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Larry C

D500 focus options underwater?

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I'm only four dives into my D500, two macro, two wide and getting ready to leave for Coz in a couple of days. I'll be shooting mostly wide, with maybe a little macro.

Spot or Continuous focus?

Continuous spot or 3D?

3D or 25 point area for wide angle?

 

What do you recommend for the focus settings? Thanks!

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Larry I use AF-S with group area when shooting wide with Fisheyes and AF-S with single point when shooting with macro lenses. I had issues with out of focus shots when using AF-C on my D7000 and went back to AF-S and continued on with the D500. Havnt played with the AF-C on the D500 as the AF-S works for me. I went with group area as I am shooting sharks mainly and it gives a faster and more accurate focus on what I am shooting.

 

Regards Mark

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Thanks Mark. I've always shot AF-S, single point focus with my D300, but have read that the 500 is so good that I should trust the AF-C and area focus. By group, you're referring to the four dots in a diamond, right. After reading the manual, I still find the choices a bit confusing. Also, do you change on the fly or preset for your dive and just keep it that way?

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I think comparing the D500's SAF performance to any camera apart fro the D5 is of little use!

 

I can see no sense in using AF-S unless your subject (and you) are completely still. If I was shooting landscapes on the surface with the camera on a tripod I would, but this is of little relevance underwater :)

 

AF-C and (most of the time) 3D for both macro and wide angle. It is like magic. You do need to make leap of faith to let the camera track the subject, but of the nearly 7,000 images I shot with the D500 in Indonesia for try Wetpixel review (http://www.wetpixel.com/articles/field-review-nikon-d500) only a handful were out of focus!

 

I should also point out that to get reliable results with 3D, the camera really needs to be set up to do back button focus only.

 

Bear in mind that in 3D mode, the camera utilizes the AF sensor information and color data. This means it more readily identifies and tracks the focus point around the frame.

 

Adam

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Thanks Adam! Do you use release, focus and release, release and focus or focus? I'm sure release is fastest and most reliable in terms of that once in a lifetime shot, but I don't want blurry shots either.

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Hey Larry,

 

Release priority. I would rather have blurred shots than no shots....:)

 

In terms of AF underwater, we often have moving subjects and, perhaps more crucially, we (and the camera) move in the water column too. Focus release priority, AF-S, manual focus etc. all pretty much assume that we can control camera movements at least.

 

This is part of the reason why the D500/D5 AF system is so good for underwater use. It seems that is has been "tuned" for shooting moving subjects and action. The D800/810's AF, whilst good, has been tuned for studio/landscape use.

 

Adam

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Hi Larry,

 

Yes I use the group mode which looks like 4 spots in a diamond shape. I found this more suitable with the fisheye with animals up close. I setup before the dive with each lens I am using and with macro I move the single point around with the joystick too choose my own focus point.

 

As Adam himself stated in his Review of the D500 in Indonesia "AF shooting modes are a matter of personal preference to some extent". What works for one person might not suit anothers. Shooting Sharks with the Nikon D500 with a Nikon 10.5mm Fisheye at f8 or f9 works well for me in AF-S as well as shooting macro with the 100mm with close-up lens as often I am trying to be completely still and focusing on what I want to shoot and not what the camera has decided. I can see the benefits of shooting AF-C with fast moving subjects which I do use when shooting whales, Dolphins, and sea birds. Underwater for me AF-S works well for what I am shooting.

 

Regards Mark

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I'm with Mark using a D800. Single point AF-S for macro and FE wide-angle. And AF-C Auto for fast-moving big critters.

 

But I agree too with Mark: it's a personal thing.

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Thanks for the help. That will give me a good starting point and an idea of why I might change it. One last question. If you're shooting bright and fast moving subjects near the surface, would you recommend turning off the strobes and going with auto iso? If so, subject only or subject and background? My thought was subject and background to prevent blown out skies.

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Hi Larry,

 

It was my plan to go strobeless, High FPS, and auto-ISO earlier in the year as normally its prime time for blue water and Manta'sand Leopard Sharks (aka Zebra Sharks). I wanted to shoot higher FPS and see how the D500 performs but unfortunately our late summer great conditions this year never happened due to storms, floods, and low vis. I believe alot of Humpback whale divers/snorkelers go strobeless and shoot auto-ISO in locations like Fiji/Tonga with their gin clear water and hopefully they can give you more information regarding auto-ISO in the water.

 

Normally in less than perfect conditions like in when the vis isnt gin clear, cloudy, or when the subjects are a bit deeper than 5m which for me is most of the time over here especially this year I run with strobes turned right down with a 1/320th shutter speed and around f8-f10 and change the ISO according to your position your facing towards the sun. I run my D500 at 3fps or higher and its depending on your strobes, the Ikelite DS161 work well for this but it takes a little bit of playing to work out which power setting/FPS combination works with being able to keep up while shooting continious. I found that on the Ikelite DS160/161 strobes that -2 power setting works well with 3 FPS.

 

Regards Mark

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Shooting dolphins in the Red Sea: clear water, viz of about 20m, on the surface or just under - I actually took the strobes off completely to make handling a housing with a large dome easier (230mm with a Nikkor 16-35).

