AF vs MF

Started Mar 6, 2014 | Discussions thread
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AF vs MF
Mar 6, 2014

Disclaimer: Until two years ago, I have been shooting exclusively on point and shoot camera (film and digital). So I am still consider myself a newbie at photography, although I have been working on it rather diligently (as far as hobby goes) since then.

I've always thought that manual focus was so relic of the old, and that apart from some specific scenarios, autofocus could do it just as well, and faster. In fact, most of the first year after buying my A65, I've relied on the "Wide" focus setting, the least accurate option of it all and was mostly content with it. Still, a couple of instances where the camera was clearly focusing on the wrong subject, has prompted me to zone focus. And after I started reading about portraits, I started choosing the focusing point. Picking the focus point was considerably slower, but I thought that with it, the focus ought to be perfect. It still did not occur until this point to flip the manual switch.

But in low light, especially at a distance, the image kept being blurry. I thought for the longest time, I thought it was the shutter speed. Perhaps I was not steady enough, or the subject was moving too much. But one day, not that long ago, I finally decided to try out manual focus. That made a world of difference! Of course, it was not the magic bullet that took the blurriness out of every single shot, but in low light especially, it was a remarkable improvement. But it did not stop there, I found that even in relatively good light, manual focussing can still best autofocus even when selecting the focus point. During a four weeks trips in February, about 80% of my shots were manual. I am getting faster at it, almost as fast as selecting a focus point. Sure I can't track a faster moving object that well, especially one that moves from/away from me, but that does not apply for most of my shots.

That made me wonder though.. Is there anything wrong with my AF? Or is it pretty much a given that AF is going to be from mediocre to very good, but MF will always be better if you can afford the time to do so? I've heard that higher end (A77/A99) allows for micro-adjust, is that enough to make AF as good as MF under optimal (but realistic) scenario?


Sony SLT-A65
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