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Nikon's flawed dynamic AF modes. D5/D500
 So there you have it, Nikon went from a very useful dynamic mode on the D750/D810 which I use successfully to a crippled version which doesn't have real use.


 Anything written in the user manual is vague at best and could well be just erroneous at worst.


   What surprised me though is it passed by many reviewers Steve Perry, Thom Hogan, Jared Polin, Kai from Digi rev and Tony Northrup amongst many others.....


     ...and not a word!

Dave's clichés
User manuals... I write them for a living and I know how difficult it is to get the truth out of the developers, designers and engineers - not to speak about what reality makes out of their truth. Plus added my mistakes, misunderstandings and simply being delayed after development.


I could not imagine one of these guys having the time to check up 700 menu functions and settings. But what I really compalin about is the obviously very low standard of Nikons's testpilots. These guys really need to test every single function - but here as well: They are testing prototypes. I would not be surprised, if the PTs have a firmware like D810, D4/5 or the like an dNikon finalizes their product shortly before it finds it's way in cardboard boxes.


Mind you, how often and how many users were urging to get a D400... alright, after sch a long period of development these kind of bugs malfunctions should be dead.

   Just a quick one JoJu!!


  I have been following the "D5/D500 dynamic AF mode scenario" at DPreview and Fred Miranda's forum sites.  I posted my thoughts and exchanged ideas with Steve Perry, in the main we are agreed.


 I brought to light that in spite of the obvious differences between the operation of the D750 perfectly working AF dynamic mode and the crippled version on the D5/D500......


The description "in the manuals" of the 3 dynamic AF modes of the two cameras is..


           .....word for word the same.. exactly..word for word!


       The three AF dynamic modes D5/D500 does not do what it says "on the can"!




    Nikon states that in order to get the best out of the camera it is necessary to read the user manual....


         ironically,    they haven't read it themselves!!!   


       Is that black poetry or what?

Dave's clichés


In my everyday routine, this is normality. In our office we're two guys writing manuals for machinery. Only 4 different series with different modifications, options and also hardware differences, leading to different behaviour and maintenance. The manuals we publish are full of descriptions and procedural instructions which are plain wrong today and were plain right only months ago. If you know a recipe how to change them in real time, with all the influences it has to the rest of our drawings, texts and software procedures, we can pay you as external counsellor - but it has to be real good advice  Wink


We publish for each machine 600 pages manual for hardware, 400 for software (only the interface), another 600+ for programming, plus spareparts lists, plus electrical documentation for the system, plus installing descriptions, plus transportation advice. Only the first two documents are changing a lot, because of hardware changes and customer requests for new functions we have to listen to. 


I'm sure, Nikon has the same disclaimer as we have: "Changes related to technical progress can happen at any time without notification" and progress in terms of software behaviour I've seen so much in the last 5 years that it will become a never ending story. And this is the situation in genuine language German - not to mention 8 other languages we also provide and take care for translations. 


I perfectly understand your point of view, as the law is on your side - saying that (at least in Europe and here in the countries where the expression "state of contemporary technology" is a well known phrase) you can ask for rebate or refuse an item if you have no appropriate manual or a manual with lots of flaws. But since you bought on grey market, it could be a bit more difficult - and the AF-C section is how many % of the 500 pages? Nikon is not listening, not even offering an official mail-address to put such complaints in place (currently they would be drowned by mails...) I'm afraid you have to live with that flaw and try to make your own manual.


Can be interesting. I did that a couple of times for myself with VueScan software, Solmeta Geotagger (horrible manual) and others. At least, the Solmeta manual was good enough that the importer gave me a power bench for free  Big Grin And that's about the ordinary payment state. As technical writer you write things nobody cares about usually, only if problems occur - and here's where the good and bad manuals come to light. You're usually too late. Last changes of the product are made before the first user hits the "PowerOn" switch. 


I once read, the offices for technical documentation are independent from the manufacturer in Japan. Hard to believe. But possible. And the usual "lost in translation" stuff, like Fuji talking about "frames" in English, meaning "exposed pictures" and translating into German says "cadre" (frame of a painting or a window, door).


Yesterday I got a brandnew book of Rico Pfirstinger, German guy writing about Fuji X-T2, 120 professional tipps. It finally came out as book in German, an English ePub it was already available for longer time, sic. For tomorrow, Fuji's Kaizen firmware improvement will make some insightful observations about AF, especially AF-C, outdated. It's the first wave of 23 new functions (4 of the 33 announced are for X-Pro2 and already in X-T2), 6 more will come in May, which also affect the book.


