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  • Auto Focus

    I recently attended a photography workshop and the instructor said you should "always" be using your auto focus. "Let the camera make the adjustment, not you." Do you agree?

  • #2
    No no no no!!
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    • #3
      Another thread that will polarise opinion - all the people who only use manual will tell you that you're better off not using autofocus and should learn to focus with your eyes instead, and all the people who only use autofocus will tell you that the facility is there for a reason.

      Only joking - although as with all options there are pros and cons. I use both, depending on what I'm doing, and depending on what gives me the best results at the time. I was at an air show on Friday and Saturday, and I used manual focus for some of my shots, ordinary autofocus for some, and the servo autofocus for others - tracking an F-16 as it flies past is way easier with servo autofocus...

      Russ.
      I shoot Canon, and use Elinchrom lights.
      My Flickr Page - feel free to leave comments

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      • #4
        There is no "always" in photography. Every setting on your camera is there for a reason—there is a time and a place for it.

        Auto focus is easy, which is nice if you're just snapping.

        Auto focus is quick, which is important if you're not going to have time to manually focus before the image gets away.

        Auto focus can track subjects that are moving closer or farther away, something that takes a lot of skill and experience if you're using manual focus.

        Manual focus lets you determine precisely what you want to have in focus, instead of the camera trying to guess and maybe focusing on the wrong thing.

        To everything, there is a season…

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Celeste View Post
          I recently attended a photography workshop and the instructor said you should "always" be using your auto focus. "Let the camera make the adjustment, not you." Do you agree?
          My immediate reaction is an emphatic no. Most of my lenses force me to focus manually because neither they nor my D40 have a built in motor and, to be honest, I'm very happy with the results. I've got so comfortable with manual focus that I often use it even when switching back to the kit lens (although the focus ring on that lens is its weakest point).

          However, I do often make use of the autofocus system. The D40 displays a small green disk in the viewfinder when it thinks the area under the selected point is in focus. In most cases I still have to make the adjustment, so I don't think this is what the instructor meant, but it is a useful tip for letting the technology assist you while still maintaining control.

          Wulf
          Wulf Forrester-Barker << Sites: blog / flickr >>
          Gear: Nikon D40, Nikon AFS 18-55mm f/3.5 - 5.6G, Nikon Series E 50mm f/1.8, Nikon AF 70-300mm f/4-5.6G, Vivitar 90mm f/2.5 macro, Raynox DCR-250, Lensbaby 2.0k, SB600

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          • #6
            I disagree with saying "always", but I do use autofocus most of the time. I let the camera do the hard work for me, and then fine tune it myself (Nikon M/A lenses are nice for this -- you can manually tweak the focus in any mode, you don't have to change to manual mode).

            My eyes are bad enough that I don't always trust my own ability to manually focus, so it's a bit of a blessing as well.
            David Clark Photography, project 365 photo blog, flickr.
            It is OK to edit and repost my photos on the DPS forums only.

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            • #7
              I cannot for the life of me understand why an instructor would tell you to always use auto focus. There are benefits to AF for sure, but it's not the answer to everything.

              I do landscape photography. If I used AF exclusively, my shots would be awful. I use the hyperfocal distance for the shot I'm taking. You can't achieve this with auto focus because AF doesn't know what you are trying to do.

              If you are trying to capture that racecar going around the track, AF might be a huge benefit, but for landscape photography, to many it's a HUGE no-no for most circumstances.
              Landscapes and Light Painting, Nikon and Pentax equipment
              Eagle Vista Studio - Light Painting - Getting Started With Sunrise Photography
              "Anybody can make the simple complicated. Creativity is making the complicated simple." Charlie Mingus

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              • #8
                For the most part, I use autofocus because when I use manual focus, my shots tend to be out of focus, due to my inability to focus at close distances.
                OK to edit and re-post in DPS forum only.
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                • #9
                  In a simply put answer HELLLL NOOOOOOO !!!! I am a rank geinner and this site gave me the confidence to experiment with Manual now I rarely if ever use Auto even on my lil point and shoot.

