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Author Topic: Auto vs manual focus  (Read 4465 times)
David S
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« on: September 02, 2013, 10:56:18 AM »
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I have just finished looking at quite a few older shots from the 50s thru late 80s. Most are slides or B&W.
What struck me was that the problem with these older shots was mostly one of exposure - and I'm not talking about fading etc but that the original shot was either under or over exposed. Most were taken with an SLR (Pentax, Konica or Nikon) and a few were using a Leica CL using Kodachrome or Extrachrome. Out of focus shots were not a major problem. I kept extensive notes of f stop, shutter speed and made comments upon development of the focus issues so I have a definite record to consult.

Now currently using  either a Panasonic GH2 or an Olympus OMD E5, my biggest issue is out of focus shots. I've posted elsewhere on problems using the 100-300mm Pany lens and am modifying how I shoot to get better results.

My curiosity is as to whether this is just my problem or if others have a similar experience?

Thanks,

Dave S

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Telecaster
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« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2013, 02:11:46 PM »
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With m43 the majority of focusing issues I've experienced have been due to the AF square/rectangle being too big. Which results in the AF system choosing something other than my intended target. Shrinking the rectangle solves the misfocusing at least 90% of the time. CD-AF can have issues in low-contrast situations...I deal with this by switching to manual focus. MF is a snap with these EVF cameras.

I must say I've had AF issues with every non-Canon 35mm & APS-C D-SLR I've owned (apart from the Pentax 645D, which has been fine & dandy so far). Not sure why I got lucky with the Canons, and anyway I was never that fond of them apart from the AF. The lack of maker-supported in-finder MF capability with these cameras is pitiful...and one reason why, apart from the Pentax, I've ditched D-SLRs entirely.

In nearly 40 years of using manual focus film SLRs and rangefinders accurate focusing has never been a problem. Focusing quickly enough has been an issue at times, but that's what pre- and zone-focusing are for.   Wink

-Dave-
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wildlightphoto
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« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2013, 05:36:13 PM »
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I probably should stay away from this topic, but passion overrules reason so here goes...

I've been focussing manually for a little over 40 years.  One of my gripes with AF is the concept of the focus 'point', singular or plural, makes no difference.  I typically work with long lenses & with subjects that preclude much depth of field so no matter what I do there are going to be areas in the picture that are out of focus.  With this in mind I have to pick what I want to be in focus and most often it's a critter's eye.

The areas I want to be in focus can be anywhere in the field of view because I can't direct my subjects and they can and frequently do move quickly and often anywhere in the field of view.  I want to focus on the eye and their heads bob up, down, left, right, backwards and forwards and numerous other directions that defy description in the english language.  Some also have an internal clock that I'd swear operates at several orders of magnitude faster than my own.  They don't obey the camera makers' direction either because they're as likely as not to pause their motions perfectly lined up with a focus point (leave alone for the moment whether the focus point has been calibrated correctly, is responsive, or functions well at the lens' aperture).

Re-positioning the camera to place a focus point on a bird's eye takes too much time and can turn my chosen composition to one destined for bit recycling.  Re-composing after focus likewise is not an option because in the time it takes to re-compose the critter will have moved.  I want to focus as-composed anywhere in the field of view, not just where the camera's maker thinks the subject is likely to be.

Gripe #2: focus 'points' are not really points.  They're small regions and the camera's maker decides how to prioritize focus on the pixels within that region.  Thoughtfully they've allowed the user to select from several prioritizing algorithms but am I going to dive into a camera's menu while a warbler is jinking around in a bush?  I think not.

Gripe #3: AF micro-adjust.  I ought to give camera makers credit where credit is due, they've finally acknowledged that the PDAF they'd been telling us for years was perfectly accurate (and more perfectly accurate with each new model) wasn't so accurate after all.  Enough said.

What has AF allowed us to accomplish?  It has allowed us to make the same photos as anyone else with the same equipment.  Bald Eagle flying with fish at Conowingo Dam?  Dime a dozen.  Photographing birds in flight is now such a cliche that it has its own acronym: BIF.  If technology has enabled this and the technology is widely available how many truly original photos are enabled by the technology?  Do you want the make the photos that the camera makers expect you to make or do you want to make your own?

