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How good are the several D800 continuous autofocus modes with bird (swallow) shooting?

swallows-aargau-switzerland-artborghi-small3

Click the panel for 100% size or here for more swallow pictures (small insets, full picture)

Shooting swallows is quite a challenge as these birds are fast, small and unpredictable. I tested 3D tracking, single AF point and dynamic area 9 points, just because I wanted to have a couple of pictures enough in focus to crop them 100%.

On my D800 I mounted the 70-200 mm VR-II on a quite cloudy day. Times between 1/1600 and 1/4000 at f/2.8 to /4 trying to avoid high ISO.

So, which continuous autofocus system scored best?

- 3D tracking, which should follow moving shapes and colours?
Single AF point, the middle AF in this case?
Dynamic area 9 points, which should keep in focus what’s inside the inner 9 AF points?

d800-autofocus systems

To sum up, 3D tracking was not the winning mode for swallow shooting. Might be because swallows are small and black and flying on moving water in this case? Or just 3D tracking is not as cool? More tests needed. Dynamic 9 points failure was often due the the small size of the subject, which hardly filled  half an AF point. The traditional single AF point (in continuous mode) will be my best choice for future (small) bird shootings

swallows-aargau-switzerland

Posted by Lorenzo Borghi on May 31, 2013
2 Comments Post a comment
  1. 05/31/2013

    Well, looking at the results still would say d800 in combination with 70-200 is awesome…I am happy with my D700 so far but D800 is outstanding.

    Reply
  2. 05/31/2013

    I couldn’t agree more. The 70-200 is the sharpest lens I ever had. And, yes, zooming into pictures shot with the D800 is a trip to infinity and beyond.

    Reply

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