Best Auto Focus set up for a D3 shooting sports?


TPF Noob!
Nov 15, 2011
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Camillus, NY
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I picked up a used D3 and we're getting to know each other.

For shooting high action sports (football & lacrosse) what's the best set up for auto focus?
Specifically I'm looking for help with the sub categories within the Auto-Focus Menu:
AF-S priority selection
Dynamic AF area
Focus tracking with lock-on
AF Activation
Focus point illumination
Focus point wrap-around
AF point selection

On the back of the camera:
AF-area mode selector (choices are single point, Dynamic area, Auto-area AF)

On the front of the camera:
Auto focus Priority selection: C, S, or M

Thanks in advance for any assistance

Gotta throw in at least one photo


In memoriam
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Apr 9, 2009
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If the D3 didn't come with a D3 User's Manual, you can download it here - Nikon Product Manuals available for download

All of those settings are described in the manual over several pages.

Will you be hand holding the camera, using a monopod, or using a tripod?
What focal length lenses will you be using?

For moving subjects use AF-C (continuous focus), though that requires some practice because AF-C uses shutter priority and will release the shutter if focus has not been achieved. so expect some % of OOF shots. The more skilled you become, the lower the %.

AF-S uses focus priority and will not release the shutter unless focus has been achieved, which means you may not get a shot because the shutter would not release if using AF-S.

I often used Dynamic AF area (there are 4 options) and tracking, but sometimes I didn't use them, which points up the fact that few settings are one-size-fits-all and settings get changed to meet requirements, often on the fly.

I always had focus point illumination and wrap on.

FWIW I used the AF-On buttons on the back of the camera most of the time.

Shooting action sports is one of the most challenging types of photography there is. Shooting sports is very demanding of camera, lens, and photographic technical knowledge as well as familiarity with the camera controls and functions so the photographer can make settings changes on the fly without removing their eye from the viewfinder. Camera handling technique and skill is also very important.
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Mr. Rain Cloud
Jul 23, 2009
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Forget about using AF-S, and go to AF-C,so that you CAN SHOOT a shot when YOU determine it's time to shoot, instead of being held hostage. Remember, there is also a user option on Focus versus Release priority.... Yes, to allowing wrap-around!! I personally like DYnamic Area AF, with 9 AF points enabled, and I CHOOSE the AF spot at FIRST, with my own brain, using the 4-way-controller "aka the thumb-pad" on the back of the camera.

For plain talk about the D3 series AF system, you will need to look into something like the Magic Lantern guide books, or better yet, the BEST SOURCE EVER written, the Thom Hogan "Complete Guide To The Nikon D3" books sold through his web site. The camera maker's manuals are rather Japanese English, and are, frankly, poorly written and incomplete, and utterly lack the type of advanced user and advanced scenario descriptions that Hogan's guidebooks are famous for. Heck, even reading the Ken Rockwell WEB PAGES about the Nikon D3 will teach you MORE about how the D3's AF system needs to be set up than a day with the manual will teach you.

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