Manual focus is too slow.  Really?  How about some BIF:


(full frame)


(crop from lower left corner of image)

A good viewfinder adjusted for the users' eyes and good ergonomic design goes a long way toward making manual focus easy.  The rest is practice.

End of rant.  For now.
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RFPhotography
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« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2013, 06:44:38 PM »
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Dave, sometimes EVFs offer the option of turning on a focus peaking feature.  Have you compared that, if available, to the AF accuracy of your camera?

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TMARK
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« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2013, 07:24:31 PM »
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I hate AF.  It works well in reportage, and well under studio lights.  Most of the time it is either too slow, but accurate, or fast enough by accurate in 1/3 frames.

The problem I have now is that most makers have crappy viewfinders that make MF difficult.  Go from a D800 to an F4 and you can see what we've lost.

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Rob C
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« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2013, 02:50:29 AM »
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I hate AF.  It works well in reportage, and well under studio lights.  Most of the time it is either too slow, but accurate, or fast enough by accurate in 1/3 frames.

The problem I have now is that most makers have crappy viewfinders that make MF difficult.  Go from a D800 to an F4 and you can see what we've lost.


-

Absolutely right. My first shock came going to a cut-frame D200 (straight from F3, which was itself a step backwards into the development line for me from the F4s, because of the latter's dumb self-loading system), not only dificult to mf but also tiny to compose. The D700 I have is a bit better, but still not good for mf. A decent split-image wedge would resolve much of the problem, but as someone here mentioned, the ability to focus anywhere on the screen should be de rigueur on 'serious' equipment.

It has been the cult of making it easy for the dumbest snapper perhaps to get something right that has led to this situation. We never needed af, as generations of snappers have proven. It was a solution without a problem so they went ahead and created the problem so that the solution would be necessary, and become a further thing to sell to us.

Rob C
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joneil
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« Reply #6 on: September 03, 2013, 01:06:49 PM »
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  I was thinking how to answer your question, and then, I looked at the last six  lenses I have purchased over the past couple of years

   One used Nikkor, one new Tamron, two new Samyang (Rokinon, etc) and three new Zeiss

   One is auto focus, the rest are all manual focus.   I liked the Tamron because it has excellent manual focus over ride, and I used it in manual focus all the time.   The only auto focus lens I have left (sold the others)  is my all purpose 24-70mm nikkor zoom.   I use a D7000 and a D700, so both DX and FX.  None of my lenses are Vibration Reduced or Image Stabilized, etc.   

  I know some pros who love auto focus, and in some situation i think it is excellent.  But overall, I don't miss it hardly at all.  your mileage may and can vary.
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Petrus
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« Reply #7 on: September 03, 2013, 02:23:40 PM »
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The problem I have now is that most makers have crappy viewfinders that make MF difficult.  Go from a D800 to an F4 and you can see what we've lost.

Wrong, they are good viewfinders, for AF cameras. If they were like Nikon F4 or Canon F1 they would be totally crappy for AF, which is used by 99% of DSLR users 95% of the time. There is simply no demand for manual focus focusing screens anymore. In the old times I could easily change the focusing screen in my film SLR bodies, and I actually used a full matt screen without any focusing aids, because with those I could focus anywhere within in frame.

There are still top professional action photographers who use manual focus only. But some of them practice focusing on moving objects 20-30 minutes every day, like a pianist.
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wildlightphoto
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« Reply #8 on: September 03, 2013, 05:59:42 PM »
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Wrong, they are good viewfinders, for AF cameras. If they were like Nikon F4 or Canon F1 they would be totally crappy for AF, which is used by 99% of DSLR users 95% of the time.

Source of statistics?

I'd prefer a good viewfinder, period, to one that is good for an AF camera.  I have no use for AF and I'd rather a feature I don't use didn't compromise a feature I consider essential.
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shadowblade
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« Reply #9 on: September 03, 2013, 06:47:43 PM »
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Viewfinders for manual focusing have never been better.

