As I am getting used to the Nikon D500 and Nikkor 200-500/f5.6 VR I am more and more impressed with the speed and reliability of this system.

It is interesting in this era of mirrorless cameras to step back and see what a truly mature dslr can do in terms of AF and tracking.
In my experience it works better.

Tracking with an optical viewfinder is much easier.
The resolution is much better than even the best electronic viewfinders and there is no latency between the action and the image displayed.

The D500 allows you to set up multiple AF modes on the custom buttons.
I have set this up as follows:

  • AF-ON button: group AF
  • Joystick: dynamic 25
  • PV button: single point AF

This way I can select a different AF algorithm by pushing the different buttons.
I have disengaged the shutter from AF.
I leave the camera in AF-C mode at all times.

For birds-in-flight I find Group AF to work very well.
It uses a cluster of AF points to create a larger zone and it makes it easier to keep a lock on the subject.

Dynamic 25 can be more precise as it prioritises a central AF point, but will use the surrounding points if required.
I find it challenging to keep the focus on a fast moving target in this mode.
It works very well for slower subjects such as water fowl.

Here is a series of shots taken with group AF.
This Egyptian Goose came straight towards me at full speed.

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The camera locked on without hesitation and every frame was in focus.
I have tried this many times with my Fujifilm X-T3 and the success has been inconcistent at best.
The reliability of the D500 makes such a big difference.
In wildlife photography you can wait for hours for a moment to occur and you have one shot at capturing it.
It is heartbreaking when you just miss the focus because of equipment hesitation.

Here is another example of a split second capture.

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Capturing Mallard Ducks in flight is always a challenge. They move very fast and are often a small target for the AF system.
I am having very consitenty good results with the D500 and group AF.

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Keeping the shutter speed around 1/2500s works very well for these birds.

The biggest problem I am having is keeping the AF zone on the correct part of the subject. This is all down to me and I need to get better at tracking a moving subject.

Here is an example of the camera AF doing the right thing, but my framing been poor.
I used the central area of the viewfinder for the AF zone.

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The ducks feet are sharp, but not the head – operator error.

 

Here are larger size images.

 

 

 

 

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