Going Old School - Purposefully Working In Manual Focus Lenses (Image Heavy)

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gnarlydog australia

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Damiano Visocnik
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Looking at the web-junkies around me, I decided for myself to switch back to the phone with answering machine. So when I'm outside or with friends I enjoy being not "reachable". Same with my emails: only at fixed times. And when having a coffee or sitting together for a nice meal I ask them to switch off their toys for the time we are together. It would take pages to tell the good effects of this.
The main effect of this change: those who are important to me still get in touch with me, but I'm rid of most "pains in the neck", as they only use social media. Sitting together with friends who look at you, talk with you, have fun with you ... without permanently goggling down on their smartphones for messages or cutting conversations in the middle of a sentence to answer the nervous ringtone and talk into the gadget.

.
Winner.
I do the same. And for the ones that can not switch their phones off when invited over to dinner no longer receive and invitation.
We both benefit from that arrangement :)
 
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When I first started shooting m4/3 a year ago I really, really missed the split lens focusing on my old manual SLR. But my lens options have basically forced me to use manual focus almost exclusively; neither the Sigma 50-100 or the Canon 100-400 I have focus worth a damn using AF.

I've adapted to it, and now I (mostly) prefer focus peaking over the idea of having a split lens. Is there a way to have focus peaking turned on ALL the time? Being able to visualize your DoF can be nice no matter how you're focusing the camera.

There are several pro "action" photographers in my area and I've started following them on IG. I met one at Petapalooza and when he saw me later in the day shooting the dock jumping he asked "are you MANUALLY focusing this?!"

This past week I posted some kitesurfing pics and randomly threw in the #manualfocus tag to one of the. One of the other pros actually sent me a DM asking if it was true, and when I told him most of my shots were, he was floored. Out of curiosity, I went and had a look at my IG gallery, only 3 of the last 60 images posted were taken using AF. Can you spot them? Joel Rushworth (@gwydionjhr) • Instagram photos and videos

Unfortunately, I dropped the Canon 100-400 yesterday, and it's grinding when you try to manually focus it. I'm going to take it in to see if it can be repaired, but this also might be an opportunity to see if I can find a proper manually focusing lens with the same range. The one big problem with both the Sigma and the Canon is that the throw on the focus ring is too short and makes fine tuning the focus more difficult.

Shooting "action" and manually focusing might seem counter-intuitive, but I think in some situations I get shots that the AF cameras would miss, especially with the water sports. The kiteboarders can drop in and out of view between waves, the surfers & kayakers can be surrounded by spray, all things that could confuse AF systems.
 

CWRailman

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View attachment 692805
Nikon Df / Nikon 20mm f/3.5 AIS
1/320, f/8, ISO 800

I've done a lot of soul searching over the last 31 days. Starting Oct 1, 2018 I purposefully disconnected myself from social media sites, forums and a bulk of the internet for 31 days.

I like where you are going with your dissertation. I also shoot what I call “old school style” however I do rely on autofocus. In the past using my Pentax SLR’s especially the MX the split screen view finder focus method was great and I could easily focus in all but the darkest of environments. Now however there are no such screens on any of the cameras and though they do employ some sort of focus detection system it is not easy for me to see the differentials of these screens in certain light conditions such as out of doors in our bright sun light which is most often the environment in which I shoot.

As a side note. After speaking with several local photography instructors and looking over several different brands of cameras we wrote to Fuji in Japan and suggested that they produce a version of the X-T1 specifically for sale to photographic students. This version would have all but the most basic functions disabled and turn it into a digital version of the Pentax K1000 SLR which is still used by some schools. Upon completion of the course the student could send the camera back to Fuji or download a firmware update to make the camera fully functional. We selected the Fuji because it already had manual control knobs for shutter speed and ISO like a SLR and aperture rings and a form factor similar to old SLR’s. I went so far as to have the letter transcribed into Japanese by a friend of mine and we sent them to Fujifilm but never received an answer.

I agree with you that much of the content in media or on Youtube or such is jaded and in some cases posters are in direct opposition to one another. Some are posting to incite their viewers to constantly upgrade equipment instead of focusing on improvement of skill sets. Then there are some who post controversial content just to get a rise out of their viewer ship which ups their numbers.
 
