It was time again for another Nikon DF post and in this post I will cover some aspects of focus on the Nikon DF and DF accessories and notes.
I wanted to say a few things upfront. I don’t make money off this blog and am not writing it for profit. I may have pictures and links to products, but have no relationship with the vendors or the product vendors.
First up the Nikon DK-17 Magnifying Eyepiece. (Picture Below)
This little gem is pretty nice in relieving eye strain for those of you that are getting older like me! It gives you a 1.25x bump over the normal view. I had read elsewhere that this reduces the viewfinder coverage, however, I have not seen a reduction in my limited use so far. It quickly twists on to your existing viewfinder and you then adjust the camera’s diopter adjustment to set it for your eyesight. The relief it provides is nice and improves ones ability to visually see focus. Nice aide for use with manual focus lenses!
Speaking of Autofocus! One of the claimed weakness’s of the DF and its 39 point AF system is the inability to focus in low difficult light situations. The DF and D4 actually dont have AF Assist Lights on the cameras which is rather strange given their sensors are really well suited to low light work. I actually experienced this issue myself recently when shooting a landscape in the early morning of this creek!
The focus point in this photo is in the bottom left and actually not in the picture, its the bank on the left side. Very low light low contrast. After about 4 tries I got it to focus and then re-framed the composition and shot. As a side note in case your wondering why my focus point isn’t even in the picture, its just a technique I use to get near hyper focal distance focus for large depth of fields which is done by picking a point between 25 & 28 percent of the way into the total depth I want, which usually extends to infinity.
Speaking of Hyperfocal Distances, here are two great links to help you learn more about the technique I mentioned.
The first link covers understanding Hyperfocal Distance.
The second is to an Online Calculator that allows you to put in your lenses focal length and the F/Stop your going to use and show you the near focus and far focus points or IE range of the zone which will be in focus.
This can get cumbersome in the field to calculate so a way to perform this more or less visually and get close is to look at your total range you want in focus and spot meter a point about 25%-28% into the total field of view (from your Feet to Infinity) and then recompose your shot with the shutter release half down holding that focus and complete your photo. You’ll get better results as you stop down from say F5 to a range between F8 to F13 depending on the camera, diffraction (breakdown due to stopping down too much where the detail you capture exceeds your optics and sensors ability to render it) and the overall depth of the total field of capture. You can learn more about diffraction here. http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/diffraction-photography.htm
This is a tricky subject, so the best way to learn it is to go out into the field with your camera and experiment so you can see the results yourself, by plugging in various settings and seeing how the near and far focus range changes as you stop down ( increase F-Stop).
To try this first hand, go to a place where you can change your focus broadly. A field or some landscape with near and far focus points. Your going to Spot Meter so set your camera autofocus accordingly and start by setting your camera to F8, say ISO 400 so you dont have to worry about handholding your lens or 2X the focal length you are using and the start a series of 10 photos and progressively move where you focus from 10% into the field! Then 20%, 30, ect. You can then play with F10, 11 ect.
You just need to test and know your lens and then you can max performance on landscapes.
Usually about 25-30% is where I spot meter my focus, keep the release half down and recompose my shot and fire. If you have high dynamic range you can meter on the brighter light source using the AE button, keep it down, meter your focus keep it half down, recompose and shoot.
Once you return to your computer and review your images you’ll note how focus changes as you change where you meter and stop down.
After playing with a calculator and spreadsheet and graphing the results I noticed that somewhere at about 25-28% into the total field of view at around F8 to F11 you’ll achieve NEAR hyperfocal distance and so by setting the camera up that way and metering in that zone, taking a few shots at F8 through F13 I usually get the one I want.
Make no mistake, if you must nail it and have one chance, then using the DOF calculator is best. Even then though you’ll be left in many cases to visually estimate where the distance is, especially if that point of focus is somewhere off off a cliff like the picture below or in water.
Here is one I did many years ago using a Fuji S5 and it is composed of three shots stitched together.
Learning these basics if you do not know them already can dramatically change the quality of focus in your images. And remember, just as I like to have lots in focus, when your learning about all this, you can also learn how to create selective focus with shallow depth of fields and blurring out backgrounds ect like the picture below.
Lets move on to a Focus Assist option for the Nikon DF and D4.
Pictured below is a pair of Yongnuo Wireless I-TTL Flash Triggers and it so happens that they also have an AF Assit light on them that I read is rated to over 100 feet. The pair runs about $80 and I will only use one on my DF for low light focus. In some informal testing inside shooting dark corners beneath desks, ect I can report that its awesome!
They project a multi-pronged red light pattern that your camera can use to focus on! This is a fast flash of red light, larger than a regular AF Assist on regular cameras that your DF AF system can use to lock focus!
They use 2 AA batteries and attach to your flash shoe on your DF. It will be more or less flush with the back of your DF and stick over the front NIKON log about 1/2 inch. Not something you want to leave on your camera full time, but small enough to carry in your bag and attach when you get in low light.
This unit would probably not be one you would want to use for a wedding as it would paint a maltese cross pattern on the wedding parties and be very noticeable. If discrete is your goal, this is not discrete!
And since we are on the topic of Focus on the DF I will cover one more area, using LiveView to improve focus!
Early this morning I made my usual lake run pass checking for Heron. The light was really nice when i headed out the door but rapidly went overcast as I arrived at a spot to look for Heron. I did spot one in the lakes creek end and setup the tripod and Sigma 50-500 on the DF. I screwed on the DK-17 to give it a try, however, while it improved eye relief, the Heron even at 500mm of zoom as you’ll see in the picture that follows was not really big enough in the view finder to acquire critical focus. Making a few pictures using the DF’s autofocus showed on the rear LCD screen that focus was just not quite right!
No worries, this is where Liveview can come to the rescue!
Clicking on Live view will lift your mirror and let you use the multi selector direction buttons to zoom in on the subject. Keep in mind now that I am on a tripod so the camera is pretty stable except for when I am touching it to zoom in. You’ll wiggle your way to getting way zoomed in the the head or eye of the subject you want in focus and here is what you do next! Turn off Autofocus on the front of the camera and manually focus your lens to get as good a focus as you can get on live view. It helps to play a little around the center point and note how much play you feel as you turn on either side of focus. Do that a few times and then center it!
Making sure your camera is in Mirror Lock Up mode you can now take the photo by pressing the fire button and then the camera will settle down from your touch and take the picture after 30 seconds. Hopefully your subject hasn’t moved!
Here is a crop of the Herons head at 700% in Photoshop!
Not too shabby for low light and 500 mm at the long end of an average lens!
Just for fun since I have been curious about up-scaling DF images to D810 size, I ran PerfectSize on this image and scaled it up t0 7200 x 4700.
Here is your new 700% Crop, I think it did a great job!
For fun while not entirely apples to apples, we can compare it to a 600% magnified view from a D810 below from a previous post (Shooting the D810).
As you can see, you can do wonders with the Nikon DF and if your willing to do a little work you can get great results!
I’m going to slip in one more quick accessory, good for any camera really!
Its the Domke F-34L 19-Inch Protective Wrap and its a simple padded towel that you can wrap your camera in for travel. It has a nice velcro system that allows you to tightly wrap and pad your camera so it doesn’t get nicked up when traveling with other gear.
Well that concludes my various focus discussions on the Nikon DF for this post!
I hope you find this information useful and I will provide another update on how I like these accessories along with the AR-11 Soft Release Button in a future post!