Site Sponsors
Results 1 to 14 of 14

Thread: Share Nikon AF tips with a novice, please!

  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Posts
    1,587
    Post Thanks / Like

    Share Nikon AF tips with a novice, please!

    Hey all.
    As insane as this sounds, in all my years as a photographer I've never (properly) used an auto focus camera. Early on in my career I had an EOS 33 and hated the ergonomics and low level automation so ditched it in favor of a Nikon FM2 and MF glass. The MF glass and fully manual experience made me feel more confident and assertive in my craft and I missed less shots by not second guessing the camera. Then came Leica M cameras and I fell in love... Enough said about that...

    Now, for practical reasons, I'm shooting with the D700. Mostly I use ZF glass, which I'm loving, but I also own the 24-70mm Nikkor. It's a brilliant lens but I'm totally useless at using it effectively. The auto focus system really gives me the sh*&s! Thing is, I know it's down to the user not the system or lens. I just have no idea on how to set up my camera or employ the AF system effectively to do what I want to do. Eg. I've got it set to only use the central focus point, I focus then recompose (while holding down the shutter release half way as to lock focus,) then take the shot. They I go to take another shot in quick succession and the camera focuses at a different place. So I've changed the setup so the focus button is on the rear AF-ON button and not the half press on the shutter. Is that how you all do it? How do the other AF point modes work and are they useful or reliable? I'm only using a millionth of the D700's capabilities and it's hindering my results. For the life of me I don't know how all you people get consistent AF results.

    So, please, please, please... Share your AF secrets (and even some common knowledge,) so this traditionalist can enjoy the fruits of technology!!!

  2. #2
    Subscriber & Workshop Member GrahamWelland's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Vancouver, WA
    Posts
    5,801
    Post Thanks / Like
    Images
    564

    Re: Share Nikon AF tips with a novice, please!

    To start with AF you've probably already set the first option I'd recommend - AF on the AF-ON button only and not from the shutter. I'd also recommend moving from central AF point to single AF point mode and set & use the AF mode selector on the rear and enable the pad to move the AF point around. Related to this, I'd set the wrap AF point on as well, plus the AF point illumination option. For this mode I'll also make sure the AF selector on the front is set to AF-S for single.

    These options cover 95% of my AF use (I'm a MF person too by preference). For shooting wildlife I do have a completely different configuration which I assign to particular settings bank.

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Posts
    1,587
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: Share Nikon AF tips with a novice, please!

    Thanks for the reply.
    What does "wrap AF point" mean, and how fast do you find your methods to be? Does it take a bit of dexterity and getting used to or did you find the AF process pretty natural to pick up? I feel like I'm a being a little slow to pick up something so seemingly simple...

  4. #4
    Subscriber & Workshop Member GrahamWelland's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Vancouver, WA
    Posts
    5,801
    Post Thanks / Like
    Images
    564

    Re: Share Nikon AF tips with a novice, please!

    AF Wrap around - custom function A7. This allows you to move the focus point around using the selector pad on the back of the camera and it wraps around left/right or top/bottom if you move beyond the edge of the focus area in the viewfinder.

    Personally I find AF pretty natural. The only real issues I have are that for most general landscape work it's unnecessary and the AF region in the viewfinder is too small - I often want to be able to put the AF point outside of the central region that Nikon deem as being where I should be.

    Oh, and another key setting that I always have set is RELEASE priority for AF-S mode - custom function A2. If you are used to MF then this may be the one hurting you because the shutter won't fire if the point under the AF selector is not in focus. By default it is set to focus priority which I personally hate. On this mode you can AF on what you want and then leave it there and not have to reselect again until you want to.
    Last edited by GrahamWelland; 27th December 2009 at 20:33.

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Posts
    1,587
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: Share Nikon AF tips with a novice, please!

    Sweet, all helpful tips. Thanks. I guess after all said and done I've just got to jump in and do it. I just hate missing the action! Will try keep it up at gatherings and such until I feel I can rely on it for work.

    Any more tips, anyone?

