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Nikon D600/800 and Focus Points


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Shun Cheung , Oct 17, 2012; 10:56 a.m.

I shot the D600 almost a week ago and was surprised at how small the array of focal points seemed--and how they took up so little of the viewfinder. That was not what I was expecting.

In photo.net's D600 First-Impression Review: http://photo.net/reviews/nikon/d600-first-impressions-review
I have an image showing the D600's AF point coverage. That issue is not a secret. Back when the D3 was introduced, I always feel that even the Multi-CAM 3500's 51 AF points are too concentrated in the center of the FX frame. The D600 is unfortunately one further step in the wrong direction.

Now that I have used the D600 for a few weeks, I can deal with its AF system. Like the D7000 that uses the same AF system, AF speed and accuracy are both quite good, but those 39 AF points do not cover the FX frame all that well.

"Focus and recompose" may work for static subjects. For action photography, there is simply no time to recompose. That is why AF points that cover more towards the edges of the frame, especially cross type ones, is important. Otherwise, we have no choice but keep the subject in the center of the frame, leading to poor compositions that require more cropping on the computer.

Andrew Garrard , Oct 17, 2012; 02:15 p.m.

It's at this point that we probably look a little enviously at the 5D3, which has a better spread of cross-type autofocus points. (Or the Eos 3 - eye control! I'm still tempted to get one for comedy value.) Still, those systems can't reach to the edges of the frame either.

M├Ątt Donuts , Oct 17, 2012; 03:00 p.m.

The one good sensor in the middle is commonly referred to as the black hole sensor of death. Nicknamed, because there is no escaping it... if you tried you'd regret it and be sucked back to it. I've used a camera with a black hole sensor of death for about 6 years, until a few months ago got the D800. It's a relief, as I found the black hole sensor of death often limiting with people and tight apertures, children often look at you for 1/2 sec even if you're waiting for it I was often too late by the time I recomposed and then they'd run off. With very tight apertures I'd focus on the eye and recompose and either I or my subject would shift and then I'd get the nose or some such in focus and the eyes blurry. But, there wasn't much I could do the other sensors were awful. The side sensors of the D800 are fantastic, I probably use the side sensors more than the center now. Mainly because I like to shoot portraits vertical style and the eyes/face tend to be on the right side (when turned).

The focus system is better on the D800 but depends on what you shoot. Moving subjects, yes and the points extend further towards the edges of the D800 than the D600. As it is now I'm frequently using the utmost furthest sensors of the D800 for focus on my portraits... if using the D600 I think I'd have to focus and recompose more often because the sensors don't extend out as far. The D800 also has face detection in the viewfinder which, when I photograph children makes a big difference... if they look at me for 1/2 sec with face detection on I find it locks on their face and gets the little buggers... finally there's no escape for them :) My success capturing children now is much more because of the face detection in the viewfinder of the D800 (which I think is the only camera with it). But back when I thought my focus would be landscapes there's nothing about the D800 autofocus that I would've cared about vs. the D600.

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