Autofocus?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by readysetgo, May 6, 2012.

  1. readysetgo

    readysetgo Member

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    Ok, so i'm researching film SLR's which i assume are 35mm cameras? sorry i'm so new to this...
    I keep reading "manual focus" ....i have two questions:
    1) is manual focus hard?
    2) is there so such thing as a film SLR which has autofocus?
    On a digital camera getting things in focus is the hardest part for me and i worry manual focus is just pushing my luck.

    Thanks from Casey.
     
  2. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    SLR is a type of camera. You can get SLR cameras from 1/2 frame 35mm all the way up to 4x5 (maybe larger).

    1) it depends.
    2) There are many many film SLRs that have autofocus, in both 35mm and medium format
     
  3. Rol_Lei Nut

    Rol_Lei Nut Member

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    The ease of manual focusing depends on many things.

    How good your eyesight is.
    How good the camera's viewfinder is (bright isn't always better - many AF cameras have bright viewfinders which don't clearly show when a lens snaps into focus).
    How fast your lens is, how much light there is, the type of subject, etc...

    IMHO, manual focusing can be more accurate than autofocus.
    I often get a headache with autofocus cameras and getting them to focus where I want them to is usually slower and more complicated than focusing manually in the first place.
    Having a camera which does manual focusing well is certainly a big help.
     
  4. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

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    I used to have a Nikon D40 and trying to focus that manually was difficult. By comparison manual film cameras are easy as they have sections in the viewfinder to help you spot when the focus is correct. I suggest taking your current auto camera to that shop where you saw the FE2 and compare the two.
     
  5. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Almost all modern film SLRs are auto focus.

    An only way to really find out if manual focus cameras will work for you is to try it out yourself. Cameras made for manually focusing are MUCH easier to focus manually than trying to manually focus cameras made for auto focus. Focusing screens are made differently and also lenses are different. It has this silky smooth dampening to it.

    I find manually focusing digital SLRs painfully difficult. On the other hand, manually focusing Olympus OM10 (an *old* camera from 1980s) very easy. If you have used camera stores or even flea market in your area, you should be able to try out a few.
     
  6. Ricardo Miranda

    Ricardo Miranda Member

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    Hi!
    First, many "D" SLR (Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony/Minolta) were born from 35mm cameras and the lenses mount is identical or similar.

    A short lesson in SLR:
    In the beginning, there were only Manual Focus SLR: Pentax, Nikon F, Minolta SR, Canon F-1 and so on.
    In the 80s many manufacturers developed Auto-focus driven lenses and systems. The first successful system was from Minolta with their model 7000 in 1985. Nikon and Canon followed up in 86 and 87 with the Nikon F-501 and the Canon EOS 650. These are the grandfathers of today's cameras.

    Any Manual Focus camera is great and all very well made and should give you years of good service. Sincerely any good Canon, Nikon, Minolta, Olympus or Pentax manual focus and manual operation is a great camera to have!:smile:
     
  7. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    SLR = Single Lens Reflex. Bottom line, this is a camera where the viewfinder let's you see through the picture taking lens. Here's a wiki article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single-lens_reflex_camera

    They are available in various formats, not just 35mm.

    There are lots of 35mm SLRs that autofocus.

    Manual focus is not necessarily harder but it does take some thought.

    Automatic features (focus, exposure, ...) on cameras do a very good job in many situations but they can be fooled pretty easily.

    That's not a big deal when your starting out but as you learn more about the craft of photography you will probably move toward specific looks. For example if you like people photography you'll probably experiment with short depth of field (DOF).

    One way I use short DOF is to isolate/focus-on specific subjects, say in a crowd. My subject may be in the third row back, so to speak, and the camera may be looking through the crowd to get there. Autofocus in situations like this regularly picks the wrong subject, probably somebody in the front row instead; manual focus becomes the easy way to get what I want.

    Some cameras, like the Nikon F100, can be setup to "manually" autofocus which is really handy; you switch a simple setting to make the camera autofocus (AF) only when a different button (AF ON) is pressed rather than any time the shutter button is pushed. This is a truly useful feature.

