I've been scouring the internet trying to get feedback from unbiased D800 users on how well the AF works apart from the left focus disaster, and I've noticed a number of references ( talking about DSLRs in general ) to using manual focus as if this would eliminate any AF inaccuracy.
I cannot really see how this would improve the situation on any camera.
1. The screen doesn't lend itself to MF surely? My film cameras with MF had a split prism section in the middle surrounded by a fresnel ring and then the rest was ground glass. Easy - peasy! I've yet to see a DSLR focus screen anywhere like as useful for this. Are people really managing it? I doubt I'd be more accurate than the AF using my D700s
2. You could then rely on the AF point lighting up when you achieve focus by moving the ring, but then surely you're back to the same situation as using the AF system as regards accuracy? The point would light up at the same setting that the camera would choose for AF.
3. Live view maybe is the only way I can imagine it but it really isn't practical in most portrait situations either in or out of the studio
#1. "RE: Using Manual Focus" In response to Reply # 0
>3. Live view maybe is the only way I can imagine it but it >really isn't practical in most portrait situations either in >or out of the studio > >People, tell me what I'm missing > >Wooster
What are you missing?
The D800 focuses just fine. I took mine out in April and shot Olympic Sprinters tuning up for London. Shot high jumpers, pole vaulters, Volleyball players, etc. It works just fine. Get off the internet and get behind the lens.
And I use live view PLENTY for portraiture and its brilliant.
#2. "RE: Using Manual Focus" In response to Reply # 0
Kings Lynn, GB
I am probably going to be very unhelpful! I use almost exclusively manual lenses on a d800E. This is not new to me . I am old and AF is a new fangled thing that came lately. I agree focus by eye is not easy in modern DSLRs, but it is better than in the microscopes and electronmicroscopes I used in my formative years. We learned how to focus by doing it and ruthlessly examining the results. Time and time again. And it took time for the eye/brain/hand system to learn.
My only tip from using a d800E is to use a magnifying eyepiece (DK-17M). I use the same part of my glasses lenses always (head position), I focus the view finder dioptre control with great care with my eyes at infinity focus, I watch the object I want in focus with fixed attention and focus in and out, my brain works out what 'focus' looks like and tells my fingers where to stop in the continuous focussing in and out. That's it, take. Check in the LCD at max gain minus 2. Not right/learn/try again/check/learn etc. That is my procedure all the time.
Of course with 36 MP and large apertures, f3.5 - 6.1 is my normal range, focus is more critical than with say a D3S at f11, because you can see when it is off. I only use lenses that I have checked and know do not have focus shift. There is no fine tune in MF, so if your lens has focus shift you have to use LV as then you focus with the lens stopped down to yout chosen aperture.
The green spot is misleading on the lenses I use so I ignore it. Also it would take my attention off the visual achievement of 'focus'.
Finally do I ever get shots in focus? Yes! Even of birds in flight! How? By taking photographs every day and being hyper-critical of my results.
Enjoy the ride, just keep taking pictures! Roderick.
#3. "RE: Using Manual Focus" In response to Reply # 0
St Petersburg, RU
A focusing screen is available for most enthusiast and pro cameras but not sure if the most popular company "Katzeye" ( http://www.katzeyeoptics.com/ ) has one coming out soon for the D800. They do not have one now.
The AF on the D800 is excellent, best I've used but no AF system perfect in guessing what the user intends. Photographers who think of how the AF system works and what it can and cannot sense, seem to be very happy with the results. There are a lot of people who assume the task of guessing what the user wants should be simple and exact, are seldom happy with any AF system. Time after time when people post missed AF shots, it becomes apparent that the AF system was given ambiguous targets to work with. Yes, MF is the most accurate and is always the final option in any focus challenging situation.
MF was great with film primarily because it was not so common to use extreme magnification as pixel peepers regularly do with DSLR. If ever slide and negative was inspected by a jeweler's loupe, the confidence in one's MF skill would take a hit.
#4. "RE: Using Manual Focus" In response to Reply # 0
Nikon technical bulletin on using the D800 recommends use of Live view for critical Manual Focus tasks. the live view has a feature that allows you to zoom in to a very small portion of the image to assist with highly accurate MF setting.
note that on some lenses, the sensitivity of the MF ring on the camera is poor. the entire focus range may be crammed into a relatively small arc of rotation so it can be difficult. The lenses with combined Af/MF clutch and the macro lenses tend to have a wider range of movement allowing critical focus adjustment to made more easily.
#5. "RE: Using Manual Focus" In response to Reply # 4 Thu 01-Nov-12 12:11 PM by wooster
Thanks for your replies, people. Good to hear a ringing endorsment of the D800 AF
The manual focus thing I'm intereted in isn't really only applying to the D800 but I wasn't sure where to stick the question in the forum so put it here.
