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Thread: Medium Format Focusing Question

  1. #1
    CBronicki
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    Medium Format Focusing Question

    Hi all,

    I currently have on loan a Phase One IQ140 (thanks Colin Johnston at Phase One for being so generous), as I am wanting to enter the realm of medium format. Most of my work will be commerical and editorial portraiture with a large emphasis on fashion/lifestyle. Lots of pics will be printed quite large.

    However, I have a question regarding focusing. Now I am coming from a 35mm Nikon D4/D800 world so this may have a simple answer..but...

    How do I achieve the best focus? For example, If I am shooting portraiture of a subject, the focus point on a Phase One is always in the center and cannot be moved, so I find the focus point is usually the waste line and not the face where I want maximum sharpeness. Now don't get me wrong, the overall image still remains reasonably sharp but the focus mask never gets the face as being pin-sharp. At 100% the face is also not pin-sharp. On my Nikon, I can move my single AF points up to the face and get the face pin-sharp.

    Even at a harbour yesterday, I focused straight onto a boat (with tripod) and yet, the focus mask showed that something else further back was in pin-sharp focus, and not the boat! Again, by many peoples standards, the overall image was still relatively sharp. But with my Nikon I get the boat pin-sharp.

    I know that Hasselblad has a "true focus" system which seems to address my concerns - can anyone comment on this. It would be great if I could focus on the models face, lock it in, then re-compose my shot. I am just really frustrated with the focus on medium format thus far, but perhaps I am doing something wrong. Any feedback would be appreciated.

    Also, if anyone wants to add their 2 cents regarding best system/camera for fashion please chime in...

    Regards
    Chris

  2. #2
    Shelby Lewis
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    Re: Medium Format Focusing Question

    I'm in 35mm land right now (D800), but I shot a mamiya afd III for a year before going to an RZ67... but I always used manual focus on the AFD. I found that I generally did a better job than the AF since the focus circle was so dang big.

  3. #3
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    Re: Medium Format Focusing Question

    The HB true focus system is a blessing in this area. Focus, wait for the little beep TF confirmation, recompose and take your shot.

    What else can I say, if your pace is not too fast it simply works.

  4. #4
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    Re: Medium Format Focusing Question

    I find the DF pretty workable once you get used to it. Try changing the AF mode to central spot only in custom functions. Then theres technique. Focus and recompose is the way to go and it works perfectly in most cases. In extreme situations you can always "cheat" and focus on something closer (like the models forehead instead of her eyes if she is standing) so when you recompose the plane of focus will fall where you want. This needs some practice to figure out as it depends on many factors. Then switch to manual if you don't want to move the camera, for example.

  5. #5
    Senior Member David Schneider's Avatar
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    Re: Medium Format Focusing Question

    I have a Hasselblad H3d2-39 so no True Focus. I put in a split image screen in place of the matte screen. With the Hassie I can autofocus, but can just adjust the final focus manually using the split image in the viewfinder if I need fine tuning. This is especially important on portraits using a portrait or longer lens and extremely thin dof. Example: 210mm f8 at 7" (or 150mm f4 at 7') dof is just 2.36".

  6. #6
    CBronicki
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    Re: Medium Format Focusing Question

    "Focus and recompose is the way to go and it works perfectly in most cases. In extreme situations you can always "cheat" and focus on something closer (like the models forehead instead of her eyes if she is standing) so when you recompose the plane of focus will fall where you want."

    When I try the above technique, i.e. focus on face then recompose, it refocuses on the torso where the focus point is as I press the shutter.

    I hope Phase One bring out a True Focus or some movable AF point in the future.

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    Re: Medium Format Focusing Question

    Quote Originally Posted by CBronicki View Post
    When I try the above technique, i.e. focus on face then recompose, it refocuses on the torso where the focus point is as I press the shutter.

    I hope Phase One bring out a True Focus or some movable AF point in the future.
    What I do on my AFD is auto focus on face, switch camera to manual focus, recompose, then push shutter. A bit of a hassle, but it works.

