Whenever I get a new piece of gear, I pound it to learn it. With lenses, this tends to be a little easier, takes less time. But not is such the case with a camera body and especially one with so many evolutionary changes as the D4. Every time I pick up the iPad Sharon asks, “Back in class” because I’m going back and forth between the D4 IB and the D4 learning all it offers. Flash and in particular flash fill is such an important part of wildlife photography so mastering the D4′s flash ability fast is important to me. The main think is to learn how it’s new and then make that information stick in the ol gray matter so when in the field, dialing in the right numbers is second nature. So, I shoot and shoot!
The metering in the D4 is not like any other Nikon before it, that’s what I’m finding at least. In a nutshell, I think it has a greater dynamic range and is more neutral. At first I felt a bit lost as I retrained thirty years of Aperture Priority / Exp comp mentality to work with this new system. I’m here to tell you, I like it and I like what it does. With learning that comes learning how the meter works with flash and especially Custom Setting e4. I had a marvelous day today in the storm playing with settings and light and seeing the results. The top images of a Cassin’s Finch, the top image is no flash (depressing the Fn button) and the bottom image is flash fill. Body is at 0 Exp Comp and flash is at -2/3. I like not only the gesture in the flash fill image of the Cassin’s but also the light. The bottom image of the Evening Grosbeak, I changed things up by dialing in -2/3 into the camera body. It darkened the background too much for my taste but exactly what I thought it would do with e4. But the flash light exposure wasn’t lowered but remained constant so now you can tell flash was used just like it should be with those settings in the D4. So the D4 did what it was supposed to do, I like that. Do I like the overall light I created with my settings? Not at all but that wasn’t the point!
The interesting thing to me in all of this was the SB-900 was shot zoomed to 200mm. That means no light modifier was used. The light should have been harder but it really isn’t. Is that because of the metering, bounced off the snow or shooting through the falling snow? I don’t have that answer so more testing is required.
Here’s the deal at least in my head. If I just spent $6k to buy a really hot, fast, new computer (after all that’s what the D4 is), turning it all off and shooting in Manual is pretty much like throwing away $6k. I can’t afford to do that. So with a new, revolutionary 91k pixel RGB metering system, I want it to not only work (which is does) but I need to be able to work with it and make it work for my photography. I need to shoot in Aperture Priority so I’m in control of the DOF and the rest of the system do its job so the only thing I concentrate on is the subject. I shot just shy of 1200 captures this week testing and just getting to know the D4 metering and flash in different scenarios so next week I can be all business. I hope this gives you some ideas and direction to take your own photography no matter what camera brand or model you’re shooting with to learn and master it better.
No, these are not the greatest images, that’s not the intent. The D4 has a new Custom Setting, e4 that I wanted to test and get to know it and the weather was perfect for do just that (have a D4 but don’t know about e4…oops…guess you have some testing to do). I started off with that intent but then it was such great shooting, I kinda shunned testing and work and just kept blasting away. What you see here is the very simple but so important use of flash in wildlife photography. The image on the left has flash fill and the right, ambient light exposure. The goal to me is real simple, you don’t know I’m using flash when I’m using flash. Now you might be asking, how did I do that? I thought you might ask that question so in the next posting, I have an answer for you!
The brushes from Visible Dust Kit, they have saved my butt on more then one occasion! I have two kits, one in the office and one in my travel gear and each kit contains 3 brushes. Like just about everyone else on the planet, at some time or another I have got the tips of the brushes under the sensor frame coating the brushes and then the sensor in crap! After cleaning the sensor with swabs, I’m left with a non-useable brush. Now Visible Dust does sell a fluid for cleaning their brushes but beside being $40, it’s simply not easy to use. I wasn’t getting my brushes clean so they were still unusable. And brushes are too expensive to be disposable! I needed a solution in every sense of the word.
So I put up a note on G+ that Jason Odell responded to saying he just uses Dawn dish soap. Well, I got that so I gave it a go and darn if it didn’t work perfectly! So here’s my version of Jason’s technique for cleaning brushes:
- Put a couple of drops of Dawn dish soap in a, clean, one cup container with enough tap water to cover brush heads
- Thoroughly wet the brushes with tap water and then whisk around in the soapy water you just made.
