Auto-Focus or Manual?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Shacklebolt, Dec 30, 2007.

  1. Shacklebolt macrumors 6502a


    Sep 2, 2004
    For the photographers out there who are better than I am (read: Everybody) how often do you use auto-focus and how often manual, and in what situations?
  2. HomeingPigeon macrumors regular

    Aug 1, 2007
    I was shooting at a college hockey game last night and I was using auto-focus alot. That was the ONLY setting I was using. For any other thing I am taking a picture of i use manual pretty much. If it is not moving fast and I can have a chance to change it on my own i use manual. If you want to get your DOF really good manual is a good setting to use. I still havent mastered manual focus yet but that is pretty much the rules I use.
  3. Westside guy macrumors 601

    Westside guy

    Oct 15, 2003
    The soggy side of the Pacific NW
    Okay I have no idea if I'm better than you - certainly a lot of people here are better than ME. :D

    With wide angle (Tokina 12-24mm f/4) I generally focus at the hyperfocal distance; so I use manual focus almost exclusively.

    For most other shots, I use autofocus probably 95% of the time. For one thing the Nikon AF-S lenses let you override the autofocus without taking the lens/camera out of "auto" mode; so there's no penalty with using AF. Also my old D70 seems to autofocus quite well, so I trust it under the vast majority of circumstances.
  4. jolton macrumors member

    Mar 9, 2006
    99.8 percent of the time I use auto focus. Typically, if the camera has a problem focusing specifically on what I want to capture, then I'll use the manual focus (or if I want to "soften" the image up).

    However I'd say I mostly shoot people, family, & friends, so I'm sure it's a lot easier to use auto focus for that. If I were shooting more outdoor pics, street pics, and the like, then I'm sure I'd be using manual focus a lot more.
  5. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA
    For birds in flight, general wildlife and moving kids and sports, AF or AF with manual override almost all the time. Pre-focused MF sometimes with motorsports.

    For re-framing away from the focus point, AF with manual override most times.

    For studio shots, often manual within the depth of field after a few test shots, especially for portraits.

    For landscapes, often manual at the hyperfocal distance for the lens, or AF on a target, then switch to manual.

    General stuff, AF with manual override where possible.

    Insurance photography, AF with AF-assist from a flash.

    Macro, MF almost exclusively.

    I'll probably start focus stacking panoramas soon though, in which case it'll probably be all manual.
  6. M@lew macrumors 68000


    Nov 18, 2006
    Melbourne, Australia
    Most of the time I use auto unless there's a chance I that I won't have time for it or can't risk it. Or it just doesn't work. i.e. Really low light.
  7. JFreak macrumors 68040


    Jul 11, 2003
    Tampere, Finland
  8. Digital Skunk macrumors 604

    Digital Skunk

    Dec 23, 2006
    In my imagination
    Auto for everything, since DSLR viewfinders suck on all models except the D3 and other FF bodies. They just aren't bright enough for me to manually focus in any other situations other than a studio or macro shoot.

    And i wear glasses, so the machine can do a better job at acquiring focus if I have the camera set correctly.
  9. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Apr 14, 2001
    Sendai, Japan
    Manual focussing doesn't always work: I found it impossible with my 2.8/80-200 zoom to focus by hand: the dof is so small, on portrait shots, it doesn't reach beyond the nose (nose is in focus, eyebrows are not) ;)
  10. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA
    Backing up some will take care of that, as will stopping down. At 80mm, a subject distance of 8' on an APS-C camera will give about 4" of depth of field. At 200mm, you'll need about 20' for the same DoF for f/2.8. Unless you like portraits where the nose isn't in focus and the eyes are.

    This will help with calculations:
  11. zdobson macrumors 6502

    Nov 9, 2007
    I am a photojournalist, so I use auto all the time except:

    1) When I need to focus through or past something like a fence or a crowd of people.

    2) During auto racing when I want to pan with the car, I manually focus on the track in front of me, set the aperture to f/8 or so (during daylight), and pan with the car, shooting when the car comes into the focused area. Manual can be good in most situations where something fast-moving will be passing through a predetermined area that you can focus on ahead of time.

    3) Very, very dark situations when the infrared focus assist on my speedlight stops working for no apparent reason.

    Personally, I use auto for portraits because I want the eyes in focus before anything else and I find that if I try to manual focus I end up getting the nose or ear or something else. It could be because I wear glasses/contacts.
  12. carlgo macrumors 68000

    Dec 29, 2006
    Manual focus sometimes in macro work. I would guess that different lengths and brands of macro lenses and specialty macro flashes would all be different so some would be more sensitive to this than others.

    The auto works very well. Some cameras have ways to change the way the auto focus works so that the nearest subject or subjects flying through the scene will be picked up.
  13. Lord Blackadder macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

    May 7, 2004
    Sod off
    The lenses I own right now are all cheaper models with the very thin focus rings at the front - this can make manual focusing difficult, especially when shooting hand-held. I almost always use MF on the tripod though.
  14. macro macrumors member

    Dec 15, 2007
    Boy, that's a tougher question than it sounds. A lot of it depends on the lens as well as the camera. I find with my Nikons (the AF Nikons) that I use full manual most of the time. That's me and 35 years of nothing but manual lenses. I don't fully trust auto for my work, even now that I have two AF Nikons that I have used 10 and 4 years respectively. (F5 and D70s)

    I fully agree that Auto is the only way to go for any action shots unless you are fully versed and practiced in zone of focus. I do a lot of winery machinery work for private companies and this requires manual focus and I use Aperture priority when doing this work.

    On the other hand I shoot a lot with the Mamiya RB67 Pro SD and this is fully manually and has no electronics at all so I also use a LunaPro system S meter. I find that I do as well or better with my personal satisfaction using manual.

    If you're new to photography I think digital and AF is a godsend. I would have progressed faster than I did years ago when I was just switching from amateur to professional had I had the nifty gadgets available to amateurs today.

    Good luck in your photography.

    PS: for a couple of you~ One trick to manual focusing that I have used as I got older and my sight less sharp than it used to be is what I call the triple twirl. You spin the focus ring past perfect focus one way and then the other until you see the smallest detail in fine relief. Then you are in critical focus. It took me a while but I was desperate and finally it worked perfectly and my photos came out tack sharp. Of course, you have to be aware of your distances in feet/meters for what ever f stop you are using.

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