Geartalk: Manual focus experimentations

I handled my first camera when i was a young boy, it was a 1980s Nikon rangefinder. My father taught me how to align up the image in the viewfinder to get focus, and when i got it right, magic happened. I regret not having any photos from that time in my possession; if only i knew as an adult i would find photography such an interesting activity.

Since those early days, i think i’ve been spoiled by the digital revolution and the power of technology that among things have given us a blazingly fast auto-focus (AF). Even the most sophisticated DSLRs can be operated easily by pointing it at the general direction of the subject and pressing the shutter release. All things else being equal, 9 times our of 10, the AF will nail the focus. If it doesn’t, it’s probably a problem with the photographer rather than a problem with the camera.

Ever since i handled Ming Thein’s M9-P rangefinder, i’ve found myself being attracted back to my roots; the engaging effort it takes to manually focus my shots. From a practical perspective, it serves a good purpose too. Using AF does make composition slightly unwieldy, because you constantly have to refocus on the focus point, something that’s resolved with MF because once you set the focus point, you can leave it and shutter release without issues or worry that the camera will autonomously refocus on the wrong point.

With that in mind, i decided to go out for breakfast this morning, determined to force myself to MF my shots. It was a little bit slow, but not terribly so. And a heck of a lot of fun. Here are the results. All shots with 5D Mark II, 50mm f2.8, ISO400.

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