Sunday, September 28, 2014

Samsung NX300: Tracking and Continuous AF

Tracking allows you to keep a moving object/subject in focus.  One you have placed the focus point (touched the screen over the area where you want the focus to be) the camera will start tracking the object/subject under that focus point even if there is movement.

To activate got to Menu then Camera Settings (camera icon at top), selected Touch AF then select Tracking AF.

The tracking shows up as a white border box and will track the subject/object as long as it's in view of the camera i.e. if you remain still as the action moves past.  If you pan (move the camera by following the action) then the tracking will remain on the object/subject as long as it's in view.

If the camera loses focus while tracking, a red box will show and focus will be reset.

I did find that sometimes the tracking wanted to wander and track something else (in this case I used a heavy wind and flowers for this experiment).  When it did I had to touch the screen to refocus.

Tracking is available in Auto Mode, Program, Aperture, Shutter, Manual and Lens Priority Mode.  In Smart Mode Tracking is only available in Beauty Face, Best Face and Creative Shot.  It's not available in Action Freeze.

The thing about the Tracking feature is that it will carry on tracking (while object/subject is in view) until you press the shutter button half way down.  This then locks the focus in and as long as the subject/object remains on the same focal plane (distance from the camera) it will remain in focus.  If the object/subject moves out of the focal plane after locking (pressing the shutter half way down) in the focus then it will be out of focus as the camera is no longer tracking it.

Annoying if you want to keep the moving object/subject in focus.  So what do you do?  If you want to rely on the camera's help you need to change the AF Mode to Continuous Auto Focus.  You also need to keep the Tracking feature activated (Menu<Camera settings<Touch AF<Tracking AF)

Select Menu on the camera, make sure the Camera Settings is selected (top sub menu with camera icon) and scroll down to AF Mode, then select CAF (Continuous AF).

What this does is continuously refocus on the moving subject/object even when the shutter is pressed half way down.

If you don't want to use the Tracking and would rather pan and track the movement yourself, then select Touch AF under the Touch AF menu while leaving Continuous AF selected under AF Mode. Wherever you touch the screen to place focus, CAF will continuously focus on the area but will not track.

So to manually track you will need to pan (move the camera with the action) and keep the subject/object under that focus area.  It doesn't matter if you move closer (don't forget what the closest focusing distance is of your lens) or further away.  As long as the subject/object is under that focuses area it will remain in focus.

For the AF Area under Camera Settings you can use Multi AF and touch the screen to place the focus where you want it if you are not happy with the camera's placement.  But, each time you release the shutter button and press half way again your selected focus will be lost (unless you press half way quickly).  The camera will choose the focus points so you would then need to touch the screen again and place the focus where you want.

For something a little more accurate, Change the AF Area to Selection AF.  Each time you release the shutter button and press down again, the area you chose to focus will remain there (the camera doesn't have control here, you do).

The downside of Tracking and Continuous AF is that it's not always fast.  Lighting conditions can affect how fast the lens focuses but I found it lagging a bit behind which could mean lost shots.

Another issue I had (besides the camera crashing on me once or twice) was that the camera just wouldn't focus.  It's happened a few times on my normal settings where the camera wouldn't focus. As for crashing, I had to remove the battery as the camera wouldn't turn off even when the switch was on Off.  Don't know why this happened.

Personally I don't favour the Tracking feature all that much and prefer to use Continuous with Selection AF for moving objects.  Panning and following the action takes some practice so play around.  Anticipating where the object/subject is going to be can aid in getting a sharp shot.

5 comments:

  1. Very nice article. Personally, I am still confusing about both continuous AF and the tracking AF option. For what I understand, continuous AF will set if you want to rely on the camera and the tracking function if you want to set the starting point for tracking, am I right? I don't get why my camera continuous AF never work, the AF green square seems to be frozen.
    On the other hand, in the menu, there are listed a bunch of AF settings and I don't see any difference between these two states:
    1. Touch AF-> Touch the screen to focus on that area
    2. AF-> AF point will be set to where you touched the screen
    Well, my English is kind of harsh but I would tell you the meaning of these two look-alike statements.

    keep blogging. Very nice site. Greetings from Chile

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    Replies
    1. Hi from South Africa!

