Sports photography without autofocus gear?

Discussion in 'Sports' started by marc_lieberman|1, Jun 16, 2005.

  1. Does anyone out there shoot sports, dance, or other subjects in motion
    with equipment that is not autofocus? Please post some shots if you've
    got 'em. (I'm trying to decide whether to get a good AF SLR or merely
    get a motor drive and a fast, long lens for my manual SLR.)

    (If you really want to impress, post a good action photo shot in
    medium format.)
  2. I will resize and post some images here when I get home, but in the meantime you could check my portfolio, no autofocus shots here! I do have some kayakers on 120 but I can't scan them. They were taken with a Mamiya TLR C330 with 250mm/f6.3 lens. They're okay, but I never tried that again! I still handhold a 4x5 in a canoe for waterscapes though.

    If you want to do photography on a budget and still make the transition from your manual system to a DSLR, then I heartily suggest Nikon. Their lenses can be mounted on a Canon DSLR via a cheap mechanical adapter, and you get an operational lightmeter, you just have to set the aperture manually. The supply of good used lenses is limitless and in the meantime a reliable Nikon manual body is relatively inexpensive.
  3. Actually, I do it quite often.
    I have a D70, which does not autofocus as well as the higher-end DSLRs. Before that, I shot with an F4, which is also not a speed demon on the autofocus.
    It's not really that hard--anticipate where the action is going, and zone focus. When everyone gets there, trip the shutter.
    If you look at the sports section of my Web site, 100% of the B&W shots and probably 70% of the color shots were shot manual focus.
    True enough, you're going to get more keepers if you've got a kick-butt autofocus system and AFS/HSM lenses. But they're not absolutely necessary.
  4. Even with my fast autofocus bodies, I rarely ever shoot with autofocus. I feel like I have more control with a zone focus. If you're going to do the "newspaper guy" style rapid fire, you're bound to get something in focus if you just set it and hit the trigger for 300 shots. I generally figure out the shot I want, and zone focus it. here's an example of a medium format action shot. I use it for a large portion of my work. I shoot with a manual focus bronica body.
  5. Of course it depends on the situation. When I photographed a Cubs game I had to shoot thru the dreaded backstop net. I realized that the camera would AF on that net. So I used manual focus and pre-focused the lens. From that distance, there wasn't much difference between 1st base, the pitcher, etc.
    If I had a press pass and was closer to the action (without the net in my way) I'd probably be quite thankful for the auto-focus feature.
    I do prefer the feel of a manual focus lens over an AF when using manual focus.
    Whatever you decide, be sure to use a monopod or tripod. That'll do wonders for your photos that use a telephoto lens.
    Let us know what you end up deciding.
    Nikon Fanatics at Leoville
  6. Most AF lenses will work with auto-focus turned off on the camera. If you pre-focus on where you think the action will be, you can get some decent shots. The same applies to a manual-focus lens -- pick a spot and wait for the 'action' to take place. Here is one example:
  7. I'm pretty quick at manually focusing but I can't manually focus as fast as my D2H can autofocus, especially with an AF-S lens. This shot was taken with an older, slower AF-Nikkor. Still did pretty well except for the closest shots. And I didn't have to zone focus or prefocus.
  8. The fact still remains that autofocus is not an absolute necessity. In order to provide an out of focus foreground and background to isolate the subject in the image often means using a fast expensive piece of glass wide open, which is much more affordable in a manual focus version rather than an autofocus version. If one can afford a sports lens like this then of course auto focus will provide more keepers in some situations. I find it rather disturbing though to still here that photographers shooting extremely high speed sports are often turning off the autofocus on their $8000 lenses because they can't autofocus fast enough. Makes me wonder what the engineers have been doing for the past 20 years, and makes me wonder how the marketers can sleep at night.
  9. Another shot, this one in the rain.
  10. I shoot about 90% manual focus. 10% in autofucus just to frustrate myself back to manual, j/k. I think for most motorsports photographers, finding a camera with sensor's that can focus on something moving over 100mph is a challenge. Add in low light conditions at night and it is just easier to use manual focus and you get better results(less missed shots) If you would like to see examples:
  11. Another one at night but with wings.
  12. Here is one with a cellphone; but then "they are not really cameras". <BR><BR><img src="">
  13. This was with a different cellphone; one that outputs VGA; but is really only a 240x320; 1/4 VGA sensor.<BR><BR><img src="">
  14. This is with a LONGER focal length and bigger sensor; a real 1.3 Mpixel Olympus digital obsolete P&S model from Ebay for 65 dollars; with a mightly 5.5mm F 2.8 lens. This exposure is 1/112 second at F2.8 by the files data; and was panned; so maybe the autofocus was working.

  15. Here is a Inferno Player shot with a Leica M3 and a 10.5 cm F2.5 Nikkor LTM at F2.5 ; 1/250 at F2.5 with Superia 800 from Walmart; developed at Walgreens. This was shot thru the plexiglass; at a rather steep angle. The best focus in a full res image is abit forward; on the players stick. The 50 year old lens has a pleasing out of focus look; one can see the goal as a goal; not artifacts..With a rangefinder; one should practice; like golf or skeet shooting. <BR><BR><BR><img src="">
  16. With a 13.5cm F3.5 Nikkor on a rangefinder; the success rate is lower. Here is a 13.5cm F3.5 shot at 1/250 with tri-x and a M3 at an away game. This is just a goofing around shot ; with a politically wrong camera in todays EOS world. :)<BR><BR>Here a Pensacola player is about to kiss the ice :)<bR><BR><img src="">
  17. Here is a focus goof with a static non sports shot. Sandy's face is abit out of focus in this 35mm shot. Maybe Miss ? Sandy had a spell on the camera focuser? Practical Magic?<BR><BR>This is really a . Tess McGill in Working girl; about 15 years ago><BR><BR><img src=""><BR><BR><img src="">
  18. While it can be done.. I would say it's more a matter of what sport you will be shooting. As for sports like auto racing or baseball, or any other sport where it is possible to pre-focus and anticipate where the action will be I would say that autofocus isn't an absolute necessity. But if you are going to shoot sports like football, soccer, basketball, or hockey, I would say that AF can only help. It also begs the question of how shallow of a DOF will you need. If you were to say "I need to isolate my subject within a few inches to a foot at f/2.8, I would say that AF is a must. This is of course my opinion and a lot of people might feel this is not the case, but I am looking at firing a single shot to capture the moment and not burrying my finger in the trigger hoping to get a shot that works. I have in the past shot F1 without AF opting to disable it and pre-focusing on a predertimined spot in the apex of a turn and waiting... but as I required shallower and shallower DOF's it became easier to get more usable shots using the AF system.

    Here are a few photos:


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