Manual focus. why the obsession?

Started Jan 20, 2013 | Discussions
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AngDaga New Member • Posts: 18
Manual focus. why the obsession?

I'm been shooting since 2003 with a DSLR and recently with an XE1. I don't use manual focus, ever. Well, maybe a couple time in really low light when I can't get focus. Everyone here seems obsessed over manual focusing. I feel like I'm a fairly competent photographer, but I wonder what am I missing. Sincere question here, I feel like maybe need to learn some more in this area.

Fujifilm X-E1
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shigzeo
shigzeo Senior Member • Posts: 1,745
Re: Manual focus. why the obsession?

AngDaga wrote:

I'm been shooting since 2003 with a DSLR and recently with an XE1. I don't use manual focus, ever. Well, maybe a couple time in really low light when I can't get focus. Everyone here seems obsessed over manual focusing. I feel like I'm a fairly competent photographer, but I wonder what am I missing. Sincere question here, I feel like maybe need to learn some more in this area.

Everyone has their reason or reasons.

Mine is that I won't be purchasing X lenses for the simple reason: fly by wire doesn't allow post-shutter actuation refocus/compose for long exposures, movement precisely timed to human input, using the lenses on other cameras (if I wanted to) is a big pain, relying on live adapters, and there is no film mount for the X.

I don't own a single AF lens and unless I start getting a lot of work covering small interviews, I will probably not even ever own a zoom.

Coming to the X from the outside, with a host of really good lenses at your disposal is probably the biggest reason for using lenses already in the bag.

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aeudet New Member • Posts: 20
Re: Manual focus. why the obsession?
3

You've probably just never used a ´╗┐real´╗┐ manual focus camera. Pick on an old manual film SLR and try it out to see what the fuss is about

WT Jones Senior Member • Posts: 2,495
Re: Manual focus. why the obsession?

Macro and close up is another reason for manual focus. Especially shooting a focus stacking series.

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Warren

KimTeo Contributing Member • Posts: 927
Re: Manual focus. why the obsession?
1

I am wondering why too.  My experience with manual focussing cameras stretches from the 1960's to 2004 - owned all manual focusing rangefinders and SLR's with the exception of a single Ricoh GR10.  Got to be pretty good at scale focussing too, ie estimating distance and setting it on the lens distance scale.  With the X-E1, I'd rather stick to using AF with Fuji X lenses, than using legacy lenses and MF.

Astrophotographer 10 Senior Member • Posts: 7,799
Re: Manual focus. why the obsession?

I do both but do prefer accurate AF.

I just shot a lot of cave photos at some incredible caves. The AF worked fine 95% of the time in low light on both 35mm 1.4 and 18-55 zoom. It sure was nice to simply use AF when you are in a crowd and don't have a lot of time to get the shot.

Same with my Nikon D800E. It almost always got the focus and even in almost darkness. Amazing.

That's the standard the X models need to match. The Nikon is simply outstanding and you have no attention on the AF. It just locks, locks extremely quickly and gets out of the road even in almost complete darkness. The Fuji worked well in lit scenes (not very bright though) and even in darkish scenes and sometimes had to be coaxed to get a lock (a vertical contrast). Its good but its got a ways to go to catch up to Nikon.

Greg.

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opticaloptimum Forum Member • Posts: 96
Re: Manual focus. why the obsession?

Sometimes manual focus is faster as you do not have to spend time moving a rectangle around to tell the camera what you want to focus on.

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Austin101 Senior Member • Posts: 1,410
Re: Manual focus. why the obsession?

AngDaga wrote:

I'm been shooting since 2003 with a DSLR and recently with an XE1. I don't use manual focus, ever. Well, maybe a couple time in really low light when I can't get focus. Everyone here seems obsessed over manual focusing. I feel like I'm a fairly competent photographer, but I wonder what am I missing. Sincere question here, I feel like maybe need to learn some more in this area.

I used the 18 & 35 Fuji lenses on the X-E1, for indoor portraits the 35 can be very slow and inaccurate so I'll often manually focus it, the 60mm lens is a pain to manually focus fast and is even slower to AF than the 35 so I'll use either an Leica M mount 50 or a Nikon/Pentax fast 50mm.

I also use a 21mm M mount lens for street photography as the 18mm is sometimes too wide and the 35mm too narrow and both can be too slow to focus, the 21mm lets me zone focus quickly by looking at the focus scale on the lens itself which you can't do with the Fuji lenses.

