Autofocus hunting on D800

Started Dec 25, 2012 | Discussions
GlobalGreg Regular Member • Posts: 246
Autofocus hunting on D800

Just upgraded to a D800 from D7000. The D800 seems to hunt more indoors as compared to the D7000. From everything I've read the D800 should be faster (obviously). My D800 doesn't seem to suffer from the left focus point problems though. I've got a new D800 coming from Amazon to see if it's any better (gotta love Amazon). Anyone else have a problem like this? The lens is a Nikon 24-70 f/2.8. I didn't notice this problem on my D7000 with this lens. Maybe I'll see if my 70-200 VRII does the same thing.

Edit: I'm in AF-S mode (single point). It doesn't seem to do it every time but it's enough where I notice it.

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Photo Pete Veteran Member • Posts: 4,881
Re: Autofocus hunting on D800
1

Yes I have the same problem with the D800 and 24-70 in anything less than ideal lighting.

I usually use AF-C and the af-on button rather than the shutter button to focus. The D800 will judder and hunt continuously on focus targets that my D3S locks on to straight away under the same lighting conditions. A typical subject it will fail to lock on to will be a person's eye in a half figure shot. Whilst I acknowledge that and eye is a relatively small object and not an ideal focus target it is clear that the D800 has considerably more problems achieving focus than the D3S does.

This doesn't mean it isn't possible to get sharp photographs in those scenarios, just that the keeper rate is much lower and that you have to take more time to get an acceptable result.

I think we should forget Nikon's claims for the D800 focus system being the best yet. It is far less assured than the D3S, particularly in low lighting conditions where it is meant to be an improvement.

If you need to get the shot time after time, then the D3S is still a far better option than the D800 and can be had for a very similar price at the moment. If you have time to re-take the shot or spend longer setting it up then the D800 image quality can't be beat... just be prepared for a lower success rate due to focus issues.

Have Fun
Photo Pete

glo Senior Member • Posts: 1,761
Re: Autofocus hunting on D800

Photo Pete wrote:

I think we should forget Nikon's claims for the D800 focus system being the best yet. It is far less assured than the D3S, particularly in low lighting conditions where it is meant to be an improvement.

Have Fun
Photo Pete

I agree completely. Based on my experience the 800's AF is no faster in low light than the 3s or 3x as other people have claimed. Even my 700 seems as fast or faster than the 800 which is still good but am a bit disappointed.

glo

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m_appeal Veteran Member • Posts: 3,434
I'm not pleased with D800s focus accuracy under indoor lighting



I could not get any perfectly focused shots of her (and she was posing, not moving) at f1.8 even though the AF point was squarely on the eye.

beshannon Veteran Member • Posts: 4,216
Re: Autofocus hunting on D800

I shot close to 400 images on Christmas Eve with my D800e/24-70 and had no issues with focus in a normally lit living room

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Leonard Shepherd
Leonard Shepherd Forum Pro • Posts: 17,765
Re: sample images always help

Sample images always help.

The individual focus points in your D800 are much smaller and a much smaller percentage of the screen area than in your D7000.

Page 100 of the D800 instructors explains that if the subject under the viewfinder focus mark is too small AF may not be accurate.

"Too small" a subject for AF to work good is smaller on the D800 than on a D7000

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Leonard Shepherd
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Photo Pete Veteran Member • Posts: 4,881
Re: Autofocus hunting on D800

Brian

What settings were you using and what focus targets (eyes, faces, static, moving etc)

What do you mean by normal lighting  (window light, incandescent etc) . Could  you share a typical shutter speed, aperture and iso to give us an idea of lighting levels?

I am intrigued by your comment that implied you didn't experience any focus hunting or misses.  If you are doing something differently to me that makes the D800 af more consistent I would really like to know what!

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Have Fun
Photo Pete

ranalli
ranalli Senior Member • Posts: 1,020
Re: Autofocus hunting on D800

Photo Pete wrote:

I think we should forget Nikon's claims for the D800 focus system being the best yet. It is far less assured than the D3S, particularly in low lighting conditions where it is meant to be an improvement.