    Many older MF only cameras like say a Nikon FM use "split screen" type focusing which is very accurate, fast, and easy. This is nice because there are a bunch of great older MF lenses available at a bargain price.

    With practice and decent tools MF can be just as fast and accurate as AF.
     
  8. billbretz

    billbretz Member

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    Top-of-the-line AF cameras and lenses will outperform your MF ability when focus is toughest - fast moving subjects and wide open apertures. That's why even top sports/news shooters depend on AF exclusively in those situations.
    Do YOU need/want AF for everyday stuff that you will be doing? Only answer is to try both to see what you like best.
     
  9. segedi

    segedi Member

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    I don't find manual focus to be too hard and it's often more accurate to what you want in focus. But I have some AF 35mm SLRs too. The Canon EOS 33 / Élan 7e allows you to calibrate the AF point to wherever you are looking. It's pretty neat and allows you to pick a point off centre instead of focusing I the centre and recomposing. Both AF and Manual film cameras are quite affordable these days and if you tried a manual camera and didn't like it, you could always sell it here and not lose any money. Or even trade it for an AF camera.

    AF lenses almost always have a manual focus option and the cameras have an option to go fully manual with exposure as well. Just don't use the full auto mode, get to learn about exposure and how shutter speed and aperture affect the image and you will be much happy with the results, I know I am. My usage for my automated SLRs is 85% in aperture priority mode, I choose the aperture and the camera picks the shutter speed. But for some street work, I switch to shutter priority as I k ow I'm moving and don' t want too slow of a shutter. These features are available on some manual focus cameras in one variation or the other, some just have one of the features, but all modern AF cameras that I know of have both aperture and shutter priority (Av/Tv for canon and A and S for just about everyone else).

    Another recommendation is to skip zoom, lenses for now. Fixed focal length, prime lenses, are a bargain and often produce sharper images than zooms. A 28mm or 35mm and a 50mm lens are great to start out with, and since you like photographing people, a 75, 90 or 100mm lens will get you nice portraits. But I've also taken portrait shots with a 50mm or wider lens.

    If you are in a major city centre, you might find a camera shop that has both types, manual and AF and see how easy they are to focus in the shop. And there are probably a few APUGers near you that would be happy to help. And I have a Canon 30 / Élan 7 that I could sell, but shipping might be as much as the camera! You'd be better going local I think.

    Good luck!
     
  10. Diapositivo

    Diapositivo Member

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    As said, autofocus cameras give problems when focusing manually: the focusing screen is optimized for light transmission and not for focusing, the lens doesn't have a comfortable focus ring, it is likely too soft, too narrow, in the wrong position.

    Digital cameras which only have an electronic viewfinder are the hardest to focus manually, and maybe this is the kind of digital cameras you are referring to.

    Autofocus is superior for wildlife, sport, fashion, your dog (or your neighbour's).

    In all other circumstance a proper manual focus is probably just more comfortable: you don't have to wonder which AF point is active, or don't have to focus/lock/recompose if your subject is not where the camera places the focus (typically the centre of the frame, or the nearest focus point).

    A manual focus lens is probably more robust.

    Also, an autofocus lens probably has "internal focusing" (IF). Focusing is reached by moving one lens element inside the barrel. In manual focus lenses it's either the entire lens (all groups) which is moved, or the front lens. This in general gives better optical performances than IF as far as I know.

    Be careful about compatibility when you buy a Canon or Minolta lens or camera:

    Minolta SR mount (also improperly called MD): Manual focus;
    Minolta AF mount: Autofocus, and not compatible with the above.

    Canon FD mount: Manual focus;
    Canon EF mount: Autofocus (not compatible with the above).

    Pentax and Nikon managed to use the same existing mount both for manual focus and for autofocus cameras, but there are incompatibilities you should be aware of when coupling something AF with something non AF.

    Olympus OM, Yaschica/Contax (YC) and other mounts are mostly manual focus.

