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5DMkIV AF Settings for Swim Meets

eagoergens
Apprentice

I have been shooting indoor high school swim meets for 6-ish years with a 70-200 f:/2.8L IS on a 7d (using AI Servo). The 7D has provided very good hit rates, with two exception; low-light capability, and sometimes focusing on water splashes in front of the swimmer's face. 

I recently (two days ago) acquired a 5dMkIV and decided to get serious about understanding AF. 

1. After reading the first 160 pages of the manual, it appears my best bet for swimming is AI Servo, Case 2?

2. I can't decide which AF Area to use. I always used Single Point, but after reading the manual, am undecided. Everything from Zone, Large Zone to Automatic look like good possibilities.

3. Then I read about iTR with Face Priority and they all look even better.

Does anyone have significant experience with using the MkIV for swim meets and an opinion? Thanks!

 

21 REPLIES 21

CapeCodDan
Enthusiast

Shooting first meet of the season yesterday, 6DMkII often got the water splashes in front of the backstroking or freestyling swimmers sharp. I was using AI Servo w center spot AF, 70-200, AV.  This (cropped) image is ISO 8000, 1/1000 at f3.5.  Reading this post, I guess... it's gonna happen sometimes...no magic wand for this? IMG_5854.jpg

Nice shot,very nice!  Smiley Happy

 

"This (cropped) image is ISO 8000, 1/1000 at f3.5."

I wonder if ISO 8000, 1/500 and f5.6 would have increased the DOF a bit? But it is a cool shot as is.  Good job.

 

EB
EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and less lenses then before!


@CapeCodDan wrote:

Shooting first meet of the season yesterday, 6DMkII often got the water splashes in front of the backstroking or freestyling swimmers sharp. I was using AI Servo w center spot AF, 70-200, AV.  This (cropped) image is ISO 8000, 1/1000 at f3.5.  Reading this post, I guess... it's gonna happen sometimes...no magic wand for this? 


Nice shot.  This shows you what the camera is capable of doing.  But I think you may need to adjust your AF settings, too.

There are no magic wands for this.  It takes familiarity with the features of the camera, and some practice.  I agree with using AI Servo.  Does that mean you used also Continuous Drive shooting mode?  I agree with using the center AF point.  Does that mean you did NOT have any AF Assist points active?


The AF tracking system used in the 6D2 is nearly identical to that in the 7D2.  The primary difference is that the 7D2 can store six “Case Settings”, which are nothing more than presets for a few of the most critical AF settings that influence tracking behavior.  The AF settings allow you to set the camera to briefly ignore something that comes between your subject and the camera.  It will automatically pause tracking for a beat.

 

But, those AF tracking settings do not come into play until you activate some AF Assist points.  Using just the center AF point only allows for focus tracking.  It does not allow for tracking of moving subjects.  You need to learn how to activate AF tracking.  to activate AF tracking of a subject, then you need to use more than just the center AF point.  This was pointed out by someone in an earlier post on this thread regarding iTR facial tracking.

 

Your sample photo is a textbook example of the scenario that I described in my first post in this thread.  The camera is focusing on whatever is under the active AF point.  This behavior can be used to your advantage when tracking birds in flight, because more times than not, the closest subject under your active AF point is the BIF.

 

But, you have objects coming between your subject and the camera.  You need to track a subject, which the camera can do very well.  I suggest activating the Center Zone of AF points to be used as AF Assist points, but keep the center AF point as your manually selected starting point for AF tracking.  You may also want to activate the AF points display, so that you can watch the AF tracking in real time.

 

If you are not using Continuous Drive shooting mode, then I suggest that you do.  Not every captured frame will be a keeper.  But, if you had it going when you took your sample photo, then a later shot in the sequence would have been what you are looking for, a shot of the swimmer without water blocking the view and confusing the AF system.

As you experiment with AF settings, save them in a custom shooting mode.  When I am shooting action photography, I am using a custom shooting mode that I created.  I advise disabling the automatic update feature of a custom shooting mode, so that you do not lose what your settings when you are not shooting swimmers.  

 

If I want to do landscape photography, I can switch to M, and have One Shot AF mode and Single Shot drive mode.  If I want to shoot a bird in a tree, hidden among the branches, I switch to C1 custom shooting mode, which activates BBF with One Shot AF and Single Shot drive.  I use C2 to activate all AF points and Continuous drive mode for action photography.  This is what works for me.  You may want to use custom shooting modes differently, or even not at all.

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"The right mouse button is your friend."

@Waddizzle, thanks for the very thorough response!  Yes I use high-speed continuous drive mode.

 

Swimming is a bit of a focusing challenge because you can’t continuously track the athlete moving toward you (as in basketball, soccer, football, etc) - because they are disappearing into the water, in fact there’s only brief moments when their heads are out of the water. I still used AI Servo figuring I could get two or three frames in each burst and keep them sharp.  I chose single-point AF figuring I can always keep their faces centered under the focus point, with the system (hopefully) disregarding the splashing water surrounding. I frame a bit loosely to, again, be able to later crop for good composition even though the face is in the center of the frame.

 

I do have my C.Fn II-1 moved to “locked on: -1” to better stay focused on the subject. I also have C.Fn II-5 moved to “shooting speed priority”.

 

I’m a bit confused about your use of “AF Assist” since that term is used in the manual only in reference to speedlites.   What I think you’re suggesting is to use zone AF instead of single-point AF, as that will better track the athlete as he/she moves?


