FZ200 Continuous AF for Surfing???

Started Dec 21, 2012 | Discussions thread
kkardster
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Re: FZ200 Continuous AF for Surfing???
In reply to Gary S, Dec 21, 2012

Gary S wrote:

For the focus mode I just use One Shot with a burst of 12fps, even when shooting with my DSLR at 600mm. Most surf photographers capture very specific moments, usually it's the big cut-back move as they reverse direction and a fan of water spray comes up behind them. Or as they catch some air at the top of the wave. Check my main Surf gallery for lots of examples:

http://www.pbase.com/gary/surfing

One Shot focus is consistently more accurate than Servo or continuous focus when you're trying to capture precise moments. Especially when your subject suddenly changes direction or nearly stops. The speed of the One Shot focus mode handles it easily unless you've got a really sluggish camera. The Panasonics are fast.

Servo or continuous focus is most useful for subjects moving at a constant speed, either toward the camera, or away from the camera. Race cars coming down the track toward your position, or bicycles, even a flying bird.

Since continuous focus is predictive focus, the change in focus distance is anticipated by the camera based on the previous frames. Erratic movement can cause the focus to drift off, and if that is the moment you're trying to capture, you end up with frames that are out of focus.

The continuous focus can certainly pick up the subject again but if you've missed the moment as it drifted, it's too late.

If you basically wanted to follow a surfer's action as he moved across the face of the wave, shooting continuously and choosing some frames later, continuous focus can absolutely work for that. It all depends on your approach to shooting the sport and what you're trying to capture.

Thanks for this informative explanation - it clearly illustrates how using continuous/tracking focus can fail you when you're trying to capture quick transitions. In addition to one-shot focus, what do you recommend for focus mode: 1-area or 23-area? I usually use 1-area focus but would suspect that a surfer would typically be the camera's choice for 23-area focus and may increase the hit rate?

You referenced the FZ150 but do not clearly state which FZ150 configuration you describe as continuous/predictive focus. If I remember correctly [I sold my FZ150 last July], there are multiple settings that control different aspects of the AF system:

  • Quick-AF: the camera continuously focuses so that it is hopefully already near the correct point when you press the shutter - at which point a final one-shot focus is attained
  • AF Mode: 1-Area, 23-Area, face Detection, AF Tracking
  • Burst mode - with or without shot-to-shot AF

From what I understand, only AF Tracking would fit your description of continuous focus that truly tracks the subject as all other modes essentially perform one-shot AF for each individual shot or burst [albeit with minimal refocus due to already being nearly in focus due to Quick AF or AF burst modes]. Do you agree?

The FZ200 adds AF Style controls to this party as well - it will be interesting to hear what you think of applying these to a surfing shot as well:

  • AFS: AF Single [same as default FZ150 one-shot]
  • AFF: AF Flexible
  • AFC: AF Continuous

The AF Continuous will obviously fit your definition of continuous focus. I believe AFS should operate as per the FZ150. AFF may be worth a try as it is intended to track focus when "movement cannot be predicted" - as in a surfer cutting a wave.

For birding, one may want to try AFF or AFC for BIF -  note that if the bird lands on a branch and you try to do a classic half-press/recompose/shoot, the camera will attempt to refocus when you recompose - thinking it was seeing subject movement.  It takes some getting used to!

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You learn something new every time you press the shutter

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