    Fabrizio
     
  11. Pioneer

    Pioneer Subscriber

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    If you have only used digital point and shoot cameras then a manual focus, SLR, 35mm camera will be completely different to you. As many have already said, manual focus cameras can be fairly easy to focus properly since they usually had focusing aids to help you focus the lens. But they will not be very fast, especially if you are just learning. A good autofocus SLR film camera can be quite easy to use and will be much better, and faster, than a digital point and shoot.

    Many of the people on this forum, myself included, have been using film cameras for years and manual focus is not new to us. But for someone who has never used it before it will be slow to use. If you only intend to take pictures of scenery, landscape, flowers, macro objects, or very slow moving things then you won't find that a problem. In those cases manual focus can actually be better. But if you want to take pictures of kids, sports, pets, or other quicker moving objects you will get frustrated pretty quickly. After years of practice a lot of people can get good enough with manual focus to keep up with fast moving objects, after all people were taking sports pictures way before auto focus was invented, but learning to do that takes practice. Of course, one clear advantage to manual focus, when you get the lens focused on something, you know what you focused on. Some auto focus cameras can pick something entirely different to focus on then what you intended, and unless you are watching closely you may not realize it while you are taking pictures. Only later when you get them developed will you realize that some of your shots are out of focus. That may also be what is causing you trouble focusing your point and shoot camera.

    I love Pentax because the lenses are so interchangeable. You can use lens from almost any period on any Pentax camera from around 1977 on. Nikon is almost as nice in that respect and their auto focus cameras tend to focus much faster than most other cameras. The advantage with those two camera brands is that you will be more likely to be able to use the same lens on a manual focus camera as well as an auto focus camera, if you do decide to try one or the other later on. Canon, Olympus, Sony, etc. make magnificent cameras as well, but their auto focus and manual focus equipment don't usually play with each other very well. What I mean is that their manual focus lenses won't hook up to their auto focus cameras, and vice versa since they changed their lens mounts throughout the years.

    Like others here, I suggest that you go to a reputable camera shop in your area (not Wal-Mart or Best Buy) and try the different types of cameras they have, auto and manual focus, to see which you find easier to use. Some of these shops will even let you rent equipment for a weekend which gives you a terrific opportunity to try things out. Of course, most of these shops will be selling new digital equipment but they should also have used film equipment available to try out as well. New film cameras are pretty rare anymore. They are available but are most frequently the lower quality, manual focus equipment. Holgas, Vivitars and Nikon FM10s come to mind. There are also some VERY expensive, high quality, film cameras out there as well, but they are probably not the best way for you to start out unless money really is not an issue for you.

    I would suggest that you start with a 35mm camera. Medium format is also very nice, but the film is a lot bigger, more expensive, and more expensive and difficult to get developed. The cameras for medium format film are almost always much bigger and bulkier to carry around and use as well. Of course large format is also still out there, but it comes in sheets, not rolls, and takes a totally different style of camera that is far bigger than either of the other two types. Depending on what it is that you want to do, medium format and large format can certainly work for you, but they are not usually considered the best way for beginners to start out and learn on.

    I hope all this made some sense and helped you out a little.
     
  12. Gatsby1923

    Gatsby1923 Member

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    I actually find manual focus second nature and with split screen focusing I actually prefer it unless you are talking about a very high end SLR. Some of the early auto focus SLR's did a lot of "Searching" when auto focusing.
     
  13. readysetgo

    readysetgo Member

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    Hey everyone,
    Thanks for all the replies.
    To be honest i figure i would buy a cheap film SLR, play around for a while then once i get used to it...invest in maybe a better more expensive one...though having said this i can't afford too much.
    For now i would be taking photos of family and friends....i never mastered digital photography i am a beginner so i know i will will probably waste some film but i guess that comes with learning.
    I get the impression manual focus is different on film cameras to digital, i only ever used manual focus on digital when i play around with macro, i found it alot of guess work.
    I'm not so worried to get manual now, i might see if i can go to this shop called camera exchange which is in box hill victoria/australia. it's a long drive (i'm in the Dandenong ranges)but i think it might be worth it...
    Thanks again from Casey.
     
