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09-23-2010, 08:20 PM   #1
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Thinking about starting to use MF lenses..

Currently using a k-x, now looking to use the pentax advantage of backward compatibility.. so trying to learn to go to MF lenses. Have a few question though: 1. I have read around that having a split-focusing screen helps a lot in using MF lenses, but do I really need it? 2. Is the in built focus confirmation (the green hexagon & beep thing) of the k-x sufficient to use MF lenses? 3. What would be a good MF lens to start with? Thanks.

09-23-2010, 08:30 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by hagiri_11 Quote
Currently using a k-x, now looking to use the pentax advantage of backward compatibility.. so trying to learn to go to MF lenses. Have a few question though:

1. I have read around that having a split-focusing screen helps a lot in using MF lenses, but do I really need it?

2. Is the in built focus confirmation (the green hexagon & beep thing) of the k-x sufficient to use MF lenses?

3. What would be a good MF lens to start with? Thanks.
1. It helps but isn't necessary all the time. How good is your eyesight? Just make sure that your screen is in focus (the little slider on the viewfinder) and you should be good to go.

2. It helps but I would still rely on what I see.

3. I always recommend people put their hands on the Pentax A 50mm f1:1.7. The M version would do as well. Either way, Best bang for the buck. Of course if you just want to play with MF, simply turn it off on your camera and use whatever lens you like.

Welcome aboard!
09-23-2010, 08:41 PM   #3
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I feel manual focus with the k-x stock focusing screen is an exercise in frustration. Of course my eyes are not as good as they used to be. I replaced the focusing screen and am delighted with the improvement in my 'keeper' percentage. I'll second the A 50mm f/1.7 or the 1.4 if you can find one at a good price. If you want to test the waters you can get a SMC 55/2 for very little money, just to see if you like the manual focus world.

If you really like manual focus and appreciate old glass look into the M42 lenses like the Takumars.

I found with auto-focus I never had the patience to properly compose a shot. By using manual focus lenses I'm forced to take my time and do it right, both focus, exposure and composition. If I keep practicing I firmly believe that someday I will take at least one good picture.
09-23-2010, 08:48 PM   #4
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I'm totally sold on using MF lenses so I'm kind of biased. Here's my $0.02:
1. A split prism screen is nice to have, especially if your eyesight isn't great or if you're shooting with very fast lenses and a very shallow depth of field. But if you have decent eyesight the stock focusing screen is plenty bright and accurate for most people.
2. The focus confirmation works but my preference is to use it as a general guide/confirmation of what I'm seeing rather than rely on it. It can and does get triggered when the leading edge of the focus area comes into focus but you might actually want critical focus on the area behind that.
3. You can start with the lens on your camera right now but turning the focus setting to MF and starting to experiment. If you do want to buy some vintage glass you'll have to decide between A lenses, which will allow you to control aperture using the camera's controls, or non-A (M and K) lenses which require you to set the aperture on the lens and then use the green button to set the correct shutter speed. Having an A lens is quite a bit more convenient, imo, but I shoot both.

The obvious route (not knowing what focal lengths appeal to you most)is to pick up a 50mm lens. There are zillions of 50mm f2.0 lenses out there. You can get them very cheaply and they're quite good. I think my first MF lens was an A 50mm f1.7 and I still love it and use it regularly. I've found the 135mm lenses to be excellent as well. You gotta jog a few paces back but they do an outstanding job of isolating subjects. I'd stay away from old MF zooms (just not worth it compared to modern zooms, with very few exceptions).

MF is a ton of fun, imo. Super satisfying when you start to get good at it. (I've posted this before but here's one from the 50mm 1.7. Who needs 32 autofocus points?!)


09-23-2010, 09:12 PM   #5
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Your biggest worry isn't going to be about focus confirmation or focus screen. It's going to be about stop down metering. For the K-7 at least, a non-computerized lens can only be metered by stopping down the shutter for a moment by pressing the green button. This pretty much adds significant time to setting up your shot. It also causes underexposure quite often. I'm not sure for which era lenses does one stop having to use stop down metering but I have to do it on my SMC-M and prior era lenses.

It's fun but it'd be a lot funner if you didn't have to click the green button .
09-23-2010, 09:34 PM   #6
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Brilliant image alan smithee.

