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Mehmet Gungen

Autofocus setup for D850 while shooting macro

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I have been shooting with Nikon DSLR’s since D70. I used D200, D300s, D7100 and finally switched to D850.

 

Even though my current camera is a sophisticated one I sometimes feel like I am not using the full potential of it since mostly I am shooting with the D850 the way I used to shoot with my D70.

 

In saying this one of my major concern is the autofocus system while shooting macro.

 

I used to use single servo auto focus after moving the single focus point on a desired location within the viewfinder  and to refocus to the eye every time while I press the shutter release button. However while doing this I also have to move the camera together with the moving fish so that I have the single focus point on fish’s eye. For me this technique works. However I have some shots with better background composition but lacking focus. Whereas some shots with worse background but pin-sharp focus.  Shooting anemone fish is a typical example what I am trying to describe above. 

 

The D850 is supposed to have one of the most advanced autofocus systems. I have been reading that many UW photographers are using the camera in Full time servo AF mode with continuous tracking of the subject.

 

I read the thick manual several times and tried with different settings in different dives however could not find out the optimum setup for continuous AF tracking while shooting macro. In my experience the auto tracking system not always locked on the eye but to some other parts of the fish. 

 

There are several sub-settings of focus tracking such as single point, dynamic area(9, 25, 72, 153 points), 3d and group AF.

 

Some of these choices also have some sub-settings. For instance 3d has normal and wide etc.

 

I would appreciate to hear the autofocus setup other users of D850 are using while shooting moving  macro objects like anemone fish.(not supermacro which is a totally different issue)

 

Best regards

 

Mehmet 

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6 hours ago, Joss said:

Have a look on the nikon auto focus system from Backcountry Gallery (Steve Perry). https://bcgwebstore.com/product/secrets-to-the-nikon-autofocus-system/ It is very well explained.

Youtube video: 

 

This is also a very good thread in WP 

 

 

Regards,

Joss

450 pages manual for a feature of a camera you have already paid for! Wow call it user friendly

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13 hours ago, Joss said:

 

This is also a very good thread in WP 

 

 

Dear Joss

Just now read the thread.

It looks like many WP members are using AF-S like myself. There are many different ideas concerning AF.

I personally believe that i need at least to try using full features of the camera in order to justify buying an expensive toy for myself as a replacement of my D7100.

Now i want to download the E-book as well. I watched the video introduction. Seems very promising.

Thank you very much for your valuable advice.

Best regards

Mehmet

 

 

 

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If you need to use the 51 points to perform tracking there is good chance the camera will choose something else as 'the subject' in situations of low contrast and low light.

Simple predictive tracking is very effective for pictures of a subject moving at constant speed toward the camera, but to provide maximum focusing performance for a subject that abruptly changes direction at high speed, or a subject with low contrast, moving randomly, the AF system must accumulate subject location data using multiple focus areas. The AF modules built into selected Nikon D-SLRs have as many as 51 focus areas that can detect vertical, horizontal and diagonal movement of the subject.

The algorithm works with motion vector prediction, one of the key requirements is that the object does not change massively shape otherwise the prediction has a high risk of failure

This type of algorithm is no longer Nikon exclusive but it is widespread as motion predictions are the base of H.264 video coding so Panasonic for example as a very powerful AI that can also incorporate shape changes of certain subjects like humans, dogs, cats, birds sadly no fish

So at the end what makes this system work is to be able to focus on what is the real subject at half press and then have this subject keeping its shape afterwards so that the focus will be predicted when the shutter closes

Some people like it some people don't is a matter of taste and how many blurred shots you can accept  

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I shoot a fair bit of macro with the D850 and 105vr.  Nauticam housing and macro port.   I've also done it a few times with a 1.4TC attached to the 105vr.    Before using the D850 I used a D810 for 3 years with same lens and port.

I use single-point, AF-C, back-button focus most of the time, especially for macro.  I want the focus point to be where I want it.   I generally leave it in the middle of the frame as well for macro.

When I don't shoot macro, I sometimes put the camera in Group mode for moving fish, but I haven't really played with the 3D mode.  I;'m so used to 9- and 25-point on previous cameras that I tend to favor a very small group if using a group at all.

