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AF hoopla? Or am i just resistant to change?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by ADemuth, Jul 10, 2018.

  1. ADemuth

    ADemuth Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 27, 2017
    Koror, Palau
    I've been reading quite a few camera reviews lately and it seems like AF features get brought up frequently. The ubiquity of this subject has led me to believe I'm doing something wrong, or at least missing something.

    My usual photo taking process, once the scene has been assessed and framed by eye, preliminary camera settings have been set, and the camera has been brought to my face, is as such: adjust my body position to roughly frame the shot, spot meter and lock exposure on what I want to expose for, if this is not already set, then move the single AF square in the center to where I want focus to be, half press to set and lock focus, reframe (possibly wait for the opportune time) and fully depress the shutter for the snap. If the subject is moving towards/away from me I try to pre-focus (usually on the ground) where I think it will be when I'm ready to take the picture. I realize this may seem like amateur hour here, but I feel like if I miss focus or exposure, I'm at least partially if not mostly to blame, therefore I can probably prevent that problem in the future. AF algorithms can't be altered as easily.

    These new AF features though, seem completely foreign to me and I can't figure out how to integrate them into my shots without shoehorning them in. The latest feature I read about was the ability to drag around the AF point on the rear screen while looking through the viewfinder. It's a neat trick for sure, but how many of you would or do use this in practice? I can definitely see using the screen to select an AF point that's off center if you're mounted on a tripod, but I can't fathom tracking a subject while dragging around the AF point to match it with your thumb. That's patting your head while rubbing your tummy territory!

    I remember setting up my E-P5 and seeing all sorts of options that made me say 'Oh, nifty!' and then I promptly forgot about them, such as separate right and left eye detect AF. It seems like digging into the menu to swap eyes would take longer than focusing on the eye you wanted, then reframing the shot before pressing the shutter all the way.

    I'm not saying these are useless features or trying to go old school with a "back in my day" troll. They seem like they could be powerful tools that maybe I should learn to leverage. My question: Which of these types of features do you use, when, and what does your shot process look like? Since can't seem to integrate them into my process, I have the sneaking suspicion many of these advances are geared towards professionals, so if you do (or don't) use these features in your job, what do you shoot for a living? Are any of you as suspicious of these features as I am, or how did you learn to trust your camera?
  2. ac12

    ac12 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 24, 2018
    I like face/eye detect, BUT . . . it often focuses on the WRONG faces.
    And it isn't fast to switch to single point AF, when face detect isn't working well. At least I have not figured it out yet. I think I can do that with one of the custom functions, but that is for another day, as I am still learning it.

    I think if you use single point AF, and spot metering, the meter will follow the AF point.
  3. We move AF points rather than using focus-recompose (epecially with fast lenses) because distance to subject changes when you reframe, and because the subject might have moved during that time.

    This is only critical when you've got a window of seconds to get the shot. If you have all the time in the world to meter and fine tune where you want to focus, then none of these modern features matter.

    If you're shooting a street scene with a subject walking across the frame using a fast wide angle, you pretty much have to pick the AF point specifically. If they are not moving completely predictably, you might have to also last minute adjust where the AF point is.

    For the above situation I tend to use the LCD touch shutter - I frame up and tap on the subiect on the screen to immediately get the shot.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2018
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  4. Lcrunyon

    Lcrunyon Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jun 4, 2014
    None of these features you mentioned require digging into the menus. All of them can be accessed through the Super Control Panel or through one-touch controls.

    Moving the AF point with the d-pad or the touchscreen, as opposed to focusing and recomposing, makes for sharper subjects, since with the focus and recompose technique you are essentially changing the plane of focus, especially close-up. Changing the size of the AF point is also an important consideration. These things I would definitely work on integrating.

    Face detect is basically doing that for you (and tracking), but I don’t think it works perfectly, and I don’t really see the eye detect working well. If you have more than one person in your shot, it’s better to control it manually, not only to ensure you’re targeting the right face, but also to make sure you have enough DoF to get all the faces you want sharp. This feature is ok, but I don’t rely on it or see much need for it.