MF is great for sharpening up focusing skills, but as mentioned is more fun if aperture can be controlled electronically and there is no need for stop-down metering.
09-23-2010, 09:40 PM   #7
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Using MF will make you a better photographer. I don't trust AF on any camera, except for simple scenes of Aunt Betty standing in an open field for a snapshot, so I use MF almost all the time. Don't just look for focus. Go past it to the blur, back through again to the other side, then slowly into focus until the image sort of pops. Once you get used to doing this, you can do it much quicker than if AF hunts just once, and you'll be sure of where the focus is, instead of relying upon where the camera thinks you want focus.
Same thing with the focus confirmation beep. I turned it off.
I have a Katzeye screen, and while it helps a lot when focusing on infinity, I find it annoying at close and mid-ranges. Always pick some small part of an object or scene to concentrate focusing upon, such as the eye of an animal or a person.
When buying old lenses, stick with A lenses at first. M lenses mean you'll also have to choose f-stop and shutter speed. This will make you a better photographer too, because it will teach you about light and how the camera handles it, but learn and master one thing at a time.
09-23-2010, 10:38 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ron Kruger Quote
Using MF will make you a better photographer. I don't trust AF on any camera, except for simple scenes of Aunt Betty standing in an open field for a snapshot, so I use MF almost all the time. Don't just look for focus. Go past it to the blur, back through again to the other side, then slowly into focus until the image sort of pops. Once you get used to doing this, you can do it much quicker than if AF hunts just once, and you'll be sure of where the focus is, instead of relying upon where the camera thinks you want focus.
Same thing with the focus confirmation beep. I turned it off.
I have a Katzeye screen, and while it helps a lot when focusing on infinity, I find it annoying at close and mid-ranges. Always pick some small part of an object or scene to concentrate focusing upon, such as the eye of an animal or a person.
When buying old lenses, stick with A lenses at first. M lenses mean you'll also have to choose f-stop and shutter speed. This will make you a better photographer too, because it will teach you about light and how the camera handles it, but learn and master one thing at a time.
I disagree. There is nothing wrong with relying on AF. Any modern DSLR will have extremely fast focus relative to the speed of a human. I don't know how pro you are (or how slow your camera's AF is) but I'd say trying to train your focus to the point of which can beat the speed of your camera is a futile pursuit for any photographer. After all unless you have perfect vision, the limited steps of the diopter will not be enough to fully compensate for your eyes' astigmatism. An AF circuit does not have this limitation and as such, given that it has no rear/front focusing issues, innately sees the image more clearly than what you see through the viewfinder.

The benefit of shooting manual focus lenses is because it trains you to shoot manually. That is it makes pay greater attention to aperture and shutter speed. It also allows you to see (and this is the result of manual focusing being slow) what an image will look like with focus shifted behind or in front. This is useful mainly in macro photography. Older manual lenses also have the benefit of having an aperture ring and depth of field scale which helps you find the hyper focal distance without needing a calculator.

09-24-2010, 06:39 AM   #9
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I went back and forth about manual focus. When I got my first pentax I had a couple of MF lenses but after a while I sold them because I was having trouble getting good shots in focus. Fast forward a couple of years. I decided to try again after gaining overall experience in using the camera. I'm now finding that I prefer to use MF in many situations. I have control over what in the frame is in focus and as atomic cow mentioned it also slows me down a bit and I can also see what the depth of feel looks like. With autofocus I tend to focus on the subject and shoot, not looking at how objects around the subject look. I'm still using an A50 2.0 that was given to me and it blows away my zooms in sharpness. IMHO it's a great way to learn MF and zooming with your feet..

I use the beep as a guideline, especially in dim conditions, but then I tweak the focus to where I want it. I find that my shots are more in focus and focused the way I envisioned them when I shot them. I'm to the point now that I prefer MF even for my birding shots. I think I can focus almost as fast as my 55-300 and with much better accuracy. Here's one from yesterday, manual focus.

09-24-2010, 06:58 AM   #10
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Myths and realities

I shoot both MF and AF, I have shot pentax exclusively since I began 30 years ago, and along the way I have collected a sizeable kit, or, more appropriately 3 relitively complete kits.

I have an AF kit which is exclusively zooms, plus the pentax 1.7x AF TC which I use on my SMC-300F4 lens.

I have K mounts from 24-135mm plus a series 1 70-210mmF3.5, and an M42 kit from 24-200mm.

