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Thread: Medium Format Autofocus Performance

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    Senior Member bensonga's Avatar
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    Medium Format Autofocus Performance

    I don't want to re-open the overall Leica S2 debate, but I was curious to know if people here (with extensive Phase One, Mamiya, Hasselblad etc experience) agree with Mark Dubovy's view on the autofocusing performance of MFD cameras/lenses vs/and/or the Leica S2's autofocus performance.

    "It is immediately obvious that the Leica autofocusing system is far superior to any current Medium Format system."
    "First of all, it focuses faster than Hasselblad, Mamiya and PhaseOne cameras."
    "But there is much more: <snip>"

    http://www.luminous-landscape.com/re...s/s2-1st.shtml

    Gary

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    Re: Medium Format Autofocus Performance

    I learned quite a bit about the mechanics of AF (and MF) from the LL thread and by reading the links that were referenced in it. My own experience is limited to comparing the pre-firmware updated S2 with my Hy6 and Contax systems. I found the AF on the S2 to be noticeably faster than what I've been using but still not in the same league as what I get from my Nikon D3. As far as AF accuracy I'd call it a push among the MF systems I've used. Over the years I've realized that I get my most accurately focused images when focusing manually and that those results vary greatly depending on the lens I'm using. My eyes aren't as good as they used to be which is why I'm partial to the WLF on my Hy6 and Hassy 203FE.

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    Administrator, Instructor Guy Mancuso's Avatar
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    Re: Medium Format Autofocus Performance

    Here was my comment on the subject.

    Just to go back to the AF of the S2 and DF bodies just to clarify a few points. First I have not shot the absolute latest version of the S2 firmware so some things may have changed but what was left out here is the DF will shoot continuous focus and the S2 will not ( again this may have changed but I don't think so). So back when Jack and I did the review of the S2 and P40+ the S2 did feel faster to lock in on the center point over the DF but it was kind of weird as it did not refocus when you released the the half press and readjusted as easily as the DF body did. I also felt the DF was actually better for a lot of work where continuous was needed . In this thread I am talking about the Sensor Plus but if you look down in the article I was shooting runway with a 300mm on a monopod and using continuous focusing on the DF and it it really did a nice job of following the model and obviously the worst movement for AF is something coming straight at you and I did not miss much especcially with a 300mm AF lens of older design ( Phase there is a hint here ). Now granted not Canon/Nikon speed but it works very well here is a link if interested. http://forum.getdpi.com/forum/showthread.php?t=13379

    Now I do not know the tech. data behind the scenes of levels of focus ability as I do not have that data from the OEM's and obviously I can't speak for the Hassy system in here as I am still waiting to test the HD4/40 system. Anyway this is real world and I also found the DF was a little better in low light but it was very close and both systems where very good in low light which is a big bonus in MF. The S2 does a very nice job of focusing but I had a hard time with it in the beginning until I switched it to manual than used a rear button for AF which I really liked much more. I do talk about this early on in this review http://forum.getdpi.com/forum/showthread.php?t=12243. Now I will not speak of Marks review here since he also has shot the S2 with a later version of the S2 firmware but these systems are pretty darn close, not sure I would say they are worlds apart but yes some differences for sure and the S2 does feel quicker but the lenses are also bigger and heavier and in the working with them all things being together as a package not sure I would say one has a clear advantage over the other but I will say the are far better than the AFD III, II and AFD. Again I am sure the new Hassy focus system is on par as well. It actually may have a slight advantage because of the different AF system employed now. That is a guess on my part since I have not tried it but nice reports on it for sure. Bottom line none of them are in the 35mm league and still for the most part are center point focusing. I know I do very well with the DF and I liked the S2 on it's end once I figured how to work it to my taste, obviously this will differ among users. But as many of us know in use most of the time we are in manual mode. I NEVER shot a advertising project with AF in all my 35 years, so I have to laugh a little because I know many shooters are the same as me stick it on manual and get to work. Sorry I just have never completely trusted any AF system on the planet and a very simple logical reason they can't think. They have no idea what is going on in your brain and what you are after. End of day though the modern MF bodies are much better than even a year ago but they can all be better as well.
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

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    Super Duper
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    Re: Medium Format Autofocus Performance

    Of course, statements like that will be a lightening rod when made as an "in general" statement without any proof other than the user's impressions and theory. Mark clearly stated these were his impressions of the S2, then proceeded in the usual LL mode with an "as fact" demeanor. He also does say this ...

    "At least in theory, it should surpass any other (AF) system currently available."

    Personally, I do not question his impressions of the S2 AF system ... I do question which competitive MFD AF he is basing his impression of "better" upon, which isn't clear (unless I missed something).

