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Thread: Manual focus gurus advice please

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    Member kaiser's Avatar
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    Manual focus gurus advice please

    I'm after some advice from members more accustomed and practiced with full time manual focus. I digress that I am one of the lazy generation that rely on my DSLRs autofocus nearly all of the time. This is partly because my shooting genres comprise mainly non-stationary subjects and there is all this whizz-bang autofocus built into my D700- so I may as well use it, right?

    Well I have just let go of two of my AF-S lenses (50mm and 24-70), with the intention of acquiring a couple of CZ manual focus lenses (possibly the 35mm f/2 Distagon / 50mm F/2 Makro Planar, 100 f/2 Makro Planar.

    My new 24mm AF-S will stay with me, I truly believe it is the best WA prime Nikon have ever realeased, the way it renders a scene is just amazing. I am also keeping my 135mmF/2, as I find it perfect for the kind of photography I do.

    I have been practising using MF on these with some success - using live view for still scenes and the green dot confirmation for dynamic scenes. I'm getting the DK17m view finder magnify to help get a larger view which I hope will also help with MF.

    So, MF enthusiasts, my question is, do you find MF adequate for portraits, street scenes and possibly wedding/events? I know some friends who shoot weddings with rangefinder kits,, so I'm assuming they face similar challenges (although the technique is slightly different). s it feasible doing weddings/events with some MF.

    I'm guessing it would take a lot of practice and experience getting used to it for someone like me who has been so reliant of AF most of the time? I don't think I will have much trouble doing still life and macros using MF (probably an advantage actually), but I'm wondering about people and moving shots. Obviously I won't be expecting to nail shots of my dog or kids running around, but what about things like a bride walking down the aisle and slower moving scenes like that - is MF in those circumstances sensible enough?

    I will still have an ultra wide and a telephoto with autofocus, and possibly the 35mm MF as a fast normal and the 50 or the 100 as a macro / double duty normal/portrait lens.

    I'm also wondering whether 35mm is too close to 24mm to justify the investment. I'm happy having a 100 and a 135 because I know the 100 can do decent macro work while the 135 can't.

    One last question - does anyone use aftermarket focusing screens? (Bright view/ katz Eyes etc), or are they not really necessary?

    Thanks for reading this far. Any advice would be much appreciated.
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    answer to last question: ask arthur, he is fiddling with a focus screen at the moment.

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    I have tried using the zoom and manual focus on soccer game and anyone who can manage to do it deserves respect for such a skill, I tried and gave up but as for macro and still shots I always us manual.
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    I think youd be insane for using mf for wedding and event work, I know Id miss a lot of shots and I really like the PJ style
    Darren
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    I use quite a few manual focus lenses with my Pentax, and although it can be slower, and certainly harder with fast moving objects, it is certainly not impossible.

    I would suggest read up about hyperfocal distance - a good website http://www.dofmaster.com/hyperfocal.html , and learn to use the distance and DOF scale markings on the lenses - if they are older lenses, then most will have these markings - unfortunately most new lenses do not have these, which IMO is a shame.

    Once you have an understanding of the above, and can judge the distance from your subject, using manual focus lenses becomes relatively straight forward.

    Cheers,

    Matt

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    I think you'd have to be on drugs to shoot a job with MF primes that you can do perfectly adequately with AF zooms. Is any one really going to say to you that they wish you had shot their wedding with CZ glass because they prefer that '3D look and the microcontrast'. Not a chance.

    I have a ship load of MF lenses that I leave at home when I'm working, because zooms are more practical than primes but in your case AF would be a benefit too.

    JJ

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    I started off, and still have quite a number of MF lens (100-300mm, 105mm f2.5) and have moved onto AFS lens, this I think is teh best direction since you really appreciate the AFS when you finally get it!

    I foound with practice I got better at focusing and began getting more reliable results, mainly since I became more familiar with the lens and the focus mechanism (like an extension of ones body), however the keeper ratio is/was significantly less that with a AFS lens.

