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Thread: What AF area mode should I use -- HELP PLEASE

  1. #1

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    What AF area mode should I use -- HELP PLEASE

    I use a Nikon 5000d Camera and am a little confused on what AF area mode setting I should use. I would like all areas of my photo to be focused not just one area. YOur help will be appreciated!

    Kathy

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    Re: What AF area mode should I use -- HELP PLEASE

    Hello Kathy,

    First you must read this, several times by the sound of it ;-)

    http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tut...h-of-field.htm

    Then you might understand when I say that it is simply impossible for every area in a normal photo to be in focus. The exception might be a photo of a giant slightly curved wall some distance away. Even then, though, there'll be bits that look in focus but actually aren't.

    You might get some friendly advice on choosing an aperture setting, or some in-depth advice on which of the many auto-focus modes are best but, until you understand the CiC tutorial link I gave above, they will be wasting their time.

    I only use one focus mode: M. Life is much simpler that way ;-)

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    Re: What AF area mode should I use -- HELP PLEASE

    Hi Kathy

    As Ted has indicated, an understanding of Depth of Field (DOF) is important to your question. You can only achieve "exact" focus at one distance and the sharpness of the areas behind and in front of that point is determined by the DOF (which is determined by Aperture and distance to focus point).

    It is understandable how multi-point AF can cause confusion in this regard. With multiple AF points, you can let the camera automatically use these points to decide where to focus but it still focusses at one distance only. I prefer to use manual selection of one AF point and I usually use the centre point. I aim that point at the area I want to focus on, lock it in with half shutter depression and then re-compose shot before pushing shutter fully down.

    I'n not a Nikon person so I can't give you exact details for your camera.

    Dave

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    Re: What AF area mode should I use -- HELP PLEASE

    You're thinking about DOF, but it's still valuable to understand your AF modes.

    You have a Focus mode (AF-A, AF-S, AF-C, and MF) and an AF-area mode ( Single Point, Dynamic Area, Auto-area, and 3D Tracking.) We can't discuss AF-area modes without also discussing Focus modes. The Focus modes are described on page 54 of the English D5000 manual. The AF-area mode are described on page 56/57.

    Focus mode - How to focus
    AF-S: Focus once. You half-press, the camera focuses once and will not focus again until you release the shutter.

    AF-C: Focus continuously. On the half-press the camera will focus and continue to evaluate and refocus until you release the shutter.

    AF-A: Starts as AF-S. If the camera determines that the subject distance has changed, then it will switch to AF-C. AF-A allows you to Focus & Recompose (won't refocus if you recompose quickly) but will also track a moving subject without you having to manually change the Focus mode. It kinda works...you need good light and contrasty subjects.


    AF-area mode - Where to focus
    Single Point - Focuses at the selected focus point.

    Dynamic area - Focuses at the selected focus point. If the camera recognizes the subject, and detects that the subject has moved, then it will use the surrounding focus points to assist in keeping focus. The idea here is that you really want your subject at the one selected focus point, but sometimes a moving subjects gets away from the selected focus point. So, the surrounding focus points help out while you try to get your subject back to the focus point. NOTE: Exposure is based on the selected focus point only.

    Auto-area - The camera selects the focus point. Sometimes decides to focus on something other than what you want to focus on. Most don't use it but I find it works for groups of birds against a sky, where the choice of subject is clear.

    3D-Tracking - Focuses at the selected focus point. If the camera recognizes the subject, and detects that the subject has moved, then it will track the subject and make the current focus point the new "selected" focus point. This is used for Focus & Recompose. You can focus on a subject, then move the camera to recompose the scene. The subject will move across the focus points, and the camera will follow, making the next focus point the "selected" focus point. NOTE: Exposure is based on the newly selected focus point.


    So those are the modes. Now for some discussion. Dynamic and 3D-Tracking, by nature, will only perform their functions in AF-C mode. In AF-S mode, all the AF-area modes behave like Single Point (with Auto-area selecting the point for you.) You only need to select an AF-area mode when you decide that you need continuous focus. A big difference between AF-S and AF-C is that AF-S will not allow the shutter to be released unless you have achieved focus. With AF-C, the shutter is released even if the subject isn't in focus. In "photo" terms, AF-S is a Focus Priority mode and AF-C is a Release Priority mode.

    If shooting action or erratic subjects, I recommend Dynamic. As you try to keep the camera on a moving subject to catch the right moment, the subject may drift a little and get away from the focus point. In Single Point, the camera will immediately try to refocus on whatever is at the selected focus point. But in Dynamic, the camera will usually recognize the subject you were tracking, and use the surrounding points to maintain focus.

