Usability of Zone Focusing

Started Oct 22, 2020 | Questions thread
Autonerd Senior Member • Posts: 2,982
Re: Usability of Zone Focusing

Gurusathiy wrote:

A newbie here!!


I zone-focus on my film cameras, particularly with wide-angle lenses when walking around. I'll set a small-ish aperture, prefocus the camera with the DOF scale, and when I see something I just frame and shoot, making sure my subject is in that DOF range. It may not be in focus in the viewfinder but it will be in focus on the negative.

And yes, the focus is pretty much uniform when you use the DOF scale -- can't say pin-sharp for sure since it's 35mm film which is scanned, but definitely uniform.

  1. If I use a high quality manual focus lens with DOF scale printed, set it to 10' to Infinity and leave it there, will it help in achieving sharp photos without any need to recompose and focus again? (please don't route me to point & shoot)
  2. Will the above trick help in snapping up moving subjects within that range as well?

Yes and yes. Here's a 28mm lens zone-focused for f/11:

Here, with the lens set at f/11, everything from just under 5 feet (let's call it 4.5) to infinity will be in focus. If, say, a caribou walked into the shot 20' from the camera, it'd be in focus.

Pin-sharp? Can't say, as I'm shooting traditional-grain film, and besides, nothing in this life is perfect. With my Sony, I've found that objects within the DOF range are plenty sharp.

Obviously the Sony doesn't have a DOF scale but the EVF works quite nicely for that. I shoot primarily in A mode and can see right away if my DOF is too shallow. Also, I rely exclusively on autofocus with my a6000 -- I'm amazed at how well it works.

I agree with whoever said that it'd be a good idea to get a good understanding of DOF. The book I suggest for everyone is a (cheap) used copy of Photography by Barbara London and John Upton . The section on DOF is great. I have a couple of (film-centric) editions and after 30 years of "serious camera" photography still use it as a reference.


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