- Thoroughly rinse out the brushes in tap water until NO soap remains (watch the bubbles).
- Thoroughly rinse out the brushes again but this time use distilled water.
- Shake dry as best you can and then let dry for about 24hrs
You might be wondering about drying. I did grab Sharon’s hairdryer and hit the brushes for a couple of minutes and then let them air dry the rest of the time. Now here’s the most important part, testing the brushes after you’re done. I used a clean mirror and a flashlight to check my brushes and found one not clean so I repeated the process. I now have a clean set of brushes and all it cost was a couple of drops of Dawn and half gallon of distilled water. I want to thank Jason for sharing this great tip!
With the Think Tank videos posted on YouTube, had a number of emails and board postings asking more about my use of it. The video shows how I pack it, but you might wanna also look at the other video, the external parts of the bag as it does into things. But to answer the universal question, 99.9% of the time, it does in the overhead in the plane. There are a couple of times on regional jets (and not everytime), it has to go Ala Cart. Watch the external video to see how I deal with that. When I’m doing aviation work and the longest lens I’m going to use is the 200-400VR2, Think Tank is the way to go. If I’m taking the 600VR, it’s MP-1 time!
With the D4 accepting and one of its slots dedicated to the XQD card, it’s here to stay so finding working solutions is part of the game. While it was cool Nikon provided a card and reader, one reader just isn’t enough for me. I managed to acquire one of the brand new Sony XQD Express Card Reader and I’m here to tell you, it’s not only faster, easier for me to remember to take with me. That’s because it resides in the express slot in my Dell. But it’s so new, Mac and Win machines don’t have the drivers for it already installed. With a little of digging I found the drivers. You can grab the Win Driver here and the Mac Driver here Hope the extra option helps you.
As promised, here are my settings for the D4, top link is a PDf and bottom link is the file you can upload into your D4. Now these settings will change with time and when I think about it, I will update these settings and date the file accordingly. Now, External settings that can be set are as follows:
D4 body Settings
- Metering – Matrix
- AF-C / d21
- Firing mode – CH
- Flash – Slow
Hope this helps you, I know I’ve got more to learn with the D4 but to say I’m impressed is an understatement!
Tighten them 70-200VR2 tripod foot screws! I first posted this warning a couple of years ago, heard from many theirs was loose and then a tragic story of one lens mounted to a tripod falling to the ground because they didn’t tighten their screws. Received an email yesterday asking if I had heard of this problem which jarred my memory. I checked my lens and sure enough, they were loose again. Now many put loctite in these screws holes but I won’t do that because if the lens goes to Nikon for repair (a big if), I don’t want those screws locked in. I do need to remember to check them though and wanted to pass that reminder on to you.
“Pretty Amazing”…that’s what Torey, the biologist I’m working with said when I played back the video of the San Joaquin Kit Fox den we worked last night. “It’s better there then what I’m seeing in person!” That’s what Torey said watching the activity I had shot. In 2hrs, I shot 10GB of 1080/30 vid using just 29% of my battery power and all my skills to pan capturing the activities of 4, 7 week old SJKF pups. You’ll see in the video the pups outside their den in Bakersfield, CA. I shot this using a Rode mic (almost no sound, none to record), GP-1 attached to the D4 and the default D4 movie settings. Now the Auto ISO for the video made me scratch my head when I saw that feature but now that I’ve seen it in action, I think it’s genious. During my time shooting, I saw the ISO change from as low as 1800 to 12800 while the exposure levels stayed consistent. The WB was set to AWB with the light source being this funky combo of parkway, bldg light stuff with a welder in the background working. Focusing was all done manually. What’s here is a 200MB clip, raw and unedited straight from the camera which, getting it uploaded from the field was a feat onto itself. Of course, the stars are one of my favorites, the endangered San Joaquin Kit Fox pups. Those how saw my video of them at Photoshop World might notice a HUGE difference in the quality. Compared to the D3s which is what I used last season, sucks compared to the D4! Be sure to click on HD when you watch it! I hope you enjoy!
