Sunday, August 11, 2013

POV: Addicted To Auto-Focus

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy- All Rights Reserved (Leica M9/Elmarit 28mm. f2.8 1/750)

I'm not sure how other photographers and photojournalists feel, but I've become addicted to auto-focus, and it's an addiction I find extremely difficult to shake off.

When I'm in the mood, I roam the streets of New York City and try to capture something of its essence. When I do this I generally shoot from the hip to catch the candid moment, the posture, the fleeting expression...sometimes I'm successful, and many times I'm not; but that's what candid street photography is all about. The probability of catching these candid moments is quite low.

It's for that reason that I favor the Fuji X Pro-1. There's a lot to favor in the X Pro-1, but its (relatively) good auto-focus is one of its advantages. Yes, it goes to "sleep" once in a while and makes me miss the shot...and yes, its AF is not as quick as a DSLR, but it performs as well as I expected it to.

My other street camera is the Leica M9 that has no auto focus, and I struggle to choose it over the Fuji X Pro-1 when I'm off to the streets. Don't get me wrong. Its image quality is fantastic, and although I'm not exactly a Leica fan-boy, I still think it's a phenomenal camera with phenomenal lenses...and is perfect for candid street photography (among other uses, of course).

But I hesitate when I reach for it.

Yes, I know all about zone focusing, and I practice it whenever I can. But it frequently lets me down, partly because of my addiction to auto-focus (ie using my X Pro-1) and partly because the nature of the type of shooting from the hip photography is a hit and miss process.

I've thought of an analogy to this addiction..and it's like learning to drive with a stick-shift car versus an automatic. It's been said that the former makes you a better driver, so when I reach for the Leica, I comfort myself by thinking that shooting without the auto-focus has its merits sometimes, despite rueing that decision when I see the eventual results.

Now, where's my iPhone? :)

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