Help me focus faster

Discussion in 'Rangefinder Forum' started by mingaun, Jun 2, 2011.

  1. mingaun

    mingaun Member

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    Hello,

    I recently bought my first film camera a leica M3. I love using it to focus on still objects but i am having a terrible time focussing shots of my son and almost impossible in action. In the past with the digital i could focus really sharp and fast.

    I have a 50/1.4 lens if that is of any help. For example when i try to align the image together, that takes time and i always try to make sure it is really really well align and when i have done that the next thing you know, my son has moved. I have missed so many many shots because of this.

    Most of my type of children shots have narrow depth of field to isolate the subject. So in that sense my image alignment needs to be even more accurate. Hyperfocal distance is a possibility but then most of my shots will not be as sharp as i like, this is because i come from a digital background with very good autofocus system.

    Is there any tricks i need to learn? Please help.
     
  2. matthewhoult

    matthewhoult Member

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    You could try zone focusing.

    You could also try setting your focus distance to something like 2m or 3m and then either wait for your subject to move into focus or move your body rather than the lens to focus.

    Two quick suggestions.
     
  3. mingaun

    mingaun Member

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    Moving my body .... thats new. Might be a good option. Thanks Matthew.
     
  4. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    Are you shooting wide-open or stopped down some? If you're working wide open, the focus needs to be quite accurate, as you're discovering. Stopping down some may help if you have the light. The method Matthew outlined may help too, if your focus point is already close, then you only need to move a few inches (cm) to get to the right point.
     
  5. bwrules

    bwrules Member

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    A friend of mine scale focuses with a Leica. Just estimates distance and sets on the lens. That's it.
     
  6. brucemuir

    brucemuir Member

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    Mingaun,
    Dont despair.
    You will get better.

    Zone or guessing really only works with a 35mm or wider and small apertures like f/8-11.

    Keep shooting.
     
  7. bwrules

    bwrules Member

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    Depending how good you are at guesstimating distance. I've seen him do it wide-open.
     
  8. mingaun

    mingaun Member

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    Thank you for your encouragement. I guess the best advise is practice practice and more practice. This is the hardest part coming from an all digital and auto everything world. I use to shoot my son like a machine gun and will get some good shots. Nowadays i have to bribe him for a shot! And the worse of all he comes and tell me my leica is lousy because no picture on the camera :sad: But recently i have involve him in developing some of the negatives and he is starting to see some light in film. I just dont want my son to grow up never learning this form of photography. He is only three but i believe there are good virtues in film photography... one of them is PATIENCE.
     
  9. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    As Matthew says, zone focusing or presetting.

    Decide on an area where you want the shot to take place, stake out your vantage point and preset your focus, aperture/exposure accordingly. When a good shot appears, take it. This is how I shoot many "fast action" events like football games or family outings. It's practically the only way to shoot pictures of dogs and kids.

    Don't forget that, with an ƒ-1.4 lens, your depth of field/focus zone could end up being razor thin. That zone of focus varies in direct proportion to camera-to-subject distance. For example, when shooting a portrait from arms-length distances, it is possible to have the tip of the nose in sharp focus but the eyes and the rest of the face will be blurry. If that is your creative intent, then all right but do be mindful.

    When shooting candids or action shots, I try to keep my aperture 2 or 3 stops down from maximum just to keep headroom and prevent short focus problems. Then, if I feel the need to go beyond that headroom, I know that I'll have to slow down a little bit and watch out.

    BTW: Most of the same things apply with digital cameras, too. The difference is that the camera's circuitry does the thinking for you. Yes, it's faster but not necessarily more accurate. I have shot scenes with a digital camera and have been surprised at the results. Sometimes pleasantly. Sometimes not. If shooting on fully-automatic settings, you might have little or no control over depth of field/zone of focus. If you shoot on manual (if the camera has manual modes) you could end up right back to where you started, having to manually preset the camera and wait for the shot.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 2, 2011
  10. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    Many Leica M lenses have focusing tabs on them. You can learn through practice about where the tab should be for a given distance. Learn this by feel, not by sight. Then adjust to the appropriate range even before bringing the camera to your eye, and then fine tune with the camera at your eye. Also learn which direction the focus runs from near to far, which direction the split image moves from near to far, and which direction you need to go from where you are. If you're used to AF, or cameras which focus manually in the opposite direction (Nikon for one), then you need to adjust your instincts for the M series. The more you use the M, the better your "instincts" will become, and you'll find yourself much faster at focusing.

    Lee
     
  11. Morry Katz

    Morry Katz Member

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    Start by having the lens set at either the closest position or infinity. Then you only have to move it in one direction to achieve focus. Knowing which way to go as in Lee L's post will help a great deal. And practice, practice, practice. Then it'll become second nature. Have fun.
     
  12. mingaun

    mingaun Member

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    Thank you all.

    I have been trying to figure out the tab thing. Getting a bit better at judging but still a long way to go. But its good to learn from what most of you have said. Very friendly forum and been encouraged by all your generosity.

    Mark
     
  13. zsas

    zsas Member

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    Good job Mark - keep it up! Some of the hardest subjects to photograph. It will come with time and if you miss focus on a few, these thrown focus shots might have a different meaning/viewpoint that make it a neat photo on a different realm altogether anyway. Tis a win-win-win (you are with your child, you are learning, you are capturing images). Best!
     
  14. sergiob

    sergiob Member

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    The thing about M Leicas is not their focusing precision nor anything so. These cameras are usually used with the hyperfocal with somewhat smaller f stops and most of the time in normal and wider lenses to aid the depth of field dilemma. These cameras are extremely precise and were built so to capture the "decisive moment". That is their real strength. They excel at this probably more than any other photo system around. If you want focusing precision go with Nikon or Canon AF.
     
  15. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    SLRs certainly have their [big] advantages, don't they!

    The things that I believe will help you most are prefocusing (i.e. anticipation), and lots and lots of practice.

    Zone focusing won't do you much good at f/1.4, with objects closer than infinity, as your zone isn't much of a zone, and you cannot afford any slop wide open. But pre focusing (by scale or with the rangefinder) can get you close, and then you can "touch up" the focus before you shoot.

    But IMO, rangefinders are relatively terrible for shooting fast moving objects up close, and I'd use an SLR. Just because Leicas are arguably the best quality cameras and lenses made does not mean that they are the best tool for every type of shot. You can have the sharpest lens and most well built camera in the universe, but what good are the pix if you cannot nail focus?
     
  16. elekm

    elekm Member

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    I would get an autofocus SLR. A rangefinder is great, but it's not the best tool for fast-moving pets ... and kids.

    I had the same problem.
     
  17. mingaun

    mingaun Member

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    I think what you said is spot on.
     
  18. mingaun

    mingaun Member

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    It is something that i am thinking about.
     
  19. Diapositivo

    Diapositivo Subscriber

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    Taking pictures of a near fast moving subject, while using f/1.4, and focusing with a rangefinder, might be a daunting task for anybody. The only suggestion I have is: cheap film :D