Of course, I get used to it - but also very tired about that "progress".


I will machine the Arca socket of my Tamron 150-600 to make it fit better in my quick-release clamps - the difficult and picky FHM types. A project with clear start and end. Sometimes I need that. Because documentation is never ever finished - except the machine I describe runs out of production. Sorry for the lengthy post - my colleagues over in japan will have the same troubles.

  I understand that it a tough call for a user manual to appear in the same box as the camera itself on the prescribed date of release, it must be a logistic nightmare all of it's own, the fact that that all happens, the design of the product, manufacturing processes, ordering and supply of the large amount of components, firmware etc. is in reality bordering on being a miracle!


I suppose it goes some way to offset these minor AF irritations that Nikon have "kindly" introduced to D500 Wink


 I asked before, how are your feelings about the Tammy G2? I'm bowled over with the increased sharpness at the long end at all distances, it's just so much better in all departments. AF is faster and seems very accurate.

   It still suffers from jerky VC at the long end though which is a pain when it's windy, it's this type of slow movement of the camera which aggravates it's stability, if your not being pushed around the image in the VF stays pretty still.


 I did some comparison tests with the Nikor bazooka the other day, at F7.1-F8 at pixel level, the sharpness is pretty much the same and the Tammy's contrast is actually better!  It's one and a half school marks better than the G1!


 I can't wait for Markus to test it!! Tongue  Big Grin  

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 I asked before, how are your feelings about the Tammy G2? ....

Although I wished I could spend more time with it - during the (working) week sunshine and weekend superdull sky and a couple of other things to do - in one word: Excellent! Haven't looked back to Sigma Sports which is a lot to carry. This evening I did the starting and ending project, now the "Arca" foot fits into Arca and FHM quick releases. I'm impressed and thought this deserves a Balblair '04, cheerio!


Here we go, forgive me to hijack your thread:

[Image: i-jcgqDSG-XL.jpg]

[Image: i-ZLp3kTh-L.jpg]

[Image: i-pTbhr29-L.jpg]

It surprise me how much I had to mill away. The Tamron foot looks very nice, but it is not precise. I had to cut 0.5 mm, divided to both sides. That's a bit much.

No hijack JoJu,

    I had been wondering why I had heard little of your G2 (A022). Yeah, I've noticed that these arca feet seem to vary in size, I've one that doesn't fit another, I assumed it was because I bought Chinese. Neat bit of work!


 Just adding one thing, I thought that the D500 was better suited to the G2's VC, but no panning with VC in mode 1 it ruins sharpness.   The seasons just starting now and I'm out tomorrow, no VC for me when panning.

  I shot a run of egret shots today in group AF mode, I'll stick to that for BIF and single point for perched birds.


  You are just going to love the G2!  It's the bee's knees!  (business)

Dave's clichés
You know, the D810 is not exactly an action camera. Then, here where I live we had literally months of fog. Whereever birds are trying to nest these days, they do it these days under the eyes of a dozen photographers with more knowledge about birds than I have. It sounds like a lame excuse, I just don't feel inspired enough to go out and use the lens more - but when I do, I'm very pleased about handling and results  ^_^


On the other hand: I need my backpack for this combo of Tamron and Nikon. With the Fuji and the 100-400, I can use a holster bag and still have space for one of the f/2 lenses with the converter for 100-400 mounted opposite in the other part of the two lens caps glued together. However, focusing a little animal sitting between twigs and very mobile is nothing for the Fuji. Focus by wire is very cumbersome in this situation. So, I save weight. And diskspace, just because I can't get the picture. Or I get it, but the background is sandpaper because I need to crop.


D500 is tempting me from time to time, but new camera? As long as I stick to my dogma "get a good DAM which can replace Aperture and is not made by Adobe", this would be just a source of more frustration as Aperture, dead as it is, no longer gets support for new RAW types. Not for them stupid birds.... :lol:

Quote: So there you have it, Nikon went from a very useful dynamic mode on the D750/D810 which I use successfully to a crippled version which doesn't have real use.


 Anything written in the user manual is vague at best and could well be just erroneous at worst.

