Robert OToole Photography

Jun2

Example

European Bee-eater male passing a bee to a potential mate. Southern Hungary. Nikon D4 with Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4G ED VR II AF Lens, 1/1250 @ f8, 51-point Dynamic-area AF with 3D tracking, auto ISO at 400, EV comp -.7, Jobu designs JR3 gimal head and CF tripod.

3D focus tracking and Auto-area AF impossible on Nikon D4 and D800 with TCs

If you own a 500 VR or 600 VR or any f4 and you use 51-point Dynamic-area AF 3D tracking you need to be aware of incompatibility that you will lose 3D tracking mode with 1.7x and 2x teleconverters. If you are using Dynamic-area 51 point with 3D tracking and you install a 1.7 or 2X, the camera goes into Single-area mode. You can then enable Dynamic-area 51 point again but 3D tracking mode is not possible.

-You can select Dynamic-area 51 point mode with a 1.7x or 2x with a D4 or D800 and 500 VR but Dynamic-area 51 point with 3D tracking enabled is a completely different animal than plain Dynamic-area 51 point mode.

-With a D3S body, 500 VR and 1.7 or 2X it is possible to use Dynamic-area 51 point with 3D tracking although this combination is not officially supported.

-All focus modes including Dynamic-area 51 point with 3D tracking were available with the D4 / D800 and Nikon TC-14E II Teleconverter.

Updates, June 5th, 2012

I edited the information above in an effort to make the information above easier to read.

Information from the Nikon D800 User Guide page 373 and on page 387 in the Nikon D4 User Guide.

Example

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4G ED VR II or Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4G ED VR lenses

Autofocus points show in the diagram when used with the TC-17E 1.7X and TC 20E III 2X teleconverters. When used with the 2X TC focus data for focus points other than the center focus points are obtained with line sensors. Single point AF is used when 3D tracking or auto-area AF is selected as the AF mode.

Also I just received an email from a friend regarding an email reply he received from NPS on the issue. The funny thing about the response is not only were they unable to help with any new information bu they did tell my friend that what I was doing with the D3S was impossible according to Nikon’s official specs. D3S Dynamic-area AF or Auto-area AF modes do not officially work with a 1.7x or 2x on the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4G ED VR II.

The D4 and D800E used in all of the above have the newest firmware installed, D4 firmware A: 1.01 / B:1.01 and D800E firmware A: 1.00 / B:1.01 respectively.

Update June 9th

Edited the first section of this post for clarity.

Today I tried a Sigma 2X TC on a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4G ED VR II with a D4 and 3D tracking mode was indicated but the combination was not compatible (problems with focus pumping). I did not try the Sigma 2X on a D800.

D4
A > 1.01
B > 1.01
L > 1.004
D800 E
A > 1.00
B > 1.01
L > 1.004

Leave a comment below if you have any questions or comments about this issue.

If you would like to learn more about Nikon 3D AF and related tech see these links to Nikon USA

D800 User’s manual at Nikon USA:

http://support.nikonusa.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/17722/~/user’s-manual—d800-%2F-d800e—guide-to-digital-photography

D4 user’s manual at Nikon USA:

http://support.nikonusa.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/17724/~/user’s-manual—d4—guide-to-digital-photography

More on 3D and 51 point AF at Nikon USA’s site:

http://www.nikonusa.com/Learn-And-Explore/Nikon-Camera-Technology/ftlzi4rr/1/Scene-Recognition-System.html

http://www.nikonusa.com/Learn-And-Explore/Nikon-Camera-Technology/ftlzi4lx/1/3D-Focus-Tracking.html

http://www.nikonusa.com/Learn-And-Explore/Nikon-Camera-Technology/ftlzi4pn/1/51-Point-Autofocus-System.html

All content (including text, design, photos, layout, and graphics) are copyright © 2012 Robert OToole. All rights reserved.

20 Comments

  • Pingback by Weekly Nikon news flash #165 | Nikon Rumors — June 3, 2012 @ 8:27 pm

    [...] Nikon disabled 3D and auto-area AF on the D4 and D800 with 500mm and 600mm lenses (f/2.8 lenses are okay) with 1.7x and 2x teleconverters. Those were working fine with the D3s. [...]

