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Using manual focus

From: Shooting with the Canon 5D Mark III

Video: Using manual focus

While I rely heavily on Auto focus most of the time, there are still occasions when I switch my camera over to Manual focus. For moving situations, Manual focus is sometimes faster than Auto focus for the simple reason that, as good as your Auto focus system is, you're still smarter than it is. If you're in a situation where a moving object is traveling in a very predictable way, then you might be able track focus manually very smoothly as you wait for the precise moment that you want to shoot. Your Auto focus system may rack in and out of focus as it looks for the point.

Using manual focus

While I rely heavily on Auto focus most of the time, there are still occasions when I switch my camera over to Manual focus. For moving situations, Manual focus is sometimes faster than Auto focus for the simple reason that, as good as your Auto focus system is, you're still smarter than it is. If you're in a situation where a moving object is traveling in a very predictable way, then you might be able track focus manually very smoothly as you wait for the precise moment that you want to shoot. Your Auto focus system may rack in and out of focus as it looks for the point.

Manual focus is also useful for times when Auto focus doesn't lock, either because your subject lacks contrast, or because there's not enough light in the scene to focus. Of course, if there is not enough light for your camera to focus, then there may not be enough for you to see either, but that's still worth a try. Finally, I sometimes use Auto focus and Manual focus in combination. If I'm shooting the same subject over and over, for example, if I am shooting a landscape in rapidly changing light, I'll frame my shot in Auto focus, or using Auto focus, then switch the camera to Manual focus.

As long as I don't bump the lens, my Auto focus choice will now be locked in. Now I can just keep shooting without having to wait for Auto focus. This can also be handy for a portrait shoot, where your camera to subject distance never changes, and you want to be able to shoot without waiting for focus. To switch to Manual focus, you need to look on your lens, and find an Auto focus/Manual focus switch; there should be one somewhere. So I'm currently set on AF, Auto focus. I am just going to move that over to the MF, Manual Focus. And now when I half-press the shutter button, I don't get a beep, because the camera is not engaged in any focusing.

Instead, to focus I need to turn the focus ring on my lens. And as I turn it, the distance gauge turns also. This is showing me at what point I'm focused on, and it's measuring both in feet and meters. It's not a real granular gauge, so if you're thinking that you would measure focus to your subject, and dial in a very precise measurement here, you are not going to really have an easy time doing that. Manual focus is difficult to do in low light, because of course, you are just looking through the optical viewfinder, and if it's real dark in there, it can be hard to see if something is in focus.

I will very often use Manual focus in conjunction with Auto focus. For example, let's say I am shooting a portrait, and the distance between my camera and my subject is not going to change. So I want to be able work quickly, I don't want to have to refocus all the time, but I want to be shooting a lot, because their expression is going to be changing. And maybe I've got enough depth of field that I know that after I've manually focused, I don't have to worry too much about things going out of focus. So what I would do in that instance is actually put the camera on Auto focus, half-press to let the camera choose focus, and then switch my lens over to Manual focus. Now focus is locked in.

Now I can just shoot, and shoot, and shoot, and not have to worry about it hunting for focus. Notice, it's beeping right now. That's because, when you're in Manual focus mode, if the camera thinks that the focus you've dialed is correct, it will beep at you. So I am going to throw that off a little bit, and I get no beep. If I turn it back just a little bit -- and now I am going to have to find it, which could be tricky. But when I get in there, and actually get the focus set to what the camera thinks is correct, it will beep at me; there it is. So that's a little kind of automatic verification you get, even when you're shooting in Manual focus mode.

So don't entirely write off Manual focus as something that's left over from the old days, it actually can be useful in a lot of situations, particularly when you combine it with the Auto focus capabilities of your camera.

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This video is part of

Image for Shooting with the Canon 5D Mark III
Shooting with the Canon 5D Mark III

