One more go with AF-ON for sports tracking

Started Apr 3, 2008 | Discussions
Shop cameras & lenses ▾
carauction Veteran Member • Posts: 6,646
One more go with AF-ON for sports tracking

Most say that for sports tracking , AF-ON is the way to go. OK, but for the millionth time, for someone like myself who tracks perfectly well the old fashioned way by using the half shutter press to focus....WHY is the AF-ON button better?

My way: I set my focus mode to C-AF. AF area to dynamic 9 points. I am tracking a runner. I press & hold halfway down on the shutter to track and focus on the runner. I am ready to fire...BAM...I press the shutter for 7 rounds of fire.

AF-ON way: Set focus mode to C-AF. AF area to dynamic 9 points. I am tracking a runner. I press & hold the AF-ON button to track and focus on the runner. (Shutter set to release). I am ready to fire...BAM...I press the shutter with other finger while still pressing the AF-ON button.

Now, forgetting about being able to Single-AF by pressing and releasing the AF-ON button, or manually focusing, or focus & recomposing all while being in C-AF mode......what makes the AF-ON button so great for sports shooters?

Thanks

Mike

Tim Updegrove Regular Member • Posts: 330
Re: One more go with AF-ON for sports tracking

Learning AF-ON myself. I've seen a few reasons listed in the past. I'm sure there are more.

1. With a VR lens, battery life is extended because VR only kicks in when shutting is half depressed.

2. Some people aren't as good as yourself (not busting on you) and accidentally press the shutter button early when not using AF-ON.

boarman Regular Member • Posts: 111
Re: One more go with AF-ON for sports tracking

Doesn't hallf pressing the shutter also lock the exposure ? using AF-ON might only lock the focus.. as you track, the exposure could change while the subject is moving through shadows or something.

Rcavi8tor Regular Member • Posts: 207
Re: One more go with AF-ON for sports tracking

It keeps the focus on continually while you press and release the shutter while you recompose for another shot. If you are holding for continuous shooting like you indicate there may be no advantage.
--
Don

PHXAZCRAIG
PHXAZCRAIG Forum Pro • Posts: 13,030
Re: One more go with AF-ON for sports tracking

carauction wrote:

Most say that for sports tracking , AF-ON is the way to go. OK,
but for the millionth time, for someone like myself who tracks
perfectly well the old fashioned way by using the half shutter
press to focus....WHY is the AF-ON button better?

For me, it's better in situations when I do not want the camera to decide to refocus just as I need to take the shot. Particularly found this when trying to do some formal portraits, especially when I was taking a picture of a very black poodle.

I'd have the focus point set, and be waiting for just the right expression. Hit the shutter release and .... lens racks in and out trying to find a focus point. Shot completely missed.

Much easier to get the focus set with AF-ON, and then take the picture without risking refocusing delays.

 PHXAZCRAIG's gear list:PHXAZCRAIG's gear list
Nikon D80 Nikon D200 Nikon D300 Nikon D700 Nikon 1 V1 +35 more
gnagel Veteran Member • Posts: 7,089
Re: One more go with AF-ON for sports tracking

Me too...

If press the shutter halfway, the AF system will refocus (or hunt for focus) based upon where the focus point is positioned at that particular time. If I press the AF-ON button, I can release it at any time to lock focus in at that distance. Or, I can hold the AF-ON button down to keep the AF focusing active. Using the AF-ON button gives me all the possibilities without having to move to single servo or manual focus modes.

Example: Player is shooting a free throw. I position the focus point on his face while holding the AF-ON button down. I then release the AF-ON button and recompose the image--moving the player into the lower third of the frame. The focus holds at the correct distance when I recompose. If I had held the shutter down halfway throughout this process instead of using the AF-ON in continuous focus mode, the focus distance would have shifted as I recomposed the image.

Using the shutter halfway pressed method causes the camera to continuously hunt for focus (in continuous mode). With that method, I hear the focus mechanism constantly adjusting and the VR as well. With the AF-ON method, I tend to press it only occasionally to get the focus close enough to my desired distance so that it can achieve a very quick focus once I'm ready to start pressing the shutter. Again, I always have the option of holding the AF-ON button down continuously as well if the action is really fast paced or I'm shooting in a continuous burst.

Glenn

PHXAZCRAIG wrote:

For me, it's better in situations when I do not want the camera to
decide to refocus just as I need to take the shot. Particularly
found this when trying to do some formal portraits, especially when I
was taking a picture of a very black poodle.

I'd have the focus point set, and be waiting for just the right
expression. Hit the shutter release and .... lens racks in and out
trying to find a focus point. Shot completely missed.

Much easier to get the focus set with AF-ON, and then take the
picture without risking refocusing delays.

godz New Member • Posts: 21
Re: One more go with AF-ON for sports tracking

AF-ON vs Half Shutter.

