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AF or not AF?
  
 
waterden
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · AF or not AF?


Excepting for sports and wildlife, how important is AF now we have mirrorless cameras which allow much greater ease and accuracy with much smaller MF lenses?


Aug 07, 2017 at 07:20 PM
Mathieu18
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · AF or not AF?


If you're a landscape shooter, not at all important. If you want to catch your toddler running around it's still very important. But maybe that counts as wildlife?


Aug 07, 2017 at 07:42 PM
JohnJ
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · AF or not AF?


Af makes it much easier to shoot people too. I often switch between mf and af when shooting people and notice a difference in the spontaneity or speed with which you can catch fleeting moments with af, but i mostly shoot wide open. If you shoot with wide angle lenses and stopped down then you may not even have to focus an mf lens so you can certainly shoot fast that way too.

As much as i dislike the rendering of the sony 1.8/85 im on the cusp of buying one just for its af (just for people photography).

If shooting a stationary subject then mf is no problem at all especially with the high magnification you can get to focus accurately. I mostly use mf with an a7rii and have few issues.



Aug 07, 2017 at 09:11 PM
DannyBurkPhoto
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · AF or not AF?


I buy manual lenses exclusively, except in a few cases where the lens that I want isn't available except in an AF version, and then I use them only in manual mode. That said, I only do non-moving subjects (landscape, flowers, etc) and nearly always on a tripod. If I were doing moving subjects, it would be a different matter entirely.

MF allows great precision and doesn't allow the camera to refocus without your approval. I prefer actual MF lenses because they nearly always have a better feel to the focus ring. The worst are "focus by wire" AF lenses - I bought 3 without knowing better when I got my Sony A7RII, and have since sold all of them. The absolute worst is the Sony 55/1.8 - it's terribly difficult to decide when it's in focus.



Aug 07, 2017 at 10:38 PM
Steve Spencer
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · AF or not AF?


I shoot more than 95% of the time using manual focus. I have no problem shooting people and no problem even shooting my four year old son. I think the key to shooting toddlers is being able to predict where they will be. If I try to follow my son's movements I just can't keep him in the view finder, but if I wait and guess where he is going to be I can guess fairly well. I pre-focus to that spot and take the shot as he gets there. That works great with manual focus. I can even shoot wide open with fast lenses with this strategy. I agree with Danny about prefer lenses with good focus feel as well.


Aug 08, 2017 at 03:26 AM
JohnJ
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · AF or not AF?


Photographers survived OK without AF for the first c. 150 years and I'm sure most would do just fine without AF. However, anyone with an interest in sport photography during the 1980's would have noticed massive improvements in the images captured by dedicated, full time pro sport photographers in the years after AF was introduced. That's not to say these guys no longer needed their knowledge and experience to get 'the' shot, but now it was also in focus (and today so are the 20 shots either side of it that they shot in one burst). Frankly, if I had AF on my Leica R 1.4/80 or 2/180 I'd use it, but that they don't isn't a show stopper either.


Aug 08, 2017 at 06:11 AM
dbehrens
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · AF or not AF?


Depends. . .

Landscape: MF (I find AF a hinderance!)
Astro: MF
Other static subjects on/off tripod: MF
Street shooting: AF
Birds/Wildlife: The best of the best AF
Family/Travel: AF
Portrait (on tripod): MF!



Aug 08, 2017 at 06:20 AM
Paul_K
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · AF or not AF?


Depends on subject, shooting style and shooting technique

I started in photography with a fully manual (stop down TTL metering, manual focus, no winder or mototrdrive) Canon FTQL in the late 60's/early 70's
In those days AF was at best perhaps a distant dream of some technoheads
So any photographer shooting sports, events or catwalk worth his salt had to have/had to develop a fast eye/hand reflex (thus being capable of taking a picture in the split second when, while focusing, the subject was indeed in focus) in order to become at least proficient, and if possible, better then average at constantly focusing (and refocusing) when shooting the above mentioned subjects, eg





(Modestad Amsterdam 1983, F2AS, Nikkor 4.5/300 ED, Tri-X)

On the other hand, not having a fast eye/hand reflex was, and still is no problem when shooting, hand held or using a tripod, still subjects, like landscape, architecture and product.
Even does not have to be a problem when shooting people/portraits, providing they are/the subject is willing to hold still for a longer period to allow (manual) focusing

Funny thing BTW is that I nowadays see many 'smartphone' shooters needing much time to compose and take a picture, despite that on those phones many functions as eg AF, exposure and 'filmtransport' are automated
Likewise I see many DSLR shooters using Liveview, and holding their DSLR's with zoom (quite unstably) like a smartphone with the LCD screen on front of their eyes, rather then using the OVF

When AF finally became available on (more or less) pro level SLR's , (Nikon had the F3AF in 1983, but that really was a very experimental, with a very limited number of available AF lenses, camera) in the late 80's, I intentionally skipped the first models (Minolta Maxxum 7000, Canon 650, Nikon F501) and made my first steps in AF with a F801 (could have gotten a FE2, but decided for the F801 to be able to play around/experiment with AF, using the TC16A with my manual AI lenses)

For landscape and product AF was (and IMO is) at best convenient (not having to adjust focus yourself, nice if you're 'lazy ) but not mandatory, although in some situations MF IMO still was/is preferable.

