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HelsinkiZim

The one where we talk about auto-focus...

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I think it is about time we talk about autofocus. Rather, have a debate.

I think that autofucus is at its incubator stage, much like automatic driving cars, where some people hold the best patents - but even then, it is not a 100% working technology.

I truly believe it is the futre, as much as Siri and Alexa do wonders for not needing to type normal search queries, but if you are serious about your video - it is not for you.

This riles people up, something of a Pro vs Amateur war, but I want to look at the word "serious" - forget the word "pro".

Buying a video camera for more than 500 bucks makes you 'serious' - or stupid. Take yourself back 5 years ago and talk about spending 2 grand on a camera (with lenses) - it would only make sense if you were serious. Why is it different now? What more are you achieving? Why get higher specs if your focus makes your shots unusable (if serious)?

If you care about DR, ISO, zebras, histograms, false color, law of 3rds, luts, audio, minus *blah, saturation and plus detail or whatever... why the fuck would you pass on focus to a computer still attempting to make sense?

It takes a few minutes to get used to having to manually focus and eventually it becomes second nature. Tools like focus peaking and lenses where you can zoom in and get focus (parfocal?) are the best. On a gimbal you may need to have a calculation for distance vs focal plane (via f/t-stop), but jesus, that is not that hard - especially on a wide angle lens, which is where a gimbal works best.

How much more convincing does Telsla need to do to get you to climb in the back seat, take a nap, and arrive at your destination?

Auto focus is the same - I need a lot more convincing before I trust my shots with an algorithm... no matter the reviews and hype. Especially when being paid.

If you care - you will manually focus. But I know - caring is subjective. For me, I am a perfectionist (in "my empire of dirt" - org. Trent Reznor) - For you, you may be happy to see what suprises you get in the edit. Home video or not...

 

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Autofocus for video will never work for 100% of the situations. It's that simple in my opinion. And since it won't, it's better to become the master of manual focus so you will never ever have the problem of becoming dependable on autofocus, until you find yourself in a situation where it doesn't work.

For instance, you're filming a wedding. You have a beautiful shot on the bride and all of a sudden her father walks in the room. You quickly zoom out to get him or them both in the frame. You want to focus on him but still keep the frame like an over-the-shoulder. How does the autofocus know what to focus on here? It doesn't know, so you have to tell it.

So do you physically have to touch the touchscreen here or press some buttons to transfer the focus from one point to another? On any camera without voice-command, most likely.
And are you able to do so without moving or shaking the camera and maintaining the exact frame? Not with my setup.

I can however with my middle finger just slightly move the focus ring of my lens whilst holding my rig steady, and the focus peaking confirms my new focus point. 0.02 seconds of work with great results.

I do not need to discuss autofocus for video ever nor while I ever rely on it for the things that I do such as weddings. 'Sorry that I messed up your ceremony, the autofocus didn't work apparently'. No.

On a professional movie set with expensive props, gear and talent? Nope. 
As a vlogger or to hold your cat in focus while it moves towards you? Yep, might be handy. Surely there are and will be camera's who will be up to this task but so is my $150 phone.

So yea, I agree with you. No perfectionist, which every cameraman or cinematographer should be, would actually care about autofocus.

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7 minutes ago, Stab said:

Autofocus for video will never work for 100% of the situations. It's that simple in my opinion. And since it won't, it's better to become the master of manual focus so you will never ever have the problem of becoming dependable on autofocus, until you find yourself in a situation where it doesn't work.

For instance, you're filming a wedding. You have a beautiful shot on the bride and all of a sudden her father walks in the room. You quickly zoom out to get him or them both in the frame. You want to focus on him but still keep the frame like an over-the-shoulder. How does the autofocus know what to focus on here? It doesn't know, so you have to tell it.

So do you physically have to touch the touchscreen here or press some buttons to transfer the focus from one point to another? On any camera without voice-command, most likely.
And are you able to do so without moving or shaking the camera and maintaining the exact frame? Not with my setup.

I can however with my middle finger just slightly move the focus ring of my lens whilst holding my rig steady, and the focus peaking confirms my new focus point. 0.02 seconds of work with great results.

I do not need to discuss autofocus for video ever nor while I ever rely on it for the things that I do such as weddings. 'Sorry that I messed up your ceremony, the autofocus didn't work apparently'. No.

On a professional movie set with expensive props, gear and talent? Nope. 
As a vlogger or to hold your cat in focus while it moves towards you? Yep, might be handy. Surely there are and will be camera's who will be up to this task but so is my $150 phone.

