D800 AF-ON and AF-C

Started 10 months ago | Discussions
primeshooter
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D800 AF-ON and AF-C
10 months ago

Anyone else totally abandoned AF-S? For some reason, I am noticing the hit rate of using AF-C focusing is much better than AF-S. It's almost like the D800's AF system cannot work properly in AF-S and the AF-C is just better? It's important to note I am talking about all situations, even totally static stuff, (Yes even with a tripod - AF-C is better). I am talking about pure single point (mostly centre), no area, no dynamic no nothing, the basics (detest these AF 3D modes etc - I just like to put the box over what I want to focus on). I am not new to AF-On focusing but certainly new to totally abandoning AF-S focus and constantly using AF-C.

It's almost like in AF-S it finds focus (which can sometimes be slightly off - especially in low contrast situations) but in AF-C it finds focus, then sometimes makes a tiny adjustment which tends to give better focusing etc...It's odd because in low light I've always shot in AF-S and actually only rarely used AF-C for several reasons...

The thing is, AF-C micro hunts like mental compared to say a D3s or D700. In good light it will lock and stay but in anything other than this it's constantly moving. That said, it seems to be slightly better than AF-S. This improvement with AF-C isn't due to using AF-S when people are moving, or the nonsense some of you said about shooting f/1.4 and shallow depth of field. In some basic testing shooting static stuff in crap light, AF-S was just total MINCE (you would think AF-S would be accurate here, nothing is moving so why should we be in AF-C mode?), and AF-C (whist hunting and making the lens sound like R2D2 having a bad day), focus was better and more shots where in focus. I think that AF-S should come with a damn warning on this camera because it simply isn't working properly, I've now owned 2 D800s, one from July 2012 and one from late 2013, and a few days ago used a friends and AF-S just stinks!

For the sake of being fair, it's right of me to post this. I think the camera stinks in AF-S mode in anything other than good contrasty light. But at distances and wide apertures AF-C seems better (even for static subjects - what the heck? Shouldn't AF-S work well on statics? I am talking about camera on tripod, focusing on a chair or another static object in low light - AF-S fails *consistently*, AF-C picks the object up a lot more, in good focus, even when checking 100%. That is wrong, and a flaw in the AF-S system.) Again, before we start with the bad misconceptions, this is nothing to do with the usual sensor resolution argument many of you give here, so let's nip that one in the bud.

However, I am noticing AF-C to be an improvement, i'll come back after another few days of shooting with any more observations. It seems fairly promising.

Nikon D3S Nikon D700 Nikon D800
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romfordbluenose
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Re: D800 AF-ON and AF-C
In reply to primeshooter, 10 months ago

Never noticed a problem with mine.

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primeshooter
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Yes, many won't notice this...
In reply to romfordbluenose, 10 months ago

romfordbluenose wrote:

Never noticed a problem with mine.

Many won't...use an f/1.4 prime lens. Put the subject a wee bit away from you ie not right up in the frame), in poor light (doesn't have to be awful just not bright sunlight, or subject in some shadow / low contrast) and you'll see it in AF-S mode. Believe me, you will. But I know...many don't and won't notice this.

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Robin Casady
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Re: D800 AF-ON and AF-C
In reply to primeshooter, 10 months ago

AF-C is what makes most sense with AF-ON only. If you want AF-S functionality you simply releases the AF-ON button when focus is achieved. If you want AF-C functionality you keep holding the AF-ON button down. No need to switch back and forth. This is a large part of why AF-ON only became popular.

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coronawithlime
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Re: D800 AF-ON and AF-C
In reply to primeshooter, 10 months ago

I switched to AF-C when I purchased the D800e.  I had guessed that the improved results were due to me moving slightly and the effect was being made more visible by the higher res sensor, however I don't notice any issue with my D3x.  Perhaps an unknown factor?

I use a tripod frequently, but it never occurred to me to test for a difference.

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wasserball
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Re: D800 AF-ON and AF-C
In reply to primeshooter, 10 months ago

I shoot sports with D3s and D600, and AF-S can't handle the action so I use AF-C. I can't see any disadvantage of using AF-C for all situations.

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dasams
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Re: D800 AF-ON and AF-C
In reply to Robin Casady, 10 months ago

Robin Casady wrote:

AF-C is what makes most sense with AF-ON only. If you want AF-S functionality you simply releases the AF-ON button when focus is achieved. If you want AF-C functionality you keep holding the AF-ON button down. No need to switch back and forth. This is a large part of why AF-ON only became popular.

^ this

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Dave Courtenay
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Re: Yes, many won't notice this...
In reply to primeshooter, 10 months ago

AF-C and AF-ON 100% of the time

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Ray Soares
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Re: D800 AF-ON and AF-C
In reply to primeshooter, 10 months ago

Since my D300 I only use AFC + AF-ON.

With the D4 I'm now have the choice to use only one focus point which is a bit better to focus precisely on irises...

I do feel AFC gets more keepers in almost any situation included the so called posed pics as you and/or target always move, breath,etc. Coupled with AF-ON it is unbeatable IMHO.