I however found that for portraiture, especially considering my shooting style (hand held, long lenses wide open, close up portraits with focus on the eyes, model/subject not 'frozen' in a pose) being able to be able to (re)focus using AF up to the very last moment before taking a picture, could, compared to manual focusing, save it.





(F801, 2.8/80-200 AF-D at 200mm, Tri-X)

Admittedly when shooting in a technically more deliberate way (eg using my 500CM, on a tripod, with a stopped down lens for more DoF and a posed 'frozen' model) manual focus would/will do the job just as well, and maybe even better (since the focus wouldn't shift every time the model would, even ever so little, change position)

On the other hand, for things like sports (European football, surf, fieldhockey, tennis), PJ and events (eg catwalk, weddings, corporate events) having AF (and other automated functions like dedicated TTL flash, automatic winder, advanced TTL metering) in my experience really was a major advance, allowing much faster and Instantaneous /spontaneous shooting even under less then ideal conditions (even if the result may not be technically 'perfect' all the time), especially with nowadays DSLR's.





(Academy Artemis Antwerpen, Fashion Department 2011, D3, 4/200-400 VR1, f4,5 1/320th, ISO 6400)





(Quick Silver Pro Hossegor 2010, D3, 4/600 AF-I + TC 14EII = 840mm, f7,1 1/2500th, ISO 320)

Edited on Aug 09, 2017 at 02:28 AM · View previous versions



Aug 08, 2017 at 11:17 AM
uscmatt99
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · AF or not AF?


Definitely a use case scenario. I prefer to use MF on true MF lenses. If a lens has AF, I just use it as intended, as MF-ing them is a pain. I really like Sony's implementation of Eye-AF, which defaults to face-AF when it can't see an eye, for people photos that for me are family and friends. The face-AF is okay, but the Eye-AF is pretty much 100% with my 55/1.8. I've also found the AF-S to be quite good as long as I use the smallest sized box for the moveable focus point setting (can't remember what it's called). I have AF mapped to the back button only so that half-pressing the shutter won't cause it to refocus. Sadly tracking focus on the A7ii is not as good as my 2005 Nikon D50, but it sounds like they are sorting it out with the A9 and a6500.


Aug 08, 2017 at 01:33 PM
mbphoto_2.8
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · AF or not AF?


For still life, landscapes, lightpainting, astro, etc. I don't use AF at all.
If I shoot sports, obviously I rely on my AF in most cases (unless I try stuff with pre-focus)

If I shoot portraits, the Fuji mirrorless has only disappointed 99/100 times when shooting manual focus. The peaking simply sucks and zooming in to confirm focus never works... (you simply move too much if you have to zoom back out to confirm your framing and then shoot)
If the mirrorless has a small window that zooms in on your focus point, that would be great for manual focus. Without it, I can't use it.


When I shoot my adapted lenses on the Canon DSLR, I use an EMF AF confirm chip that beeps if focus is acquired on the chosen AF square.
And baby, that's the best system I've ever used!
I'm just as fast and most of the time the focus is spot on (as opposed to the AF lenses that need AFMA out of the box (because, for the manual lenses, I had to do that anyways for the chip to work).

So, yeah, I love manual focus with my DSLR and hate it with my mirrorless.


This was with the Zeiss Planar 50/1.4 C/Y on the Canon, at f/1.4
19/20 shots were in perfect focus on the eyes.


This one's from my Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 wide open, all the shots were in focus




Just too bad Nikon doesn't allow the beep with manual focus lenses.. the small green dot isn't good enough for me.



Aug 08, 2017 at 04:23 PM
 

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arduluth
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · AF or not AF?


For me, the answer is not AF. My main thing is concert photography. MF is so much less hard than people make out. I don't know if it's a matter of skill, justifying new gear, or just an assumption but it's plainly not true. You definitely don't need AF for chasing toddlers or any other kind of people. Not everyone wants to put up with MF for people, but it bothers me when people act like it's impossible. It's not. Indeed, I often find it much easier to just focus rather than move a focus point around.

AF makes sense when you're shooting moving objects with low DOF at > 100mm. It's definitely not necessary when tracking people moving around at common distances for with a 50mm f/1.4 or similar. I never use an 85mm f/1.4, but I suspect that'd take some skill. It definitely starts getting a bit harder around 85mm f/2.

FWIW, I don't use peaking.

I do find MF hard on standard DSLR focusing ground glass screen, but that's a different story.

All that said, this is what I'm saying now at 36. I accept that may be singing another tune in 30 years. :P



Aug 08, 2017 at 06:55 PM
airfrogusmc
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · AF or not AF?