It's called live view.

Medium-format CCD-based backs have some way to catch up...
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Manoli
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« Reply #10 on: September 03, 2013, 07:00:01 PM »
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Viewfinders for manual focusing have never been better...

Particularly when combined with focus peaking ...
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shadowblade
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« Reply #11 on: September 03, 2013, 07:07:50 PM »
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Particularly when combined with focus peaking ...

That's not even entirely necessary.

It's like having a ground glass, except with higher magnification, much greater brightness (no need to work from under a black hood), no need to carry a loupe, no need to switch between the ground glass and the film holder in order to take a shot, and with an upright, rather than inverted, image.
« Last Edit: September 03, 2013, 07:09:41 PM by shadowblade » Logged
Manoli
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« Reply #12 on: September 03, 2013, 07:24:37 PM »
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That's not even entirely necessary.

Apologies - my post wasn't in contradiction to your comments re live view, but simply pointing out a most welcome alternative new technology when it comes to manual focus.
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wildlightphoto
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« Reply #13 on: September 03, 2013, 09:49:03 PM »
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Viewfinders for manual focusing have never been better.

It's called live view.

Useless for active subjects.
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kaelaria
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« Reply #14 on: September 04, 2013, 01:33:38 AM »
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The problem I have now is that most makers have crappy viewfinders that make MF difficult.  Go from a D800 to an F4 and you can see what we've lost.


100% AGREE!!  Any of my old mechanical even cheap bodies from 30-40 years ago BLOW AWAY the best of today for the viewfinder and ease of manual focusing, it's just silly how poor it is in comparison.
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Petrus
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« Reply #15 on: September 04, 2013, 01:58:08 AM »
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100% AGREE!!  Any of my old mechanical even cheap bodies from 30-40 years ago BLOW AWAY the best of today for the viewfinder and ease of manual focusing, it's just silly how poor it is in comparison.

Ground glass must be totally different for manual focus on the ground glass and for a AF only/mostly camera, where the brightness of the VF image is the prime concern. It is impossible to have both at the same time.
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Rob C
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« Reply #16 on: September 04, 2013, 02:23:52 AM »
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Wouldn't it be nice that if when you buy your camera body you could have the option of electing either af or mf versions? For a start, bereft of all that af stuff, it should make the mf version far more affordable to those for whom money is an object: me.

You can sometimes choose between chrome or black bodies, why not something actually important?

Rob C
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Manoli
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« Reply #17 on: September 04, 2013, 03:12:06 AM »
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Wouldn't it be nice that if when you buy your camera body you could have the option of electing either af or mf versions?

Actually Rob, you can.
On a Nikon, switch off AF in custom settings and just press [AF-ON] when you want to auto focus.
On a Fuji x-trans, it's even more effective.

Doesn't bring the price down though ...
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TMARK
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« Reply #18 on: September 04, 2013, 08:15:49 AM »
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Eos 3, F4 and F5 are bright and accurate, and AF well.  1ds3, D3x do well, and they are AF.  Even the EGs Precision screens from Canon when used with fast lenses are usable.  Bright enough with a 1.2 - 2 lens and accurate enough for MF.  Unfortunately they are not magnified enough.  Then you go medium format, and they are both bright, large and MF well, even on AF cameras like the Rollei Hy6, Pentax 645d, H Blad with teh x finder, Mamiya/Phase cameras.

In short its not impossible to have a camera that has a good VF and has AF.  You need a bright image and a grainy screen.  This means a big prism.  Like on the F4/F5/EOS3, or the medium format AF cameras.

Ground glass must be totally different for manual focus on the ground glass and for a AF only/mostly camera, where the brightness of the VF image is the prime concern. It is impossible to have both at the same time.
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wildlightphoto
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« Reply #19 on: September 04, 2013, 08:38:37 AM »
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Actually Rob, you can.
On a Nikon, switch off AF in custom settings and just press [AF-ON] when you want to auto focus.
On a Fuji x-trans, it's even more effective.

Doesn't bring the price down though ...

Doesn't make the viewfinder any better either.
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