  • Pingback by Henk van Vugt Fotografie » Weekly Nikon news flash #165 — June 3, 2012 @ 10:52 pm

    [...] Nikon disabled 3D and auto-area AF on the D4 and D800 with 500mm and 600mm lenses (f/2.8 lenses are okay) with 1.7x and 2x teleconverters. Those were working fine with the D3s. [...]

  • Comment by Richard — June 3, 2012 @ 11:15 pm

    Robert,

    Thank you for this information.

    Can I ask, have you tried the D3X with either 500mm or 6000mm F4 ?

    I am about to go to China later this month, shooting wildlife for approx three months.

    I was going to take a D4 & D800 out, but having read your comments I think I may have to invest in a D3X to allow 51-point Dynamic-area AF 3D tracking with the 1.4x, 1.7x and 2x TCs.

    If you do get a chance to try this out on the D3X or any of your readers have tested this out, could you please let me know.

    Again, many thanks and keep up the good work.

  • Comment by Jason — June 4, 2012 @ 12:32 am

    The D4 is revolutionary in this department and I have just rushed out and bought the 2x teleconverter. The fact that the D4 can autofocus up to F8 is a real benefit to me. It allows me to use the D4 with 500mm and an 2x Teleconverter, previously impossible. Its doesn’t use all 51-point Dynamic-area AF with 3D tracking but I normally spot focus on the birds eye. a small price to pay to be even able to use the 2x on the 500mmm which was previously completely out of the question.

    You might find this article interesting.
    http://blog.artisticpx.com/2012/05/17/detail-resolution-with-the-tc-20eiii-on-a-nikon-500mm-f4-using-the-d4/

  • Comment by Old Badger — June 4, 2012 @ 1:24 am

    I’m a little surprised that you are surprised! Nikon’s spec for the DSLR autocofcus has included a maximum aperture of f5.6 or larger for all models for many years – until the D4/D800. A 1.7x and 2x on an f4 lens gives apertures of f6.8 and f8 respectively and are therefore outside the spec for reliable autofocus on bodies up to the D4/D800. Since I’ve never tried these combinations, I can’t comment on how well they work, if at all and under what conditions; whatever the case, Nikon makes it very clear that these combinations are not within the design limits of the autofocus system (see Nikons lens compatability chart), so you’ve been lucky, assumimg the camera is actually performing as set.

    The key point is that the D4 and D800 have SOME autofocus sensors that work ar f8 – note only some. Hence the cameras are allowing you to work within spec with these combinations.

  • Comment by Art Mullis — June 4, 2012 @ 8:35 am

    What firmware versions are being used in the D4 and D800 for these tests? I just upgraded both my D4 and D800 to the new firmware released last week. I haven’t tested either body with a TC and one of these lenses in the article.

  • Comment by admin — June 5, 2012 @ 10:16 am

    >Thank you for this information.

    >Can I ask, have you tried the D3X with either 500mm or 6000mm F4 ?

    No sorry I only had access to the D3S / D800 / D4 on my european trip but my guess is that it would work okay since the D3S works well with all the teleconverters and all of the focus modes.

    >I am about to go to China later this month, shooting wildlife for approx three months.

    Really that sounds like quite a trip, what are you the main targets? I wish I could go for fraction of that time.

    >I was going to take a D4 & D800 out, but having read your comments I think I may have to invest in a D3X to allow 51-point Dynamic-area AF 3D tracking with the 1.4x, 1.7x and 2x TCs.

    I would recommend the D3S in addition to the D3X. I have made images with the D3S up to 25,000 ISO (not a typo) with virtually no noise or no noise visible to the viewer.

    Its a shame since the D800 and D4 are so attractive otherwise. You should see some of the files from the D800E and 1.4x and 1.7x TCs!

    >If you do get a chance to try this out on the D3X or any of your readers have tested this out, could you please let me know.

    Sure I will update the post and let you know.

    >Again, many thanks and keep up the good work.

    Thank you and best of luck on your trip.

  • Comment by admin — June 5, 2012 @ 10:35 am

    >The D4 is revolutionary in this department and I have just rushed out and bought the 2x teleconverter. The fact that the D4 can autofocus up to F8 is a real benefit to me. It allows me to use the D4 with 500mm and an 2x Teleconverter, previously impossible.

    Hi Jason,

    I am not sure what you mean are you saying that the D3 / D3S could not AF with a 2X TC? This is not the case I can assure you. I was doing this just yesterday!

