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Thread: Using Autofocus on a D3

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    Workshop Member glenerrolrd's Avatar
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    Using Autofocus on a D3

    Well I packed up my D3 and 3 nikkor zooms ..for NYC and the Yankees , Us Open and some street shooting. Looking at about 1000 images and I just can not get the method of using autofocus. Trying to keep it simple as I had no difficulty with my 5D..I just put the spot on the subject..depress the shutter half way (recompose ) and shoot. Seems like I get way too many out of focus....any tricks I missed? My hit ratio is better with my DMR?

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    Re: Using Autofocus on a D3

    Can you give a bit more detail on your settings? You were using a single point in the viewfinder but what did you have set on the C,S,M on front of the camera?

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    Workshop Member glenerrolrd's Avatar
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    Re: Using Autofocus on a D3

    Quote Originally Posted by TEBnewyork View Post
    Can you give a bit more detail on your settings? You were using a single point in the viewfinder but what did you have set on the C,S,M on front of the camera?
    ...set to S.... I have tried many of the custom settings on C as well ..but went back to S . Probably not possible to determine my issue with out eliminating all the variables..just wondered if anybody else has had trouble working with their D3. I didn t have any of these problems with my 5d?

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    Re: Using Autofocus on a D3

    Roger

    Are you sure you had the center focus cross selected. I have sometimes inadvertently gotten the focus cross set to one of the outside crosses and then, since you have single focus point selected as well you will be misfocused.

    Woody

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    Re: Using Autofocus on a D3

    I have not had any focusing issues...in fact, it is freakishly accurate as long as the object you are focusing on is large enough to accommodate the bracket. I pretty much always use S mode, single focal point (bottom of the three settings next to the screen), and the central focus point. It can nail the focus much more accurately than I can with manual focus.

    You do know that you have to keep the shutter depressed to recompose though, right? Because you need to tap it to achieve focus, then keep that level of detent on the button and recompose. If you just tap it, release your finger, recompose and then shoot, it will focus again on whatever the center point is now on. (Please don't take that as an affront if you are already well-aware of that...just trying to eliminate all possible causes).
    My photos are here: http://www.stuartrichardson.com and more recent work here: http://stuartrichardson.tumblr.com/ Please have a look at my book!
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    Re: Using Autofocus on a D3

    Roger:

    Use C if the subject is moving, S if it isn't. In the Canon's at least, the C mode will give unsharp pictures on still subjects. For example, if you are shooting somebody sitting on the bench, move it to S. In the C mode the lens is constantly moving trying to predict the movement of the subject. If the subject is not moving, this will cause some unsharp pictures.

    On my Canons, I programmed the buttons by the hood to switch to S mode if pressed. If a player was not moving, I would press and hold this button to keep it in the S mode.

    You also need to set your camera using CSM 4 so that the focus is initiated with the focus hold button by your thumb, rather than the shutter release. This will give better results with sports.

    Robert

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    Re: Using Autofocus on a D3

    Hi Roger,
    First thing that comes to mind is that the AF on the Nikon D3 is superb... as good or better than anything I've ever used... so it's likely to be your settings (or technique) and not the camera. Second, if you switch around between systems, like you and I do, it's very easy to forget how you want the system set up. The interactions between active AF points and all that other stuff is confusing as heck. Let me pass along my settings and you can see if they work for you. You may recall though, that I am NOT a half-press of the shutter to focus guy. I'm one of those thumb on the AF-ON button to focus guys. To my way of thinking this avoids the potential of inadvertently refocusing when you do your usual focus and recompose... but that's a conversation for another day. First off, on the front of my camera my focus mode selector is set to C... and it stays there. Don't care whether the subject is stationary or moving... this is working just fine so I see no reason to change it. Second, My AF-Area Mode selector (the one to the right of the LCD screen) is set to Dynamic (the middle setting). This ties into the number of focus points you select in the menu but just forget about that for now, it's confusing as hell. Next, let's go into the Custom Setting Menu and select Autofocus. The first choice in that sub-menu (a1) is set to Release, so is the second (a2). For a3 I have selected 21 points as my Dynamic AF area, a4 is set to Long, a5 is set to OFF, a6 is set to ON, a7 is set to ON, a8 is selected to 51 points, a9 is set to ON (this is the setting that changes the focus method to thumbing the AF-ON button for focus), a10 is set to Same as AF-ON. These settings are different than Stuart's but the fact that neither of us has any focus issues seems to me to be a tribute to the camera. I don't know if Stuart's comment about holding the shutter depressed has hit the mark, but it's one of the reasons I use the AF-ON button to focus. Let us know how you make out...

