Predictable, Not Particular

When autofocus can let you down

By Kryscendo in Columns on Jun 7, 2014

Pictured above is the earliest camera model with which I began my work: the venerable Pentax MX. The times have since changed. When rebooting in digital, I felt a little strange adjusting, particularly with respect to the viewfinder. When I picked up the white Pentax K-r as my first digital SLR, I had to relearn the basics.  With a tighter field of view, a viewfinder covered in metadata rather than a light meter, and an autofocus system, the digital K-r was a big change.

With time, I had figured out what was bothering me. Instead of doing the split image manual focus in the center of the frame like many film-era bodies including the MX, I found my K-r being very responsive with its autofocus. It was perhaps even unwieldy as a little AF unpredictability caused me a lot of concern.

While some appreciate the jackrabbit AF systems of modern cameras, I did not. Parsing through the manual, I found what might have been the setting to make me feel back at home: autofocus point adjustment. I could choose from an 11-point auto mode, 5-point center cluster, or center-only, which is what I desired. Changing to center AF was such a massive improvement to how I use the camera, that it was among the first things I had done with my encore, the K-5IIs.

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