                  IMHO any instructor advising this is covering their own lack of knowledge... there are resons for using Auto as outlined by a couple here but if you can use Manual or even the Aperture/ Shutter settings do so play about more and learn your cameras abilities ...
                  Camera Canon A560. Nikon D300 with Tamron 17-50, 70-300VC Nikkor 50mm Prime Lens and Polarising Filter and a book on what the buttons do......

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                  • #10
                    Run far and fast from almost anyone who speaks in absolutes such as always, never, every, etc.

                    The best answer for just about any photography question is: "It depends." Of course, that answer should usually be followed up by a discussion of "upon what does it depend?"
                    Best,
                    Jim
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                    • #11
                      i generally use the auto focus.....except....

                      when the light is so low the auto can't lock in.....or.....when the camera insists on a focus point that is not my subject and the old "lock and swing" falls short of the mark......

                      peeper
                      canon rebel xt, sigma 28-70mm

                      peeperita's flickriver

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                      • #12
                        Coming from a time before Auto Focus, even before Auto Exposure. I say not always. But let’s look at the situation from a teacher’s point of view. I suspect this is an entry level class. Who are the average students? From experience teaching both basic and advanced classes I say he is correct in his statement. The reason; most of the folks in the class are only interested in improving their snapshots not doing artsi-fartsy stuff.

                        From the point of view as a working professional (retired) photographer, starting before anything was automatic, automatic features are features are great. When available I did and still do shoot 90 percent in an automatic mode. The key is to learn to use the auto mode features. For example look at NASCAR do pit crews use single handle lug wrenches to change tires? Not a chance, they use the proper tool for the job. Sometimes manual is the right tool but the majority of the time proper use of automatic functions is a better choice.

                        Let me clarify I am not referring to the A setting for exposure. But using the M setting is a waste of time especially when you are using the cameras meter to get basic exposure. M could be equated to Monkey Wrench. Would you hire a mechanic who only had a monkey wrench? Sometimes a monkey wrench is the only tool that works but most times other tools do a better job. Learn to use your tools and use the right tool for the job.

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                        • #13
                          Even for an entry level class, assuming that was the case, I think "always" overstates the case for autofocus. Not least, it sets people up for a fall when they get overheard passing on their "wisdom" by someone who adheres to a different "always".

                          If I were teaching a beginners class and found myself asked if people should always use autofocus, I would aim for a much less partisan statement, such as "you will probably find you get a higher percentage of decent snaps by using automatic settings when you don't have time to carefully set things up". For myself, I revel in doing things manually and experimenting with the available options.

                          Wulf
                          Wulf Forrester-Barker << Sites: blog / flickr >>
                          Gear: Nikon D40, Nikon AFS 18-55mm f/3.5 - 5.6G, Nikon Series E 50mm f/1.8, Nikon AF 70-300mm f/4-5.6G, Vivitar 90mm f/2.5 macro, Raynox DCR-250, Lensbaby 2.0k, SB600

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                          • #14
                            Depends on your gear.

                            If you can get crisp, in focus images doing M, then do it.

                            If you have a tiny ass viewfinder, like me, and can't focus no matter what with it... then Auto is the way to go, until you can afford the E-3

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                            • #15
                              Using auto focus for macro can waste as much as half of the little DoF that is available. Auto focus will usually focus on the nearest point of a subject but because a significant amount of DoF is in front of the point of focus that's not where you want it to make use of all the available DoF.

                              Like with hyperfocal distances it's about shooting at the optimum setting for the sharpest possible shot. I think it's one of the many enjoyable challenges of photography if you chose to take it. I find manual focus is well suited for the times I use a tripod.

                              Auto focus has it's uses but then so do other techniques such pre-focussing. However, even with auto focus there are different setting that can be used...how the AF points are selected, how many AF points are active, what kind of AF points, if and how moving subjects will be tracked...

                              Using the same settings and technique for every shot is bad advice in my book.
                              Andrew - My pics on Flickr
                              Canon 7D, 24mm f/2.8, 50mm f/1.4, MP-E 65mm macro, TS-E 90mm, 100mm macro

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