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Auto-focus and the art of motorcycle maintenance

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by Zariell, Dec 7, 2012.

  1. Zariell

    Zariell Mu-43 Top Veteran

    535
    Sep 28, 2012
    Bountiful, UT
    Hey all, I've been on a manual everything kick for the last little bit, remembering the fundamentals that I used to use back in the day's before every little thing could be done for me by the camera.

    As I read posts on here I keep hearing about how the Olympus E-5 can't autofocus well for fast sports, or birds etc, and it got me thinking what did we do back in the olden days, where the only autofocus was how fast we could turn the focus ring, I have seen and looked up many photographs taken in the days before autofocus, and they did extremely well, so what happened?

    I wonder if we have become a little complacent with technology, and we have lost our way a bit, since its easier to let the camera do its thing. do we now look at a situation and say well it can't autofocus, and pack up and go home?

    Now I'm not trying to flame anyone here, I don't want this to become a flame thread, and I will be honest I don't get out much so I can't and havent judged the autofocus of the camera's, the fastest thing in my house is the cats, and they spend 99% of their day sleeping. :) I am just curious as to how people feel about this?
     
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  2. RevBob

    RevBob Super Moderator

    Jun 4, 2011
    NorthWestern PA
    Bob
    You raise a valid point. Autofocus is great, but it is possible to focus manually. Speed of autofocus and the ability to focus in low light have become important factors in judging lenses and cameras. This is valid when we're paying for those features and expect good performance but it really is possible to get past slow focus and go old school. :cool:
     
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  3. Fmrvette

    Fmrvette This Space For Rent

    May 26, 2012
    Detroit, Michigan
    Jim

    Hi Zariell!

    Three things come to mind (speaking as one who was actively photographing back in the olden days...:biggrin:):

    1. When you look at successful photographs of birds in flight or action shots of racing vehicles, etc. you're only viewing the keepers. Photos that were not successfully focused have long since been discarded.

    2. The SLRs of years past had focus screens - in fact the Nikon F had seventeen interchangeable screens! The 'split focus' screen was highly useful in focusing (even if it did darken when shooting at higher f/stop numbers). I find that the 'focus peaking' work-around for the OM-D helpful, but not anywhere near what I could get out of, say, a Minolta X-700 or Pentax K-1000 in manual focusing speed and accuracy.

    Change the Focusing Screen in Nikon F

    3. The lenses were designed for manual focusing. The "feel" of the focusing ring on the lens was considerably different than one gets with modern "fly by wire" lenses, and even modern lenses with manual focus capability, such as a Nikon 50mm /1.8 feels somewhat sloppy compared to a lens purchased in the 1960's.

    (Note that I am addressing SLR camera bodies here, and not addressing range finder designs, which have different characteristics to them).

    Not so much, at least in my case.

    When I had the Nikon D300 with battery grip and a suitable lens I was quite comfortable in putting the camera in "rock 'n roll" mode and shooting 8fps while allowing the Nikon to handle the focusing. Percentage of keepers was high, as it should have been - that kit was designed for such usage.

    I find the OM-D EM-5 (not to mention the EPL-1) to be somewhat...languid in comparison, especially with a slower focusing lens such as the Panasonic 20mm.

    Rather than pack up and go home, however, one can anticipate the shot, pre-focus, and accept, perhaps, a lower percentage of keepers.

    For example, shooting indoor sports in poor gymnasium lighting (such as high school basketball) if one switches to manual focus and then pre-focuses the lens to the area where one anticipates the shot will come together one can quite quickly hit the 'sweet spot' with the focus ring. Of course aperture comes into play as well - sufficient depth of field can sometimes hide a mis-focus.

    I don't pack up and go home, I just change the method of my madness :biggrin:.

    But I am speaking as an old dog - the newer generation who have not, perhaps, been exposed to fully manual controlled SLR camera bodies might have a different take on the subject.

    Good topic!

    Regards,

    Jim
     
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  4. Zuishi

    Zuishi Mu-43 Regular

    33
    Dec 8, 2011
    Perhaps it's not a question of whether manual focus is capable of acheiving a shot, but rather, can some autofocus systems achieve the same shot more consistantly?

    As an example, consider an amazing mid-air interception shot by the team photographer at a pro-football game. With todays lenses, tracking autofocus and sustained bursts when the action happens at least one of the pro's gets it nearly every time. A manual focus guy may get the shot once or twice a season. The resulting image may be of equal quality but it may not be as special as it once was when everyone had the same handicap. Which one gets hired next season?

    This perspective is coming from someone who has more manual focus and legacy lense images than native on his ep-3. I currently love the process of the hunt as much as the final resulting image. I suspect that many would put greater value on the image. Perhaps when my skill improves my perspective will shift.

    Back to the question "what did we do back in the olden days?" We didn't always get the shot. I suspect we also valued the shot more when we did nail it.

    Justin
     
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  5. Zariell

    Zariell Mu-43 Top Veteran

    535
    Sep 28, 2012
    Bountiful, UT
    What prompted this thread, yesterday I was at a well lit daytime bicycle raceit was overcast but not bad, I had no camera with me.

    A guy with a 1D and a 70-200 2.8 was packing up his gear and loudly proclaiming that his autofocus wasn't worth crap and off he went. Now to me if I had my camera on me I would have prefocused and panned.

    It was this behavior that made me wonder how we have come to rely on tech and not photography skills.
     