    >Its doesn’t use all 51-point Dynamic-area AF with 3D tracking but I normally spot focus on the birds eye.a small price to pay to be even able to use the 2x on the 500mmm which was previously completely out of the question.

    Yes it is true that at least AF does work with a 1.7 or 2X and with any of the 51 points are selectable but I think losing 51-point 3D is a huge disappointment. Just a couple days ago I was doing headshots of European bee-eaters with prey items with a 1.7x or 2x on the 500VR and having 3D AF on the D3S was a huge advantage trust me. You only have maybe 3 to 5 seconds from the time they land to the time they swallow the prey, bees, dragonflies etc, and during this time they are banging the prey on a branch and at the same time looking out for potential mates so they moving their head all over the frame. Being able to lock on the birds eye when they land and having the AF system lock on the target and follow it all over the frame with the D3S made life a lot easier. With the D800 or D4 you have to keep the AF point on the birds eye at all times, which is moving almost non stop, it was challenging with the birds head being full frame. I am sorry to see Nikon drop 3D from the new cameras.

  • Comment by admin — June 5, 2012 @ 10:48 am

    >I’m a little surprised that you are surprised! Nikon’s spec for the DSLR autocofcus has included a maximum aperture of f5.6 or larger for all models for many years – until the D4/D800. A 1.7x and 2x on an f4 lens gives apertures of f6.8 and f8 respectively and are therefore outside the spec for reliable autofocus on bodies up to the D4/D800. Since I’ve never tried these combinations, I can’t comment on how well they work, if at all and under what conditions; whatever the case, Nikon makes it very clear that these combinations are not within the design limits of the autofocus system (see Nikons lens compatability chart), so you’ve been lucky, assumimg the camera is actually performing as set.

    I am surprised that you are surprised that I’m surprised :-)

    its not an issue of the AF system not working at f8, it does thankfully, but its an issue of shooting in Dynamic-area 51-point with 3D tracking working or not. I just returned from shooting in Europe yesterday and losing the 3D tracking with my D800E and D4 made the shooting much more difficult at least in the situation I was in.

    >The key point is that the D4 and D800 have SOME autofocus sensors that work ar f8 – note only some.
    Hence the cameras are allowing you to work within spec with these combinations.

    Agreed. I will edit the post so it is more clear. Also I have some new information from Nikon on the subject.

  • Comment by admin — June 5, 2012 @ 10:53 am

    >What firmware versions are being used in the D4 and D800 for these tests? I just upgraded both my D4 and D800 to the new firmware released last week. I haven’t tested either body with a TC and one of these lenses in the article.

    Good question Art.

    I had to upgrade to the newest firmware this last weekend as the locking up got so bad they were both almost unusable.

    D4

    A > 1.01
    B > 1.01
    L > 1.004

    D800 E

    A > 1.00
    B > 1.01
    L > 1.004

  • Comment by Geoff — June 9, 2012 @ 5:58 am

    Hi Rob,

    I stumbled across your article today and found it extremely interesting. I did a few focus tests with the D4 and 2x tc myself and found no such problem. I don’t use 3d tracking so I can’t speak directly on that, but I do use dynamic area 51, as well as others, and I have no problem with my D4 unit going off the plus shaped af lines. I uploaded an overlay with ViewNX 2 showing the AF points so you can see what I mean. Plus a final image of the off center image to show focus. I’m not sure I’m missing the problem or if maybe you just got a bad unit? Take a peek and let me know if you’re referring to something else or what? All the best. ~Geoff

    http://blog.artisticpx.com/2012/06/09/auto-and-dynamic-area-focus-modes-with-the-d4/

  • Comment by admin — June 9, 2012 @ 3:12 pm

    I stumbled across your article today and found it extremely interesting. I did a few focus tests with the D4 and 2x tc myself and found no such problem. I don’t use 3d tracking so I can’t speak directly on that, but I do use dynamic area 51, as well as others, and I have no problem with my D4 unit going off the plus shaped af lines. I uploaded an overlay with ViewNX 2 showing the AF points so you can see what I mean. Plus a final image of the off center image to show focus. I’m not sure I’m missing the problem or if maybe you just got a bad unit? Take a peek and let me know if you’re referring to something else or what? All the best.

    Hi Geoff

    Guess I need to edit my post to make it a lot more clear. I meant to say that if you are using Dynamic-area 51 point with 3D tracking and you install a 1.7 or 2X, the camera goes into Single-area mode. You can then enable Dynamic-area 51 point again but 3D tracking mode is not possible. With a D3S and 1.7 or 2X it was possible to use Dynamic-area 51 point with 3D tracking.

