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UPDATE - I am beginning to dislike the D300's AF system...

Discussion in 'Nikon DX DSLR Forum' started by MMarz, Jul 8, 2008.

  1. MMarz

    MMarz

    Sep 15, 2007
    Long Island, NY
    I know, I know...we've gone round and round.

    My weekend was spent photographing the nesting Black Skimmers at Long Island's Nickerson Beach.

    I started the morning off with the D300, Sigma 300/2.8 with and without the 1.4 and 2x TC's. Pertinent camera settings were Single, 9 and 21 pt AF, AF-C with focus decoupled to the AF-On button, Focus Lock set to Short or Off. Tripod mounted in a Sidekick. The morning light changed often with light overcast and mild sun.

    It was the most frustrating day... Black Skimmers are predominently black with bellies and bright orange/black upper and lower mandible. The D300 struggled to lock AF on anything in flight. The BG was either the sky or a sandy grass covered berm. No combination of AF settings would achieve lock-on until the birds landed...nice.

    So, as an experiment, I trekked back to the car and returned with the D2X. My CS bank for Wildlife is the same on the D2X as on the D300. The result?? Snap! No matter what I did or what setting I tried the D2X would not succumb and locked on in a snap..even with the 2x TC.

    I know I am not the first to experience this and I know that the folks on the other coast seem to have quite different results..maybe it's the air on the east coast?

    So, I am left with a dilemma. I have the D300 for it's low light capabilities primarily for birding. If the birds are stationary I have no complaints but once they take to the wing all bets are off as to whether the D300 will get the shot or not. Birding is just a piece of what I like to photograph, but a big piece..so I will have decide if I want to miss the in-flight opportunities or miss the early and late golden light opportunities..

    June 12th update.....

    Visited the same location, similar light, but shot out over the water, and then to another location to photographt Osprey in flight.. Almost all shots were with a clear sky background and AF worked perfect. the number of in-focus BiF shots was surprising. So, in flights shots, with other than a clear sky, are the D300's Achilles heel. Confirmed..
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 14, 2008
  2. Mani

    Mani

    332
    Jan 14, 2006
    Toronto - Canada
    This is No Good , recently after Updating th enew Firmware i notice D300 is not hunting the Focus so Often as it use to do before , i mainly use 300mm afs for outdoors . but some time i notice it back focus , have not tried it completely , on week end will check that in detail as well
     
  3. Michael, I agree!
    I really like the D300 improvements over the D2x except for the AF system.
     
  4. jlmoon

    jlmoon

    59
    May 13, 2008
    Fort Worth, Texas
    Hello Michael,
    Reason I posted here on 300 thread, I believe the 300 and D3 share the same AF processor so the rules apply to both.

    I know what your talking about, I have a D3 and in very low light conditions it has a hard time determining contrasted items to focus on. It took me 6 - 8 weeks to perfect this image I have posted today. I had to rely strictly on manual focus mode to obtain this shot. I am into birding and have found it quite a challenge too! A tip, don't give up on it! You will get some great results if you keep trying / experimenting .
    2649040865_8cbd818f37_b.png
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)


    Best of luck!

    Jon
     
  5. jlmoon

    jlmoon

    59
    May 13, 2008
    Fort Worth, Texas
    Here is one, in AutoFocus mode on a bright sunny day single pt focus tracking.
    2650208292_58395de2d0_b.png
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    This was the best I could do today!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 8, 2008
  6. jfriend

    jfriend

    313
    Nov 11, 2005
    SF Bay Area
    Same experience here. My D300 just won't focus on dark birds in flight whereas my D2Xs will (I'm using 200-400 f/4). I haven't tried birding with the D300 since the recent firmware upgrade so I don't have any data on whether that changed anything. I had come to the conclusion that the D300 didn't have a powerful enough auto-focus processor to keep up with challenging birds in flight and while the D2Xs has a less sophisticated sensor layout, it does better auto-focus with tough subjects.

    I also find that my D300 gives me more noise in the blue sky than my D2Xs (even at ISO 400), though less noise elsewhere. It appears to have a noisy red channel (red is low in a blue sky).

    I will probably sell my D300 and wait for a true upgrade to the D2Xs. Disappointing.
     
  7. MMarz

    MMarz

    Sep 15, 2007
    Long Island, NY
    Should have made mention.. the v1.03 update was done prior to this shoot.
     
  8. MMarz

    MMarz

    Sep 15, 2007
    Long Island, NY
    Nice image Jon... During this weekend's shoot I did resort to MF on the D300. I have yet to install the Katz Eye I have sitting on my table and I know that would help. But I still think on a fairly decent lit day AF should snap even on a moving target.

    As far as giving up..it's a tough call. I don't find any flaw in the images produced by the D2X and I much prefer it's feel/ergonomics. It's short-coming is the LCD and noise relative to the D300. If I were more proficient with NR apps, or if Lightroom would come up with a better NR in the Develop Module, the decision would be leaning heavily towards the D2X.
     
  9. jlmoon

    jlmoon

    59
    May 13, 2008
    Fort Worth, Texas
    Michael,

    Have you experimented with the Active 3d lighting or the NR Mode in your menu?
     
