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05-22-2022, 12:51 AM - 1 Like   #1
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Advice for Wildlife Shooting

Hi guys, just took my K-3III + HD-DA55-300mm PLM to a walk and photographing on insects and birds.

I am a newbie in this aspect.

At first, the result is somehow disappointing.

Even for some insects standing still on the edge, the AFC system sometimes missed.

I switched to AFS, and then started seeing the difference.

The missed one here is AFC with Expanded Area (L)

The successful one here is AFS with Zone Select

I got home and watched Kobie's youtube explaining the K-3III AFC vs AFS, and begin to understand.

My understanding is that, if I want to shoot an object not moving or moving very very slowly, AFS can be much better option than AFC.

The AFC is ONLY specific for objects in motion.

Is that correct ? Any other advice ?

Thank you in advance !

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05-22-2022, 02:55 AM - 7 Likes   #2
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AF-C is continuous, so the slightest movement by the subject or you can change it. I do not have the same camera, but I only use AF-C for birds in flight or running animals, you have to anticipate that sometimes to be ready. I will also use multi point when using AF-C, never zone. I don’t have a reason for not using zone except a couple of failed attempts.

Dragonflies can be difficult, but with patience they will usually return to the same spot, and you can slowly get closer, then usually AF-S with center point, or AF-C with center point if the wind is blowing their perch enough.


Last edited by ramseybuckeye; 05-22-2022 at 03:31 AM.
05-22-2022, 04:04 AM - 3 Likes   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Hayashi Quote
My understanding is that, if I want to shoot an object not moving or moving very very slowly, AFS can be much better option than AFC.
AFC calculates the distance to the subject under the active AF point multiple times per second.
The measuring takes place under the AF point (exactly there) and it is based upon comparing lines of pixels.

So in AFC you as user can force the camera to miss the correct focus in two ways:

a) your aim at the subject is not perfect and the AF point wanders/swings over the subject. If your swinging around of the AF point ever let it wander to an situation where the distance to what lies behind the AF point is not your desired focus plane you dont get the desired results. Here let us assume you briefly point the AF point at something beside or behind the insect. The AF works absolutely correctly if it then focusses beside or behind the insect.
Keep in mind the measuring is done by comparing pixels. So even swaying 2 millimeters can have an impact.

b) your setting of allowed AF points lets the camera make some decisions automatically (area AF or similar). Chances are that the camera believes it shall use an AF point over a part of the frame that is not what you would want it to. If you really want to aim at a static insect which is small in the frame, selecting a single AF point yourself avoids this.

For the static insect scenario AFS + personally selected single AF point is the best way to go.

AFC is not always a bad choice for static subjects. For example shooting a human face portrait can work well with AFC + auto area (due to eye recognition).

People want AF to work for millions of scenarios and this does absolutely require the users today to make a list of specific settings ideal to a specific scenario.
So no, there can not be a single "best" setting for "wildlife". A sitting insect, a jumping horse and flying bird - they all require different settings. And ten different other scenarios probably need ten different settings.
05-22-2022, 04:13 AM - 3 Likes   #4
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What I have found over years of trying to capture both birds and dragon flies is that AF C and using a central set of focus detectors (cluster of the middle 9 on my K1) is best because you can never hold the camera static enough on moving subjects.

A Center spot is better for static when shooting through branches.

AFS requires the subject to be in focus when tripping the shutter and can lead to missed shots, I shoot AFC

05-22-2022, 04:15 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Hayashi Quote
Hi guys, just took my K-3III + HD-DA55-300mm PLM to a walk and photographing on insects and birds.
I am a newbie in this aspect.
At first, the result is somehow disappointing.
My understanding is that, if I want to shoot an object not moving or moving very very slowly, AFS can be much better option than AFC.
The AFC is ONLY specific for objects in motion.
Is that correct ? Any other advice ?
Thank you in advance !


I've got my K-3iii defaulting to AF-C 'spot' in my "birding" User Mode with AF-S 'spot' and AF-C 'small zone' set on my Smart Function wheel for quick access.
AF-C will cope with everything provided the camera is stable … if you're moving around even slightly, so's the camera picks up on a different point, the subject will be out of focus, unless you're lucky
If AF-S locks onto a static subject and you move the camera slightly, the subject will still be in focus even if it's not dead centre.
The red dragonfly pictures posted don't have the subject "dead centre" so I suspect the camera moved slightly.
So … other advice … practice, then practice some more
A monopod can be very helpful, especially one with a tilt head and lever release, so you can keep it retracted on the camera, (or al least have the QR plate affixed to the camera), assume your position, then just drop the monopod leg with a flick of the lever(s) and you're stable. My brother has great success with this procedure … my monopod doesn't have lever release (twist rings) so I struggle
Don't give up … it's not "easy", but modern cameras make it a lot easier than it used to be
05-22-2022, 04:58 AM - 2 Likes   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by ramseybuckeye Quote
AF-C is continuous, so the slightest movement by the subject or you can change it. I do not have the same camera, but I only use AF-C for birds in flight or running animals, you have to anticipate that sometimes to be ready. I will also use multi point when using AF-C, never zone. I don’t have a reason for not using zone except a couple of failed attempts.

Dragonflies can be difficult, but with patience they will usually return to the same spot, and you can slowly get closer, then usually AF-S with center point, or AF-C with center point if the wind is blowing their perch enough.

Thanks for the comment

The way I understood the Pentax AFC is just same as you.

I did the same with my K-3 and K-1, it just worked without problem.

