D780 AF problem for dogs with black faces

Started 7 months ago | Discussions
OP Kelley Hoffman Senior Member • Posts: 1,299
Re: D780 AF problem for dogs with black faces

Craftsman70 wrote:

Robert Cohen wrote:

I understand your problem. A week ago I was shooting rally. The indoor facility has black rubbery floor material and one of the dogs was a black Pumi. I was using a D850 and current model 70-200 2.8 VR. As far as the camera was concerned it was black on black. The camera at times had trouble finding those black eyes in the midst of the fuzzy black fur. But usually it got good shots of the Pumi.

I'm not sure if there's a decent solution to your problem except for additional light, if possible, or changing the AF setting. The black face (GSD or Malinois pup?) is tough. It may be that a different AF setting would help. I use Group AF for dog events and the D850 does a darned good job of focusing on the eyes even though it isn't advertised as having animal eye AF. The D780 might behave similarly.

One thing that newer Nikon higher-end DSLRs have in common is the removal of the AF-assist light when Nikon removed the built-in pop-up flash. I can understand the removal of the flash (I don't agree with it but understand it) but I don't know why they removed the AF-assist light as well as they are independent from one another.

In certain situations (provided that the lens doesn't block the AF-assist light), that AF-assist light may be the difference between locking on to a black-on-black subject and not locking on.

Also, both cameras being of very recent vintage (compared to a D7000) might also share some advances in terms of how the AF system now works so they might have similar issues when it comes to certain situations.

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Ah, totally forgot about that AF assist light on D7000! No doubt that explains a lot.

Kelley

OP Kelley Hoffman Senior Member • Posts: 1,299
Re: D780 AF problem for dogs with black faces

Robert Cohen wrote:

Interesting point about the AF-assist light. I don't recall ever knowingly making use of it. Unless I was doing a close-up portrait I'd generally be too far away for that light to have any effect, certainly that'd be the case when shooting dog photos. I try not to bother or disturb the dogs when I'm shooting rally indoors so I'm typically shooting at least twenty feet away. When they get close I stop shooting and if they look at me I look away as though I'm not interested in them.

I am thinking it was automatic for me.

Kelley

OP Kelley Hoffman Senior Member • Posts: 1,299
Re: D780 AF problem for dogs with black faces

Craftsman70 wrote:

Robert Cohen wrote:

I understand your problem. A week ago I was shooting rally. The indoor facility has black rubbery floor material and one of the dogs was a black Pumi. I was using a D850 and current model 70-200 2.8 VR. As far as the camera was concerned it was black on black. The camera at times had trouble finding those black eyes in the midst of the fuzzy black fur. But usually it got good shots of the Pumi.

I'm not sure if there's a decent solution to your problem except for additional light, if possible, or changing the AF setting. The black face (GSD or Malinois pup?) is tough. It may be that a different AF setting would help. I use Group AF for dog events and the D850 does a darned good job of focusing on the eyes even though it isn't advertised as having animal eye AF. The D780 might behave similarly.

One thing that newer Nikon higher-end DSLRs have in common is the removal of the AF-assist light when Nikon removed the built-in pop-up flash. I can understand the removal of the flash (I don't agree with it but understand it) but I don't know why they removed the AF-assist light as well as they are independent from one another.

In certain situations (provided that the lens doesn't block the AF-assist light), that AF-assist light may be the difference between locking on to a black-on-black subject and not locking on.

Also, both cameras being of very recent vintage (compared to a D7000) might also share some advances in terms of how the AF system now works so they might have similar issues when it comes to certain

I forgot about AF assist light on D7000. That expains A LOT.

KELLEY

OP Kelley Hoffman Senior Member • Posts: 1,299
Re: D780 AF problem for dogs with black faces

Leonard Shepherd wrote:

Leonard Shepherd wrote:

Black with no or very little contrast is likely to result in AF problems - with any camera.

Apologies for repeating the basics - those photographing black dogs are likely to have challenges photographing many black subjects - not just dogs.

High contrast side light or using eye-af if the camera has it can help when AF fails.

You can half reduce the issue by selecting shutter and not focus release in the menus. Then if the camera is unhappy with AF acquisition you still get images - even if sometimes out of focus.

I did switch to shutter priority and it helped quite a bit, but just as you say, some OOF.

OP Kelley Hoffman Senior Member • Posts: 1,299
Re: D780 AF problem for dogs with black faces

ju2au wrote:

If you mount a speedlte with an infra-red AF assist beam onto the D780 then that should solve the problem.

Thanks. Next piece of equipment.