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    Workshop Member glenerrolrd's Avatar
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    Re: Using Autofocus on a D3

    I think I understand how the system is intended to work(?) and reverted to the simplest method(holding down the shutter release to lock focus) only to eliminate most of the variables . I am pretty careful about putting the focus spot on the most important area ....locking and then recomposing. I shoot people ..in situations where they tend to move..so its possible that I am locking focus and while waiting for the moment they move. I just had very few issues with the 5D .....so I will go back and check every setting and then shoot some tests.

    Agree with the point on AF-On as the only focus switch...DK your point is probably correct..I think I am locking focus with Af-On and then I refocus(unintentionally by tapping the shutter release before firing).

    Rob I have noticed a little hunting with different settings..will check this as I get back to continuous shooting.

    I am striving to get to where I never think about AF and can concentrate on subjects,light,composition,moment ....this just requires more practice. sounds like everyone is pretty happy .

    Thanks for the comments Roger

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    Re: Using Autofocus on a D3

    Quote Originally Posted by glenerrolrd View Post
    Rob I have noticed a little hunting with different settings..will check this as I get back to continuous shooting.
    Roger
    Roger:

    Set up as David K has suggested and use the AF-On button. With that setup, you can leave it on C focus and just let up on the button when it is in focus.

    A perfect example of the back button focusing is soccer. The the ball is in the air, figure out who is going to jump for the header, press the button to focus on them, then release it as they jump. If you don't do this, the focus often hunts to the stands in the background as you pan up when the player(s) jump up. This is why focus needs to be separated from the shutter release button.

    Robert

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    Workshop Member glenerrolrd's Avatar
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    Re: Using Autofocus on a D3

    Quote Originally Posted by robsteve View Post
    Roger:

    Set up as David K has suggested and use the AF-On button. With that setup, you can leave it on C focus and just let up on the button when it is in focus.

    A perfect example of the back button focusing is soccer. The the ball is in the air, figure out who is going to jump for the header, press the button to focus on them, then release it as they jump. If you don't do this, the focus often hunts to the stands in the background as you pan up when the player(s) jump up. This is why focus needs to be separated from the shutter release button.

    Robert
    Rob Two situations are giving me problems. One ...when catching the desired action and composition...dictates predictive focusing . In baseball a play at home plate. The SI guys fill the frame with the sliding player..so its point and shoot....but I am looking for some context . I think your recommendation is correct ..just set it so AF-ON focuses and the shutter release doesn t . Two...just simple sport scapes ...a few participants in a context setting scene. This should be just a lock focus and recompose..too simple ...I am sure this is just me over riding the original focus from the shutter. Or forgetting to refocus if the subject moves. Thanks Roger

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    Re: Using Autofocus on a D3

    Roger,
    If you can get yourself into the habit of using the AF-ON button for focus you will wonder how you ever shot any other way. Having said that, my buddy Andre, who shoots my socks off every time, does it your way Whenever possible I try to avoid focus and recompose so my challenge is training my thumb to move the focus point around with the wheel and then go back to focusing. Pretty easy when everything is stationary, a bit more challenging when subjects are moving around.