    AF algorithms are really for CAF and Tracking. They are important for following action with a burst of shots. The trap technique you mentioned works in some situations, but only when you can predict where (and to a degree when) the action will be. The algorithms attempt to do that for you. Yes, action shots can be taken with SAF or even MF, but it’s exponentially easier to get the perfect shot with high speed CAF. For Olympus, only the E-M1 MkII is really good at this, so I wouldn’t bother unless you have that camera.
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  5. Carbonman

    Carbonman Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Jul 10, 2014
    Vancouver BC
    I still haven't been able to set up my E-M1 II so I can use the EVF to view and the touchscreen to move the focus point. I'm on a learning curve like many others.
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  6. thazooo

    thazooo Mu-43 Regular Subscribing Member

    May 24, 2012
    Mississippi, USA
    Dana F.
    No. All the bells and whistles are just Tech and Convenience settings. If they help or make it easier to capture your image, go for it. Above all else how you shoot and enjoy Photography is up to you. Myself, I've got my 'Ritual' that I use. Similar to yours. I'm also an Av or M shooter constantly. I haven't found any of the New Tech to help or hinder my shooting so I keep on using what's worked for me.
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  7. ADemuth

    ADemuth Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 27, 2017
    Koror, Palau
    Sometimes I'm not interested in having the subject exposed "correctly" :) 

    @wjiang@wjiang your street scene example has made me realize some of my resistance to modern AF methods. I spent the first year or so with a P20 on an Olympus body. While it's not unusably slow as some say, there is no way I could snag a person passing by at the right time by tapping on the screen. In addition, my only real prior photographic experience was with manual focus SLRs, so focus and recompose just feels natural to me. AF just sped that process up for me.

    I never really considered how much the focal plane would change when you recompose.
    At a distance with a slow lens, it wouldn't matter much with a deep DoF. I'll definitely work on moving the AF point around more and playing with AF area size, it sounds like the gains are more than negligible and with a bit of practice, the process will become second nature.

    Do you typically set the AF point before you have the cam up to your face? How often do you find yourself changing the AF point while you're looking through the viewfinder?
  8. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    Even with all the modern conveniences, I know plenty of photographers that use zone focusing.

    If the way you are doing it is working for you, then keep on doing it. If for some reason you see a reason/need to change, then investigate that.
  9. PakkyT

    PakkyT Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jun 20, 2015
    New England
    Ya the concern with moving the camera to focus then reframing is really only an issue if you are shooting something very close or shooting something with a huge aperture where the DoFs are going to be paper thin. But if that is not usually an issue with the stuff you shoot then that method (AF + reframe) works fine. I personally have been trying to get into the habit of using my arrow pad to move the focus point around without moving the camera (I too usually had used the focus + reframe method) just in case I do have one of those situations I will already be in the habit of doing it in a better manner for shallow DoF.

    On the other hand, I am not a big fan of the super shallow DoF especially in portraits. Because of how big apertures have gotten in lenses, it seems like the trend (mostly because they can) is to shoot with a DoF so shallow that one EYE is in focus while the other eye, ears, and the tip of the nose are not. Maybe OK for arty or fashion shots but for actual portraits, I prefer the whole face be in focus and want DoF to help separate subject from background, not separate the subject's body parts.

    I default my focus point to be the center of the screen (and use small). When I lift the camera to my face I then make the decision if I want to focus+reframe or use the arrow keys. A lot of times times it really is just much easier to point, focus, reframe when you are shooting something 8 feet away at f/5.6. But sometimes, say shooting a pair of people where the focus point in between them (and aimed far off in the background between them) I will try and remember to use the arrow pad to move the focus point onto one of their faces since that is a critical focus point of the picture.

    I do have a question for you. I never shot film other than P&Ss so everything was basically automatic or fixed. Once I moved to digital and started to want to actually learn how to photography and change settings, I have never used the AEL/AFL for locking the exposure of a scene and I think this is because digital has always provided exposure compensation so when I want to lighten or darken something in the scene I simply roll that dial to what I want. Curious if you use exposure compensation or if your habit to always manually lock exposure on something then focusing, etc. Your post made me wonder if I should perhaps explore using the AEL button regularly.
  10. Lcrunyon

    Lcrunyon Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jun 4, 2014
    The focus and recompose technique works well enough, and I used it for years before realizing it was flawed. Now, I would say it’s a bad habit that you can get away with most of the time (depending on DoF), but is best to train yourself out of for the occasional times it will bite you in the butt. There’s really no reason not to.

