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Archive 2012 · D3s autofocus in the dark - how do you nail it?
  
 
danielutzu
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · D3s autofocus in the dark - how do you nail it?


Hi all,

I need some help... For those Nikon shooters of you, how do you set up your AF so that it works in dark churches / halls? I have a D3s, and AF is dead on when there's plenty of light (AF-S + single point), but I struggle with it in the dark (in any mode). I would like to shoot f/1.4-2.0 , and I often find that by the time the camera locks focus on something, the subject has moved out of focus again. I use AF-S and select a single AF point and try to get that onto some contrasty region, but most of my shots are out of focus; AF-C with 3D tracking is even worse. I also tried to use the AF assist beam from my flash, but the red light focus is slightly shifted from that of white light, and at 1.4 it is noticeable. So how do you shoot wide open in the dark?

Any advice will be greatly appreciated. I don't do BBF - would that help?

thanks



Jun 28, 2012 at 02:28 AM
TTLKurtis
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · D3s autofocus in the dark - how do you nail it?


I use back button focus. Don't know if it makes a difference in accuracy, I doubt it, but it focuses about as well as I could expect it to by shooting in AF-S mode with a flash mounted w/ AF Assist on.


Jun 28, 2012 at 02:55 AM
Mark_L
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · D3s autofocus in the dark - how do you nail it?


There just isn't an af system in existence that can consistently nail focus at 1.4 on a moving subject when it's dark enough to hunt/need the af assist on the flash. Make sure you use cross-type af points (the centre block), stop down to 2.8 to give some margin for error.


Jun 28, 2012 at 08:07 AM
TTLKurtis
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · D3s autofocus in the dark - how do you nail it?


^^ Yeah, that too... shooting at 1.4 with people moving like crazy in the dark is just asking for misfocus. 2.8 is can even be tricky.


Jun 28, 2012 at 08:11 AM
PhilDrinkwater
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · D3s autofocus in the dark - how do you nail it?


If the subject is stationary you might have a chance, but moving I'd say it's unlikely...

Realistically the least I want to use in that circumstance is f2. (Canon user...)



Jun 28, 2012 at 08:47 AM
Prettym1k3
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · D3s autofocus in the dark - how do you nail it?


I find with my D700's that if I'm in AF-C, at f/1.4, singe spot focus, and provided that I chose one of the 9 focus points in the center (cross type), I can usually nail focus 4 out of 5 times. Or at least close enough to qualify as a useable and solid image.

The outer focus points aren't cross type, and aren't as accurate. I get a hit of about 1 for every 2 shots I take using those.

I also shoot in CL mode, as 3 FPS gives my camera time to focus in between shots, especially if someone is moving toward me. If I'm shooting CH, my camera gets pissed off because I'm not allowing it time to refocus.

Yes, my camera has a personality. And sometimes, she gets very angry at me.



Jun 28, 2012 at 03:58 PM
tobicus
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · D3s autofocus in the dark - how do you nail it?


On my D700, I rarely have trouble no matter how dark it gets. At this wedding, during the reception, I pretty much lived between 6400 and 12800 at f/2 and 1/50 to 1/200. It was the same at our most recent wedding, but that was even darker, which just meant I had lots of underexposed pictures. In contrast, however, my wife also shoots a D700, and she has far more complaints about the AF, so I'm not sure what's going on.




Jun 28, 2012 at 06:09 PM
hardlyboring
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · D3s autofocus in the dark - how do you nail it?


Lately I have been using af-c the whole day. I am at almost 99% accuracy. The af-s will miss for me but the af-c is dead nuts all the time.
I have no problems as long as I keep the focus points near the center when the light goes down. The outer points are just not going to work as well on any camera.

Hell my D3 can focus in almost pure blackness... I never even use af assist during receptions... it just works.



Jun 28, 2012 at 11:38 PM
 

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tobicus
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · D3s autofocus in the dark - how do you nail it?


Yeah, I should add that I use AF-C for everything, and it almost never misses. I only use AF-S for formals and the occasional focus and recomposition. And yeah, I've never used AF assist. It's a very smooth camera. I can only imagine the bonuses of the D800 / D4, as those AF in even less light.


Jun 28, 2012 at 11:50 PM
XPO239
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · D3s autofocus in the dark - how do you nail it?


Have you tried the 3D auto tracking? Works great on the D3.

~ARI



Jun 29, 2012 at 02:34 AM
danielutzu
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · D3s autofocus in the dark - how do you nail it?


thanks all for your replies. I'll have to keep playing with it on AF-C.

@hardlyboring and @tobicus: do you use single point or 9/21/51/3D tracking with your AF-C?

@XPO239: I tried 3D tracking briefly, but it seemed to miss focus almost always, so I went back to AF-S + single point.



Jun 29, 2012 at 03:46 AM
LivLif
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · D3s autofocus in the dark - how do you nail it?


hardlyboring wrote:
Lately I have been using af-c the whole day. I am at almost 99% accuracy. The af-s will miss for me but the af-c is dead nuts all the time.
I have no problems as long as I keep the focus points near the center when the light goes down. The outer points are just not going to work as well on any camera.

Hell my D3 can focus in almost pure blackness... I never even use af assist during receptions... it just works.


+1



Jun 29, 2012 at 04:14 AM
tobicus
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · D3s autofocus in the dark - how do you nail it?


danielutzu wrote:
thanks all for your replies. I'll have to keep playing with it on AF-C.

@hardlyboring and @tobicus: do you use single point or 9/21/51/3D tracking with your AF-C?



Nine point with AF-C.



Jun 29, 2012 at 04:52 AM
LivLif
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · D3s autofocus in the dark - how do you nail it?


Single point AF-C.


Jun 29, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Mark_L
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · D3s autofocus in the dark - how do you nail it?


Just did some testing today to confirm what I suspected, AFC seems to lock in difficult conditions where AFS hunts and misses - no idea why this is. Happens when AFC uses single or 9pts.


Jun 30, 2012 at 08:04 PM
danielutzu
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · D3s autofocus in the dark - how do you nail it?


Thanks for the input everyone.

I think I sorted it out - my problem was that the AF-C priority was set to "release" rather than "focus", giving a lot of misfocused shots. It is true, I was able to nail focus in the dark at 1.4 (on eyes of person holding a laptop, and the only light in the room was the lcd screen) using AFC with 9 points - whoa! I have to see how it behaves with moving subjects, but this already is a huge improvement.



Jun 30, 2012 at 11:12 PM





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