Nikon D5: Sports Camera Settings

These are the settings that I use on my Nikon D5 for shooting almost all sports action. Nikon has made it pleasant to allow photographers to save these settings, so they do not have to remember every little setting they like to use for a shooting style.

If you go to the menu under the camera, the icon picks the first item, “Shooting menu bank.” I have chosen B, which is my sports menu.

If you toggle into the “Shooting menu bank,” you can rename those settings. Once you choose one of these settings, everything you do to change the menu will be saved in that menu bank. I recommend trying all my settings and then tweaking them to your preferences.

When shooting sports, it is prevalent for the lighting conditions to change instantly. For example, while the football player runs toward you, they may go from shade into direct sunlight. For this reason, I let the camera do some of my thinking.

Go to the camera icon and look for “ISO sensitivity settings.” Select this, and you will then see this menu:

I turn on the “Auto ISO sensitivity control.” Then I set the minimum shutter speed to 1/4000. Of course, you could pick something else. I used to shoot at 1/2000. The ISO setting is what you see in the smaller window below the menu. I set this to ISO 100 and the “Maximum sensitivity” to ISO 102400.

While I am in Aperture Mode shooting, the camera will always pick 1/4000 shutter speed. So if in sunlight I am at ƒ/4, the shutter speed may go as high as 1/8000 at ISO 100, but as the scene changes and the athlete is now in the shade, the camera will automatically drop to 1/4000 @ ƒ/4, and then change also the ISO up until I can still shoot at 1/4000.

The shutter speed will only dip below 1/4000 if the ISO peaks at 102400. If my aperture is wide open, the camera is doing everything I would have done manually but faster than I could ever adjust the camera. That is how you get more shots than the guy next to you.

Next, select the Pencil on the menu and go into the Custom settings bank.

Again just like the Photo Shooting Menu, create a Sports Menu as I have done here.

Next, choose Autofocus in the menu.

Then choose the Focus tracking with lock-on.

I change the “Focus tracking with lock-on” from Normal to 4. What happens when I do this is the delay for the lens to refocus if something occurs between the camera and the subject (like a referee). For example, while following someone, the camera will not refocus immediately. Again, you need to try and pick what you like. For example, you may want the lens to be more responsive and therefore go to set one, letting the lens refocus instantly.

Focus Settings

Note the lenses you choose affect the availability of focus points.

You want to pick Autofocus Continuous mode for sports.

In the menu Pencil selections, pick AF Activation under the Autofocus settings.

Then choose the AF-ON only. This means when you push the shutter release, it will not focus but fire the shutter to take a photo.

By changing these settings, you will notice the camera will stay in focus and shoot a faster frame rate. Great for following a baseball player sliding into a plate and another player trying to tag them, or maybe a football player is running toward you to score. You will find more photos tack sharp in a series.

I generally put my focus point dead center and lock it, so I don’t bump it. However, I am trying to get photos of moving subjects, and the off-center is too tricky. I may crop later for a better composition, but I want the subject to focus first.

This gets complicated, so pay attention to the highlighted text above.

  • Moving Predictable – 25-point dynamic-area AF
  • Moving Unpredictable – 72-point dynamic-area AF
  • Moving Erratically side to side – 3D-tracking in AF-C

Here are the selections again with more explanation

The only other setting is on the lens that I turn on VR.