Anyone NOT use AF-Single Area focus mode?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by benjamin_hennery, Sep 22, 2007.

  1. I just got a D40, and I'm still getting used to it. My last SLR was a Canon film
    camera, and a lot has changed since the EOS 620.

    I'm not sure why anyone would ever set the focus to anything other than
    AF-Single Area (focus on the center bracket). If it's set to anything else, I
    can't focus on my subject, because the camera decides what my subject is.

    I set it on AUTO this afternoon, shooting a friend's birthday party, and
    discovered that the focus option isn't saved in AUTO mode - it focused on the
    WRONG THING for several candid shots that are lost forever in time -
    frustrating. Must remember to shoot always in P, A, or M.

    Does anyone shoot in any other mode - "Closest Subject" or "Dynamic Area"? Am I
    missing out on some great function that my backward, 1990s mind can't grasp?

    When I focus, I want to decide what my subject is.
  2. "Group dynamic/closest subject" is invaluable for flying birds or similar subjects/situations.
  3. Like you, I came from a Canon film camera and then switched to a D50. With film I had only 3 focus points, and only ever used the middle one, locked focus where I wanted it, recomposed and shot.<p>
    When I first got the D50, its 5 focussing points where just too much for me. But later I found they are in a lot more useful position, and now I got used to using ONLY ONE of them, but choosing the one that's more appropriate for the picture I want to take.<p>
    I can understand that for flying birds or similar, as Don said, group dynamic/closest subject is ideal, as long as you have enough focus points. I don't think in a group of birds my 5 focussing points would cut it.<p>
    Maybe I'm still too used to the focussing technique I used on my old film Rebel, and still don't trust the electronics. <p>Anyway, resuming: I use one focus point and I decide which. I also (almost) never use the tracking focus, but then I don't shoot fast moving objects.<p>
  4. Very good question, Ben. If you think things have changed a lot since your Canon EOS 620, imagine going from a meterless Nikon F and a view camera to a D70.

    Not only does the camera switch to closest point with AUTO mode, it does the same (on the D70 and maybe your camera, as well) in PORTRAIT mode. If that isn't annoying enough, whenever you switch back to these modes, the close focus default returns. Thanks, Nikon. One more thing to set on "auto".

    I use primarily aperture or occasionaly shutter modes. I would be happy with only single point focus. I have experimented with dynamic focus with my speeding two year old grandson. The jury is still out on that. Most of my shooting is done with the 50mm f1.8 lens. That's a carry over from my manual shooting. Recently I have been leaving the focus assist light on for low light. Again, the jury is still out on that, but I am leaning toward liking it.

    One small skill you should master is being able to set the point of focus. Last week, the D70 decided to move it from center to the right side. Something must have been bumped. I carry both the guide book and the Magic Lantern guide in my camera bag for just such situations. I adapted until I could stop and read how to switch back. Sometimes the skill is being able to switch back instead of "creative switching".

    Ben, I would encourage you to both become very practiced in the settings which work for you and also explore the other possibilities of the camera. Do the former quickly and the latter more slowly. You have already encountered one of the camera's defaults. For those who are willing to spend the time and energy, today's digital cameras offer an amazing amount of potential flexibility. Become very familiar with your instruction book. I like the Magic Lantern book, also. (I suspect there is also one for your D40.) By all means, get the Nikon DVDs.

    One other thought, if I may. I plan to use my D70 until it dies or I bump into too many walls with what it can't do. So far, the limitations have been operator inexperience. Do the same with your D40. There is much to learn with digital work. I believe it is best learned with practice rather than planning the next camera to buy.

    Good shooting, and stay focused.

  5. 99% of my typical shots are done with the middle point.

    For most shots, one point, usually the center point, is all that most people need (depending on the lens used). If you are using a faster lens like an 85mm 1.8 or 1.4 where depth-of-field could be an inch or less, you would typically want to use one of the other points which falls exactly where/what you want focussed rather than recomposing after locking the focus in order to get accurate focus. For example, if you were shooting a portrait with an 85mm lens and wanted to focus on the subjects eyes and the center point was on the subject's chest, you would want to use one of side points that falls right on their eyes. Tilting the camera up, locking the focus, tilting the camera down and then shooting would not give you the focus you are looking for.

    I have not found dynamic of closest subject to work well consistently, especially in lower light. I find I am much better off carefully tracking a moving subject with the center point than relying on the camera tracking the subject. This take a little more practice and skill, but gives better results.

