D300 AF tracking vs 40D

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by anesh, Sep 25, 2008.

  1. I've been shooting wildlife on a recent trip with some difficulty with AF tracking using a 40D & 100-400USM. Will the
    D300's 51 points make AF tracking more reliable. Seems obvious but I have no experience with Nikon bodies.
    However I don't want better tracking at the expense of fast focusing and good low light focusing which the Canon
    handles very well. How does the D300 fare. Thanks.
  2. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Anesh, I have never used the 40D other than playing around with one at a camera store. However, Canon has not improved their basic consumer AF system much since the 20D. As a result, the 20D, 30D, 40D, 50D, 5D and 5D Mark II all use essentially the same AF system with minor improvements.

    Nikon's D300 uses the same AF system as their top-of-the-line D3 and D700: the Multi-CAM 3500 has 51 AF points, 15 among them cross type. That should be compared to Canon's top-of-the-line one on the 1D Mark III. Therefore, I would assume that you'll see significant improvement in terms of AF performance if you switch to a D300.

    However, Nikon does not have a lens that is equivlanet to Canon's 100-400. Nikon has a 80-400mm AF-D VR; AF on that lens is well known to be slow. I have tried that myself and experts such as Thom Hogan have pointed that out also, but quite a few owners of that lens in this forum tend to deny it.
  3. Thanks for that. Theres really no point in 51 AF points with slow lenses. I actually had the 80-400 VR in mind.
  4. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    I should point out again that there are a lot of disagreement on whether the AF speed on the 80-400 is sufficient or not. I think it has to do with different expectations. This topic was debated a few times in the last 2 months. Ultimately, it'll be your individual decision.

    Personally, I think Nikon should upgrade this lens to an AF-S, but who knows when that will happen.
  5. Anesh, what Shun says about the 80-400 VR zoom stirring up some debate is true. See the following thread and links...


    I decided to by this lens for my D300 for shooting wildlife and I have used it for sports. It uses the older AF system depending on the in camera motor and screw drive. If you use the focus limiting switch and know ahead of time your approximate distance it's pretty fast on the D300. I'm sure that the AFS in the 200-400 VR is faster, but it also is about $4000 more.
  6. I cannot imagine why anyone would buy a top-notch body (such as a D300 or D3) for wildlife photography and wishes to settle on a non-AFS lens.
    The speed of AF is dependent on:
    • AF subsystem of the camera body
    • lens
    • amount of light
    • If you truly want the best AF you can get, you cannot skip the lens component.
  7. Arthur, I agree with you. The factor in my case was money, plain and simple. My next long lens will likely be the AF-S Nikkor 500mm f4 VR for wildlife which will also work well with a 1.4 teleconverter. As for me, I'm having fun and learning a lot with the 80-400 zoom. And it seems from my reading that I am not alone. Also, the 51-point AF on my D300 locks on quickly to flying birds and keeps them locked on as long as I'm shooting in good light. Here is one example...
  8. Shun I don't think there is a lot of disagreement on whether the AF speed on the 80-400 is sufficient or not when proper technique for the lens is followed per Richard's comments.

    "I cannot imagine why anyone would buy a top-notch body (such as a D300 or D3) for wildlife photography and wishes to settle on a non-AFS lens. "

    Again, per Richard's comments, I can think of 4000 reasons.

    Stunning shot Richard!

    I used the 5D extensively for the past year and found it to be very fast and accurate using the center focus point. The 100-400mm is my favorite lens to use with the 5D.

    What were your focus settings on your 40D when you were experiencing tracking problems?
  9. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Since the OP is seeking to improve AF performance, I think the 300mm/f4 AF-S is a better choice in that price range.
    IMO, updates to both the 300mm/f4 AF-S and 80-400mm AF-D VR are overdue. (One of them lacks VR and the other lacks AF-S.) Therefore, if you get either one of those lenses now, you have the additional risk that once a replacement is announced, a lot of people will dump the old version for one with both AF-S and VR. If you also need to upgrade, you will likely be selling into a buyer's market.