    Like Guy, I tried the S2 prior to current firmware tweaks, and had an almost identical experience ... using the release button was less than stellar even in bright, clear conditions, and improved considerably by assigning the AF to the rear thumb button. Even with the rear button, I could not get the continuous AF focus to work right and gave up trying ... but that may have changed. All-in-all, I expected a vast improvement over my then current H3D, and while better, it was not that much better ... in fact the difference seemed minuscule probably because my expectations were pretty high and I was hoping to replace my Pro level 35mm DSLRs with the S2 ... NOT my Hasselblad system.

    My personal comparison point now would be against the H4D. I have no idea how a current S2 would do compared to a H4D without shooting both in similar conditions. What I can say is that the H4D is the best MFD AF I've used to date ... with the caveat that I've not experienced the current S2 with firmware updates, or Phase One's latest camera.

    I know that Hasselblad has continuously improved the H system AF with firmware tweaks, and/or new models, culminating with the current H4 AF system.

    I cannot overstate how well the "True Focus" with micro-adjust that's based on aperture selected ... and the new focus re-compose innovation ... actually works in the real world. The H4D's low light performance has also been improved with a simple increase of the AF assist intensity, and making it white rather than red. While not on par with a 1DsMKIII, it was just as fast than my assistant's 5D in real world, low-light situations.

    In the case of focus/recompose situations, the H4D is actually faster than wheeling any 35mm DSLR's focus point where you need it, and then focusing. Plus you can place the H center sensor at the far edge of the frame then recompose, where that is not possible with a 35mm DSLR ... where the focus points are not that far to the sides, so you wheel the focus point, then shift the rest of the way and then focus and then recompose anyway.

    Lastly, I am just like Guy when it comes to focusing in the studio for commercial assignments where there are three things to remember:. Manual. Manual, Manual. In most of these cases I prefer using the H waist Level finder with its flip magnifier for dead-on accuracy, and have a diagonal split micro-prism Bright Screen installed. The S2 and Phase cameras do not offer a WLF.

    -Marc

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    Re: Medium Format Autofocus Performance

    No experience with the S2, but read M.B.'s article and the discussions.

    I'm always fascinated by the AF discussions surrounding digital imaging. As I read the boards and listen to discussions here and there, I wonder about the various entry points to same.

    It's pretty obvious that subject matter/shooting style factors for many, but I find the AF of most decent equipment rather adequate across the board. Well, I haven't shot as "across the board" as many have, but I have shot a lot of Canon gear, Nikon gear (mostly film), Mamiya, Hasselblad, etc. and I have always considered AF to be a "helper" not a total facilitator. I'm sure that's a product of my area of interest in subject matter and having started with all manual gear (as many here did).

    When I first went digital, having been away from photography for a while, I was quite disappointed by the feel of many modern lenses. The manual focus handling was/is really poor in some cases. Seeking out the premium lens lines for their improved construction and mechanics makes the difference. But for my style, AF gets me to the neighborhood and manual focus tightens things up on nearly every shot. With most landscape and all studio/product stuff, like Marc states, it's all manual for me. For street, it's normally AF then manually adjust every time.

    Now for shooting weddings or sports such as basketball, I can really appreciate the need for precise AF (though certain sports even more than weddings I think), but for the stuff I like to shoot good manual override is most important.

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    Senior Member Steve Hendrix's Avatar
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    Re: Medium Format Autofocus Performance

    Quote Originally Posted by bensonga View Post
    I don't want to re-open the overall Leica S2 debate, but I was curious to know if people here (with extensive Phase One, Mamiya, Hasselblad etc experience) agree with Mark Dubovy's view on the autofocusing performance of MFD cameras/lenses vs/and/or the Leica S2's autofocus performance.

    "It is immediately obvious that the Leica autofocusing system is far superior to any current Medium Format system."
    "First of all, it focuses faster than Hasselblad, Mamiya and PhaseOne cameras."
    "But there is much more: <snip>"

    http://www.luminous-landscape.com/re...s/s2-1st.shtml

    Gary

    Gary

    It's been my impression that the Hasselblad H system, the Phase One DF camera and the Leica S2 perform closely in terms of speed and accuracy. This is only based on my impresssion, not one of our test setups. At any rate, Mark's statement that you quote here seems exaggerated to me.

    Perhaps we can do a test ourselves and see if there's a winner. I wouldn't say that the S2 is not the fastest or most accurate - it may be. But if so, it is modestly so.

    It wouldn't be the reason I bought an S2 over a Phase One or a Hasselblad.



    Steve Hendrix
    Steve Hendrix, Sales Manager, www.captureintegration.com (e-mail Me)
    Digital Cam: Phase One | Leaf | Leica | Sinar Authorized Reseller
    TechCam: Alpa | Cambo | Arca Swiss | Sinar Authorized Reseller

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