108 video lessons · 21051 viewers

Ben Long
Author

 
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  1. 10m 29s
    1. Welcome
      2m 16s
    2. What is an SLR?
      5m 28s
    3. A note for 5D Mark II users
      50s
    4. Using this course
      1m 55s
  2. 35m 44s
    1. Exploring basic camera anatomy
      5m 28s
    2. Attaching a lens to your camera
      4m 3s
    3. Examining batteries and media cards
      8m 35s
    4. Powering up
      1m 49s
    5. Exploring the menu system
      2m 53s
    6. Clearing all settings
      2m 5s
    7. Setting the date and time
      1m 55s
    8. Setting the language
      1m 42s
    9. Formatting the media card
      3m 4s
    10. Holding the camera
      4m 10s
  3. 25m 6s
    1. Setting Scene Intelligent Auto mode
      1m 28s
    2. Exploring the viewfinder display
      5m 51s
    3. Touring the LCD screen and the status display
      2m 22s
    4. Exploring the top-mounted control buttons
      1m 42s
    5. Autofocus basics
      5m 7s
    6. Metering basics
      1m 42s
    7. Reviewing images
      2m 59s
    8. Working with image playback
      3m 55s
  4. 39m 32s
    1. Exploring Program mode
      41s
    2. Working with exposure compensation
      5m 2s
    3. Using the lock switch
      1m 21s
    4. Revisiting metering
      1m 43s
    5. Changing the ISO
      2m 14s
    6. Looking at ISO speed settings
      4m 36s
    7. Exploring long exposure noise reduction
      2m 53s
    8. Exploring high ISO noise reduction
      1m 40s
    9. Using program shift
      2m 11s
    10. Exploring image format and size
      3m 59s
    11. Using the Info button
      2m 4s
    12. Examining level and grid display
      3m 45s
    13. Using the Quick Control screen
      1m 35s
    14. Setting the color space
      1m 25s
    15. Configuring multiple media cards
      3m 24s
    16. Using the feature guide
      59s
  5. 23m 15s
    1. Exploring focus modes
      2m 25s
    2. Selecting autofocus areas
      3m 54s
    3. Exploring other autofocus options
      3m 44s
    4. Customizing servo auto focus
      4m 49s
    5. Exploring autofocus custom functions
      4m 50s
    6. Using manual focus
      3m 33s
  6. 10m 31s
    1. Using auto white balance
      1m 48s
    2. Exploring white balance presets
      3m 7s
    3. Using manual white balance
      5m 36s
  7. 10m 47s
    1. Exploring Drive mode
      4m 52s
    2. Using the self-timer
      3m 38s
    3. Using remote controls
      2m 17s
  8. 52m 26s
    1. Exploring metering modes
      3m 26s
    2. Using exposure lock
      1m 22s
    3. Working with focus points and metering
      3m 47s
    4. Exploring Aperture Priority mode
      3m 0s
    5. Using the depth of field preview button
      2m 40s
    6. Using Shutter Priority mode
      3m 26s
    7. Using Manual mode
      3m 27s
    8. Using auto exposure bracketing
      6m 3s
    9. Exploring Bulb mode
      2m 34s
    10. Working with the Auto Lighting Optimizer
      1m 40s
    11. Correcting lens aberration
      2m 46s
    12. Exploring Highlight Tone Priority
      2m 25s
    13. Understanding high-dynamic range (HDR)
      7m 5s
    14. Creating multiple exposures
      6m 25s
    15. Using the mirror lockup feature
      2m 20s
  9. 27m 38s
    1. Modifying LCD brightness
      3m 27s
    2. Rotating images
      2m 36s
    3. Using the playback grid
      42s
    4. Enabling AF point display
      1m 18s
    5. Rating images
      3m 4s
    6. Protecting and deleting images
      4m 40s
    7. Using Quick Control during playback
      1m 17s
    8. Exploring file numbering options
      2m 43s
    9. Creating folders
      1m 10s
    10. Changing file names
      3m 12s
    11. Adding copyright information
      3m 29s
  10. 7m 57s
    1. Defining picture styles
      2m 0s
    2. Exploring predefined picture styles
      2m 1s
    3. Adjusting predefined picture styles
      1m 56s
    4. Working with the monochromatic picture style
      2m 0s
  11. 22m 28s
    1. Activating Live View
      7m 16s
    2. Focusing in Live View
      5m 32s
    3. Focus manually in Live View
      1m 25s
    4. Working with aspect ratio
      2m 33s
    5. Exploring other Live View options
      3m 36s
    6. Reviewing the drawbacks to using Live View
      2m 6s
  12. 12m 16s
    1. Shooting video in Auto and Program modes
      6m 39s
    2. Shooting video in Priority or Manual modes
      3m 35s
    3. Exploring movie playback
      2m 2s
  13. 13m 0s
    1. Exploring custom modes
      5m 38s
    2. Using the custom menu
      2m 56s
    3. Exploring custom controls
      4m 26s
  14. 8m 57s
    1. What are custom functions?
      35s
    2. Working with exposure level increments
      1m 34s
    3. Bracketing auto cancel
      53s
    4. Changing the number of bracketed shots
      1m 5s
    5. Changing ISO speed setting increments
      1m 34s
    6. Exploring the Live View shooting area display
      40s
    7. Enabling safety shift
      2m 6s
    8. Clearing all custom functions
      30s
  15. 8m 16s
    1. Camera and sensor cleaning
      3m 12s
    2. Using the Battery Info command
      1m 45s
    3. Looking at operating conditions and temperatures
      2m 3s
    4. Getting firmware updates
      1m 16s
  16. 15m 10s
    1. Exploring focus and composition
      5m 31s
    2. Using an exposure strategy
      5m 11s
    3. Controlling exposure through Program mode
      4m 28s
  17. 23s
    1. Goodbye
      23s

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