Nikon D7000, Focusing in Low Light

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The D7000 has a great focusing system, but occasionally the light levels are too low for the camera to achieve an accurate focus. There are a few things that you can do to overcome this obstacle.

First, you should know that the camera uses contrast in the viewfinder to establish a point of focus. This is why your camera will not be able to focus when you point it at a white wall or a cloudless sky. It simply can’t find any contrast in the scene to work with. Knowing this, you might be able to use a single focus point in AF-S mode to find an area of contrast that is the same distance as your subject. You can then hold that focus by holding down the shutter button halfway and recomposing your image.

Then there are those times when there just isn’t anything there for you to focus on. A perfect example of this would be a fireworks display. If you point your lens to the night sky in any AF (Automatic Focus) mode, it will just keep searching for— and not finding—a focus point. On these occasions, you can simply turn off the autofocus feature and manually focus the lens (Figures 8.5 and 8.6). Look for the A/M switch on the side of the lens and slide it to the M position.

 You can’t count on autofocus. If the camera just can’t find its focus, take it into your own hands.
Figure 8.5 You can’t count on autofocus. If the camera just can’t find its focus, take it into your own hands.
I took this in my field in Montana after watching a magnificent sunset. Autofocus would not work because the light was just too low. I had to switch to manual focus to get the job done.
Figure 8.6 I took this in my field in Montana after watching a magnificent sunset. Autofocus would not work because the light was just too low. I had to switch to manual focus to get the job done.

Now, I don’t want any e-mails saying, “John, you broke my camera! It won’t focus!” So make sure to switch your lens back to the A mode at the end of your shoot.

AF Ass ist Illuminator

I know I told everyone that I am not a huge fan of the AF-assist illuminator in Chapter 1, but that is primarily when I’m shooting people. The D7000’s AF-assist illuminator does a good job helping with focusing by using a small, bright beam from the front of the camera to shine some light on the scene. This light enables the camera to find details to focus on in low-light situations.

This feature is automatically activated when using the flash (except in Landscape, Sports, and Flash Off modes for the following reasons: In Landscape mode, the subject is usually too far away; in Sports mode, the subject is probably moving; and in Flash Off mode, you’ve disabled the flash entirely). Also, the illuminator will be disabled when shooting in the AF-C or manual focus mode, as well as when the illuminator is turned off in the camera menu. The AF-assist should be enabled by default, but you can check the menu just to make sure.

Turning on the AF-ass ist feature

Turning on the AF-ass ist feature

  1. Press the Menu button and access the Custom Setting menu (A).
  2. Navigate to the item called A Autofocus and press the OK button.
  3. Highlight the menu item called A7 Built-in AF-assist illuminator and press the OK button (B).
  4. Set the option to On and press the OK button to complete the setup.

Disabling the flash

If you are shooting in one of the automatic scene modes, the flash might be set to activate automatically. If you don’t wish to operate the flash, you will have to turn it off in the information screen.

To turn off flash

To turn off flash

To disable the flash when shooting in Auto mode, turn the Mode dial to the Flash Off symbol (a circle containing a flash with a slash through it).

Remember, if you are shooting in a professional mode, the only way to get the flash to fire is to turn it on yourself. If you are shooting in an automatic scene mode, depending on the mode, it will come on automatically. For example in Candlelight and Landscape modes it does not come on, whereas in Pet mode or Night Portrait it is automatically on. If the small flash icon appears on the control panel when you are shooting in a particular mode, it means the setting calls for it and the flash will fire automatically.