FAST AUTOFOCUS LENS for ACTIVE kids portraiture with D700 nikon camera

Discussion in 'Sports' started by dhalia_okal, Jul 9, 2009.

  1. Hi all...
    I own a D700 + Tamron/90mm/F/2.8 macro lens (has been great for macro of still objects)
    Was hoping that this lens could work for other than still objects, and I did get some great shots of kids when they sit or slow down.
    But, when trying to take shots of kids (3-7 years of age) being kids/running/active/on the move and thus moving in and out of focus, I miss a lot of great shots because of slow autofocus of this macro lens. Manual focusing is better sometimes for one-shot-at-a-time, but would like the option of quick auto focusing when I am shooting in "bursts" of 5 shots with one click.
    I have been using fast shutter speed and mostly wide aperture for blurry backgrounds, but focusing is slowing me down.
    I realize that I have yet a lot to learn about this great camera (that I am lucky to have), and photography in general. Next time I practice, I will try multiple focusing points, 51point and 3D tracking, (hmmm... what else on camera?)
    Besides that, I am beginning to think that I may need a lens that will be more suitable for young kids photography.
    I get very frustrated when I am missing some amazing action due to focusing issues. Now that I think of it I never had this problem with a simple point and shoot camera with preset options.
    Back to researching and practice.... tired...
    Thanks so much
  2. macro lenses can take great pictures, but probably dont lend themselves to this that well because they have too much focus range... the other thing that I have found out is that this particular camera likes a lot of light on the af sensors, so using prime lenses that open up more helps focusing a lot, more than using af-s lenses in my opinion.
    That being said, the 50 1.4 af-s that nikon recently released is probably really fast, as it lets a lot of light in and also has the afs motor. I personally like the 85 1.4 af-d for this more than the 50 because of the focal length, but its twice the price of the 50 1.4. For a less expensive option, the 50 1.8 is great and the 85 1.8 is pretty good too, but similar in price to the 50 1.4 afs, i think.
  3. I see... I may need a lens with less focus range so that it will spend less time "fishing"/focusing?
    Yes, I keep hearing good things about the 50mm... really wish to try it out, but thought that I was better off with a 90mm b/c it allows for more distance between the kids and myself.
    How much does it matter if the lens has it's own afs motor? It's not enough if the camera/D700 has its own motor?
    Thank you
  4. Some early users of the 50/1.4 AFS Nikkor have reported that, subjectively, they feel the new lens autofocuses slower than the older screwdriver-type 50/1.4 AF Nikkor. I haven't tested the new AFS version, but my experience with the 50/1.8D and 50/1.4D AF Nikkors, as well as with several other AF Nikkors on my D2H, is that they autofocus very quickly with a Nikon body have a good internal AF motor. I doubt you'll see a significant improvement with the AFS version, even if it is technically quicker.
    However, AFS makes a big difference with lenses having larger, heavier optical elements. The 70-200/2.8 VR AFS autofocused noticeably quicker than the 80-200/2.8 AF. Likewise, in good lighting the consumer grade 18-70/3.5-4.5 DX Nikkor autofocuses more quickly than the older 35-70/2.8D AF Nikkor. The latter AF Nikkor zoom still autofocuses very quickly on my D2H, but not as quickly as the AFS zoom. However, in dim lighting the faster f/2.8 zoom holds an edge.
    An AF Nikkor prime like the 50mm and 85mm Nikkors should autofocus quickly enough with your D700 for the type of moving subjects you've described. I've used some of those lenses successfully for casual portraiture and playtime photos of kids, as well as indoor and outdoor school sports, and they're plenty quick enough. Even the affordable 50/1.8D AF Nikkor is very capable of quick enough autofocusing for this purpose.
    But for casual and candid photography of people you may find one of Nikon's midrange zooms with VR suitable. I liked the older 24-120 VR. Others prefer the more recent 18-200 VR and 16-85 VR. While not everyone needs VR, I found it helped me get steadier, blur-free photos of fast moving kids and pets. Last weekend I photographed a friend's energetic border collie and could easily have used the 18-200 VR or 16-85 VR to increase my keepers. Most of my missed shots were due to blur caused by my own camera shake while I attempted to track the dog's quick moves.
    One of the tricks with Nikon's more sophisticated AF capabilities is to find the mode that works best for a given situation. In some cases the multi-sensor AF modes work best; in other cases a single sensor AF mode works best. Sometimes AF-S (single servo) works best, sometimes AF-C (continuous AF) works best. And there are modes that continue tracking moving objects, while others lock focus sooner. When I got the D2H over four years ago I spent months practicing various AF techniques to determine what worked best for the situations I encountered. With the even more complex D700 I'd expect to spend a lot of time practicing every available mode to discover what works best.
  5. "One of the tricks with Nikon's more sophisticated AF capabilities is to find the mode that works best for a given situation" Well put. This is the key to successful autofocus with any lens, even the ones that are considered fast in focusing and especially for the ones that are considered slow. For example, while many don't necessarily like the 51 point with 3D tracking mode, I have had really good success with it under the right conditions (where the color of the subject varies greatly from the background).
    For moving subjects, use AF-C. I suggest you use the center focus point or any of the focus points in the center 3 columns which are all cross type points. Should your camera experience any type of difficulty in autofous, switch to 9 point dynamic focus mode.
    I have a couple of 'slow' focusing Nikon lenses yet rarely miss a shot (focus wise). Perhaps there are some compatibility issues between this lens and your camera. I suggest you try some Nikon glass to see if there is an improvement. What is your budget? Do you find you are typically too close or to far from your subject with your current lens?