Nothing I've used on the X-E1 so far beats the Fuji X lenses for sharpness and clarity but some manual focus lenses to produce nice colours and a different rendering to the Fuji ones which you can't really get in PP.

lighthunter80
lighthunter80 Regular Member • Posts: 450
Re: Manual focus. why the obsession?

AngDaga wrote:

I'm been shooting since 2003 with a DSLR and recently with an XE1. I don't use manual focus, ever. Well, maybe a couple time in really low light when I can't get focus. Everyone here seems obsessed over manual focusing. I feel like I'm a fairly competent photographer, but I wonder what am I missing. Sincere question here, I feel like maybe need to learn some more in this area.

Exactly the same her. I do photography sine the mid 90s and had all sorts of cameras like an Canon AE1, Contax RTS, Yashica MAT, Mamiya 645 etc. and a lot of MF lenses. I never had an issue with manual focus and it works just fine. However, since I use AF cameras such as EOS 500n, 50e, 10D, 350D, 60D, 5D etc. I never felt like wanting to use manual focus. There is really no need for it if you know how to use AF properly. It is in facet much easier to manual focus on one of the old cameras with their optimized screens than with a modern AF camera.

So in short. You didn't miss a thing.

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lnbolch
lnbolch Senior Member • Posts: 2,125
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.
http://www.larry-bolch.com/ephemeral/hockey/

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wetfop Junior Member • Posts: 34
Re: Manual focus. why the obsession?

Excellent explanation for a reason for manual focus; the technique of pre focussing or zone focussing.

As you say very few of your shots would have been keepers if you'd relied on AF.

BillyInya
BillyInya Senior Member • Posts: 1,453
Re: Manual focus. why the obsession?
2

AngDaga wrote:

I'm been shooting since 2003 with a DSLR and recently with an XE1. I don't use manual focus, ever. Well, maybe a couple time in really low light when I can't get focus. Everyone here seems obsessed over manual focusing. I feel like I'm a fairly competent photographer, but I wonder what am I missing. Sincere question here, I feel like maybe need to learn some more in this area.

Hard to believe you are saying that.

I have NEVER taken a close/semi close portrait and not used manual focus. When you are working with shallow dof you need to be a pin sharp on exactly what you want in focus.

Might be showing my age and style here but I really can't imagine trusting auto focus no matter how good the system is.

Cheers

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tamras29 Regular Member • Posts: 386
Re: Manual focus. why the obsession?

BillyInya wrote:

AngDaga wrote:

I'm been shooting since 2003 with a DSLR and recently with an XE1. I don't use manual focus, ever. Well, maybe a couple time in really low light when I can't get focus. Everyone here seems obsessed over manual focusing. I feel like I'm a fairly competent photographer, but I wonder what am I missing. Sincere question here, I feel like maybe need to learn some more in this area.

Hard to believe you are saying that.

I have NEVER taken a close/semi close portrait and not used manual focus. When you are working with shallow dof you need to be a pin sharp on exactly what you want in focus.

Might be showing my age and style here but I really can't imagine trusting auto focus no matter how good the system is.

Cheers

A great compromise I have used for years, is to use autofocus with a single central point only. Started this years ago with my Canon 10D and have used it ever since. Just point the single focus point at what you want in focus, hold the shutter halfway down and re compose. Works fine for macro too.

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lighthunter80
lighthunter80 Regular Member • Posts: 450
Re: Manual focus. why the obsession?

BillyInya wrote:

AngDaga wrote:

I'm been shooting since 2003 with a DSLR and recently with an XE1. I don't use manual focus, ever. Well, maybe a couple time in really low light when I can't get focus. Everyone here seems obsessed over manual focusing. I feel like I'm a fairly competent photographer, but I wonder what am I missing. Sincere question here, I feel like maybe need to learn some more in this area.

Hard to believe you are saying that.

I have NEVER taken a close/semi close portrait and not used manual focus. When you are working with shallow dof you need to be a pin sharp on exactly what you want in focus.

Might be showing my age and style here but I really can't imagine trusting auto focus no matter how good the system is.

Cheers

Interesting... I use a 5D and 50/1.2 and 85/1.4 and 135/2.0 all at widest aperture and always use AF and never had issues getting the focus nailed. With manual focus and the modern screen on my 5D I would feel lost to get the focus exactly right.

With my old Contax and Zeiss 50/1.4 this was a totally different game. The screens were different and made it easy to focus manually even without micro prisms and split screen. I would actually rather trust the AF than a modern screen in the view finder.

