Regular readers know that I’ve been very happy since switching to the Nikon D7000 last October. For most of what I do, the D7000 is more than adequate, and a lot of fun too. But over the weekend I shot 2400 frames at a dance competition, and I was disappointed with the results.
There’s nothing wrong with the D7000, but it has limitations I did not respect. For one thing, it boasts a low light sensitivity of ISO 6400. With previous cameras, I considered the highest ISOs suspect, and rarely used them. But I’ve always wanted faster shutter speeds for dance, and the allure of 1/500 overwhelmed my better judgement, so I shot the whole event at ISO 6400 and ended up with some very, very grainy images of nicely frozen action. I should have limited Auto-ISO to 3200, shot at my usual dance shutter speed of 1/320, used a monopod or tripod, and chosen my moments more carefully.
But wait, shooting at ISO 6400 wasn’t even my biggest mistake! During rehearsals, I became enamored of Nikon’s 3D Tracking autofocus feature. Perhaps you’ve heard the expression, “It went so well in rehearsal!” That’s how I felt while reviewing hundreds of mis-focused images. I failed to consider two important things about the 3D focus tracking: 1) it’s slightly slower than the other dynamic modes when acquiring focus, and 2) when two people are wearing the same costume, it gets confused. During rehearsals, the dancers wore street clothes, and the camera had no trouble telling who was who. Not so for several of the dances.
In the future, I’ll stick with 9 or 21 point dynamic autofocus for dance, as this worked well in the past. I chose the D7000 as the best compromise for the kind of photography I do MOST of the time. There’s a reason sports and news shooters choose Nikon’s higher end cameras. They offer faster focusing, higher ISOs, and speedy frame rates for fast action. They also cost at least five times what a D7000 costs, and I generally work with two camera bodies. The Nikon D3s might be perfect for dance photography, but two of them would cost over $10,000. I’d have to sell a lot of 4×6 prints to justify that…