Need low light autofocus without flash

anil_robo

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Sep 24, 2011
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I have Nikon D3300, went to an indoor event yesterday, and my camera could not autofocus despite having autofocus assist built-in (the yellowish light that comes on to assist with autofocus). I suck at manual focus due to being high myopic and wearing spectacles.

I am wondering if I can use one of those "red beams" to assist with autofocus. I will need that only for focusing, and would never need flash for the purpose of my shooting. My budget is upto $100.

What hardware should I buy? I looked at several third party "speedlites" online but their terminology is very confusing, and they all come with flash that I don't even need - just need the red dot light.
 

basroil

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Don't buy third party flashes for that reason, they don't always have focus assist beams that work properly. Only problem is that the cheapest Nikon ones with assist are ~$350

If you must use an assist beam, you might have to just buy a random "nikon compatible" flash and hope that the beams actually line up properly.

 

Ubrales

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One option to consider is to use a small aperture; like f8 (even f5.6 will work). This will give you very good depth of field, and set the manual focus to about 10 feet or as appropriate. Along with a high ISO you will do fine with indoor pictures. Try a few shots to get the right combination.
 

basroil

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I hope that was a joke... If it's dark enough that the camera can't focus without an assist beam, it's too dark to use anything but the widest aperture the lens supports.
 

Ubrales

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Did you miss the "manual focus" (set it and forget) that I mentioned? Please read my post in detail before you think that it is a joke!
 

basroil

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I wasn't talking about focus being the issue :no: With that low of light, the shutter speed even at max ISO if you use f8 (or even 5.6) will likely reduce everything to a blurry mess.
 

Ubrales

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Not true! I shot some pics under low light conditions in a basement restaurant in Praha, CZ. Because of the low lighting, a flash would have been a disaster. At a high ISO setting the pics turned out great.

In order to keep the camera steady during a slow exposure, I turn it upside down such that the camera is firmly resting on my forehead. This is a pro technique and has worked out well for me!

Another technique I use to steady the camera is to place my elbow against the side of my body; this keeps my hand steadier (same stance used by competition rifle shooters).

The use of a dedicated flash would be OK if conditions permit it; some don't.
 

anil_robo

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Sep 24, 2011
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I have tried manual focus plenty of times, I don't get it :(
I am using a prime lens at 1.8 aperture (the best my lens allows)
 

Ubrales

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On the Nikon camera body there is a setting for Auto-focus/Manual - set this to "M". Some Nikon zoom lenses also have this setting; set it to "M". Now you will be in Manual focus mode. Turn the focusing barrel on the Nikon lens and set it to an appropriate distance. This will be the manual focus distance setting. (Nikon lenses).

Experiment with different settings and use the best combination of settings for the photo-shoot assignment.
 

giantbucket

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you could try those AF assist beam things on eBay, the ones that clip into the hotshoe. shooting wide open at 1.8 should allow the AF system to do SOMETHING, but then the catch is that everything will be fuzzy due to the very shallow depth of field.

i kinda agree with some of the above, though - shoot at f8, hyperfocal (sort of). if you know you're indoors, then you won't have anything further than for example 50 feet, or closer than 3 feet. so pre-focus to a distance & aperture that nicely straddles those. this is MUCH easier using old manual focus lenses, which your nikon might work with. or experiment with the focus ring settings when it's bright, and mark points on the lens using a paint marker so that you can quickly set it when it's darker.

or buy a different camera, like a rangefinder. for those, focus is just overlapping two images, which can be done quickly even with crappy light.
 
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