      Regarding the Touch AF and AF Point I also didn't find any difference between the two and the manual doesn't even mention the difference or AF Point. What I do think the difference may be is that when you use Touch AF you are placing a focus point on that area and focusing at the same time whereas when using AF Point, you are only placing the focus point where you want it and have to press the shutter button half way to focus.

      With Tracking AF, yes, once you touch the screen to place the focus point the camera will keep tracking that object with a white double box (re-focusing) until you press the button half way and the box changes to green and focus plus exposure is locked. But once locked if the subject/object moves, it will no longer track and no longer refocus. That's why turning the Continuous AF helps here because even when you have locked in the focus plus exposure the camera will continue to refocus as long as the shutter button is held in halfway until you are happy and press the shutter button all the way down to focus.

      Explain more about the Continuous AF square being frozen?

      It will not move from the area you focused on, just refocus e.g. if I take two cups, each with a heart design, one a little more forward than the other and I use Continuous AF, place the focus point on the front cup with a heart, the camera will stay focused on that area and if I move slightly (like camera shake) it will refocus on the same area. But, if I move my camera to the second cup which is further back and leave the same focus point in place, the Continuous AF will focus on the second cup but not move the focus area as with tracking (it will stay in the same place).

      I don't know if that helps your problem, but if you give me more info we can try to figure this out. But try this experiment with only Continuous AF on, and Touch AF. Position two items, one further back than the other, touch the screen and place your focus point on the first item. Half press the shutter button to hold the focus and move from the first item to the second. As you move the Continuous AF should refocus.

      I found that without pressing the shutter button halfway with Continuous AF, the camera either focus on what it wants or only focus for a short period of time before it stops.

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  2. Hi,
    Regarding AF, some combiantion settings work well. I tested the continuous, and it worked as you said but, insist, you can achieve the same result with the touch AF. Also, comparing both D5200 and NX300, I had the impression that the D5200 was faster, specially in low light and moving subjects. Their AF layout is much more comprehensible than Samsung. Samsung is a newbie when it comes to camera gear, that why they skip Canon or Nikon method and adopts something more "modern". It is a shame because big daddies have the know-how and I as a Samsung user would prefer have that option as an alternative at least. Sometimes is much easier though just touch the AF point than moving around with the pad. What is important to notice is that Samsung promotes its NX cameras with tons of AF phase+contrast, at least 247 or something but I do not see that level of detail in landscape shots with large aperture where everything should stay in focus (yes, I've got that big green bracket surrindeing the scene as well). There are pros and cons, that's for sure, a way to get really advantage with the NX300 is adding new glasses. I have a cheap 50-200 and I've noticed that the performance is better, even though the f-stops are the same.

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  3. Finally, again, what is the difference between Touch AF-area VS. Touch AF-point if the desirable effect, namenly the achievement of focus, will be the same????? Am I missing something?

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  4. Hi, a little confused about "Touch AF-area VS. Touch AF-point". If you mean the Selection AF under AF Area vs AF Point under the menu Touch AF, then there doesn't seem to be a difference. To use the AF Area via touching the screen one of the features in Touch AF needs to be activated else you would need to press the OK button to resize and move the AF Point around with the direction buttons. But generally speaking, I can't find the difference between the two either. Why it was put there I don't know, maybe to offer more "features" but camera manufacturers do add things that don't really seem to be of value.

    The reason I use Continuous AF (under AF Mode) is to act like Ai Servo on my Canon. This I would use along with Selection AF/Multi Af (under AF Area) and Touch AF (under Touch AF menu).

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