I have put split image finders into my 2 older DSLRs (*istD and K10D as I never trade, but when I upgrade I purchase new and keep the old bodies for back-up and special purposes)

I find a split image finder is essential in my *istD because with M42 lenses I don't get focus confirmation.

Additionally, although you can focus with the focus indication on later bodies, the DOF of the viewfinder is not the same as a lens, and especially with fast lenses, the apparent DOF in the viewfinder is much greater than reality, and this can lead to many errors in focusing especially wide open, and also with shorter focal lengths which have inherently greater DOF in the first place.

So in my opinion, if you are serious about MF lenses a split image is a worthwhile investment.

As for the green button issue, and shooting manual, I shoot manual mode a lot of times even with my new AF lenses, where I will meter on what I want perfectly exposed, and then shoot with that setting until the lighting or need changes, so what is the difference? However, if you want true auto exposure with Manual focus lenses, then a KA mount, with aperture contacts in the lens mount, is the best. The other alternative is to use M42 lenses, and focus wide open then stop down in Av mode to set exposure.

There is an additional advantage to KA mount lenses, and that is the ability to use P-TTL flash. With the exception of th e*istD and DS, no other DSLR has the TTL flash sensor taking reflected light off the sensor to control flash, and as a result, only these 2 bodies can perform effective flash metereing with manual aperture lenses, This is why I still use my *istD, which can meter in both TTL and P-TTL mode.

As for a good lens to start with, any of the standard 50mm lenses is a good bet, either F1.4 or F1.7. you can then branch out either to the wide or tele end as you wish.

A note about older lenses however, is that beyond 28mm (i.e. 24, and wider) old lenses get expensive in a hurry. In this range you may be better off with some of the new offerings including the samyang 14mm and the 8mm fisheye, as these are new, and are KA mount so you can use automatic modes for exposure and flash.

Longer lenses are available and there are some good bargins still in MF at the long end, with reasonable pricing from 135mm and up, but some of the best portrait lenses in the 85-135 range are again very expensive used, and there are not many new ones available (except the samyang 85F1.4)
09-24-2010, 10:08 AM   #11
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Hi everyone,
Having upgraded to a Pentax Kx from the older Pentax SLRs, I find that the manual focus on the K-x is a real pain in the butt! Thinking of selling and getting a Pentax dSLR with a split screen, that is of course if there is one available. Can anyone point me to the right buy, please?
Love the high ISO on the K-x but would rather have a decent focusing screen, am I alone in this quest?
Thanks in advance for any help.
09-24-2010, 10:11 AM   #12
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While one can certainly practice MF using the kit lens or another AF lens, I wouldn't get too carried away there. The focus rings of these lenses weren't really designed to make MF easy, so you end up fooling yourself into thinking MF is harder than it would be with a lens that is actually designed for the purpose. MF lenses have longer throw, and more resistance, so it's much easier to be precise about your motions.

As for split screens, no Pentax (or other brands that I know of) come with one, but they can be bought separately for msot cameras, including the K-x. So no need to sell the K-x if you find that you need a split screen,
09-24-2010, 10:16 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wijou Quote
Hi everyone,
Having upgraded to a Pentax Kx from the older Pentax SLRs, I find that the manual focus on the K-x is a real pain in the butt! Thinking of selling and getting a Pentax dSLR with a split screen, that is of course if there is one available. Can anyone point me to the right buy, please?
Love the high ISO on the K-x but would rather have a decent focusing screen, am I alone in this quest?
Thanks in advance for any help.
KatzEye™ Optics - Custom Focusing Screens

http://www.focusingscreen.com/index.php
09-24-2010, 10:26 AM   #14
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I have to agree with JeffJS, your biggest concern is going to be if your viewfinder is set right. The best advice about split screens is to try one and see if it works for you.
I ended up using a K10 screen in my K20, go figure?
09-24-2010, 10:29 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by opfor Quote
I have to agree with JeffJS, your biggest concern is going to be if your viewfinder is set right. The best advice about split screens is to try one and see if it works for you.
I ended up using a K10 screen in my K20, go figure?
explain that to me please, I thought the stock screen in the K10D and K20D were the same, now if you are using an *istD screen that's dfifferent, because the K20 will meter 100% better with manual aperture glass
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