October 19, 2017, 11:19:21 AM

Poll

 Just curious, for those shooting with the various f/1.2 lenses out there, what do you do when you want to shoot f/1.2 at when the subject is not in the center of the frame?  Let's presume you can't use a tripod in this scenario and that the lens has AF.

Frame the shot first, use off-center AF point(s) to nail the subject wherever they are, confirm AF, and shoot without reframing.
AF on the center point, confirm AF, re-frame, and shoot.
AF on the center point, confirm AF and shoot.  Frame to taste by cropping off-center in post.
Shoot with manual focus through the OVF -- use AF dot illumination confirmation
Shoot with manual focus through the OVF -- use a manual focusing screen
Shoot with manual focus with handheld liveview (5x, 10x focus preview)
Other [please explain below]

Author Topic: How do you focus at off-center targets when shooting at f/1.2?  (Read 1479 times)

ahsanford

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How do you focus at off-center targets when shooting at f/1.2?
« on: September 22, 2017, 03:41:58 PM »
Just curious how people shoot f/1.2 handheld when the subject is not centered in the frame.

Let's presume you are not:

  • On a tripod
  • Shooting something at (near/actual) infinite focus
  • Using a camera that has focus peaking abilities

And let's presume AF is an option on this lens.  Answer as if (say) it was a 50 f/1.2L or 85 f1.2L II.

Just curious what your gameplan is there, thx.

- A

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How do you focus at off-center targets when shooting at f/1.2?
« on: September 22, 2017, 03:41:58 PM »

YuengLinger

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Re: How do you focus at off-center targets when shooting at f/1.2?
« Reply #1 on: September 22, 2017, 04:40:15 PM »
You missed, "Just frame based on whichever AF point makes the composition work," (though option #1 is almost that--just seems there is an extra step in there).

That's what I do for the 85mm 1.2L II, though I generally avoid the outermost AF points, coming in one column to not push things too much.  My 5DIII is good with the lens, my 5DIV is extremely accurate.  Handheld, because at 1.2, my shutter speeds are generally 125th and faster.

Not sure what you mean in option 1 of your poll, "confirm AF."  What's to confirm?  I'm confident if my AF point indicates a lock, subject's in focus.  Sometimes I bracket, because DoF is so thin that any slight rocking back and forth of subject or myself blows it--but that's not something a center AF point or "confirming" would make any better.

"Confirming" would risk breaking rhythm/rapport, and, in my opinion, chimping in general during portrait work disrupts the session.

With the 35mm f/1.4L II, even the outermost points work fine.
« Last Edit: September 22, 2017, 04:50:00 PM by YuengLinger »

ahsanford

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Re: How do you focus at off-center targets when shooting at f/1.2?
« Reply #2 on: September 22, 2017, 04:49:24 PM »
You missed, "Just frame based on whichever AF point makes the composition work." 

That's what I do for the 85mm 1.2L II, though I generally avoid the outermost AF points, coming in one column to not push things too much.  My 5DIII is good with the lens, my 5DIV is extremely accurate.  Handheld, because at 1.2, my shutter speeds are generally 125th and faster.

Not sure what you mean in option 1 of your poll, "confirm AF."  What's to confirm?  I'm confident if my AF point indicates a lock, subject's in focus.  Sometimes I bracket, because DoF is so thin that any slight rocking back and forth of subject or myself blows it--but that's not something a center AF point would make any better.

Sorry.  When I said confirm, I meant 'actually use the AF', i.e. halfway press the shutter (or BBAF) and get focus confirmation in the OVF.

So are you using a large area AF like Zone AF or Auto 61-pt AF on your 5D3?  If so what happens if the AF point that confirms isn't on the point of interest (say, eyes or face)?  Glad to add that option to the poll if you don't mind clarifying your method.

- A
« Last Edit: September 22, 2017, 04:52:31 PM by ahsanford »

ahsanford

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Re: How do you focus at off-center targets when shooting at f/1.2?
« Reply #3 on: September 22, 2017, 04:52:03 PM »
The reason I started this poll is that another site linked a best practices YouTube video for how to nail f/1.2 focusing and the photograher's simplest preferred method was in fact focus and recompose, i.e. one would think the last thing you want to do with a thin DOF shot.

Was just curious if people have actually had success with focus and recompose at f/1.2, and then I thought I'd shake the tree for everyone's best/chosen practice.

- A

YuengLinger

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Re: How do you focus at off-center targets when shooting at f/1.2?
« Reply #4 on: September 22, 2017, 04:58:34 PM »
You missed, "Just frame based on whichever AF point makes the composition work." 