    I did the Temora Airshow awhile back with the 100-300mm lens and got some great results, but I also missed some great opportunties, so gettign action shots and stuff taht is moving is not impossible, but again expect your keeper ratio to go down, purely on a focus point of view.


    When I really love using the MF, 105mm for example, is when I have plenty of time and no pressure, you can do 3 or 4 frames to get the sharpest one etc, I find this quite enjoyable.

    I think with all those extras, like the focus screen and the fact you are using a 700 (as aoppsed to a D80 for exampel) will definitely help and make it a more enjoyable experience, but still I would expect the keeper ratio to drop.
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    I agreee with both MattC and JJPhoto. However, since it seems you have *already* decided to go with MF glass, you'll just have to learn how to do it. It's not that hard for a lot of subjects but if you want to do sport/action events or use razor thin DOF in weddings etc. you can expect to miss a few. Did you search AP for related threads? Here is an excellent one that might help a lot.

    Personally, I quite enjoy using my older MF lenses on both my film and digital bodies. But I don't shoot weddings or sports stuff and nobody pays me for my images so nobody cares if I miss shots ...
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    Thanks guys for your input. Darren and John, - of course I realise AF is going to be easier - I was simply interested in seeing if it is possible. I wouldn't contemplate using MF lenses exclusively, as I said I still have my AF ultra wide and tele. Having said that I realise that the 24-85 range is probably the bulk of most weddings, so I'd probably be foolish to only have a MF covering that range.

    So the general consensus is that MF is out for people / candid / any paid job where u cant miss the shot - and MF for macro, landscapes and pottering around at a leisurely pace?

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    Ausphotography Regular swifty's Avatar
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    Hi Kaiser, having been using a 105mm f1.8 extensively the past 3 weeks I'll chime in with my experience mf with that particular lens on a DX body.
    Wide open it's a bit hit and miss. Stunning when u get it but unreliable even with static objects hand held at close distances. Hit rate improves significantly by f2.8 but cos my work isn't crucial so I take my chances usually at f2-f2.5. At longer distances it's less problematic.
    My settled method is to best guess mf first, then activate the AF point for green dot comfirmation. If I did the latter first the red focus point lights up in the viewfinder and I find it harder to judge focus.
    Fast erractic subjects are almost impossible. Predicatble motion like subjects walking at u slowly is ok with practice. Prefocus at a distance then waiting for the subject to come into focus also works well.
    At night time and other low light situations, it's unreliable though I did manage a few keepers. Not sure how well AF would've done cos when I did change lens, the AF was hunting all over the place too.
    Having said all that and though I really like the lens I'd really wish I had a really big and bright VF like that in my film medium format or that the lens was AF. I'm currently still not confident enough with it but the dof of a 105mm at 1.8 is very thin. For shorter focal lengths u should have more success.
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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    If you're going to use fast lenses(ie.the term fast lenses refers to lenses at or faster than f/2.8) the optibright treatment that Katzeye do is not necessary.
    If you opt for a new manual focus screen, be aware that the image is going to be slightly darker than it otherwise would when you use fast lenses, because the screen matte is more contrasty.
    What's supposed to happen is that with the higher contrast(ie. more opaque) screen the image shows a better representation of the focus point as the plane of focus becomes clear through the viewfinder.
    With the standard screens the image becomes clear earlier as you focus closer to the plane of focus and remains clear even as you've focused beyond that point. That's because it's apparent DOF is equivalent to f/5.6. If you shoot at f/5.6 a lot, then this is no issue(because the deeper DOF will help to mask the fact that you've missed the point of focus).
    If you shoot at f/2.8 or faster, the aftermarket screens help immensely with judging DOF and focus point.
    The katzeye is screen is highly recommended, that's for sure. .. it does exactly as they describe.
    I have an image uploaded somewhere of the view through the vf using the D300. The D700 is similar, but with a larger overall screensize, so scale the image to get an idea of how the screen would look by comparison.
    The large microprism circle is very helpful in determining a good point of focus, and the split prism simply confirms it with pinpoint accuracy.
    This is doing the testing properly with tripod and so forth... what you may not be prepared for is how bad your hand holding technique may be! (ooops! could be an embarrassing revelation coming up ).

