Zone focusing settings (primarily Panasonic but probably applicable to Olympus)

mumu

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I've been using zone focusing for my street photography lately and have found it to be superior to AF but have been running into the issue where I sometimes bump the focus ring and end up changing the focus distance. For a while I was considering getting an Olympus 17/1.8 so I could at least easily check to see if the lens was at my preferred focus distance but I didn't want to stop using my Panasonic 15/1.7 for street shooting. And then it occurred to me that there was another, and possibly better, way to solve this problem. So here are the settings for my Panasonic GX9 which you might be able to use for your own camera:

MENU SETTINGS

  • Menu page 1/7, Shutter AF: set to OFF.
    This de-couples the shutter release button from the autofocus function. When you take a picture, the camera will not attempt to autofocus, it will use whatever the currently set focus distance is set to.
  • Menu page 1/7, AF/AE Lock: set to AF/AE Lock or AF-ON, AF/AE Lock, or AF lock.
    This configures the rear AE/AF button to force the camera to AF when it is pressed.
  • Menu page 6/7, Lens Position Resume: set to ON.
    When the camera is turned on, the lens's focus distance will be set to the value it was at when the camera was last turned off.
  • I recommend savings these settings to a Custom mode.
CAMERA SETTINGS

  • Set focus switch to AF-S or AF-C.
USAGE

  1. Aim the camera at something which is about the same distance away as your preferred focus distance and press the AE/AF button to force the camera to focus on it. Then let go of that button. Now your focus is set to that distance and will stay that way unless you either switch to manual focus and turn the focus ring, or you press the AE/AF button again.
  2. Set the aperture to the f-stop that will give you a useful min. and max. focus distance based on your focus distance and focal length. I usually use f/5.6.
  3. Set Minimum Shutter Speed (Menu page 2/4) to something that will work with your shooting style (I usually use 1/250 sec at the absolute slowest but 1/400 or 1/500 if the light will allow it). Make sure ISO is set to Auto.
So the great thing with this configuration is that the focus distance is set and cannot be accidentally adjusted. And if you want to break out of it, you can simply switch to another Custom mode or directly into M, A or S modes. And because the focus switch is already in one of the AF modes, you don't have to worry about forgetting that the camera is MF focus mode because, well, it isn't.

I hope this helps anyone else who wants to start using zone focus.
 

Drdul

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Good info. I do the same on my Pen-F with the Pany 12-32 lens that has no focus ring. Here’s how I’ve set it up (also applies on other Olympus models):

Custom Menu A = focus:
  • AEL/AFL in MF mode = 3

Custom menu B = buttons:
  • Fn1 button = MF toggle (press to switch to manual focus, press again to switch back to autofocus)
  • Rec button = AEL/AFL (locks focus in MF mode, button still functions as Rec button in movie mode, which I never use)

When I want to zone focus I press Fn1 to switch to manual focus, then press Rec to focus on an object the desired distance away (I sometimes tap the screen first to place the focus box in the right location before pressing the Rec button). I can set the zone focus in a second or two.
 

sgt08

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Lately I've gone back to keeping AF on the shutter button, but in the past I've had my cameras set up to zone focus that way - back button AF and locking in pre-focus at a desired distance. If you want to keep MF available without having to dedicate a button to toggling between AF and MF, I'm both Oly and Pany have a setting like "S-AF + MF" where if you keep the button assigned for AF held down you can use the focusing ring to fine tune manually, but otherwise the focusing ring is deactivated so you don't accidentally bump focus.
 
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I've been using zone focusing for my street photography lately and have found it to be superior to AF but have been running into the issue where I sometimes bump the focus ring and end up changing the focus distance. For a while I was considering getting an Olympus 17/1.8 so I could at least easily check to see if the lens was at my preferred focus distance but I didn't want to stop using my Panasonic 15/1.7 for street shooting. And then it occurred to me that there was another, and possibly better, way to solve this problem. So here are the settings for my Panasonic GX9 which you might be able to use for your own camera:

MENU SETTINGS

  • Menu page 1/7, Shutter AF: set to OFF.
    This de-couples the shutter release button from the autofocus function. When you take a picture, the camera will not attempt to autofocus, it will use whatever the currently set focus distance is set to.
  • Menu page 1/7, AF/AE Lock: set to AF/AE Lock or AF-ON, AF/AE Lock, or AF lock.
    This configures the rear AE/AF button to force the camera to AF when it is pressed.
  • Menu page 6/7, Lens Position Resume: set to ON.
    When the camera is turned on, the lens's focus distance will be set to the value it was at when the camera was last turned off.
  • I recommend savings these settings to a Custom mode.
CAMERA SETTINGS

