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Thread: Manual or Auto Focus

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    Manual or Auto Focus

    I'm considering a Tamron 200mm-500mm lens because of the price (under $1,000, and/or about $700 refurbished) but my Nikon D5100 only supports lens that have their own auto-focus motors. This lens does not have a motor, so I'm wondering how much of burden will it be to only have/use manual focus? I realize there are trade-offs between options and prices, but is the fact that I will be strickly limited to only manual focus a deal-breaker? Should I just forget about it and save my money?

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    Mark von Kanel's Avatar
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    Re: Manual or Auto Focus

    Hi Tommy,

    there is no perfect aswer im afraid because we are all individuals, my first feeling would be to save your money! a very close friend of mine had a d5100 but became very frustrated with the time it was taking her to set the camera up when using it manually.

    If you want to head out of the auto menus then a second command dial is a must. so personally id look to upgrade to a D7000, there are plenty of cheap good second hand ones around.

    but like i say it depends on you. tell us more about your self and we can comment further

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    Re: Manual or Auto Focus

    Quote Originally Posted by Tommy49 View Post
    I'm considering a Tamron 200mm-500mm lens because of the price (under $1,000, and/or about $700 refurbished) but my Nikon D5100 only supports lens that have their own auto-focus motors. This lens does not have a motor, so I'm wondering how much of burden will it be to only have/use manual focus? I realize there are trade-offs between options and prices, but is the fact that I will be strickly limited to only manual focus a deal-breaker? Should I just forget about it and save my money?
    Assuming that the lens will be used for bird/wildlife photography, I think you should save the money. For bird photography (BIF in particular), I get frustrated with the AF speed/accuracy of my Canon 550D (9 AF points) at times!!! Forget about manual focussing............

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    Re: Manual or Auto Focus

    I have been a photographer for well over 50-years, most of that time a professional.

    I began with cameras before integrated rangefinders when we had to "guestimate" the distances at which we were shooting, next were the separate rangefinders which could measure distance but from which we had to set the distances on the lens. All during this time, there were cameras which used ground glass focusing, either as the principle method of focus and framing or an auxillary method. Then came the integrated rangefinder cameras such as the Leica, Contax, Nikon and Canon as well as a bevy of less expensive models which allowed rangefinder focus and image framing to be accomplished in the same viewing window. Finally, there were the single lens reflex manual focus cameras.

    I used the single lens manual focus SLR cameras for a long while after auto focus was introduced. After all, I had some pride! I believed that I could focus faster and more accurately using manual focus than any with auto focus camera. However, I was wrong

    I love autofocus and consider it just one of the innovations that makes my life easier. Additionally... today's DSLR cameras with their great auto focus capability do not have a manual focus capability which could match my Canon A-1.

    On the other hand, I do not just blindly accept where the auto focus desires to lock on. I am always monitoring my focus and adjust the focus points to where I desire them as much as I always monitor at which shutter speed, f/stop and ISO at which I am shooting. I dumped a 400mm Tokina f/5.6 ATX lens because of the slow and inacurate A/F of that lens, despite the very decent image quality it produced..

    Although, I was happy with manual focus; I would not want to revert to that method again. I would definitely not purchase a lens which would require manual focusing; despite that many photographers consider themselves "more professional" because they elect to use manual focus. Heck, I also use an automatic transmission in my vehicles and don't consider myself less of a driver because I no longer shift gears manually. This is even though I once enjoyed driving a Datsun sportscar with a manual ransmission...

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    Re: Manual or Auto Focus

    Hi Tommy,
    Focus peaking is very useful when it comes to manual focussing. If your next camera has it, then it would make a manual focussing lens a lot easier to use. I sometimes use it when using a 500mm. So if the lens is a good price and quality (for your needs), then future changes may make it a valuable addition to your 'tool-kit'.
    Graham

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    Re: Manual or Auto Focus

    Tommy - I think this is a hard question to answer because we don't know what type of photography you plan to do and your experience level with manual focus. Modern DLSRs don't have the focusing screens of the old days so they are harder to focus manually. Also, that lens will be somewhat difficult to manually focus in dim light. If you are planning to shoot relatively stationary objects in good light then it might work for you. And as has been said, if you plan to upgrade your camera to one that has an internal focus motor then the lens purchase might make more sense. I strongly agree with the suggestion of getting a used D7000 for more reasons than its focus motor. The used price will probably come down with the introduction of the D7100. I frequently use my manual focus lenses and am able to stay up with my grandkids so IMO manual focus is still a viable method. It is still your decision. A used or refurbished unit will lower your risk if it doesn't work for you.

    John

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    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: Manual or Auto Focus

    I come from a manual focus SLR background and shot long lenses on it (400mm). I find that the focusing screens on DSLRs are terrible to use for manual focusing and fortunately my D800 does have a focus indicator, whereas my D90 does not. We bought the D90 instead of the D5000 for my wife purely because of the internal focus motor.