    I only got the Optibright treatment(@ $55 more) because I have a soft spot for the 500/8 lens.. and mounting this lens to the D300 now(with the katzeye fitted) is like joining forces with Darth Vader.. seriously playing on the Dark Side. The screen basically turns black. Actually it's more of a very dark slate grey. Next to impossible to see through in low light, and totally impossible in normal a 100W lit room.(looking directly into the sun is a cinch tho! )

    F/4 is workable tho, so I now have a minimum aperture requirement to look forward too.
    (So a replacement 500mm lens is going to cost me 20x what the mirror lens cost )

    as for dumping AF lenses for CZ lenses???

    35mm.. yes!
    50mm ... no!
    85-105mm .. no!

    if it came to a choice of a ZF 50/85/100 or a Nikon equivalent, I'd go with the Nikon AF any day.
    Not enough difference at that price premiums they charge for them.

    From what I've seen, I believe there is enough difference between the(current) Nikon 35 and the CZ 35 to justify the expense.... but word has it that Nikon is probably going to produce a 35/1.4, AF-S style soon enough.

    I get MF lenses because they're relatively cheap, or because nothing else exists.

    My next lens is going to be a 105/1.8 too(as per Swifty).
    Other lenses that I want are 28/2 and 35/1.4.
    28/2 is cheap enough, and 35/1.4 are horrendously overpriced(until the new AF-S version arrives, when hopefully everyone sells off their Ais versions )

    note with CZ F-mount lenses, you need the .2 series lenses if you want full metering ability. While you can still meter with non CPU lenses(the original series ZF lenses have no CPU) by adding the lens data to the camera's database, the metering can be variable sometimes, and you don't get proper spot metering(and I've never tried centre weighted to be honest.. I don't generally use it at all).
    Then it's a PITA to have to delve into the menu to access the non CPU lens data. I have 8 lens values added, and scrolling through them all is ... well ... a PITA.
    You can set one of the function keys to access this feature, but I have all my hardware buttons set 'perfectly' now. I access it via the QuickMenu system.

    I sometimes practise MF with my Tamron 28-75(even though it's AF) at many focal lengths and really it's not hard, but I'm prepared to miss a shot or two(even if it's important to me). I'd be a lot more cautious if someone were paying for the shots.
    The katzeye screen has definitely made a huge difference with using MF lenses on the D300, there is no doubt about that. When done properly, you should be able to get a consistently high in focus rate.
    My last session with the 300/2.8 at both f/2.8 and f/4 at MFD, were all 100% in focus. it was an overcast day, shutter speeds were 1/200s -1/80s, but I had to use a tripod to eliminate my hippy hippy shakes as a variable. The 300/2.8 is too large to handhold and MF at the same time in low light.
    Nikon D800E, D300, D70s
    {Nikon} -> 50/1.2 : 500/8(CPU'd) : 105/2.8VR Micro : 180/2.8ais : 105mm f/1.8ais : 24mm/2ais
    {Sigma}; ->10-20/4-5.6 : 50/1.4 : 12-24/4.5-5.6II : 150-600mm|S
    {Tamron}; -> 17-50/2.8 : 28-75/2.8 : 70-200/2.8 : 300/2.8 SP MF : 24-70/2.8VC


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    Thanks for that swifty and AK. So....if I install the Katz Eye screen, and use a lens with an aperture ring, does that mean if I stop it down to f8-f/16, I'll have a hard time seeing much through the viewfinder?
    Also whats the difference between a matte screen and one with a split prism / micro prism collar (sp?)
    My slowest lens would be my fisheye f3.5-5.6...