They are not kept under lock and key but neither are they set in stone. But I’ve had hundreds of requests for my D4 settings so here they are. You click on the link, unzip the file and load it onto your card and then navigate to Setup Menu > Save/load Settings > Load Settings on our D4 and you’ll have my settings. Now you’ll have them all which includes Copyright set to my name, so I recommend you erase that. I also recommend you copy your own settings to a card and put that aside so in case you don’t like my settings, you can reapply your own. Sorry, I simply don’t have the time yet to write all the settings out. Keep in mind the hardware settings are: AF-C, D21, A Mode, CH, Matirx. Now will these settings change? They might a little bit but I don’t foresee any big changes.
I want to emphasize these settings are just that, my settings and reflect my style of shooting. They might not be the perfect set for you. But if you don’t know what or how or why to set a particular Menu item, this might be a place to start. Hope they help you make the most of what I’m finding is a pretty evolutionary machine!
“What’s XQD?” questions are filling my email box after this mornings D4 post since it comes with the Sony 16GB XQD card. To be real honest with you, I knew nothing about it until it showed up in my D4 box. Not that I’m thrilled with having it as one of my two slots in the D4 nor do I profess to understand the engineering reason behind its inclusion, I do know it works and works really well! First, it’s not as big as a CF card nor as small as a SD card. Next, the slot in the D4 for the XQD has no pins which means you cannot bend them rendering the slot useless until repaired. Lastly, the slot is spring loaded, you just have to push on the XQD to extract it from the camera. And with the speed I’ve already mentioned, those are the pluses to the XQD.
What are the minuses? The first one and a biggie to me is it requires its own reader. I already have a bunch of Lexar USB3 Dual Slot readers which rock! The Sony XQD cards and readers are expensive and at this moment, hard to find. It’s not like you can fill that slot with puddy and move on, you’ve gotta make work what you’ve got. What’s the answer?
This is the answer as far as I’m concerned, the Lexar 128GB 1000x card in Slot 2! I do not have this in hand yet but I know (don’t ask how) that the Lexar 1000x will be faster then the XQD and at 128GB, I doubt I’ll need a second card and if I’m that fortunate, I’ll just load another 128GB card. What about the XQD card? I’ll leave that in the camera and make it the “video” slot. Hope this trivia helps!
I’ve had a whole bunch of emails asking just that, where’s the D4 “review?” I guess shooting with it for less then a week, “you should be able to write a review, right, others have.” Well first, I’ve not written a review for a long, long time. I have written field reports but to me, there is a huge difference. To me, a review is no more then reading the specs and writing a review based on those. Not really very helpful to anyone wanting to get the most from their D4. The field report on the other hand is no more then my findings shooting with just one camera body sample. But those with a D4 can test their body’s results against mine and make some conclusions. And shooting with a new body for less then one week is by no means a field report worth writing.
I’ve seen some “reviews” and here’s my first problem with them. We’ve been using a 1008 pixel based RGB system up until the D4. Now we are using a 91,000 pixel 3D RGB sensor. I might just be me, but that’s a feakin HUGE change! Besides being a bigger number, what does that mean to our photography? Well, I’m still trying to determine that but here is what I’ve found so far. The D4 does have a greater dynamic range then the D3. How much, I don’t have a number yet. How does that effect my photography (since I can only speak about my own shooting)? Well, in scenarios like the photos posted here, the clouds detail was not lost, there were no blinkies even though I was shooting at zero exp comp. Why is that any kind of a big deal? With the D3x, I would have dialed in minus comp to retain the detail in the clouds. Further more, so far, and this is just my gut feeling right now, the D4 when it has a greater dynamic range requires plus compensation to be dialed in. When the exposure range is back down to like four stops, I dial in minus like the “old” days. Now I have conferred with some other D4 owners and they have found the same thing but this does not make it carved in stone. But if this proves out to be true, it means we have a revolutionary tool in our hands that will require a little change in exposure thinking to take advantage of it.
Now I’ve had a number of folks moaning to me about the XQD card option in the D4 not really being an option as if I designed it. While I don’t understand why it’s there rather then a CF slot, so far I’ve enjoyed its speed. When you can shoot 74 Nefs in one burst and then suck those into the computer at radically fast speeds, I’m surely not going to complain. Is it the best option? Well, I don’t see as we really have a choice and since it works, I’m not complaining. Then there are the complaints about the battery. There again, my D4 and those I’ve shot with have had no issues or complaints. It just works and not left me in the lurch.
