Focus tracking

Started 3 months ago | Questions
DavidWright2010 Senior Member • Posts: 1,813
Focus tracking
1

I remember that there was a long and heated discussion about the Pentax capability for tracking a moving object, which I pretty much ignored as landscapes don't move much.

But currently I'm in a bird-rich environment, and have the K-70 and the Sigma 70-300 mm lens with me, so am attempting bird photos. Birds sitting on a perch are pretty good:

But I must be using the wrong mode, because once they start flying, AF doesn't appear to change. Here's a burst of 11 images (low rate) showing the eagle coming toward me, but focus (I shot at f/10) seems locked in the rooftop.

Here are enlargements of the eye (only 9, in 2 shots the eye wasn't visible), and the sequences goes down the first column, then down the second, etc.

Any quick help will be appreciated. I could probably figure it out for myself in a week or so, but I won't be here for a week.

Thanks in advance,

David

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ANSWER:
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GXAlan Regular Member • Posts: 106
Re: Focus tracking

Maybe try changing the AF continuous mode from auto to Focus-priority?

OP DavidWright2010 Senior Member • Posts: 1,813
I found this response by Miles Green

from 2016

For starters, I wasn't in a AF.C but was in AF.S.

Then he talks about the number of focus points. However the birds move so fast I am lucky to simply keep them in the frame...

David

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(unknown member) Contributing Member • Posts: 873
Re: I found this response by Miles Green

DavidWright2010 wrote:

from 2016

For starters, I wasn't in a AF.C but was in AF.S.

Then he talks about the number of focus points. However the birds move so fast I am lucky to simply keep them in the frame...

David

You're shooting high shutter speed moving stuff so you might consider:

Disable shutter button focus and use rear AF

AF-C & Single Center AF Point. Just keep it on the bird. You establish focus and maintain rear af, follow bird and fire shutter. Some folks use burst, not my cup of tea.

Turn of SR. You don't need it with shutter past say 1/400, can only slow things down. You just want to fire the shutter when you press it

Laughing Gull

OP DavidWright2010 Senior Member • Posts: 1,813
Re: I found this response by Miles Green

Brooke Meyer wrote:

DavidWright2010 wrote:

from 2016

For starters, I wasn't in a AF.C but was in AF.S.

Then he talks about the number of focus points. However the birds move so fast I am lucky to simply keep them in the frame...

David

You're shooting high shutter speed moving stuff so you might consider:

Disable shutter button focus and use rear AF

AF-C & Single Center AF Point. Just keep it on the bird. You establish focus and maintain rear af, follow bird and fire shutter. Some folks use burst, not my cup of tea.

Turn of SR. You don't need it with shutter past say 1/400, can only slow things down. You just want to fire the shutter when you press it

Laughing Gull

OK.

I don't much like burst either.

There are gulls everywhere. I will try what you suggest on one. Not sure I can keep the center point on the bird.

I'm wondering if I should be using TAv mode? 1/1000 sec and f/9?

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(unknown member) Contributing Member • Posts: 873
Re: I found this response by Miles Green

DavidWright2010 wrote:

Brooke Meyer wrote:

DavidWright2010 wrote:

from 2016

For starters, I wasn't in a AF.C but was in AF.S.

Then he talks about the number of focus points. However the birds move so fast I am lucky to simply keep them in the frame...

David

You're shooting high shutter speed moving stuff so you might consider:

Disable shutter button focus and use rear AF

AF-C & Single Center AF Point. Just keep it on the bird. You establish focus and maintain rear af, follow bird and fire shutter. Some folks use burst, not my cup of tea.

Turn of SR. You don't need it with shutter past say 1/400, can only slow things down. You just want to fire the shutter when you press it

Laughing Gull

OK.

I don't much like burst either.

There are gulls everywhere. I will try what you suggest on one. Not sure I can keep the center point on the bird.

I'm wondering if I should be using TAv mode? 1/1000 sec and f/9?

