Nikon D700 AF Settings
Nikon D700 Focus Mode Switch.
There are three controls, one on front and two on the back.
Focus Mode Switch (front)
The front Focus Mode Switch selects manual, or two kinds of autofocus.
M is manual focus, like the 1950s. S is "AF-Single," in which the camera focuses and then locks. C is "AF-Continuous," meaning the camera constantly tracks focus as the subject moves in and out.
AF Sensor Selector (rear top)
On the back, the top AF Sensor Selector selects among the many AF sensors, if you want to.
AF Sensor Mode Switch (rear bottom)
The lower rear switch is the AF Sensor Mode Switch. It chooses how the camera uses all, few or one, of the many AF sensors.
Nikon D700 rear AF Sensor Mode Switch.
There are three positions. From top to bottom, I call them the Big White Rectangle, the Crosshair, and the Tit.
Each shows what AF sensors will be used.
The Big White Rectangle mode lets the camera chose the AF points itself by magic. That's why it's a big rectangle: the D700 uses whichever sensors it wants. It works great.
The middle Crosshair position lets you choose the sensor, and then the camera moves it around to track action as selected by you in CSM a3 (MENU > CUSTOM SETTING MENU > a Autofocus > a3 > 51 points 3D). The graphic shows a single sensor, with lines showing that it can move as chosen next by the camera. The D700 can move it in any direction, not just the fours ways shown in the icon.
The bottom "Tit" position selects only one fixed sensor at a time. The icon shows just one fixed sensor.
The D700 doesn't usually display the selected focus areas during playback. To see them, go to MENU > PLAYBACK MENU > Display Mode, check "Focus point" and select Done. (If you forget to enter Done, it will ignore you.) Once you've done this, you can see the AF areas as shot in most mode. Some modes won't display the AF areas that were used.
As shipped, move the front Focus Mode Selector to S, for AF-Single, point the camera at the subject, hold the shutter halfway, recompose, and shoot.
This is exactly the same way Nikon's N2020 worked — back in 1985.
The N2020 was marketed as "Dual Autofocus." That means it also had a continuous motion tracking mode. That's the C, as is Continuous, position of all Nikons today.
Move the switch to "C" to track moving subjects, however you're still stuck with the center sensor.
To get 23 years of improvements, you have to change the other settings.
AF-S always focuses and locks, and AF-C always keeps tracking the subject.
The AF Sensor Selector on the back has been the same since the F5 of 1996. Nikon calls this the "Multi Selector." Tapping the center gets you back to the center sensor. If you knock the "L - •" lever which surrounds the AF Sensor Selector to "L," you'll lock yourself out of selecting the AF points, even though you can still navigate the menus.
My Favorite Settings
The D700 has so many AF sensors and has such intelligent logic that I usually set my D700 to the "dummy" Big White Rectangle mode. In this mode, the D700 magically and automatically identifies the correct AF sensor (or sensors) and just uses them. All I have to do is compose and shoot.
I no longer have to pretend it's the 1990s and choose sensors manually, or pretend that it's the 1980s (or 1950s) and re-compose after focusing.
Here's how I set my cameras. If I don't mention a setting, I leave it at default or it's not related to focus.
Front Focus Mode Switch: C, for AF-C, continuous tracking AF.
Custom Setting Menu a1 (AF-C Priority selection): I set "Release + Focus."
In the default of "Release priority," the camera just shoots, whether or not you're in focus. I never get any other than the first shot or two of a series in focus at this setting. It's a silly setting which makes the camera work fast in the store, but sucks for moving subjects. This default setting is why most people's continuous action sequence shots are not sharp: the D700 just shoots even if it's not in focus.
In "Focus priority," the camera waits until each and every shot is in perfect focus. This slows it down — a lot. This is the default for the AF-Single setting for still subjects, but a bad idea for moving subjects.
"Release + Focus" is an in-between setting. In this position, most of my sequence shots are in focus. I hit the shutter, and my D700 shoots as soon as it figures out which sensors to use in the Big White Rectangle mode, or immediately in the other sensor modes (Crosshair or Tit).
Set this way, the D700 usually just shoots. If you're way out-of-focus you'll get a fuzzy first shot, but you won't miss it and the D700 will be in focus for the next shots as fast as it can.
Rear AF Sensor Mode Switch: I usually set it to the top setting, the Big White Rectangle. This means D700 magically picks the right sensors itself.
I can flick the AF Sensor Mode Switch without taking my eye from the finder, and I do whenever I need to.
By setting the Custom Setting Menu a3 (Dynamic AF Area) to 51 Points (3D Tracking) in AF-C and the Crosshair mode, your manually-chosen AF point will magically move all around the frame tracking your subject! You'll see it move all around, and it really works. This only works in the Crosshair and AF-C mode; it doesn't move around in the Big White Rectangle, Tit or AF-S modes.
This tracking mode gives us another way to shoot if you don't want to select a single AF sensor near your subject. If you prefer, you can autofocus with the center sensor, and in this 51-point 3D tracking mode, keep your finger on the shutter and the AF area will move all by itself, tracking the subject as you recompose!
The settings above let me just shoot. They work for sports and for still subjects. I just grab the camera and shoot. In AF-C and White Rectangle Modes, no AF sensors light up. You just shoot.
If I'm shooting still subjects, I'll chose the AF-S (single) mode on front. Now, in Big White Rectangle Mode, the selected sensors light up, and the focus locks as long as I hold the shutter halfway. If the camera's not magically selecting the sensors I want, I'll select them myself in the lowest "dot" (single-sensor) mode of the Rear AF Mode Selector.
You're in luck if many sensors light in AF-S and Big White Rectangle modes. This means the camera knows all these areas are in perfect focus.
For sports with a lot of people running around, use AF-C, the 51-point 3D menu option (CSM a3), and the Crosshair mode on the AF Sensor Mode Switch. Now tell the camera which player is yours, and it will track them all over the frame!
I set the front Focus Mode Switch of my D700 to AF-S for still subjects, and AF-C for moving subjects.
I use the Big White Rectangle mode for just about everything, and use the crosshair mode (with 3D tracking) if I need to for sports.
If I'm in the Big White Rectangle mode and the D700 needs help finding the correct AF sensor, without moving my eye, I flick the AF Sensor Mode Switch to the Crosshair setting, which lets me choose the AF sensor and the D700 then tracks the subject. By tracking the subject, the D700 is so smart that it tracks the subject if the subject moves, or if I change my framing.
It is unusual if I ever use the D700 in the traditional 1980s-style fixed-sensor "tit" mode.
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