The only situation I use AFS with the D4 is with very low Light and using flash as with AFC the camera don't use the light/AF help from the flash and sometimes it is unvaluable to focus in these conditions.

Best

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romfordbluenose
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Re: Yes, many won't notice this...
In reply to primeshooter, 10 months ago

primeshooter wrote:

romfordbluenose wrote:

Never noticed a problem with mine.

Many won't...use an f/1.4 prime lens. Put the subject a wee bit away from you ie not right up in the frame), in poor light (doesn't have to be awful just not bright sunlight, or subject in some shadow / low contrast) and you'll see it in AF-S mode. Believe me, you will. But I know...many don't and won't notice this.

You're right I don't have a 1.4 lens.  I'll have to try it out.

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flbrit
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Re: D800 AF-ON and AF-C
In reply to primeshooter, 10 months ago

I've used AFC AF-On with shutter set to release for over 4 years now (D200 D300 and D700, now D800e) and seldom have a AF issue. Cannot imagine going back to AF-S.

Brian

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Ralf Ronander
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I don't agree
In reply to primeshooter, 10 months ago

when shooting wildlife, like deer, elks and the like, AF-S definitely is better as long as the target isn't on the move. AF-C often sets the background in focus because of the way the AF algorithm uses the surrounding focus points in tricky (low contrast) situations.

I only use "AF-On" with the D800, and find switching modes is very simple.

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David314
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AF-S is fine
In reply to primeshooter, 10 months ago

I normally use AF-C but I just finished calibrating my lenses again and testing how bad the speedlight AF assist light is and on a tripod

AF-S is spot on for me, and yes, shooting f1.4 50mm in low light

but with this razor thin depth of field, any movement after focus is locked is going to show up

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unknown member
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Re: D800 AF-ON and AF-C
In reply to primeshooter, 10 months ago

primeshooter wrote:

Anyone else totally abandoned AF-S? For some reason, I am noticing the hit rate of using AF-C focusing is much better than AF-S. It's almost like the D800's AF system cannot work properly in AF-S and the AF-C is just better? It's important to note I am talking about all situations, even totally static stuff, (Yes even with a tripod - AF-C is better). I am talking about pure single point (mostly centre), no area, no dynamic no nothing, the basics (detest these AF 3D modes etc - I just like to put the box over what I want to focus on). I am not new to AF-On focusing but certainly new to totally abandoning AF-S focus and constantly using AF-C.

It's almost like in AF-S it finds focus (which can sometimes be slightly off - especially in low contrast situations) but in AF-C it finds focus, then sometimes makes a tiny adjustment which tends to give better focusing etc...It's odd because in low light I've always shot in AF-S and actually only rarely used AF-C for several reasons...

The thing is, AF-C micro hunts like mental compared to say a D3s or D700. In good light it will lock and stay but in anything other than this it's constantly moving. That said, it seems to be slightly better than AF-S. This improvement with AF-C isn't due to using AF-S when people are moving, or the nonsense some of you said about shooting f/1.4 and shallow depth of field. In some basic testing shooting static stuff in crap light, AF-S was just total MINCE (you would think AF-S would be accurate here, nothing is moving so why should we be in AF-C mode?), and AF-C (whist hunting and making the lens sound like R2D2 having a bad day), focus was better and more shots where in focus. I think that AF-S should come with a damn warning on this camera because it simply isn't working properly, I've now owned 2 D800s, one from July 2012 and one from late 2013, and a few days ago used a friends and AF-S just stinks!

For the sake of being fair, it's right of me to post this. I think the camera stinks in AF-S mode in anything other than good contrasty light. But at distances and wide apertures AF-C seems better (even for static subjects - what the heck? Shouldn't AF-S work well on statics? I am talking about camera on tripod, focusing on a chair or another static object in low light - AF-S fails *consistently*, AF-C picks the object up a lot more, in good focus, even when checking 100%. That is wrong, and a flaw in the AF-S system.) Again, before we start with the bad misconceptions, this is nothing to do with the usual sensor resolution argument many of you give here, so let's nip that one in the bud.

However, I am noticing AF-C to be an improvement, i'll come back after another few days of shooting with any more observations. It seems fairly promising.

I have always found this to be true with my D800E, whether using AF-ON or the shutter button to focus. I mentioned it in the note to Nikon service when I sent my camera in for a clean & check, but I don't see any change in that relationship, except it just focuses better all around since the cleaning.

Nikon said they did a firmware update, but it is the same as when I sent it. Maybe they updated the update.

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fPrime
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And consider trying AF-C tracking with "Release + Focus" as well...
In reply to primeshooter, 10 months ago

I've found that I get slightly better focus accuracy with AF-ON and AF-C on the D700 on static subjects versus AF-S. The AF-C advantage may be true in general for cameras with the CAM 3500 FX module.

Interestingly on the D700, in addition to the above, I've also found even with static subjects that switching to the crosshair 9 point AF-C tracking with "release+focus" can often beat out both single point AF-C or 9 point AF-C tracking with "focus" enabled.