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    Re: Using Autofocus on a D3

    I think you will be a lot more accurate if you follow the suggestions and move the focus off of the shutter button. It becomes second nature and the D3 is very accurate if you put one point over the subject, focus and recompose as Rob suggested.
    I agree with David that moving the focus point around is the best way to handle this, but it may be a little late to try and get comfortable with that before your shoot. I'm still trying to master that with action shots.

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    Re: Using Autofocus on a D3

    Many thanks to everyone who contributed to this thread. Using the AF-ON button to focus instead of the shutter release on my D300 has dramatically increased the proportion of my correctly-focused shots. I frequently shoot stationary subjects and have no problem moving the focus point around but it did take a while to get used to focusing with the AF-ON button. Now I can't imagine doing it any other way.

    This technique doesn't help with focusing my ZF 28/2 but I'm already aware of the solution to that problem: a D700.

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    Re: Using Autofocus on a D3

    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathon Delacour View Post
    ...
    This technique doesn't help with focusing my ZF 28/2 but I'm already aware of the solution to that problem: a D700.
    Go for it! You won't be sorry.

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    Re: Using Autofocus on a D3

    Quote Originally Posted by David K View Post
    Hi Roger,
    First thing that comes to mind is that the AF on the Nikon D3 is superb... as good or better than anything I've ever used... so it's likely to be your settings (or technique) and not the camera. Second, if you switch around between systems, like you and I do, it's very easy to forget how you want the system set up. The interactions between active AF points and all that other stuff is confusing as heck. Let me pass along my settings and you can see if they work for you. You may recall though, that I am NOT a half-press of the shutter to focus guy. I'm one of those thumb on the AF-ON button to focus guys. To my way of thinking this avoids the potential of inadvertently refocusing when you do your usual focus and recompose... but that's a conversation for another day. First off, on the front of my camera my focus mode selector is set to C... and it stays there. Don't care whether the subject is stationary or moving... this is working just fine so I see no reason to change it. Second, My AF-Area Mode selector (the one to the right of the LCD screen) is set to Dynamic (the middle setting). This ties into the number of focus points you select in the menu but just forget about that for now, it's confusing as hell. Next, let's go into the Custom Setting Menu and select Autofocus. The first choice in that sub-menu (a1) is set to Release, so is the second (a2). For a3 I have selected 21 points as my Dynamic AF area, a4 is set to Long, a5 is set to OFF, a6 is set to ON, a7 is set to ON, a8 is selected to 51 points, a9 is set to ON (this is the setting that changes the focus method to thumbing the AF-ON button for focus), a10 is set to Same as AF-ON. These settings are different than Stuart's but the fact that neither of us has any focus issues seems to me to be a tribute to the camera. I don't know if Stuart's comment about holding the shutter depressed has hit the mark, but it's one of the reasons I use the AF-ON button to focus. Let us know how you make out...
    I just redid my settings to start using this method however I haven't figured out then how to move the focus point from the center...not on D3 but on D700. Any hints welcome

    Thanks Terry

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    Re: Using Autofocus on a D3

    Just the way you change it now; no different!

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    Re: Using Autofocus on a D3

    Quote Originally Posted by TEBnewyork View Post
    I just redid my settings to start using this method however I haven't figured out then how to move the focus point from the center...not on D3 but on D700. Any hints welcome
    You need to unlock the multi-selector so that it can be used to select the focus point. (This is explained on p76 of the D700 manual.) Then you press the appropriate edge of the multi-selector to move the focus point.

    Another useful trick is that you can use the default for custom setting f1 to reset the focus point to the center when you press the center of the multi-selector.

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    Re: Using Autofocus on a D3

    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathon Delacour View Post
    You need to unlock the multi-selector so that it can be used to select the focus point. (This is explained on p76 of the D700 manual.) Then you press the appropriate edge of the multi-selector to move the focus point.

