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[OM-D] How do you focus?

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by napilopez, Jan 2, 2013.

  1. napilopez

    napilopez Contributing Editor

    Feb 21, 2012
    NYC Area
    Napier Lopez
    Inspired by the other thread inquiring what mode OM-D shooters most use, I come with a related question.

    Basically, what method and settings do you use for focusing? Mainly, what focus mode, AF size, button configuration and features/settings do you use?

    For me, I actually use all the focus modes pretty frequently, except maybe S-AF alone.

    Generally, I'm in S-AF + MF. I've been alternating between having MF assist on or off, but I think I will leave it off because it's too easy to accidentally turn on with some lenses.

    For portraiture, I generally use MF mode, and have Fn 1 set to AFL. I'm actually considering making this my primary focus mode.

    I generally use a small center AF point, but pretty much always have face detection with nearest eye focus activated, which is extremely useful. When you're aiming for critical focus on the nearest eye on a lens with shallow DoF, the "focus and recompose" technique becomes much less reliable, so having focus automatically set on the face without needing to recompose has come in handy on many occasions.

    I tend to use the medium sized AF area for street photography, as it simplifies the focus and recompose technique. Otherwise, I'll use the touch screen.

    I also actually use focus tracking quite often. For this I use the "Vivid" trick, as well as contrast +1 I'm a RAW shooter most of the time, so I don't mind that I may get oversaturated jpegs. I find tracking mode also quite useful for portraiture such as full body portraits where I don't really have to worry about the nearest eye being in focus. It's convenient for just setting your focus, then walking around your subject snapping pictures from different angles.

    When shooting fast moving subjects, I'll switch to the high refresh rate mode, which not only substantialy increases C-AF and tracking accuracy, it also highly reduces the lag of the image on the screen relative to real life.
    • Like Like x 6
  2. RamblinR

    RamblinR Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Aug 16, 2012
    Qld Australia
    This thread could prove very interesting. Thanks for starting it.
    • Like Like x 1
  3. Ever since I bought the 25mm f1.4 I switched from S-AF + MF to S-AF. The focus ring on that lens is so light that just cradling the camera/lens with my left hand causes the ring to turn slightly and the screen view to magnify. I didn't want to manual focus without the magnified view turned on, and I basically never use manual focus anyway, so now I leave it on S-AF all the time.

    Otherwise I only ever use the smallest, single centre point to focus, with the exception of following a moving object or any type of street photography where I use the touchscreen focus point selection and shutter release, or when I hand the camera to someone else in which case I'll turn the face detect on.

    Caveat: I don't shoot sports and I rarely shoot portraits.
    • Like Like x 2
  4. napilopez

    napilopez Contributing Editor

    Feb 21, 2012
    NYC Area
    Napier Lopez
    Note: Editing my first post for clarity and some more details

    What you mentioned about the PL25 is basically exactly my issue. I used to have the 20mm f1.7 and had no problems with it's stiff focusing ring, but on the PL25 I'd find myself entering magnified focus mode from just holding the camera quite often. This is exacerbated by the fact the focus ring is huge.

    I still use S-AF + MF but I've now trained myself for a slightly slower but effective alternative. I have magnify set to Fn2 and if I want to magnify while I have the shutter half-pressed, I simply press Fn2 with my inner top knucle twice. A little awkward at first but I've gotten used to it. If I'm in MF mode this is less of an issue.

    On the other hand, I consider myself quite good with manual focus and only really use the magnify function to confirm critical focus on eyes for portraits or for macro.

    I manual focus very often because as good as the OM-D's AF is, in the very dark settings I often take it (I don't drink but often go to bars with friends) I find MF to both be quicker and more accurate. This is especially given that I turn off the AF assist lamp(it's so distracting), and that I'll more likely than not be shooting wide open.

    This reminds me of an unspoken advantage of the OM-Ds EVF over that of every other mirrorless camera I've tried; it hardly lags when used in low light(especially in high refresh mode). I didn't really notice it before, but now when I use my old G3's EVF at night it feels slow as molasses.
  5. flash

    flash Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Apr 29, 2010
    1 hour from Sydney Australia.
    I use mostly SAF, but I'm experimenting with CAF and the higher refresh rates with good results. I almost always use a small focus point and select the focus point by touch all the time in SAF. The only reason I see the large box is because the stupid camera resets every time you power up or enter the menus. Plus it won't allow the different info displays when using touch focus points.

  6. janneman

    janneman Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 6, 2012
    Jan (John) Kusters
    I usually have the OM-D on S-AF, most of the time I simply use the centre field and half press, then recompose. For critical focusing I have the magnify function assigned to the video record button; one press brings up the smallest focus box (14x), and a second press enlarges my view if need be. I have activated the touch screen so a simple tap relocates the AF box (without firing the shutter) but I don't use that too often (most when the camera is on tripod). The camera is usually on the high refresh rate, although I have to say that is mostly for a more direct view than for focusing reasons.