That's what I do for the 85mm 1.2L II, though I generally avoid the outermost AF points, coming in one column to not push things too much.  My 5DIII is good with the lens, my 5DIV is extremely accurate.  Handheld, because at 1.2, my shutter speeds are generally 125th and faster.

Not sure what you mean in option 1 of your poll, "confirm AF."  What's to confirm?  I'm confident if my AF point indicates a lock, subject's in focus.  Sometimes I bracket, because DoF is so thin that any slight rocking back and forth of subject or myself blows it--but that's not something a center AF point would make any better.

Sorry.  When I said confirm, I meant 'actually use the AF', i.e. halfway press the shutter (or BBAF) and get focus confirmation in the OVF.

So are you using a large area AF like Zone AF or Auto 61-pt AF on your 5D3?  If so what happens if the AF point that confirms isn't on the point of interest (say, eyes or face)?

- A

I use Single Point AF (not precision).  I can usually step back an inch or so, whatever it takes, to frame properly.  In fact, I'd rather frame with a little room for cropping for different prints, so any slight adjustment to framing so the AF point is over the near eye is easy.  Seems to me the way the points are spread, and the native 3x2 ratio of the viewfinder, the 5D series of bodies are designed with portraiture in mind above all.  But that is probably just because portraits are always what I've enjoyed most and "feel" like things are made for it.

And, NO, I don't have enough success nailing sharpest focus by using center-AF and recompose.  DoF just too shallow. 

ahsanford

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Re: How do you focus at off-center targets when shooting at f/1.2?
« Reply #5 on: September 22, 2017, 05:17:00 PM »
And, NO, I don't have enough success nailing sharpest focus by using center-AF and recompose.  DoF just too shallow.

I feel like that one's a gimme (i.e. I expect nearly everyone will say that).

In theory, if you recompose in a robotically planar fashion, i.e. imagine if the camera body during reframing could only move on an imaginary plane parallel and equidistant to your previously set AF focal plane, focus and recompose at f/1.2 would work fine.  But as we are human beings, I'm guessing the angle/tilt/elevation of the lens itself will change during reframing and ruin the focus quite often.

...hence this poll.
 

I'm curious to see how people manage AF vs. composition when a thin DOF is involved:  Is it through careful and deliberate AF use?  Post-shot witchdoctory?  Abandoning the AF altogether?

- A
« Last Edit: September 22, 2017, 05:20:13 PM by ahsanford »

YuengLinger

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Re: How do you focus at off-center targets when shooting at f/1.2?
« Reply #6 on: September 22, 2017, 06:41:54 PM »
And, NO, I don't have enough success nailing sharpest focus by using center-AF and recompose.  DoF just too shallow.

I feel like that one's a gimme (i.e. I expect nearly everyone will say that).

In theory, if you recompose in a robotically planar fashion, i.e. imagine if the camera body during reframing could only move on an imaginary plane parallel and equidistant to your previously set AF focal plane, focus and recompose at f/1.2 would work fine.  But as we are human beings, I'm guessing the angle/tilt/elevation of the lens itself will change during reframing and ruin the focus quite often.

...hence this poll.
 

I'm curious to see how people manage AF vs. composition when a thin DOF is involved:  Is it through careful and deliberate AF use?  Post-shot witchdoctory?  Abandoning the AF altogether?

- A

You seem to be insisting this is something tricky.  I think one reason that full time pros I know don't use the 50mm 1.2 is because its AF is not reliable enough.  But with my 85 1.2, 35 1.4, 50 1.4, and 135 f/2, I'm not having problems with the off-center AF points on my 5DIII or IV.

Have you had poor luck with your fast primes wide-open?  Because, really, it's straightforward.  Unless I've had too much coffee or not enough sleep.

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Re: How do you focus at off-center targets when shooting at f/1.2?
« Reply #6 on: September 22, 2017, 06:41:54 PM »

ahsanford

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Re: How do you focus at off-center targets when shooting at f/1.2?
« Reply #7 on: September 22, 2017, 08:41:25 PM »
Have you had poor luck with your fast primes wide-open?  Because, really, it's straightforward.  Unless I've had too much coffee or not enough sleep.

I've only shot a few, to be fair.  All on my 5D3:

  • 50 f/1.4 generally is okay, but I only really use it f/2 and narrower to due to the 'cloudy'/iffy output I see when I shoot wider than that.

  • 50 f/1.2L has been a nemesis over two rentals (with ample time to AFMA, shoot for a week, etc.), and even stopping down to f/1.8 of f/2 the inconsistency of the AF remains, even with fairly ruthless (handheld) technique.  It wasn't a disaster so much as a constant threat of missing a moment (generally with family, kids, etc.) so I was so leery of an AF whiff I always snapped 2-3 to be safe.