A friend added a D800 after using a D700 for several years and he says the AF speed and accuracy leaves a bit to be desired.  Just not as strong or fast he claims.

This would be my only aversion to buying a D800.  I don't even care about shot-gun shutter speed....if the AF ain't there it's just not worth it IMO; I don't care how great the sensor quality is.

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Daniel Clune
Daniel Clune Veteran Member • Posts: 3,453
How low of light?

I do a bunch of indoor shooting of radio controlled planes indoor with a light of iso 6400 at F4 with 24-120 F4 with shutter speeds vary around 1/100 to 1/320 and have no problem at all shooting flying planes or stationary people . Both AFC for planes in flight and AFS for people. I also used an old 70-210 F4-5.6 D lens with iso bumped to 12800 since its a slower lens and still no focus problem. Planes are going around 10mph and no problem with stationary people in AFS with that lens either. Locks right on.

Are we talking even lower light?

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Daniel Lauring
Daniel Lauring Veteran Member • Posts: 9,343
Re: I'm not pleased with D800s focus accuracy under indoor lighting

m_appeal wrote:



I could not get any perfectly focused shots of her (and she was posing, not moving) at f1.8 even though the AF point was squarely on the eye.

At the resolution you posted, it is impossible to judge focus accuracy.  Can you post a crop?  I'd be curious to see where the very narrow DOF focal plane lies in this shot.

m_appeal Veteran Member • Posts: 3,434
Re: I'm not pleased with D800s focus accuracy under indoor lighting

Daniel Lauring wrote:

m_appeal wrote:



I could not get any perfectly focused shots of her (and she was posing, not moving) at f1.8 even though the AF point was squarely on the eye.

At the resolution you posted, it is impossible to judge focus accuracy. Can you post a crop? I'd be curious to see where the very narrow DOF focal plane lies in this shot.

You can see the image in 20 MP resolution in the Gallery (click on the picture)

beshannon Veteran Member • Posts: 4,216
Re: Autofocus hunting on D800

Photo Pete wrote:

Brian

What settings were you using and what focus targets (eyes, faces, static, moving etc)

What do you mean by normal lighting (window light, incandescent etc) . Could you share a typical shutter speed, aperture and iso to give us an idea of lighting levels?

I am intrigued by your comment that implied you didn't experience any focus hunting or misses. If you are doing something differently to me that makes the D800 af more consistent I would really like to know what!

As soon as I have finished processing the ones I want I will upload a sample.

Not sure how to answer your other questions, normal light to me is several lamps, several windows, and a christmas tree.  ISO was on auto, 2.8 was my aperture and the speed would have been determined by the meter and the use of my SB700 flash.  Targets were people in a room opening christmas presents.

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mgblack74
mgblack74 Senior Member • Posts: 1,678
Re: Autofocus hunting on D800

I find AF-C is not dependable with the D800 in low light. I get get far more in focus images using AF-S.

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marike6 Veteran Member • Posts: 5,088
Re: Autofocus hunting on D800

My experience with both the D7000 and the D800 is the latter is faster, and more accurate in low-light.   On the rare occasion that AF hunts, I always switch AF points to one that I know to be a cross-type AF sensor like the center point.  Good luck with the replacement D800.

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Pradipta Dutta
Pradipta Dutta Veteran Member • Posts: 9,782
Re: Autofocus hunting on D800

GlobalGreg wrote:

Just upgraded to a D800 from D7000. The D800 seems to hunt more indoors as compared to the D7000. From everything I've read the D800 should be faster (obviously).

AF-S works great for me on my D800. It is comparable or better than that of my D3. However, AF-C is not as fast and accurate particularly when used with 3d tracking mode. But for single point servo AF, it exhibits very strong performance. I have never used a D7000. So, can't comment on it. But given that my D800 matches or outperforms the D3 in AF-S since point mode, I doubt it will be any worse than D7000.