    Another useful trick is that you can use the default for custom setting f1 to reset the focus point to the center when you press the center of the multi-selector.
    Thanks, the multi selector was locked...never even noticed the lock before as I never lock/unlock it.
    Last edited by Terry; 13th September 2008 at 17:27.

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    Re: Using Autofocus on a D3

    You're going to love this Terry... just give it a little time till it becomes second nature. Keep us posted of your progress. Wishing you were here at the lighting workshop this week...

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    Re: Using Autofocus on a D3

    I also use the depress 1/2 way method ... mainly because I mastered it years ago before even knowing about AF-ON. And I'm now not interested in practicing AF-ON because my thumb is often already busy re-positioning the AF point (why, is explained later)

    Once mastered, I never had focusing problems again ... and frankly with shooting weddings cannot afford any.

    My hit ratio with the D3 and D700 is 98%+ even with a f/1.4 lens close up on a moving subject. My previous Canon 5D was "snail focus" compared to these cameras... especially off-center subjects.

    When using AFS lenses both the D3 and D700 are just as fast as my previous Canon 1DMKIII & 1DsMKIII cameras. However, some of the older Nikon lenses are slower ... like my 135/2DC is slower than the Canon 135/2L was.

    The word "practice" cannot be over emphasized.

    IMO, focussing and re-composing is NOT the best technique to practice .... it isn't necessarily a bad method if you have the DOF to cover the focus distance shift inherent with recomposing ... wide lenses rarely visably exhibit these minor AF errors ... or if you are using slow maximum aperture lenses then the 15 more sensitive Cross Type sensors located in the center of the AF array of the D3/D700 can be beneficial. But with fast aperture, mid to longer lenses, more errors become possible and more likely when focusing in the center and recomposing ... which I had confirmed the hard way when shooting wedding candids with Canon's 50/1.2 and 85/1.2 wide open.

    The one aspect that I've learned about using 1/2 depress method using S for AF rather than C is to manually track a moving subject with taps to the shutter release button ... this keeps the focus range a shorter throw, and makes it faster AF. Then when the subject is where I want them, I do one smooth depression of the shutter button, (if you 1/2 press to focus, pause even a nano second and then shoot, it often leads to an unsharp image because the subject moved, or you did (sway) ... again less of an issue with a wide lens at 2.8 or f/4 but visable with a 50 or 85 @ f/1.4.)

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    Re: Using Autofocus on a D3

    Mark
    Thank you for posting your experience. I agree 100% that locking focus and recomposing doesn t cut it for many situations. I have the same issues you point out..I am trying to recompose and keep the focus correct with a moving subject. Big difference when you are speaking about shooting at 1.2/1.4 ..good ideas to work with. Roger

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    Re: Using Autofocus on a D3

    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathon Delacour View Post
    Many thanks to everyone who contributed to this thread. Using the AF-ON button to focus instead of the shutter release on my D300 has dramatically increased the proportion of my correctly-focused shots. I frequently shoot stationary subjects and have no problem moving the focus point around but it did take a while to get used to focusing with the AF-ON button. Now I can't imagine doing it any other way.

    This technique doesn't help with focusing my ZF 28/2 but I'm already aware of the solution to that problem: a D700.
    When I moved from a D300 to a D700 it was a night and day difference with the ZF lenses. I suggest the Nikon viewfinder magnifier also.

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    Re: Using Autofocus on a D3

    I subscribe to the placement of the focus point in anticipation of the subject location ... usually for compositional reasons ... i.e., see the man running, see the banana peel, see the man, back to the banana peel ... place the focus point on the banana peel and be ready.

    But this requires a trained thumb on the focus point command wheel and quick compositional reflexes. I used to use this technique when shooting a Leica M which only has center focusing. It wasn't focus and recompose which was a bit to slow, but instead focus accurately where the subject will be, recompose and shoot when the subject gets there. That didn't correct the focus shift issue .... which is where the ability to place a focus point where you want in a DSLR viewfinder has it's advantages.

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