So yea, I agree with you. No perfectionist, which every cameraman or cinematographer should be, would actually care about autofocus.

For me - autofocus is a tool, like digital crop (not even n the level of zebra, histogram and peaking - definately not false color).

I use it, but watch it like a hawk, and turn it off as soon as my a6500 leaves a tripod. Its a bit 'less' worry in this regard, and quite helpful (with only native lenses and settings set precisely for the situation).

It is useful . like Siri...

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I did a run n gun low budget documentary series for a small TV station last year, and I used the Canon C100mkII AF 85% of the time. I saw the light. Since then, I didn't have a job that I had to rush so much, so I have use AF only on the Samsung NX1 3 times, while on the Ronin with, maybe, 95% success.

For the next chapter in my pro life, I am really looking forward for a C100mkIII or C200, or whatever will be called, with a CN-E lens, I am expecting this combo to increase my productivity vastly.

AF is here to stay, it is not philosophical, it is just becoming better and better, C300mkII has already a few more AF tricks, but there will be always MF for purists and people and situations that we need total control.

In my opinion Dual Pixel is way ahead any other system right now. It seems like Canon bet on the right horse. Again.

Not only they pleased the hordes of their amateur funs that do not care (or need, or have the way to edit) 10 bit video, and only care to keep the occasional family moment, while shooting pleasing color pictures, but they also transferred successfully AF to the pro level.

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Well, in the future we're shooting light-rays and doing everything, including focusing, after the fact. So: keep calm and fix it in post.

But indeed we're not quite there yet. Plus, every half an hour shot you'd need to multiply by like a gazillion to get the amount of time it will take to edit. Until you know, we finally catch up and tap in to our eyes and brains to extract what we need.

For now though, I'm fine without autofocus, because you know it's just a form of creative control I'm not willing to give out of hands. You're purposely framing shots, adding motion, lighting the scene... focus is hardly any different? Focus is a tool that allows you to tell the story, to show the audience what's important (or not, or to misguide, or whatever, that's the beauty, it's creative control). I mind Panasonic-like hunting, like just pushing past the focus mark and then backing it up to snap into it. Argh, it's just the worst. Or when it just gives up and gets stuck with blurry vision. Nah, I could do without that. But even solid autofocus to me is not absolutely necessary. I don't per se need 100% focus accuracy. Like, if someone is entering a room and sitting down in a chair, I don't need them in focus throughout. It can be sorta revealing to have the focus spot on once the person sits down. Or following someone with a gimbal, you just set a fixed distance and follow your subject trying to keep the distance the same, I don't mind them entering the frame out of focus or slightly moving in and out of focus as the person walks, should you have a really shallow depth of field. I think that can have something organic, something real, opposed to perfect autofocus. But as all camera related tech... tools can be useful, as much as it can be a creative choice to do something a certain way, it can also be when doing something with a completely different approach. And it's like keeping one of those lifesaverhammers in your car. You probably don't need it, but it might one day really come in handy. So I'm always for pushing tech to the next level and having as many tools in your bag as you can. But people have managed forever without this... it shouldn't suddenly become a necessity or the norm. I see these kids riding around on their magic hoverboards... I'm just hoping they don't one day forget how to walk.

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2 minutes ago, Cinegain said:

Well, in the future we're shooting light-rays and doing everything, including focusing, after the fact. So: keep calm and fix it in post.

But indeed we're not quite there yet. Plus, every half an hour shot you'd need to multiply by like a gazillion to get the amount of time it will take to edit. Until you know, we finally catch up and tap in to our eyes and brains to extract what we need.

For now though, I'm fine without autofocus, because you know it's just a form of creative control I'm not willing to give out of hands. You're purposely framing shots, adding motion, lighting the scene... focus is hardly any different? Focus is a tool that allows you to tell the story, to show the audience what's important (or not, or to misguide, or whatever, that's the beauty, it's creative control). I mind Panasonic-like hunting, like just pushing past the focus mark and then backing it up to snap into it. Argh, it's just the worst. Or when it just gives up and gets stuck with blurry vision. Nah, I could do without that. But even solid autofocus to me is not absolutely necessary. I don't per se need 100% focus accuracy. Like, if someone is entering a room and sitting down in a chair, I don't need them in focus throughout. It can be sorta revealing to have the focus spot on once the person sits down. Or following someone with a gimbal, you just set a fixed distance and follow your subject trying to keep the distance the same, I don't mind them entering the frame out of focus or slightly moving in and out of focus as the person walks, should you have a really shallow depth of field. I think that can have something organic, something real, opposed to perfect autofocus. But as all camera related tech... tools can be useful, as much as it can be a creative choice to do something a certain way, it can also be when doing something with a completely different approach. And it's like keeping one of those lifesaverhammers in your car. You probably don't need it, but it might one day really come in handy. So I'm always for pushing tech to the next level and having as many tools in your bag as you can. But people have managed forever without this... it shouldn't suddenly become a necessity or the norm. I see these kids riding around on their magic hoverboards... I'm just hoping they don't one day forget how to walk.

