Can't take good panning shots with my new D90

Solberg

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I used to have a Nikon D40 with a 16-85 VR lens and all I would do was set it to shutter priority mode (S on the dial) set the shutter speed to anything from 40-60 click and track the car. I took hundreds of great motorsports panning photos and the cars were very sharp in all of them. I got a D90 about five weeks ago and I am using the same 26-85 VR lens. However only about one in 30 photos is half useable. With my old D40 about one in four photos was super sharp and useable. Are there any settings I'm missing?
 

edkwon

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I used to have a Nikon D40 with a 16-85 VR lens and all I would do was set it to shutter priority mode (S on the dial) set the shutter speed to anything from 40-60 click and track the car. I took hundreds of great motorsports panning photos and the cars were very sharp in all of them. I got a D90 about five weeks ago and I am using the same 26-85 VR lens. However only about one in 30 photos is half useable. With my old D40 about one in four photos was super sharp and useable. Are there any settings I'm missing?
Nope, there are no hidden 'panning' settings in the D90, its not really different from the D40 in that way. Either your lens is letting you down (VR malfunctioning?) or your technique has changed.
 

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Some obvious things that you probably considered already:

- VR needs to be off (I don't think that lens has VR that detects panning)
- Autofocus needs to be set to AF-C (continuous focus)
- You might need to adjust the positions of your hands for a new camera

Other than that, the D90 does have a more advanced AF system that may take some getting used to. I found it very helpful to use the "wide" option for the centre point; it gives you a nice large area for focusing with some flexibility for composition. You might also consider trying the 3D focus tracking option.

If you post some shots here, it should be easier to diagnose the problem.
 

Solberg

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Thanks epp_b.

Are you sure about VR? I always had it on when I used the D40. Autofocus was on AF-A so I will switch to AF-C and see if that helps. Wide option is on already. As for the Focus, is the 3D tracking the best option?
 

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Are you sure about VR? I always had it on when I used the D40.
Interesting. Not sure what to make of that, then.

Autofocus was on AF-A so I will switch to AF-C and see if that helps.
Always use AF-C for panning and any subject that's moving, for that matter. AF-A attempts to detect whether you want single or continuous focusing, there's no sense in adding that guess-work when you know what you need.

As for the Focus, is the 3D tracking the best option?
Now, that one's tricky. It depends on a number of environmental variables.

From what I understand, 3D tracking attempts to follow the subject around by learning its physical characteristics (mostly colour and contrast, I think, so, obviously, it works best when your subject contrasts with the background) of whatever you place under the AF sensor you've manually selected, and then will automatically select whichever AF sensor falls on top of the subject as it moves around the frame. When it works well, the idea is that this lets you concentrate more on your composition and allows you to change your framing without having to manually move the AF sensor around. The D90 has a limited implementation of this system compared higher-end models (ie.: D300, D3, D7000, etc.), naturally because it has fewer AF points.

It takes some experimenting to figure out how this system will work best for you. In some cases, it probably just makes more sense to know your subject, predict its movement and plan out your composition before-hand to be able to select the correct AF sensor.
 

Alok

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If you post some shots here, it should be easier to diagnose the problem.
:)

Unless the VR can detect panning, it should be off at all times if you wanna pan. Else you'll just have oddly blurred images. Usability of the camera goes a long way in producing good pans. Perhaps it is just an ergonomics issue that needs getting used to?
 

Solberg

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Great tips guys. Thanks!

One more question: what should I do for car to car tracking shots?
 

Alok

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Great tips guys. Thanks!

One more question: what should I do for car to car tracking shots?
Make sure you secure yourself properly in the camera car, and make sure you are informed about the laws in the region where you are shooting. For example, seatbelts are mandatory in Germany, and you can't just ride in the open trunk. Same story with driving with doors open. Other than that, start at around 1/80s and work your way down depending on the speed. It is always nice to have a second guy in the car who can look out for you/grab hold of you/communicate with the driver.
 
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