Beginner Manual focus or Auto focus

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Jonathon
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#1
People tell me my photos are not always in focus but i quite often use Auto focus . The camera tells me when i am in focus .
My Vision is not bad . Would the photos be better if i used manual focus ?
 

damianmkv

Uh oh, a fruit basket!
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#3
Maybe the shutter speed is to slow causing some blur ? Have you got any samples we could see ?

Edit - beaten to it by Charlotte
 

Nod

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Nod (NOT Ethel!!!)
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#5
On a modern SLR using AF lenses, MF can be a royal PITA! Several reasons, the 2 main ones (IMO) being that modern SLRs have no focussing aids like split screens or microprisms as were usually found in older SLRs and that AF lenses have a much shorter/narrower angle of throw between minimum focus distance and infinity, meaning a small movement of the focus ring shifts the plane of focus further than older manual focus lenses. That's not to say it can't be done, it's just not ideal. Modern AF systems are pretty good and generally faster than using MF on the modern kit. If you want to go down the full MF path, get hold of an old film SLR and some film (Poundland often stock Agfa Vista film at... £1 per roll but developing and processing isn't cheap these days and can take a while.)
 
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Peter
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#6
If you do want to use manual focus on a modern SLR, it's probably best to switch to live view and zoom in as far as possible, then adjust the focus to your satisfaction.

I often do this when shooting in low light or contrast situations when even the very good cross-type centre AF point on my 6D can't do the business.
 

Phil V

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#7
There's many issues here, and some of them involve you being more involved than saying OK I'll try x&y. This is a guessed answer because you haven't really given enough detail or actual examples.

Firstly there's a tendency for the inexperienced to allow the camera to choose what to focus on, they think that's what auto focus is. That's incorrect, that's auto focus point select, and it's generally crap. If you tell the camera what you want it to focus on, you'll find it's generally quite good.

Secondly; It's better in good light, but it's almost certainly better than most people manually focussing an AF camera (as above- they're not designed for manual focus).

Thirdly; as above, there are many other reasons for unsharp photos, to diagnose the fault, we need to see pictures.
 
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Toni
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#8
Phil has my thoughts. By default a modern camera will try to choose what it thinks is the subject to focus on, but will often get it wrong. If I use autofocus then I'll normally use 'spot' mode, which focusses on the object in the centre of the viewfinder - a half way press of the shutter button will lock focus (and often exposure) allowing the picture to be recomposed correctly before taking the image.
 
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#10
Have a look in your camera menu, you should have different options for the type of AF available, I don`t know what they are called by Sony but look for something like spot, center weighted or average.
That's exposure metering, nothing to do with focus.
 

MartynK

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#12
MF is pretty straightforward with a camera and lens designed for it. Film SLRs had much larger and brighter viewfinders, and most of them had some combination of a fresnel screen, microprisms and split image focus aids; and the manual focus lenses had long, smooth, throws.

Crop DSLRs have comparatively small/dim viewfinders, no focus aids, and many AF lenses have a poorly damped, short throw, MF ring added as an afterthought. FF DSLRs are a lot better, but all AF cameras - including the film ones - leach some light out of the system for the AF.

A lot of people struggle with AF on a DSLR until they learn how to use it. There are two problems. Firstly, transitioning from a compact introduces a new component. Everything else being equal, depth of focus reduces as sensor size increases. Most compacts have very small sensors and great depth of focus, so focussing accurately isn't too critical. DSLRs have larger sensors and it becomes more important. Secondly, AF isn't magic. The camera doesn't know what you want to be in focus unless you tell it. You need to learn how to select the focus point according to the subject, and/or lock the focus and recompose using a half press on the shutter button or back button focus (if the camera has this option). The aperture comes into play too. Smaller apertures give greater depth of focus, but you have to adjust shutter speed and/or ISO to maintain the correct exposure. There's usually some latitude in good light, but as the light goes down you need to watch the shutter speed and ensure that it doesn't drop to the point where camera shake creeps in (IS helps) or rack up the ISO.
 
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Mark
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#13
If I use autofocus then I'll normally use 'spot' mode, which focusses on the object in the centre of the viewfinder - a half way press of the shutter button will lock focus (and often exposure) allowing the picture to be recomposed correctly before taking the image.
That is not the "correct" way of composing shots and can lead to out of focus shots. If you want the subject matter off center then move the focus point to where in the view finder you want it to be? One of the first things i learnt from this forum was NOT to do this.
 

Phil V

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#15
That is not the "correct" way of composing shots and can lead to out of focus shots. If you want the subject matter off center then move the focus point to where in the view finder you want it to be? One of the first things i learnt from this forum was NOT to do this.
Then one of the first things you learnt was a bit of a waste.

Focus recompose is a valid method of focussing, sometimes the best, other times not so good, but only rarely is it wrong.

There's a chance of OOF shots using very large apertures and shooting from an angle where there'd be a significant difference in subject distance as you swing the camera. Most users don't have very fast lenses and wouldn't get themselves into that situation. I'd assume that by the time it's a possibility, the photographer ought to be able to work out the pitfalls.

However, back to focus recompose, the central focus point on most cameras is generally more sensitive and more accurate. Most people looking for help have relatively slow lenses that are helped by this increased ability.

