AF: Camera vs User Competence

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XeroJay
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AF: Camera vs User Competence
1 month ago

I've been shooting with Canon cameras for over a decade, with quite a bit of Nikon experience in the mix. I've run a studio where some 40+ photographers have come and gone. There has always been one thing that is consistent: Photographers deliver consistent quality; not cameras.

What do I mean by quality? Consistent in-focus images. Consistent exposure. Consistent colour. I've seen photographers complain about problems with one system, only to move to another with the same results. I've also seen those photographers sell their "inconsistent" equipment to a "competent" photographer, who suddenly has no issues delivering consistent quality images from it.

In particular, I just wanted to share the most clear example of camera vs user error with regards to AF...

Over the past few months, I've allowed my assistant to use my backup gear to shoot over my shoulder at weddings. We quickly noticed that he was constantly missing focus on pretty much anything that moves, while I've had no issues with the same gear. We could both shoot a wedding procession, and if my hit rate is 99% tack sharp, wide-open, his is maybe 20%, stopped-down a bit. After hearing him exclaim that the camera/lens needed re-micro-adjusting, I decided to begin cycling and switching gear with him. Consistently, with even the same camera/lens combos, he would miss focus mostly, where I had no issues...

Okay, so it's not the gear. Time to quit the faulty-gear, needs calibration, it just doesn't like me whining, and I'm talking to a great number of people here. After going over his technique vs mine, we discovered a few key differences that were making all of the difference. The biggest was in his use of the shutter half-press, waiting for AF confirmation, then fully pressing, while in one-shot. Another was inappropriate use of parfocal focusing, which simply doesn't work on non-parfocal lenses. There were also differences in using off-center AF points vs focus & recompose methods.

In the end, it came down to a person who believed that the 5DIII, 1Dx, and just about every L lens missed focus more than not, when it was the user who was missing focus. I though about these forums, and the amount of complaint that some people seen to have vs others. I thought about how I've witnessed other cases of the same gear being sold from one person to another, and somehow their experiences (and results) are almost polar opposite. I thought about how my best friend switched from Nikon to Canon, with pretty much zero change in the quality of his results.

If your gear isn't working for you, before you beef-up on forums and social media about how defective it is, take a personal tour of your own techniques, and try changing things up a bit. you might be pleasantly surprised.

 XeroJay's gear list:XeroJay's gear list
Canon EOS-1D X Canon EOS 5D Mark III Canon EOS M Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM +7 more
Canon EOS 5D Mark III Canon EOS-1D
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