I'm a bad one to ask. Cameras come out of box, get set to M. Haven't used a camera meter in years except to demo in class. I make SWAG using Sunny 16 as an anchor and between instant review and histogram, set exposure. You've got plenty of light, f8 and be there with say ISO up to 800 and a shutter speed around 1/1000 if bright, maybe 1/800 if a little haze. Cloudy, you'll need another stop or two. Aperture around 7.1 to 8 will give you good DoF and sharpness. I favor underexposing a little bit but I'm always shooting DNGs so I've got some latitude. Even 8 years ago with a K-5. Probably had a TC on this so real aperture was about f11.

kypfer Regular Member • Posts: 160
Re: I found this response by Miles Green
1

I'm still coming to grips with  the moving bird problem. My gear is the K-70 with a Sigma 150-500mm.

Firstly I've settled on TAv mode as giving the most consistent results. 1/1500sec @ f/8 is my default most of the time. The shutter-speed to cope with subject movement, the aperture to give an extra degree of focussing leeway and I feel it's a little sharper than wide open.

Metering mode :  multi-segment, significantly helps to cope with expanses of bright sky behind a potentially relatively small bird.

For a static bird, AFS and centre-spot focus. This will also work in many other situations. You need to practice keeping the bird in the centre of the frame if it's moving, but has the advantage of not allowing the shutter to release unless the subject is in focus.

For a flying bird against a plain sky, AFC and 11-spot focus works well provided the subject isn't too far away. Against a cluttered background this configuration will work provided the subject is reasonably close, so the auto-focus sensors aren't "distracted", else use centre-spot AF.

"Back-button focussing" can be useful, but for me I'm not totally comfortable with it ... more practice required (old habits die hard!) ... try it and see, it might suit you well, a lot of people I know use it very successfully.

I've set up my favourite configurations on the U1, U2 and U3 (user mode) settings on the mode switch ... it's a lot easier than diving into menus and control panels to change things when required in a hurry

As with others, I've found that Shake Reduction is probably not necessary at these shutter speeds, having it switched off also saves on battery I also rarely use burst mode, except in circumstances where necessary, as when a bird is feeding in mud/water and I want to get a shot of it with it's head up and it's spending most of it's time head down.

Good luck

MrB1 Regular Member • Posts: 119
Re: I found this response by Miles Green
2

DavidWright2010 wrote:

.....I wasn't in a AF.C but was in AF.S.....

David

The series of eye images would appear to show clearly that this is the basis of the problem.  In a burst using AFS the camera only focuses for the first shot.

Philip

Massao Senior Member • Posts: 1,091
Re: I found this response by Miles Green

Brooke Meyer wrote:

DavidWright2010 wrote:

from 2016

For starters, I wasn't in a AF.C but was in AF.S.

Then he talks about the number of focus points. However the birds move so fast I am lucky to simply keep them in the frame...

David

You're shooting high shutter speed moving stuff so you might consider:

Disable shutter button focus and use rear AF

AF-C & Single Center AF Point. Just keep it on the bird. You establish focus and maintain rear af, follow bird and fire shutter. Some folks use burst, not my cup of tea.

Turn of SR. You don't need it with shutter past say 1/400, can only slow things down. You just want to fire the shutter when you press it

Laughing Gull

Excellent tips there

-- hide signature --

First camera: Canon FTB; First autofocus SLR camera: Pentax; First Nikon: F601 (N6006); First digital camera: Sony DSC-W5; First DSLR: Nikon D70; First mirrorless ICL camera: Samsung nx11

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KPM2 Contributing Member • Posts: 831
Re: Focus tracking

Hello DavidWright2010

Some points about the behaviour of the SEL mode and Auto mode in AF-C.

I made two example pictures for that.

The SEL mode use one pointed out AF point and around it the others. This pointed out AF point the camera use when you focus the first time on your object. Therefore, when your pointed out AF point do not cover your object, it doesn't matter that other focus points do cover your object, the camera focus to the region the pointed out AF point do cover.

Example: I pre-focused manually to the birdhouse, I use SEL all, my pointed out AF point is the center one and I let this center AF point look to a region behind the birdhouse.

