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Sony NEX-EA50 (all variants)
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Old August 12th, 2014, 08:35 PM   #1
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Soft Focus in Manual Using Peaking

Hi Guys

I'm mainly using full manual lenses now and I did a little promo shoot last night using a 17-50 zoom on a lady and I was about 10' away from her but had the zoom almost up to 50mm so it was a very tight shot and despite the cam showing her blouse all sparkling in yellow focus peaking I found her face a tiny bit soft whilst the stuff in the background was super sharp indicating that focus wasn't as sharp as it should be. It was fairly low light so the lens was at F2.8 (full open) so the DOF in total was quite small at 1.29' but if the peaking showed her blouse in focus I figured her face would be as sharp as a tack too.

At home I simulated the same situation substituting a dishwasher bottle on the kitchen counter (it had writing on it so that was a good focus test) Again the writing on the bottle was not as sharp as it could have been although it was highlighted in yellow. I then expanded focus and sure enough I found that I could indeed readjust focus just a fraction and in expanded mode the letters on the bottle highlighted a lot more on adjustment and of course, the resulting image was as sharp as a tack.

If you are doing interview style shots where the shot is quite tight what sure method do you use to make sure that the persons face is perfectly in focus? Would a higher peaking level be more accurate or is using expand focus the only way to go?

Chris
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Old August 12th, 2014, 08:49 PM   #2
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Re: Soft Focus in Manual Using Peaking

Hey Chris,

When shooting at a shallow DOF, I find peaking is only totally accurate once you use the expand focus button to zoom in and check. I have had a few instances of soft focus when using peaking where I haven't used expand focus to double-check.

I've also noticed that if you're using very high gain and have noticeable noise in the image, it can mess with the accuracy of the peaking.

When I'm shooting interviews, I focus on the eyes. That method hasn't let me down yet.

I hesitate to share this... but.. it was after a 13-14 hour shoot with 10 other interviews beforehand. I was extremely tired, it was raining, and I messed it up pretty badly because I didn't realise my ND filter was still attached and couldn't work out why I was having to bump the gain up so high. The peaking was showing perfect focus so I just went with it.. and this was the result. Very soft focus, a lot of noise.
http://postimg.org/image/hedml412r/
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Old August 12th, 2014, 09:43 PM   #3
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Re: Soft Focus in Manual Using Peaking

Thanks Jody

That confirms what I was thinking! I probably could have easily cranked up the gain by stopping down a bit and that would have made the DOF much bigger. It's really only critical at big zooms of course ..if I had moved closer and gone to 17mm I would have been in focus pretty much everywhere.

Yeah, I really mustn't be so lazy and double check my peaking with expanded focus too. By going expanded I found that although the peaking was present I still could tweak the focus ring and the peaking intensity increased quite a lot so although in normal mode despite the peaking showing focus, it actually wasn't exact.

Have you found that it helps to put the peaking level up to "high" or is that an overkill?

Chris
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Old August 12th, 2014, 10:09 PM   #4
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Re: Soft Focus in Manual Using Peaking

I use white peaking set to medium. I haven't tried "high", but I'm happy with medium so I probably won't change it.
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Old August 13th, 2014, 12:28 AM   #5
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Re: Soft Focus in Manual Using Peaking

Thanks Jody

I guess I need to just be extra careful when doing full open shots that have a tight zoom and make sure that I use expanded focus...it was just one 15 second clip where you can see the background rather has the focus than the subject. I probably did a manual zoom in and saw the peaking remain the same so assumed the shot was perfectly focussed.

Thanks for the info.

Chris
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Old August 13th, 2014, 01:23 AM   #6
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Re: Soft Focus in Manual Using Peaking

Hi Chris,

Well, I always thought that a bit of soft focus on a lady's face was the way to go, unless she had just had a face lift she wanted to show off!