  • Set focus switch to AF-S or AF-C.
USAGE

  1. Aim the camera at something which is about the same distance away as your preferred focus distance and press the AE/AF button to force the camera to focus on it. Then let go of that button. Now your focus is set to that distance and will stay that way unless you either switch to manual focus and turn the focus ring, or you press the AE/AF button again.
  2. Set the aperture to the f-stop that will give you a useful min. and max. focus distance based on your focus distance and focal length. I usually use f/5.6.
  3. Set Minimum Shutter Speed (Menu page 2/4) to something that will work with your shooting style (I usually use 1/250 sec at the absolute slowest but 1/400 or 1/500 if the light will allow it). Make sure ISO is set to Auto.
So the great thing with this configuration is that the focus distance is set and cannot be accidentally adjusted. And if you want to break out of it, you can simply switch to another Custom mode or directly into M, A or S modes. And because the focus switch is already in one of the AF modes, you don't have to worry about forgetting that the camera is MF focus mode because, well, it isn't.

I hope this helps anyone else who wants to start using zone focus.
Thanks for your settings.
I have copied them down for future use as I have given this a bit of thought in the past but never really found possible solutions.
 
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mike3996

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Olympus bodies don't have hardly any support for zone/pre focusing. What I did with E-PL5 with the pancake 12-32.

* Keep AF-on-half-shutter on.
* Fn1 button configured to toggle MF/AF mode.


When I adjust the zoom or want to change the preset distance I just toggle the mode to AF, target a wall or something, focus, toggle back to MF.

With this lens, as it doesn't even have a focus ring, this works really well, very short shutter lag as well. Nice!

I've briefly used this configuration and it almost feels like "Ricoh GR on steroids" system. Sure it doesn't beat a snap focus but feels very good.


Edit: oh damn, @Drdul beat me to the same technique. :D
 
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mumu

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Thanks for providing Olympus-specific info for zone focusing.
 

junkyardsparkle

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I discovered it's possible to set up back button focus on an E-PL7, but it's not very intuitive... first you map the Fn button to AEL/AFL in the usual manner, then in the AF/MF>AEL/AFL>S3/C2/M3 menu you can set "mode 3" for the various (S-AF, C-AF, MF) focus modes. This meta-maps whatever button is mapped to AEL to instead perform autofocus. Conveniently, this particular setting is stored with MySets. :D When used with S-AF, the result is that autofocus happens only when thumbing the button... rather than the toggling described previously.
 
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mumu

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I discovered it's possible to set up back button focus on an E-PL7, but it's not very intuitive... first you map the Fn button to AEL/AFL in the usual manner, then in the AF/MF>AEL/AFL>S3/C2/M3 menu you can set "mode 3" for the various (S-AF, C-AF, MF) focus modes. This meta-maps whatever button is mapped to AEL to instead perform autofocus. Conveniently, this particular setting is stored with MySets. :D
Yes, I remember setting up my EM5.2 like that, too...I think. I recall that it wasn't very intuitive.
 

mumu

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Follow up: After shooting like that for a month or so, I found that it wasn't 100% reliable. There would be the odd time that the focus had suddenly changed to be at a very close distance. My response was to buy a Laowa 17/1.8 manual focus lens for zone focus photography. If I could have found an inexpensive Olympus 17/1.8, I would've given that a try as well.
 

Sunkissed

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Very good information about zone focusing with Olympus. I'm going to try it with my E-M10 Mark 4 together with my Pana 15/1.7. If it's not working the way I want, I'll probably buy an Oly 17/1.8 if this works better with the focus clutch. I want to get as close as possible to the snap focus functionality of the Ricoh GR.

Anyone has made some experience with the 17/1.8 concerning zone focusing?
 
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Follow up: After shooting like that for a month or so, I found that it wasn't 100% reliable. There would be the odd time that the focus had suddenly changed to be at a very close distance. My response was to buy a Laowa 17/1.8 manual focus lens for zone focus photography. If I could have found an inexpensive Olympus 17/1.8, I would've given that a try as well.
How is that Laowa? I tend to scrutinize the focus zone markings on lenses because a lot of modern lenses only move a tiny distance between common distances like 2m, 3m and infinity. The Laowa looks pretty cramped, like it would be hard to get the right distance, especially if the focus scale isn't 100% accurate. The Mikaton 17mm f0.95 looks a lot roomier to me, but I haven't tried either.
 

mumu

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Very good information about zone focusing with Olympus. I'm going to try it with my E-M10 Mark 4 together with my Pana 15/1.7. If it's not working the way I want, I'll probably buy an Oly 17/1.8 if this works better with the focus clutch. I want to get as close as possible to the snap focus functionality of the Ricoh GR.

