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07-01-2013, 05:46 PM   #1
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Is manual focus that big a disadvantage for action?

Hi

I dusted off my camera after a break of a few months and got out shooting some sporting events over the weekend. It was the first time I've tried events like that and it was a steep learning curve, though I did learn a lot from it.

Though I got a few shots I liked at a Marathon with my SMC M 135mm (which I'd hardly used before and is now my new favourite lens! ), I also missed a few good ones that were just way too soft and was getting dejected thinking all my effort to get the shot with a fully manual lens was probably a waste of time when some guy next to me with a AF tele-zoom would probably have got the same by just pointing and hitting the button.

I switched to the kit DAL18-55mm to shoot some rally race cars with AF but was actually really disappointed with quality of the results, whereas the few I took with the 135mm were actually quite good. I was kicking myself for not persevering with it, I'd found it very difficult to frame the shots with the subject moving so quickly.

Would you actually *want* MF sometimes shooting action? I don't know if I just need better kit or better technique?

07-01-2013, 06:09 PM   #2
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don´t know about your technique but understanding the autofocus system might help. Also, everything you apply when using manual focus applies.
07-01-2013, 07:05 PM   #3
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Using manual focusing on sporting events is largely a matter of selecting the point of focus before the action gets there. Select your aperture to capture the depth of field you want and adjust shutter speed/ISO combination to get your exposure right.

I have found autofocus on fast moving sports very frustrating with the camera (K-7) frequently unable to decide and fail to fire. A fast HSM zoom helps somewhat but is not foolproof.
07-01-2013, 07:55 PM - 1 Like   #4
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TS, try to look at the distance scale on your lens and notice the aperture value on the right and on the left: this depicts your hyperfocal zone.

Try to gauge the distance of your subject and you wouldn't need to twist and focus the lens as much. It MIGHT look blur in the viewfinder, but what you are seeing is @ f/3.5. But if you had stopped down to f/5.6, the hyperfocal zone is actually larger.

For example, model was walking down the "runway" quite quickly. I set my 28mm on f/4 which would give me roughly 3m - infinity as marked on the distance scale and just shoot.
Of coz, i stop shooting when i guess-timate that the model has entered less than 2m distance from me.



PS: Sorry for the noob shot.. Just an enthusiast here.

07-01-2013, 08:22 PM   #5
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"Just pointing and hitting the button" won't get you far with any lens - manual or autofocus.

Anticipation, practice and keeping a high enough f-stop to maintain reasonable depth of field are good starters with either.

With autofocus lenses, a system which enables catch-in-focus, or a lens with quick shift can be helpful. Learning to use centre point focus and recomposing quickly and accurately is difficult but worthwhile.
07-01-2013, 08:40 PM - 1 Like   #6
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I would suggest that MF is an advantage for action shooting. Indeed one approach consists in pre-focusing the lens and shooting a high-speed burst.

How does it work?

1- Set the camera to MF (eventually the lens also, with some non-Pentax lenses)

2- Set the shooting mode to Hi continuous shooting - Personally I recommend to shoot Jpeg [**] or [*] to increase the burst duration

3- Using the focal distance on the lens, pre-focus the lens to the distance between you and the focus point - You may wish to do some preliminary tests with your camera+lens to ensure that the lens focus ring is correctly calibrated, and adjust according.

4- Using shutter priority Tv, set a suitable shutter speed.

5- When your target (car, person, animal) is coming towards the focus point, start a burst of Hi continuous shots, and ends once the target has passed our focus point

Depending upon the target, the aperture and your own skills, you may bet a few good (possibly great) shots to none for each burst.

I have used very successfully this technique with my Pentax digital cameras and a range of MF lenses. I found that the MF lenses have a much more precise focus ring, thus helping a more accurate pre-focusing.

Hope that the comment may help.
07-02-2013, 02:40 AM   #7
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Right! Pre-focusing will always be quicker than autofocus. Of course, there are a lot of people who just aren't happy with "acceptably sharp" images—they want "tack sharp" images. So is it possible for those kinds of people to get fast enough with manual focus to not miss auto focus?
07-02-2013, 04:51 AM   #8
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Why not AFc + continuous shooting High? Set it and fire away.

This little bugger was all over the place moving fast at a close distance and unpredictable
Out of perhaps 15 frames most were in focus. The K20 seemed to lock on pretty well.
Note: pics are not really PP completly - just to give a rough idea of the results.


Last edited by wildman; 07-29-2013 at 04:23 AM.
07-02-2013, 04:55 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by wildman Quote
Why not AFc + continuous shooting High? Set it and fire away.
I, for one, use Pentax-A prime lenses on film bodies. I do everything manually, and I love the look I get with those lenses (I would even use them on a K-30 if I could afford one). That's one reason why not. (:

Last edited by keyofnight; 07-02-2013 at 01:30 PM.
07-02-2013, 06:48 AM   #10
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The only auto lens I've used is the kit lens that came with my K-x, but I found trying to use it on flying birds, dragonflies and butterflies and such was less than acceptable...the lens keeps "hunting" especially with birds and butterflies, it doesn't know whether to focus on the wings or what, and they're constantly moving. It did a little better with slower moving subjects like caterpillars, but I was glad to get back home and put my old manuals on. (I was out of state when I got the camera and forgot my lens bag)

I've tried catch in focus a few times, it works fairly well but I may not know how to use it well, I haven't been overly impressed.

I usually try to catch a lot of birds in flight, which is not easy except with slower moving ones like hawks, vultures and such. The most reliable method so far is just try to get decent focus manually and keep practicing...occasionally with small fast birds like Swallows and scissor tailed flycatchers I can wait for them to come into the focus plane, and that works ok too.

Nothing has proven reliable, I still get loads of out of focus shots...like the female Orchard Oriole a few minutes ago...3 shots and nothing...oh well, keep trying...
07-02-2013, 08:50 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Paleo Pete Quote
I found trying to use it on flying birds, dragonflies and butterflies and such was less than acceptable.
For BIF nothing works really well. I had no problems with butterflies etc.

QuoteOriginally posted by Paleo Pete Quote
the lens keeps "hunting" especially with birds and butterflies, it doesn't know whether to focus on the wings or what, and they're constantly moving
Make sure when shooting the way I suggested to set the AF area to "point" otherwise it will hunt.

Also set AFc to "Focus Priority"

When doing this kind of stuff I always shot TAv it's ideal for this rapid fire kind of shooting.
07-02-2013, 09:05 AM   #12
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I shoot motorcycle ice racing in winters and find that AF is almost useless after the first lap of a race because the camera looses focus with all the snow/ice blowing. It's not that difficult because I set up my tripod on a turn and pretty much stay put so my focus doesn't change much.



Often, when shooting birds or other wildlife, there are obstructions like tree branches, tall grass, etc that can cause AF to focus on something else. On other occasions, I would be lost without my AF. With most of my action shots that aren't keepers, I think more are due to camera shake, too slow a shutter speed than on a missed focus. Shooting action takes practice.
07-02-2013, 10:40 AM   #13
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Pre-focusing works great for racing sports, but I don't find it particularly useful for many other types of sports (e.g., basketball, volleyball, football, etc.). With those kinds of sports, there are no definite areas on which you can pre-focus unless you want to end up with cliche armpit shots, like at the basket in basketball or at the net in volleyball.

It's just tough to shoot a lot of sports well, especially in those instances where you need to follow the action. I think focus is the biggest culprit. I have always been a fully manual shooter (both with focus and exposure), and I've never really trusted autofocus.

What I do find is that I really, really have to "warm up" my fast-focusing skills when I get to an event. I will show up early and practice focusing on players who are, similarly, going through their own warm-ups. After I get into the focus groove, I find I have a better level of confidence as I shoot the real thing, and I am more likely to get decent results.

Focus is hard. But in my opinion, it's easier with the control manual focus gives you than it would be without that control.
07-02-2013, 01:30 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by tlong423 Quote
What I do find is that I really, really have to "warm up" my fast-focusing skills when I get to an event. I will show up early and practice focusing on players who are, similarly, going through their own warm-ups. After I get into the focus groove, I find I have a better level of confidence as I shoot the real thing, and I am more likely to get decent results.

Focus is hard. But in my opinion, it's easier with the control manual focus gives you than it would be without that control.
Are there any exercises that you've done to beef up your focusing skills? (:
07-02-2013, 01:45 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by keyofnight Quote
Are there any exercises that you've done to beef up your focusing skills? (:
Yes, practice and practice and practice at manual focusing.
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