Mathieu18 wrote:
If you're a landscape shooter, not at all important. If you want to catch your toddler running around it's still very important. But maybe that counts as wildlife?


Not really. DoF scales are very useful. No auto focus in the world is faster than being pre focused. My work is about moments and timing. I completely switched from Canon and auto focus to Leica M and manual focus because even fixed focal length Canon EF lenses DoF scale SUCK. I was missing shots with auto focus. I am now all Leica M and I do not miss moments.



Aug 08, 2017 at 07:03 PM
retrofocus
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · AF or not AF?


Everybody might have a different perspective on this topic. Personally, I find that it depends a lot on the camera which is used for a specific task. These days I shoot predominantly MF lenses after I had a period of about 15 years where I shot mostly with AF lenses - this was always with AF-based SLR or later DSLR cameras. Earlier SLR cameras had a much better matt focus screen to allow more precise focus with MF lenses. The more manufacturers pushed towards AF lenses, the more the quality of a good focus screen in DSLRs disappeared - to an extent for example with Canon's 5D MkIII which did not even allow to replace the standard focus screen anymore as easily. I still have my DSLR which I am using if I really need AF - for flying bird or some wildlife photography which I do rarely these days.

Mirrorless cameras are a decent hybrid to allow good AF with lenses of the same brand which fit to the camera without adapters. I don't have any experience here since I only use MF glass with my mirrorless camera. But manual focus with mirrorless is not so easy either - focus peaking is not really useful at faster apertures. Instead magnification needs to be used which can be a bit cumbersome and time consuming. Not a big deal for landscape photography where time often is sufficient to frame and focus. For macro photography mirrorless is ideal from my experience - all is MF here (even with AF macro lenses).

Best to use MF glass IMO is with rangefinder (film!) cameras - so far the viewfinders of digital rangefinders didn't convince me as much compared to my older film-based rangefinder cameras (maybe the M10 is as good, this one I didn't try yet). The viewfinder size and brightness is critical here. I find that I can focus nearly twice as fast compared to the same lens setup on my mirrorless Sony camera. It is very easy to move the focus view images together in one place in the viewfinder - or with sufficient DoF using a middle aperture stop and estimate the distance to the subject - this works especially well for street photography. While others above mentioned to prefer AF for street photography, I definitely prefer to use MF glass in this situation - AF sometimes does not grasp the right focus point with several people moving around and with different contrast of clothing/dresses etc. I rarely have out of focus outliers with MF lenses, but I am more concerned of missing the composition itself.

Edited on Aug 09, 2017 at 12:03 AM · View previous versions



Aug 08, 2017 at 11:56 PM
Arka
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · AF or not AF?


Mathieu18 wrote:
If you're a landscape shooter, not at all important. If you want to catch your toddler running around it's still very important. But maybe that counts as wildlife?


YES! This is exactly my conundrum.



Aug 08, 2017 at 11:58 PM
Two23
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · AF or not AF?


I think it's better to have the AF capability than not. All the lenses for my Nikon have AF, except the 24mm t/s. OTOH, none of the lenses I use on my Chamonix 4x5 do and I get along without it. Use that camera for different things, of course.



Kent in SD



Aug 09, 2017 at 12:44 AM
Mathieu18
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · AF or not AF?


It's why I have both. And a TAP.

Arka wrote:
YES! This is exactly my conundrum.




Aug 09, 2017 at 01:04 AM
genji
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · AF or not AF?


I think most members would agree that manually focusing the majority of AF lenses is a miserable experience (although the Tamron SP 35/1.8 has a well-damped focusing ring that is a pleasure to focus manually). One of the main reasons I like the Techart PRO is that it offers the best of both worlds: fast and accurate AF using the flexible spot and MF when you need it. If I was restricted to a single camera and lens, I would unhesitatingly choose the A7R2 and M-Hexanon 50/2 with the TAP.


Aug 09, 2017 at 01:17 AM
telyt
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · AF or not AF?


retrofocus wrote:
... manual focus with mirrorless is not so easy either - focus peaking is not really useful at faster apertures. Instead magnification needs to be used which can be a bit cumbersome and time consuming...


With the Sony a7-series cameras I set the display quality (tools->2) to high. The plane of focus then shimmers, particularly with detailed subjects. It takes some practice to recognize the effect but once you've learned to recognize it it's unmistakable, quick and quite accurate.



Aug 09, 2017 at 10:07 AM
airfrogusmc
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · AF or not AF?


Again DoF scales work great for fast paced candids especially with really good high ISO. The new M 10 is really good at high ISO and nothing is faster and more responsive for this type of photography. There is a reason most of the great street photographers always preferred rangefinders.


Aug 09, 2017 at 02:26 PM
huntjump
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · AF or not AF?


To have full and complete control over the camera, I prefer MF. Also, in low light situations, MF all the way. I do mostly street photography, and that is why I prefer the leica and my RF lenses.


Aug 12, 2017 at 03:37 AM
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