But the K-3iii obviously is doing something else, according to Kobie's video


After using the K-3III + 55-300 PLM combo, I also feel the K-3III's AFC is not doing the same as the K-3 and K-1
05-22-2022, 05:29 AM - 2 Likes   #7
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I use AF.S. and the center focus point only for non moving subjects. With a 300mm lens the depth of field can be very small and lead to missing the focus point you would prefer especially on small subjects like a Dragonfly. Telephoto lens magnify everything including your mistakes.

05-22-2022, 05:39 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
What I have found over years of trying to capture both birds and dragon flies is that AF C and using a central set of focus detectors (cluster of the middle 9 on my K1) is best because you can never hold the camera static enough on moving subjects.

A Center spot is better for static when shooting through branches.

AFS requires the subject to be in focus when tripping the shutter and can lead to missed shots, I shoot AFC
Thanks for the advice

So you think AFC + 9 Zone is good for dragonfly, I will try next time

---------- Post added 05-22-22 at 06:42 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by beholder3 Quote
AFC calculates the distance to the subject under the active AF point multiple times per second.
The measuring takes place under the AF point (exactly there) and it is based upon comparing lines of pixels.

So in AFC you as user can force the camera to miss the correct focus in two ways:

a) your aim at the subject is not perfect and the AF point wanders/swings over the subject. If your swinging around of the AF point ever let it wander to an situation where the distance to what lies behind the AF point is not your desired focus plane you dont get the desired results. Here let us assume you briefly point the AF point at something beside or behind the insect. The AF works absolutely correctly if it then focusses beside or behind the insect.
Keep in mind the measuring is done by comparing pixels. So even swaying 2 millimeters can have an impact.

b) your setting of allowed AF points lets the camera make some decisions automatically (area AF or similar). Chances are that the camera believes it shall use an AF point over a part of the frame that is not what you would want it to. If you really want to aim at a static insect which is small in the frame, selecting a single AF point yourself avoids this.

For the static insect scenario AFS + personally selected single AF point is the best way to go.

AFC is not always a bad choice for static subjects. For example shooting a human face portrait can work well with AFC + auto area (due to eye recognition).

People want AF to work for millions of scenarios and this does absolutely require the users today to make a list of specific settings ideal to a specific scenario.
So no, there can not be a single "best" setting for "wildlife". A sitting insect, a jumping horse and flying bird - they all require different settings. And ten different other scenarios probably need ten different settings.
I see, thank you very much.

So for this dragonfly case, limiting the AF zone is good approach, because the object is small.

Am I correct ?
05-22-2022, 05:51 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Hayashi Quote

I see, thank you very much.

So for this dragonfly case, limiting the AF zone is good approach, because the object is small.

Am I correct ?
Yes, for this static scenario, do not use a zone, but use a single AF point, if you can keep the AF point steady on the area, where you want the focus plane.
05-22-2022, 04:44 PM   #10
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Using single point "Spot" AF Area may give you the focus on the specific center point of what you are focusing on. Using AF.C (continuous AF) is fine. That is what I use when I shoot birds in flight and it is effective in most cases.
05-22-2022, 08:34 PM   #11
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Thanks for this thread, friends. I'll see how can I apply this to my K-70 and K10D in my next nature outing..
05-22-2022, 10:52 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by C_Jones Quote
Using single point "Spot" AF Area may give you the focus on the specific center point of what you are focusing on. Using AF.C (continuous AF) is fine. That is what I use when I shoot birds in flight and it is effective in most cases.
I owned a Sony RX-100VI, tried to use it to shoot birds before, also had a similar issue: it struggled to focus on a standing bird with AFC.

Wonder how the AFC + all area works on Sony mirrorless system.

Is it similar to the K-3III, better to use limited zone or spot area for a stationary bird ?

---------- Post added 05-22-22 at 11:54 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by j0n4hpk Quote
Thanks for this thread, friends. I'll see how can I apply this to my K-70 and K10D in my next nature outing..
Not sure about the K-70 and K-10D

I'm only referring to K-3III, it is different from previous Pentax cameras in some ways
05-23-2022, 06:54 AM - 3 Likes   #13
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If you rely on AF-C (instead of switching back and forth from AF.S and AF.C) then I would suggest AF.C SEL-EX S. This will allow the camera to use the center point AF for initial focus and track from there. Or use AF.C SEL AF (only uses a 5 point array in the center of the viewfinder). For shooting static subjects but you want AF.C in case they move, I would use my first suggestion of SEL-EX S.
05-23-2022, 07:35 AM   #14
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I always use AF-S (also with the 55-300 PLM) with everything else based on spot (AF point / light metering, etc.). Focus again and again with shutter release button. In my experience this gives the best results, also with birds. Aperture at F8 (best resolution), but higher ISO (1600 / 3200) to get the shutter speed as short as possible (given the amount of light). Take several photos and then get a sharp one in between.
05-23-2022, 08:28 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Hayashi Quote
I owned a Sony RX-100VI, tried to use it to shoot birds before, also had a similar issue: it struggled to focus on a standing bird with AFC.

Wonder how the AFC + all area works on Sony mirrorless system.

Is it similar to the K-3III, better to use limited zone or spot area for a stationary bird ?

---------- Post added 05-22-22 at 11:54 PM ----------



Not sure about the K-70 and K-10D

I'm only referring to K-3III, it is different from previous Pentax cameras in some ways
I've always used AFS for relatively non-moving subjects, and very successfully. Using AFC for a standing person or bird has never been as consistent, and way too much focus racking with no benefit. Focus, shutter in the time it takes to read those two words and you'll have far sharper images. Hesitate for more than a second with a live subject and you need to refocus. BackButton is highly recommended
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