Here's my take. I mainly shoot motorsports and I have heavily rely on AF-ON as my primary focus tracking. The reason - I want and decide for myself which area or focus point I want to be in focus and when I'm ready I'll trigger/suppress the shutter button. This is to avoid further or final focusing when you press down the shutter while you take your shot.

Jaurocha Regular Member • Posts: 170
Half pressing do not lock exposure

At least not on my D200.

jp Senior Member • Posts: 1,151
I prefer AF-OFF much over AF-ON

I have the function button in the front programmed to AF-LOCK only (cf-f4)

That way my camera contineously focusses with the shutter half-pressed and my thumb is free to move the AF point. If I need to interrupt the AF momentarily and keep shooring, I press the func button with my ring finger which is dedicated to this.

I prefer this method way over the AF-ON methof which often gave me unsharp pictures in 'stress' situations

I also have the f4+dials set to dynamic AF area which makes it simple to change the AF pattern without diving into the menus

Hope this helps

-- hide signature --

cameras don't shoot people
People shoot people.

Dan Harrod Regular Member • Posts: 446
Re: One more go with AF-ON for sports tracking

I've been trying to get my head round this way of shooting too. I finally got to grips with it this weekend, by taking a whole day to practice, and I'm really glad I did.

I took a trip to my local Zoo and spent lots of time photographing small Squirrel Monkeys, Otters, Bird etc. I found that allow though I was quite happy with the usual method of focusing via half pressing the shutter release, I found the AF-ON button to be much more versatile. At one point I was trying to shoot one Otter in a bunch as they ran around, playing and fight, a bit like a football match ( haha ) and using the AF-ON I could track the shot and at any time track the focus by holding the button and then let go if I saw they were about to run behind a log or duck under water.

So, the massive advantage I found was that in effect, your AF-ON thumb becomes the switch between manual/single/continuous focus. You choose if you want to :

o not-press - manual or focus off*
o press once - single focus
o hold down - continuous focus

The only issue with this is that it must be an AFS/HSM lens if you want to suddenly grab the lens and manually focus.

So, for sports, say your concentrating on a football player warming up on the side lines, he might run on at any moment. But hes way off in the distance, and even though your long lens can frame him perfectly well, people keep walking in between you and him. Normally this might cause the lens to hunt, especially if you are in AF-C mode. With the AF-ON button you simply press it once to get him in focus, then you can keep him in frame and not worry about anyone crossing the path messing with the focus. Then, if l he suddenly runs on the pitch, you can simply track focus on him by holding the AF-ON button.

I'm a convert. Give it a try, it's certainly worth persevering with. I hope this helps.

hendrikm2 Regular Member • Posts: 208
Re: I prefer AF-OFF much over AF-ON

I also have the f4+dials set to dynamic AF area which makes it simple
to change the AF pattern without diving into the menus

Yes, that´s one of the important D300 settings you have to do. I prefer it on f6 (AE-L AF-L-Button), though. This leaves f4 for bracketing. To use bracketing, you need both wheels (so you can´t really put it on f6).

jp Senior Member • Posts: 1,151
Re: I prefer AF-OFF much over AF-ON

I have bracketing and spot metering on the DOF button. I never use DOF

hendrikm2 wrote:

I also have the f4+dials set to dynamic AF area which makes it simple
to change the AF pattern without diving into the menus

Yes, that´s one of the important D300 settings you have to do. I
prefer it on f6 (AE-L AF-L-Button), though. This leaves f4 for
bracketing. To use bracketing, you need both wheels (so you can´t
really put it on f6).

-- hide signature --

cameras don't shoot people
People shoot people.

carauction OP Veteran Member • Posts: 6,646
Re: I prefer AF-OFF much over AF-ON

jp wrote:

I have the function button in the front programmed to AF-LOCK only
(cf-f4)
That way my camera contineously focusses with the shutter
half-pressed and my thumb is free to move the AF point. If I need to
interrupt the AF momentarily and keep shooring, I press the func
button with my ring finger which is dedicated to this.
I prefer this method way over the AF-ON methof which often gave me
unsharp pictures in 'stress' situations

I also have the f4+dials set to dynamic AF area which makes it simple
to change the AF pattern without diving into the menus

Hope this helps

Thanks much. Certainly a very viable set of options.

Mike

carauction OP Veteran Member • Posts: 6,646
Re: Great inputs

Thanks all.

Mike

kevm14 Senior Member • Posts: 2,253
Re: One more go with AF-ON for sports tracking

What if you need to take a couple shots of a stationary subject and the subject does NOT fall on one of the focus points? AF-ON saves the day, because it allows you instant focus and recompose capabilities just as if you were still in AF-S mode.

carauction OP Veteran Member • Posts: 6,646
Re: One thing jp....

the func button set up is great. However, when using the vertical grip it can make reaching the func button awkward.