    The problem is that none of us knows when Nikon will update those lenses. Therefore, unless the OP has a compelling reason to switch to Nikon immediately, it is better to wait until the future is clearer.
  10. Another lens to consider, if one is willing to go non-Nikon, is the Sigma 120-400 HSM OS. The optical stabilization is reportedly a bit aggressive - it kicks in fast and a bit furious when you hit the shutter button - but it apparently works well and it focuses very quickly from all reports. I don't own one, obviously, but have been tracking reviews of it closely.
  11. Anesh, I have a 40D which I use for high school running events. Focus is fast and accurate with a Canon 70-200 lens. It is an excellent camera for the money, but I think its shortcommings are the 9 point focus points. The center point is accurate, but the other points are too far from center. That is fine using the center point for birds in flight, but here is no point position good for shooting runners.

    I have never used a D300 but suspect the 51 point system if used correctly would be a huge improvement over a 40D.

    Arthur Morris has used a 40D and his commentary on the camera is well worth reading:
  12. Allan, I spent a lot of time comparing image quality of the Sigma and the Nikkor 80-400 VR. I decided on the Nikon lens for it's optical quality over the Sigma even though I knew that there would be an AF compromise. Read Thom Hogan's review of the 80-400 Nikkor and check out this link...

  13. Anesh, if you are looking for good low light focusing, the 80-400 VR is not for you. Shun's suggestion of the 300mm f4 AF-S would likely be better and no doubt, the 200-400 f4 VR zoom would be the cadillac. As far as the D300, in good light with my 80-400 the AF is fast and spot on. The 51 points work best for me with a bland background, like blue sky. When the object you want in focus is against a complex background, like a bird against trees, the single central focus point works best for me. Sorry, if I hijacked your thread.
  14. I have both of the cameras at hand, depends to what lens you use, Nikon doesn't have a 400 f/5.6 with AF-S or a 100-400 zoom with AF-S, so unless you will be using the 200-400 f/4 VR, Nikon AF will actually be slower than your 40D, because of the lens not the body-regarding the body I have found that D300 initial aquisition is slower than Canon but focus is more accurate (less OOF shots) you can also customize the Nikon, 40D is set for shooting priority so it can shoot even when it is no in focus.
  15. "AF system much since the 20D. As a result, the 20D, 30D, 40D, 50D, 5D and 5D Mark II all use essentially the same AF system with minor improvements.

    Shun, this isn't true, having had 20D and 40D, 40D AF is a lot better than 20D, 20D has only a center cross type at f/2.8 vs 40D has all 9 cross type at f/5.6 and the center is dual precesion with f/2.8-Also the AF speed is 30% faster according to Canon. 50D and 40D have the same AF which is different from 5D/5DMKII.
  16. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Arash, I didn't quite say it correctly. My point was that all of those Canon DSLRs have only 9 AF points and if you want Canon's best AF system, you have to spend at least $4000+ on the 1D Mark III.
  17. Richard - I don't doubt the quality of the 80-400. I'm just mentioning it as an optically stabilized, AFS-equivalent lens option.
  18. "Arash, I didn't quite say it correctly. My point was that all of those Canon DSLRs have only 9 AF points and if you
    want Canon's best AF system, you have to spend at least $4000+ on the 1D Mark III.
    Very true, this is the main reason I am more tempted to buy a Nikon D700 as opposed to a 5D II, but Nikon on the
    other hand want you to spend $$$ to buy super telephotos to take full advantage of the AF system-If they only had a
    400mm AFS for less than $2000.
  19. Arash, exactly, which is why I settled on the 80-400.
  20. To answer some of your qustions the 40D's af points too far apart for tracking as Kerry mentioned. I do however find the 40D AF speed blazingly fast with the 100-400 USM and AF in very dim light achievable, just a pity Canon didn't follow the D300's example.
  21. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    I hate to say this, but it has been pointed out quite a few times by good bird photographers that the 80-400 is soft on
    its long end, and typically one uses this lens at 400mm most of the time. Again, do a search on Thom Hogan's
    comments. Mark Chappell has discussed that countless times in this forum also.