  8. #8
    Super Duper
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    Re: Medium Format Focusing Question

    You could try a Pentax 645D which has a much better AF system--and you can individually adjust the AF for each lens. The playback is slow, but it certainly has a large enough buffer to handle lots of images. If you are in the States, then many of the AF lenses need to be purchased secondhand. In Japan and a few other countries, the lenses can be bought new. The optics are very good and with a nice range of primes and zoom to choose from. I mostly use my 645D outdoors, but I have used it in the Studio with excellent results. And for the price of an IQ140, you could get two bodies with ISO up to 1600 and unlimited exposure time.
    Last edited by Shashin; 23rd July 2012 at 10:30.

  9. #9
    Senior Member MaxKi▀ler's Avatar
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    Re: Medium Format Focusing Question

    Quote Originally Posted by CBronicki View Post
    "Focus and recompose is the way to go and it works perfectly in most cases. In extreme situations you can always "cheat" and focus on something closer (like the models forehead instead of her eyes if she is standing) so when you recompose the plane of focus will fall where you want."

    When I try the above technique, i.e. focus on face then recompose, it refocuses on the torso where the focus point is as I press the shutter.

    I hope Phase One bring out a True Focus or some movable AF point in the future.
    You might want to check the custom functions. You can switch the original AF lock button and the AEL button, making it quite easy to hold the focus after recomposing.

  10. #10
    Super Duper
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    Re: Medium Format Focusing Question

    Quote Originally Posted by CBronicki View Post
    "Focus and recompose is the way to go and it works perfectly in most cases. In extreme situations you can always "cheat" and focus on something closer (like the models forehead instead of her eyes if she is standing) so when you recompose the plane of focus will fall where you want."

    When I try the above technique, i.e. focus on face then recompose, it refocuses on the torso where the focus point is as I press the shutter.

    I hope Phase One bring out a True Focus or some movable AF point in the future.
    Check to see if there is custom function to assign the AF function separate from the shutter-button.

    On the H4D, I've assigned True Focus to the rear thumb button which locks focus independently ... AF is then also faster than using the shutter button for AF. The lens is then full time manual focus and can be tweaked if necessary (which it usually doesn't need when using TF.)

    On my S2, I did the same thing ... rear AE thumb button set in custom functions to AF, and the lens is then full time manual focus. This increased the S2 AF speed a lot.

    -Marc

  11. #11
    Senior Member malmac's Avatar
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    Re: Medium Format Focusing Question

    Quote Originally Posted by CBronicki View Post
    "Focus and recompose is the way to go and it works perfectly in most cases. In extreme situations you can always "cheat" and focus on something closer (like the models forehead instead of her eyes if she is standing) so when you recompose the plane of focus will fall where you want."

    When I try the above technique, i.e. focus on face then recompose, it refocuses on the torso where the focus point is as I press the shutter.

    I hope Phase One bring out a True Focus or some movable AF point in the future.
    Lots of good advice on this subject.

    I use the 645DF and one point to check.
    On the camera body, front bottom right corner as you look into the lens is a knob. Three settings, M for manual focus mode, S for single focus mode and C for continuous focus mode - if this is set to C you will have problems doing what you want to do.

    Like others I use manual focus more often than not.

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    Re: Medium Format Focusing Question

    Yes, on the DF you can disable the AF off the shutter button and use the AEL button on the back as a "AF-ON" button.
    I do this on all my cameras and have done for years. Once you've done it, there's no going back!
    But like everyone else, I really do wish the DF had a focus point you could move. Like DSLRS have had for about 15 years...

  13. #13
    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: Medium Format Focusing Question

    Quote Originally Posted by CBronicki View Post
    "Focus and recompose is the way to go and it works perfectly in most cases. In extreme situations you can always "cheat" and focus on something closer (like the models forehead instead of her eyes if she is standing) so when you recompose the plane of focus will fall where you want."

    When I try the above technique, i.e. focus on face then recompose, it refocuses on the torso where the focus point is as I press the shutter.
    You can press the AF lock after initial focus; OR using custom functions set the rear button to be your AF activation and the shutter button only shutter release. Next tip is set the AF to speed (not accurate) and then do a quick triple-tap with it. I found this far superior for accurate focus than relying on a single press in the slower, "accurate" AF mode.
    Jack
    home: www.getdpi.com

    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

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