Friday, July 6, 2012

Manual Focus, Manual Focus Lenses On DSLRs, Exposure And Shutter Speed

A couple nights ago, I was reading up on some photography stuff and wondered how would my Sony a200 and the DT 18-70 fare with all manual controls, if so how would my camera work with a manual focus lenses. So I switched both the lens and camera in manual mode and starting shooting stuff on my computer table (which is a mess) with the kit lens. Surprisingly enough the exposure reading on the LCD was blinking. Some times under exposed and sometimes over. [Generally speaking, in low light conditions (fluorescent light in the room) I have to say DT 18-70 lens will not perform that good in shutter priority but in aperture priority the output is on par and it would work excellently for macro]  

So for people intending to use old manual focus lenses on their DSLRs, you should be aware of the limitations of them. From another perspective they are not really limitations. It’s a perfect opportunity to learn about what shutter speed will work for indoor/outdoor and a variety of other lighting conditions and how you can expose your pictures properly. All this effort, trial and error will only make you a better photographer. If you are a hobby photographer, you can always try this, as you got nothing to lose. 

For a specialist kind of photography like sports, fashion and journalism, this whole idea is invalid as they demand very high precision, on time delivery, you cannot go into a corner and keep fiddling with your settings when your crew and assistants are waiting for you. It just wouldn’t work.  If there is enough time and if the deadlines can be relaxed a bit, manual lenses can do wonders for both your skill as a photographer and also the actual photographic output.

This is just a heads up: You should also be aware of a predicament, which is when you are shooting in manual mode and correcting shutter speed to match the exposure, sometimes the shutter speed will be right at 1/3 or ½ or 0.3” or 0.4” then in that case it is extremely important to keep the camera stable or else you will end up with a blurry shot. Thankfully Sony DSLRs have steady shot in them and they will somehow compensate, but it’s also important to not depend on the camera entirely. You either have a tripod, or put the camera in self timer mode and put on it your bike or car or a boulder or use something like a pen and thread stabilizing system or be absolutely still when taking pictures which is not too difficult. How did you think people took great pictures before the 1950s? Go figure. 

When using old manual focus lenses on DSLRs, the camera has no way of communicating with the lens to know the exposure or aperture. So after focusing, and setting the aperture, you have to lock the exposure on the correct reading and then shoot. If it’s outdoor, the exposure difference between different shots is very less, so you can mostly continue shooting without changing the shutter speed. If its indoor you should probably change it many times as you have additional lights. Don’t worry, with time you will get used to it and it will become second nature. It’s the least you can do for quality and the associated ease from the cost factor. Look at the bright side, with every shot you are becoming a better photographer, judging the exposure, shutter speed and focus distance, isn’t that great?  

Wondering why you should go through all this trouble? Yes I too feel the same sometimes. It is not your mistake. We are living in an age where everything is automatic, easy and fuss free.  We want shortcuts to everything and bypass anything that involves effort, to learn, to work. It is not a good thing. Learning with hard work and on your own strength will definitely make you a better artist. A self acquired wealth of wisdom is unbeatable by any means and I am not talking just about photography. Cheers and good luck. 



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