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    I think youd be insane for using mf for wedding and event work, I know Id miss a lot of shots and I really like the PJ style
    Using manual focus is just a mindset. Keep in mind, and although styles have changes over the years, more weddings have been shot with manual focus than autofocus. You've got to get the idea out of your head that you need to nail focus exactly on your subject. DOF is your friend, zone focus, practice, and it's a piece of cake. It is a little harder with an SLR than a rangefinder, but all of those wedding fotogs that used 'blads, RB67's, and Rollie's faced the same challenges. Remember all those sports shots from the 50's and 60's?....shot on a large format Graphic or similar with no AF. There is no field of photography where AF is necessary.

    I use a 1.4/75mm in manual in conjunction with my 1.4/35mm for weddings and events, and although you have very limited DOF, you are generally not at minimum focus distance, so there is some latitude.

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    from my experience, id say if u do intend to shoot anything higher than F8 it is going to be a bit of trouble since its going to be very dark in the viewfinder well unless its for landscapes on tripod just shoot away on f8 you'll still get your shot :P

    i just bought some knock off focusing screens on ebay, costs $30 or so and works perfectly fine. the metering tends to underexpose so ill just +3 on ev then its back to normal exposure.

    portraits, candids, street is good with MF still. like others mentioned, probably for paid events (weddings etc) i wouldnt risk using MF yet.. at least not until i can MF with my eyes closed! luckily with the D60, you get an electronic rangefinder where if u mount lenses that can meter, it helps tremendously in focusing where it shows in the viewfinder how far off is your focusing and all u need to do is dial it in the middle and youll get it in focused together with the dot indicator

    point of the story, practice makes perfect for MF and the aftermarket screen really does make a difference! have fun!

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kaiser View Post
    ...

    So....if I install the Katz Eye screen, and use a lens with an aperture ring, does that mean if I stop it down to f8-f/16, I'll have a hard time seeing much through the viewfinder?
    Also whats the difference between a matte screen and one with a split prism / micro prism collar (sp?)
    My slowest lens would be my fisheye f3.5-5.6...
    All the screens have the etched matte. that's what gives you the perception of a DOF.
    The matte(literally the opaqueness) is different in the faster screens, where the blur you see through the viewfinder is closer to f/2.8 as opposed to the standard screens f/5.6 representation.

    Do the test at home and compare the viewfinder image, using different apertures.
    You'll find that if you take a photo at f/5.6 the bokeh looks more like the apparent blur you see through the viewfinder.
    set your lens to apertures like f/2.8, f/4 and f/5.6 and note that if you use the DOF Preview feature there will be no change to how the vf looks. Set the lens to f/8 and it'll become darker and then give you more DOF too.
    That's because the matte finish in the vf is set to look to give the impression of a lens set to f/5.6. That makes it brighter.
    Using the 'faster screens', the blur of the image you see in the vf is created with a more coarse matte finish in the screen, but that more coarse matte makes the image darker.
    The matte I think refers to the fact that it's a flat appearance, (ie not glossy, as with paint).
    Take the screen out and look through the vf and the image is super bright and shiny. There seems to be a 'limitless' DOF. of course it'll be oof, but that's because the alignment of the entire vf system is now out of whack without the screen.

    The camera holds the lens aperture open(until the point of exposure), so on a f/3.5 lens if you stop down to f/16, you still see an image as bright as is possible at f/3.5.

    f/5.6 lenses are OK, but remember I have the Optibright treatment on mine.. so I really don't see all that much difference compared to how bright the standard screen was.
    I have a consumer lens rated at f/3.5-5.6 and it looks acceptable. Obvious that it's darker than the f/2.8 lenses when mounted, but I see that as a good thing as most of the darkening is at the periphery anyhow, and when used wide open, it gives a better indication of how bad the vignetting is.

    The 500/8 mirror lens is f/8. No aperture(as such, as it's fixed) and rated at f/8. It's dark!

    Use your DOFP(preview) button to see how dark it is. Set any lens at f/8 and use DOFP and see it go dark. Well the 500/8 is darker! At a simple guess it looks more like f/16 by comparison to other lenses. Field of view is an important difference here, but this is about how it looks, not a lesson on the power of light transmission!

