Over the last three weeks, I’ve been using the Nikon D800 to shoot birds on my vacation in Florida. Here are my unscientific and personal findings for shooting birds in flight from tripod and hand-held with some example photos below:
- Auto ISO sensitivity control is bliss if you don’t use manual exposure mode. For birds in flight or any other wildlife in fast action, I normally have it set to: ISO sensitivity 100 (= minimum), Maximum sensitivity 1600, Minimum shutter speed 1/1600-1/2000. For slower moving or more static animals, 1/640 seconds seems to give good and sharp results. Of course if you have enough light go as fast as possible.
- When using CF a general AF problem is that the focus point is often not on the eye. This is not specific to the D4/D800’s new AF system (Advanced Multi-CAM 3500FX). So just shoot and hope for the best.
- The new AF system seems to be very fast and hunt less than the previous one, especially when the background is the sky.
- With the new AF system I don’t need to overexpose +1 or +2 when shooting flying birds against the blue sky as with the old AF (Multi-CAM 3500DX).
- You don’t need more than 4fps to capture wildlife in action (I already knew this before and couldn’t understand all the fuss about it being slow).
- Having so many pixels at hand is really helpful, since it is easier to catch a bird in flight when it is further away, then just crop to get the right detail. This is a huge advantage over the D4 and I think far more relevant than the 4fps versus 10fps.
- If you only want photos that are sharp down to pixel level, be prepared to have to throw away many of your shots (Be aware that this makes sense only if you plan to crop or print in gigantic dimensions).
Photos of flying birds using a tripod
Handheld photos of flying birds
All photos below were taken handheld from a canoe with the Nikkor 300mm/f2.8 VR.