  6. Zuishi

    Zuishi Mu-43 Regular

    33
    Dec 8, 2011
    "I had no camera with me."


    The only way to guarantee you miss the shot. :biggrin:

    JD
     
  7. Zariell

    Zariell Mu-43 Top Veteran

    535
    Sep 28, 2012
    Bountiful, UT
    Heh agreed, but I wasn't there for photography, I was there to watch. And as typical some people bird watch, I photography watch ;P
     
  8. Maczero

    Maczero Mu-43 Regular

    141
    Feb 13, 2010
    Fife
    I have some sympathy for this point of view ...

    ... although you can't blame people for trying to get the technology to work for them.

    I have been trying, fairly fruitlessly, to make the CAF system on my OM-D work for me when photographing birds in flight. Results have not been good, although I am sure that this is at least in large part down to poor technique.

    However, my best long lenses are my legacy HG 43 lenses. They do autofocus, but it can be slow and a bit hit and miss. I have been experimenting with the focus peaking method and practising 'not in anger' tonight did seem to offer real potential (I personally find this a bit easier than using a zoomed view on its own).

    Perhaps what we need are some top tips from those who did their apprenticeships back in the old MF days?

    Andrew
     
  9. RobWatson

    RobWatson Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Pretty much I get like this when using the 40-150 since AF really is sketchy for me with this lens and manual with that lens is really no fun at all. The only other AF lens I had was the 17mm F2.8 and manual focus on that was pretty limp as well (AF was fine).

    Good thing I have a handful of legacy and manual lenses in the bag so I don't have to slink off home with my AF lameness tucked betwixt me legs.

    Good thing I like zone focus, hyperfocal work and manual focus in general.
     
  10. Zariell

    Zariell Mu-43 Top Veteran

    535
    Sep 28, 2012
    Bountiful, UT
    I went out today and tried to take car photos as they drove by, used all manual, manual with single AF, continuous with manual, then AF with the camera setting everything else, will check them and post which worked better for me :)
     
  11. Zariell

    Zariell Mu-43 Top Veteran

    535
    Sep 28, 2012
    Bountiful, UT
    My unscientific test results :p

    Ok here they are, I have to say 1) I need to practice my panning more, 2) I need to slap the person who took my ND filters out of my camera bag :p

    So this is what happened when I let the camera do everything with continuous AF.
    [​IMG]
    This one was the best of about 15 shots, they were mostly crap :p

    This is single AF, with the rest being manual
    [​IMG]
    A little better, but still not perfect IMO this was the best out of about 20 with about 1/3 ok.

    And last but not least, complete manual mode with me prefocused before the truck came into view.
    [​IMG]
    I would say out of 20 photos, I got again a little over 1/3, but IMO the photos were far better with manual focus than when trusting the camera.
     
  12. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    SoCal
    As Jim stated, the difference was the MF, SLR was designed for MF and was capable of delivering an image focusing system which could easily (after much practice) focus on a moving subject. With an SLR, the really good photogs would actually track a moving subject, (i.e. a running back or a striker or equal). A good photog could rotate the focus ring at the same rate of the moving subject, keeping the moving subject constantly in focus (or nearly so).
    The SLR's of yore were design to deliver such performance.

    The MF I've experience with µ4/3, is light years behind this performance. If I was shooting a sporting/action event in manual focus, I'd prefocus on a spot, anticipating that the action would drift to that spot ...

    This is very easily done with events which are confined to a tight, predetermined space.

    #1
    WG-Football-UE-M.

    #2
    Soccer---HP-L.

    #3
    Red-Chinese-Basketball-Team-XL.

    #4
    Motocross-UE-L.

    #5
    Tennis-1-HP-L.

    #6
    Pelican-2---HP-L.
     
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  13. RobWatson

    RobWatson Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    I wonder how you would compare the CV Nokton 25 F0.95 in terms of MF feel ... feels a lot like my Nikon Nikkor 50mm F1.2 - the Nikon is marginally 'stiffer'. That's my 'yore'iest lens.
     
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  14. b_rubenstein

    b_rubenstein Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 20, 2012
    Melbourne, FL
    Yeah, back in the day of wooden ships and iron men anybody worth their salt could focus track a NFL running back with a 600/4 wide open. Except it isn't true. Go an look at sports pictures from the 60's and you don't see many action shots taken with long lenses wide open. The shallow DOF look in sports is made possible by AF. It's a different look than panned shots where the background blur is due to camera movement.

    The fact that you got a low hit rate using AF on a µ4/3 camera is more a reflection on your not being familiar with the best way to use the camera's AF. For the most part, if you need AF-C and/or AF tracking µ4/3 isn't the right tool; a DSLR is. If you think MF is better, go shoot some kids playing soccer.
     
  15. Zariell

    Zariell Mu-43 Top Veteran

    535
    Sep 28, 2012
    Bountiful, UT
    Now now lets be nice, as far as my auto focus skills, I think with the over 10,000 photographs with my EM-5 I'm quite comfortable with how it performs.

    The original point is, do you give up when the situation is challenging your camera, are we so reliant on our camera's we just pack it in because we have just come to rely on what the camera tells us is right... Or do we go back to the basics and soldier on using techniques which the old photographers of old did?
     
  16. Zariell

    Zariell Mu-43 Top Veteran

    535
    Sep 28, 2012
    Bountiful, UT
    Take a look at the photographs taken in the 1950's, and 1960's that I shared a link to. You will see in some of the basketball photographs are obviously staged, there is quite a few that showed manual focus photography at its best, and there is no panning at all involved, just a fast shutter and skill.

    Historical Photography
     
  17. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    SoCal
    Oh please, nobody in the '60's used a 600/4 lens. 600mm were occasionally used for baseball and they were used up in the press boxes. Football was generally shot from field level with 180mm f/2.8 and 300mm f/4.

    The first sentence of the second paragraph is contradictory to the second sentence of the second paragraph.
     
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