As for the 105vr and moving macro targets, I find the D850 to be outstanding and much much better than the D810 in the same situation.  I'm specifically thinking about shooting blennys in current surge here - you know what I mean.  Depth of field: 1/4 inch.  Diver movement during shot: 4 feet.    With the D810 I'd try to keep the focus point on the subject, surge in and hit the shutter release, fingers crossed the focus would be achieved in time.  I once took 31 shots and only got 2 in focus.   Then I switched to the D850.   Now I no longer bother with 30 attempts - the success ratio was about 31 out of 31. 

This is putting the focus point on the subject, and very quickly pressing the AF-ON button (lever) and then tripping the shutter.

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1 minute ago, phxazcraig said:

I shoot a fair bit of macro with the D850 and 105vr.  Nauticam housing and macro port.   I've also done it a few times with a 1.4TC attached to the 105vr.    Before using the D850 I used a D810 for 3 years with same lens and port.

I use single-point, AF-C, back-button focus most of the time, especially for macro.  I want the focus point to be where I want it.   I generally leave it in the middle of the frame as well for macro.

When I don't shoot macro, I sometimes put the camera in Group mode for moving fish, but I haven't really played with the 3D mode.  I;'m so used to 9- and 25-point on previous cameras that I tend to favor a very small group if using a group at all.

As for the 105vr and moving macro targets, I find the D850 to be outstanding and much much better than the D810 in the same situation.  I'm specifically thinking about shooting blennys in current surge here - you know what I mean.  Depth of field: 1/4 inch.  Diver movement during shot: 4 feet.    With the D810 I'd try to keep the focus point on the subject, surge in and hit the shutter release, fingers crossed the focus would be achieved in time.  I once took 31 shots and only got 2 in focus.   Then I switched to the D850.   Now I no longer bother with 30 attempts - the success ratio was about 31 out of 31. 

This is putting the focus point on the subject, and very quickly pressing the AF-ON button (lever) and then tripping the shutter.

So essentially this is not really autofocus, I use this system with peaking

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1 minute ago, Interceptor121 said:

So essentially this is not really autofocus, I use this system with peaking

For me it definitely is autofocus.   If I'm stable enough, I have the focus point on the subject the whole time and have a continuous autofocus going.   The problem with current surge I often have is that I'm not stable enough to keep the focus point where I want, so I have to 'last-second it.  And it still works.

190923-144112-8-D850.jpg

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@phxazcraig I use the some methodology all the time when I shoot with my D850. It absolutely leverages the autofocus - because in these kind of situations it's "really fast." The camera is actually adjusting focus (minutely) right before the image is taken. You likely meant to use this specific example because it can be very challenging for many setups to refocus (using auto) right up until this point.

Typical situation - diving in the kelp beds in NorCal. There is always surge... until the D500/D850 came out, I would be lucky to get 1/3 of my shots with the right subject focus using any number of other cameras & systems (MFT, Sony, etc.)

I still find the D500 to be slightly "faster" then the D850, because in a few critical cases it seems to be mainly due the slightly more cropped view enabling the AF to lock on the subject slightly more easily (esp. shooting macro).

The D850 really shines in W/A shooting with the WACP - I don't believe I've had it lock on anything but the primary subject on dozens of dives (leveraging an older lens as well).



 

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[mention=52697]phxazcraig[/mention] I use the some methodology all the time when I shoot with my D850. It absolutely leverages the autofocus - because in these kind of situations it's "really fast." The camera is actually adjusting focus (minutely) right before the image is taken. You likely meant to use this specific example because it can be very challenging for many setups to refocus (using auto) right up until this point.

Typical situation - diving in the kelp beds in NorCal. There is always surge... until the D500/D850 came out, I would be lucky to get 1/3 of my shots with the right subject focus using any number of other cameras & systems (MFT, Sony, etc.)

I still find the D500 to be slightly "faster" then the D850, because in a few critical cases it seems to be mainly due the slightly more cropped view enabling the AF to lock on the subject slightly more easily (esp. shooting macro).

The D850 really shines in W/A shooting with the WACP - I don't believe I've had it lock on anything but the primary subject on dozens of dives (leveraging an older lens as well).


 

Sorry I don’t understand if you use back button the shutter and auto focus are decoupled
What has that to do with the camera refocusing when you hit the shutter? That no longer happens as the sensor has stopped tracking the subject and doesn’t even know what you focussed upon


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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Posted (edited)

Don't know what happened anyway AF On is used to reframe the shot without changing the focus so it is useful in super macro. If you then refocus the shot with the shutter this defeats the purpose of AF ON so I am unsure about the comment

AF ON and peaking on live display only use contrast detect on each camera to mark the edges of objects in focus. I consider this a manual focus technique not an autofocus technique as I am moving the camera to reach focus

Edited by Interceptor121

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@Interceptor121 Continuous AF - focus stays on the subject.

