Sounds like you've got your mind made up about which direction to go Cheryl, but I'll just chime in briefly with my two bits on autofocus.

I use a Hassleblad 501c for MF and am starting to use the Graflex Crown for LF, but I still do at least half of my stuff in 35mm. One of the reasons is training myself to focus quickly/accurately enough with the MF & LF gear. The fact that I've just got a waist-level finder for the hassey makes it challenging for me to pull a fast focus during a quick-moving session. My uncorrected vision is something like 20/400, and as of a couple of months ago, the eye guy said I need bifocal glasses but am just short of needing bifocal contacts. This is a quandry for me, since glasses steam up sometimes, or get dirty, and contacts lose focus for the first half second or second after blinking. As I'm sure some of the folks on this site know, getting your eyes to cooperate while pulling focus is sometimes a high-wire act.

Unfortunately, I've found any autofocus to be disappointing. More often than not, it'll focus on the nose rather than the pupils or the iris where I think the focus belongs. As I'm beginning to learn, for anyone who wants a really sharp image, there's only one tiny plane of focus, and anything in the so-called depth of field or hyperfocal distance is just sorta close, but not as good as getting the very best from those blasted circles of confusion.

About the only thing I've found autofocus really good for is cranking the lens close enough that I can quickly and easily pull a good focus myself without waiting for it to hunt back and forth. My eyes are getting worse faster than autofocus technology is advancing, I suspect.

What I'd really like to do is rely on a really clean rangefinder in a Crown Graphic, Linhof or some other 4x5 rangefinderable camera, take about 5-10 6-sheet Grafamatic backs on portrait shoots and do nearly everything 4x5. Serious speedbumps to that approach include not enough bellows draw to get close to kids & babies, setup speed for each shot, and having the rangefinder and the paralax-corrected viewfinder be two separate things to look through.

I'm convinced that quick operation of manual focus is going to remain a preferable solution to any autofocus mechanism for at least the next many years. One of the reasons I found DSLRs to be frustrating was that the reduced frame area (by 1.6x, typically) also meant a smaller, dimmer focusing screen.

On my own hunt (no pun) for a good autofocus alternative, I suspect I'll either do one or both of a Hassleblad 501cm or better with a retrofitted brighter viewfinder and either a 90- or 45-degree finder or one of the above-mentioned crown/technica/wista cameras perhaps with a 6x9 rollfilm back for smaller subjects and 4x5 for the larger ones.

If I were to humbly offer up any autofocus suggestions for a MF shooter, I'd urge "don't do it" and ak if there were either a focusing screen upgrade available for their iron or a medium format rangefinder that would be useable for them.

I know it's sorta obvious, and really expensive, but fast glass helps both manual and autofocus.

[uh... okay. I guess that wasn't so brief. ]

-KwM-