I am new to the forum and very also new to owning the D600. Prior to my D600 I had gone through a Canon Rebel T2i, and a Nikon D3200. Both of which were great starter cameras that helped me 'learn the ways of the force'. I am an artist and normally work with a paintbrush but am finding myself getting more serious about photography.
As of late, I have been doing a huge amount of research, testing, and practicing with my new D600. I absolutely love it!
BUT! I have a questions that I cannot find an answer to anywhere and have had trouble testing on my own with it being the middle of winter in South Dakota.
I am curious as to what type of autofocus settings you all use for wildlife shooting? I have seen many photographers that all have their own settings that work best for them... and in all honesty I will probably have to find out for myself through more practice.
But I will be heading to South Africa in a couple of months, and hope to be prepared and really don't want to miss any great opportunities by shooting in an autofocus mode that does not really suit...
So here we go:
I have heard a lot of photogs using AF-C with d39 or 9 or even 21
I have also heard of AF-A with 3d tracking
Some keep their settings on AF-S with single point! ???
Most of the animals in the Kruger National Park tend to hold pretty still. But sometimes they are running or flying and you only have a moment to capture them. SO? Maybe just keeping the camera on auto would suit---but I want to be more in control of my shots.
In all of your experience, what do you all suggest? What has worked well for you in similar situations?
And as a last note, do you think that keeping the camera set in Apeture Priority would be sensible?
Thank you all VERY MUCH in advance!
#1. "RE: Wildlife Autofocus Settings???" | In response to Reply # 0Sat 12-Jan-13 11:55 PM | edited Sat 12-Jan-13 11:57 PM by dm1dave
Hi Lauren and welcome to Nikonians!
You are correct that there are many ways to set-up AF and in the end you will find the settings that best suits your shooting style.
If you subject moves at all or you frequently switch from stationary to moving subjects you probably use AF-C. If you are set a AF-S and the animal does something interesting you could miss the shot if that camera cannot track focus. I always shoot AF-C.
I would suggest using dynamic area AF with either 9 or 21 points most of the time. This is one that you will need to experiment with to see what you like best. I seldom use single point AF because I could be shooting a stationary turtle and then see a bird flying by and need to quickly focus and track that bird.
I don’t like AF-A or auto area AF. It is better to take control of your AF when shooting wildlife. The subjects are often surrounded by grass, leaves, twigs, etc. that can grab focus away from your subject.
I almost always use center-weighted metering and sometimes matrix. Spot metering requires that you meter on a very specific tone to get proper exposure. You often do not have that opportunity with moving wildlife.
I think aperture priority is pretty commonly used in wildlife. More often than not we just want the fastest shutter speed possible. We choose aperture based on a balance between depth of field and getting enough light for a fast shutter speed. If you find that you need a particular shutter speed then shutter it is easy to switch to shutter priority.
Find anything you can to practice on before your trip and ask a many questions here as you need. We are here to help!
You have some really nice works on your website both paintings and photographs.
#2. "RE: Wildlife Autofocus Settings???" | In response to Reply # 1Sun 13-Jan-13 01:33 PM
Thank you very much for your advise, it helps tremendously! Just out of curiousity---why use the 9 or 21 point rather than the full 39 points? I'm assuming it might be faster?
Btw, great photos! I especially love the shots of the Bald Eagles!
#3. "RE: Wildlife Autofocus Settings???" | In response to Reply # 2Snapshott Nikonian since 01st Sep 2007Sun 13-Jan-13 02:30 PM
Dave nailed the answer a lot better than I could have. Two thing to add is I also am constantly using exposure compensation to adjust exposure usually based on the tone of my subject. I usually shoot in aperture mode and set it for easy exposure compensation. This allow me to adjust exposure compensation by turing the rear command dial.
I resisted it for years but I also have found that switching to rear button focus works very well.
Visit my Nikonians gallery.
#4. "RE: Wildlife Autofocus Settings???" | In response to Reply # 1mkbee1 Registered since 26th Nov 2012Sun 13-Jan-13 02:33 PM | edited Sun 13-Jan-13 02:39 PM by mkbee1
Africa, you LUCKY person!
I try to keep things as simple as I can, and pre set beforehand. No time to mess with settings, or peering at the LCD screen, to see if we have the "right" exposure when "it" happens!
You could do just fine set on "P". That stands for "Pro"...(And many of 'em use that, but will they admit it? Nooooo... )orrr...maybe "Panic!"
