It's been more than five years since I wrote this article (in Spanish) on autofocus and although in many areas the innovation of DSLR’s has slowed down since, autofocus systems are still making unimagined jumps. I don’t know if this is because we have lost our sense of awe about innovation or because the big camera makers keep devoting considerable resources to AF, but the advances in this area are probably among the most significant in modern DSLR camera development. If only five years ago we were talking about a second-generation system (Multi-CAM 1000), the latest Nikon models already use fourth generation systems that are considerably faster, more versatile and accurate.
In this article we review the 51-point system, which was introduced in late 2007 with the Nikon D3, D300 and the evolved version of which is used in the D7100, D750, D810 and D4S (Advanced Multi-CAM 3500). Cameras such as the D5300 and D610, among others, come with the Multi-CAM 4800 39-point system. Apart from having 12 fewer focus points and the fact that its implementation is slightly less sophisticated in the D5300 –where all modes must be set in the menu– , the two systems are virtually identical in technical terms. Although the step-in models are still using Multi-CAM 1000, this system has also evolved in comparison with 5 years ago. Today, its implementation and management is very similar to the more expensive cameras, even though without the convenience of being able to control the AF modes via the command dials. Still, for the so-called “Baby Nikons” the jump from the 3 focus points available on the D40 to the 11 points in the latest generations can also be considered as a tremendous improvement in operability.
Note that all references to menus are from the D7100 manual. That said, the terms used are universal for all Nikons since the D3, D300, D3000, D5000 and D7000.
AF mode selector: Nikon D3X and earlier, Nikon D90 and later (R)
Fill-in flash is useful in many situations, even if we only have the built-in flash at hand. Even though an external flash offers a wide range of additional options and is recommended to achieve more professional results, the built-in flash is useful in many situations and can be slightly more versatile if we either make or buy an accessory called flash diffuser, which has the objective to soften its generally harsh light.
What is fill-in flash?
Regardless of whether we are using the built-in flash or an external flash, fill-in flash aims to achieve proper lighting of our main subject, be that a person, a group of people or any other subject we want to emphasize over the environment, ideally in situations where there is a reasonable separation between the main subject and the background. Although most people believe that flash is only used in low light situations, fill-in flash is useful in almost any daylight situation where we alternatively need to reduce the EV range of shot – like when the subject is back lit –, when we want to illuminate a subject that would be otherwise underexposed or poorly lit – when in the shade, for example – or when we wish to emphasize our main subject and at the same time reduce the brightness of the background which, typically, but not always, involves raising flash compensation (FEC).
The latest update of the Adobe Camera RAW plug-in and DNG converter – v.8.6 – supports all current and recent new Nikon cameras, including the D810. The mentioned models are supported since: Nikon Df, D610 and D5300: ACR/DNG v.8.3 Nikon D4S and D3300: ACR/DNG v.8.4 Nikon D810: ACR/DNG v.8.6 If you own a Nikon that was supported in previous versions of ACR/DNG Converter, and have not yet updated, there is no need to look for that particular version of the plug-in. Just get the lastest version, instead.
Keep in mind that ACR v.8.x is only compatible with Photoshop CS6 and Creative Cloud, and that installing the plug-in in previous versions of the program will inevitably cause problems in your install. If you don't own or are subscribed to a recent version of Photoshop (LightRoom, Elements), I can recommend the new and free Nikon Capture NX-D software, which does an outstanding job at converting your NEF files and is, in my humble opinion, a far better alternative than the Adobe DNG Converter. To download the ACR/DNG Converter package for Windows (7, 8 and 8.1) click here, to download the version for Mac (OS-X 10.7, 10.9) click here
D4S highlights: Sensor: FX format (36x23.9mm) 16.2 Mp. CMOS. Processing engine: Expeed-4. File formats: NEF 12 and 14 bit RAW (compressed, uncompressed), RAW + JPG, S-RAW (small size RAW - 2464x1640 px., 4 Mb. NEW), TIFF, JPG ISO standard: 100-25.600, expandible to 409.600 (Hi-4) + Lo-1 (50 ISO) Shooting speed: up to 10/11 fps. Video: full HD 1080p at 60/50/30/25/24p Monitor: 3.2 inch (81 mm), 910K dots. Compatible lenses: AF-S, AF-I, AF, AI-P (MF). Meters with non-CPU (AI-S, AI) manual focus lenses. SRP: U$ 6.499,95
D4S vs. D4 comparison: PDF For more information, click here (Nikon USA). For the user manual, click here (EN, ES)
Godox Witstro AD-180 with ProPac external battery pack
Maybe you have been wondering if a branded flash is giving you the best bang for the buck. Or maybe you need more illuminating power when on location, without dragging around studio strobes, heavy power inverters and bags of extension cables; that is, if you have access to a wall outlet at all... In come the Godox Witstro portable bare-tube flashes.
The Witstros are hot-shoe flashes that give you studio-strobe akin flash power in a package that is only slightly heavier than the Nikon SB-910 – not including the external PowerPac or optional accessories – and generate roughly six (AD-180) to nine times (AD-360) the flash output at a comparable price. That is without even considering that open tube has another important advantage over hot-shoe flash: very even lighting, virtually without fall-off. Godox claims the flashes cover up to 28mm (18mm DX) without dark corners, which is a typical problem of hot-shoe models, especially at wider angles.
On November 25 last, Tamron announced the launch of the successor of its venerable 200-500mm f/5-6.3 ultra tele-zoom (test), the Di SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 VC USD. What does that letter-soup stand for?, do you wonder. Di means “Digitally Integrated”, Tamron speak to indicate that this lens is specifically designed and optimized for digital cameras, be that FX (Full-Frame) or DX (APS-C) crop-sensor models. SP (Super Performance) indicates that the 150-600 is part of Tamron’s top-of-the-line – akin to Sigma’s EX-Series – while VC is the companies’ term for vibration control or reduction, VR in Nikon speak, and called OS (optical stabilization) by Sigma.
Finally, USD (Ultrasonic Silent Drive) indicates that the lens is motorized, again akin to Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor (SWM) and Sigma’s HSM, which means that it can auto focus on all Nikon cameras, including the “Baby Nikons” – such as the D3000 and D5000 series – which lack a built-in focus motor. Moreover, AF motors built into lenses are generally faster than the one inside the camera; thus, even Nikon motorized cameras ought to benefit and focus faster with this monster. Keep in mind that, although this lens focuses internally, it is not IF, which means that it extends considerably when zoomed. With the lens hood attached, it virtually doubles its length at the 600mm end.