AF Settings for Track - Help Wanted

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I shot my first track meet yesterday with my D300 and 70-200 VR.

Weather was cloudy, rainy, and thus not great light, especialy by the end of the meet.

A number of the photo sequences I shot turned out like the photos posted below. The first 2 or 3 frames the focus is locked in, but on the final frame the focus is lost, or locked on somewhere behind my subject. In the first two photos below, using View NX2, it shows the focus point located at about the runner's right hip. Should have been the same in the 3rd photo, but doesn't show up.

My settings were Continuous Servo, Single Point. SS 1/500 at f2.8. Photos shown are SOOC.

Should I be using dynamic area AF? I've shot a lot of swimming and thus always use Single Point since the splashing water seemed to throw the focus off using Dynamic AF.

Any comments or suggestions would be greatly appreciated! :biggrin:


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Regarding single point focus vs. dynamic area, I think you will find users (Cafe members) in each camp. Personally I prefer dynamic area focus. The effectiveness of the approach also depends on the sports that you are shooting. When I shoot soccer, I've found that the unpredictable players' movement makes it difficult for me to follow them. Besides, I focus on their faces and that makes it even more demanding. Using single focus I get more out of focus pictures. Switching to dynamic focus increases my success rate. However, there is a tradeoff. With multiple players in a picture, there is an increased chance that the camera focuses on the wrong player.

Back to your question about track meet. If a runner is running toward you head on, I have achieved good success rate with either approach. Your pictures show the athlete was running diagonally in front of you. It depends on your technique. If you can follow the athlete precisely, in theory every frame should be in focus. However, with fast moving athletes (or objects) moving in a diagonal direction (or some other pattern), tracking focus is not that easy, especially if you want to focus on their faces. In that situation, dynamic area may give you some benefit. But again this is a tradeoff. Multiple athletes running close to one other could fool the camera at times. Ideally an athlete is running by himself and there aren't any nearby objects.

Bottom line is experiment, experiment, and experiment. You may find that one approach works better for you than the other.
 
Joined
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Regarding single point focus vs. dynamic area, I think you will find users (Cafe members) in each camp. Personally I prefer dynamic area focus. The effectiveness of the approach also depends on the sports that you are shooting. When I shoot soccer, I've found that the unpredictable players' movement makes it difficult for me to follow them. Besides, I focus on their faces and that makes it even more demanding. Using single focus I get more out of focus pictures. Switching to dynamic focus increases my success rate. However, there is a tradeoff. With multiple players in a picture, there is an increased chance that the camera focuses on the wrong player.

Back to your question about track meet. If a runner is running toward you head on, I have achieved good success rate with either approach. Your pictures show the athlete was running diagonally in front of you. It depends on your technique. If you can follow the athlete precisely, in theory every frame should be in focus. However, with fast moving athletes (or objects) moving in a diagonal direction (or some other pattern), tracking focus is not that easy, especially if you want to focus on their faces. In that situation, dynamic area may give you some benefit. But again this is a tradeoff. Multiple athletes running close to one other could fool the camera at times. Ideally an athlete is running by himself and there aren't any nearby objects.

Bottom line is experiment, experiment, and experiment. You may find that one approach works better for you than the other.
Mike -

Thanks a lot for your input. I think your last 2 sentences are still the key. Practice with each setting and see what works best.


Thanks Mark. This document says Dynamic AF is the way to go. I will give it a try next time at the track.
 
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it's a tough one, note that subjects coming towards you (even at a slight diagonal) are the hardest for the AF system to acquire & maintain focus.

Even I (a single pt zealot) would probably try 9 or 21 pt dynamic. There's also a Nikon digital tutor segment on the AF systems that you may want to view.

Also, you say that the focus point shows being locked in on their hip (in single Pt), I would have set it on their chest (better contrast w/ the 'W' (or numbers)), if not try for the face which is a lot more difficult.

Other things to think about, are you using AF-ON to acquire & track (CSM A5)? I use AF-ON only.

What's your CSM A1 set to? Release? Release+Focus?

How about CSM A4? See that technical guide.
 
