Anyone use Manual Focus lenses for weddings / receptions

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by charles_badua, Nov 5, 2010.

  1. Hi everyone,
    I've seen a couple great deals on used lenses that were manual focus and was curious how people's experiences were with Manually focusing for fast action / photojournalistic shots. I've mainly shot with auto focus lenses. One lens in particular that has my curiosity is the Nikon 35mm 1.4 AIS. I do want the Nikon 35mm 1.4 which is not in stock yet, but if I could save some money I wouldn't mind manually focusing if it were effective. My thoughts are that in controlled situations it wouldn't be a problem (couple portraits, family pics, etc) . I'm more concerned about situations like the reception, first dance, wedding ceremony etc, where light might be low and a wide open aperture is favorable.
  2. Well, before autofocus lenses started to become common 30+ years ago, most photographers were using manual focus lenses, to shoot sports, news events, everything. So it certainly CAN be done.
    But there are problems. If the light is scarce enough that it's hard for autofocus to work, it's going to be hard for your eyes to see the contrast, as well. I'd really want to be working with a camera with a big, bright 100% optical viewfinder.
  3. I've done it, for fun. I think you'd want a screen designed for it, even in a "pro, 100% viewfinder". AF screens just don't have the tooth for judging focus at f/1.4.
    I did my shooting on F2AS bodies with E screens. In the context of your other post today, I think you'd have to treat the 35/1.4 AIS as "experimental" until you've really made your peace with it.
  4. All of my (Canon EF) lenses are AF and/or MF. Just a flick of the switch.
  5. Sounds like no one really uses manual focus lenses anymore. Perhaps I'll pick it up and experiment with it as Todd said. I figure it can be done consistently with good results, like William said, "30+ years ago, most photographers were using manual focus lenses, to shoot sports, news events, everything".So I believe there is hope.
  6. Regardless of what I shoot, I use manual focus about 2/3 of the time and AF the remaining 1/3. But, I've shot manual focus for so long, including lots of action and moving sports (when I was younger and saw better, lol), and many weddings and social events with medium format, that it's very normal for me to not even turn on the AF. Everybody works different, so it's really whatever you're comfortable with. Try and see how it goes. As for different screens, I just use whatever is in the camera, when the older cameras had the split screen, I always switched it out for the plain ground glass usually with a grid, like the old Nikon E screen for the F3. Center split can be very annoying shooting fast stuff like racing or skating. For weddings, it's what you feel the most consistant with to stay sharp. Personally I find with very narrow DOF, the AF is not good at getting the eyes really sharp, it's always on something else unless I'm screwing around with it, but with manual, I can just focus quick on the eyes of a portrait and work around that.
  7. I always find these kind of threads really odd. I grew up using manual focus.... With the fancy new Nikon AFS lenses the big feature is that you can auto-focus and then just use the focus ring to "fine tune" using manual focus and you pay a $1000 premium to do this. With a manual focus AIS lens you can do this all the time.
    When you are doing a lot of manual focus you pay attention to the depth of field provided by the aperture so you can get an "acceptable" focus 99% of the time.
  8. My main kit is based on rangefinders with manual focus lenses. I also shoot a lot of medium format, again, all with manual focus. Everything I do is reportage, based on found shots only, and usually fleeting moments that require fairly fast response. Working with manual focus is certainly possible although you do need an excellent viewfinder for best results. Good eye coverage, bright glass and high contrast are essential.
  9. I personally wouldn't go back to manual focus lenses on a DSLR for wedding work ... been there, done that with Zeiss ZF lenses on a Nikon D700 and D3X using a BrightScreen diagonal split circle with a large micro-prism collar, and a Nikon magnifying eye-piece. Even with all that the hit ratio for critical focus was iffy. Before that R lenses on a Leica R9 and DMR/9. Before that Contax RTS, RX with Zeiss manual focus lenses. I'm delighted that is all behind me.
    The issue is apparent when shooting up close with f/1.4 in available light and the subject is moving. Even the photographer's minuscule body sway alters the focus point, let alone someone dancing a waltz or fast dancing. Obviously, it can and has been done, but a fast optic, shot wide open, decreases the chances of critical focus where you want it.
    Even all of my Medium Format DSLR gear is now AF.
    My rangefinders are all manual focus, but that is a whole other way of focusing.
  10. When I used film all my lense were manual. I had a split prism view finder that made focusing easy. With the digital of today I have not yet seen a split prism finder. I let the camera focus for me in almost all cases. I use central spot focusing so I know where the focus is going to be in the image. The actual focusing is one less thing I have to worry about and the camera can generally do it faster than I.
    I still use manual exposure when using the external strobes. For other situations I chose the aperture and let the camera chose the shutter speed. If I don't like the speed I adjust the ISO which is a real luxury that was not available with film. Using RAW the exposure is close enough that I can adjust later in Lightroom to my liking.
    The automation that is available and the smarts built in to todays cameras is simply amazing. HPFM I like to say. So use as much of it as you feel comfortable. Knowing how your camera automates increases that comfort zone.
  11. Thank you guys for the fantastic feedback. I think I will mess around with a 55mm 2.8 Micro I have that is manual focus and see what I can accomplish, before deciding on buying a fast manual focus lens.
  12. I have a couple of manual focus lenses I like to use. It takes a lot of practice to use manual focus fast, not like AF. That said I have a better hit rate with certain lenses and focal lengths and I'm not sure why.
    In your case I'd pick up a 35mm f/2 AI (not AI-S) and see if you like it or not. It can be had cheap. A split image focus screen would be nice for you to have as well.
    The micro lens is unsuitable for people photography so it's not a good test. Larger aperture lenses are easier to focus and the micro lens has the wrong spacing on the focus ring for the distance range usually used for people photography. Great for macro though :)
  13. I started off with manual focus for both small and medium format cameras. When I switched to AF I had to sell all my lenses since Canon changed their mounting. First thing I realised was that AF wasn't all it could be. I was often faster (as in INSTANT) focused with MF lenses because I prefocused.
    Its a technique I use up to this day.
    Would I revert back to MF lenses. I have played with Nikon's 50 1.2 and the D3 does a pretty good job indicating when focus is spot on, but it did not make me buy it. It just wasn't compelling enough.
    If I were to buy one I would consider changing the focusing screen though. Factor that into the pricing if you go this way.

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