    If you want to reach 400mm with Nikon at below $2000, personally, I would go the 300mm/f4 AF-S + TC-14E route.
    That combo is in the $1300+ range new. The TC-14E is a must buy for any long tele user anyway. That will give you
    an excellent 300mm and a usable 420mm. I would use that on a tripod and monopod so that the lack of VR is not a
    major issue, or I hand hold for flight shots at a fast shutter speed. The thing is, even though it is an AF-S, the
    300mm/f4's AF is also on the slow side. For whatever reason, my 300mm/f2.8 AF-S focuses much faster and that is
    the lens I tend to use for birds in flight.
  22. See a lot of people suggesting D300 with better lens and see what cost would be to switch systems and get a good telephoto lens. Then compare that to the cost of just buying maybe a good used Canon 1D mark II, it has top of line focusing like the Nikon does and is an excellent camera. Arthur Morris probably most famous bird photograher out there uses it, seems to work great for him.
  23. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Canon changed their AF system in the 1D Mark III and in fact generated a lot of controversy because quite a few people found problems, but that is whole different topic. The 1D Mark II was introduced in early 2004 and is a very dated camera by now.

    Since Arthur Morris' name is mentioned a couple of times here, I should point out that I actually know him and for a while he participated in the Nature Forum here. Morris has been sponsored by Canon since the early 1990's. I don't consider his opinions the most objective ones. By the same token, Nikon also sponsors and has a financial relationship with many professional photographers to help promote their brand. I would take their published opinions with a small grain of salt also.

    However, as Anesh says, "I do however find the 40D AF speed blazingly fast with the 100-400 USM and AF in very dim light achievable ...." I wonder what is the need to switch brands and get a D300?
  24. Shun, regarding the softness of the 80-400 at the long end, I'm certainly just learning all of this but this is an example of a handheld shot from the 80-400 at 400mm, lens wide open at f5.6, 1/1000 sec at iso 400 from the D300, handheld from a kayak. With my limited experience, I was pleased with this, I wonder if others would find it too soft?
  25. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Richard, the following thread from today shows an example how I evaluate lens sharpness and quality:

    First of all, I always use a tripod. And I don't evalute a lens based on samll JPEG images post to the web as they tend to hide a lot of problems. Instead, I check at the pixel level. That is what photo editors at the major publications do,

    Since I don't own the 80-400 myself, you are probably much better off reading Thom Hogan's review on its pros and cons:

    As well as Mark Chappell's comments, e.g.:

    Mark is one of the best bird photographers you'll find in photo.net and he commented on the 80-400 quite a few times. He used this lens for a while before switching to Canon several years ago because he wanted to have IS/VR on his 500mm/f4 super tele, a feature Nikon didn't provide until last year.
  26. Thank you, Shun for your comments and the links, I have read Thom Hogan's review and others and I'm pretty sure that I understand the limitations of the 80-400. For about $1450 I am happy that I have it but I am very interested in the new AF-S Nikkor 500mm f4G ED VR and I would buy a 1.4 teleconverter to use with it. The 500 should serve me well if I should upgrade to FX format in the coming years. As always, you have been very helpful.
  27. I shoot bird with a 40D + 400 f/5.6L. Yes the 40D's AF tracking is somewhat underperform compare to the D300's (a friend of mine has a D300). The 40D has no problem tracking big birds like Great Blue Heron, Great Egret or Pelican, but with smaller and fast flying creatures like Terns and Kingfisher, the 40D does struggle a bit. You need to know your camera's ability and limitation and work harder to get the shot. If you use the central point, try to keep it on the subject at all time. Just practice and shoot a lot.
  28. I keep seeing that Canon users buy a Nikon lens and use an adapter ...why can't the opposite also happen?