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I agree with you that much of the content in media or on Youtube or such is jaded and in some cases posters are in direct opposition to one another. Some are posting to incite their viewers to constantly upgrade equipment instead of focusing on improvement of skill sets. Then there are some who post controversial content just to get a rise out of their viewer ship which ups their numbers.

I've toyed with doing my own Youtube videos, injecting my own style and thoughts into the mix. Give people an alternative to the hate, click bate that is out there. Have a few gear reviews, but basically go a bit more philosophical and talk about photography and not get so caught up in tech. I'd just need to decide if I want to dedicate that much time into it.
 

CWRailman

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I've toyed with doing my own Youtube videos, injecting my own style and thoughts into the mix. Give people an alternative to the hate, click bate that is out there. Have a few gear reviews, but basically go a bit more philosophical and talk about photography and not get so caught up in tech. I'd just need to decide if I want to dedicate that much time into it.
That is what Sean Tucker does as he addresses some of the hate issues on Youtube though lately he has injected a bit of talk about gear.
 

D7k1

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I've finally found a meetup group that really fits me as a photographer (and I have started again to use my primes). In fact in about a week we are having a "coffee" meeting and the subject is photography as art. I've seen it said that if you have a passion for something nothing ignites that passion like being with other who have the same passion. As much as I love and support this forum it is but the shadow on the wall of Plato's cave when compared to meeting, creating and discussing photography with other photographers. Funny thing is it was getting the Oly 60 that made me get my other primes out of mothballs. The size of the non-f1.4 primes is a true strength of the M43 system for me.
 

Eastwestphoto

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View attachment 692805
Nikon Df / Nikon 20mm f/3.5 AIS
1/320, f/8, ISO 800

I've done a lot of soul searching over the last 31 days. Starting Oct 1, 2018 I purposefully disconnected myself from social media sites, forums and a bulk of the internet for 31 days.

I kept my business posts going by using schedulers and had all that I wanted to publish ready to go.

Over that 31 days, I've learned a lot about myself, where I want to go and who I want to be going into the future.

Let me start of by prefacing this with one thing. I'm so sick and tired of the know it all pundits, click bait articles and YouTube videos. I've not missed the online forum arguments where the trolls come out and pick fights or those that don't have a clue claim to be experts.

I'm one person with an opinion sometimes. Opinions are good as they give you perspective into the way that others think. Opinions about anything can be done respectfully or they can be represented in absolute douche-baggery. Not going to lie, I've fallen into all those traps before - either victim to them or perpetrated them myself.

Those days are over, my friends! After the last 31 days, I know that I am going to divest my life from the noise and find that awesome, low level under current of fellowship and knowledge. I'm going to seek that out and offer it up.

View attachment 692806
Olympus EM5 Mark II / ZhongYi Speedmaster 25mm f/0.95
1/125, f/1.2, ISO 500

With that being said, the title may have you wondering. No, I'm not going to tell you that working with manual focus lenses is the "only way to learn" or that "doing everything manually" is "true photography". Too many judgments are associated with those kinds of thinking. I'm going to share with you my journeys and experiences and allow you to glean from them what you will.

Also, along the way, we may not always agree. I make this pledge that even if we disagree, that I will disagree respectfully. We can have debates and disagreements - but we should never let anything that we disagree upon put us in a position that we cannot have a civil discourse about it. This is, after all about photography. It is about an art form that can be at times very scientific in how it is approached (objective) and at the very same time very subjective and up to the likes, dislikes or biases of the viewer.

View attachment 692807
Nikon Df / Nikon 105mm f/2.5 AIS
1/125, f/8, ISO 2000

Alrighty...soul bearing stuff out of the way, lets talk about manual focus lenses. Yes, you've read it right - I purposefully decided to work one full day making images with only manual focus lenses and prime lenses at that as well.

I'll get into more of that detail later. This article is also going to discuss manual focus photography in general.

View attachment 692808
Olympus PEN-F / Nikon 55mm f/3.5 Macro
1/320, f/4, ISO 200

Starting off, the WHY.