OP Kelley Hoffman Senior Member • Posts: 1,299
Re: Pretty much the same problem caused me to adopt BBF

PHXAZCRAIG wrote:

Years ago I was trying to shoot my sister, her husband and their three new puppies. One of them was all black. This was with a D300 and SB-800.

Problem was obvious. The puppies were squirmy at best, and getting them to look at the camera was an exercise in itself. Then when the perfect moment arrived and I pressed the shutter release .... the camera wouldn't fire, and instead would try refocusing.

The problem was obvious. The camera couldn't determine if the dog was in focus at the moment of exposure. I had the camera in Aperture priority mode with AF-S, single point focus and autofocus initiated with a half-push of the shutter release.

To solve this I changed both focus and flash modes. The focus mode became the mode I adopted ever since, like many many others. Back Button Focus (BBF). In this mode YOU determine the focus, and when you press the shutter release button, the camera will take a picture, whether in focus or not. The focus gets removed from the shutter release. You must use the little AF button on the back of the camera with your thumb.

Besides moving the focus to only the AF-on button (AF menu option), you must change the camera to release mode (or focus+release mode) from focus mode. Otherwise the camera will always monitor the active focus point(s) and not fire if it doesn't detect focus under the point(s).

So the new procedure was: prefocus on a dog, then wait for the precise moment and take the shot. If the dog did not move too much from the initial focus point, it will be in focus.

There are other advantages to the BBF method as well, and they are well-documented on the Internet. You can follow-focus moving subjects simply using your thumb (and AF-C). Remove thumb when focus achieved, or continuously focus while shooting.

But that was half the problem. The other half was getting proper flash exposure when shooting a black pupply in the middle of two people and two other (white) dogs. The camera was originally basing exposure on the area under the focus point, and the subjects were getting over-exposed.

Seeing how back then I was really just learning and using the camera in mostly default modes, I was trying to use TTL flash. There is a big problem with TTL flash and shooting animals (and small children too). Animals (and some small children) have very fast reactions and will visibly react to the preflash that is required for TTL. The result in animals is often closed or nearly-closed eyelids. Children too, and some adults will also 'half-blink' looking sleepy or drunk.

So I discovered the use of the Fv Lock function. With that function, you pre-measure the flash output and set the flash power with a test shot, and then when you take the intended shot it uses that flash power setting. Look this one up if it sounds like something you want to use.

Alternatively, and this is the method I've used for the last 15 years, just shoot in manual flash mode. Especially when using strobes in a studio setting, there is simply no need for TTL. Set up the strobes, backdrops and props you need, perhaps with subjects or test subjects. Dial in the strobe power manually until the histogram and results look good, and then leave the strobes alone. Only change if you change apertures or shutter speeds. It's just plain simpler than Fv lock, which is sort of pushing TTL into manual mode.

Once I had the camera set, it was simply a matter of waiting for the right moment and pressing the shutter release.

Thank you so much. I will try some of these settings if I can figure out where lol

Kelley

OP Kelley Hoffman Senior Member • Posts: 1,299
Re: D780 AF problem for dogs with black faces

Jon in Thailand wrote:

.

Kelly I've had, and still have, this same problem with black dogs.

I'm an old guy and have been photographing dogs for many years.

-

For the last 15 years or so I've been photographing rescued dogs

in the jungle of Thailand. This is under a triple canopy jungle where

the light can be very elusive and difficult to find. Or under a white hot

tropical sun. Sense the D300 was released I've been using it in the jungle.

Very tough camera. For the most part a Nikkor 17-55 2.8 lens is mounted an

on occasions a Nikkor 70-200 2.8 VR is used. Usually the dogs are moving at

a brisk clip. So what I've found is if you can get the dog to pass through a glint

of light their eyes will often catch that light and become a keeper. And yes like

others I shoot for the eyes usually in f2.8. I'll include a photo of one of my rescued

jungle dogs taken with the Nikon D300 and Nikkor 70-200 2.8 VR. This part of the

jungle is next to our home and quite dark unless a spot of light appears as it did

in this photo. If the light hadn't opened up I would of had trouble with focus.

FYI,

We have lots of cobras here and this is one of the best snake dogs we've had.

He only has one good eye and is over 8 years old yet he is as fast as a mongoose.

.

.

Yes. All of this makes sense to me. With my D7000 I always used 1 focus point on the eye, shot mostly at 2.8 with my 70-200 VR. Still trying to figure out how to set D780 to one focal point. Supposedly it can be done, but it's not intuitive. I can't figure it out. Googled. Checked manual. Poked around on camera. No help.

Kelley

OP Kelley Hoffman Senior Member • Posts: 1,299
Re: D780 AF problem for dogs with black faces

Jon in Thailand wrote:

Robert Cohen wrote:

Hi Jon. A very striking photo!