  • Sigma 35 Art was a disaster hit-rate wise for me, but that's well catalogued.

But I've not shot the 135 f/2, either of the 85 primes, etc.   I understand the 135L's AF in particular is money -- true?

- A


CanonFanBoy

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Re: How do you focus at off-center targets when shooting at f/1.2?
« Reply #8 on: September 22, 2017, 10:06:56 PM »
Have you had poor luck with your fast primes wide-open?  Because, really, it's straightforward.  Unless I've had too much coffee or not enough sleep.

I've only shot a few, to be fair.  All on my 5D3:

I understand the 135L's AF in particular is money -- true?

- A

I can't speak as to the 85's, but my copy of the 135L's AF is as near perfect as it gets, I think. It is worth every penny. That I am sure of. I use it on a 5D3.
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Monchomac

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Re: How do you focus at off-center targets when shooting at f/1.2?
« Reply #9 on: September 29, 2017, 04:39:32 AM »
I own both the 50L and the 85L, and use them in a different manner. The 85L allows me to choose any of the focus point reliably, so I choose the focus point according to my intended composition.
The 50L is an entirely different beast! From f1.2 -f2.8, I only use the center point, and I crop if needed.  I only use the other focus points or trust the recompose method if I am using f4 or narrower. Depending on distance as well, (if my subject is 20 feet away or further, I will try to slightly recompose at near wide open apertures.

aceflibble

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Re: How do you focus at off-center targets when shooting at f/1.2?
« Reply #10 on: October 03, 2017, 11:48:42 AM »
With my f/1.2 and f/0.95 lenses and shooting near or at those largest apertures, I most commonly manually focus with whatever the regular viewfinder is for whatever camera it is I'm using. (e.g. optical viewfinder for SLR, rear screen for mirrorless, etc.) I don't use any special screens or zoom modes; I'd love if a split prism was available for more SLRs, but as it is Canon only offers it for the older (pre-X) 1D bodies, and as much as I love those bodies, my back can no longer keep up with carrying several of them around. (And my bank balance was never too happy with them, either.) Plus I'm not a dedicated f/1.2 shooter, so replacing the focusing screen for big aperture manual focus would just screw me over when I then use the f/2.8 and f/4 lenses with AF.

The only f/1.2 or faster lens I trust with AF is the Fuji 56mm f/1.2, which A) actually works more like f/1.8 due to it being a crop system, and B) can't really miss focus because it's a mirrorless system reading directly off the sensor. (And actually I don't even use that anymore 'cause that lens is so boring, but that's another story for another day.)
The Canon 85mm and 50mm 1.2s miss focus too much, in my experience, for me to trust them, especially off-center. It's not like they're even consistent and so can be calibrated; sometimes they back focus, sometimes they front focus, and very often they hunt for ages. (I've had several copies of each, on different bodies, and all do this.)  I've found I'm actually quicker than the AF is, even on 1D bodies.
My f/0.95 lenses and f/1.2 equivalents on medium format don't have AF anyway, so even if the Canon's AF was more reliable, I'd still be mostly manually focusing regardless. (Full disclosure: I learnt photography starting with my father's large format systems when I was about 7. Suffice to say that manual focusing is perhaps a second nature to me in a way that it isn't for many others.)

 
If I were in some form of bizarro-land emergency where I had to use AF with the Canon 1.2s, I'd use the centre point and focus-recompose. The centre is always that bit more accurate, even on bodies where the points are supposed to be equal, and both Canon lenses are curved field so focus-recompose should work reasonably well in all but the most extreme of shifts. With a flat field lens (like the aforementioned Fuji 56mm) you can't focus-recompose, so with that kind of lens I'd risk the outer AF points and just hope for the best. Live view would be tempting but I can't imagine a scenario which was so intense I had to use AF yet is also relaxed enough to use live view. (Again, the exception being mirrorless cameras where that's just how they work anyway.)

 
TL;DR: Manual focus, standard screens. Risk a centre point focus-recompose if absolutely forced to, but generally I find manual focus is both quicker and more accurate anyway, and is the only choice with many extra-fast lenses.

geekpower

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Re: How do you focus at off-center targets when shooting at f/1.2?
« Reply #11 on: October 03, 2017, 04:51:18 PM »
recompose is never going to work, not only because of the narrow dof, but also because of RSAs.

i use the off-center focus points, just remember that if you are using a non-cross type focus point, to try to align it to a high contrast line that is perpendicular to the focus point.

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Re: How do you focus at off-center targets when shooting at f/1.2?
« Reply #11 on: October 03, 2017, 04:51:18 PM »