    But ultimately everyones experiences will be different and others will find closest subject and/or dynamic focusing to work best for them. Personally, I would live with only one focus point if I had to.
  6. About 90% of my shooting is the center point. I believe on a camera like the D40 that's the
    most reliable focus point, too. It works differently than the others. I think that's true on D40
    50 and 70 (and 80?)
  7. D200, but 99% center and then recompose. The other 1% is closest object and I should use it more.

    I do lots of manual focus with primes and macro lenses.
  8. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    While there are always exceptions to any rule, but the basic rule for composition is not to put your subject in the center of the frame. Instead, if you divide your frame into a tic-tac-toe grid, it is usually best to place your subject in one of the 4 intersections in that grid.

    Therefore, ideally, you should at least have AF points in those 4 locations plus some others in your frame. That is precisely why I like the placement of AF points on the D2X, as demonstrated by this illustration in DPReview:

    If there is only 1 AF point in the center or only 3, it tends to lead to poor compositions or you have to lock focus and recompose, which is not ideal especially when there is action.

    The 11 AF point placement on the D200 and D80 is quite good also. The D40 is an entry-level DSLR, which is still capable of capturing excellent images, but this is one of its many limitations.
  9. An other advantage of using the measuring spot, that is on the right place, is that when you are using spotmeting, you also measure the light with that spot.
  10. I started out with a manual focus, so focus/recomposing is a natural part of my technique, and so far, the mult-zone hasn't been very good at reading my mind to discover the subject in my frame.

    The Canon at least allowed me to set the focus to the center for all modes, which was the first thing I did when I bought it, and it remembered the setting. Now that I think of it, I set my point n shoot to center also, and it remembered the setting.

    So it looks like the multi-zone focusing is a nuisance that I will need to overcome - or just never shoot in any mode other than P or M.

    Although all the extras on the camera are impressive, I rather miss the simplicity of manual cameras. I wish they made a digital back for the F4.
  11. I use a technique I read about at the Nikonians website, I believe.

    I set up the D2x so that only the AF button activates autofocus. The shutter does not.
    Then I simply leave the camera in AF-C Dynamic Area mode. At the cost of having two
    separate buttons
    to press, this takes care of all my (repeat, my) focusing situations.

    1. Static without recomposing: I select which focus point to use and press the AF button.
    Focus is acquired. I release the AF button, then I fire the shutter.

    2. Static with recomposing: Press the AF button. Focus is acquired. I release the AF button,
    recompose, and fire the shutter. Although the camera is in AF-C mode, focus will stay at
    the original point because the shutter button does not force a target reacquisition.

    3. Dynamic: I choose which focus point is the initial point. Then I press and hold the AF
    button, while continuously firing the shutter.

    This technique works great on the D2x, which has two shutter release buttons and two AF
    buttons, one set for portrait orientation and one set for landscape orientation.

    As I said, the drawback is the hand coordination required. In my middle age, I've started
    playing video games and I find it's improved my hand coordination a lot! :)
  12. One more thing: I don't have to switch to manual focusing if I decide to use manual focusing.
    My lenses are AF-S, so if I want to focus manually, I focus and stay away from the AF button.
    No settings adjustments required.
  13. "An other advantage of using the measuring spot, that is on the right place, is that when you are using spot metering, you also measure the light with that spot."

    It also factors in to Matrix metering.
  14. Obi - I don't think I can do that with the D40 - someone correct me if I'm wrong. And that's exactly my thought - that I can spot meter at the same time I focus, which works 99 percent of the time. Otherwise, I'm shooting manual.
  15. "Obi - I don't think I can do that with the D40 - someone correct me if I'm wrong."

    At #12 in the menu you can set the AE-L/AF-L button to an AF-ON button, which will accomplish what Obi suggests.
  16. I am a Canon user, but I feel this question is applicable to both systems.

    I rarely use multi-point AF as you can never be too sure what the camera will focus on.
    With Canon's system (on the 10D / 1n at least), assuming a static frame, when all AF
    points are activated it will go for the closest subject first. If the camera and subject are
    stationary, with repeated focusing the computer will start to select different points going
    from nearest to farthest.

    The practical upshot of this is that you end up wasting time compared to selecting the
    desired point right off the bat, and using it.

    I will add that, like many of the Nikon users here, I find the all-points computer selected
    mode very useful for tracking birds in flight, race cars, etc.

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