Roderick, I'm not sure how far I'd trust my eyes to be more accurate than AF but you've certainly given me food for thought.
Re Live view for portraits. In the studio does LV on the D800 not lose its usefulness? I thought this was because you would normally use manual exposure for studio flash and use the modelling lights to compose and focus. However, the image shown by LV is very dark to the point where it is unusable. Is this not right?
I would perhaps find LV feasible for portraits with co-operative models sitting still for a bit, but I feel I would find its use limited in other situations. If AF wasn't accurate enough it would probably be using very shallow DOF with critical focus. The error factor with people moving around would defeat the object.
Well thanks for your help folks. I really do appreciate it
#7. "RE: Using Manual Focus" In response to Reply # 0
The current AF systems are going to perform more reliably than manual focus in most situations - especially those where you have limited time to get precise focus. The AF system of the D800/D800E is outstanding - but as mentioned it does show your misses. The D800 has more resolution than earlier cameras like the D700, and an improved AF system.
I'm not sure that Live View is practical for a typical portrait shoot - and I don't think it's needed. While the AF system used in Live View is slightly more accurate and .consistent than the phase detect AF used normally, the difference is small and much less of a factor than on earlier cameras. AF is one of the areas where new cameras have continued to progress.
The reason AF is dark in Live View is that your actual aperture setting is being used. Normally your lens is wide open for AF, so the viewfinder is bright. If you use the DOF preview button you see a dark view. You can open up the aperture for more light and then simply stop down as desired when focus is achieved.
I don't find the green AF light to be precise enough. It still relies on a number of variables. It's good - but not as good as Live View or even AF.
Finally, keep in mind the most accurate AF sensor is the center sensor. As you move out to the adjoining sensors and the edges, AF is less accurate and less reliable. Now they are still good - just not as good. If precise focus is required without fail, use the center sensor.
#8. "RE: Using Manual Focus" In response to Reply # 7
I just came from Mike hagan's class on the D800. He says use 21 point focusing, not the 51 points, and shoot to see what you did. I think the internet has done a great disservice to a lot of us with its constant harping on lack of accuracy. Shoot a few with one lens and see what you get. The green dot is ok, but I use LV a lot, and if you really have trouble with viewing on LV, get a Zacuto viewer- it magnifies 2.5 or some such, and really gets to the nitty gritty
#9. "RE: Using Manual Focus" In response to Reply # 8 Fri 02-Nov-12 08:12 PM by wooster
I will just stick to AF. I doubt my efforts at MF would better it. I cannot see how LV would help me for my type of portraiture. Perrone, and anyone else who uses this method a lot, I'd be most grateful if you could explain to me how you use it. I'm not saying it's not possible, just that I can't work out how to do it.
To be clear to everyone, my original question wasn't aimed at discrediting the D800AF but to find out how people managed MF accurately in any DSLR. I only posted it in the D800 spot because there didn't seem to be a section more suitable.
Interesting point about the viewer. I was under the impression that the D800 had to downgrade the LV image due to the high resolution so assumed a viewer wouldn't have helped, but would simply magnify the unclear image. I have taken Roderick's mention of the magnifying eyepiece on board mind you and have one arriving tomorrow.
#11. "RE: Using Manual Focus" In response to Reply # 10
I got mine from Amazon. It's the DK-17M and it cost me £26.99 here in the UK. I haven't really tried it yet but I have to say my first impression when I fitted it and had a quick look, was that it hadn't made a huge difference.
#12. "RE: Using Manual Focus" In response to Reply # 11
Kings Lynn, GB
I did not think the DK-17M did much when I first tried it.
I then took 500 pictures in the field with Zeiss MF lenses, mainly the 21 mm f2.8. The pictures were close-ups of ground orchids and their surroundings. Most close-up subjects were nailed by the third exposure. Environment shots were spot on first go. My partner in this rapid survey of marsh orchids and their hybrids, used another 800E with a Nikkor 35mm f1.4 AF-S. I had done an AF Fine Tune on this lens and almost all her photographs were in focus at the point intended. So AF is better than MF, but I still like the MF lenses and I like to choose the focus point anywhere in the field without focus and compose. With hand held close-ups I find it is enough to compose and focus and hold simultaneously. We had to work fast to get the number of pictures and to cover the ground - and it rained most of the time.
When we finally found a very rare plant after six hours searching just for it, the tripod came out. Then the umbrella to protect the camera, and a Hoodman loup to focus LV. Then to wait while an ant walked in and out of the flowers. A good half hour to photograph one small pale green flower! Then to retreat carefully covering our tracks to protect the location from less respectful hunters.
Now to the point of my reply. In analysing our haul I found the above results and so experimented with my focussing. Including taking off the DK-17M at one point, but my success on the test targets was much less with the standard eye-piece, so it went back on. It is the best help I can get without going to LV.