Rediscovering the Joy of Manual Focusing

For years I never trusted auto-focus for sporting events because I felt I missed too many shots. Then auto-focus got better. But lately I've been using some of my prime lenses from the past and rediscovering the joy of manual focus.

young_warriors_fanPB077468.jpg Young Warriors Fan - Olympus OM-D, ISO 3200, Carl Zeiss 85mm f/2.8 lens at f/2.8, manual focus - Photo by Derrick Story

I like watching how the image changes as I twist the focusing ring right and left, then discovering the look that I want for the scene.

Another advantage is prefocusing on an area where good shots typically happen, such as around the rim at a basketball game. Then I can lower the camera, watch the action, and if something unfolds, I can raise the camera and shoot instantly. I don't have to worry about missing the photo while the camera auto-focuses.

For this image of a boy sitting on his dad's shoulders during a break in the action, I used the Olympus OM-D body with a manual focusing Carl Zeiss 85mm f/2.8 lens. My effective focal length on the OM-D is 170mm. I always shoot wide open at f/2.8. ISO set to 3200.

I still pack a couple auto-focus lenses in my bag when I go to the game. But I rarely use them. I'm very much enjoying being in charge of the focusing myself.

Take a look at the Olympus Micro Four Thirds Gear Guide for an overview of cameras, lenses, and accessories.


Very nice. I got to manual about 50% of the time on DSLR autofocus lenses. It's less annoying for one. And when I shoot food, it's a necessity. Nice shot here.

I just sent out the last of my non-AI Nikkor lenses to be adapted so I can use them on my Nikon digital cameras. For me AF has always been a curiosity, and I tend to fight it when I am working in complex natural settings that might have vines or leaves between me and the main subject. I can certainly live without it. And I am adjusting exposure manually most of the time, also, since I tend to have large dark or large light areas in my compositions. Oh well, here is to "old school" which will always be new when you find you need it.

Ha, great timing, Derrick! "Learn to focus manually" is my Pick of the Week on this week's This Week in Photo podcast, recorded last night and to be published tomorrow. ...doug