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Quote: But I always think that it does slow down AF a little
I am sure I have experienced something like this myself and the best explanation I have read (regards Canon gear) is that the IS takes a half second or so to kick in and lock on (you can see this with the slight 'jump' when the image becomes stabilised). However if you are taking a reaction shot this short period of time can extend while it works out how much stabilisation is needed and this may result in your first couple of shots being less than perfect (even though the effect may be noticable only on pixel peeping). I have read of many experienced birders who turn image stabilisation off for this reason - but at the moment I am sure my incompetence is the biggest issue so I tend to leave IS on.
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Logically VR, esp active, must slow down multiple shots to allow all that processing. Mind boggling when you think of what has to happen in milliseconds!
I think the photograph you posted may give a clue to the problem Brian.
If you use 39-point AF for that photo, then the camera is going to be trying to take its AF data from an area considerably larger than the bird. In the example you show, it is almost inevitable it will focus on the background.
Using a single focus point will overcome this as long as you lock it on to the bird. Another tip, in that instance, would be to use spot metering rather than centre-weighted or matrix so that the shot is exposed for the bird's plumage rather than the much lighter background. (Same applies if you are shooting against the sky). With a single focus point and spot metering you should find it relatively easy to get the bird both in focus and correctly exposed.
I used 39point AF assuming the camera would pick out the bird against the moving background, I didn't think I'd have a hope in hell of me locking single-point focus on the bird whilst framing and panning!! However, I did shoot using single-point for some of those flights but with no better success. It's a shame the exif doesn't incl the type of AF used for each shot. I went out again today and tried photographing gulls flying overhead using various settings. At ISO1000 none were sharp, all looked mushy at 1:1 on screen. I wonder if the camera is indeed faulty?
It sounds like a practice thing, its takes time to learn to keep a single focal point on a fast moving subject. I would recommend sticking to the single central AF point and learning to use that, otherwise the camera is taking control and it doesn't know that its bird its supposed to be focusing on. Try practicing on car number plates until you are getting the results you want.
I use in the main single point AF, often the central point and Back button focusing so I can keep the focus lock and exposures separate. However my camera has a multitude of other setting which make life much easier for me, such as AF point expansion, tracking sensitivity, etc.
Definately use single focus point and set the focus to track the subject, but it does take practice. Have a few goes with something larger & slower moving, ie a slow car at a junction, person walking for you and see how they work out. Also do some static shots and check your focus. If both of those are not in focus it is probably a camera fault, but if focused, it's just a matter of practice making perfect.
OK I'll practise bothering seagulls as there's little else moving around at the moment! Thanks all.
Agree with the single centre point af, I use centre weighted metering in shutter speed priority at normally 1/1600, and let the camera choose aperture, and only crank up iso if apeture required is wider than the lens can deliver.
If I can't get enough light/fast enough shutter speed I will shoot in manual mode, and check exposures as I go along, this can buy you some leeway.
I notice that you are shooting at 200mm with a 1.5 crop sensor effectively giving a 300mm focal length, this may mean that the birds are quite small unless you can get close, however the central focusing point certainly on my canons covers an area greater than the illuminated point, and if thats the case with your Nikon, and you have a contrasty background your lens could still struggle
Seagulls from a park bench with a bit of food are very good practice, but it also helps to watch their behaviours for a while as well, some movements can then be anticipated, and when shooting follow individual birds.
To give you an idea the shot below was taken at about 25m with an equivalent ff focal length of 560mm, and still the image was cropped
Nice shot. I get lucky sometimes as with this heavy crop of a heron flying straight at me!
There's nothing wrong with that shot and I doubt there's anything wrong with your camera. 200mm is on the short side for nature photography if you want any results without heavy cropping. An extender might help but will slow down the AF. Practice on big, easy birds like swans & geese first in good light conditions and work from there. The 2.8 will be fast enough but reach will be a problem most of the time. Hope that helps.
The image example is not good for Nikon, the AF works best when there is a high level of contrast between subject and background.
I have a D7000 and do not have a problem with getting such shots. I often attend airshows where contrast is good but am a keen wildlife tog. If I were you, I would open up the aperture to F4 and try using the AEL/AEF button on the rear of the camera for focussing, it's the one above the live view switch, using your thumb. (Settings are in the menu) It allows greater hand control.
Hope things improve but you need to practice as much as possible to improve technique. Changing to Canon will be expensive and won;t necessarily be a cure. If you do go that route, give me first refusal on the 70-200 please,
It's on ebay [removed] Hope this url doesn't break any rules! [It does. Sorry.]
I'm changing partly because of my difficulties but also because I can. I'm getting a Canon D7 with the DO version of their 70-300mm and the 15-85 lens roughly equivelant to my Nikon gear. The tele-zoom is slower but a lot smaller and more portable than the Nikon and also longer.
Sounds like a big step backwards to me. Hope you don't live to regret it. Well, I hope you do live but that you don't regret it.
Not often you get a diehard Nikon user switching to Canon or vice versa I suppose!!
It's a big step and costing several hundreds, but I'm a pensioner and you can't take it with you! I am sure I will appreciate the Canon 'DO glass' zoom for its lightness and compactness. It has excellent reviews and I'm sure in real life, I'll get as good or better results, especially as it goes to 300mm which I need. The Nikon lens is a big beast for only 200mm to lug around for my poor old body! Also, I've looked and not a single shot has been taken at f2.8 on that lens.
As for the body, the D7 gets recommended a lot for action stuff and obviously will cope with my landscape stuff too. I was looking at the Sony A77 at one point as it is even faster, but was put off by the thought of the EVF even though it is the best ever.
It's due to arrive today so will anxiously wait for the courier!
Have a look for tips on the auto focus system from previous threads in the forums and also on the Canon site. There are an incredible amount of different set ups you can use and not all of them work well for every subject. I think on the Canon site there is a dedicated area for setting up for sports & action on the camera. There was one for the 1D MkIII as well which I printed off when I got mine.
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