  6. Explore the auto focus continuous rather than S mode. Switch on right side of lens mount, C S M. Then go the closest object, the filled in rectangle under your right thumb.
  7. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    I can confirm that AF speed on the new Nikon 50mm/f1.4 AF-S is indeed on the slow side. I have tested that lens for a while on the D3X and D700.
    Those cameras use Nikon's Multi-CAM 3500 AF module. Personally I would avoid the using all 51 AF points with 3D tracking option. You are better off using 21 AF points or perhaps just 1 AF point.
  8. the 18-200 and 16-85 mentioned are Dx lenses, so I would avoid those for your situation.
    while learning the AF system is obviously a good idea, the 51 point 3d tracking and even 9 point modes really don't work well when you are using a wide aperture, which I do almost all of the time. When your depth of field is shallow, those modes are kinda hit or miss with getting good eyes. I use 9 point sometimes when the subject is just too jittery, but you have to take a load of pictures to get sharp ones. Assuming you have reasonably controlled kids, single point AF with continual focus will yield the most keepers at f/2.8 and under, as long as you are in reasonable light and keep the af sensor directly on the eye of the subject. If you like the 90mm focal length, try the 85 1.8 or 85 1.4... the 1.4 is hard to beat. Here's a recent shot of my daughter that I like, using the 85mm lens at f/1.4
  9. Need Fast Focus
    Budget: around $450
    Is there a way for camera/lens to just keep readjusting auto focus as a child runs towards the camera while using continuous (bursts of 5 or so in a row/one click/holding shutter down) shooting??
    The problem with taking kids shots so far with my 90mm: when kids are running around... if holding shutter half way down (+ beeping sound when focus is selected) then I can go ahead and shoot away as long as a child stays in same spot, but once they move slightly out of focus, blur all over! And to readjust point of focus often times lens fishes around -in and out- loosing precious time. I have been using mostly manual focus for close up portraits and mostly auto focus for further away shots.
    even so, I have taken some great portraits of kids with the 90mm and working distance is great... just before I would complain that I have to step further away from kids to take a full body shot, I remember how much I appreciate this distance when photographing them splashing in the puddle, sure is easy to keep camera away from the mess. Of course, sometimes I wish I had a zoom so that I won't have to loose a shot or look to silly running forward and then back to get just the right crop...
    It seems that I may need to give 85mm or 50mm a try for the faster focus? There sure is some price difference between 85/1.4 and 85/1.8 :( What makes these lenses faster than the 90mm, I wonder???, besides starting at at least f/1.8 and ending at f/16m (90mm goes all the way to f/32). Now that I search a seems that quiet enough people are also complaining about slow focus of 50mm and 85mm, hmmm :(
    Maybe I should keep trying with camera settings (I had tried continuous mode, but I still get a lot of blurry shots)... perhaps 90mm is not as slow compared to 85 and 50???
    Thank you!
  10. That is a great shot Robert. Love the focus on the eyes.
    I didn't think I would need to go beyond f/2.8, but sometimes I see it would be great to get such shallow focus.
    When you use 85mm lens at f/1.4... I cannot tell, maybe b/c of so much light, if the background gets pretty much washed out of if it's possible to get some bokeh with this lens, 85mm?
  11. both the 50 and the 85 focus fast enough to get kids in halfway decent light... it may be true that the 90 does too, and that you might just need to learn more about the autofocus system of your camera.
    continuous focus does indeed keep focusing as long as your shutter button is held down. To me, its the only way to photograph children.
    It sounds like you should play around more with your camera and settings before buying a lens and see if you can get better results. Make sure your shutter speed is above 1/200 and the selected focal area is at least on the persons face or eyes as you shoot. Try doing it in good light first, at about f/5.6 and see what happens... it does take practice.
  12. also, the reason that shot is so bright in the background is because we were indoors and the background was outside in bright light. the bokeh from the 85 1.4 is almost always beautiful.
  13. Is there a way for camera/lens to just keep readjusting auto focus as a child runs towards the camera while using continuous (bursts of 5 or so in a row/one click/holding shutter down) shooting??​
    Probably not. When I got my D2H a few years ago I tested it methodically to discover the limits of its AF tracking. With kids running toward or away from the camera - directly, not at an angle - the best it could do was 3 fps with all shots in focus. Changing the parameters, such as having the kids approach at an angle, improved the odds of getting more frames per second in focus. Or, if the subject walked at up to a brisk pace, the camera could keep up with AF up to 7-8 fps.
    Distance helps too. The closer the subject, the farther the optical elements have to travel in rotation to keep up. With macro lenses this is even worse because of the spread of the focus throw at short range.
    AF modes are another essential factor. Unless Nikon has changed the performance significantly with the more recently models, beyond a certain point even continuous AF (AF-C) cannot adjust quickly enough beyond 3 fps to adjust for close up subjects approaching the camera directly at high speed.
    As good as Nikon's AF system is in their top level cameras, there are limits. That's why there's no substitute for the photographer's timing - you ability to anticipate movement and wait for the critical moment to take a single frame.
  14. To kind of expand on lex's idea, I no longer use 8 frame per second bursts except in certain dance things that I shoot... I am more inclined to use the af on button, and hold it down while the subject is moving and fire of single shots in rapid succession, perhaps about 5 frames per second, but not necessarily evenly spaced. I would say three shot bursts are most common, but I am finding that I can get a higher percentage of keepers. I kinda stress the AF systems by shooting at f/1.4 or f/2 so much of the time, but that seems to get me the best results.
    beegeedee likes this.
  15. Thank you so much for the tips guys!
    I have have so much more to learn!, I will explore the 90mm some more, along w/ the camera manual (and this post) :)
    I don't have a chance to practice this week, can't wait!
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