Autofocus custom settings for D500 - basketball

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by craig_morton, Feb 2, 2017.

  1. Hello,
    I have a very rare opportunity to shoot a Division 1 ACC men's basketball game this weekend. I am not a professional photojournalist, hence the rarity of this experience. On the contrary, I am a high school teacher by trade, but indulge my passion for photography by shooting local high school sports and submitting my work (pro bono) to a weekly newspaper in rural upstate New York.
    Long story shorter-- one of the student athletes from our school district eventually earned a starting role for Syracuse University. I parlayed my connections with his former school district and local newspaper into obtaining a "media credential" for two games at SU this season. My second game is coming up this weekend.
    I got my typical percentage of usable images from my first attempt at the Carrier Dome last November, but I want to up my "game" for this weekend. The light in this facility is brilliant, very unlike the usually high school dungeons I shoot in...So that is not my problem.
    Instead, I would like to hear from D500 sports photographers regarding the AF custom settings you typically use for basketball or other indoor sports. For example, AF- area mode, AF-C priority selection, Blocked shot AF- response, Subject Motion (a1, a3, a7 etc)
    I am moving up from a D300, and I'm feeling I am still shooting within the parameters of my old camera and have not even begun to harness the potential of the D500. Yes, there are tons of "user-generated" websites out there on the Internet (Youtube et al.) much so I could spend a dozen Sunday mornings trying to separate the wheat from the chaff....However, I don't have time for that.
    If any forum participants have any direct personal advice on D500 custom settings, or recommendations to 3rd party sources (books, ebooks, websites etc), I would be deeply appreciate it.
    A few more details:
    I will be shooting from the baseline with a Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 OS and/or Nikon 50mm f/1.8D
    One of the specific questions I have about the Sigma lens above is whether or not its better to shoot with or without the OS on.??
    I had a higher than expected amount of "back focused" images my last time out.
    Again, any help would be appreciated. I want to make the most of this experience!
    T.C. Morton
  2. First, I want to emphasize that I am NOT any sort of expert. However, one of my ongoing frustrations has been delays in shutter actuation while the camera tries to autofocus, particularly on fast moving objects, but even still objects can result in a delay every time I push the shutter release. (Note that I am speaking of the D5100 and D7100.) I recently found several discussions of "back-button focus" and have begun using this approach in combination with the AF-C setting. I am loving it, even if I still need to get the muscle memory in place. This technique was quoted by several photographers as being very apropos to sports photography, where you can pre-set your focal point and then shoot without any delay associated with refocusing every time you push the shutter release, while keeping all the advantages of autofocus. You might want to investigate and experiment with this approach. I'm sure other, more experienced contributors will have thoughts in this regard, and I commend you to them. Good luck!
  3. Nikon gives some advice on the topic
    However I didn't find specific tips for basketball.
  4. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    I have used the D500 extensively, mainly to photograph wildlife but not basketball. I have capture some basketball with other cameras.
    Using the D500 for college basketball, I would certainly use AF-C (continuous AF) with either 25 or 72 AF points. When photographing flying birds, I often find 25 AF points on the D500 covers too small an area.
    For frame advance, I would use Ch (high) to get 10 frames per second.
    For Custom Settings Group A:
    • a1 set to release priority
    • a1 focus tracking with lock-on: I tend to use 1, the shortest lock on
    Hopefully you have some high-capacity XQD or UHS-II card that can last the whole game at 10 fps.
  5. Not sure about your lighting, but the D1 BB venue I shoot (that Syracuse played in a few weeks ago, LOL) has excellent lighting. I have found that pushing the shutter up to at least 1/800 results in much sharper images vs when my son played in HS (under poor lighting).
    OSS should not be necessary at those speeds.
    The 50 or zoom should be good if you are under the basket. If you are more towards the corner, a little more length would be good. I am assigned a spot so I have to take lenses to work with that spot.
    I use AFC-D9 on both a D810 and D3s, and have very high AF hit ratios. Not sure how this tried and true setup would translate to the D500, or if there is a newer setting that is better. The trick is to "start" AF tracking long enough before hitting the shutter. I would say at least a half second or more. I just use a half press of the shutter button, others like the AF on button, same thing IMO. Most of the time, I "start" with the center spot on something like the chosen subjects torso that is slightly forward of eyes. Also, keep the camera "prefocused" as much as is possible, don't let it drift to the seating that is far away.
    Also, I tend to stop down a little - 2.5 on a 50 or or 3.5 on a 2.8 zoom, to trade a little less background blur for a higher percentage of very sharp eyes on the subject. Be sure that AF fine tune is centered or if out any, front focusing, also.
    One other thought - I tend to use M(anual) mode to lock both shutter speed and aperture, with auto ISO, though the exposure probably could just be manually set. There is an exposure difference when the players are looking up vs down, but sequences look better with everything locked down.
  6. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    Unlike the D810 and D3s, the D500 no longer offers the 9-AF point dynamic-area option. On the D500, it is either single, 25, 72 or 155. Initially it was like that also on the D5, but Nikon subsequently added the 9-point option back to the D5 via a firmware upgrade:
    However, so far there is no equivalent 9-point option on the D500
    If the objective is to use fewer AF points, it would be either single or 25 point on the D500.
  7. I had not checked my AF settings in a while, looked out of curiosity. I have both cameras set to release+ focus, AFC-D9 as mentioned, but have Lock-on on set to 4 on the D810. I am thinking that a longer track setting keeps the AF from jumping to the closer (defending) player when my subject is driving to the bucket. Anyway, the D810 does not seem to have any issues following a fast break coming almost straight at me. With the longish tracking time, one has to re-acquire focus with a release of the shutter button to change the subject of focus.
    Think I would try the 25 pt setting if I had a D500. Several sports shooters I know or have talked to think the D500 has a significantly improved AF system vs. previous cameras (as one would expect.)
  8. Group AF (5 points) should be available on the D500, I believe.

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