.

Thanks Bob,

.

This second photo is another one of

our jungle rescue dogs. Her name is

The Zoomer. She's really really fast !

.

I have to be real careful when photographing

her due to her black face and black eyes. Plus

she is often moving at the speed of sound.

.

This photo is at our place in the jungle next to

a winding river. Nikon D300, Nikkor 70-200 2.8.

.

There's hundreds of dog photos in my flickr site.

90% of them are all focused on the dogs eyes .

.

.

Both great shots

OP Kelley Hoffman Senior Member • Posts: 1,299
Re: Pictures or it didn't happen
1

primeshooter wrote:

You need to provide images to really get to the bottom of this, but it is probably a contrast issue, AF system's need it.

Ok give me a bit of time. Two more school assignments due by midnight. I am a procrastinator. Goofing off here now, but need to start soon.

Kelley

OP Kelley Hoffman Senior Member • Posts: 1,299
Re: Pictures or it didn't happen

primeshooter wrote:

You need to provide images to really get to the bottom of this, but it is probably a contrast issue, AF system's need it.

The original problem in my post was I couldnt take a photo. In even shade (sun too harsh on these dogs, and lose detail), I was waiting for the right shot, there it is, no AF, shutter won't release. Ack! Shot gone. Mind you these dogs want to be right on you all the time. With no helper I may be at it for 2-3 hours trying to devise ways to get them 6' away from me. Takes a ton of patience to wait for the shots. So imagine my frustration when the shot is there briefly and camera says nope, not going to let you take this shot. That's when I was in aperture priority. Changing to shutter priority helped immensely. Now dealing with finetuning it not wanting to focus around the eyes. It was also available light related. Could take the shot in full sunlight, but not in full shade, and it shoul have been able to do it in full shade.

Kelley

PHXAZCRAIG
PHXAZCRAIG Forum Pro • Posts: 18,476
Re: Pretty much the same problem caused me to adopt BBF

Kelley Hoffman wrote:

Thank you so much. I will try some of these settings if I can figure out where lol

Kelley

Look up articles on BBF (Back Button Focus) to get explanations about the settings.   Generally speaking, you need to:

1. Set a menu option for "AF-on Only", which takes autofocus away from the half-push of the shutter button.   When you press the shutter release, you want the camera to take a shot, regardless of whether or not the AF point(s) being used are in focus.  (You determine when the focus has been achieved by lifting your thumb off the AF-on button.  This means gaining a bit of skill, but it also means you can easily focus-and-recompose.)

2. Set the AF to AF-C (continuous) instead of AF-S.   This changes the type of autofocus to continuously track a focus point.   Very useful for moving subjects.

3. In the camera's Custom settings menu for autofocus, change the AF-C mode to "Release Priority" instead of "Focus Priority".   This allows you to take an image regardless of focus point being over something in focus.  For instance, when the focus point is over a black dog that the camera can't really detect.   You've already pre-focused though, so you just take the shot when you need to.

And there you have it.  Three settings that allow you to - without changing any settings - take a shot of a still subject in-focus, take a focus tracking shot of a moving subject, and use focus-and-recompose techniques.  It does take a bit of practice to get your thumb used to focusing.

A related setting I have in my customized My Menu is the setting to turn AF-on Only back off again.  I generally do this when I hand the camera to someone else to take a picture of me, since they don't generally understand BBF.

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Craftsman70 Contributing Member • Posts: 662
Re: D780 AF problem for dogs with black faces

Kelley Hoffman wrote:

Robert Cohen wrote:

Kelley Hoffman wrote:

Belgian Tervuren. My D7000 never had a problem with same lens. I gave it and my old 70-200 f2.8 to my daughter so I have to make due with this D780 lol. There has to be a way.

Kelley

Nice breed.

What AF setting are you using? As I said, I've had success with Group, while people often recommend one of the D settings for action like busy dogs.

I would think the D780 ought to perform no less well than the D7000 under similar conditions.

Got sidetracked with school assignments. I was using default settings.Switched to shutter priority which seemed to help. Forget what other changes. Will look. A friend generously had a book from amazon sent to me. Haven't gotten into it yet.

I ended up shooting the puppies outside on a gray day.(A bit cold, but they did ok.) Got some good ones but DOF was too narrow. That's on me.

Some problems:

1)I thought my auto ISO was set to go as high as needed to some limit and it didnt go as high as I needed. So I guess I need to raise my minimum on days like that if I can figure it out.