Really appreciate the tips on the func button. Already set up the func + dial for changing the Dynamic area to 9,21,51,3D.

Thanks

Mike

Steven Wong Regular Member • Posts: 285
Re: One more go with AF-ON for sports tracking

One more reason that I use AF-ON...

If I want to capture a player, race horse, etc. at a specific location (say the finish line in a 100 meter race), I can use the AF-ON button to focus on the finish line and then release the AF-ON button. I can now shoot anyone that hits that finish line in perfect focus. I have function a5 set to AF-ON ONLY. This means that pressing the shutter button will not change my point of focus. It is still locked on that finish line.

-Steven
--
PBASE Supporter
http://www.pbase.com/swong13

bob elkind Veteran Member • Posts: 5,813
flexibility in focusing control

Often in group or team sports shots (VERY often, in fact), there are lots of potential targets for the autofocus logic to pick. The AF logic really likes high-contrast targets, for example. Shooting from the basketball court sideline, a quick movement of a player can clear the way for the AF mechanism to latch onto the dark cowboy hat in the bleachers instead of your favourite player. You're lined up on the high hurdles finish line, and all 6 runners are neck-and-neck, with your daughter in the centre lane - how are you going to lock focus on your daughter as the other runners are obscuring her ?

It is almost (but not completely) true that you can pre-lock proper focus with a half-press of the shutter release button in each of these situations, but the slightest error will spoil the shot with (potentially) complete mis-focus at the critical moment. With AF-ON, you KNOW where your focus point is. If you take your finger off the shutter release button, you haven't lost your chosen focus setting.

And then there's the second, third, and fourth shot you take -- without AF-ON (or manual), you're in the position of having to achieve proper focus lock on the proper subject all over again. If your target is stationary, or moving laterally, you have the option of keeping focus locked. If your target is moving toward or away from the camera, then you also have the option for tracking your subject.

Relying on the half-press, you may miss the big shot. With AF-ON, the odds are stacked more favourably toward you.

It's been said already in this thread, but it bears repeating -- the easiest "point" of the camera toward a focus target may not be the best composition for exposure metering. Separating focus lock from exposure lock helps you to have the best of both in the same shot, with relative ease.

-- hide signature --

Bob Elkind
Family,in/outdoor sports, landscape, wildlife
photo galleries at http://eteam.zenfolio.com
my relationship with my camera is strictly photonic

 bob elkind's gear list:bob elkind's gear list
Nikon D700 Canon EOS 500D Nikon D600 Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D +5 more
carauction OP Veteran Member • Posts: 6,646
Re: One more go with AF-ON for sports tracking

Steven Wong wrote:

One more reason that I use AF-ON...

If I want to capture a player, race horse, etc. at a specific
location (say the finish line in a 100 meter race), I can use the
AF-ON button to focus on the finish line and then release the AF-ON
button. I can now shoot anyone that hits that finish line in perfect
focus. I have function a5 set to AF-ON ONLY. This means that
pressing the shutter button will not change my point of focus. It is
still locked on that finish line.

Hi Steven

Just inquisitive. With the strength of the Nikon focus system, why not track the player, race horse, etc. with C-AF, instead of having focus waiting at the finish line?

Mike

Steven Wong Regular Member • Posts: 285
Re: One more go with AF-ON for sports tracking

carauction wrote:

Steven Wong wrote:

One more reason that I use AF-ON...

If I want to capture a player, race horse, etc. at a specific
location (say the finish line in a 100 meter race), I can use the
AF-ON button to focus on the finish line and then release the AF-ON
button. I can now shoot anyone that hits that finish line in perfect
focus. I have function a5 set to AF-ON ONLY. This means that
pressing the shutter button will not change my point of focus. It is
still locked on that finish line.

Hi Steven

Just inquisitive. With the strength of the Nikon focus system, why
not track the player, race horse, etc. with C-AF, instead of having
focus waiting at the finish line?

Mike

Mike-

I do use focus tracking a LOT. Locking focus on a particular spot is just another technique that AF-ON allows you to do. Think of it as another tool in the toolbox that might be more appropriate for a particular situation.

Another example...I am shooting from the baseline at a basketball game. I use AF-ON to lock focus on the net hanging under the basket. There is a multi-player fast break and I wouldn't know which one of those players is going to be the one that goes to the basket and which one is a decoy. I want the shot of the guy making the layup. With my focus on the net, all that I need to do is compose my shot, wait for the players to fill the frame, and fire away. Perfect focus on the guy making the layup at the net.

Even better example...When I am shooting baseball, if a fast base runner makes it to 1st base, you'd better believe that I have my focus locked on second base to catch the slide and tag of the possible play at 2nd. Much easier than trying to track the running player from 1st.

Hope that helps.

Steven
--
PBASE Supporter
http://www.pbase.com/swong13

Keyboard shortcuts:
FForum MMy threads