    I do not shoot sports, and for my 'reportage' work, S-AF is fast enough.
  7. newbert

    newbert Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 22, 2012
    Glens Falls, NY
    I have always used S-AF, but ran into a problem just this morning when attempting to shoot a cardinal sitting on a tree branch. The AF had trouble locking onto the cardinal - instead, it locked onto a nearby branch.

    Then I found this thread (Thanks for starting it!) and saw that perhaps I should have used S-AF+MF. Unfortunately the cardinal is gone now, but I just played with the setting itself to see how well it works, and I think that it could be useful.

    So, my question is - Are there any drawbacks to using the S-AF+MF setting for focusing?

  8. kevwilfoto

    kevwilfoto Mu-43 Veteran

    Sep 23, 2011
    This thread could use a poll.

    I normally use S-AF+MF.
  9. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    I use the smallest box with back button focus in S-AF.
  10. Zariell

    Zariell Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 28, 2012
    Bountiful, UT
    I am almost always in MF and zooming in for detail, I have found that on some of my toy shots, the AF can be just a hair off, and a hair off can royally screw my dof all to hell, course I still sticking to the lets do everything manually anyway, so I can impress all the girls, or at least make me feel like a legend in my own mind :) 
  11. napilopez

    napilopez Contributing Editor

    Feb 21, 2012
    NYC Area
    Napier Lopez
    Interesting to see everyone's different responses and purposes!
  12. Gary Ramey

    Gary Ramey Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 27, 2012
    Aurora Colorado
    I use the function 1 button to focus, manual plus auto but also the manual assist...takes awhile to get used to
  13. ralfmouth

    ralfmouth Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 16, 2012
    SAF+MF for sure, but pulling focus is very hard. The 12-35 fly-by-wire does not seem to focus well manually or has a mind of its own. I keep meaning to look into it, maybe i have the wrong settings.
  14. napilopez

    napilopez Contributing Editor

    Feb 21, 2012
    NYC Area
    Napier Lopez
    The thing about fly by wire systems is that they tend to have an "acceleration" system on them. On an MF lens, the only thing that matters is how much you rotate the lens. On a fly by wire lens, the slower you turn, the less change there will be. This is advantageuous for pinpointing focus, but often detrimental for video or other applications until you get used to it.

    When I need to MF quickly, I actually tend to like using the high refresh mode despite the lowered resolution because it feels more responsive to my actual movements. I like this for shooting in super low darkness where I can't really critically focus anyway and AF tends to be more spotty.
  15. Gary Ramey

    Gary Ramey Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 27, 2012
    Aurora Colorado
    It takes some practice to get it right. I usually touch the AF and then use the manual to fine tune it. I use the manual assist but you have to be careful when composing because its easy to hit the focus ring when gripping the lens
  16. Ross the fiddler

    Ross the fiddler Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    I tend to use S-AF+MF & use the touch screen to select the smallest size where I want it & changing its size if more general focusing is required. Changing to variouis settings requires thinking (that can hurt sometimes :wink:) & can easily be overlooked in the excitement or pressure of grabbing the shot.
  17. napilopez

    napilopez Contributing Editor

    Feb 21, 2012
    NYC Area
    Napier Lopez
    At times when I do use the focus assist, I train myself to hold the the left side of the body instead of the lens. I feel this is a slightly less stable position than holding the lens, but when on a lens with a huge focus ring like the PL25, it's better than jumping into assist mode all the time.
  18. Zariell

    Zariell Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 28, 2012
    Bountiful, UT
    Lucky for me my subjects tend to sit there until hell freezes over so I can take my time, now if only I could freeze real life subjects. :D 
  19. Rockinggoose

    Rockinggoose Mu-43 Regular

    I almost always use S-AF+MF but because I find the smallest focus area just too large for a lot of my subjects (a lot larger, it appears than the E5) like a small bird in a big bush I find it helps to use magnify at 14x with the S-AF to exactly pin-point the point of focus. Certainly this method improves the number of keepers with this type of subject.

  20. uci2ci

    uci2ci Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 22, 2012
    Los Angeles, CA
    When shooting birds with a native tele I set focus mode to S-AF + MF and to the smallest box. I assign Focus to one of the function buttons so the shutter button is for metering and shutter release. This way I can auto-focus using f1, magnify and check/adjust the focus (sometimes the focus is on something behind the bird), and then wait for the bird to get into a desirable pose and quickly press the shutter. Not happy with the pose?...just press the shutter again as the focus is still on the bird.

    If the bird is moving and I want to just put all my faith into the AF and the birds, I just do quick "f1-shutter" presses.

    for casual shooting, I revert back to the shutter handling the AF like usual.

    Edit: I got this idea from reading Ned's posts. Thanks BTW Ned, really helped me out
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