I have been using my D800 for about a year and have recently experienced problems with focus lock when using the new 80-400mm VR lens. I have the camera set up to use the rear AF-On button to achieve focus. This is primarily to shoot birds in flight. I am getting a lot of slightly out of focus shots and feel is is the gear and not me. Can anyone help? I am spoiling a lot of good shots.
Thanks, but I was looking for the autofocus settings or patterns, not the metering pattern. Do you have it set for single, 9, 21 or 51 points? Regular or 3D? Did you change any other AF settings? That's the kind of info that would help. Also, it would help if you didn't save your jpegs in a way that strips out the EXIF data. It's one of the things that might help us diagnose the problem. Knowing if the above images are 100% crops vs. the whole image also helps.
Personally, I wouldn't do any AF fine tuning until you've eliminated other causes for the problem.
Thanks for your help. I had it set for 51 points and regular metering AFS 5 I think. I have tried to send you full sized images but the forum won't accept them. Unfortunately Photoshop CS6 seems to strip out the EXIF information. I there is another place like an ordinary email address I will send the full image.
AF Fine tuning : The support pages on Nikon's website have a bulletin suggesting a nice simple method for manual AF fine-tuning. On your 80-400, this should be done at 400mm and an appropriate range for BIF. alternatively you can purchase one of the software products such as FoCal that assist with AF fine tuning of lenses. Based on the samples you posted I don't think AF fine-tuning is the sole culprit. Some of your shots show front focus and some back-focus so I think the problem is more likely to be unhelpful AF settings.
AF Settings : Essential to use AF-C and not AF-S to ensure predictive AF right up to the point of shutter release. Most would suggest using AF-C with predictive 9 point or 21 point AF tracking modes. This uses either 9 or 21 points distributed around the selected AF point to track objects even if they move away from the selected AF point. One downside is that if you use this in conjunction with either spot or centre weighted exposure metering, the exposure will be based on the selected AF point even if the subject has moved elsewhere and is now being tracked by one of the other AF points....so exposure can be a little off.
Depending on your technique you can use either AF-ON button activation and hold it down all the time while shooting or use release button AF activation and half-press while aiming to keep it activated.
You can also use 3D colour Matrix tracking if the subject's colour/brightness deviates from the background. This will track a moving object across any of the 51 AF points. Spot or centre weighted exposure will be based on the active AF point at time of shutter release. However, I've heard some suggestions that the AF response can be slow in this mode. I have not used it much myself so I can't say from personal experience.
You could also try posting this query on the wildlife forum - lots of experienced BIF shooters there.
Even with all this technology and optimised settings, don't expect every shot to be a keeper !! Practice will help more than settings.
>I am getting a lot of slightly out of focus >shots and feel is is the gear and not me. Can anyone help? I >am spoiling a lot of good shots.
I doubt it's the gear.
You're shooting at f/14, which is going to end up softening things every so slightly to begin with. Not sure why you'd use such a small aperture. You're better off at f/8 or larger and a faster shutter speed too. 1/800s is not fast enough in many situations. Get your shutter speed up over 1/1000s as often as possible.
What VR setting are you using? If you're panning your camera to track BIF, make sure the VR switch is set to Active - that's what Active is for; when the camera is moving in a vehicle or being panned. If VR is set to Normal while you're panning, you're going to get unpredictable results and, frequently, a lot of soft shots.
This is very useful. I have never use the VR Active function out of ignorance, I think! I often use 1000 or higher but the light was pretty poor that evening. I'll follow this good advice when shooting BIF next time.