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Autofocus for sports

gary sempler

TPF Noob!
Aug 23, 2010
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HI GUYS. This is my first thread. It seems everyone has their own idea about af settings for sports. I just received grant for photography equipment and plan on shooting a lot of sports from football to indoor sports. I have 30 years experiance with film and none with digital. This is my equipment. Nikon d700 nikon d300s nikkor lenses 24-70 70-200vr2 300f4 and a nikon 1.4 converter. I am good on all the basics and some of the more advanced menu settings. It would be great to get some experianced advice on this complicated af system. Thanks Gary.
Just do what you always did, the only difference is you get to see the image on the back, if you've never used an AF camera then you must have been in a coma for twenty years, shoot as if you were shooting tranny, correct exposure is the name of the game with this, under gives noise and over blows the highlights, AF on both those models is quick and pretty good also highish iso no problem at all on the 700 and I've a 300 which shot indoor at 1600 with no problem. H
It seems everyone has their own idea about af settings for sports. . It would be great to get some experianced advice on this complicated af system. Thanks Gary.
There is pretty much only one way to use autofocus effectively for action sports.

Here is a link that describes Nikons Multi-CAM 3500 FX/DX autofocus module:


Exposing film we were taught to expose for the shadows.

Digital is just the opposite, expose for the highlights. In the context of a digital image histogram it's called Expose-To-The-Right, or ETTR.
Hey you post nice information. I really faced problem to capture any player photographs it is blurred when expose. but after read this thread I try to click photo as you suggest.
I am in my third year of shooting sports for a couple of local colleges where I live (volleyball, basketball, soccer and the like). As far as focusing, I have found doing one of three things helpful: 1) Follow Focus, 2) Zone Focus or 3) Manual Focus.

With follow focus, you lock focus on a player and follow them. Servo focus will do a good job tracking. This works pretty well until people cross your path, which can confuse even the most sophisticated auto focus system. This leads me to number two, Zone Focus.

With zone focus, you pick an area, lock focus on that area (be sure to turn off auto focus or it will roam), and shoot anything that comes across that spot. This is very helpful for me. In volleyball, for example, clear action at the net was nearly impossible to get with straight auto focus. All that action would freak out the auto focus. Now I lock focus on that area (just beyond the net to get the other team) and turn off auto focus or switch to rear-button focus. Whenever they’re going at it at the net, I just snap away.

The third thing is simply shooting manual focus. If your eyes are not the greatest, this can be a struggle.

I’ve never let auto focus run on its own without me intervening somehow.
Yes in volleyball the net is a difficult item to deal with, fast autofocus helps a great deal.

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