MFT is not nearly as fast. I have 2 different MFT systems (and 1 mirrorless) this has been tested with.

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9 minutes ago, oneyellowtang said:

@Interceptor121 Continuous AF - focus stays on the subject.

MFT is not nearly as fast. I have 2 different MFT systems (and 1 mirrorless) this has been tested with.

What systems have you got out of curiosity? Because what you say makes no sense I have just finished by bird shooting session of the morning and the camera gets them in flight at 1/1000 with animal detection

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@Interceptor121 One of our family members started with the GH4 and then moved to the Sony (A7III), and my nephew now shoots with the GH5 (which I tried out in Komodo last summer). The GH5 was a big step forward, but shooting with either the Oly 60mm or the Panasonic 45mm I still found the system lacking vs. a D500+60mm (other combinations might lead to better results). In addition, last year in Anilao I was with someone shooting the GH5 during our blackwater dives, and they were a little frustrated with its low light AF performance.

The D850 is probably a better comparison, as w/the 105mm it is a little slower - and there I think it's likely a very even comparison (for macro). 
 

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The GH5 has a very complex menu system like all new Panasonic as it relies on AI it is not unusual for users to leave the default setting that is designed for casual shots and miss shots and wonder why. I would say the menu is less atrocious than Nikon but the default settings are not good for AFC. You need to look into custom AF menu there are 4 settings and 3 parameters which is 1 more than Nikon system. The ones I use are set 3 and 4

Now there are several dis-benefits for auto focus and super macro the primary is that with autofocus you do not really know if you are at maximum magnification or not and this is the primary reason why I do not use it ever for super macro especially in combination with CMC-1

However last year I wanted to try autofocus and I actually used single AFS on the GH5 again I didn't miss any shots in the new firmware when you half press single AF you have on screen visibility of the area that will be in focus as this is an EVF now that is amazing for many situations and the reason why I am using it more and more

But still continuous autofocus that has 3 different permutations I only use on birds

Most of the issues with photography are with the user now knowing their device properly this is also due to the complexity of the tools at end and the use case

 

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I think that shooting the D850 (or D500/D5) in single servo mode is like driving a Ferrari at 30mph...

For the majority of my shooting, I use Continuous AF with 3D focus tracking.

3D tracking allow the camera to use color and exposure information, along with the phase and contrast detection sensors in the AF and image sensors. Effectively, it allows it to use its whole soft and hardware to achieve focus.

I also use back button focus.

The combination is more accurate that my eyes! Even in a situation where you are shooting slow moving subjects, you still move a little in the water!

 

 

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Posted (edited)

@Interceptor121 I'm glad you like your system. After trying a GH5 I wouldn't switch, but that's just my opinion.

If you are correct, we should see many people consider the best MFT systems as they consider the move away from DSLR's to mirrorless (or other options) over the next few years.

I actually don't see that happening. I think the next gen. (or the gen. after that) of Canon and Nikon mirrorless cameras will be improved enough that you'll see those become the more popular cameras for sports & wildlife shooting, and that will drive the choice into more niche areas, like u/w photography.

Your description strikes me as very similar to what we see in the software space all the time - it seems you are making the argument that the system you shoot with is either on par or better than other choices available today (or what's coming in the near future). The reality is people don't make decisions that way - if it's "good enough" and they have some familiarity they will stay with what they know. 

In addition, I do believe that Nikon will end up being forced to upgrade the D500 (as well as the D850, which is not under debate) because of market pressure and market opportunity (I know what "they" said - but the company follows the market). This means the decision to move away from this format will be delayed even further...  At that point I expect the next gen D-FF or the next gen (+1) of the Z-models will likely suite most people currently shooting with a cropped Nikon DSLR today. 

BTW - I think the availability of the lenses is a much bigger deal. That is where the opportunity sits for disrupting the market for which bodies to choose. I primarily shoot w/a with my D850 specifically because the D500 still presents better options for macro for me (vs. the D850).

Edited by oneyellowtang

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16 minutes ago, oneyellowtang said:

@Interceptor121 I'm glad you like your system. After trying a GH5 I wouldn't switch, but that's just my opinion.

