Class Introduction


Using the Nikon® Autofocus System


Lesson Info

Class Introduction

Hello and welcome to using the Nikon autofocus system. My name is Mike Hagen and I will be your instructor for today. I'm here to teach you everything you need to know about using and mastering the Nikon autofocus system, from camera setup, to lenses, to everything else in between. I'll even show you some techniques that you can use to improve your hand holding and your long lens technique. So let's go ahead and get started, I've been teaching Nikon photography for quite a long time. I've been shooting Nikon since 1998, when I turned to be a professional photographer, and I've been a professional since about that same time. I've written a book on the Nikon autofocus system, it's this one here, it's published through Rocky Nook, and this came out a little bit ago, and it covers all of the cameras from the Nikon D and the D90, all the way up to the current cameras. So I encourage you to check this out for lots of other tips and tricks on using the Nikon autofocus system. My background, I...

've been an engineer, I worked for about 10 years in the semiconductor industry and therefore, I love the technology side, I love the technical. I really get into the menus, and the theory, and all of that stuff behind it. So I enjoy that part, but even more so, I love the artistic side of photography. In fact, that's the thing that I've always kind of struggled with is I've struggled with creating art. Well one of the things I've learned over the years is that once I know and I understand the technical side, it's so much easier for me to then focus on creating artistic images. Autofocus is kind of like that, autofocus is one of these things, there's so many settings and so many menu items that you can configure. There's so many different configurations on the lenses that it's difficult to know what's good and what's not good, so we end up fumbling around and not getting great images. Once you learn it, and once you master this stuff, then you can create art, and that's what today is all about. Today is really about the mastery of the details. Teaching is my passion, I love teaching, you're gonna see today I get all excited about menus, I get all excited about setups, but even more so, I get excited when I'm in the field and I'm actually taking fantastic images. My goal for you all today, I want to eliminate frustration, it is frustrating to go to your daughter's basketball event and get blurry photos. It is frustrating to spend a lot of money to go to Africa, or go to Iceland, or go to the Galapagos and get blurry photos of animals that you spent tens of thousands of dollars to go and photograph. Autofocus can be one of the most frustrating things in photography, so my goal, my purpose is to help you not get blurry photos. We're gonna get sharp photos. We're gonna be confident in that system, after today, you're gonna really understand what the menus do, you're gonna understand what all these switches do, you're gonna understand what the difference between MA, and M, and AFS, and AFC, all of that matters, and all of that's important. And then of course, learning the Nikon system. The Nikon system is idiosyncratic sometimes, it's different than other manufacturers, it's different than the Canons, and the Fujis, and the Pentaxes, and so, learning the Nikon specifically I think is very important. So recently, well not recently, but just about every year, I take a trip to Tanzania. I run trips all over the world, and this is my recent photography in Tanzania. We spent a lot of money to be there, took a long air flight, and I brought over all kinds of equipment, lots of Nikon cameras and big lenses, and wouldn't it have been a shame to come home with a bunch of blurry photos? Well I see that all the time. I see people go on these big trips, and they come back and they show me their photos, and I'm like oh, yeah, I can imagine what that would've looked like, had it been sharp. So I don't want you to be that person, I want you to be the educated, knowledgeable photographer. So here's a lion, a lion in the Serengeti, you can see that the lion's in focus, the background is this nice bokeh effect, but man, I just nailed the focus on that lion. Here's a cheetah family, a cheetah on the Serengeti, one of my favorite photos. You've got the momma cheetah and the four cubs, and I nailed that with autofocus, but I had to think about other things too. I had to think about depth of field, focus on the eyes, do I have enough depth of field to get the back of the animal to the front of the animal, and how about the young cheetah? So learning about your depth of field, learning about depth of field control and focus points, all of that matters. How about this image, the crowned crane? Again, great autofocus. The cranes are moving, so I had to use a different focus mode, like autofocus continuous, because the cranes were actually walking along the ground. Knowing that and understanding that mattered. Also your focus pattern group, should you use a dynamic autofocus pattern? Should you use an auto area pattern? All of that mattered, and I'm going to show you how to utilize that today. Here's a bird in flight, bird in flight photography is some of the most difficult photography that you'll do, so what do we set up? What type of autofocus pattern? What type of tracking? What type of autofocus delay? Again, all of that matters, and we're gonna figure that out today. As well as, I'm going to be teaching you lots of other things like portrait photography, sports photography, just do as much as we possibly can in this class.

Class Description

The best photo moments often present themselves to us when we least expect it. Every photographer knows the feeling of lining up what they believe will be the perfect shot, only to realize after the fact that their focus was off. Nikon cameras have a built-in autofocus system for these situations. 

Join Mike Hagan, Nikonians Academy Director, to learn how to make the most of this often-overlooked function of your digital SLR. In this class, you’ll learn:

  • How to set your focus within the menu settings and overall various camera settings
  • How to use autofocus patterns and area modes
  • How to use servo modes and lens configurations
Mike will help you configure the autofocus system for portraits, sports, wildlife, and landscapes. Relying on autofocus will also let you concentrate on lighting and composition, and help you take advantage of those fleeting moments.



Good course! I am a beginner and this course helped me a lot. I agree with some students that a better work could have been done in preparing the presentations. It seems to me that Mike is great in having informal live workshops. However, for recorded classes like the ones we buy in Creative Live, the teaching technique should be adjusted. Overall I am glad I bought this course.

Catherine Lucas

After having my camera D800 for 5 or 6 years and never really got the focussing down I can finally do it. This video should be included with every Nikon sold. I am so happy that I am finally get the fullest out of this great camera, I am more of a visual person. Reading the manual is not the same as actually see it done... Thanks Mike, you rock! I have watched the sequences over and over and learned so much. Thanks. And always welcome when you pass in New Mexico...

Janie Anderson

Thanks, Mike! I will go on tomorrow's shoot with my new Nikon D500, using autofocus with much more confidence thanks to this excellent class. I especially want to master birds in flight, so that module was of particular interest, as was the detailed review of back-button focus.