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08-12-2016, 06:57 AM   #1
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Newbie, when to use AF-S and AF-C, spot and multi point, Help, please!

After being registered on this site for just about a week, I have learnt more than being on 3 separate digital photography courses ( where I have been the only person with a Pentax) I have a K5 iis and have just had a DA 18-135 delivered and am waiting for a DA 55-300 to replace my "walk around" Sigma 18-200
I take quite a lot of shots of animals, especially horses and horse related sports. There seems to be some contradictory advice about using AF-C or AF-S, for example;

"... seldom go for AF-C unless you want to track the action; not only that, if you wait for the "hand" to come up before tripping the shutter, you will get higher percentage of in-focus shots. "


"Yes, I used to use centre spot AF in AF-S on my K-7, because AF-C didn't work very well, and automatically set the K-5 in the same way, but was getting heaps of out-of-focus captures, so I actually found the complete opposite to this worked brilliantly on my K-5, AF-C, 11 point multi mode, 7fps , followed action amazingly well at a surf comp recently "

I've also been told AF-C can use more battery as it's searching for focus?

As well as being confused about which focus mode to use, I'm unsure of when to use spot focus and when multi point focus?

Also seen this recommended;

For sport or moving animals, I like to use 5 point AFS and hi speed continuous shooting"
"Spot focus, TAV mode aperture around 5.6 and shutter speed 1/500th ISO set to auto 100-3200"

(I've only just discovered how the TAV mode works, after searching this site, and will be trying that out soon )

then there's this;

"I think AFC is ideal for sport and OVF gives better real time framing"

See why I'm confused?
Basically, I would like to have opinions on what focus modes to use for action shots, bearing in mind I'm not too familiar with abbreviations ( I had to look up OVF AND fps) and am something of a

Sorry for the rambling , and any advice gratefully received!

08-12-2016, 07:49 AM   #2

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Don't forget there is always more than one way to skin a cat and how you work is as much a personal preference as anything.
AF-S will lock focus on a particular distance when you half press and then hold it until you fully press the shutter.
AF-C will continually change the focus while you half press, focusing (or trying) on whatever is in the focus area, until you press the shutter. This is usually better for moving subjects, as long as you can keep the subject in the focus area. Another option with moving subjects is to lock focus on a spot, then wait for your subject to enter.
The various focus point options change where in the frame the camera will try to focus, either on one spot, or by choosing its best guess on a spot to choose.

The best way to find out how these things work is to try them out for a while. Don't be won't break anything.
08-12-2016, 08:24 AM - 1 Like   #3
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I almost always use AF-C along with 'back button focusing'. That way when I lock in the focus I can stop focusing and press the shutter in a result similar to AF-S (maybe even with some focus recomposition), but if I am tracking a bird flying then I can continue to press back button focus for AF-C of the bird in flight.

I mainly use spot focusing when there is a stationary subject with a single point of focus (persons eyeball for example). I use multi points when there is a moving object that I'm trying to track like a bird in flight. Spot focus is handy when there is like a bird in a tree and I don't want to focus on the nearby branches. Spot focus will focus only on the bird, while multi points might catch the damn branch.
08-12-2016, 08:31 AM   #4
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... thanks guys.. so... if I'm panning, on a moving horse for example, would it be best to use AF-C?

08-12-2016, 08:45 AM   #5
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I'm going to say yes.
But it also matters how far away you are from the horses.
If you are beyond the focusing distance of your lens and shooting at infinity focus the AF-C isn't really going to help you.
If you are shooting movement up close and at far then AF-C will be very helpful.

I think you should look into 'back button focusing'.

Here's how to set it up on a K-S2 at the 58 minute mark. It would be similar with the K-5ii
08-12-2016, 08:57 AM   #6

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If I was going to watch some horses and was planning on taking some shots with my K-5IIS, I would most likely use the following as basic settings: AF mode "AF.C", AF point "Spot", TAV mode, Drive mode "Single Frame", F Stop between 8 - 13 depending on light available, Shutter Speed 400-800 depending on how fast the horses are moving, and in the Continuous mode Custom settings of the camera "C 3" menu select the "FPS-priority" which means "Takes pictures giving priority to the shooting speed during Continuous Shooting". If you have a lens that does well with less than an F8 setting (ex. between F2-F7) depending on how much depth of field you want, you could utilize that. I personally do not find "back button" focusing as an advantage over the actual shutter button, though other users may. I use 1000-1250 shutter speed usually when I shoot birds in flight, so if you find you need to cover a moderately quick subject, those settings may be of help.

When you locate yourself prior to shooting, you may want to be where you can view the subject while it has the most light upon it rather than low light. That way you will have a plain view.

Last edited by C_Jones; 08-12-2016 at 09:04 AM.
08-12-2016, 08:58 AM   #7
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I'll add to the back button focusing suggestion. Set it to afs, find focus and let it go.

Spot and group focus depends on what you are shooting. Find what works, and if you need both learn to switch on the fly.
08-12-2016, 09:09 AM   #8
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You're looking at people's opinions. They're going to differ.

And it's going to change based on what you're shooting. If the horses are doing jumps, you'll get your best results just prefocusing on the place they're jumping and do high speed continuous mode during the jump. Ditto for things like motorcycle racers banking on curves. If they're far enough away that their relative speed is something that AFC can keep up with, or you don't have a predefined location you want to capture the image at, then AFC is your best bet, and what settings you use are going to depend on the situation.

I know, that's super helpful. But there's no single right answer.

08-12-2016, 09:36 AM   #9
Brooke Meyer

I've been photographing dancers for so long, manual exposure and back button AF is the only way I know how to shoot. Have about 250K on my pair of K5IIs bodies, had about the same on their k-5 predecessors. Treat k3II same way. Stage Light #8

I keep things simple.
First is manual exposure and it isn't that hard to learn.
Second, shoot DNG's so all the JPEG correction stuff doesn't slow down captures.
Third, I use single center point for focus and track with the rear AF button. Been using more AF-C lately with SR turned off when shutter speeds are up.

Speaking of horses: Managing Client Behavior , Show Clients in The Best Light

And Dogs: Portraits of A Photographers Week So Far

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