This is the first time I've heard someone voice exactly how I feel about subjects being in focus all the time. I often prefer when a moving subject goes in or out of the range of depth of field without something like AF-C constantly tracking them.

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49 minutes ago, jonpais said:

This is the first time I've heard someone voice exactly how I feel about subjects being in focus all the time. I often prefer when a moving subject goes in or out of the range of depth of field without something like AF-C constantly tracking them.

Hey, hey, you two are far away to be the only ones over here ; ) and eoshd forums are far away to be a poor location too ;-)

Well, seems hard to believe about internet in general at times : ) but let's keep it optimistic, the web is not only YT :-D

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AF is a tool, choose to use it or not, but reading the condescending "pros never use AF" stuff gets old. I never understand the elitist attitude some have when people do things in a different way than what's been traditionally done. Some don't use AF because until recently it was complete shit or just not an option. Everyone can conjure up scenarios to show how MF can be superior, but then you're looking at things in a vacuum. Not everyone is shooting narrative on set, or shooting weddings and so on - though I know a few wedding shooters and they use AF a lot. I don't think most use it 100% exclusively. There are plenty of situations where AF is a big help, namely run and gun or small cameras on a gimbal. Watch the doc Cartel Land, most of it was shot with a C100/17-55 and it takes the term 'run-and-gun' to another level. I'm pretty sure Canon's C100/300's are marketed at professionals and have been very successful, and they're pushing DPAF pretty hard. 

Movie sets with dedicated focus pullers and cinema lenses with no AF are an incorrect parallel since there's no option to use AF and many of the cameras have no AF capabilities. That's like mocking a Prius for not being a good sailboat. But with small hybrid cameras and fly by wire lenses it can be very effective since MF is being handled by a computer while you spin the focus ring - so trying to repeat focus moves will not result in the same amount of ring movement and distance scales are an approximation.

Also focus peaking is not always 100% sharp, this can easily be seen when zooming to check focus - its close, but many times its not there. AF is getting better all the time and its moving at a pretty fast pace since that's an area that's driving competition. DPAF is special, tap the screen and it follows your subject. Sony's face tracking is pretty incredible - once they get "center lock" focus dialed on the video side you'll be able to track a single person or object regardless of what else enters the frame. It works great on the stills side. 

When I'm traveling and I shoot hundreds of stills a day along with a lot of video, most of the video I shoot is a clip after grabbing a few stills. AF makes life a lot easier. When shooting 2-cam sit-down interviews, everything is done manually. When shooting events (I don't shoot weddings - mostly corporate parties, fundraisers) I use AF a lot because it allows me to work faster, I don't think that makes me or anyone else less skilled, its just what works for me. I'm working on funding for two docs over the next year and they'll likely be shot with either Fuji XT2's or a combo of the A7rII and A7sII - and I'll be using AF and MF together. In the end its another tool to help get the job done, I'm glad I have the option. YMMV.

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1 hour ago, Cinegain said:

I see these kids riding around on their magic hoverboards... I'm just hoping they don't one day forget how to walk.

Great, great post!

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Just out of curiosity, I would like to see footage of moving subjects or where there is camera movement by some of these manual focus zealots on paid jobs where there is no focus puller. This might be more convincing than twenty pages of comments. Also, I don't understand why these MF crusaders must be so condescending and resort to profanity to make their point.

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For what it's worth, a discussion usually means looking at the advantages and disadvantages of both points of view. It does not fruitfully begin with 'my way is right, yours is wrong'.

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44 minutes ago, jonpais said:

Just out of curiosity, I would like to see footage of moving subjects or where there is camera movement by some of these manual focus zealots on paid jobs where there is no focus puller. (...)

Certain people only know how to live in pack societies.

11 minutes ago, jonpais said:

For what it's worth, a discussion usually means looking at the advantages and disadvantages of both points of view. It does not fruitfully begin with 'my way is right, yours is wrong'.

Actually when not both sides are right... not so rare to happen.