Anyone has made some experience with the 17/1.8 concerning zone focusing?
Yes, I'm also curious about how well that MF clutch would work for zone focusing. Specifically: 1) are the distance markings accurate and 2) is the focus ring stiff enough that you are unlikely to accidentally change the focus distance when walking around for a couple of hours?
 

mumu

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How is that Laowa? I tend to scrutinize the focus zone markings on lenses because a lot of modern lenses only move a tiny distance between common distances like 2m, 3m and infinity. The Laowa looks pretty cramped, like it would be hard to get the right distance, especially if the focus scale isn't 100% accurate. The Mikaton 17mm f0.95 looks a lot roomier to me, but I haven't tried either.
The distance markings are not ideal on the Laowa. As you noted, they are too close together (ie: focus throw is quite short) AND the markings aren't accurate, either. I taped a piece of paper with my own 1, 2 and 3m markings on it. Performance-wise it's fine. It hasn't wowed me like some images I've gotten from the 15/1.7 but I haven't run into major problems with it, either. For street photography it's been just great.
It's just that there have been times when I wished I could quickly switch to/from AF and that's certainly not possible with a MF lens. ;-) For the past 6-8 mos. I've mostly been shooting street with my X100V so I don't know if I'll ever get around to trying an Olympus 17/1.8 to see how it works for zone focusing.
 

Drdul

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Yes, I'm also curious about how well that MF clutch would work for zone focusing. Specifically: 1) are the distance markings accurate and 2) is the focus ring stiff enough that you are unlikely to accidentally change the focus distance when walking around for a couple of hours?
I used to have a 17mm f1.8 and still have a 12-40mm f2.8, and routinely used/use the manual focus clutches on both to zone focus. With both lenses I found the markings are not accurate in that they might over or under estimate the actual focus distance, but they are consistently not accurate in that once you figure out where to set the clutch it would be the same every time. Or at least, as long as the camera remained on (I typically leave the camera on as I walk around for a couple of hours). I sometimes found that turning the camera off and then back on could change the ”adjustment “ of the clutch so that I’d have to figure out again where to set it to get the desired focus distance.

On both lenses the focus rings are stiff enough that once I set the focus distance on the clutch (“adjusted” as necessary for the desired focus distance) it stays at that setting as I push and pull the clutch to engage and disengage manual focus.
 

Drdul

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I should add that my primary lens is now the 12-45mm f4, which doesn’t have a manual focus clutch. I thought I’d miss it, and I sometimes do, but the lens is mounted on an E-M5iii and I use PreMF as a snap focus feature instead. I set the lever on the back of the camera to focus mode, and use it to quickly switch from S-AF to PreMF. In most situations it’s faster and just as reliable for zone focusing as the MF clutch.
 

mumu

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I used to have a 17mm f1.8 and still have a 12-40mm f2.8, and routinely used/use the manual focus clutches on both to zone focus. With both lenses I found the markings are not accurate in that they might over or under estimate the actual focus distance, but they are consistently not accurate in that once you figure out where to set the clutch it would be the same every time. Or at least, as long as the camera remained on (I typically leave the camera on as I walk around for a couple of hours). I sometimes found that turning the camera off and then back on could change the ”adjustment “ of the clutch so that I’d have to figure out again where to set it to get the desired focus distance.
Ah, that's EXACTLY the kind of information I was looking for, thanks very much for posting that! I'll just stick with the Laowa I think.

What is "PreMF?"
 

Drdul

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What is "PreMF?"
PreMF is a preset manual focus distance. It's basically manual focus that starts at a known distance.

I have PreMF on my camera set at 2.5 m, which I have measured to actually be a bit more than 2.0 m. I have the Fn lever on the back of the camera set to mode2, which toggles between two AF modes, and I use that to switch to PreMF. At that point I can leave the focus distance at the initial setting, or I can turn the focus dial to focus closer/farther away.
 

mumu

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PreMF is a preset manual focus distance. It's basically manual focus that starts at a known distance.

I have PreMF on my camera set at 2.5 m, which I have measured to actually be a bit more than 2.0 m. I have the Fn lever on the back of the camera set to mode2, which toggles between two AF modes, and I use that to switch to PreMF. At that point I can leave the focus distance at the initial setting, or I can turn the focus dial to focus closer/farther away.
Sounds exactly like what I'd like on a GX9 successor.
 

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