Manual focus. why the obsession?

Started Jan 20, 2013 | Discussions thread
lnbolch Senior Member • Posts: 2,291
Re: Manual focus. why the obsession?

It is just one tool in the toolbox, and sometimes it serves the purpose better than AF. In general, it is rarely superior.

A few weeks back, I was the guest of a family in a far northern town, near the edge of civilization. Just before I was to head back south, the whole contingent went to the local rink to see the son play hockey in the peewee level league 11-12 year-olds. Even though the kids are no where near the speed of the recently locked out millionaires of the NHL, hockey at any level is very fast.
As has been hashed over to the level of terminal boredom in Fuji forums, X-cameras can not shoot kiddie sports. The cameras are not capable of follow focus, so are totally useless. Being a guest, I was less than fanatically involved with the sports prowess of little kids, so I put myself in the role of a parent who was, but was stuck with a useless X-Pro1. It was the perfect opportunity to test if this was the truth, of if the people posting simply lacked the skills.

I mounted the 60mm f/2.4, focused upon the goal in the middle of the rink and did some test shots. At f/4.0 both the signs on the opposite boards and the foreground up to the point that the players over-ran the image area, was acceptably sharp. Once focused, I set the lens upon manual and left it there for the duration of the game. 100% sharp, highly detailed shots.

As an additional bonus, the OVF showed a significant view outside of the image area, letting me see developing plays and readjusting my framing. The result was that I only had to cull out the boring shots, not shots that were technically imperfect. The OVF increased the number of keepers significantly, compared to shooting with an SLR where you are restricted to the little movie projected onto the viewing screen, showing only the actual image area.

I shot the whole game on manual settings. Light was totally consistent, so I metered for f/4.0 and ISO6400. It gave me a shutter speed of 1/500th of a second. Upon checking my histogram, I found that produced a short graph in the middle of the scale. Contrast was very low, so I upped the shutter speed to 1/1000th and found that I still had all the shadow detail in the scene, even though I was in essence under-exposing by -1.0EV. Since the images were then predominantly mid-tones and highlights, noise was not a factor. I posted a gallery for the family and they were thrilled. A nice way to say "Thank you" to a lovely family of hosts.

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