The biggest request though is for my settings. I just got another one figured out today to my liking so I hope to have them posted soon. Like they say, all good things come with time. Another common question is if the D4 is worth the money? I can answer that with a big, fat YES! Printed my first 24×30 prints and the results are gorgeous and comparing the D4 print to that of the D3s, the D4 was cleaner which to me is very important. Now if you don’t have the money for the D4, what do I suggest? I would pick up a used D3s and if you don’t have the money for that, a D3. But when it comes to choosing between a D4 or D3s, D4 wins for me already in my first week of shooting with it. There will be more to come, but my gut suggests it will only be more good news….
This is in the top ten of emailed questions, “If you only had one lens, what one would you have?” I’ll get to answering that in a moment. For the last 18 months or so, I have felt I have had too much gear, lenses. I felt this from a personal and well as business perspective. It might be old age, no wanting to carry so much. It might be getting mentally lazy, not wanting as many choices to have to select from. It very well could be from getting older and wiser and knowing better what I need visually (I always hope it’s this one) but whatever it is, I’ve cleaned out a lot of gear I wasn’t using. It’s for this reason, I actually keep track of what lenses I use and what they produce.
For the third year in a row, in 2011 the lens I shot with the most and at the same time, had the most number of images sold was the 200-400VR2. This lens simply gets pounded and looking back at the stats, there wasn’t one shoot in 2011 that it wasn’t at least present if not used. Why? There are a number of reasons with the main one is its performance. It is simply beautifully sharp! It produces 24×30 prints (captured handheld) that blow away my clients in clarity. And this holds true from 200mm to 400mm, f/4 to f/22, I see no weaknesses in my 200-400 in any aspect of the lens. And 94% of the time, the D3x was the body attached to it.
When I head out for big game, the 200-400VR2 is in my hands. When I head out for birds, about 45% of the time now I head out with the 200-400VR2 with the 1.7x attached. When I head out for aviation, the 200-400VR2 always comes along. When I go chasing the light on the landscape, the 200-400VR2 is right there. When you have that kind of optical performance combined with the flexibility of the 200mm to 400mm, creativity and what I like, the optical isolation a long lens brings to a photograph, I’m not surprised just how much I rely on this lens.
Looking at the numbers, the lens I shot with 2nd most in 2011 and had the most images published from was the 24-70AFS. Ever since its introduction with the D3 which seems like a lifetime ago now, this has been my go to lens for nearly just about everything. There are a number of its attributes I depend on. One of the big ones for me is that f/2.8. It’s bright, it’s sharp and when I need it, it gives a narrow band of DOF at 24mm. When that is combined with its optical performance and focal length range, it just works for my style of photography.
And this is really at the heart of this conversation. I mean seriously, how many out there are so anal to know that about their photography, the lens they shoot with the most in a year? I started to keep track long ago when the question came in because I was curious, not that it would change anything. But this trivia only applies to me and my preferences for visual communication. It also has a lot to do with the subjects I chase.
And that “If you only had one lens” question. First, those who want to interview me and ask that question, the interview ends because IMHO, it’s the lamest question on the planet! (I know, I should learn not to keep my feelings penned in). Yes, if you’re just starting out, you will probably just start out with one lens, I understand that. I’m not just starting out though, been at it for three decades. You look at my camera bag, while shrinking a little, I obviously have more than one lens. Why do I have more than one lens? Because I NEED them to do my job. What if you’re just starting out and can only afford one lens, what should you buy? In all sincere honesty, how would I know what you should buy? Since I don’t know you, your style or abilities, how can I honestly provide a valid answer? Can I make a recommendation? Sure. Is it a stab in the dark though? You bet! With that being true, why ask the question of a stranger? (If you don’t know, rent!)