    Just learning...
  29. Mike, Canon lenses cannot fit on Nikon cameras due to the way they are manufactured. Nikon lenses can be used on Canon cameras but don't autofocus. I had the adapter and briefly tried out my Nikon 70-200mm on my 5D. I was not impressed and without autofocus, there are many usage limitations. Canon makes fine lenses and frankly I don't see any difference between the various lenses I have used from each manufacturer. While I can't speak for other people's 80-400mm, mine, like Richard's, delivers fabulous image quality and focuses fast (when used with the focus limit switch). Mine works great at 400mm (sharp). I read Mark's comments in that year old thread Shun linked to and reread mine (made shortly after I had purchased the lens) and kind of chuckled to myself because so many people make negative comments about this fabulous lens (over and over again) yet it has always delivered wonderful results for me. Richard's two examples above illustrate how good the lens really is in the hands of a talented photographer. Having used the 100-400mm on my 5D, I must say both lenses are excellent and will give great results. I can't say one is better than the other although the Canon obviously focuses a bit faster because of its design (USM) vs the screw drive on the Nikon. I get great results with either and both perform fast enough.
  30. I have to say that I'm very pleased at the maturity of this forum. In other forums I'm quite used to being met with a fierce roasting with the mere mention of the Canon word. I really love the spec (and reviews) of the D300 but I'm sticking with my Canon 40D and 100-400USM for now until theres theres some consesus of a fast equivalent lens from Nikon. I don't think that I'm a talented photographer just yet so I'm quite camera & lens reliant at the moment.
  31. Nice shot, Anesh!
  32. thanks but colour profile was wrong so let me try again
  33. Excellent focus on the eye, have you worked with the exposure to see if you can bring out the detail of the breast feathers? Too bad you didn't have this bird against a more pleasing background. Looks like your lens works weel for you.
  34. I meant "well":)
  35. Why would you limit your choice on nikon's lineup? You might want to consider third party lens like
    Sigma APO 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM. OS is comparable to Nikon's VR and HSM is Nikon's AFS.
  36. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Again, the OP wants fast AF. Any zoom that only goes to f5.6 on the long lens is not going to give you very good AF in the first place, AF-S or not. Anything slower than 5.6 will not provide very accurate AF on Nikon.

    Hope you guys don't mind a somewhat off-topic suggestion. When you photograph animals, I would try as much as possible to shoot from their eye level. At least to me, that conveys a totally different feeling.
    The famous wildlife photographer Frans Lanting published a book called "From Eye to Eye" about 10 years ago and it has a lot of excellent examples. I just went to Lanting's seminar a couple of weeks ago and got him to autograph my copy, but that book seems to be out of print now:
  37. Looks like an excellent book, Shun, thanks!
  38. Thanks Richard. The eye did come out very sharp and at 400mm. The hi-lights on the feathers do look a bit clipped.
  39. Anesh, This is one of the great advantages of shooting RAW. I've found that if you have a nice shot with the bird partially lit by direct sun, and you can stop down the exposure slightly in post processing and bring up the highlights a bit, you'll end up with a more pleasing image. But, the best situation, by far, is to get perfect exposure, focus and compostion in camera with the original shot. No amount of "playing" in post will make up for errors in the original image.
  40. I am hearing alot of people talk about the center / central focusing point.. i can appreciate the accuracy beleive you me, I shoot with a 30d and no fancy lenses, hell this ole gal may even be lacking the feature!! However, am I the only one in here that gets sick and tired of the composition for every single shot being dead nuts center just to ensure that a miniscule percentage of the view finder (center point) is beautifully tack sharp provided your lenses is in the $1000 - $12500 range??? I am interested in the d300 mainly because of the auto focus system it has.
  41. Adam, depending on the specific model dSLR, you can assign AF to any of several specific focus points. It doesn't need to be the center point only. I routinely assign AF to any of the 11 focus points on my D2H, depending on camera orientation and where I anticipate the action to be.

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