@CapeCodDan wrote:

@Waddizzle, thanks for the very thorough response!  Yes I use high-speed continuous drive mode.

 

Swimming is a bit of a focusing challenge because you can’t continuously track the athlete moving toward you (as in basketball, soccer, football, etc) - because they are disappearing into the water, in fact there’s only brief moments when their heads are out of the water. I still used AI Servo figuring I could get two or three frames in each burst and keep them sharp.  I chose single-point AF figuring I can always keep their faces centered under the focus point, with the system (hopefully) disregarding the splashing water surrounding. I frame a bit loosely to, again, be able to later crop for good composition even though the face is in the center of the frame.

 

I do have my C.Fn II-1 moved to “locked on: -1” to better stay focused on the subject. I also have C.Fn II-5 moved to “shooting speed priority”.

 

I’m a bit confused about your use of “AF Assist” since that term is used in the manual only in reference to speedlites.   What I think you’re suggesting is to use zone AF instead of single-point AF, as that will better track the athlete as he/she moves?


I just realized that you are not the OP of this thread.

Any shooting situation presents its’ own focusing challenge.  Just because it might seem difficult does not mean that it is impossible.  If you are using only the center AF point, then I will have to agree with you and say focusing on a swimmer is impossible.  I have already explained this, as have others.  

 

When only a single AF point is enabled, the camera can only perform focus tracking of the nearest subject to the camera.  Your sample photo is textbook proof of it. For action photography, you want the camera to track your subjects, and the only way the camera can track subjects is to enable multiple AF points.

I suggest that you download the AF Guides at the links that I posted earlier in this thread.  They explain what AF Assist points are.  There are various AF point selection modes.  Zone AF is something different.  AF assist points are the 4/8 AF points that surround your selected AF point.  If you cycle through the AF point selection modes in the camera, the difference will become immediately apparent.

 

Using AF Assist points is akin to having an enlarged AF point.  As you move the camera to track your subject, if your center AF point slips off of the subject, then one of the surrounding AF points can take the lead role in maintaining focus.  In AF Assist point mode, the camera can “track” a subject, but it is still focus tracking, not true subject tracking.  For subject tracking you need to enable one of the 3 AF zones, or all AF points in all of the zones at once..

 

The 6D2 does not have iTR tracking, which is actually most useful in video modes.  Your camera can track colors, which is enabled by default.  I hate to beat a dead horse, but I must.  You must enable Zone AF in order to enable the camera to track colors of a subject.  Using just a single AF point will result in the camera always focusing on the closest subjec to the camera, like splashing water.

As for the C.Fn.II settings, I would refer you to the AF Guides.  The first 5 settings are what control how the camera will track moving subjects.  Camera bodies llike the 7D2 give you the option to save the first 3 settings in a preset called an “AF Case”.  Take a look at these.  AF Case 2 is optimized to “continue to track subjects, ignoring possible obstacles.”  

 

Download the manual to see an explanation of the settings are set the way they are.  Keep setting 1 where you have it.  Adjust settings 2 and 3 to “0”. The settings interact with one another.  This combination should make the camera pause tracking for a beat. It tries to allow time for the obstacle between you and the subject to go away.

As for C.Fn.II settings 4 & 5, I suggest the exact opposite of wha though have selected.  You have selected “shutter priority”, which means the camera will not wait for a focus lock before firing the shutter.  I recommend setting both 4 and 5 to “focus priority”.  Using “focus priority” might slow down the frame rate, at least in theory.  Most lenses are fast enough that the difference is negligible.  I would rather have a burst of 5-10 shots in focus, than 5-10 shots and only have 1-3 shots in focus, if any.

 

It is also possible to force the camera to stop AF on the fly by reprogramming the [AF ON] button to function as AF-OFF.  This is especially useful when multiple obstacles may come between you and the subject for extended periods.

 

I know this may sound like a lot, and it is.  This is why it takes practice and some experimenting with settings.  What might work for one person may not work as well for you.  The AF Case settings are defaults created by Canon engineers. Like I said above, I save action photography settings as a custom shooting mode.  There are more than the three AF settings that I want to change for action photography compared to landscape photography.

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"The right mouse button is your friend."

I suppose it's a matter of what you're after. Artistically, one could argue that having the splashes in focus may be preferable to having the swimmer herself in focus, especially when (as in this case) the foam tends to obscure the swimmer anyway. But I can well understand that as a sports or event photographer, you may not see it exactly that way.  Smiley Wink

 

I'm a little puzzled by the magenta blotches in the left half of the frame. Are they genuine reflections or some sort of artifact? My experience is that that color doesn't appear in nature very often.

Bob
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA


@RobertTheFat wrote:

 

I'm a little puzzled by the magenta blotches in the left half of the frame. Are they genuine reflections or some sort of artifact? My experience is that that color doesn't appear in nature very often.


It looks more red than magenta on my screens.  I never gave it a second thought.  It could be a scoreboard.

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"The right mouse button is your friend."

Yeah, red scoreboard lights reflecting in the water!

"...red scoreboard lights reflecting in the water!"

 

No problem for Photoshop.  What post editor do you use, BTW?

 

What I was referring to was a possible deeper DOF would have sharpened up the face a bit.

EB
EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and less lenses then before!

I use Photoshop CC. Certainly DOF with 5.6 or smaller might have gotten the face better, but at the expense of movement which could have blurred the face right back! Not a huge deal with someone moving toward or away from you, but a big deal with subject moving across the frame of course. I'm depending on the camera getting the face sharp. I seem to recall a time when I had to manually focus every shot...😝
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