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Old July 1st, 2006, 03:09 PM   #1
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How I get 'perfect' focus with HDV camcorder

Howdy...

Like many, I was initially stumped with how hard it is to get a perfect focus with many HDV camcorders. I have a Z1, and found that quite often, even with the auto-assist, I would get slightly soft images. This is especially true if you don't have an HD monitor, and are relying on SD or the VF or LCD.

So, I have since developed a technique that's simple, but might help anyone else who has this issue. Since I started using this, my focus has been razor sharp.

Basically, my new rule is: Don't focus on people. People are soft. They have soft edges. Clothes are soft.

Here's what I do: I have printed a white sheet of paper with some text on it, in point sizes ranging from 9 point to around 30 point. Any font will do, and it's just black on white from a crisp laser printer.

Once my subject is set, I get him/her to hold the paper at eye level, essentially covering their face. I then zoom in all the way, hit the focus assist button (which doubles the image size on my Z1), and then use my eyeballs and peaking to get the text razor sharp in the VF. Once the text is sharp, the subject ditches the paper, and we shoot...

I've used this quite often recently, and found it to be the best, cheapest, easiest way to get a great focus everytime..

Hope that helps you.

Best,

Benjamin


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Old July 1st, 2006, 05:04 PM   #2
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That's a good trick for a situation where you can setup each shot individually. But if you're shooting a live event then focus can be a real challenge. It's also a shame that the focus assist on the Z1 doesn't work while you're recording.

I know everyone is always striving for shallow depth of field, but when you're shooting an event it can also help to use the smallest aperture possible since focus becomes less critical when you have more depth of field.
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Old July 1st, 2006, 07:04 PM   #3
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That is an excellent idea. Thanks. :-)
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Old July 5th, 2006, 02:06 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boyd Ostroff
it can also help to use the smallest aperture possible since focus becomes less critical when you have more depth of field.
Just wanted to point out the dangers of iris settings of greater than f8 - the softness of the image due to diffraction. I've set my Z1 to complain at f6.8.

For sharp images on a run & gun situation, don't forget the Hyperfocal distance trick: set manual focus to 1.5 meters, zoom out to maximum wide angle. Everything from 75cm to infinity is in focus.

Some folks push the hyperfocal distance to 1 meter, so everything from 50cm to infinity is sharp, but I think that was for the PD150.
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