Saturday, September 28, 2013

Speed and accuracy of a Nikon D4 for capturing fast paced lifestyle

In my last post I discussed the importance of speed and accuracy of focus in a pro camera like the Nikon D4 for capturing fast moving sports, particularly when the action is moving directly towards the camera. Today I want to illustrate a similar need but on a less obvious subject, a lifestyle situation. At first glance it might not seem like the sports and lifestyle situations are comparable, but consider that the concept behind the lifestyle situation was to create a spontaneous burst of fun energy with all the models laughing and moving at the same time. Just like the swimmer scene from the last post, the action is coming rapidly towards the camera.

The models were given a signal to burst out in laughter, and when they did their bodies would rock rapidly forward. To compound the problem, the lens, a Nikon 85mm f/1.4, was set to its maximum opening of 1.4 leaving very little room for error at the distance of only a few feet. The tolerance at that aperture and distance is only a scarcely a few millimeters. The camera motor was set to 9 fps meaning it had to change and refocus every 1/9th of a second. As I always do when shooting lifestyle, I put the focus point on a models eye. In this scene it was placed on the eye of the girl in the middle of the frame.

The whole trick to a scene like this is to make it full of energy that looks spontaneous and real. What appears to be a simple grab shot is a staged scene that was repeated over and over until we were sure we had it. The attitude of the models had to be right and the camera had to freeze the action and deliver a pin-point focus. Making this situation even tougher I placed a 1000 watt tungsten lamp behind the models and had it shining directly into the camera lens to create a flare. A strong back light, such as this, is going to substantially reduce the contrast in the foreground scene making it even more difficult for the camera lens to grab focus.

Shooting situations like this and the one from my last post illustrates the importance of matching the right camera to the job, and why for a job like this I choose a Nikon D4 and Nikon lenses. Very few cameras can deliver such a consistently spot-on performance.


  1. How can you compare D4 autofocus speed and accuracy with D800 and D600. D4 is a top Nikon camera for highspeed capturing, but if not speaking about framerate how can you evaluate D800, D600 and maybe top range DX camera like D7100 in comparison.

  2. The D4 is the top camera for speed and accuracy of focus of any camera I have ever used. That said, the D800 and D600 are also excellent. However, their frame rates are much lower so it is not quite fair to compare them to a D4. A D4 operating at 9fps must reassess and change its focus once every 1/9th of a second. A D800 only operates at 6fps, and a D600 at 5.5fps. Their slower rate allows for more time to make any necessary focus corrections, and consequently their return of correctly focused images is very high.

    I haven't done extensive testing of the newer D7100, but the D7000 was very good. One of my main reasons for choosing Nikon cameras has been their ability to deliver fast, accurate focusing under the most difficult circumstances.