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  15. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    Well, you couldn't get a more beautiful place to get up close and personal with a manual-focus SLR than the Dandenong Ranges! Manual focus is very touchy-feely, if you like, while AF is do-it-all-while-you-wait. AF is faster and can be very precise, but you need to make sure an AF lens is focusing on what you intend to be in focus. You will, over time and experience, develop precision using manual focus, without which you will end up with blurry pictures! Camera Exchange is a great place to fossick about, with cameras from small to humungous; mostly digital bodies that have been discarded by "professionals" in preference to the next best thing or sexiest bod contours <sigh>. You might even get to man-handle a Hasselblad, many of which grace the glass shelves there. Don't assume you need an expensive camera to make good pictures; the trick is in your skill in foundation photography.
     
  16. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    The difference between AF camera focus and MF camera focus, is normally in the focus screen.

    AF screens simply are not really designed to make manual focus easy/primary.

    Look around at local thrift stores or estate sales and the like, it is not uncommon to find nice 35mm cameras for $10-20 here in the US.
     
  17. readysetgo

    readysetgo Member

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    Hey, haha everyone says things like that....i think i take it for granted...i guess going to a local look out and just practice practice practice...at least a landscape doesn't move out of place!
    Cool, i will go down to camera action soon as i can, they are selling manual lenses 50mm for different brands for $95 according to their website which is great....assuming 50mm is okay i know it's not like digital where it becomes a longer lens with the digital crop bodies. i guess it will get me started.
    What you said about " focusing on what you intend to be in focus" is interesting, seems either way i will have to learn how to master it...if i get one photo turn out in my first film roll, i'll be happy :smile:
     
  18. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    By the sound of it, you're organised. Be careful what you are being offered. A manual focus lens is just that: no AF. An AF lens usually by design allows the use of less-than-precise manual-focus (termed 'trim'). Also check out Camera Lane in Little Lonsdale Street City and Michaels: both have a good range of well-known and affordable MF lenses e.g. Nikon, Olympus and some Pentax. A 50mm is fine to start with, but 35, 28 and even 24 (with progressively more skill necessary in terms of composition) are good choices for the landscape. Much of my own work is now with a Canon TS-E manual focus lens; I just have never warmed to the MF/trim of AF lenses.
     
  19. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    50mm is fine. It's a normal lens for 35mm. Henri Catier-Bresson made a truly successful career with one.
     
  20. lxdude

    lxdude Member

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    I just learned a new word! And my ol' lady said I waste my time on APUG... ha!
     
  21. readysetgo

    readysetgo Member

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    haha :smile:
     
  22. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    FWIW, I purchased my first auto-focus SLR a couple of years ago - about 30 years after purchasing my first (of many) manual focus SLRs.

    The manual focus SLRs work better for me, except for the rare circumstances when I need auto-focus.
     
  23. baachitraka

    baachitraka Member

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    Manual focus is a joy to use, rather pressing any damn buttons to auto-focus that deviates your concentration.
     
  24. film_man

    film_man Member

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    Manual focus is easy unless:
    1. you have some kind of vision issue and glasses/contact lenses don't help you
    2. you have a AF camera with a dim viewfinder.

    With regards to 2, that includes most AF film cameras apart from the top of the range ones. I have a Canon 1V that I find very easy to focus manually. It is by no means as good as my manual Olympus OM1 but it is very good and you can even get a screen with a microprism/split screen on it. As a plus the AF is better than any sub 1D body Canon makes (or maybe that was the case until last year, don't know about the new 7D/5D).
     
  25. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    I perfer manual focus, but I like some of the features of the more modern 35mm, I use Pentex, both 35mm and D, but I also have other brands such as Canon FD and Miranda. I converted a Pentax SF1N to a split image focusing screen, the SFI, and top of the line Pentax 35 have interchangable foucsing screens, all I did was cut down a split image screen from a Miranda with a frozen shutter. Works very well and does not affect auto focus at all. My guess that the screen will also fit a PZ 1.
     
  26. Rol_Lei Nut

    Rol_Lei Nut Member

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    But do not, I repeat, DO NOT try manually focusing with a Leicaflex SL: you'll find all other good manual focusing viewfinders disappointing and you'll throw any AF cameras you get hold of into the trash.... :wink: