Photographing pets using 15fps in Continuous Auto-Focus

As part of my recent field testing of the 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 lens I had the opportunity to try photographing pets using 15fps in continuous auto-focus with my Nikon 1 V2. I’d like to express sincere thanks to Chris Howe for allowing me to photograph his dog Kali and use the images for this article.

This article features a few images from some AF-C runs. All images were taken hand-held using a Nikon 1 V2, using Manual settings, Auto-ISO and subject tracking. All of the images of Kali running are shown as full frame captures without any cropping.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Here is the first image from a 16-image burst…

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 100mm, efov 270mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-900
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 100mm, efov 270mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-900

Image 5 from the burst…

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 100mm, efov 270mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-900
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 100mm, efov 270mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-900

Image 7 from the burst…

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 100mm, efov 270mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-900
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 100mm, efov 270mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-900

Image 14 from the burst…

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 100mm, efov 270mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-900
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 100mm, efov 270mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-900

Here is the last image (16) from the burst and you can see Kali is tracking away from the camera…

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 100mm, efov 270mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-900
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 100mm, efov 270mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-900

In the next examples Kali was running to catch up to a soccer ball. Here is the first image…

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 100mm, efov 270mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-1100
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 100mm, efov 270mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-1100

The third image in the burst…

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 100mm, efov 270mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-1100
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 100mm, efov 270mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-1100

The sixth image…

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 100mm, efov 270mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-1100
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 100mm, efov 270mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-1100

In the tenth image Kali is starting to ‘apply the breaks’ and catch up to the soccer ball…

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 100mm, efov 270mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-1100
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 100mm, efov 270mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-1100

And in the this image (13) of the burst grabs it…

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 100mm, efov 270mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-1100
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 100mm, efov 270mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-1100

Here is a still of her enjoying her prize…

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 86mm, efov 231mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 86mm, efov 231mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720

Tracking subject coming towards the camera can sometimes be a challenge for continuous auto-focus. Here are a few shots of Kali running towards me on a bit of an angle.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 100mm, efov 270mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-800
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 100mm, efov 270mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-800
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 100mm, efov 270mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-800
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 100mm, efov 270mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-800
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 100mm, efov 270mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-800
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 100mm, efov 270mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-800

If you would like to see all of the images from a few AF-C runs taken at 15fps you can view them in the YouTube video below.

Here are a couple of additional images I took of Kali…

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 87mm, efov 235mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-640
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 87mm, efov 235mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-640
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 66mm, efov 177mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-640
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 66mm, efov 177mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-640

Overall I was quite impressed with how well my Nikon 1 V2 with the 10-100mm f/4-5.6 held continuous auto-focus when shooting at 15fps with subject tracking. While the small sensor in Nikon 1 cameras is a bit challenged shooting pets in darker conditions indoors it does a great job outside in brighter conditions. Pet photographers who are using DSLRs or other mirrorless cameras may want to give some consideration to the Nikon 1 line if they are looking to capture continuous auto-focus image runs at high frame rates.

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Article, YouTube video, and all images Copyright Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, duplication of any kind, or adaptation is allowed without written consent.

7 thoughts on “Photographing pets using 15fps in Continuous Auto-Focus”

  1. Hi Thomas,

    The Nikon 1 did a very good job of keeping the subject in focus. Based on what I can see, it does a better job (and faster) than my Olympus at tracking. I tend to put the Olympus in continuous focus and fire 3-4 shot bursts in RAW. Although not surprising it does not track as well as a D7100. These Nikon 1’s sure have an interesting mix of features. Of course, I do prefer the DOF I can get with a bigger sensor / faster lens but given that this is a fairly slow lens and smaller sensor the results are amazing. Further, I am pretty sure that with practice this camera would produce results I find acceptable for most action shots that don’t require shallow DOF.
    As always, my philosophy with gear for professional use, is “is it good enough” and at least for these type of shots the answer is yes.
    Keep up the good work with this system Thomas. I am within one generation of dropping my Nikon DSLR’s in favor of M4/3’s for all types of photography including wildlife and fast action. I am 99% sure that the successor to the OMD-EM1 will be good enough for all these uses. Amazingly, it looks like the even lighter and smaller Nikon 1 system is not that far behind. I am not sure I would invest in another system for professional use given my age, but I will definitely be encouraging others to explore ALL their options with regard to gear. You don’t need a FF camera to get professional results. I get what I want for DX and M4/3 all the time and I know I could get most of what I need from a Nikon 1 system. That is very liberating for those that need to travel light or simply want to.

    1. Hi sceptical1,

      I completely understand your viewpoint on not wanting to invest in additional systems. Now that I have settled in on my Nikon 1 gear exclusively I find that I am getting even more enjoyment out of it. I think that comes from experimenting more and learning how to use whatever gear we happen to own better. Luckily for me my client work doesn’t revolve around shallow depth-of-field as with industrial work more depth-of-field is almost always preferred. Since my V2’s have no weather sealing I recently picked up a J4 kit along with the Nikon 1 WP-N3 waterproof housing. Got them both at very attractive prices and as a result now have a good underwater/wet weather shooting capability that I was missing before.

      My V2’s do AF-C track extremely well and I’ve run off 20 frames and more with very good, consistent results. Even with the subject approaching the camera which is usually a real challenge for any set-up.

      I’m hearing of more and more pro shooters adding M4/3 to their kit…not exclusively yet…but as you pointed out that may only be another generation of camera away for many photographers. The new BSI CX sensor in the J5 is much better than the Aptina sensors in previous Nikon 1 cameras and although still not as good a M4/3 it is getting much closer. They will never match the performance of APS-C or FF but for many of us they don’t have to given the work we do.

      From what you’ve shared with me over the past couple of years I know you love your Oly gear and that it is doing a really good job for you. At the end of the day that’s all that really matters!

      Tom

  2. I find that Dog Collar to be cruel and inhumane, as even the slightest tug on the leash causes the Prongs to Dig into the Neck.
    If the person holding the leash should pull on it too hard, the Dog can be severely hurt. If the Dog was trained correctly as a Pup, he wouldn’t have a Dog that “Pulls” on the leash, but since this wasn’t corrected, *by training the Dog as a Pup, there are much more humane Collar-Harnesses on the market that control the “Pulling” issue, without harming the animal. (*It may not be too late, because Dogs continue to learn throughout their life).

    Tom, you’ve really captured the emotion in the last two images!
    … Joe Prete

  3. Hi Thomas,

    An interesting approach to a moving problem. I have pushed the 1Dx out to 14fps in JPEG mode to try to catch Kodi at the off leash park and have had decent success, but with longer focal length lenses on the full frame holding focus even with Canon’s superb continuous focus can be a challenge when the distances get short. In your examples, things have worked out very well.

    I’ve also been doing more video in this context having just finished a test with the Sony a7R Mark II. It’s 4K video is superb particularly with shorter focal lengths where the AF can keep up.

    Nice work buddy.

    Cheers,

    Ross

    1. Hi Ross,

      Thanks for sharing your experiences with Canon – it is always good to read other perspectives. I’m looking forward to the Nikon 1 V4 to see how it will perform at 20fps with my Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm. I was a bit surprised at how well my V2 was able to maintain AF-C at 15fps with the subject approaching me. The camera doesn’t do that well with AF-F on the video side of things but does a very good job with stills.

      After spending quite a bit of time testing the 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 I ended up ordering one for the business even though it duplicates the focal range of my 10-100mm PD zoom. It has different strengths in terms of a shorter minimum focusing distance, as well as size/weight. It gives up a tad in terms of sharpness and VR effectiveness, but I see it as a different tool than the 10-100 PD.

      Tom

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