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AngDaga OP New Member • Posts: 18
Re: Manual focus. why the obsession?

BillyInya wrote:

AngDaga wrote:

I'm been shooting since 2003 with a DSLR and recently with an XE1. I don't use manual focus, ever. Well, maybe a couple time in really low light when I can't get focus. Everyone here seems obsessed over manual focusing. I feel like I'm a fairly competent photographer, but I wonder what am I missing. Sincere question here, I feel like maybe need to learn some more in this area.

Hard to believe you are saying that.

I have NEVER taken a close/semi close portrait and not used manual focus. When you are working with shallow dof you need to be a pin sharp on exactly what you want in focus.

Might be showing my age and style here but I really can't imagine trusting auto focus no matter how good the system is.

Cheers

I have taken some shots as you described where the focus was not exactly as I had hoped for on my old Rebels. Maybe I could have tried manual focus. Maybe I would have used it more if my camera had a better viewfinder. The one on the rebel was so tiny, and my eyesight isn't what it used to be, so I trusted the autofocus more.

While the autofocus is slow on my XE1,  I have found it to be extremely accurate.

IrishhAndy
IrishhAndy Contributing Member • Posts: 868
Re: Manual focus. why the obsession?

AngDaga wrote:

I'm been shooting since 2003 with a DSLR and recently with an XE1. I don't use manual focus, ever. Well, maybe a couple time in really low light when I can't get focus. Everyone here seems obsessed over manual focusing. I feel like I'm a fairly competent photographer, but I wonder what am I missing. Sincere question here, I feel like maybe need to learn some more in this area.

It is pointless.  If you miss a bit you can sway back or forwards to compensate

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A solution looking for a problem !

palincss Contributing Member • Posts: 752
Re: Manual focus. why the obsession?

lnbolch wrote:

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.

You've certainly proved it was a matter of lacking skills, rather than the camera being useless.

But those statements (useless due to lack of follow focus) make me wonder, are those people completely ignorant of the history of sports photography?   How would they explain photos like these, taken in the 1930s-1950s, long before auto focus or auto exposure?

http://www.onetruemedia.com/otm_site/view_shared?p=1af0327186e29a656bd2f7&skin_id=0&utm_source=otm&utm_medium=image

Are they doing any better now, with all the benefits of modern technology?

joshxiv
joshxiv Forum Member • Posts: 64
Re: Manual focus. why the obsession?

AngDaga wrote:

I'm been shooting since 2003 with a DSLR and recently with an XE1. I don't use manual focus, ever. Well, maybe a couple time in really low light when I can't get focus. Everyone here seems obsessed over manual focusing. I feel like I'm a fairly competent photographer, but I wonder what am I missing. Sincere question here, I feel like maybe need to learn some more in this area.

I don't use MF exclusively - but since I usually just use single AF, and the center focus point, I want to be able to over-ride the AF quickly and accurately.

Especially given Fuji's relatively hesitant AF in low light, being able to tweak focus manually can mean the difference in not missing a shot.

Hence, to me, real mechanical manual focus is very desirable.  Fly-by-wire can work, but, IMO, Fuji's current implementation, leaves much to be desired. (I'm hoping they've improved on this on the 14mm)

Toccata47 Senior Member • Posts: 2,799
It's fun and practical
1

The camera doesn't always know what I want to have in and/or out of focus and sometimes "explaining" it takes far longer than just grabbing the barrel and twisting away. Also, being able to control the camera without twiddling a knob or delving into a menu system is a fun and fulfilling way to shoot (for me).

Since the xpro promotes a slow and steady approach (and it was fashioned after a mf camera) poor mf seems like a careless oversite. That is probably the issue you've seen here. Ultimately poor mf isn't an impediment in making a photo but for some, good mf would add a ton of value and make for a more enjoyable camera.

hellocrowley Senior Member • Posts: 1,275
Re: Manual focus. why the obsession?
1

palincss wrote:


lnbolch wrote:

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.

You've certainly proved it was a matter of lacking skills, rather than the camera being useless.

But those statements (useless due to lack of follow focus) make me wonder, are those people completely ignorant of the history of sports photography? How would they explain photos like these, taken in the 1930s-1950s, long before auto focus or auto exposure?

http://www.onetruemedia.com/otm_site/view_shared?p=1af0327186e29a656bd2f7&skin_id=0&utm_source=otm&utm_medium=image

Are they doing any better now, with all the benefits of modern technology?

Well those 50s photogs had excellent manual focus, which is what everyone here is asking for.

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