  10. MMarz

    MMarz

    Sep 15, 2007
    Long Island, NY
    I had no issues with featherless birds... Maybe that fact that they are more predictable and far easier to track than a the erratic flight of our avian friends?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2017
  11. MMarz

    MMarz

    Sep 15, 2007
    Long Island, NY
    I am contemplating the same.. adding a D2Xs as the second body. However, there are times when the D300 performs such that the D2's couldn't. When doing macro, I use the on-board flash on the D300 in commanded mode. When I need to travel light..drop the grip and mount the 18-70. Low light, stationary target..

    There are pros to having two bodies that excel at different things. I guess. :rolleyes: 

    A true upgrade to the D2? I don't think we are going to see this. A D3 body and D3 noise characteristics, D2 AF performance and a DX sensor...that's what I want for Christmas.
     
  12. MMarz

    MMarz

    Sep 15, 2007
    Long Island, NY
    I haven't. How would that have benefited me in this weekends shoot?

    My understanding is that as a Lightroom user, I don't get the full benefit of Active 3D lighting... I may be wrong. But noise isn't the issue here...Tough to worry about noise if the image is OOF...
     
  13. jlmoon

    jlmoon

    59
    May 13, 2008
    Fort Worth, Texas
    Yes, this is true -- think this one was going a bit over 100mph, supersonic bird speed!
    I could not get perfect tracking on this one!
     
  14. jfenton

    jfenton

    Jan 26, 2005
    Haverhill, MA
    There is an Issue With Skimmers

    And other dark bird such as corrmorants, especially if these aninmals are low to the water. I've gone to manually pre-focussing on a specific area and firing when the birds reach that target area at times.

    Also...add a TC and forget it, even with terns if they are in close range.

    It absolutely appears to myself and some others who have discussed(far more knoledgeable then myself relative to the inner workings of cameras) that it's simply a matter of processing power.

    I would imagine that all of this scene recognition, face recognition, color matrix metering, 51 AF points, etc, has more of a processing requirement than the previous cameras did.

    I had toyed with the iea of getting D700 to shoot some of these scenarios, but unless the AF is identical in processing capability (or better) to the D3, it would be kinda useless.

    Sometimes, we're far better off without all of this goblteegook I think :) 
     
  15. jlmoon

    jlmoon

    59
    May 13, 2008
    Fort Worth, Texas
    Hello Jim,

    That was the only way I could get a good shot of that owl in the tree at night, pre-focus manual and hope the bird landed in my zone. Worked for me, even in pitch dark as it was.


    Jon


     
  16. Question for Jim or anybody that has expirence w/D3

    Jim, is the D3 AF system any better vs. D300 because of processing ability? Or is it because D3 owners most likely don't shoot fast moving small targets in similar difficult lighting situations? (I don't state this as a fact, but I am curious to know.)
    If the AF on the D3 FF sensor cam is better does it remain better when using the DX mode?
     
  17. I read your post Michael and see Jim beat me to a comment. The processor of the D300 is not as robust as the one in the D3 or D2X. So you will not get as quick an acquisition of your subject. Often it does not matter, but it does when the situation is less than the ideal of a bird against a perfectly clear sky.

    The AF system in the D300 (and D3) is better than the AF system of the D2X, so the D3 focuses better and I suppose the D300 does too when the task is not too difficult (people will different on what "too difficult" means.)

    If you like the DX reach you only hope in the near future is a D900 if it has a DX crop of 10-12 mp.
     
  18. TonyBeach

    TonyBeach Guest

    I do not believe that. The D3 is the actual successor to the D2x and comparing the D300 AF to the D2x AF is probably not what Nikon intended. I have to wonder if your owl shot would have been any easier with a D2x. I also wonder if the D700 will do any better than the D300; my suspicion is that the D700 might benefit from the tighter arrangement of AF sensors compared to the D300, but the processing power of the D3 clearly makes it a better solution than the D300 and probably than the D700.

    Re-reading Thom Hogan's D300 review, I'm reminded that he wrote here that "The D300 has a little catch to its autofocus system that the D3 doesn't. The initial acquisition of autofocus seems to have just a bit of lag to it..."

    The question for some here is whether Nikon will ever provide a more powerful AF processor in a DX body again; I don't think they will and that Nikon will require a larger body for that processing power (probably for marketing reasons, since many photographers dismiss smaller bodies like the D300 and D700) . However I think a flagship (read large body) 24 MP FX DSLR with a DX mode that does 8 or 9 fps will deliver the best of both the high resolution FX and DX formats, and that camera will probably be available within the next year.
     
  19. Mike, I'm puzzled about why you are not trying to use 51pt 3d color, which if I recall is what the Nikon manual suggests for erratic bird flight...? Have you tried this and it doesn't work?
     
  20. I have used it and it is pure hit or miss - mostly miss. I have heard it works with birds large in the viewfinder with clear blue skies (but what doesn't work.)

    Isn't the D imply that the color of the object is important. Perhaps the color of the bird will make focus better or worse in 3d mode.
     
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