I've been studying this a bit in the past month or two. I am normally a single point AF shooter and never got accustomed to dynamic area AF in the past. When I compared the D7100's 9-pt dynamic with the D810's dynamic and group area AF, using 200/2 in shooting figure skating, I got the best focus keeper rate by far with the D810's group area AF. The 9-point dynamic would often focus on the background when the skater was far away and I wasn't able to keep the main point on the face steadily enough. At the time I had no clear idea of what the intended distinction between the modes was, but I became a fan of group area AF mode in situations where the subject's face was too small and moving in a fast and nonlinear trajectory to keep focus using a single point. However, one drawback of group area AF mode is that the entire group has to be within the AF sensor array whereas dynamic areas can be "clipped" by positioning the main point far off center to the edge of the array. This means in practice when shooting vertical subjects (such as people) with the camera in horizontal orientation, the main point can be placed on the face nearer the top of the frame without having to crop off as much of the image frame in post processing as with dynamic area AF. However, when I tried dynamic area AF in the D5, it let to further surprises in the form of shots being focused on background (I had the same experience with the D7100's 9-pt dynamic but to a lesser degree). I looked up the topic online and found several discussions on the topic.


Initially it seemed that there was little difference between the D5's dynamic area modes and using a single point, which can be easily verified using some static subjects. However, when I tried to simulate a dynamic situation by walking towards a static subject with continuous focus on, there seemed to be a difference with dynamic area mode the camera would hold on the focus to the subject while the main point jittered around it in an erratic fashion and single point did not. I do think there is a difference between the modes but it should not be tested with static subjects, and the time scale of the fluctuation between the relative position of the main point and the subject is quite short, i.e. it basically corrects for rather rapid fluctuations and if you point the main point towards a different subject and stay there it almost immediately refocuses on that new subject. I then tried to use the D5's dynamic area AF for synchronized skaters and the D810's dynamic area AF for some walking pedestrians. The new system allows dynamic area focusing on a subject which is in a crowd or group of people, but requires great precision from the user. It does provide some assistance to the photographer not being able to hold the selected point on the subject but this happens on a rather fast time scale. In the D810, I could not easily force the system to move from a closer to a more distant subject in the crowd; the system would take a while to think and basically be very reluctant to go for the more distant subject. This is a scenario where the new system is better. But it doesn't provide the same level of assistance, it can be only used successfully if the user is acutely aware that the main point must be held onto the subject for the duration of the tracking, and when reviewing shots one can see that it does in fact hold onto the main subject even for brief periods where the main point is not on the subject but on the background, provided that there is not a lot of contrasty detail in the background. If there is contrasty detail in the background, that background quickly becomes the subject, then, in the new system but less so with the old. Still, compared to group area AF, in the D810, the "old" dynamic was still more eager to focus on the background than group area AF which seems to solidly find the closest subject within the group and does a very good job at it.


So it would seem that the dynamic area AF in Multi-CAM 3500 family cameras has some tendency for closest subject focus (or that it doesn't quickly switch to focus on background if there is clear foreground detail) but not as much as the group area AF, whereas the Multi-CAM 20k family cameras give no priority to closest subjects in dynamic area AF but they do in group area AF, which seems to be similar across the newer and the older AF module (originally there was no group area AF in the first Multi-CAM 3500 module cameras, but this was added to some models in 2014).


I believe that what Nikon did was intentional and the NPS tips for D5 AF (there is similar documentation for the D500) explain some use scenarios for the different modes in sports photography:


For single figure skaters, there is a box which explains a recommended usage of reprogramming the lens button to activate group area AF: "You can then press a focus function button to select group-area AF when framing shots of distant subjects with the camera in wide orientation, and release the button to switch to 25- or 72-point dynamic-area AF when framing shots of nearby subjects in tall orientation." So there is the idea that a distant subject is easier to focus on using group area AF and nearby, one should switch to 25- or 72-point dynamic area. I find this to be sound advice although I have a tendency to just stick to group area AF most of the time anyway. The dynamic area AF would permit a more off-centered subject which can be useful when the subject is filling the frame, whereas the group area AF works great for faraway subjects which do not fill the frame and the whole subject is within the depth of field; its tendency for closest-subject-priority helps avoid a situation where the dynamic area AF would focus on the background. This kind of usage would also give greater control of the focus for a near subject.


For speed scating where there is a group of skaters close to each other, Nikon's AF tips page explains "Group-area AF is a good choice when your subject is in the lead, but 9-point dynamic-area AF may be the better option when your subject is back in the pack, as the camera may otherwise tend to focus on the leader." So the dynamic area AF allows focusing on a middle of the pack subject where group area AF would not. In the old dynamic area AF behavior I think there would be a greater tendency to stay on the closest subject than in the new implementation, based on my testing. So Nikon have tweaked the system to allow for greater control, but the cost is that the user may need to be more acutely aware of how the system is working and have greater skill in holding the main selected point squarely on the intended subject during the tracking.