Can you post a sample image also indicating the active AF sensor point?

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primeshooter
primeshooter Veteran Member • Posts: 5,118
Re: Autofocus hunting on D800

GlobalGreg wrote:

Just upgraded to a D800 from D7000. The D800 seems to hunt more indoors as compared to the D7000. From everything I've read the D800 should be faster (obviously). My D800 doesn't seem to suffer from the left focus point problems though. I've got a new D800 coming from Amazon to see if it's any better (gotta love Amazon). Anyone else have a problem like this? The lens is a Nikon 24-70 f/2.8. I didn't notice this problem on my D7000 with this lens. Maybe I'll see if my 70-200 VRII does the same thing.

Edit: I'm in AF-S mode (single point). It doesn't seem to do it every time but it's enough where I notice it.

D800 has a general af precision problem at moderate to distant subjects, see my threads on it.

u007 Senior Member • Posts: 1,681
Re: I'm not pleased with D800s focus accuracy under indoor lighting

m_appeal wrote:



I could not get any perfectly focused shots of her (and she was posing, not moving) at f1.8 even though the AF point was squarely on the eye.

Seems completely wrong to me. Definitely a problem with the camera or the lens.

The settings show that the room was barely even dark. I've taken sharply focused shots at f1.4, ISO6400 and 1/20s on much worse focus subjects than in your photo with my D800.

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Ben Lazar New Member • Posts: 16
Re: Autofocus hunting on D800

I've had auto focus issues with my D800 in low contrast situations. For example, shooting on a city block, with the subject being a group of buildings about 100 yards away. Do a google search on it. I've been advised that it can be a lens calibration issue. I haven't as of yet calibrated any of my lenses for the D800, which is something I need to do.

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Leonard Shepherd
Leonard Shepherd Forum Pro • Posts: 17,765
Re: why do you say it is definitely a problem with the camera or lens?

u007 wrote:

m_appeal wrote:



I could not get any perfectly focused shots of her (and she was posing, not moving) at f1.8 even though the AF point was squarely on the eye.

Seems completely wrong to me. Definitely a problem with the camera or the lens.

Why do you say it is definitely a problem with the camera or the lens?

The instructions with every Nikon SLR all DSLR I have owned since 1999 include a caution sometimes autofocus fails, and when it does consider manual focus.

There are major changes in the way autofocus works with the D800. I got used to the changes by first owning a D7000. I have now sold my D300s and D3s to avoid autofocus setting errors. There can be a steep learning curve for anyone trading from the old to the new autofocus system.

The eyes are not ideal autofocus subject according to page 100 of the instructions.

Unless the OP has autofocus issues with all subjects there are so many other likely potential causes of poor focus accuracy in this picture that that are more likely to be the cause than a possible problem with the camera or lens.

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Marc Heijligers Contributing Member • Posts: 590
Re: why do you say it is definitely a problem with the camera or lens?
1

Leonard Shepherd wrote:

The eyes are not ideal autofocus subject according to page 100 of the instructions.

No target is ideal, but an eye is good enough to accomplish accurate focus, millions of people are capable to use their PDAF system properly to obtain perfectly sharp results on an eye. I never have problems with it.

Also Nikon shows that their cameras are made to use an eye as an appropriate focus target, see halfway the following page: http://imaging.nikon.com/lineup/dslr/d600/features02.htm

It says: Single-point AF mode. The camera focuses on the subject at a selected focus point only. This is most suitable for stationary subjects, for example, when you want to focus on your subject's eyes in a character portrait.

Unless the OP has autofocus issues with all subjects there are so many other likely potential causes of poor focus accuracy in this picture that that are more likely to be the cause than a possible problem with the camera or lens.

Exactly, e.g. camera was moved after focus was accomplished (often the case with such a small DoF, the target is very close-by for f1.8...), f1.8 the lens could have some focus shift, or the lens may require some AF fine tuning, and an f1.8 lens is not utterly sharp at f1.8.

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