Dave
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Old August 13th, 2014, 03:16 AM   #7
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Re: Soft Focus in Manual Using Peaking

Maybe smoothing Dave but not soft focus!! I think I did a small manual zoom on one clip and because the focus peaking hadn't changed I simply figured it was spot one but in fact what it had done was move the focus point from her face to the shelf behind her and with little more than 12" of DOF to play with it was enough to just soften her face and sharpen the background, the complete opposite of what it should have been as in all the other clips

Next time I will use expanded focus when in low light and in a tight zoom! Sheesh sometimes I miss the autofocus of the stock lens but that also has given me a few issues now and again!!

Chris
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Old August 13th, 2014, 06:09 AM   #8
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Re: Soft Focus in Manual Using Peaking

Hi Chris,

I find peaking can be a bit finicky in tight situations like that too! Even with all the settings available in Magic Lantern it (I?) got it wrong sometimes. I have spent several hours indoors at different times testing Method v Colour v Threshold, including set to grey scale only, trying to determine the best standard setting for me, but always soon found a situation where it wasn't good enough.

The HF G30 only has a choice of three colours with or without grey, so I tend to change peaking colour to suit different subjects, however since it only takes a button press to switch from AF to MF, I tend to use AF to focus on the important subject, then lock it and reframe if necessary. I always try to focus zoomed fully in as well.

ML has an optional split image rangefinder as part of the magic zoom, which I prefer to peaking. If ML can do it, why can't we have an electronic equivalent to the old microdiaprism or split image on all cameras I wonder?

Dave
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Old August 13th, 2014, 09:09 AM   #9
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Re: Soft Focus in Manual Using Peaking

Hey Dave

Yeah those were good on the rangefinder cameras ..just line up the two halves and you are in perfect focus. Peaking gets a bit inaccurate when zoomed in tight especially when the DOF is tiny so you only have inches to play with!

Chris
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Old August 14th, 2014, 09:54 AM   #10
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Re: Soft Focus in Manual Using Peaking

Expanded focus all the time for me Chris but for anything non-wedding, and where there is time I would hook up my smallHD HDMI monitor - I can check peaking on that as well, it's easier to see than the EA50 VF

Pete
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Old August 14th, 2014, 07:58 PM   #11
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Re: Soft Focus in Manual Using Peaking

Thanks Pete

At weddings apart from ceremony and speeches I'm shooting stuff on the B-Cam all at 18mm so I have a decent DOF to play with so focus is sharp regardless. I just need to be careful when getting tight shots during the ceremony and speeches where the lens is wide open. Yeah I did a test in low light at home and found that the focus setting just using peaking on zoomed shots is quite different once you switch in the expanded focus! I must simply get into the habit of using it now when the camera is on the tripod.

Chris
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Old August 15th, 2014, 03:13 AM   #12
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Re: Soft Focus in Manual Using Peaking

Chris for ceremony and speeches using my Canon glass I find myself almost always shooting a f2.8 or f1.8 in order to keep the gain down so DOF is a real issue, especially if I'm so far back that I'm using my 70-200!

After a year of reframing in order to check my focus using the zoom assist I realized you could move the zoom area using the circular arrow controls on the top of the camera doh!!
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Old August 15th, 2014, 06:43 AM   #13
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Re: Soft Focus in Manual Using Peaking

Thanks Pete

Yeah I figured that one out too a bit later when all you get is the guys belly button area and you want to make sure that their face is sharp then the little arrows do help somewhat. I have never checked but as long as the camera is still running does the expanded square reset itself to the centre once you turn off expanded focus ..I must check that!! At 100mm locked onto someone doing a speech you have almost no room at F1.8 for adjustment ... I cheat a bit and still use my 4 x CFL lighting rig so I can close the iris just a fraction to give me a tiny bit more DOF ... I have an idea that's why Sony also limited the 18-200 lens to F3,5 ...at a wider aperture I doubt whether the autofocus would be accurate enough to keep the image sharp!!

Chris
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