Auto or manual focus?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by TheGreatGasMaskMan, Jul 17, 2017.

  1. TheGreatGasMaskMan

    TheGreatGasMaskMan Member

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    I'm just curious, if you think either manual or auto focus is better for film?
    I've been using my Dad's old Nikormat with manual only focus since May, and I've kind of enjoyed how having to manually focus an image has helped me pay more attention to what I've been doing, but as of this week, I now have a Canon EOS Rebel X with auto focus, and though I don't think I'm going to try it until Thursday, I'm seriously wondering how simply having auto focus is going to change my approach to 35mm- even if it does have a faster shutter and can do 1-30 second exposures.
     
  2. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Auto focus is nice for 35mm because it is useful when I do not have time to work on the photograph, such as traveling with others who may not have the patience. I only have auto focus on my 35mm cameras and I rarely have to correct the focus.
    Manual focus is better for MF and LF since I want to take the time to look at the ground glass and carefully compose.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017
  3. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    It's not a film vs. digital issue. Personally, I feel I have more control with manual focus, even with fast moving subjects that I can track with a fixed focal point using AF.
     
  4. Pioneer

    Pioneer Subscriber

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    I don't think it makes any difference as long as you know how to use either system.

    I use manual focus for over 80% of my photographs, but that is more a function of the type of cameras I am usually using, not a judgement on which type is better.
     
  5. Dali

    Dali Member

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    Don't had, have any AF camera and never felt the need for it.
     
  6. faberryman

    faberryman Subscriber

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    MF or AF is a personal preference. MF is good for some things, AF for others. Use whichever is more comfortable for you.
     
  7. PGillin

    PGillin Subscriber

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    Yeah, there's no "better or worse" here, it's a question of what's appropriate for a given situation.
    Sometimes AF (especially GOOD autofocus) is a very powerful tool, almost a necessity. Other times manual focus will give a better result. Often either is fine if (as was mentioned above) you understand how to use either system.
    Also, I definitely wouldn't say auto vs manual is tied to film as a medium.
    Don't get dogmatic with your approach, just learn to use both systems and then choose based on what's more appropriate for your overall shooting style and the specific situation.
    Again (can't stress this enough) NEITHER is better. Just different tools.
     
  8. Jens Hallfeldt

    Jens Hallfeldt Member

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    Hi,

    some days ago 1987 I got me a Canon EOS 650 with 28, 50 and 70-210mm lenses.
    Many possibilities, autofocus, technically fine images - but much less satisfaction with the work, camera did to much what I should do. Today the same mess with my EOS 5DII DSLR...

    One year later, 1988 sold all the Canon stuff for a new Contax 139 with manual focus lenses 28 and 1.4/50mm.
    Satisfaction is back, fine and light weight camera, worked great for 12 years, then didn't wind the film anymore.
    A Rolleiflex, a Contax RTSII and a Sinar came my way later.

    My conclusion: The camera shouldn't do to much automatically, it estranges/keeps me from the imaging process.
    So manual focus is best for me.

    Best
    Jens
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017
  9. wiltw

    wiltw Subscriber

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    It's an 'old eyes' vs. 'young eyes' issue...when you have to put on readers to see a focusing screen clearly (to focus) having AF is nice to have, particular in dark venues.
     
  10. Ron789

    Ron789 Subscriber

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    Depends on what you're photographing, under what circumstances. I was doing an assignment over the weekend: children playing in a playground. There you have to respond to what's happening in a split second. No time to adjust any setting. Camera set to automatic, preset (large) aperture to obtain small DOF, autofocus. But there are also circumstances where autofocus will fail and there is plenty time to focus manually.
     
  11. Dali

    Dali Member

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    Know your gear, develop a personal strategy to improve focussing accuracy (use a good screen, preset the lens, etc...) and you won't need AF unless you want to add an extra layer of uncertainty. You can't imagine the number of times I hear that the AF messed up the pictures...
     
  12. JWMster

    JWMster Subscriber

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    Some work fine with AF. I'm a MF guy. Don't have any AF lenses.
     
  13. tedr1

    tedr1 Member

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    They both have their uses, and some types of autofocus are better than others. There are the issues of where the sensitive area(s) is located in the frame, how many there are, how the AF deals with difficult subjects (glass, plain surfaces, subjects crossing the field of view, subjects advancing or receding in the field of view) how long the batteries last and how the AF lenses deal with infinity focus. Sometimes manual is best, sometimes good AF is best, both are good for certain subjects. For tripod work I prefer MF, for some more casual hand-held work AF is a boon.
     