  6. #6
    Senior Subscriber Member Steen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Denmark, CPH
    Posts
    2,500
    Post Thanks / Like
    Images
    12

    Re: Share Nikon AF tips with a novice, please!

    In another thread I pointed at this:

    With the Multiselector (joystick button) you can manually select among all the focuspoints after half-pressing the shutterbutton shortly.
    With the Multiselector Lock (the ring around the Multiselector) you can lock the focuspoint so that you don't change focuspoint by pushing the Multiselector by accident.
    See about Focus Point Selection at p. 76 - 77 in your manual.
    Last edited by Steen; 28th December 2009 at 01:12.

  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    NORCAL
    Posts
    304
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: Share Nikon AF tips with a novice, please!

    i do sports for various wire companies and my focus point moves pretty fast and is often confused by surrounding objects--such as NHL. i do what Graham said, which is to use the AF button only to focus, keep it on central point only, most of the time. i move the point around as needed with the dial on the back and do it real time (i.e., switch it up for a vertical head shot, then middle for a horizontal action shot). with the D3 i am amazed at how well the camera focuses, but sometimes am a tad off if the point hits a body instead of a face. btw, faces are harder to focus on often due to contrast, but the D3 is pretty good. i shoot mostly at high speeds and wide open--1/1250 up and use ISO to keep me in the game. you can shoot way below this speed, but if you are doing action but make sure you have a solid base and the camera isn't moving when you hit the shutter.

    p/s is a cure to some error's but you have to be careful when you use any sharpen as it will drive the real focal point goes digital real fast.

    i also use surrounding points for some work, but that is another story.

    anyway, good luck.

  8. #8
    Subscriber & Workshop Member GrahamWelland's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Vancouver, WA
    Posts
    5,801
    Post Thanks / Like
    Images
    564

    Re: Share Nikon AF tips with a novice, please!

    Another tip is to remember that you can use the centre button on the AF pad to return the AF point to the centre on demand. Can't remember if that's an option setting or std ... perhaps should check.

  9. #9
    Subscriber Member kit laughlin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Two suitcases and the latest MBA
    Posts
    1,334
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: Share Nikon AF tips with a novice, please!

    By default it is set to focus priority which I personally hate.
    I disagree, and I am an ex-all-MF shooter for many years. I cannot see the point of taking an image if it is out of focus (assuming you know where the camera is focussing), so I have this set to FOCUS priority. In the vast majority of images, shutter press will result in an instantaneous release. If not, the camera was not able to focus on the indicated AF points.

    As well, if you are shooting fast changing events, the dynamic focus modes can work extremely well, and if you do not like the focus point the camera has selected, re-press the shutter and it will find other nearby points. And you can select the camera's behaviour re. people walking in front of your selected zone of focus, too (you can have the camera ignore these foreground moving objects, if you want, or not; three speed options).

    Finally, in some situations (like some kinds of fast-moving activities, where the desired plane of focus is changing constantly), selecting AF-C will give superior results, if you have selected FOCUS priority.

    With portraits, of course, the situation is different: assuming portrait orientation and AF-S and FOCUS priority, use the selector to move the AF point to the desired eye. If your sitter is the still sort, all good. If they are moving in and out, OTOH, AF-C and FOCUS priority gives better results, I find. hth,kl

  10. #10
    Subscriber & Workshop Member GrahamWelland's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Vancouver, WA
    Posts
    5,801
    Post Thanks / Like
    Images
    564

    Re: Share Nikon AF tips with a novice, please!

    Kit,

    I don't disagree with the points you raise but the OP was asking about how to get started as a convert from manual focus. When I shoot dynamic situations I have a completely different AF configuration, as I mentioned in the very first post..

    The beauty of the camera system is that is supports options and configurability to suit YOUR particular preferences. In my case, thats RELEASE priority for AF-S mode because I know what I've selected as the focus point but may actually shift the camera or AF point so that the area under the selected point I'm using may not be what I want in focus (for example if I select something outside of the restricted AF zones or focus at point A but meter off point B etc). In my case, nothing irks me more than the camera refusing to release the shutter when I press the button because AF point isn't in focus (since I use AF-ON). But, hey, that's just me.