    Dynamic-area 51 point with 3D tracking enabled is a completely different animal than plain Dynamic-area 51 point mode.

    I hope this is more clear and thanks for commenting.

    I will edit and update the post in a couple of minutes.

    Robert

  • Comment by Franz — July 11, 2012 @ 4:02 am

    Hi Robert

    This morning I nearly despaired when I didn’t managed to enable 3d-tracking with my new D4 plus Nikkor 300mm 4 plus TC-17E II….
    Then I found your post.

    Thanks a lot for this worthful info!

    Franz

  • Comment by donald — November 19, 2012 @ 6:13 pm

    Just Tried D800/200-400 AF-S 4.0 VRI & TC20III combo , 51pt AF but no auto or 3D
    Thanks for info
    Donald

  • Comment by Hugo — November 21, 2012 @ 9:14 pm

    I also tried the d800 with a 1.7tc and 200-400 f4 and 3d tracking gets disabled. The worst thing is that I was always able to get reasonably useful 3d tracking with a d3 and a d7000 if the lighting was not too bad. Even worst, I sold my d3 to fininse the d800 thinking that it will work better since it is rated down to f8. WRONG!!! Even worse, I got this answer from Nikon when I ask how to set it: “In regards to your question. I suggest taking the camera back to where you purchased it and have them look at it. Something does not seem right. Anymore questions or concerns please feel free to contact us.

    Thank you
    Linda
    Nikon customer support”

    They did not even acknowledge that is doable with the d3 and d7000.

    Any suggestions? I will see if my local camera store has another d800 to test.

    I should not have sold my d3 ;-(

  • Comment by admin — November 22, 2012 @ 2:59 pm

    I undertand what you mean and I feel for you. When I discovered the issue on a trip to europe this May one person asked NPS (Nikon Professional Service) Canada if they knew about the issue and they were equally clueless and could not give any assistance.

    3D worked amazing well when doing headshots of bee-eaters with prey items with a borrowed D3S with 500VR + 2X (and 1.7X) TCs but my D4 and D800E would only give me single area (point) AF!

    If you shoot a lot with Nikon T/Cs it might make sense to look at a used D3S, that camera is even better than the D3 you sold and the prices are not so high anymore.

    Hope this helps.

    Robert

  • Comment by Hugo — November 27, 2012 @ 8:37 pm

    What about a D3x? Any one had tried it with the 200-400 f4 and 1.7tc?

  • Comment by admin — November 27, 2012 @ 9:25 pm

    What about a D3x? Any one had tried it with the 200-400 f4 and 1.7tc?

    No I have not tried the D3X but I would guess it would be a similar to the D3S.

    I hope someone with a D3X can comment here and share their findings.

    Robert

  • Comment by Hugo — December 8, 2012 @ 1:29 pm

    I went to my local camera store. And we tried with another d800 and f4 lens and 1.7x TC, no 3D tracking. Same thing with the D600 and D4.
    Obviously, this is a new marketing strategy from Nikon… You buy the new camera so you won’t have to buy the new bigger lens, just need to buy a TC. But, since most likely you won’t buy every thing at once, by the time you buy the TC, you won’t be able to return the camera. So, you will buy the faster lens anyway and now they get you with two main purchases plus a TC, instead of one plus a TC.
    Sad!!!

  • Comment by admin — December 10, 2012 @ 12:08 pm

    I went to my local camera store. And we tried with another d800 and f4 lens and 1.7x TC, no 3D tracking. Same thing with the D600 and D4.
    Obviously, this is a new marketing strategy from Nikon… You buy the new camera so you won’t have to buy the new bigger lens, just need to buy a TC. But, since most likely you won’t buy every thing at once, by the time you buy the TC, you won’t be able to return the camera. So, you will buy the faster lens anyway and now they get you with two main purchases plus a TC, instead of one plus a TC.
    Sad!!!

    The D3 and D3S can pull off 3D tracking no problem with 1.7x and 2x with a 500 or 600/4 so it means that it is possible to enable this capability.

    Canon’s new pro flagship body the EOS-1D X when released did not AF at all past F8 but do to all the criticism Canon enabled this with a firmware update! I only wish Nikon could do this for us.

    Thanks for the sharing the info.

    Robert

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