 

I used Auto ISO and set the aperture at f8 - and left the system to do the rest. I must have taken around 50-60 shots: and got 2-3 terrific ones (man, dolphins move fast!). One of them has sold over 250 times :dancing:

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Thanks Tim & Mark. I have to say that I would never have tried a lot of these things with my D300, but the quality of the D500 is so good that I feel confident experimenting with new techniques. Yesterday, I tried some long distance bird shots (about 1000 feet) with my old Tokina manual focus 400mm lens. On the D300, it lacked contrast and I had to over-adjust pictures in PS to make them decent. On the D500, I ramped it up to 1/5000 and f22 and put it in auto ISO and I couldn't believe the clear, reasonably sharp pictures I was getting. I couldn't see any signs of bad noise, even in the 31,000 ISO level (just a little grainy when zoomed in to full size) and the color reproduction was amazing. Hope to get similar results UW.

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To some extent I think the problem here is that many of those coming from older Nikon AF systems tend to stick with what worked on their older cameras! We see the same issue sometimes with lens choices too. There are plenty of very well known underwater shooters who do not use ISO as a means of controlling exposure as they learnt to shoot with film :)

 

AF choices are a personal matter, and you need to find what works for you, but equally, if you simply copy your settings and workflow from a previous camera, you are missing out on any technical advances that your new model may offer. I remember shooting manual focus and manual exposure film cameras underwater, but am heartily glad for AF, adjustable ISO and LCD reviews now!

 

The D500's AF system is a huge improvement over any Nikon AF system to date. Unless you have used it, it is perhaps difficult to asses the advantages of its AF-C performance.

 

I would suggest that if you don't at least try AF-C with 3D on the D500, you are limiting the AF system to what worked with an older (lower performance AF) camera.

 

The D800's AF was good, the D810's better and the D500 (and D5)'s is amazing :)

 

Adam

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Yeah, fair point, Adam.

 

In a moment of utter madness I bought a D5 just over a year ago. You're right, the focusing system is incredible. There's a rollerblade stunt bowl structure (whatever they are known as in the roller-blading business) not far from me and the D5 3D tracking just nails those guys doing flips and leaps over the edge of the bowl into The Void.

 

Would love to try the D5 underwater but I'm not that brave - or rich. I'll leave that to DrM. :lol2:

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I decided to take Adams advice and shoot with AF-C and with group points (4 in a diamond shape) with my 10.5mm Nikor Fisheye on Grey Nurse Sharks at Fish Rock, South West Rocks, Australia. Over 5 dives and 1700 odd shots I only had 2 shots which were out of focus but mind you I was shooting inside a dark underwater cave at the time. Interesting as it was in a 4 shot sequence one shot was in focus then another wasnt and number 3 was in focus and number 4 wasnt. But overall I was happy with shooting in AF-C.

 

Here are the unedited resized shots:

 

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post-23448-0-62951600-1501677492_thumb.jpg

 

 

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I shot AF-C 3D focus throughout our trip to Cozumel and was quite pleased with the few out of focus shots I got. Where it did fail me was shooting a large school of fish in a hole. I would get a large section of the school out of focus, where in the past I've used spot focus and had whole schools within focus range. I think the camera locked focus on another object closer than the school and the f-stop I used for that depth prevented good depth of field with my 5 1/4" dome. Probably should have bumped the ISO and raised the f-stop to f11, but I thought f7.2/f8 would be adequate with the 10-17. The other place I'd prefer spot focus is getting the eyes on large subjects like turtles instead of the camera focusing on the body or leg which was closer. I might try AF-C S here at home where I shoot the same subjects all the time. What I'm loving about this camera is that when I saw disappointing results on wide shots, hazy backgrounds and dull looking pictures, I was able to make large adjustments to lighting and use ridiculous white balance numbers without getting any weird pixels or grain as I did with the D300. Crops were also pain free. You can hardly tell that I've cropped out 2/3's of the picture.

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I just recently got my D500 and will be going to my first dive with it in late November and I was wondering of what is the recommended underwater settings for the camera. I would appreciate any guidance from the group 

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Hi Denver

I've been using my D500 now for about 2 years.

I tend to set focus on S and single spot - certainly for macro but usually for w/a too. I  use the thumb joy stick to navigate. I've tried the 3D setting but, though it's great topside, I found it less good u/w although I've not really had a situation yet which lent itself to 3D shooting. I can imagine following, for example, a dolphin pod, it'd be amazing.

ISO 100 or 200 (I'm using 2x Inon Z240 strobes). Flash sync about 125 or 200. Usually about f8 with w/a on a Nikkor 8-15 or Tokina 10-17; f11 with a Nikkor 105.

All a bit vanilla really - but works for me. Maybe as Adam says in an earlier post, I've used older systems for donkeys years so although I have moved through a number of DSLR iterations, I still tend to come back to simple settings. Although, again as Adam says, the focussing systems of the D500 are amazing but, by my experience, to most advantage topside rather than underwater. 

 

 

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Tim truly appreciate you sharing your camera settings and experiences.  I wish i could go try it out now unfortunately it wouldnt be until first week of December.   

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My pleasure. I'm delighted with the D500. It's excellent to use, produces terrific image quality and, in my view, has many advantages over it's larger FX brothers and sisters. I agonised between the D500 and the D850 (after several years with a D800) and I'm very happy with my decision. Phew.

If you want any more info, don't hesitate to ask. 

First week of December is not so far away. :yahoo:I'm envious. I've got no dive trips at all on the horizon. Argh.

 

 

 

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Will do Tim. 

Also, I just got informed that my Issota case has arrived and will be delivered tomorrow. Yeaaahhhhhhh cant wait. 

I faced the same dilemma as you did but what sold me towards D500 over D850 is the speed of the focus during black water diving. 

Hope you get a dive trip soon 

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