"There are trivial truths and the great truths. The opposite of a trivial truth is plainly false. The opposite of a great truth is also true." ~ Niels Bohr

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Its interesting how when you're using a hybrid camera you'll switch your mindset when you switch your modes.

On Wednesday, when I'm using the X-T2 for shooting some build up footage of fans around the stadium then it'll be in manual focus all the way but then as soon as I'm inside and flick the switch to stills mode then I'll be using every tweakable part of its autofocus system to the maximum I can manipulate it to in order to get the shots I need. 

I could probably do both equally as well using a common fairly simple AF setting to be honest but its just ingrained in as being 'the way you're supposed to do it' isn't it?

Sticking dogmatically to both has caused me problems with missing focus when using manual in video and - just as problematic- disappearing up my own arse tweaking AF modes and custom ballistics and actually degrading AF performance.

For stills, I often use a hybrid of constant AF-C for tracking players but then a quick jab on the AF-On button to zone focus if its a fixed action like a corner kick or penalty where the AF system can get triggered by closer players crossing the frame.

It easy doing that with stills though as you just keep the focus point on centre frame and quickly point the camera temporarily where you want it to set the zone.

Different for video where you need to keep rolling with the camera in a fixed position and its not always possible to use touch focus or even move the focus point selector stick if it has one like the X-T2.

Thats why I'm interested in the Aputure lens regain focus system in that you can effectively use it to make two focus zones and rapidly switch between them and I think the way forward is for a camera manufacturer to incorporate that with multiple zones that perhaps have aperture and iso integrated into them.

On the Ricoh GR for example, it has a Snap Focus function that you set at a defined distance and then select your aperture and shutter speed. It illustrates the depth of field in front and behind the focus point for that distance set with the aperture selected and then the auto ISO takes care of the exposure given the aperture and shutter you've selected. This means that if you do a full press of the shutter it won't AF but will take the shot on manual focus with those settings. If you do a half press, it will AF as normal. It makes it incredibly good for street shooting as after a little bit of practice you get proficient at estimating the best working distance to set the focus point at (and your increasing accuracy means you can set wider apertures) and you can take the shot without bringing your eye to the screen for long if at all in a lot of cases if you are trying to be stealthy.

For a lot of run and gun video, as its akin to street photography in many ways, a two or three zone system like that operated from user buttons on the camera would be a good hybrid solution option for me.

So I could have a near zone at say f2.8, a mid zone at f5.6 and a far zone at f11 and when I pressed each one it would change the focus distance, aperture but also the ISO to keep the exposure consistent and that way I could be confident that I could quickly get something in focus. 

I also think we might see some tag based AF being incorporated into hybrid cameras fairly soon.

Either physical tags like the Soloshot system or screen based ones like on the Osmo Mobile or Mavic to track multiple subjects on a priority selection basis. The LS300 has a priority selection mode in its Face Detect AF but I haven't tried it as yet.

People are used to it at the consumer level with things like the Osmo Mobile and the selfie drones and its one of those things that will filter up rather than down.

Might not be for everyone but I could definitely see this sort of thing being a boon for people who shoot weddings to set the bride as the MVP in any shot she wanders through via a small wearable tag.

Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 19.14.48.jpg

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1 hour ago, jonpais said:

Just out of curiosity, I would like to see footage of moving subjects or where there is camera movement by some of these manual focus zealots on paid jobs where there is no focus puller. This might be more convincing than twenty pages of comments. Also, I don't understand why these MF crusaders must be so condescending and resort to profanity to make their point.

I think you miss my point. 

I would like to forget aboutwhat is 'wrong' or 'right'.

It is a feeling. Trusting your gear. Going to war.

You want a sniper or an automatic. Sometimes both. Question is 'when'.

An automatic is useful (fot murderous bastards in ex. Nigeria), but sometimes control means a lot - and Clint Eastwood will make a film about you.

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1 hour ago, BTM_Pix said:

Its interesting how when you're using a hybrid camera you'll switch your mindset when you switch your modes.

On Wednesday, when I'm using the X-T2 for shooting some build up footage of fans around the stadium then it'll be in manual focus all the way but then as soon as I'm inside and flick the switch to stills mode then I'll be using every tweakable part of its autofocus system to the maximum I can manipulate it to in order to get the shots I need. 

I could probably do both equally as well using a common fairly simple AF setting to be honest but its just ingrained in as being 'the way you're supposed to do it' isn't it?

Sticking dogmatically to both has caused me problems with missing focus when using manual in video and - just as problematic- disappearing up my own arse tweaking AF modes and custom ballistics and actually degrading AF performance.

