(This article is a follow-up to one I wrote yesterday about my other camera, the Olympus Pen-F, where I explained how to get precise focus using both auto and manual focusing.)
Auto-focus on modern cameras is great. It is often very precise, and makes it a lot easier to shoot photos quickly. However, it’s not always perfect, especially if you’re trying to focus on something with a lot of different elements that are at slightly different distances. If you’re using a wide aperture, with less depth of field, it’s possible that part of your shot may be out of focus. You may even see this on portraits, where part of a face may be sharp, and other parts soft.
Most good modern cameras also offer a manual focus option. You won’t find this on a point-and-shoot camera, but any camera with interchangeable lenses, and some without, give you the possibility to focus manually. One of my two cameras is the Fujifilm X100F, which offers manual focus, and has some “Focus Assist” features which are really useful.
First, you want to set the camera to use both auto and manual focus. Go to the AF MF Menu and turn AF+MF On. This means that the camera will use auto-focus when you press the shutter halfway. But if you want, you can also use the focus ring on your lens to adjust focus; just start turning it while you’re holding down the shutter. When everything is ready, press the shutter the rest of the way to shoot a picture. (Note that on this camera you also have to set the switch on the left side of the body to S to have it perform single auto-focus.)
What’s really useful with this camera, however, is the fact that you can press the rear dial to zoom in on your subject, making it easier to see if you’re precisely in focus. This looks like a 10x zoom, and, as you’ll see, gives you a very good close-up allowing you to make sure that your subject is sharp.
And if you move the wheel to either side, it switches to what looks like a 5x zoom, which, for some subjects, is a lot more helpful. (I don’t shoot portraits, but I can imagine that zooming to 5x would make it easier to ensure that an entire face is in focus.)
Another option in the MF Assist menu – just below the AF+MF menu – lets you use Standard assistance or Focus Peak Highlight. This second option displays white lines that highlight the areas in focus. You can adjust the color and intensity of these lines in the Focus Peake Highlight sub-menu. In that menu is also a third option, Digital Split Image, which is only available when you’re in full manual mode (the side switch set to M). This recalls old film cameras, where you had a circle in the center of the viewfinder that was darker, and you aligned the two halves of the circle to ensure that your subject was in focus. I used to like those circles, but I find the split image here – which is a pair of rectangles – is hard to use. But you can zoom in the same way as above using the rear dial, so you can get good focus with this tool as well.
So learn how to use these tools to get all your photos in perfect focus.