If you are correct, we should see many people consider the best MFT systems as they consider the move away from DSLR's to FF (or other options) over the next few years.

I actually don't see that happening. I think the next gen. (or the gen. after that) of Canon and Nikon mirrorless cameras will be improved enough that you'll see those become the more popular cameras for sports & wildlife shooting, and that will drive the choice into more niche areas, like u/w photography.

Your description strikes me as very similar to what we see in the software space all the time - it seems you are making the argument that the system you shoot with is either on par or better than other choices available today (or what's coming in the near future). The reality is people don't make decisions that way - if it's "good enough" and they have some familiarity they will stay with what they know. 

In addition, I do believe that Nikon will end up being forced to upgrade the D500 (as well as the D850, which is not under debate) because of market pressure and market opportunity (I know what "they" said - but the company follows the market). This means the decision to move away from this format will be delayed even further...  At that point I expect the next gen D-FF or the next gen (+1) of the Z-models will likely suite most people currently shooting with a cropped Nikon DSLR today. 

BTW - I think the availability of the lenses is a much bigger deal. That is where the opportunity sits for disrupting the market for which bodies to choose. I primarily shoot w/a with my D850 specifically because the D500 still presents better options for macro for me (vs. the D850).

My system works for me, frankly any system would work as I try to understand the limitations. I don't ever feel my equipment was to blame for something I could not do. I have not made any arguments you told me you have some people using the same camera I use and I do not miss any shots so I tried to give a suggestions.

In terms of how the camera market will develop you can see the writing on the wall. Nikon is a company that is shrinking globally and when you do typically you need to optimise resources. As they are earning less they will have to direct their resources to their best bets.

I am not sure what is the opportunity for Nikon if they develop another APSC DSLR, they are not going to sell any new lens as this market is saturated by supply so most likely they will need to exit it to focus on more profitable segments like full frame. That one is making better margin but just going into a photography shop you see that now the choices of DSLR are 1 to 3 compared to mirrorless. So at some point there will be only the professional DSLR and when they have the same level of performance on mirrorless DSLR will die altogether together with optical view finder and all the other legacies. In some years then maybe some other technology will come about and this will start all over again. I am not emotionally attached to any system the key is to keep up with change and don;t cristalise a view without checking. Things move fast one minute you dismiss something one year later that technology has improved and works fine.

Going back to the point of the op 3D tracking autofocus continuous is what gives an edge to Nikon not back button and continuous that is available and working on most prosumer cameras today. I was a bit surprised to learn that someone that has a D850 uses the same kind of tools I use with a camera that costs less than half that's all. The analogy of driving a ferrari at 30 mph seems appropriate

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@Interceptor121 I think your opinion of where the market is headed is only partially correct, primarily because of what you don't know (you are predicting a future with limited available data).

The reason I tried the Gh5 last summer was to see where the technology was, and where it might be headed. If you really want to know what I think - after getting to shoot with the A7R4 on land, I believe that the A7-4 underwater (if you don't focus on video) will be compelling once Sony continues to build out their line of lenses. The next camera in this line (A7R5?) will likely cause people to wonder if they should switch, and the equivalent of the A7-5 would be where I might consider moving. For w/a (with the right glass) the A7R4 comparable to the D850.

What I would suggest is try your Gh5 on a blackwater dive and then let's discuss. The D500 outpaces the D850 in this particular situation (I've tried both). Part of it is the glass availability, but there just enough differences in the AF implementations that make the D500 still slightly better (in this scenario).

And I think the point of being able to afford a Ferrari (which I can't) is that you can drive it any way you want.
 

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I can afford a Ferrari i.e. I can afford a Nikon and I am not really interested in blackwater diving so it is not really my priority maybe when i do (at current status of affair seems unlikely soon) I will conclude I need something else. Right now I am shooting tits (birds) in burst mode at 6 AM as I am confined at home. I use a G9 (I have plenty of MFT) glass and I can take the same shots or better than my D7100 that I used for the same purpose years ago. My key issue is not autofocus (amazingly it focuses at 9 fps burst just fine) but the fact the birds move too fast so I need 20 fps let's see tomorrow morning how that works!

