How bad is the Nex AF, really?

Started Aug 18, 2013 | Discussions thread
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How bad is the Nex AF, really?
Aug 18, 2013

Ok, at the risk of being labeled a Sony fanboy (probably a fair label ), I want to challenge the "Nex AF is poor" meme that seems to bounce around.

What's weird is that AF is one of my pet peeves recently.  My Nex-5 usually works fine, but a few months ago, in the weakening evening light, I tried to photograph a group of 3 people standing a few feet in front of some bushes.  What did the camera focus on?  Yup, the bushes.  I'm pretty sure that facial recognition was turned on too.  Fast-forward to now, I have a Nex-6.  Occasionally, it still focuses on something in the background.  But most of the time, it does a good job, and it seems more responsive -- could be due to the electronic first-curtain shutter or maybe PDAF, but probably both.  But there are those who don't think the PDAF does any good.

So, OK, I'm thinking it's still pretty good, if imperfect. Maybe it's not as good as a DSLR... or is it?  Yesterday, I'm working with a friend on portraits (tripod, flash, etc.) and an annoyingly large percentage of the shots are focused on the couch and not the subject.  We tried a couple of different lenses; I think an f1.8 lens did better, due to the low light.  That was certainly the case with my old DSLR.  With that camera and the kit lens, the AF could be a miserable experience, but with an f2.8 or faster lens, it was pretty nice.

That was in low-light, and perhaps thus more forgivable (although in the same condition, my Nex-6 shots were all in focus -- the person, and not the couch!) but recently, I looked through a card of photos from ANOTHER DSLR, and many of them were blurry. Out of focus?  Perhaps, perhaps too much motion.... but a surprising number of photos just seemed less than ideal.

The DSLR is not looking so much like the amazing AF miracle-maker. Perhaps you have to go to a high-end DSLR with a wide aperture prime to get the better AF?  Regardless, I'm starting to think that the Nex-6 is pretty good, and I really don't have any DSLR-lust.  Well, I do want to occasionally use my 100-300mm lens; does that count?

Has anyone really tried to do a DSLR vs. Nex AF shootout?  A long time ago, I did an in-my-room comparison between my old A100 and Nex-5 and I think the Nex-5 wasn't all that much slower, provided it had some contrast to lock onto.  An f2.8 lens makes the A100 work even better.  But, the difference between cameras wasn't enough to keep me using the A100 -- I switched to the Nex as my main camera, even though it has its compromises.  (The A100 has compromises of its own, even when it came to AF; there were situations where it refused to lock focus and take the photo.  It refused!)  I can see where if you want more keepers, you'd probably lean towards a DSLR, but so far, I have not seen the perfect camera.

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Gary W.

 GaryW's gear list:GaryW's gear list
Sony Alpha NEX-6 Sony E 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 PZ OSS Sony E PZ 18-105mm F4 G OSS Sony Cyber-shot DSC-V3 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5 +11 more
Sony Alpha DSLR-A100 Sony Alpha NEX-5 Sony Alpha NEX-6
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