Autofocus is kind of like autoexposure - it is a great tool but it takes some intelligence and experience to use it properly. AE can very easily be fooled but photographers learned how to deal with that. AF is exactly the same way.
The key is not to assume that AF works. You can see for yourself. If you can't see, then you should refocus or focus manually. Nikon's AF-S and Canon's USM lenses let you override the focus at will, which is convenient.
Using AF a lot will help you to learn where it doesn't work. Low contrast is the enemy of the AF sensor. The sensors on some cameras require vertical lines to focus (newer cross-type sensors focus on horizontal or vertical lines but in some cameras, particularly EOS cameras, the cross sensors require f/2.8 or faster lenses to work properly).
One advantage of AF bodies is that a decent AF body has a built-in motor drive and often weighs substantially less than the equivalent manual-focus body with an accessory motor drive mounted.
Once you have learned how to use it, AF is unquestionably a helpful tool that will assist you in getting more good shots. The key is not to learn how to use it at a wedding. Shoot other stuff in AF first. Shoot a lot. Learn.
One last observation: I don't really trust a camera to pick a sensor for me (in multi-sensor cameras). I select manually. Nikons have a little joypad on the back that is quite easy to use once you're used to it. I change sensors during shooting as I need to do so. Canons are likely similar (I've never really shot with them).
Jim MacKenzie - Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
A bunch of Nikons; Feds, Zorkis and a Kiev; Pentax 67-II (inherited from my deceased father-in-law); Bronica SQ-A; and a nice Shen Hao 4x5 field camera with 3 decent lenses that needs to be taken outside more. Oh, and as of mid-2012, one of those bodies we don't talk about here.
Favourite film: do I need to pick only one?
Agreed. If they introduced a camera with an auto shutter release, you could send it out on the job and sleep in.
Originally Posted by Uncle Bill
Stick with manual. Do the work. Its worth it.
Autofocus cameras only pick the subject if you set them up to do so. If you select the active sensor and place the sensor on the subject, it will focus on your selected subject. That is, of course, within the limitations of the sensor. Autofocus does not work well under a lot of circumstances, I agree. Neither do my eyes.
Totally disagree with this point. Please refer to Jim MacKenzie post. Don’t assume it works, learn how it works. I use af and mf myself for different shooting situations.
Originally Posted by Uncle Bill
I shoot AF for all of my weddings, but you MUST be very familer with your gear to make it work for you, I never let the camera do everything, I know my cameras intimately, if fact my wife swears I enjoy manipulating them far to much, but I make sure I am picking the sensor based on the situation and I know how to change them without taking it away from my eye, I also choose my exposure and such as well as when fill flash for full power flash is required, the newer AF cameras will do what you tell them to, but the key is knowing what to tell them, in the fast moving world of weddings and event photography, the AF feature can be a life saver, but it can also mean doom, I can't interate enough, make sure you know the camera like the back of your hand and you will have a great experiance...
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In the old days, when brides and editors were content to receive a dozen excellent pictures, manual focus was more than sufficient. Today, probably because neither editors :o nor brides :rolleyes: would recognize an excellent picture if they sat on it, it has become common to give them hundreds of so-so pictures. The only way to shoot that fast with any accuracy, chasing the action as it were, rather than waiting for it, is with Auto Focus.
Using AF is not like shooting pictures in the old way: waiting for an image to happen in your viewfinder and reacting quickly. Rather, it is like watching a movie, and editing it. You get images you would never have got manually focussing the camera. On the other hand, you cannot get some of the pictures you would get routinely by manually focussing the camera.
I'm in my mid-50s, and AF is VERY useful to me as my eyesight diminishes in the usual way. I simply shoot differently with my F5 than I do with my M Leica. If a picture demands critical focus, with a relatively short lens, and you are using a large aperture, you will often be disappointed with AF: it doesn't hit the same mark every time, nor is it designed to. On the other hand, using a 100 mm or longer lens, you can get very good results with no effort with AF. ( I'll add here that the Leica R8 and R9 have manual focus that is so clean and easy that if I used an SLR enough to justify the magnificent expense, THAT would be the way to go ! )
Using AF takes a bit of committment, and switiching in and out of AF in attempt to out think the camera can be a waste of time: the camera can be tracking the image and appear out of focus on the screen even though it will be sharp when the shutter opens. Set the camera up to suit your way of working, and let it go.
If you go with AF, I'd suggest going all the way to the EOS 1v and get as much help as you can from their best camera. And practise !
"One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid,
and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision"
On top of all the good comments, I'd add that working with MF will require you to anticipate focus for near/far transitions. If you vary a lot the subject to camera distance between shots, a good, fast AF can help you a lot. But if you stick to a more or less constant distance, and don't change focal length, then you only need to adjust focus a little, which isn't hard to do with MF.
Your chosen depth of field will also influence the speed of your work. With a shallow DOF, manual or auto is going to be more delicate. But if you can work with hyperfocal, then focus once, and the hell with correcting focus for each shot. AF can even slow you down here because it will always adjust the plane of focus.
So I'd say the factors to balance together are: MF vs. AF; shallow vs. large DOF; zoom vs. prime.
Using film since before it was hip.
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I agree. I sold my AF equipment about 10 years ago when I realized that I wasn't using it that often and I really don't like anything on the viewing screen but the scene to be photographed.
Originally Posted by don sigl
Also, I use a tripod regularly, and my shooting techniques aren't compatible with AF. In manual, I use hyperfocal settings 90% of the time. When I do want to focus on a particular point I find the bright, uncluttered manual focus screens on my manual cameras--combined with fast lenses--allow me to quickly set the focus.
I never really learned to fully trust AF or AE for serious photography, although my Olympus Stylus Epic uses both for snapshots.
The Autofocus Problems Page is a good read. It discusses why the author and the sources he cites believe that you lose up to 50% of image resolution (probably somewhat less so, since that was a 1998 test) with AF, and how an AF camera in MF mode is more difficult to manually focus than a true manual focus camera, due to the amount of the image that must be directed to the AF sensors. MF cameras simply have a brighter image on the groundglass.
My AF experience is with Canon EF gear (EOS 1n) and I found that the difference between the hunt time for AF and the time it took me to focus an image was usually negligable. In low contrast situations, I found manual focusing, even with an AF camera, much faster.
I've since sold all my AF gear and replaced it with equivalent Canon FD gear (Canon F1, 55mm 1.2 FL lens, etc.) and everything is better built, cost no more than half as much as EF, and works much better and easier for me. Oh -- did I mention that there's narry a battery to be found in anything but my spot meter?
Does this qualify as commercial use? I guess it depends on where you draw the line, but we had a small studio that did portraits and weddings for two years before I decided to go back to school.
[QUOTE=df cardwell]In the old days, when brides and editors were content to receive a dozen excellent pictures, manual focus was more than sufficient. Today, probably because neither editors :o nor brides :rolleyes: would recognize an excellent picture if they sat on it, it has become common to give them hundreds of so-so pictures. QUOTE]
If a client wants a pile of so so pictures from me . I tell him to get another photographer. I suppose you get much more work than I do. I don't do much commercial work anymore. I'm turning 50 in a few months and my eyes are hardly what they used to be, but I have a diopter for my Pentax 67 and I use a lupe with the large format. Seems to work fine. I don't need or want auto focus. Nor do I need the type of clients you mention. Maybe thats a luxury, but its how I approach photography.
I work almost exclusively with models. I had a model tell me the other day that the biggest difference she noticed between a digital shooter and a film shooter was the attention to detail that the film shooters generally exhibit. It was nice to here. But then, she was a professional getting paid for the shoot, not a paying retail customer.
I suppose you have to give the customer what they want, be competitive, and all that. For me those are strong reasons for steering clear of retail work. I do my own thing.
I've heard a lot of people praise the virtues of AF in this thread. I think if it works for them, they should do it. If it meets the indiviuals professional and personal requirements, then have at it.
For me, I'll stick to my Red Dot Artar, and work at my own speed,