    If you prefer the Focus & Recompose method of shooting, give 3D Tracking a try. You focus on your subject (usually at the center of the viewfinder) and then move your camera to reframe the shot. The focus point should stay with your subject. The alternative to F&R is to move the focus point with the 4-way controller, which is described on page 58 of your manual. Use F&R if you're shooting different subjects in changing scenes...as with Street shooting. Move the focus point if you're shooting the same subject and taking multiple shots of the same composition (saves you from having to recompose on every shot.)

    The difference between Dynamic and 3D Tracking is exposure, and also Dynamic appears to do it's job much faster than 3D Tracking, which is why you use Dynamic for action and 3D Tracking for recomposing fairly static scenes.

    If you want the camera to immediately focus on whatever is under the selected focus point, then use Single Point. Single Point is useful for "hunting"...if you're using your viewfinder to search your scene for photographic opportunities, then Single Point and AF-C will instantly focus whatever is under the focus point.

    As for DOF...to have more of your scene in focus you should shoot in A mode and increase the aperture value by turning the rear dial to a larger number like f11 or f16. This will only work well with bright light, such as daylight. Indoors you need to use the smaller aperture numbers or you need to use flash.

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    Re: What AF area mode should I use -- HELP PLEASE

    My personal preference is to use the smallest area available to me by the camera, with a single centre spot area*, so that when I focus taking half trigger I arrange that target area on the point that I want to be my principle point of focus, I rarely bother about depth of field becuase most photos I take I have a subject I want to be sharp and the rest is irrelevant. There can be a problem with a small target area when shooting in a hurry that one doesn't exactly arrange the target area exactly on the subject/point one wants as principle point of focus. The problem with a lot of cameras, P&S or DSLRs, is that the target area is quite large and it encompasses on occasions quite a lot of subject area which maybe at different distances from the camera. The camera may not pick the point one really wants.
    As far as DoF is concerned I know that with a 'normal' lens at distances greater than around fifteen feet the point of focus should be at the first third. From fifteen feet coming closer this changes to a 50/50 arrangement. Though what DoF you have depends on what aperture you use and may not be what you want, not enough to cover the range of distances in the photo, so as above my approach is to choose a principle point that the viewer will expect to be sharp and let the rest 'go hang'
    Not very scientific but practical. The 'art' is making sure you pick the point the viewer will want to be sharp.

    *I being old fashioned, and seeking the simple life, like to be in charge of focusing rather than leaving it up to the camera and when occasionally I press the wrong buitton on these modern infernal machines and I get a range of areas I live with them just checking the camera has done something similar to what I want.... until I can work out which button to press to get back to centre spot.
    Last edited by jcuknz; 19th January 2013 at 08:57 PM.

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    Re: What AF area mode should I use -- HELP PLEASE

    Quote Originally Posted by Kathy O View Post
    I use a Nikon 5000d Camera and am a little confused on what AF area mode setting I should use. I would like all areas of my photo to be focused not just one area. YOur help will be appreciated!

    Kathy
    Aaagh yes, that is what we want, but as you see above it is all a compromise.
    That is why stacking photos can work wonders with an image.

    Oops, I shouldn't have said that, it only adds to the confusion..
    Keep at it, some of it will become "clear", intended

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    Re: What AF area mode should I use -- HELP PLEASE

    I predominantely shoot three autofocus modes:

    1. Normal landscape, cityscape and portrait type shots - Single Servo Mode; 21 point tracking;

    2. Shoots with a long lens (300mm - 500mm) - Single Servo Mode; Single point tracking. Multiple ponts tend to muddle up the shot;

    3. Motion shots - Continuous Servo Mode - 3D focus (I use this especially when the subject is moving towards or away from me); and

    4. Manual - when I get tired of fighting with my camera's AF features.

    As previous posters have suggested, I will chose an appropriate depth of field will use an appropriate depth of field setting (and ISO speed to match).

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    Re: What AF area mode should I use -- HELP PLEASE

    Getting the whole image nice and clear seems to be an obvious desire especially if one is coming from a point and shoot. Point and shoot cameras tend to give one edge to edge clarity because of the nature of their design. The very small sensor in a point and shoot is what makes this sort of overall sharpness so easy to attain. But, you are now using a dslr and that sort of edge to edge clarity now requires work. Your sensor is larger which now makes getting the subject sharp against a blurry background easy to attain. Getting the edge to edge sharpness you want now takes work. The others have given you lots to think about in terms of technique and there is a lot more out there. I will just offer one tip: go with the flow. If you are getting your subject sharp against a blurred background, fantastic! Enjoy that version of reality. When you examine the settings that either the camera or you chose to get that image, you can than override those settings, make some adjustments, and try to get more in focus. This will take some reading and research and practice. You will read about small apertures, hyperfocal distance, and so much more. Take your time. There is a switch, though, if you want an easy way. Go to the scene modes and choose landscape. The camera will try to get everything in focus for you. Good luck!

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    Re: What AF area mode should I use -- HELP PLEASE

    Sorry I did not reply sooner, but thanks to everyone who responded to this post it was very helpful!

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    Re: What AF area mode should I use -- HELP PLEASE

    I grew up with cameras that had manual focus and I skipped an entire generation of Canon Auto Focus cameras (EOS Film Cameras) because I thought that I could manually focus quicker and more accurately that any camera could auto focus. I WAS WRONG! And... BTW: the manual focus cameras and lenses were optimized for that type of focusing, today's DSLR cameras and auto focus lenses are not optimized for manual focus.

    However, (no matter how sophisticated the auto focus system is) the camera does not know what we want it to focus on and we must tell it.

    The camera did not know if I wanted this shot of my goldendoodle to have only the dog's face in focus with the background dropped out of focus (OOF) or whether I wanted to have as much of the entire image in focus as possible. I needed to tell the camera what I wanted and the camera took over from there.

    What AF area mode should I use -- HELP PLEASE

    If we could make a wireless connection between our brain and our camera, like the connection between our eyes and our brain; we would not have to tell the camera what we want to focus on. However, since there is no such connection, we have to inform the camera where we want it to focus.

    There is a plethora of YouTube videos on the focus capability of my Canon 7D; so I searched YouTube for videos on the Nikon 5000 focus capabilities and found several. Do a search and you will also find these videos.

    However, I would strongly suggest that you read the CiC tutorials to learn the basic concepts of camera/lens focus, f/stops, depth of field (most often abbreviated as DOF) before you view the videos aimed specifically at your camera. Additionally, there are also quite a few YouTube offerings which purport to explain DOF. I have not viewed these so cannot comment on how good or how accurate they are...

    I don't know anything about the focusing capability of the Nikon d5000. I do know, hoewver, that my Canon 7D has the most sophisticated focusing system I have ever used. However, under most circumstances, the default auto focus settings (straight out of the box) will provide very acceptable and often mind boggling capability. Perhaps that is so with your camera...

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    Re: What AF area mode should I use -- HELP PLEASE

    Hi Kathy,

    what AF area mode setting I should use. I would like all areas of my photo to be focused not just one area.
    I guess if you want to get all areas of your photo in focus, you will also have to set your aperture to something like f8 - f16 ( just like Graystar's reply).

    In addition to Graystar's very explicit/direct reply, may I add the following settings via your info edit/button.

    For auto-focus: I suggest we use Focus Mode:AF-A, (the setting with 2 pictures and 2 arrows). and
    for AF-area Mode: Auto-Area ( the one with a white rectangular box )

    or, a short-cut - use "Landscape" mode. This almost guarantees entire scene will be in focus.

    Hope this helps.

    Thanks
    Last edited by nimitzbenedicto; 2nd June 2013 at 10:07 PM.

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    Re: What AF area mode should I use -- HELP PLEASE

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    I grew up with cameras that had manual focus and I skipped an entire generation of Canon Auto Focus cameras (EOS Film Cameras) because I thought that I could manually focus quicker and more accurately that any camera could auto focus. I WAS WRONG!
    I don't think you were wrong - I bought one of those early Canon autofocus and it was AWFUL - more shots out of focus than in. I dumped it in favour of an Olympus which was WAY better..
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 5th June 2013 at 05:01 PM.

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    Re: What AF area mode should I use -- HELP PLEASE

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    I grew up with cameras that had manual focus and I skipped an entire generation of Canon Auto Focus cameras (EOS Film Cameras) because I thought that I could manually focus quicker and more accurately that any camera could auto focus. I WAS WRONG!
    Quote Originally Posted by chrisletts View Post
    I don't think you were wrong - I bought one of those early Canon autofocus and it was AWFUL - more shots out of focus than in. I dumped it in favour of an Olympus which was WAY better..
    I'm not sure you'll find it in the manual but in the Magic Lantern Genie Guides-auto focus systems have their limitations. Of note, are low-ambient light conditions, low-contrast ambient light or low subject contrast, highly reflective surfaces, subject too small within the area covered by the AF points(s), to name a few. Remedy suggested: either switch to Manual focus or focus on another subject at the same distance from the camera as the subject and use the focus lock feature before recomposing the picture.

    From my own experience, auto focus is inadequate if you are trying to track a fast flying bird at a close distance so manual focus would be the only option and even then manual focus is not a good solution. I have noticed though that if I pay close attention to needed shutter speed (to freeze action) and I try to align my subject with the focus points I get more keepers.
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 5th June 2013 at 05:04 PM.

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