For stills, I often use a hybrid of constant AF-C for tracking players but then a quick jab on the AF-On button to zone focus if its a fixed action like a corner kick or penalty where the AF system can get triggered by closer players crossing the frame.

It easy doing that with stills though as you just keep the focus point on centre frame and quickly point the camera temporarily where you want it to set the zone.

Different for video where you need to keep rolling with the camera in a fixed position and its not always possible to use touch focus or even move the focus point selector stick if it has one like the X-T2.

Thats why I'm interested in the Aputure lens regain focus system in that you can effectively use it to make two focus zones and rapidly switch between them and I think the way forward is for a camera manufacturer to incorporate that with multiple zones that perhaps have aperture and iso integrated into them.

On the Ricoh GR for example, it has a Snap Focus function that you set at a defined distance and then select your aperture and shutter speed. It illustrates the depth of field in front and behind the focus point for that distance set with the aperture selected and then the auto ISO takes care of the exposure given the aperture and shutter you've selected. This means that if you do a full press of the shutter it won't AF but will take the shot on manual focus with those settings. If you do a half press, it will AF as normal. It makes it incredibly good for street shooting as after a little bit of practice you get proficient at estimating the best working distance to set the focus point at (and your increasing accuracy means you can set wider apertures) and you can take the shot without bringing your eye to the screen for long if at all in a lot of cases if you are trying to be stealthy.

For a lot of run and gun video, as its akin to street photography in many ways, a two or three zone system like that operated from user buttons on the camera would be a good hybrid solution option for me.

So I could have a near zone at say f2.8, a mid zone at f5.6 and a far zone at f11 and when I pressed each one it would change the focus distance, aperture but also the ISO to keep the exposure consistent and that way I could be confident that I could quickly get something in focus. 

I also think we might see some tag based AF being incorporated into hybrid cameras fairly soon.

Either physical tags like the Soloshot system or screen based ones like on the Osmo Mobile or Mavic to track multiple subjects on a priority selection basis. The LS300 has a priority selection mode in its Face Detect AF but I haven't tried it as yet.

People are used to it at the consumer level with things like the Osmo Mobile and the selfie drones and its one of those things that will filter up rather than down.

Might not be for everyone but I could definitely see this sort of thing being a boon for people who shoot weddings to set the bride as the MVP in any shot she wanders through via a small wearable tag.

Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 19.14.48.jpg

Dont u wish 'getting to know your dslr' was a college course credit! Lol - we would all pass with flying colors (of shit). 

I sometimes think if we applied the same resolve as you have just demonstrated to an actual money making industry you would easily pass an LSAT or Series 7!

God, what have we become.

I blame Spielberg and Rodriguez. Tarantino too. Much explaining thrm folks need to do... to us.

 

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2 hours ago, jonpais said:

An example of AF-C in video mode, ASPC at 3m 20s. This would be difficult to achieve using MF with a single operator I would think.

 

Not really, its just a straight rack focus. With a manual lens its easy. 

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13 minutes ago, Mattias Burling said:

Not really, its just a straight rack focus. With a manual lens its easy. 

Would you be kind enough to share an example of someone walking directly toward the camera at wide aperture with only one operator?

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5 hours ago, HelsinkiZim said:

Dont u wish 'getting to know your dslr' was a college course credit! Lol - we would all pass with flying colors (of shit). 

I sometimes think if we applied the same resolve as you have just demonstrated to an actual money making industry you would easily pass an LSAT or Series 7!

God, what have we become.

I blame Spielberg and Rodriguez. Tarantino too. Much explaining thrm folks need to do... to us.

 

Everything is a workaround and a compromise with AF at the moment trying to resolve the two basic truths which is that the camera is far smarter and faster than I am at nailing focus but I'm far smarter and faster than it is at picking what it should be focusing on.

Its currently like my other half and her shoe shopping.

I can get us to the shop far quicker and more efficiently than she can but have absolutely no informed idea whatsoever about what shoes to choose when we get there.

The light field stuff will eventually solve the focus thing for us (and Panasonic's post focus function is a nod to that with stills albeit a simulation using high fps rather than something like the Lytro) so its just a question of finding workarounds along the route until the technology catches up to make that viable for motion at a sensible level.

I doubt we'll ever solve the shoe thing though !

5 hours ago, HelsinkiZim said:

I sometimes think if we applied the same resolve as you have just demonstrated to an actual money making industry

I do apply the end product of the endless tweaking of AF for stills in a just about still making actual money industry but yeah I'd certainly make more money tuning cars instead of AF !

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