Focusing with the D300

While I was shooting over 2,000 images at Mayor Rob Burton’s Baseball Tournament last week I kept worrying about how well the autofocusing system on the D-300 was doing.

I had setup the D300 for sports shooting. Here’s the setup as I remember it: JPG format at Large Normal (I almost always shoot RAW or at worst JPG Large Fine). Everything I was shooting need to be loaded onto a computer with no time to edit (okay I deleted the really really bad stuff) and projected on a screen during the celebratory dinner after the event. JPG Large Fine are still 3 megs in size. That’s plenty big enough to print 8″X10″ and way bigger than you need to project on a screen.

The focusing was set to 21 points (for speed) and continuous focusing. I switched between 21 points and 51 points 3D. Very occasionally the lens I was using would miss the odd shot so I kept trying different focusing setups.

I was shooting with a 18 to 200mm f/3.5-5.6 lens which is definitely a lens aimed at the advanced amateur and isn’t know as the fastest or sharpest tool in the box. However I was shooting for around eight hours continuously and the 18 to 200 allowed me stand either behind first or third and cover the action all around the infield. At its widest I could shoot inside the team box and at 200 I could reach out to the action at second base. BTW I love wide and had a 12-24mm on my D90 body.

Two of the other photographers I saw at the event were using 70-210mm f.2.8 zooms. At three times the cost of the 18-200 their lenses were too long at 70mm to cover the action in close. But they were using “pro” lenses which get heavier as the day goes on. I carried the d300 with the 18-200 and the d90 with the 12-24 and everything else was locked in my truck. And, even though the day was in the high 30 degree range I wore boots which gave me a stable platform and my feet never felt overly hot but stayed strong and comfortable.

If you’re shoot street photography you’d be much better off shooting with a cheaper and much lighter 70-300mm as compared to the really expensive, heavy 70-210mm zoom. I’m not saying I wouldn’t use one but it’s best suited for weddings as opposed to sports or other outdoor photography.

After reviewing the entire 2,000 images there were only a couple that weren’t tack sharp and absolutely in focus and for the most part that was an issue with the ability of the lens to keep up with the action. All in all I am very impressed with the ability of the D300 to cover sports. Sure beats my old film days shooting a Nikon F2 and a 75-300mm zoom with no autofocus.

You know, come to think of it, back with the film camera I’d have pre-focused my 50mm or 35mm lens on third and my 105mm or 75-300mm on second. I wouldn’t try to follow focus like I did with the D300. All in all a great day of shooting and I learned a few new things. How great is that?

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