Now I focus the first time:

Even when the birdhouse was covered by a lot AF points, the camera use for it's first focusing always the pointed out AF point, and that's why the camera focused to the background centre region. So, when you use SEL, be sure that when you start with the focusing, that your pointed out focus point is on your object. A typical situation for the above is when you pre-focus to a sitting bird and you wait for that it start to fly.

What do the Auto mode ?

The Auto mode don't have a pointed out AF point, the Auto mode is orientated to find a close object.

I did let the focus to the background tree and switched to Auto mode. I used all AF points. Ok, what happens now is that when I start to focus, the Auto mode search to closer objects and focus at once back to the birdhouse

next point: So long you let the camera continuously focusing: what do happens when the camera do it's second AF step and all the others ?

In the SEL mode, the camera use first the pointed out AF point, but later it use all other AF point, when the pointed out AF point lost the object (or focus plan).

last point: in the SEL mode and so long you let the camera continuously focusing, what happens, when the camera lost the object and focus now to a background object ?

It do not help to cover the object again with one or even more than one of the AF points. So long the camera can find a AF point, witch covers the background 'scene' ... the camera use it and stay on the background scene. When this happens, you must restart the focus.

You can try out the behaviour of the AF-system in AF-C and the modes SEL or Auto relative easy by using a transom window. On that way you have a two focus plan areas scene, the sash bar of the window (which represents the bird in the sky) as one focus plan area and the outdoor area as a second focus plan area.

When you try that with a transom window, you will find out that the camera do not always focus in the Auto mode to the sash bar. That can do happens, because the camera react also to contrasty objects. So when your sash bar do have a bad contrast, it can happens that the camera do preferred to focus on a contrasty object in the background.

EDIT:  I'm sorry, that what I wrote may not be the case with your camera, the K 70. Please look for yourself, if your K 70 do also use a pointed out AF point in the SEL mode.

best regards KPM2

KPM2 Contributing Member • Posts: 831
Re: maybe the SelEX mode

Hello again DavidWright2010

I will not waist your time, but it can be that the SelEX mode of your K 70 is such a multi AF field with a pointed out AF point. It looks like your K 70 is the first camera, who had this mode. Later models, like the K3, K1, KP have SelS SelM SelL and I for example did described my K1, KP. But SelS should be maybe similar to your SelEX on your K 70.

Maybe ask if this SelEX mode for the AF-C is fast enough, or if it slow down your AF system

best regards  KPM2

OP DavidWright2010 Senior Member • Posts: 1,813
Re: Focus tracking

KPM2 wrote:

Hello DavidWright2010

Some points about the behaviour of the SEL mode and Auto mode in AF-C.

I made two example pictures for that.

The SEL mode use one pointed out AF point and around it the others. This pointed out AF point the camera use when you focus the first time on your object. Therefore, when your pointed out AF point do not cover your object, it doesn't matter that other focus points do cover your object, the camera focus to the region the pointed out AF point do cover.

Example: I pre-focused manually to the birdhouse, I use SEL all, my pointed out AF point is the center one and I let this center AF point look to a region behind the birdhouse.

Now I focus the first time:

Even when the birdhouse was covered by a lot AF points, the camera use for it's first focusing always the pointed out AF point, and that's why the camera focused to the background centre region. So, when you use SEL, be sure that when you start with the focusing, that your pointed out focus point is on your object. A typical situation for the above is when you pre-focus to a sitting bird and you wait for that it start to fly.

What do the Auto mode ?

The Auto mode don't have a pointed out AF point, the Auto mode is orientated to find a close object.

I did let the focus to the background tree and switched to Auto mode. I used all AF points. Ok, what happens now is that when I start to focus, the Auto mode search to closer objects and focus at once back to the birdhouse

next point: So long you let the camera continuously focusing: what do happens when the camera do it's second AF step and all the others ?

In the SEL mode, the camera use first the pointed out AF point, but later it use all other AF point, when the pointed out AF point lost the object (or focus plan).

last point: in the SEL mode and so long you let the camera continuously focusing, what happens, when the camera lost the object and focus now to a background object ?