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  15. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    Try it out you may like it! I bought a Nikon F5 to try it out and didn't like it. I went back to manual focus.
     
  16. Theo Sulphate

    Theo Sulphate Subscriber

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    I like the simplicity and reliability of manual focus. Over 90% of my equipment is manual focus.

    I do enjoy some AF systems: the 3-point Rebel G (500N) is what introduced me to AF after 50 years (1964-2014) of using manual focus exclusively. After that, the Nikon F4, Maxxum/Dynax 7, and Elan 7NE followed.

    Note, however, all of the systems above have no more than 9 AF sensors, and almost always I choose to have just the center one active. To me it's crazy to see modern cameras with the whole screen filled with AF points and then a scattering 30 of them light up when you focus. Just exactly what have you focused on and how can you even see your scene anymore? No surprise that on my D700 I use just the central AF point and not the whole 51 sensor pattern.

    Also, I worry that expensive AF lenses will fail after maybe 15 years. They're more complex because they have more parts, more moving parts, electronics, and electronic connections. They require more complexity from the camera body, circuitry, and display.

    As William ("Learjet") Lear said: you won't have to fix or replace anything you leave out.
     
  17. Helios 1984

    Helios 1984 Member

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    Lets make things clear, there is nothing wrong in using auto-focus and it's NOT "cheating". I love focusing manually with my Praktica & Spotmatic but the AF on my EOS 30 is a breeze.
     
  18. JWMster

    JWMster Subscriber

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    Agree... there's no such thing as "cheating". Making good use of AF is a skill of it's own. Do I wish I had some AF lenses? Sure. Crawling babies, sports, animals, birds, stuff that moves... like family photos where no one stands/sits still... can all better handled with AF. Sony's got AF that memorizes faces... so as to try to pick out and focus on a face or two in the crowd. How cool is that? For my bit with MF... to be "happy" I just accept there are shots I'm not going to get. "Meh? Didn't / Couldn't snag that one." I'm okay with that. Lots of folks aren't.
     
  19. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    A couple of years ago I picked up a couple of Canon EOS film bodies so I could have the option to use something with auto-focus, auto-wind and built in flash. The lenses wok on my one and only digital body too.
    For the right use, the EOS bodies are really nice - particularly the eye control focus ones. But they are a lot harder to focus manually than my Olympus bodies with faster, fixed focal length lenses. And generally I like focusing manually.
     
  20. Ko.Fe.

    Ko.Fe. Member

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    AF helps with fast moving objects (tracking AF and AF points grid) and if you have weak eyes. It also works great with WA primes in simple P&S with close and far only AF points.
    MF helps in difficult to focus situations. Kid looking from behind of the Christmas tree. Some of us using MF in limited yet effective way for street photography. Focus tab on the left for close, focus tab in the middle for middle and focus tab on the right for far.
     
  21. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    AF is fast and accurate in my cameras. It is not necessary but useful once one knows its few limitations and how to focus on a particular point, hold the focus, recompose and then shoot with the original focus. Since I do not have it on my MF and LF equipment I do not use it. However I use it all the time with my 35mm cameras that do have it.
     
  22. phrons

    phrons Member

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    All that really matters is the photos.

    After that it's all personal preference.
     
  23. FerruB

    FerruB Member

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    The risk with AF is that you will not pay attention anymore to what your are actually focusing because the camera decided for you. However at the end I agree that what really matters are the photos!

    All my gears (135 and 120) are manual focus only not because I am a extremist purist but because are cheaper, simpler and therefore more reliable :wink:
     
  24. macfred

    macfred Subscriber

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    I prefer manual focus - although I have three FUJI GA645 with AF and I really enjoy shooting them. Those are great for 'point and shoot'.
     
  25. TheRook

    TheRook Member

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    Unlike many photographers, I actually enjoy manual focusing. And you can increase your focusing speed and focusing accuracy by simply practice focusing on random objects at various distances. You don't even need film in the camera to practice!
     
  26. Ces1um

    Ces1um Member

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    My preference is for manual focus but that's not to say autofocus isn't appropriate or even superior in some situations. Sometimes I don't even focus though if conditions are right. A sunny day, f16 and a 15mm lens makes focusing easy!