    I put the VF to my eye and figure out my composition before doing anything. I can then use the d-pad without taking my eyes away from the VF. Once I trained myself this way, it’s an easy part of the composition process. You can also set your camera up to re-center the focus point at the press of a button.
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  11. barry13

    barry13 Mu-43.com Editor Subscribing Member

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Hi, On Oly bodies, this only is available on Pen F and E-M1 mkII and possibly newer.
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  12. ToxicTabasco

    ToxicTabasco Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jul 2, 2018
    South West USA
    Seems the evolution of AF all comes with advantages, but also requires a different technique and thought process to operate. Much like the skills used for MF, different handling is needed for AF.

    Also, the thought process and work flow is different too. Your example of how you set up a shot is something that can be done in 1 to 2 seconds with muscle memory. Or could take several minutes with methodical thought process where planning is needed.

    I've been old school with AF using back button focus, and the new G9 has made me adapt to various forms of AF because it's so fast to switch between focus modes. But that comes at a cost of using different shooting process to get the optimal performance from the various AF.

    Nevertheless, once one gets great results using a specific AF or MF technique, they usually stick to it. And new technology always makes thing more efficient but with a different approach which takes effort to learn and figure out how to get the most of it. Once it's mastered, it becomes muscle memory and difficult to go back to the old techniques. I'm also thinking of touch screens, and EVFs.
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  13. felipegeek

    felipegeek Mu-43 Enthusiast Subscribing Member

    Jan 8, 2014
    Miami, FL
    I too tend to work like the OP. I learned to shoot with a Yashica Electro GN and Minolta XD-11 as a teen in the late 80's. I've been through various auto-focus cameras since and have often been frustrated by the AF's decision making so I still work with my EM-5 I and II the same way. There are times I would like multi-point AF to just work and figure out what I want but I simply haven't practiced it in various situations to build a handling technique and confidence with it. I know there have been plenty of missed shots due to not using the full capabilities of the camera's AF system.
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  14. ADemuth

    ADemuth Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 27, 2017
    Koror, Palau
    @gryphon1911@gryphon1911 , @thazooo@thazooo , I'm definitely in your camp - I enjoy my shooting procedure and am happy with the results - my method feels fast, natural and flexible. While there are certainly techy things my camera does that I have no interest in using; video, art filters and scene modes, there are things it does that I initially dismissed as phooey that I end up using quite a bit. Being able to view the scene, change settings and trip the shutter using my phone is fantastic and has let me get shots that would be difficult to get otherwise. AF options have always baffled me, but there seems to be a big to-do about them, so I thought it may be poor execution on my end. If after some guided exploration I still don't enjoy it, I'll return to my old ways. I don't expect vast improvement in my photography, I just want to make sure I've given it a fair chance.

    I don't eschew EC completely, but for the most part I wish Olympus would let me swap my EC wheel for ISO. I feel like you have finer control with EC and it's nice for me to use in certain situations. For what I shoot, I just can't be bothered with it when I generally have a frame full of different exposure values that I can meter to without moving my finger from the shutter or my thumb from the rear dial (I just sort of mash my thumb into the 2x2 switch to hit the record button mapped to AEL on my E-P5) I'm also always just a button press away from 0 EC.

    @ToxicTabasco@ToxicTabasco - you hit the nail on the head: Muscle memory and ritual are hard to train out and humans generally stick with the status quo. Through a series of fortunate misfortunes, I'm switching bodies, and now that I'm comfortable with some of the benefits and quirks of shooting digital, a new button layout seems like a good time to explore a new method of shooting since muscle memory will have been thrown out the window. As I said before, the process may not click with me, but I'll never be sure unless I give it a shot, and having some guidance as to what works for others should aid in a fair assessment.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2018
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