AustralianLight - Landscape Photography AustralianLight - Landscape Photography

AustralianLight - Landscape Photography is my new site with my good mate Bernie. If you have found my blog posts useful over the years, then how about giving us a hand to promote AustralianLight.

We are doing everything we can to get our australian landscape photography out there and guess what..... it's bloody hard work!! So please visit the gallery and if you like what see, share it with your friends.

Thanks, we really do appreciate your help. - Russell

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Focus Confirm Adapters v's Split Screen Focusing

As you may have read in this blog, I like to use some manual focus Olympus OM lenses on my 1Ds2 and this of course, is done by way of an adapter that converts the Olympus mount to a Canon lens mount. This is such a simple process of "click on-click off", that I also carry mounts for M42 Screw and Nikon lenses.

Using other manufacturer's lenses opens up a whole new world of imaging, with access to specialty glass and their unique qualities.

The downside is of course that AF (auto focus) does not work and that the lens' f-stop needs to be shut down manually.... but for most of my images (landscape) this is not a drama, as there is plenty of time to get setup and to get things right.

For those times that are a bit more hurried though, I find the lack of AF a bit of a pain. Yes in the old days that's how everyone did it (inc. me)... but those days are long gone and without regular practice, accurate manual focusing is a skill that can quickly be lost.

Also, today's AF cameras are not really designed for manual focusing and the necessary aids have generally gone missing from the view finder and in their place are focus confirm lights and beeps. So this leaves all the hard work up to the automated system that delivers us a pretty light or beep, so we can feel good about the clever bit of electronics that we have in our hands.

So now that we place an old school manual lens in front of all this high tech, our cams all of a sudden are not so clever after all and we find the standard focusing screen hopelessly inadequate for us to judge focus and the silence of our friendly beeps deafening.

If you are lucky enough to have a camera with interchangeable focusing screens, it's a simple matter of popping out the standard screen and dropping in a new "designed for manual focus" split-screen. This screen's center circle has be divided in two and it is a simple matter of lining of the two halves on the subject that you want in focus.

This a very accurate system and one that has been used for years. It does have it's drawbacks though.... It's not fast unless you practice and it can, at times, interfere with the camera's exposure readings, especially in low light as one of the halves has a tendency to go black.

With this in mind, some clever Dick has come up with an adapter that not only converts the lens mount, but it also carries the AF circuitry that would normally be found on the regular AF lens. This tricks the camera into thinking that there is an AF lens attached and like magic, the flashing lights and beeps of the AF confirm come back to life.

This sounds like the ticket yes? Well.... "for me" this system has a bit of a problem. As you focus the lens there is no real visual stimulus that you are approaching correct focus.

Sure the entire focus screen is getting sharper, but as I said earlier, the screens are not really designed for this these days and the visual help is minimal at best. Unlike the split screen where you can clearly see the two halves approaching "line up".

So with the AF confirm adapter it's more of a "lights on - BEEP your there!!" and you need to put the brakes on REAL quickly! If your not quick enough, you have actually passed correct focus and need to back up a little.

But just how far do you back up? I have found that the AF light will actually stay on for prob a degree (or perhaps 2) of the turning of the focus ring. So without the visual stimulus of the "exact moment of focus" like the split screen gives you, it can be very hard indeed to obtain a truly accurate focus.

Now this will not be an issue with broader scenes that you are covering with heaps of DOF, but in a situation such as macro or shallow DOF portraiture where absolute accuracy is required, the focus confirm adapter becomes very difficult to use in my opinion.

So perhaps the best thing to do is to become VERY familiar with the quirks of each system and use whichever one is going to suit the photography that you are doing at the time. ...either that, or stick with AF lenses, as those suckers have really good brakes! ;-)

Also see:


Australian Digital Photo Of The Day:

Quality Fotodiox lens adapters for various camera/lens brand combinations are available from Amazon, as are camera focus screens more suited to alternate lenses...

Tags: lens adapter lenses nikon pentax canon sony dslr body slr focus confirm af chip auto focus alternate lenses

Zenitar 16mm Fisheye - Test on 1Ds2

I was lucky enough to pick up a second hand MC Zenitar 16mm Fisheye lens recently. I have heard a lot about the Zenitar and how good it was for the price and at only 150AUD I figured it would be worth the giggle.

Well I am happy to say that this lens has blown me away with it's performance!

I am very impressed with the sharpness, contrast and colour rendition that this lens provides. At f11 even the corners are very good, with softness only just creeping in right at the very corner's edge.

Lens flare is a bit of an issue, but I don't think it's a deal breaker, considering that even if purchased new, these are a very cheap lens (eBay AU$250'ish delivered via HK).... plus, the flare produced could easily be repaired in Photoshop. (see highrise building sample image)

An important thing to remember is that I would only recommend this lens for full frame cameras such as the 1Ds/5D/D3 series cameras (or 35mm film cams), as the smaller imaging area with APS-C sensor cams (400D/40D/D70/D200 etc) would see much of the curvy outer fish effect cropped.

Having said that, if the fish effect is not important to you, then this lens could be used (with care) quite effectively as a budget wide angle solution for APS-C.

If you want to see just how good the corner/edge performance is, a larger (about 700k) strip at 100% image size is available from the link below...


My Gallery:
Australian Digital Photo Of The Day:

Photography help for beginners - Film & Digital Camera Techniques - Post Processing - Photography tips and tricks - MC Zenitar 16mm Fisheye