The lens is a tool, a vital tool in our quest to communicate visually the wonders we are so darn fortunate to see! The first lesson I learned in photography is buy the best you possibly can from the start and this holds so true for lenses. Manufactures, bless their little hearts, make a HUGE assortment of lenses for many reasons and if you look at the ones I’ve talked about in my 30yrs, it’s an itty bitty fraction of the possibilities. This means you have a whole lot of options beyond those I talk about you need to look at yourself and find the best one for your photography. Just because I or some other “pro” owns a lens doesn’t mean it’s the best one for you. Will my choice and most “used” lens change in the future? I could receive a phone call right now taking me on a whole new photographic path possibly changing the lens I use the most. In the meantime, I know what works for what’s on my plate right now and that’s a comfortable place to be. The tools in my camera bag provide me the platform I need to tell the stories I want to tell. And for me, those are the best lenses.
In the Bag
(photos courtesy of Nikon)
Understandably, the emails are arriving asking the question which body to buy. Rather then just putting up the link for the post from the last time I answered this question (D3 or D3x?) because the way to the answer hasn’t changed, I thought I would just write a little something here. First and foremost, it is quite possible the best body for you is the one you own right now! No one feels the pressure of having a new body like me as the emails arrive asking questions I don’t have answers to until I have that body in my hands. Then there is that, “It’s new and I’ve gotta have it” feeling. Seriously, there is nothing better then the smell of new gear and the thrill of taking it out for the first time. But that new body doesn’t guarantee you better photographs, it just don’t work that way. My recent piece pretty much spells out my belief that photography is a marriage of photographer AND gear. Now if you’ve settled on buying a new body (and LOTS of your have which is so cool for so many reasons) which one of these should you buy?
The only way I can help is trying to explain how I go about it. I ask myself, “What problems do I have with my current gear that the new gear might solve?” And since I am a business, that solution must include not only the photograph but also making money on the investment. The D4 vs. the D3s to me is a pretty much a slam dunk between the faster FPS, better High ISO and 1080p, the D4 solves a problem I’ll have in about 35days I know the D3s won’t. I know because last year, the D3s didn’t get the photo. Now what about the D4 vs. the D800/800E? In this one scenario, the D4 still wins out but what if we change things up a little, lets say D3x vs. D800/D800E? Now you have my attention because the D800E (which honestly, like the D3x is only right for about 10% of the shooters out there) produces bigger files more then twice as fast at less than half the price. Just like I rely on the D3x / D3s right now (and BTW, they still produce gorgeous images even with the introduction of the D4/D800), I can see the D4 / D800E serving the same roll in the future.
Here’s the hardest part of making this work for you as I see it. You’ve gotta have the experience to know the problems and the imagination to think of how those specs on a page can solve them. To be honest with you, most of you know the specs for the D4 & D800 better then I and that’s cool. The advantage I have though is even without knowing all those specs, shooting everyday I run into more problems I need solutions to. When I watched Scott Kelby’s Google+ presentation with the NPS guys, I heard enough then to order the D4. I remember all to well when the F5 came out and we didn’t have the web to share all of this information wondering how a camera body with a faster FPS was worth the investment. If you’ve never shot with a D3x, how would you know if the D800 is worth the extra pixels? Many don’t even know they are shooting using an anti-aliasing filter to know if shooting without one would be a benefit (without, you do run into the real possiblity of moire issues).
I am incredibly encouraged to hear all who have pre-ordered either body. Not only is it a sign that things are getting a little bit better out there, it also means photographers are still willing to push their photography further. None of these bodies by themselves will make you a better photographer. Sticking with the camera body you have now until you “learn” it won’t necessarily make you a better photographer either. It is the combination of photographer and gear that pushes the photographic envelope. Give yourself the time and you will see the rewards no matter which way you go. You gotta remember above all else, photography has to be fun! And on that note, take a look at this…now we’re talking fun!
I mentioned on Google+ I was traveling with just the iPad on a business trip and had a number of folks ask I explain how I’m making the iPad do more then just be a movie machine. I normally travel with two notebooks, a Dell m4500 & m6500. The m4500 is the mobile office for image processing to communicating. The m6500 is the teaching / presentation notebook. And both notebooks can back up each other. On this trip, I would be spending more time traveling to and from then in meetings, there was no “shooting” involved so I decided to just go with the iPad and it did not disappoint!
