Tag Archives: autofocus

The Image Doctors #131

How We Use Autofocus

This week, Jason & Rick discuss some of the recent advances in digital camera autofocus systems, and how they’ve changed (or not) the way we shoot. We’ll talk drive modes, AF-area patterns, and the recent implementation of AI-based subject-detection in higher-end mirrorless cameras. In the end, we’ll share the settings we use most frequently in our own photography.

My Go-To Focus Setting For Birds In Flight

Better BIFs Starts With Better Focus

Nikon Group Area AF
Good flight shots start with fast focus acquisition.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve struggled with photographing birds in flight for years. The number one problem I and others have is focus acquisition. With birds in flight (BIFs), the ideal situation is to lock focus early while the animal is still at distance, track the approaching bird, and then capture a rapid burst of shots when the bird begins to fill the frame.

For me, my struggles have always been two-fold. First, when birds are very far away, it’s often hard for the camera to discern the difference between the subject and the background. Often times the camera will focus on the background instead of the bird. When this happens, you need to quickly re-cycle the focus system (pump the focus). The other challenge is when the bird drops below a background object such as trees or a mountain ridge. Again, the focus system can quickly lose track of the subject unless it’s fairly large in the frame. Continue reading My Go-To Focus Setting For Birds In Flight

Nikon D500: Setting up a Focus Trap

Scratching my head and a Eureka! moment…

So, I’ve been playing with my new Nikon D500 and one thing was a real head-scratcher: the behavior of focus vs. release priority mode when using continuous servo (AF-C) focus. For some reason, I couldn’t get focus priority mode to work when using AF-ON mode.

The priority mode option (in theory) allows you to choose as to whether or not the shutter will fire when the camera’s active AF sensor indicates proper focus. In single-servo mode (AF-S), focus-priority is the default. In continuous-servo mode, release-priority is the default. Continue reading Nikon D500: Setting up a Focus Trap

D800 Sharpness: Focus Accuracy

If you are using a Nikon D800, chances are that you want to make big prints or crop aggressively. To get the kind of sharp images that can stand up to these stresses, you need a tack-sharp image. Focus is a big part of getting sharp images.

As I mentioned yesterday, camera shake is a critical factor in determining image sharpness. For best results, you want to use either a very fast shutter speed or a tripod to eliminate camera shake from softening your images. Today, I’ll take a quick look at focus accuracy and how you can maximize it with your Nikon DSLRs. Continue reading D800 Sharpness: Focus Accuracy

Testing the Nikon D4: Performance with the 70-300mm VR Nikkor

Otter, comin' atcha! Nikon D4 with 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 AFS G VR Nikkor lens

The 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 AFS G VR zoom Nikkor is one of those lenses that is often overlooked by professionals as a viable telephoto option.  Why? For starters, it’s relatively slow maximum aperture (f/5.6) means that you really need to shoot it at f/8 to get maximum sharpness. For sports and wildlife shooters, who require fast shutter speeds, that meant using the lens either in bright conditions or with very high ISO settings. That equation changed with the release of the Nikon D3, which allowed very high ISO shooting with clean results. In fact, I recall Dave Black saying how he could use the 70-300mm with the D3 as a viable option. Continue reading Testing the Nikon D4: Performance with the 70-300mm VR Nikkor