Sports Photography - what AF mode works best for you ?

Started Sep 24, 2017 | Discussions
mikeyw Contributing Member • Posts: 997
Sports Photography - what AF mode works best for you ?

Hi,

I assisted a guy yesterday on a football match shoot to gain some experience. I used a Nikon D7200 + 70-300VR which worked pretty well in the main. However i lost a few good images do to the AF system going wrong. I was shooting AF-Continous and 3D Tracking to try and keep focus on the moving players.

Occasionally though it would for some daft reason jump and lock focus on the crowd as in this example

What focus modes have you found work best for you to minimise mistakes like this ?

Thanks in advance,
Mike.

Nikon D7200
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Brev00
Brev00 Veteran Member • Posts: 9,064
Re: Sports Photography - what AF mode works best for you ?
2

Traditional single point af-c, back button.

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Chuck Yadmark
Chuck Yadmark Veteran Member • Posts: 4,366
Re: Sports Photography - what AF mode works best for you ?

In theory the 3D tracking should be best but I've never had good luck with it.  I use 51pt AFC tracking

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missedshot
missedshot Contributing Member • Posts: 697
Re: Sports Photography - what AF mode works best for you ?

It seems to me that the "focus tracking with lock-on" setting could make a huge difference in those circumstances. If the initial focus was accurate, it seems the (long) setting would help track the subject without jumping to a nearby object?

One of my first subjects with my D7200 was a juvenile Bald Eagle who flew behind a stand of trees, visible periodically.  I was totally amazed that the focus held on the bird, even after the view was being interrupted repeatedly. In that case the default (normal) worked perfectly.

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davew44
davew44 Forum Member • Posts: 58
Re: Sports Photography - what AF mode works best for you ?
2

I shoot loads of sports, never used 3d tracking

AF-C set afc in camera to either release or focus this is your call

then try to shoot in 9 point or 21 point.. even the new group modes are not as reliable..
if you can get tight to the subject ( these are the images that sell) then 9 point

if you have to be a bit farther away then 21 point.

also set to use all 51 points and remember the CENTER of the dial the OIK button will bring your focus point back to dead center.. this is very helpful mid action instead of slamming the pad up down side to side to get back to center..

Here is a link, I have used this guide for years.. he explains it pretty well

http://johnfriend.blogspot.com/2009/10/nikon-d300-auto-focus-for-sports-i.html

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Icee Regular Member • Posts: 101
Re: Sports Photography - what AF mode works best for you ?
2

Brev00 wrote:

Traditional single point af-c, back button.

Done sports professionally for 20+ years and always used the above.

johnsonb Regular Member • Posts: 242
Re: Sports Photography - what AF mode works best for you ?
1

Yep, nothing I know of works better than this for me. AF-C with back button focus and single point.

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davew44
davew44 Forum Member • Posts: 58
Re: Sports Photography - what AF mode works best for you ?

Here is a shoot I just did with my new d7500, I just got it this week..
I had to test it in a hard situation.
Notice the cars, and walls in the background.
This was a real good test of the AF system for the D7500
considering the backgrounds I think it did well.

Just as others have stated, AF-C with bbf
I moved from single point 9 to  21 to group to test out the new group feature as my d300 never had this so called group focus function.
It seemed to live up to the task even with a slow 70-300vr..

d7500 scooter shoot testing the Af on the d7500

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cosmicnode Veteran Member • Posts: 3,050
Re: Sports Photography - what AF mode works best for you ?

davew44 wrote:

I shoot loads of sports, never used 3d tracking

AF-C set afc in camera to either release or focus this is your call

Do not use focus priority for action, nikon recomend it for static shots. Here is a tech solution from nikon which shows what can happen when shooting football with different focus settings, with focus priority you will miss a lot of shots.

http://nps.nikonimaging.com/technical_solutions/d4_tips/autofocus/

then try to shoot in 9 point or 21 point.. even the new group modes are not as reliable..
if you can get tight to the subject ( these are the images that sell) then 9 point

if you have to be a bit farther away then 21 point.

also set to use all 51 points and remember the CENTER of the dial the OIK button will bring your focus point back to dead center.. this is very helpful mid action instead of slamming the pad up down side to side to get back to center..

Here is a link, I have used this guide for years.. he explains it pretty well

http://johnfriend.blogspot.com/2009/10/nikon-d300-auto-focus-for-sports-i.html

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Mike.
"I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit, it's the only way to be sure."

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davew44
davew44 Forum Member • Posts: 58
Re: Sports Photography - what AF mode works best for you ?

cosmicnode wrote:

Do not use focus priority for action, nikon recomend it for static shots. Here is a tech solution from nikon which shows what can happen when shooting football with different focus settings, with focus priority you will miss a lot of shots.

http://nps.nikonimaging.com/technical_solutions/d4_tips/autofocus/

Everything shows 4 good pictures in your link..