My needs for business were simple, a professional presentation tool. Nothing shows off images like a iPad but there is more to that then that. I wanted the iPad to look like a tool and not a toy so I have a very clean and simple leather case for it. A finger printed, greasy screen just doesn’t fly when making presentations so I depend on the Wacom Bambo pen to navigate on the iPad. It was interesting to see I wasn’t the only one at the meeting like that. I needed to be able to find images, for that I use the Photo app that comes with the iPad. While I’m not in love with the Photo App (or any for that matter) in how they permit me to organize my images, I do love that I can easily access them and send them via email, insert into Word Docs, just a number of things really quickly and easily.
Using Pro Show Producer I can create elaborate presentations that with their pluggin, can be loaded on the iPad. With the iPad VGA cable, I can plug the iPad into a projector or monitor and play my Pro Show Producer presentations which include music anywhere. Even though these meetings were all about wildlife, I still was asked about my cockpit panos so I have Pixeet 360 on the iPad to show them off. I have to tell you, the iPad made my experience a whole lot easier and more effective. There were a bunch of iPads at the meeting, all being used for business. It was great easily seeing folks during the meeting and not having to peer over a notebook screen. The iPad in a Keyboard Case was great and popular tool!
I did take my Kensington bluetooth keyboard with me, just didn’t take it to the meeting. I use Pages A LOT to write and the Bluetooth keyboard just works better for me when I’ve got more then a couple of sentences to write. And like normal, I had a request for a 500 word piece which I quickly cranked out and emailed to the client. I have my invoice template in Pages so I can invoice quickly as well. I like that! Having the 3G version makes it really nice to respond to emails and do other web work from anywhere. While I have movies loaded for air travel, our son just made us aware of HBO GO which, if you have a HBO subscription is totally free. Have a wireless connection in a plane, room or lobby and you have a massive library of visual content to enjoy.
One thing I do not use the iPad for is uploading and manipulation of my DSLR images. Between no HD space, not able to deal with file size and no open file naming ability, it’s just not an option. But that’s about the only limitation I find for the iPad. The number of projects and sales we have been able to finalize using just the iPad is staggering to me. I’ve only touched on the ways I use the iPad and have come to depend on it but hope it helps answer some of the questions folks had about it as a business tool.
Yeap, I think my FlightTrack map for February pretty much confirms, I’m on the road a helluva lot. Many are now thinking about their travels for 2012 as well, I know because I get the emails asking what to take and how to carry it. This has always been one of the top five questions emailed to me. A vast majority of my site is devoted to help answer this question. You can find what camera gear I have and what I take on projects on the Moose’s Gear page. You can see what I take for wildlife, you can see what I take for aviation, you can see what I take for landscapes and what I take just around town. Not only is there a list of the gear, but nearly every piece of gear has a text explanation as well as a video. These are not sales pitches, these are just explanations why I have this tools with me. You don’t have to own any of this gear to be successful, it’s just what I’ve found works for me. As for the travel, that’s not necessary for success either. I’m just very fortunate I get to follow my passion to many locales either sharing them with others teaching or posting images here on the blog.
Yeap, the D4 is no longer rumor, it’s here! Many of you knew about the announcement before I did, learning about it from text coming across my iPhone as I worked in a hangar. With each text and email came the essential question, “Are you buying a D4?” Cutting to the chase, I have no doubt I’ll end up with them. My name is Moose, I’m addicted to new camera gear! But the question has to be. Why?
My first pro body introduction was the F3 so I’ve done this soul searching thing a few times. I’ve written about this many times before but for those who are new to the site, here it is in a nutshell. What problems will the $6k investment solve making that investment viable? Now if you just want it because it’s new, this discussion is mute because you have the perfect reason to buy the D4. I have two needs I foresee in just two projects in 2012. I need faster writing buffer in my still captures and 1080p high ISO video recording. Now will solving those two needs bring in the income justifying the expense of the D4? And that’s how I look at it, simple money out, money in proposition. Now the money out is a given when you buy the new piece of gear, the money in isn’t. And that’s how the photography biz goes.