OK, why?? Why not!

Let's look at price. I've had the good fortune of having 2 very well respected camera stores near me. they have great selections in vintage SLR lenses. Having Nikon f-mount cameras and adapters for our Micro Four Thirds cameras, I can take advantage of some great values.

My most expensive purchase on a manual focus lens so far has been $270 on a Nikon 180mm f/2.8 ED AIS lens. My least expensive lens has been $30 for the Nikon 55mm f/3.5 macro lens.

View attachment 692809
Olympus PEN-F / Mitakon Creator 85mm f/2
1/500, f/4, ISO 200

Even for pixel peepers, the Nikon 180mm and 55mm macro are superbly sharp and worth the money even looking at them against modern lens designs. If you are shooting macro or portrait, you can often get great images without the need of auto focus.

Now, let's get into desire. Why would I want to work in this way. Honestly, for me it is another way of approaching photography. We already have so much automation, of which I am very thankful for, that sometimes I find the whole process very sterile. Camera picks the exposure, you place the AF point over the subject and click the shutter. Lather, rinse, repeat. Did that sound like I was complaining? On the contrary!! Again, perspective. If I am working a shoot for a client, I may only have a certain amount of time to work and the automation helps keep things moving along. It makes getting the images that make me money easier to get.
View attachment 692810
Olympus PEN-F / Nikon 55mm f/3.5 Macro
1/400, f/5.6, ISO 200

Thinking different sparks imagination. It makes you solve problems in other ways beside what you are normal. All these things cause you to grow as a person and a photographer. Growth is life, stagnation - death.

Image quality and rendering are another aspect we can look into. I find that there is just something about the rendering of images from these lenses. Could be the older coatings on the glass elements or the lack of coatings that make a difference. Optical design is another consideration we do not want to leave out of the equation. Some lenses just have a certain look to them, and if you find them appealing it is usually much easier to get what you want at the time of capture than trying to reproduce it in Lightroom or your post processing programs of choice.
View attachment 692811
Olympus PEN-F / Mitakon Creator 85mm f/2
1/500, f/4, ISO 200

If adapting these lenses to Micro Four Thirds systems, you also get the benefit of being able to use the in body image stabilization!

Now, let's get into the HOW.

Working in manual focus makes you think differently, we've established that previously. No longer are you always placing the AF point on a subject, letting the camera track it and pressing the shutter with 99% success rates.

You need to pre-plan how you are going to capture the focus. Sometimes you can capture right on the subject, if they are not moving too fast for you to keep up. Other times, you'll want to try and find a place in the area you want to capture the subject, pre-focus there and when they come into that area or zone, you actuate the shutter. What also helps in this is using a sufficiently deep depth of field, so that there is a good size area for the subject. Razor thin depth of field makes this technique a challenge.
View attachment 692812
Olympus PEN-F / Nikon 55mm f/3.5 Macro
1/100, f/3.5, ISO 1000

Manual focus assist systems are also another thing to consider. Back when the norm was manual focus, camera makers would make the focusing screens/ground glass in such a way that helped you know when something was in focus. With the advent of auto focus and it being the dominant method of focusing, less expense and time is placed on these focusing screens in SLR/DSLR cameras.

What you do have is auto focus confirmation systems that assist you. Like on the Nikon DSLRs, there is a yellow dot in the viewfinder display that tells you when it thinks the image is in focus based on where the current focus square is located in the viewfinder. If you have a higher end camera, you also get some assist arrows that let you know which way you should be turning the focus ring to get to proper focus.


I use manual lenses all the time on my Lumix G-1 m4/3. Many lenses of the Double-Gauss era coated and uncoated 1940~1960 yield amazing results. Its really about the number of aperture blades, the BOKEH if you like, and the coatings and a proper shielding rubber sunshade. Magnified manual focus is very hard for a hybrid passive AF system to Surpass in accuracy if you take the time to get that manual focus correct. Time is the equation we get brainwashed to believe is necessary. 90% of the time , it's NOT! Of course high speed sports and action is best served by high speed Hybrid passive AF. Otherwise manual lenses are awesome in every sense. Photo= Leitz Summar 50/2 1939
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