Aperture priority is a good one, too. Pick an aperture that will allow good DOF, say F/8 or 11, and let the camera sweat the hard stuff!The light goes, jack up the ISO a notch or two. Or, use AUTO ISO.
Centerweighted metering is fine, and for years, was all we had, besides spot metering on some cameras.
When I got my first camera with Matrix metering, the other settings never got used. And for generally excellent results 98.732 % of the time, Matrix all the way!
Multiple focusing sensors are great, but when that once-in-a-lifetime shot appears, by reflex, most of us will break out in a cold sweat when our adrenaline kicks in, center the image, and let our shutter fingers do what we have trained them to do! Dynamic area with central focusing spot have done well for me, in most situations.
Your camera is a marvel of technology, having more computing power than a World War II Destroyer, but it can get very confusing, what with all the gadgets and doodads. Pick one or three features you think will be most useful, get familiar with them, then add as the need arises.
Like my flight instructor said: "First, we start with staight and level flight." Later, the tricks can be added. Practice! Panning with a truck on the interstate, or the neighbor's SUV coming down your street. It all helps.
Oh, are you going to have fun!
It is a Fine and Pleasant Madness
Visit my Nikonians gallery.
#5. "RE: Wildlife Autofocus Settings???" | In response to Reply # 0
I'm certainly no expert on shooting large animals Lauren, and you've received some great advise from the members above.
For relatively still subjects, another method I've used successfully to to maintain your centre focal point (which usually is the most senstive and reacts faster). Press the shutter half way and focus on your your subject (usually the subject's eye). Maintain the half depressed shutter (which will lock focus) and recompose as required. You can also program the AE-L/AF-L to lock either exposure, focus or both.
Also rather than use AF-C, I've tended to use AF-S most times and just pump the shutter release to acquire a new focal point. This is something you really need to practice to see which method works best for you.
Good luck and I'm sure you'll have a spectacular time.
#6. "RE: Wildlife Autofocus Settings???" | In response to Reply # 5Sun 13-Jan-13 09:46 PM
Thank you all for the great advice! I played a lot with a few of the settings today out the window. I had set up a bird feeder which immediately brought oodles of little hopping feathered friends eager to gobble up seeds...they proved to be perfect for the task! I definitely found out that the 3d tracking focus had the tendency to focus on random things around the subject. It just didn't seem to work as well as the dynamic system.
I have come up with a great plan with all of the advice--- I set my U1 custom settings to AF-C, d21, spot metering, on aperture priority. My U2 setting set to AF-S, single point, spot metering, aperture priority for animals that cooperate by holding still.
I am thinking this will work okay, but undoubtedly after some true field testing I am sure I will see if anything needs to be changed.
Do you all have a preference for any metering mode? Some swear by the spot metering, and some the matrix?
#8. "RE: Wildlife Autofocus Settings???" | In response to Reply # 6Dubes Nikonian since 15th Jun 2007Sun 13-Jan-13 10:05 PM | edited Sun 13-Jan-13 10:21 PM by Dubes
Lauren I use both, depending on the circumstances. I have the "Fn" button on the front of the camera programmed to switch from matrix to spot (I'm assuming the D600 will have one).So any time I need spot, I just hold down this button with my middle finger.
#10. "RE: Wildlife Autofocus Settings???" | In response to Reply # 6Sun 13-Jan-13 10:27 PM | edited Sun 13-Jan-13 10:38 PM by dm1dave
Those feeder birds are perfect to practice on and experiment with your settings.
Both Carl and Richard made a good point that the center focus point is the most accurate. I seldom move away from the center focus point.
In regards to metering...
Often when shooting wildlife the lighting will change as the animal moves or when a new subject appears. Matrix or Center-Weighted Metering are better whe faced with changing light conditions.
Spot metering relies on mesuring the tone directly under your Active AF Sensor. In order to get an accurate exposure that tone needs to be a middle tone – somewhere close to the center between the lightest and darkest tones in the image. If the spot meter picks up a light tone your image will be underexposed – if it falls on a shadow area (a dark tone) the image will be overexposed.
Spot metering is best used in constant light and a static subject so that you can properly measure a middle tone and lock your exposure for that particular scene.
Many nature photographers, who use spot metering, use it in conjunction with manual exposure mode. They use the spot meter to measure a middle tone and set their exposure (shutter speed, aperture and ISO) then they can use those exposure settings until there is a change in the lighting conditions. It can take some experience to use this method consistently.