As of the writing of this, I have not seen or shot with a D4. I have read the specs, thought through what the D4 has versus what the D3x & D3s have. You can’t argue with the numbers, the D4 on paper is a better machine then the D3s. You can’t argue with the videos Corey Rich & Bill Frakes have created, they are gorgeous! But the one question I’ve been flooded with all week I simply can’t answer for folks. Should you buy a D4?
My fear is pretty simple, being on those two projects without buying the D4 and then needing its unique attributes that I know are available and not having them and missing the photo! So, I will have a D4 and will be selling my D3s. When I have images I can share, I will ASAP. In the meantime, many of you who already know you want and/or need the D4, you can Preorder your D4 right here. Whatever you do, keep your photography fun and you can never go wrong with what you own!
Yeah, if you don’t have it sharp to tack sharp when you go click, it never will be sharp! There is no fix at this time for a fuzzy image (which is just as bad as a sharp image of a fuzzy idea). There are a lot of variables in getting a sharp image and getting them all perfect every time you go click. The only way to get there is practicing them perfectly. And that takes time. One major problem of having a major website like I do with thousands of pages of information (and blogging as much as I do) is information gets buried that might be of big help. Since I seem to be talking about elements that I feel that need to be in place when you go click, I thought I should repost a previous post on what I do to get a sharp image when I go click.
From the get go, the AF settings in the D3 have confused folks (and all Nikon DSLRs since). I was no different in the beginning but lucky for me, I was able to ask two of the lovely ladies at NPS back when what to do. They told me exactly what the designer of the new AF system at Nikon told them when asked which is the best. “21 Dynamic, it’s the best!” And that’s what I use the majority of the time ever since. That means, I go into the Custom Setting Menu > Autofocus > a3 Dynamic AF Area > 21 points and then select the AF sensor I want to use. That’s how both of these images were taken. To take advantage of this selection, the lever on the back of the D3x is pointing at the middle icon, not the top or the bottom icon, but the middle icon. This is what I use for basically all my landscape, people and wildlife work and it serves me very well.
And while the power of the D3 AF system makes it possible to not have to manual focus all the time (I still manual focus a lot, old habit), it’s still only part of the equation to getting a sharp photo. The other part is spending a lot of time with gulls so when the great opportunity like the Osprey appears, I’m ready for it. I practice A LOT! Yeah, after doing this for 30yrs, I still practice this on an almost daily basis! Personally, I don’t know of any other way. Now I realize these videos are a bit old (shot before I knew anything about video), but the techniques none the less are still the same. So if you don’t know the techniques that go along with the technology, check these out.
Now I really find personally that using the Nikon AF system is this simple, 21 Dynamic and go, it just works. If you find though the camera searching for focus alot, more times then not, it’s the pilot that’s the problem and not the system. That’s where practice kicks in. And the time I don’t use this AF setting? You’re lookin at it. When I have something in the sky, a single bird, a giant flock and I want the front of the flock sharp or planes in the sky, I switch over to Auto Area AF or what I simply call Triple A. What does this do? It gives you all the attributes of Dynamic; Focus Tracking, Focus Lock and Color Recognition but adds to this list Closest Subject Priority. Added to this is the fact you no longer have to select an AF Sensor to lock onto you subject because the ENTIRE area in your viewfinder is now one, giant AF Sensor! The beauty of this system to me is the ease of operation. All I have to do is move the lever on the back of the camera from the middle icon to the top icon. Wanna go back from Triple A to Dynamic? Don’t have to take the eye away from the action, just flip the lever. Even a Moose can handle that thought process.
Does the AF work 100% of the time? No. Do I focus on a subject, lock focus and then recompose? No! Do I use the back AF Button to activate focus? Can’t get coordinated enough to ever make that work, I’m a spaz! So then do you use the shutter firing button to activate focus? Yes, I can manage that much. Have you tried other combos? What do you think? Do you manual focus? I think I’ve answered that but to make it clear, alot! Will you modify this system since you seem to change other settings with time? I don’t think so, not with the D3 because it works for me. Will it work for you? Only is you go out and practice. If you just set these settings because you read them here and then in a week to two think you can go out shooting and every thing will be sharp, you will be really disappointed in your results. I don’t know anyway around practicing to make this technology work for you and your photography. The D3 AF system does make it possible for this important aspect of photography to take a back stage but it’s still up to you to make it sing!