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i have found that 9 and 20 point give much better focus results than single point for me.

now you do have the issue of the camera getting confused, but using AF on will limit this

also Every 4 frames that clack away i release and repress the af-on button to force the AF system to require focus

foot ball is about the only thing i use signal point these days
 
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Here's how I set up my D300 for action shooting. I've probably shot more than 100 soccer games with it this way and it works well for me. Your tracking skill (ability to keep the required focus sensors on the subject) is a very important aspect of good results.

Anyway, here's the description of how I set up my D300 for action shooting: http://johnfriend.blogspot.com/2009/10/nikon-d300-auto-focus-for-sports-i.html
Thanks for the info. That's some good suggestions.
 
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Hey Pete...

Two things

You have to decide who your subject is; I think 2 is better than 3; because the action is in the runner not the spectator.

Second, learn to delete more than you take. IMO 3 should have been deleted

If I take 800 - 1000 images, I will keep maybe a hundred, then whittle it down to 60 +/-.

As I become more proficient I look back after a year or so and I have deleted entire albums if they are duplicative of other events.

You have to decide as you go.

Practice is good advice, but watch what didn't work when you delete (you can learn from your mistakes)

Good shooting

Rags
 
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Here's how I set up my D300 for action shooting. I've probably shot more than 100 soccer games with it this way and it works well for me. Your tracking skill (ability to keep the required focus sensors on the subject) is a very important aspect of good results.

Anyway, here's the description of how I set up my D300 for action shooting: http://johnfriend.blogspot.com/2009/10/nikon-d300-auto-focus-for-sports-i.html
John -

Thanks for the info and comments. Your set up information on your blog was very helpful. I really like your gallery as well on your website as well.


it's a tough one, note that subjects coming towards you (even at a slight diagonal) are the hardest for the AF system to acquire & maintain focus.

Even I (a single pt zealot) would probably try 9 or 21 pt dynamic. There's also a Nikon digital tutor segment on the AF systems that you may want to view.

Also, you say that the focus point shows being locked in on their hip (in single Pt), I would have set it on their chest (better contrast w/ the 'W' (or numbers)), if not try for the face which is a lot more difficult.

Other things to think about, are you using AF-ON to acquire & track (CSM A5)? I use AF-ON only.

What's your CSM A1 set to? Release? Release+Focus?

How about CSM A4? See that technical guide.
Thanks Chris. The digital tutor provides some great information.

As for settings, I always you AF-ON only; CSM A2 is release+focus; CSM A4 is short.

I think I will give Dynamic a try.


i have found that 9 and 20 point give much better focus results than single point for me.

now you do have the issue of the camera getting confused, but using AF on will limit this

also Every 4 frames that clack away i release and repress the af-on button to force the AF system to require focus

foot ball is about the only thing i use signal point these days
Great advise, Andrew. Thanks for commenting.


Hey Pete...

Two things

You have to decide who your subject is; I think 2 is better than 3; because the action is in the runner not the spectator.

Second, learn to delete more than you take. IMO 3 should have been deleted

If I take 800 - 1000 images, I will keep maybe a hundred, then whittle it down to 60 +/-.

As I become more proficient I look back after a year or so and I have deleted entire albums if they are duplicative of other events.

You have to decide as you go.

Practice is good advice, but watch what didn't work when you delete (you can learn from your mistakes)

Good shooting

Rags
Rags, thanks for the comments. The only reason I posted photo #3 was to illustrate that I had lost focus on the subject which led to my question as to use Dynamic vs. Single point.


Did you have VR on or off on your 70-200?
I always have it off for sports.
Don't think necessarily that was/is the problem, but if it's on, it may be contributing to it.
Just a thought.
Joe -

Thanks for the comments and suggestions. I did have the VR off in this case.


Thanks to all who have responded and offered some great advise and helpful information! :smile:
 
Joined
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this look underexposed also ( i couldn't see the photos yesterday)


what where your settings?
SS 1/500 @ f2.8 ISO 1600. I had iso sensitivity max'd at 1600.

It was very cloudy with intermittent rain. Time was around 6:45 so there wasn't much good light. I believe you are correct with under exposure for the shots I posted.

Shots I took earlier under some better light though do look better, but I still experienced the lost focus. Yesterday this team had another meet and thus I switched to Dynamic w/ 9 points and the tracking seemed much better.
 

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