2)My depth of field was too narrow at 2.8. I used to shoot puppies at 2.8 on D7000 with no problem. But with D780 on the gray day, in most cases I had to at 2.8 because of low light and my ISO wasn't going high enough which I didn't realize.

3) Sometimes it is front focusing. I can tell by looking at focal points.

4) Sometimes on their faces their nose leather and hair on their muzzle AND hair on forehead is sharp. Everything in between muzzle and forehead not sharp. So aound the eyes, between muzzle and forehead, not sharp. This makes no sense to me as eyes and forehead on same plane. With one focal point ideally I want it in on eye or between the eyes. Haven't figured out how to get one focal point.

5) I don't get how to move multi focal points where I want them or how to use them.

Remember this is portait work, but sure sometimes they move.

Kelley

#4 is kind of odd that the middle won't be sharp.  However, judging from your point #3, have you AF-fine tuned your lens?

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Leonard Shepherd
Leonard Shepherd Forum Pro • Posts: 23,303
Re: D780 AF problem for dogs with black faces

Craftsman70 wrote:

#4 is kind of odd that the middle won't be sharp. However, judging from your point #3, have you AF-fine tuned your lens?

Point 3 is AF sometimes focuses in front.

Fine tune can only help with minor and always mis-focus  in the same direction - not sometimes.

Mis focus is often though not always caused by the AF system not being able to focus accurately on what is underneath the selected AF point.

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Craftsman70 Contributing Member • Posts: 662
Re: D780 AF problem for dogs with black faces

Leonard Shepherd wrote:

Craftsman70 wrote:

#4 is kind of odd that the middle won't be sharp. However, judging from your point #3, have you AF-fine tuned your lens?

Point 3 is AF sometimes focuses in front.

Fine tune can only help with minor and always mis-focus in the same direction - not sometimes.

Mis focus is often though not always caused by the AF system not being able to focus accurately on what is underneath the selected AF point.

Yes, BUT why not eliminate other possibilities as well?  And you would start with a known firm base for anything going forward.  We know that part of the issue is not being able to lock on to the target due to the lack of contrast but why not verify that the shots that do lock on are as focused as possible?

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primeshooter
primeshooter Veteran Member • Posts: 6,807
Re: Pictures or it didn't happen

Kelley Hoffman wrote:

primeshooter wrote:

You need to provide images to really get to the bottom of this, but it is probably a contrast issue, AF system's need it.

The original problem in my post was I couldnt take a photo. In even shade (sun too harsh on these dogs, and lose detail), I was waiting for the right shot, there it is, no AF, shutter won't release. Ack! Shot gone. Mind you these dogs want to be right on you all the time. With no helper I may be at it for 2-3 hours trying to devise ways to get them 6' away from me. Takes a ton of patience to wait for the shots. So imagine my frustration when the shot is there briefly and camera says nope, not going to let you take this shot. That's when I was in aperture priority. Changing to shutter priority helped immensely. Now dealing with finetuning it not wanting to focus around the eyes. It was also available light related. Could take the shot in full sunlight, but not in full shade, and it shoul have been able to do it in full shade.

Kelley

You need to try get a ahot. Put ur focus to release priority so we can get a shot to look at and examine.

Leonard Shepherd
Leonard Shepherd Forum Pro • Posts: 23,303
Re: D780 AF problem for dogs with black faces

Craftsman70 wrote:

Leonard Shepherd wrote:

Mis focus is often though not always caused by the AF system not being able to focus accurately on what is underneath the selected AF point.

Yes, BUT why not eliminate other possibilities as well? And you would start with a known firm base for anything going forward. We know that part of the issue is not being able to lock on to the target due to the lack of contrast but why not verify that the shots that do lock on are as focused as possible?

The OP seems to be having problems with subject detail on which AF may not be accurate.

I find DSLR AF can be much more accurately than some mirrorless owners suggest - providing the AF subject is easy for phase detect AF to detect with accuracy.

As a subject gets less than ideal - such as lower contrast, finer detail etc I find phase detect AF had more random accuracy. This seems to be what the OP seems to be experiencing.

A starting point for checking if there is a front or back focus issue is to start with a very good for AF combined high quality testing technique. My experience is that when both of these demanding requirements are met to a good standards unless equipment has had an impact there is rarely a need for fine tune.

Some seem to misunderstand what fine tune can do.

Fine tune can do no more than rectify a consistent minor mis focus with almost all images in one specific direction with a specific lens on a number of different bodies, or a number of lenses on a specific body.

AF misses by a significant margin, only some AF misses (what the OP reports) or random in front or behind AF issues cannot be resolved with fine tune.

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Leonard Shepherd
In lots of ways good photography is much more about how equipment is used rather than anything else.

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