been told it is).

I think for the most part my issue has been resolved. The lens isn't perfect, but I at least understand the sort of lenses that do and don't work, that my camera isn't the problem (thank goodness) and how to get rid of the flicker as best I can; the footage I've shot so far doesn't seem to flicker at all, bar my reflection in the walls on some test shots!

Thanks again everyone! I've learnt a great deal!

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