Has anyone else experimented along these lines... using AF-C tracking for static subjects? I'm obviously testing focus performance under extreme conditions to evaluate optimal configuration... f/1.4 lens in low, bad light with medium to high contrast targets.

fPrime

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fPrime
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Ming Thein found the same thing about AF-C
In reply to primeshooter, 10 months ago

Although Ming Thein to this day still believes the D800 lacks the PDAF focus consistency required for use outside of the studio, he reported the same finding about AF-C being more accurate than AF-S:

"Previously, I used single point AF-S for static subjects, and 51-point dynamic 3D tracking AF-C for everything else. I could lock on with the center point, focus and recompose, and everything would be fine. It seemed like a good starting point for the D800.

Turns out I was wrong. Single point AF-C is MUCH more accurate and slightly faster than 51-point dynamic 3D. It’s solved a good number of my AF issues. Remains to try it out tonight when the light gets low to see if performance is improved under those conditions too."

http://blog.mingthein.com/2012/03/24/a-quick-note-on-nikon-d800-autofocus/

fPrime

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primeshooter
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Re: Ming Thein found the same thing about AF-C +1
In reply to fPrime, 10 months ago

fPrime wrote:

Although Ming Thein to this day still believes the D800 lacks the PDAF focus consistency required for use outside of the studio, he reported the same finding about AF-C being more accurate than AF-S:

"Previously, I used single point AF-S for static subjects, and 51-point dynamic 3D tracking AF-C for everything else. I could lock on with the center point, focus and recompose, and everything would be fine. It seemed like a good starting point for the D800.

Turns out I was wrong. Single point AF-C is MUCH more accurate and slightly faster than 51-point dynamic 3D. It’s solved a good number of my AF issues. Remains to try it out tonight when the light gets low to see if performance is improved under those conditions too."

http://blog.mingthein.com/2012/03/24/a-quick-note-on-nikon-d800-autofocus/

fPrime

Exactly what I am seeing. What has confused me is the fact that I need to use AF-C for everything. It's not a problem as such, but couldn't nikon have told me this or just not offered the useless AF-S mode in the first place. This is my confusion...

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primeshooter
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Re: I don't agree
In reply to Ralf Ronander, 10 months ago

Ralf Ronander wrote:

when shooting wildlife, like deer, elks and the like, AF-S definitely is better as long as the target isn't on the move. AF-C often sets the background in focus because of the way the AF algorithm uses the surrounding focus points in tricky (low contrast) situations.

I only use "AF-On" with the D800, and find switching modes is very simple.

I think when using AF-single point as I am, you shouldn't have the trouble you have with the background though...

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primeshooter
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Re: And consider trying AF-C tracking with "Release + Focus" as well...
In reply to fPrime, 10 months ago

fPrime wrote:

I've found that I get slightly better focus accuracy with AF-ON and AF-C on the D700 on static subjects versus AF-S. The AF-C advantage may be true in general for cameras with the CAM 3500 FX module.

Interestingly on the D700, in addition to the above, I've also found even with static subjects that switching to the crosshair 9 point AF-C tracking with "release+focus" can often beat out both single point AF-C or 9 point AF-C tracking with "focus" enabled.

Has anyone else experimented along these lines... using AF-C tracking for static subjects? I'm obviously testing focus performance under extreme conditions to evaluate optimal configuration... f/1.4 lens in low, bad light with medium to high contrast targets.

fPrime

Interesting indeed, I have always preferred the AF-C or AF-S single point never liked the area modes but I can see why folk use them. I guess the subjects I shoot don't move that erratically that I cannot just simply follow them with the focus box and save the bother of switching modes?

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ormdig
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Re: Ming Thein found the same thing about AF-C
In reply to fPrime, 10 months ago

fPrime wrote:

Although Ming Thein to this day still believes the D800 lacks the PDAF focus consistency required for use outside of the studio, he reported the same finding about AF-C being more accurate than AF-S:

"Previously, I used single point AF-S for static subjects, and 51-point dynamic 3D tracking AF-C for everything else. I could lock on with the center point, focus and recompose, and everything would be fine. It seemed like a good starting point for the D800.

Turns out I was wrong. Single point AF-C is MUCH more accurate and slightly faster than 51-point dynamic 3D. It’s solved a good number of my AF issues. Remains to try it out tonight when the light gets low to see if performance is improved under those conditions too."

http://blog.mingthein.com/2012/03/24/a-quick-note-on-nikon-d800-autofocus/

Hi, I never use AF-s so can't comment. I have no problems in very low light with the D800 in AF-c single point. However I have 3 friends with 70Ds that have found AF-s (or whatever Canon calls it) and either area mode worse than useless in low light. It continually picks the wrong subject (higher contrast?). I would think that any camera is being severely tested in these conditions. My D90 and D7000 hunted badly in very low light, the D800 doesn't.

Also Ming mentions success previously with focus and recompose. Focus and recompose at a wide aperture, which I would think he is using in low light, would be suspect anyway.

"Although Ming Thein to this day still believes the D800 lacks the PDAF focus consistency required for use outside of the studio,". Where does he say this and why?

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