The d7500 does not have focus + release

or release+focus

we have focus or release.

I chose focus as it is less to delete in post..

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Brueghel
Brueghel Contributing Member • Posts: 726
Re: Sports Photography - what AF mode works best for you ?

Autofocus C

Just one point (although that may cause problems if you're taking pics of a team .... but if light is OK, you can increase a bit depth of field)

Works for me.

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OP mikeyw Contributing Member • Posts: 997
Re: Sports Photography - what AF mode works best for you ?

Brueghel wrote:

Autofocus C

Just one point (although that may cause problems if you're taking pics of a team .... but if light is OK, you can increase a bit depth of field)

Works for me.

I dont understand what you mean - surely one point works fine on a team if you put that point in the correct place ? much the same as an action shot....or am i missing something ?

Did another match t/day with AF-C + D9 and hardly any oof shots !

Brueghel
Brueghel Contributing Member • Posts: 726
Re: Sports Photography - what AF mode works best for you ?

mikeyw wrote:

Brueghel wrote:

Autofocus C

Just one point (although that may cause problems if you're taking pics of a team .... but if light is OK, you can increase a bit depth of field)

Works for me.

I dont understand what you mean - surely one point works fine on a team if you put that point in the correct place ? much the same as an action shot....or am i missing something ?

Did another match t/day with AF-C + D9 and hardly any oof shots !

You're right: but if the people move a lot (and they do :-)) putting the point on the roght person may be difficult

D9 should be fine. I may be too much used to birds. One point is usually best. What I mistrust is D51...

AF-C is the key point

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Prairie Pal Senior Member • Posts: 2,661
Re: Sports Photography - what AF mode works best for you ?

Here is a link, I have used this guide for years.. he explains it pretty well

http://johnfriend.blogspot.com/2009/10/nikon-d300-auto-focus-for-sports-i.html

Very helpful link.  THANKS.  I picked up a D7200 to start practicing on local rodeos.  Having some difficulty keeping the faces in focus (particularly for barrel racing).

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photobob1950 Regular Member • Posts: 335
Re: Sports Photography - what AF mode works best for you ?

Prairie Pal wrote:

I picked up a D7200 to start practicing on local rodeos. Having some difficulty keeping the faces in focus (particularly for barrel racing).

My experience with sport and airshow photography with my D7100 and Nikkor 70-300 is AFC single or 9pt focussing. Oh, and I use manual with the lens generally wide open, and auto iso. I will move the focus point to where I think the face is going to be in the frame if I have time, otherwise leave the focus point in the middle and crop later to suit.

Anyway, here's a few pics using this method from a local rodeo. Pretty sure these are all from the barrel racing...

If you have never shot a rodeo, give it a go! You will have a blast!

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Kind regards
Colin
http://www.f22.co.nz

johnsonb Regular Member • Posts: 242
Re: Sports Photography - what AF mode works best for you ?
1

Hi, I also noticed you shot this at 1000 sec. While speed is not necesarily the issue you have here, I have found when shooting soccer 1250sec appears to be the min to avoid motion blur both camera and subject.  I have my camera set on on appeture priority with auto ISO on set with  a 1250 min shutter speed.  I also set the camera for back button focus AF-C and I set it for single point with the foucus area in the center, except when in portrait mode I push the focus point to the top a couple of notches.

I generally get many more keepers with this setting and crop slightly to off-set the centre focus point when shooting in landscape mode.

Here's a couple of examples:

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BillyBobSenna
BillyBobSenna Senior Member • Posts: 1,394
Re: Sports Photography - what AF mode works best for you ?

johnsonb wrote:

Yep, nothing I know of works better than this for me. AF-C with back button focus and single point.

I agree however I have not really experienced any difference between single or multipoint focus.

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davew44
davew44 Forum Member • Posts: 58
Re: Sports Photography - what AF mode works best for you ?

my d7500 has group and it has been working great for me so far... in af-c mode.. for sports 
happy shooting!!!

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BillyBobSenna
BillyBobSenna Senior Member • Posts: 1,394
Re: Sports Photography - what AF mode works best for you ?

davew44 wrote:

my d7500 has group and it has been working great for me so far... in af-c mode.. for sports
happy shooting!!!

Unless your main subject is always the closest to subject you will have issues with group focus. Group focus will always on the nearest subject. Group works great for BIF.

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davew44
davew44 Forum Member • Posts: 58
Re: Sports Photography - what AF mode works best for you ?

for solo sports yes it is working fine like shooting only one rider in super cross or one person on a scooter or bmx bike..

football or team sports  I will go back to using single point as I always have.  with 9 point or 21 point..

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