If all your focus points are cross type, and all your lenses are fast, focus recompose offers little advantage.

But all of that's a bit much for the OP.
 
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Gary
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#16
I'm with Phil on this one, sorry Mac124, its not that your method is wrong but it is just one way of doing it and to dismiss all other methods is a bit short sighted (no pun intended). Phils method is just as valid as yours in many circumstances.
My preferred method is different again and I use the centre point for focussing almost exclusively (for the very reasons Phil stated above, accuracy and sensitivity) by employing Back Button Focussing. I'm not suggesting everyone uses this method, each to there own, but its a technique I think everyone should be aware of and familiar with especially for off centre subjects and close up portraiture when eye focus is critical. Its another useful technique that should be in everyones 'Technique Toolbox'.
 
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Carl
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#17
If I'm shooting handheld, I will almost always focus with the centre point and then recompose. It saves time as I dont have to go fiddling about changing the focus point all the time, and I also find that the centre point is much, much faster and more accurate, especially in low light.

However, when I shoot with the camera on a tripod, I typically use live view to compose and focus. I can move the focus point around the whole frame and then auto focus from within live view on a specific point that I've chosen. It takes a couple seconds longer, but when you're bothering to set up on a tripod I don't think another two seconds matters. If the light is too low to focus accurately, I'm then already in liveview and can zoom in 10x and manual focus.

I've recently (i.e. last week) started using a TLR film camera, and the manual focus on that is a nightmare, even wih a flippy up magnifier. I'm certain that it's just a lack of experience, but I'll be damned if I can do it properly!
 
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#18
I've recently (i.e. last week) started using a TLR film camera, and the manual focus on that is a nightmare, even wih a flippy up magnifier. I'm certain that it's just a lack of experience, but I'll be damned if I can do it properly!
Ah the old Twin Lens Reflex, I bought one of these many many moons ago when digital was unknown and 35mm was king. It was, shall we say, a unique and frustrating experience, lol. Still the results from the huge negative format were rewarding and at times worth the hassle (but not enough to justify using it exclusively) ah...fun times. (Or was it?)
 

MartynK

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#19
If I use autofocus then I'll normally use 'spot' mode, which focusses on the object in the centre of the viewfinder - a half way press of the shutter button will lock focus (and often exposure) allowing the picture to be recomposed correctly before taking the image.
I know what you mean, but I wouldn't explain it as 'spot' mode. That could introduce confusion with the metering modes, rather use 'centre point focus'.

I'm with Phil and Gary on this. I often use back button focus, but focus and recompose works well for most people, most of the time. It's quick and easy, and you learn its limitations as you gain experience and make the necessary adjustments. Going back to the OP's question, I still enjoy using my F2/FM and lenses which were designed for MF. There's no focus points or anything else to think about, just turn that big, smooth, ring until the subject looks sharp, and it will be!

Anyway, Jonathan, we seem to be debating this amongst ourselves. Are we helping you? Can you post some images so that we can see what's going on, and maybe fine tune our advice?
 

big soft moose

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#20
People tell me my photos are not always in focus but i quite often use Auto focus . The camera tells me when i am in focus .
My Vision is not bad . Would the photos be better if i used manual focus ?
It depends also on your lens - trying to manual focus a kit lens designed for autofocus is a fiddly and frustrating experience - tbh though if your photos arent in focus but you used AF either it focused on the wrong thing, or actually the shots are in focus but are soft due to wobble.
 
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#21
I'd not expected to cause controversy - ho hum.

FWIW my Sony calls using the central sensor mode 'Spot' - I've just looked it up on the camera - which is as logical as referring to spot metering. The camera is not doing 'spot', it is metering or focussing, and 'spot' is the area of the image on which those functions are being done.
 

MartynK

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#22
I'd not expected to cause controversy - ho hum.

FWIW my Sony calls using the central sensor mode 'Spot' - I've just looked it up on the camera - which is as logical as referring to spot metering. The camera is not doing 'spot', it is metering or focussing, and 'spot' is the area of the image on which those functions are being done.
Yeah, OK. I'm not trying to pick a quarrel with you, or cause controversy either, but the usual convention is to use "spot" for metering and 'centre point' for focus. Sony have their own nomenclature, but I do think this could confuse beginners and less experienced members on the forums. Pax.
 
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just jon
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Jonathon
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#24
It give something to think about . I didn't realise there would be this much discussion about it
 
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Stewart
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#25
Lets see an image Jon, your focusing may well be absolutely fine.
 
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#26
People tell me my photos are not always in focus but i quite often use Auto focus . The camera tells me when i am in focus .
My Vision is not bad . Would the photos be better if i used manual focus ?
Check your camera and lens in case it could be faulty. The AF system may tell you it is in focus, but what if it is not?

Check your camera's settings, some cameras can be set to allow you to take a photo even when AF had not finished focusing, maybe you took a photo before AF told you it is in focus? Some cameras can be set to lock shutter button until it is in focus, maybe yours is set to fire even when not in focus?

Using manual focusing would make no different if it turns out to be the equipment that's faulty.

The other members are right, it would be more helpful if you could show us examples of the photos that people told you is not in focus, so we could tell you what we think is the reason.
 
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