I do not believe there is any error in the implementation of at least 25-point dynamic, it seems to behave as described. I have not used 9-, 72, or 153-point dynamic much yet, as the 25-point seems to be a good area for my needs, along with the group area AF which often is my preference.


I think what Nikon could do perhaps is offer greater degrees of customisation of the dynamic area AF modes and provide some control over closest-subject-priority within the dynamic area AF framework. Also, they could allow a setting which would be like 3D tracking or Auto Area AF but within a restricted area. With such additional options I think a configuration which would work for everyone could be found.


For me the key is that now I understand (sort of) the way dynamic area AF works and what kind of a situation it is intended for, and I believe I can better make use of it correctly. I just think of "skater in the middle of a pack" and it brings up "use dynamic area AF". "Faraway subject" => "Group Area AF". Slow or highly predictable / linear movement => use single point AF for greatest control.  Unpredictable, fast, complex action with desired result of faces preferably in focus without having time to move focus point manually  => Auto-area AF.


So far 3D tracking hasn't impressed me but I know some users really like it. Currently I've restricted my AF area mode selector to rotate between single point, group area, 25-point dynamic, and auto area AF as those have worked best for me so far, and having a limited selection gives me faster access to a particular mode, though I don't tend to switch between modes often.

Hi ikka,

             Wow there's a lot there to take in there, it looks like you have made a good study of the modes and their effects, certainly more than I have so far achieved!  I will have to refer to it in smaller bite sized chunks.


 So...(BTW I shoot the D500) get to changes made in dynamic mode between pre and D5/D500 cameras; as far as Steve Perry and the forum users  (me included) on Fred Miranda's site; it seems that the three dynamic modes only use their focus "area" for the duration of the focus hold setting in c3 menu, that is from about 1/3-1 second (depending on the setting chosen) after that only the center point chooses focus and whatever is under it will be in focus, it ignores the rest of the are.

   Whereas the D750 for example uses the whole area "all the time" switching points to remain on the subject. For birding this renders the new three dynamic modes pretty much useless, as you have to keep the center point on the bird,and only have one second before it reverts to whatever is under the center point of th group. You have also had a Nikon FW update that gave you 9 point dynamic area on the D5, which the D500 did not get.

  Your experiences add much additional information to the "way" they work which as a birder I haven't been able to notice, it seems that larger subjects are best suited to have much hope to achieve tracking! 

  The general feeling on the forums though is, that these new dynamic modes have been poorly received, often to the point of being tried once or twice, missing focus, and then abandoned mostly for group mode, without the user understanding what went wrong...this has been one of the reasons why the changes went for so long unnoticed.

 Anyway I'm still on an AF learning curve and have configured the D500 in the following way from the menu.

 On the AF/M switch button I chose 3D.(as the primary setting)

 BBF gives me single point and activates AF

 PV button gives me 3D and activates AF

 FN1 button gives me group mode and activates AF

 The AF joystick center button gives me Auto area mode and activates AF.

  So there are four instant AF modes available.......but I haven't used dynamic modes.

  This gives you the opportunity to change focus points instantly at the press of a button "on the fly" without removing your eye from the VF and offers you "a spectator view in real time" not only the view of the subject, but of the effects of the changes of AF, and how well the used mode has coped with the situation. Add to that, that the position of the single focus or group mode continues from one button press to another without starting from scratch, the downside though is when lost you have reset the AF point from either the center button or from the AF joystick.


That is huge! and brilliantly conceived from Nikon.



 Auto area mode: I use that as the alternative to dynamic modes, it works on focusing on the nearest subject in the frame, which, with an erratic BIF,  means it finds the bird and locks on it, so once on it, you can go the group mode and continue to track it....etc.

 3D mode can be used in a similar fashion.


 But it's all horses for courses, and much won't apply itself to what you are shooting, there is so much to take in from your post I will have to read it several times to get the flow.


  To sum up, many are annoyed with the new changes, many never used dynamic AF, most use group for following action and others swear by 3D, I'm still on the fence with the latter, sometimes it works nicely others it just can't follow or even won't recognize you initial subject and see something next to what you want.


  I think the majority want to see a FW update to restore dynamic AF modes back to how they were on the D4/D750/D810, but as Nikon are not well known for uturns, I doubt we will see anything over and above stating that the system has been changed in the D5/D500,  others may well like these changes...there not for me...but there's so much there you can get round things by using  another mode! 


Your thoughts?

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