I work in restructuring and M&A Nikon is a company under stress like others the patterns are always the same. I have been doing this job for the last 25 years. It is possible of course that Nikon make better or worse choice than expected but the sector has a certain path and interestingly is not being consolidated by acquisitions and that is because nobody has cash to devote. When a company is loosing money they tend to do the same things the first one is the simplification of the range. This to make sure that they don't keep developing segment that make losses. Sometimes though this is not the right strategy. For example I have seen companies exiting a segment because they were not making money however once they left it customers bought another brand. It is very difficult to understand what consumers see in your brand, this may sound surprising but I have seen it many times.

I can see this 'range optimisation' effort happening with pretty much any camera brand but on the other hand this competes with the fact they need to generate sales as there is no income generate with other services in most cases so on one hand they need to get rid of the dogs on the other hand they need to keep launching new things and making sure customers switch to a new product. A customer that keeps their camera for 5 years is not good news. In a smaller scale this also happens with housing manufacturers you need your customer to change camera so that they change housing, if you sit on yours is not good for anyone

Another key factor is to make new lens formats and mounts so they can generate some other sales. If you buy a new body you will not change all your lenses so a change of technology is a good moment to trash out a new range of lenses and revamp everything.

Nobody knows the future but companies keep repeating the same recipes in the hope of changing their fortunes. Nikon is one of those companies that is on a compressing trajectory with no segment making money (different to Olympus or Panasonic or Sony) but similar to Canon that is by the way much bigger. It will be interesting to see how those historical player respond to the market and if they will still exist in five years.

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Folks...the OP is asking for help with D850 focus settings while shooting macro...

Can we please try and keep the discussion at least relevant to his enquiry? If you want to talk about GH5 and Nikon's commercial viability, please do it in another thread?

Alternatively, if you have direct input about how to focus this camera while shooting macro...fill your boots!

 

 

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Posted (edited)

 

Some of the above posts on the best autofocus settings for the Nikon D-850 (and D500 as they are quite similar) are a bit confusing, and may benefit from some detail, below, and also from the suggestions of more Wetpixelers.

Let us chat about the Custom Settings Menu (CSM) and Focus Mode Lever/Button choices for the D500 camera:

1. Menu > Custom Settings:

a1. AF-C: Release is my choice as the focus is already set to continuous. 

a2. AF-S:  Focus, as the camera has not yet focused.

a3. Focus tracking with lock-on:
a) One can choose speed of subject movement that blocks the shot, quick or slow (1 -5). Which one? 
b) choose the amount of motion that blocks the shot, erratic vs steady? Which do you recommend?

a4. On: to select and focus faces (Is this correct?)

a5. Normal: (?)

a6. Number of Focus Points:  55 vs 15, which do you recommend?   

a7. Up to the user.

a8. AF activation: Set the shooting button(s) toShutter/AF-ON (index or thumb can press to shoot, my choice) or AF-ON button (only the thumb can press to shoot).   

a9. Limit AF-area mode selection:  There are 7 modes, #1 is factory checked. Choices 2 to 7 can be checked with the right multi-selector. 

2. Now let us move to the Lower Left Side Lever & Button choices:

Press info to show the choices in the viewfinder.

Set the Focus Mode to AF or M with the AF/M lever. 

To select one of the checked AF-area modes, press the AF/M center button and turn the front, sub-command dial, such as the 3D Area mode.  Which do you prefer?

To select Focus Mode AF-C (continuous) or AF-S (single), turn the rear, main command dial.  C or S depends on the subject being photographed.

I hope all the above will stimulate more discussions. Please tell us your experience and suggestions.  

Edited by Kraken de Mabini

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Hi Mehmet

So... back to your original question.

I'm using a D500 which is not so different to the D850 in terms of focus. On moving macro, I still use AF-S (or if really fast moving AF-C) but set a single focus point close to the intersection of rule-of-thirds lines - usual using the top left one. I then  move the camera to follow the subject and as the eye of a subject crosses the intersection point, I release the shutter. You need to be far enough back to get however much of the body of the subject you want into the image space - of course. 

All this sounds like what you have done. Works for me 

 

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On 3/19/2020 at 12:57 AM, Interceptor121 said:

Don't know what happened anyway AF On is used to reframe the shot without changing the focus so it is useful in super macro. If you then refocus the shot with the shutter this defeats the purpose of AF ON so I am unsure about the comment

AF ON and peaking on live display only use contrast detect on each camera to mark the edges of objects in focus. I consider this a manual focus technique not an autofocus technique as I am moving the camera to reach focus

I always use back button focus and turn off the shutter focus.  Once you release the back button, if you're in C it should follow the subject. In S, I just find the eye and hit the shutter ASAP.

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