    We have a Sigma 150-500mm lens with us on a trip to Namibia and the autofocus electronics in the lens died. In spite of my best efforts, I could not get a sharp focus, especially at the longer focal lengths. We essentially packed away the lens for the rest of the trip because it was pretty well useless for the wildlife shots we bought it for. Fortunately it died towards the end of the trip, rather than the beginning, so we still had lots of good shots out of it. Essentially, the longer the lens, the slower it is and the more difficult it will be to focus. Given that you are looking at a long lens that you will have to manually focus, I would recommend against getting that lens.

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    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Manual or Auto Focus

    Quote Originally Posted by Tommy49 View Post
    I'm considering a Tamron 200mm-500mm lens because of the price . . . I'm wondering how much of burden will it be to only have/use manual focus? I realize there are trade-offs between options and prices . . .
    I owned a previous iteration of the 200 to 500 Tamron Zoom – when all of them were MF Lenses.

    You have several KEY issues to consider, many already mentioned – more information is required from you, to provide an answer comprising more detail and of better use to you:

    1. What Subjects?
    2. What Lighting conditions?
    3. What’s the Speed of Subjects?
    4. Is it rhythmic and repetitive movement?
    5. What Camera?


    The hurdles, generally:
    • DSLRs don’t come with and many won’t allow a split-screen focusing glass to be fitted to them.
    • APS-C Format DSLR’s generally have a darker / softer viewfinder, than (for example) good SLRs.
    • Your existing skill sets: you’ll likely need to learn new skills and techniques, especially if the Subjects are moving. It is easy to say “it can be done, because it was done years ago” – but the training and what was required to be learned, was different then, too. You might need to be prepared for that.
    • The lens is slow (max Aperture) – plonk your longest lens on your camera and set F/6.3 and use the DoF preview button – that’s what your Viewfinder will look like, when you want to achieve Manual Focus.
    • How are your eyes - do you wear glasses

    WW

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    Re: Manual or Auto Focus

    With all due respect to my colleagues, IMO, AF trumps MF any day of the week, including weekends and public holidays. It's faster - more accurate - and more consistent.

    Save your money.

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    Re: Manual or Auto Focus

    Although I use manual focusing most of the time because of the subjects I shoot, I wouldn't buy a lens that could not use AF should I need it or just get plain lazy. Especially at that price which (for me) is a lot [scratch that last - I just had a look on eBay].

    Still, you could get a brand new Sigma 150-500mm with AF motor and Optical Stabilization for $950 free shipping, for example here (are we allowed to do this?).

    I've no idea if that lens compares to the desired Tamron, just throwing in a example . . .

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    Re: Manual or Auto Focus

    Quote Originally Posted by xpatUSA View Post
    Still, you could get a brand new Sigma 150-500mm with AF motor and Optical Stabilization for $950 free shipping, for example here (are we allowed to do this?).
    So long as it's not a pointer to something illegal or something you have any financial interest in then - generally - it's fine.

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    Re: Manual or Auto Focus

    Quote Originally Posted by William W View Post
    I owned a previous iteration of the 200 to 500 Tamron Zoom – when all of them were MF Lenses.


    • How are your eyes - do you wear glasses

    WW
    How do eyeglasses affect your focusing skills? Would using liveview help any with manual focusing?

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    Re: Manual or Auto Focus

    Since I have a moderate reach AF lens and a longer reach Manual legacy lens as options I have the choice ... but having used AF since I started digital I frankly have little interest in doing it manually. Though if you are doing birds in the bush you likely will use manual focusing in preference to AF as often AF will focus on the leaves rather than the bird. Unless you have magnification of the image available as I gather some cameras do [ Olympus?] I would say manual focusing is a PITB as one is comparing mush from mush with live view as you see-saw across the focus point, though it IS better these days than the cameras of a few years back. If you are mainly going to use the lens at 500mm, that is a 750mm AoV, I think you would find manual focusing relatively easy. I am convinced that the major problem with birds in flight, or aeroplanes, is finding the darned things with the narrow angle of view lens. So by the time you find them, if you do, they are way past you and too late to focus. I have a great admiration for those who manage it.

    There is one way to get reach quite ecconomically, as I did, and this is to get a Panasonic FZ50, new or 2/h, and add the Raynox 2020 oe better the 2025 whic h has a thread for a lens hood which is essential.... this combo gives me 950 AoV reach. At a quite good f/4.5 maximum aperture though one cannot crop as much as with APS-C ... swings and rounsabouts. There is a shot taken with it on an adjoining thread ... the lass asking about a 500mm mirror lens. I have made a quarter crop of the file or an adjacent one to acheive 1900mm reach for computer viewing, with some editing Such a rig could cost you about $500 with a 2/h camera but new lens. One maybe able to add the Raynox to the c urrent x24 zoom Pany's but I would be nervous as the camera lens trombones instead of being fixed length ... why I didn't upgrade after the FZ50 until I went to MFT where the best I can get is about 5<600mm reach with AF. But one can crop
    Last edited by jcuknz; 19th March 2013 at 10:00 AM.