    For shooting moving subjects I also use the AF-C and dynamic/zone AF modes. Basically, move the selector up as you decide to add more automation to the picture taking process and vice versa. I didn't go into these modes as you can literally write a book trying to explain the options & best practice recommendations.

    Choices, choices ... the good news is that you can configure your camera to suit just you, and you alone.

  11. #11
    Subscriber Member kit laughlin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Two suitcases and the latest MBA
    Posts
    1,334
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: Share Nikon AF tips with a novice, please!

    Ah, Graham: that made me laugh:
    But, hey, that's just me.
    I get that, completely.

    I did not mean to sound adversarial; I was disagreeing only with the recommendation against FOCUS priority. But, hey, that's just me!

    I agree 110% (as we say here, wanting to be even more definite than definite!) with your recommendations for a new convert. You have to love the forums: a major learning tool.

    BTW, and completely OT, I wish I could afford those PC-E lenses you have for sale—the 24 PC-E is now my most-used lens and I honestly do not know how I got by in my work without it. cheers, kl

  12. #12
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Posts
    1,587
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: Share Nikon AF tips with a novice, please!

    Thanks again for the replies. Still trying to practice with AF but keep reverting back the ZF manual focus lenses out of habit and ritual! I have been trying to use the focus point selector though to get in the habit of using the pad in order to get more accurate focus confirmation. It's starting to become more natural, although I must say using the rear AF-On button to activate auto focus seems an unnatural action, moving thumb from one rear button to another, sometimes multiple times. I imagine the whole process will take some getting used to and more forced practice. In many respects I actually believe I'm having more problems getting used to the big, front heavy zoom lens coming from MF primes. The zoom makes me second guess myself (as AF did) and all of a sudden I'm not trying to work for the photos by positioning myself within the action, just being lazy and turning the zoom. That too I'll get used to in time, although I hope Nikon will one day get their act together and bring out some great, fast primes like Canon. The 50mm AF-S Nikkor is a bit of a joke compared to Canon's 50mm L and man, where's the 35mm f1.4 Nikkor? Give me those two lenses, weather sealed with Nano-Crystal coating and I'd be totally converted to Nikon AF...

    One more thing though: I was playing with a 5dII today and although I like its extra resolution, and the final file output is arguably on par with the D700's for what I use a DSLR for, the handling, VF and build just feels so much better with the Nikon to me. Lets hope it's a good year for us Nikon users and we get some new optics to rival Canon's best.

  13. #13
    Subscriber & Workshop Member GrahamWelland's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Vancouver, WA
    Posts
    5,801
    Post Thanks / Like
    Images
    564

    Re: Share Nikon AF tips with a novice, please!

    I think there's definitely merit in the idea of 'Nikon hands' vs 'Canon hands' - some people find the ergonomics of Nikon cameras most natural (me - fit like a glove), but others have equal predilection to Canon for exactly the same reasons. Both will do the job fabulously.

    Btw, nothing wrong with that ZF glass at all! I used this for quite a while and may end up picking up some of the ZF.2 glass again. AF is convenient but the Zeiss is great glass and particularly appealing again now that it is CPU coded.

  14. #14
    Subscriber & Workshop Member GrahamWelland's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Vancouver, WA
    Posts
    5,801
    Post Thanks / Like
    Images
    564

    Re: Share Nikon AF tips with a novice, please!

    Quote Originally Posted by kit laughlin View Post
    BTW, and completely OT, I wish I could afford those PC-E lenses you have for sale—the 24 PC-E is now my most-used lens and I honestly do not know how I got by in my work without it. cheers, kl
    I highly recommend the PC-E glass - the 45 & 85 are equally sharp to the 24 with arguably more usable Tilt usability. In an ideal world I'd have kept them but for my still life and landscape shooting I've been using Helicon Focus and so freed up some capital for other useful items in the meantime.

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •