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11-09-2008, 01:22 AM   #1
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I tried new school... and decided on old school

Well, long story short, I have become frustrated with autofocus. I've been using various lenses over the last few months, and shots that I thought the camera would nail came out of focus just by a smidge... unfortunately this made very soft shots out of ones that were supposed to be very sharp.

Anyways, after that session and after many many years of autofocus, I thought about trying out manual focus lenses. So picked up one of my old M primes and took a few shots with them.

Wow.

3 things struck me:
1) Manual focus seems to be the way to go for me now. Unfortunately the autofocus systems don't seem to read my mind the way I want it to and tend to focus on the wrong thing. Focusing on a single point and then refocusing (As in the case of portraits) has me losing my picture composition. With manual focus, I've been able to get some very very in-focus images which the camera would've messed up (and I'm able to think about composition better. Maybe this is just me). I have gone the way of manual focus.... I even went back and tried out my zoom lenses manual focus. Boom. With some eye-practice, my photography finally came alive. Soft shots became sharp shots, and *I* told the camera where I wanted the focus to be. I think that autofocus is no longer even something I'll consider using anymore.

2) Unfortunately, my sudden change to manual focussing has me wanting lenses that have a bit more 'feedback' to their focusing ring. The DA40 Limited pancake (one of my all time favorite and most used lenses) has no 'grit' to it's focusing ring. This makes for very quick focusing, but a little movement in my hands could cause me to go out of focus. The old school Pentax M lenses, on the other hand, have these greasy-feel focus rings that allow me to more precisely focus on what I want.

3) Old school Pentax lenses are CRAZY amazing (I have M and A prime lenses, which are not my basic walkaround kit). As good as the DA Limiteds are (And I have to admit that they are pretty awesome), they don't have the cool old-school focusing ring feel of old. AND, the image quality I get from M and A prime lenses just blow me away. The sharpness that these lenses are able to achieve, even being 20-30 year old lenses, totally astound me. I really feel my images have come alive.

Note: The main comparison has been between my Pentax DA* 16-50 and Pentax DA 40 Limited vs my Pentax A 50 1.7 and Pentax M 28 2.8.

Anyways, just thought I'd rant and would love to see how others feel about this too (About old school lenses and manual focusing, etc.). Any thoughts?






Coles notes:
1) After not being happy with autofocusing, I have switched to manual lenses or going manual mode on zooms.
2) I hope Pentax will make more manual-focus-friendly lenses like the old M and A lenses.
3) The image quality on old M and A lenses are astounding!

11-09-2008, 03:59 AM   #2
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I'm a huge fan of M lenses. I've only got two at the moment - 100mm 2.8 and 50mm 1.4 - and want to get a 28mm next. In particular I like that focus ring and the compactness and lightness in the hand. As you say, their sharpness is stunning. Whether I'm shooting film or digital they just lend - I dunno, a sense of excitement, a feeling of really being inside the process as a full participant rather than just an observer of technology doing its thing. Does this make sense?

As for autofocus, I understand your frustration with it, but I couldn't see myself never using it. Case in point today, when a neighbour brought her dog over to show us his cool new prescription dark glasses. I dragged out a camera and tried to get the dog to sit still but he kept shifting around. I managed to get two decent shots but without autofocus I doubt I would have got any.

Interesting thread.
11-09-2008, 04:13 AM   #3
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I consider autofocus lenses "special purpose" lenses. It is a feature that when you need it, you really need it. When I don't need it, I don't miss it at all. Consequently I tinker about contentedly with my Takumars most of the time.
11-09-2008, 06:04 AM   #4
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I too prefer manual focus on older lenses. However, as Mr. Cash stated, there are time you need the auto. I took my Takumar 200 to a soccer game and tried to shoot just during the warm up and it was difficult. 8 and 9 year old soccer players don't like to stand still when there's a ball to chase after. But if things aren't moving around too much, yeah, manual on manual lenses.

11-09-2008, 08:26 AM   #5
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My shooting kit is now all manual focus, mostly A series lenses, along with a couple of Ms and a K). My AF lenses have been in my offsite storage since August, and I've seen no reason to retrieve them.
11-09-2008, 11:23 AM   #6
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I guess I must be "old school", as I left school when slide rules were on the go and calculaters were just science fiction.

I love my manual fast A series lenses, but I noticed as I got older (like it just happened overnight ) I struggled to get sharp focus with my new K10D.

A two step solution was required, first a visit to the opticians for new glasses and the second was to bite the bullet and buy a Katzeye screen, I cannot put into words just how good it is.

I now expirence the joy of photography all over again, like in the old LX days, with pictures so sharp, you cut yourself when you look at them.
11-09-2008, 03:37 PM   #7
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Yep! I focus manually by default.
11-09-2008, 03:49 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Mike Cash Quote
I consider autofocus lenses "special purpose" lenses. It is a feature that when you need it, you really need it. When I don't need it, I don't miss it at all. Consequently I tinker about contentedly with my Takumars most of the time.
Soooo so true ... I pick up my Tak kit most of the time ... but when needed I do use my AF kit (toddlers move a hell of a lot quicker than you think).

Manual focussing on little ones on the move is pretty difficult if you want a sharp image

11-09-2008, 04:32 PM   #9
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What to use when shooting sporting events like Ice Skating etc? Because I tried AF.S and I always missed the subject by the time I got a focus. And for some reason I don't have much faith in AF.C. I have noticed that when using my 55-300 mm I go directly to 300 mm and try to auto focus then it takes a long time because it tries focusing in the wrong direction.
11-10-2008, 04:31 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by atyab Quote
What to use when shooting sporting events like Ice Skating etc? Because I tried AF.S and I always missed the subject by the time I got a focus. And for some reason I don't have much faith in AF.C. I have noticed that when using my 55-300 mm I go directly to 300 mm and try to auto focus then it takes a long time because it tries focusing in the wrong direction.
There is always less light indoors than we think there is. At 300mm the 55-300 has a maximum aperture of f5.8, which is really very slow (dark) and is naturally going to have trouble auto focusing in those circumstances.
11-10-2008, 10:15 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Mike Cash Quote
There is always less light indoors than we think there is.
So true! We tend not to be aware of our own irises, but of course, the aperture of our eyes opens up wide indoors just as surely as we do with our lenses (I've often wondered if affects DOF...).
11-10-2008, 11:16 AM   #12
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I'm a manual focus guy all the way, but not necessarily with early lenses. The FA* series and first three FA Limiteds (31, 43 and 77) have pretty decent focus dampening and mostly sufficient "throw" to allow for manual use. I don't think I've ever tried autofocus with the limiteds and almost never on the FA* stuff. Never thought about it until now, but perhaps part of the "pro" designation for * lenses and limiteds is that there is better manual focus capability than what you find in the consumer lenses? Just a thought...How's manual focus with the DA* lenses? Is it better than other DA lenses? If so, then that's one more thing about the * lenses to add to the "benefits" list.

For the autofocus folks reading this thinking we're all pretty weird...an example:
I'm shooting "critters" fairly often. Deer, elk, caribou, coyotes whatever. Autofocus loves the nearer point and likes to focus on the tip of the nose. I need focus to be on the eyelashes which are hard to select in the focus point menu
11-10-2008, 02:22 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
So true! We tend not to be aware of our own irises, but of course, the aperture of our eyes opens up wide indoors just as surely as we do with our lenses (I've often wondered if affects DOF...).
Yes, it does affect the DOF of our eyes. You'll notice this when your eyesight begins to slip (statistically around 45). You will have less trouble 'focusing' on something nearby when there is brighter light.
Brighter light = smaller irises = greater DOF.
11-10-2008, 02:45 PM   #14
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.


You need to get into Takumars - the best MF action line, bar none. The M's
and K's are very good, but the Taks allow unmatched precision, and I think they can
actually be focused pretty fast.

In the following shot, I was having problems locking on the twig I wanted with my
F 50 1.7 AF lens, so I tried my SMC Tak 55 1.8, and got it first try:



MF allows you to pick the precise focus point in complex contrast:

(55 1.8)

(S-M-C Tak "fungal" 50 1.4)
11-10-2008, 03:19 PM   #15
Igilligan
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Man focus when it makes sense

I get so wrapped up in my love of the old MF glass that I sometimes make silly mistakes...
Yesterday some friends and their kids came to the park with my family... I have been so loving the Jupiter 9 and the Helios 44 that I just got so much, that I did not take my Kid shootin' Tamron 28-75.......

A big mistake with moving kids. I got a few keepers but many missed shots.

There are times the AF lenses are the ticket, even if they miss too often IMHO.
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