Why manual focusing instead of auto-focusing SLRs?
Forgive me for asking this, but I see a lot of people are still using manual focusing SLRs/rangefinders instead of switching to auto-focusing cameras. Is there a reason? I know that sometimes manual focusing is more accurate, but what other benefits are there to using manual-focusing cameras, especially with 35mm?
It's cheap, reliable, and you have lenses that will last two lifetimes instead of having lenses that will crap out before you grow a beard. Plus, no reliance on batteries, luddite elitism (it never hurts!), and there are no autofocus rangefinders except for the Contax G-series.
Sometimes, it's simply what's available. My first 35mm was a manual focus by a fact of life, not by choice. My second 35mm was a manual focus by choice, from all the above reasons.
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For me manual focus is more accurate. Autofocus often just focuses on the nearest contrasty object, and autofocus lenses often don't focus manually as quickly or smoothly as a manual focus lens. That said, you can learn to work with autofocus, and some people may get more keepers one way, and some may do better with the other method.
If you photograph birds or wildlife using long, fast telephoto lenses, autofocus lenses are also considerably more expensive and considerably heavier for use in the field. For bird photography, I think it's better to have a longer lens and manual focus than to be forced into using a shorter lens for financial reasons, because one thinks that one needs autofocus.
I like focussing anywhere on the matte screen - with autofocus I am restricted to the focussing fields.
In this way I can focus whilst composing (not compose-focus-recompose), which -for me- makes a big difference in speed.
Requires some practice though....but works exceptionally well when you can do it! Bright screens are a must...
I have both manual focus and AF cameras - so don't sit squarely in one camp or the other.
I like AF (e.g. F5) when I'm doing a lot of quick shooting (such as when I went to the Tucson Rodeo a couple of weeks back) but still enjoy the more "contemplative" style I follow when shoot manually with my F3.
It is true that I just about never manually focus the AF lens on the F5 - heck, I'm just beginning to learn some of the intricacies of the matrix focusing system - but it is nice to know that if need be, I could mount any of my AI or AIS lenses on it and still shoot.
If you're asking this question because you don't yet have a 35mm and wondering which way to go - I'd recommend going manual. But if you already have a manual and are wondering what you're missing w/o AF, and if you have the $ to spend, then give it a whirl.
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I've never much liked AF. And I find MF cameras handle better, usually have better viewfinders and are more enjoyable to use.
The extra automation gets in the way, I have to think more about what the camera is doing than about what I'm doing, which distracts me.
1 More accuracy most of the time
Originally Posted by film_guy
2 More speed if you pre-focus (no focusing lag)
3 Better in low light (especially with rangefinders)
5 More mechanically reliable in the long term
6 No risk of 'hunting' while the AF decides whether to let you shoot or not (and often refuses)
7 Lenses feel like precision instruments instead of cheap, nasty plastic toys
8 Enormous choice of MF lenses available
9 No need to try to guess/adjust where the autofocus will read
10 Much easier to use depth of field scales
AND what the others have said.
A better question might be, 'Why does anyone use autofocus EXCEPT for certain types of unpredictable action photography?'
You answered your own question - It is more accurate.
Manual focusing also allows the photographer to practice selective focus more easily when desired.
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OTOH a F4 may be an AF camera but it handles MF lenses just fine.
I think a lot depends on what you are doing with the camera.
I can only add that manual focussing uses your brain vs the cameras brain. Which is smarter?
I use both for the record. When I shoot weddings for example I use autofocus (Canon) cameras. It is a lot more reliably fast with long lenses than me, and I can use only one hand. Everything else is manual because I prefer manual cameras for the above stated reason. If you are going to do autofocus, get a good camera otherwise it is a waste of time. There is nothing worse than watching your lens fishing for focus when you want to take a picture.