It do not help to cover the object again with one or even more than one of the AF points. So long the camera can find a AF point, witch covers the background 'scene' ... the camera use it and stay on the background scene. When this happens, you must restart the focus.

You can try out the behaviour of the AF-system in AF-C and the modes SEL or Auto relative easy by using a transom window. On that way you have a two focus plan areas scene, the sash bar of the window (which represents the bird in the sky) as one focus plan area and the outdoor area as a second focus plan area.

When you try that with a transom window, you will find out that the camera do not always focus in the Auto mode to the sash bar. That can do happens, because the camera react also to contrasty objects. So when your sash bar do have a bad contrast, it can happens that the camera do preferred to focus on a contrasty object in the background.

EDIT: I'm sorry, that what I wrote may not be the case with your camera, the K 70. Please look for yourself, if your K 70 do also use a pointed out AF point in the SEL mode.

best regards KPM2

That's OK. I couldn't quite figure out what you were saying, sorry. Thanks for trying to help.

David

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OP DavidWright2010 Senior Member • Posts: 1,813
Re: maybe the SelEX mode

KPM2 wrote:

Hello again DavidWright2010

I will not waist your time, but it can be that the SelEX mode of your K 70 is such a multi AF field with a pointed out AF point. It looks like your K 70 is the first camera, who had this mode. Later models, like the K3, K1, KP have SelS SelM SelL and I for example did described my K1, KP. But SelS should be maybe similar to your SelEX on your K 70.

Maybe ask if this SelEX mode for the AF-C is fast enough, or if it slow down your AF system

best regards KPM2

Thanks again.

I don't have the manual downloaded on this  computer, but reading the focus options on-line was also totally confusing.

This is not a Pentax-specific bash - companies spend millions of dollars developing a produce - why can't they write a decent manual?

David

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OP DavidWright2010 Senior Member • Posts: 1,813
Re: I found this response by Miles Green

MrB1 wrote:

DavidWright2010 wrote:

.....I wasn't in a AF.C but was in AF.S.....

David

The series of eye images would appear to show clearly that this is the basis of the problem. In a burst using AFS the camera only focuses for the first shot.

Philip

Yes, I've come to the same realization.

When the next bird comes by I will try AF.C mode, TAv , and back-button focusing, and see what happens.

David

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flektogon
flektogon Veteran Member • Posts: 3,752
Re: Focus tracking

DavidWright2010 wrote:

KPM2 wrote:

Hello DavidWright2010

Some points about the behaviour of the SEL mode and Auto mode in AF-C.

That's OK. I couldn't quite figure out what you were saying, sorry. Thanks for trying to help.

David

Yes, I feel the same. I checked the KP manual and was searching for "SEL" but could find only combinations like: "selected, selection, self,...).

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Regards,
Peter

John_A_G Veteran Member • Posts: 7,827
back button focus

DavidWright2010 wrote:

Yes, I've come to the same realization.

When the next bird comes by I will try AF.C mode, TAv , and back-button focusing, and see what happens.

David

David - I think people suggest back button focus without understanding what it does and doesn't do.  It will have zero impact on the camera's ability to track a moving subject.

It can be very useful when you're WAITING for action at a given point.  When in AF-C with focus controlled by the shutter button - when you press the shutter button the camera will start to focus.  If you're waiting for a bird to take off (without the need to track AFTER it takes off) if you have focus control on the shutter button and you take your finger off while you wait - when you see the bird take off and press the shutter the camera will focus again - maybe you've moved it and it focuses on the wrong thing.

With back button focus, you can focus with your thumb on the bird, take your thumb off and wait.  When the moment comes you press the shutter with your finger and the camera won't re-focus.

Then, should you want to start tracking you can simply push back button with your thumb.  Push back button with thumb early and you have same risk - camera will refocus (maybe you've moved point and it focuses on the wrong thing).

So, back button focus can be useful in very limited circumstances.  HOWEVER, if you want to use it I suggest you keep it on all the time so you build up muscle memory and don't get confused over whether to use finger or thumb for focusing.  But, just make sure you understand what the feature does and doesn't do.

Oiche Senior Member • Posts: 1,208
Re: maybe the SelEX mode

DavidWright2010 wrote:

KPM2 wrote:

Hello again DavidWright2010

I will not waist your time, but it can be that the SelEX mode of your K 70 is such a multi AF field with a pointed out AF point. It looks like your K 70 is the first camera, who had this mode. Later models, like the K3, K1, KP have SelS SelM SelL and I for example did described my K1, KP. But SelS should be maybe similar to your SelEX on your K 70.

Maybe ask if this SelEX mode for the AF-C is fast enough, or if it slow down your AF system

best regards KPM2

Thanks again.

I don't have the manual downloaded on this computer, but reading the focus options on-line was also totally confusing.

This is not a Pentax-specific bash - companies spend millions of dollars developing a produce - why can't they write a decent manual?

Maybe because few people read them including me. Your K-70 on AF-C using the centre point should be good, I don't use the multipoints as I can't get it to work as well. I find the back AF button to be excellent (on the K-30 it was in a stupid place where you couldn't use it looking through the viewfinder).

Experiment and practice with both single and multi-point AF on AF-C (AF-S is only for static targets) and see which works best for you but the single definitely works for me using the DA* 60-250 f4.

So lucky you have these beaufiful eagles nearby, I have never seen one as they were wiped out by poachers in Ireland. They are trying to introduce Golden Eagles again but so far only 3 pairs have bred with great difficulty. Looking forward to your focussed eagles! 😉

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OP DavidWright2010 Senior Member • Posts: 1,813
Re: back button focus

John_A_G wrote:

DavidWright2010 wrote:

Yes, I've come to the same realization.

When the next bird comes by I will try AF.C mode, TAv , and back-button focusing, and see what happens.

David

David - I think people suggest back button focus without understanding what it does and doesn't do. It will have zero impact on the camera's ability to track a moving subject.

But when I hold down the BBF button and pan around, the cam re-focuses continuously. Doesn't that save some time - I then just press the shutter when the BIF looks good?

It can be very useful when you're WAITING for action at a given point. When in AF-C with focus controlled by the shutter button - when you press the shutter button the camera will start to focus. If you're waiting for a bird to take off (without the need to track AFTER it takes off) if you have focus control on the shutter button and you take your finger off while you wait - when you see the bird take off and press the shutter the camera will focus again - maybe you've moved it and it focuses on the wrong thing.

With back button focus, you can focus with your thumb on the bird, take your thumb off and wait. When the moment comes you press the shutter with your finger and the camera won't re-focus.

I will try that. Up til now I haven't noticed that this is what happens.

Then, should you want to start tracking you can simply push back button with your thumb. Push back button with thumb early and you have same risk - camera will refocus (maybe you've moved point and it focuses on the wrong thing).

So, back button focus can be useful in very limited circumstances. HOWEVER, if you want to use it I suggest you keep it on all the time so you build up muscle memory and don't get confused over whether to use finger or thumb for focusing. But, just make sure you understand what the feature does and doesn't do.

Yes, good advice and thanks for the extended discussion.

Switching topics, the last 2 in-focus perched birds were inadvertently taken at 210 mm, and my working hypothesis from that was that the 70-300 mm lens was a little soft at 300 mm. A series of pix from a tripod showed a similar result. (But 1 exposure at each different camera setting.)

Then I took the series below just now. Aperture priority (f/7.1), the left 4 taken at 260 mm and the right 2 at 300 mm. There's no correlation with FL. The upper right is good focus, and so is the upper center (different FLs). The others are OK not quite as sharp. (Except the lower right which is clearly OOF)  Each time I focused on the bird with a half-shutter, then took the exposure.

This series make me think that AF is just not that reliable for this cam/lens combo.

Same, shown at 200%:

David

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OP DavidWright2010 Senior Member • Posts: 1,813
Re: maybe the SelEX mode

Oiche wrote:

DavidWright2010 wrote:

KPM2 wrote:

Hello again DavidWright2010

I will not waist your time, but it can be that the SelEX mode of your K 70 is such a multi AF field with a pointed out AF point. It looks like your K 70 is the first camera, who had this mode. Later models, like the K3, K1, KP have SelS SelM SelL and I for example did described my K1, KP. But SelS should be maybe similar to your SelEX on your K 70.

Maybe ask if this SelEX mode for the AF-C is fast enough, or if it slow down your AF system

best regards KPM2

Thanks again.

I don't have the manual downloaded on this computer, but reading the focus options on-line was also totally confusing.

This is not a Pentax-specific bash - companies spend millions of dollars developing a produce - why can't they write a decent manual?

Maybe because few people read them including me. Your K-70 on AF-C using the centre point should be good, I don't use the multipoints as I can't get it to work as well. I find the back AF button to be excellent (on the K-30 it was in a stupid place where you couldn't use it looking through the viewfinder).

Yes. I just went out and tried multipoints. That focused at other spots I didn't want, so back to single point.

Experiment and practice with both single and multi-point AF on AF-C (AF-S is only for static targets) and see which works best for you but the single definitely works for me using the DA* 60-250 f4.

I didn't have focus issues with tripod mounted landscape pix...

But bird pix (esp. BIF) are challenging and fun. I might try a different lens though.

So lucky you have these beaufiful eagles nearby, I have never seen one as they were wiped out by poachers in Ireland. They are trying to introduce Golden Eagles again but so far only 3 pairs have bred with great difficulty. Looking forward to your focussed eagles! 😉

I hope to oblige.

David

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Oiche Senior Member • Posts: 1,208
Re: maybe the SelEX mode

DavidWright2010 wrote:

Oiche wrote:

DavidWright2010 wrote:

KPM2 wrote:

Hello again DavidWright2010

I will not waist your time, but it can be that the SelEX mode of your K 70 is such a multi AF field with a pointed out AF point. It looks like your K 70 is the first camera, who had this mode. Later models, like the K3, K1, KP have SelS SelM SelL and I for example did described my K1, KP. But SelS should be maybe similar to your SelEX on your K 70.

Maybe ask if this SelEX mode for the AF-C is fast enough, or if it slow down your AF system

best regards KPM2

Thanks again.

I don't have the manual downloaded on this computer, but reading the focus options on-line was also totally confusing.

This is not a Pentax-specific bash - companies spend millions of dollars developing a produce - why can't they write a decent manual?

Maybe because few people read them including me. Your K-70 on AF-C using the centre point should be good, I don't use the multipoints as I can't get it to work as well. I find the back AF button to be excellent (on the K-30 it was in a stupid place where you couldn't use it looking through the viewfinder).

Yes. I just went out and tried multipoints. That focused at other spots I didn't want, so back to single point.

Experiment and practice with both single and multi-point AF on AF-C (AF-S is only for static targets) and see which works best for you but the single definitely works for me using the DA* 60-250 f4.

I didn't have focus issues with tripod mounted landscape pix...

But bird pix (esp. BIF) are challenging and fun. I might try a different lens though.

The Pentax PLM 55-300 lens is probably the fastest focussing lens there is, some are using it for BIF, dragonflies etc. even if it isn't a top-end lens. I haven't tried my DA* 60-250 for BIF but it did a good job photographing a marathon last week tracking well at maximum reach at runners coming straight at me (Pentax AF  torture test 😂), I was using f11 though to compensate as it isn't supposed to be the fastest focusser.

So lucky you have these beaufiful eagles nearby, I have never seen one as they were wiped out by poachers in Ireland. They are trying to introduce Golden Eagles again but so far only 3 pairs have bred with great difficulty. Looking forward to your focussed eagles! 😉

I hope to oblige.

David

 Oiche's gear list:Oiche's gear list
Pentax K-70 Pentax smc DA* 60-250mm F4.0 ED (IF) SDM Pentax smc DA 40mm F2.8 Limited Samyang 14mm F2.8 ED AS IF UMC HD Pentax DA 15mm F4 ED AL Limited +1 more
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