    I have also have an ebay knock off screen bought for the D70s, and .. ok.. for $30 it's not a lot of money to waste on something like that.
    But compared to the Katzeye, that's $30 wasted, and I think the $200 of the katzeye is better value for money.
    Not because I ned to justify such an expense, but because it works so much better than the cheapo from ebay on the D70s.
    If you get a split prism screen version of the cheaper screens, they black out at f/5.6(that is with lenses where the maximum aperture is f/5.6).
    My ebay cheapo screen never worked well with the 500/8 lens!
    Also note that i think those cheaper screens are not optimised to give you the better focusing with faster lenses that the katzeye screen does. The matte screen is still optimised for f/5.6.

    If you're shooting with some aperture, as TOM said, nailing the point of focus is not as important, but if you shoot wide open and you want pop in the image, you want the point of focus to be well defined. Using the electronic rangefinder is similar to guessing focus with the standard screen.
    I adjusted my D300 to be more accurate when using the 50/1.2 wide open. I deliberately adjusted the manual focus stop so that the electronic rangefinder(EF) gave me a point I knew would be closer to the correct point of focus.
    There is enough slack in the EF using the 50/1.2 @ f/1.4 so that if I tried to hit focus using it as my guide, I could be back or front focused by too much (eyes to ears distances) at approximately 1 meter away from a human subject. I missed way too many shots using the EF, and I deliberately threw it out of alignment to suit my needs for the time. With the katzeye installed, I had to recalibrate it all again. now the split prism and micro prism sections of the focusing screen is how I determine manual focus.
    On a tripod, I can safely say it's close to 100% hit rate. But I need to improve my hand holding technique

    This is my focusing screen thread with a few links and stuff. Note how the katzeye screen look blurrier than the standard screen. There's a link in there to focusingscreen.com where you can see how different focusing aides make a difference.

    Here's a link to my vf image overlay. note how there are two circles in the inner centre of the vf. the first circle split horizontally is the split prism. The second circle just outside of that split prism is the microprism section. The large circle is for ?????
    Both the split prism and micro prism are a godsend for manual lenses, and even for AF lenses that aren't as co-operative as they should be!

    I have 4 manual focus lenses, with more to come.... so you can guess that a focusing screen that works better than standard is something I'd get good use out of.

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    I took delivery of a new CZ 35/2 (EOS mount, obv) only yesterday, and being a 9-5 worker I haven't had much chance to use it yet. I think I'm really going to like the optical qualities of this lens, but boy is MF going to take getting used to!
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    Thanks AK for the very detailed explanation. Jim - looking forward to seeing what you can do with this lens - apparently its bloody awesome (technical term).

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    point of the story, practice makes perfect for MF
    I agree, I remember not so long ago on a cruise ship there was a pro-photographer doing portraiture shots with a old manual lens, he had excellent results and in that particular circumstance it was a case of just getting portraits of everyone on the night, he did however appear very proficient with his gear which was obviously well used.

    So the general consensus is that MF is out for people / candid / any paid job where u cant miss the shot - and MF for macro, landscapes and pottering around at a leisurely pace?
    more or less yeah

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    Quote Originally Posted by TOM View Post
    ... Remember all those sports shots from the 50's and 60's?....shot on a large format Graphic or similar with no AF....
    Have you noticed the huge jump in the quality of sporting images since high speed, high accuracy AF lenses from Nikon and Canon since about the late 80's, early 90's? No, haven't noticed that? Odd.

    JJ

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbo View Post
    I took delivery of a new CZ 35/2 (EOS mount, obv) only yesterday, and being a 9-5 worker I haven't had much chance to use it yet. I think I'm really going to like the optical qualities of this lens, but boy is MF going to take getting used to!
    Manual focusing does take practice so do it as much as you can. The more you practice the better you will be at it.

    JJ

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