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    Re: Manual or Auto Focus

    Quote Originally Posted by Shadowman View Post
    How do eyeglasses affect your focusing skills? Would using liveview help any with manual focusing?
    Usually it's a "hobbs choice" - either one adjusts the viewfinder dioptre adjustment to give clear vision without glasses (and have to constantly put them on - take them off - rinse and repeat) or one adjusts the viewfinder to be clearest with glasses on (and can't see 100% of the viewfinder because you can't get close enough).

    Yes - liveview helps - but - you need to have magnify turned on, and the whole exercise becomes slow and painful. Kinda like a sniper with a long range rifle that he has to secure - tune in - and then take the shot -v- a western cowboy with a quick draw. If you have the time and the patience to manually focus all the time then go for it - personally, I have neither time nor patience.

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    Re: Manual or Auto Focus

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    Usually it's a "hobbs choice" - either one adjusts the viewfinder dioptre adjustment to give clear vision without glasses (and have to constantly put them on - take them off - rinse and repeat) or one adjusts the viewfinder to be clearest with glasses on (and can't see 100% of the viewfinder because you can't get close enough).

    Yes - liveview helps - but - you need to have magnify turned on, and the whole exercise becomes slow and painful. Kinda like a sniper with a long range rifle that he has to secure - tune in - and then take the shot -v- a western cowboy with a quick draw. If you have the time and the patience to manually focus all the time then go for it - personally, I have neither time nor patience.
    Thanks for the information Colin. It's not something I do all the time but there are instances where it is necessary.

    1. With manual focus lens, I have three: 50mm nikkor and two mirror lenses.
    2. When you have the R1C1 macro lighting kit attached to your lens and AF is discouraged because of the weight of the gear.

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    Re: Manual or Auto Focus

    Quote Originally Posted by Shadowman View Post
    Thanks for the information Colin. It's not something I do all the time but there are instances where it is necessary.

    1. With manual focus lens, I have three: 50mm nikkor and two mirror lenses.
    2. When you have the R1C1 macro lighting kit attached to your lens and AF is discouraged because of the weight of the gear.
    No worries. I often have to manually focus myself due to AF not working if I arrive at a night scene too late. If I can though I AF then switch to MF and then reverse the lens hood so that my fingers don't get near the focus ring.

    In normal conditions AF wins every single time though. In most cases - IMO anyway - manually focusing when you have AF capability is like buying a new car and then pushing it everywhere; one may have paid a lot of money for it but rather than use the investment one paid for one just makes life hard for oneself. Automation is our friend, not our master.

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    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Manual or Auto Focus

    Quote Originally Posted by Shadowman View Post
    How do eyeglasses affect your focusing skills? Would using liveview help any with manual focusing?
    What Colin wrote, (thanks CS).
    The point of my mentioning glasses (and mentioning it last) was that all the other "hurdles" I listed can be exacerbated, or made more frustrating, if one has to then make the 'hobbs choice' Colin mentions.

    WW

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    Re: Manual or Auto Focus

    Quote Originally Posted by William W View Post
    What Colin wrote, (thanks CS).
    The point of my mentioning glasses (and mentioning it last) was that all the other "hurdles" I listed can be exacerbated, or made more frustrating, if one has to then make the 'hobbs choice' Colin mentions.

    WW
    or as we like to say ...

    "the joys of getting older"

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    Re: Manual or Auto Focus

    I have recently been using "MF by wire", having acquired a Panasonic m4/3 GH1 for snaps. MF by wire takes quite some getting used to - activation of the focus ring changes the live view on the articulated LCD to X10, allowing a very fine adjustment of what is essentially the image at the sensor. On the Panasonic, there is also one of the better EVF's which activates if you bring your eye near to it and shows the same thing. Quite a flexible system. Otherwise, I use spot metering with aperture priority and wave the camera around to set the exposure (gasp!). There's a histogram right there in the viewfinder, how conveeeenient!

    The SD10 has a real glass pentaprism which shows more of the scene than will be captured (a darkened outer area) which is quite useful, but my old diabetically dis-enhanced eyes find it very hard to get a fine adjustment in MF for close-ups and the AF can be a bit cranky on those older Sigmas.

    Got both camera VFs set for 'no glasses' which I find better for MF adjustment on either one.

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    Re: Manual or Auto Focus

    Quote Originally Posted by xpatUSA View Post
    I have recently been using "MF by wire", having acquired a Panasonic m4/3 GH1 for snaps.
    P.S. this article from slrGear might be be of interest with the caveat that it is about accurate focusing for the purpose of lens testing, not shooting thatched roofs in the Real World a hundred yards away . .

    http://www.slrgear.com/articles/focus/focus.htm
    .

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