Shooting Animals

Of course I mean with a camera, and also at the zoo. Just wondering whether there are any special tips for D5200 users that would make the experience more rewarding, especially with regard to exposure programs, A, S, M or can one simply pick P and fire away. Also best focus mode as well as focus area. I will shoot both indoors and outside and use the "kit" 18-55 and 55-200 lenses.

Many thanks in advance.


  • My best luck shooting animals has been with Aperture priority, and continuous servo focus in either single point or the smallest dynamic range (if in a zoo, the animals may not be moving fast, so single point is less likely to shift to the wrong part of the animal). If you are fairly distant from an animal, even the widest aperture on the kit lens is likely to give enough depth of field, but if the light is decent, you may get better definition stopped down to F 6.3 or 8.

    If the animal is against a bright background, and especially if you can't get close to it, consider changing to spot metering. Spot metering will be at your chosen focus point, so if you're aiming for an animal's face, that's what will be metered, and surrounding windows, skylights, black caves, etc. will be ignored.

    If light is poor and you need to boost the ISO, make sure you have experimented beforehand to see how high ISO noise looks on your camera. On the D3200 things get a little bit dirty at ISO 800 and above, but how much this bothers will depend on how much crop you need. The more you have to crop, the more the noise will be bothersome and eat away at edge details. If you can get fairly close and don't need to crop, you can go higher. The brighter the scene, too, the less the noise.

    If you are using Auto ISO, you can set an upper limit, but on the D3200, at least, there is an undocumented glitch which may be present on the 5200 too. When you set an upper limit and are using auto ISO, the full selection of higher speeds still is shown, but the camera will not shoot above the limit even if you choose it. It will not tell you this, though, and you'll only see it in the EXIF info for the shot you've made. For this reason, if you're shooting in very variable light, you may be better off turning off Auto ISO and keeping track of it manually. If you do use Auto, you may have to find that sweet spot between too much noise and too low a value.

    You can find out whether the D5200 has this feature by temporarily going into Auto ISO, setting the upper limit at a low ISO, then setting the ISO manually at a higher number. Shoot a scene in low light. If the ISO shown in the post-shot EXIF is what you set, then the fault has been corrected. If it is at the upper limit set in the menu, it has not. The D3200 has this fault, but the D7100 does not, so I can't tell you which way the model between will fall.

    If you are confronted with a fence or cage, try to get as close to its wires or bars as you can. The closer you are, the less visible they'll be. Needless to say this is not a suggestion that you stick your lens through the bars of the lion's cage or let the elephants grab your lens shade.
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