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To Auto-focus, or not?

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    To Auto-focus, or not?

    This is lengthy and may be full of stupid questions, but here we go. I worked at a TV station in the 90s as a camera operator on one of those news/talk/round table type of shows. Can't recall the brand or model, but the camera was one of those big, honkin' types on wheels with two large grips, hooded monitor, thick cables running out of it, etc. I was camera 2 of 3, and we would zoom in on the guests, focus, then zoom back out and stay that way for the duration of the show. (If there's a name for this type of focusing, I don't know what it is.) Supposedly, everything would be in focus after doing this, regardless of how many close-ups or full shots we'd do during the show.

    Thinking about it now though, I would think if anyone was to walk in front of my camera after my having done this little trick, they should be out of focus. But the reasoning at the time was everything between my original focus point and my lens would be in focus. Never tested this.

    Brings me to the present: If I do this trick now with the AF100 (filming ice skaters with me in a stationary point, while they go in circles) will I never need to use my lens' auto-focus feature? Presently, I use auto-focus. But if I happen to slightly move my camera off the skater, the auto-focus finds something behind them to focus on, thus blurring my skater. Any tips?

    #2
    I prefer manual focus, but keep one hand on the lens to follow focus as needed on action. Those old studio cameras were likely 2/3" and shooting around f/4-f/5.6 which gave a fairly deep field in focus. Not as easy to do with larger sensors at the longer focal lengths needed for the same field of view. Most TV zooms had a momentary push to autofocus button that locked focus until you pushed the button again.
    I hate auto-focus hunting or focusing on the wrong object, but still camera lenses mostly have such a short focus throw that it is hard to manually make the fine adjustments needed to follow action.

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      #3
      Thanks for the quick replay and advice. I wouldn't be able to keep one hand on focusing, as that one hand has to be on the zoom. A distant skater filling my frame rounds a corner and is quickly right on me, so being quick on the draw, zoom-wise, is necessary. I have a follow focus rig on my zoom ring, by the way.

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        #4
        I dont think the "new" crop of larger sensor cams are really appropriate for more fast moving/action oriented shooting. despite this, people will still use them for such so you either need to learn to track focus manually somehow or use autofocus. Ideally you would own a larger sensored cam for the projects where its appropriate and a smaller sensored cam for fast moving stuff where arty depth of field is not important/a hinderance and zooming during the shot is more common.
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