re: a lot of pressure on Sony now ... part-II

Started Jan 31, 2014 | Discussions thread
Tom Caldwell Forum Pro • Posts: 36,452
More on focus peaking assist


I think that some site like dpreview should do a comparative test of focus peaking assist provided by different camera brands.  I think that the general assumption is that they are all the same but they are not.  Until the various FP types are compared it seems simply good enough  for "Focus Peaking" to be simply included as "provided" in the camera specifications.  Much the same way as wheels and tyres are specified on cars and are assumed to be adequate even though there are a vast range of wheels and tyres that can be fitted.

Unfortunately Focus Peaking is normally provided for manual focus purposes only and therefore is only of passing interest to those that always use auto focus.  But as I noted Ricoh focus peaking (both types) can be set and used with their AF modules as well.  This gives two useful assists: 1) every single edge that is in focus is highlighted and therefore supplements and extends the in focus square, and; 2) it does give a very good representation of dof.

Of course both these functions are not terribly well covered by the Sony Focus Peaking which is probably why it is not an option in AF.  In normal screen it is too strong and turns to ink blot - neither accurate improving normal AF indicators, nor a particularly good representation of dof.  In highest magnification it tends to disappear and the user has to hunt for some faint flicker and gives up relying on the undeniably high quality screen and plain eyesight for MF purposes and of course faint flickers or none is hardly a dof representation.  At first magnified level the Sony Focus Peaking is passable good.

My experience is: Ricoh - two modes, both good, mode 2 is radically different from everything else on offer and is very quick to find focus right up to the highest screen magnification (no adjustments available to the user but the peaking seems scaled to the screen magnifcation automatically); Pentax Q - a version of Ricoh's Mode 1 - works but is let down by the relatively low resolution lcd on the Q; Sony NEX6 - as summarised above, useful but could be better; Panasonic - GM1 very similar to the Sony system fixed sets of colours (high/low strength only), does not turn into ink blot in normal screen but does the disappearing act at higher magnifications.  Again a very high resolution lcd sort of saves the day a bit.

What is necessary for a good focus peaking system - a high resolution screen (higher the better), strength of peaking automatically scaled to the screen magnification.  The best type - not the edge highlighting flickers that almost all do in variations - but the enhanced outline grey scale of the Ricoh Mode 2.  This looks quite extraordinary at first almost like some form of x-ray representation and would be an anathema to those that like to see "pretty pictures" in their screen, but as a working tool it is very precise and quick to see the point of peak.  It might not be phase detect in speed, but an experienced user I think could aachieve manual focus quicker than contrast detect AF.   The day is further enhanced on Ricoh by the soft key press toggle whihc does not destroy a carefully massaged magnified peaking screen but only temporarily toggles to normal composition screen and returns to the pprevious focus screen on releasing the shutter button.

Here we have a whole new camera type (the A7 type) with few lenses and crying out for a really good focus peaking assist system and what does Sony do? - nothing.  I suppose that confirmed Sony users are still mesmerised by "the best focus peaking assist in the business".  Of course it is the best if you have never tried anything else.  (Or missed trying something quite alternative).

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Tom Caldwell

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