Am I the only EX1 user to have trouble focussing? at DVinfo.net

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Old September 9th, 2008, 07:36 AM   #1
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Am I the only EX1 user to have trouble focussing?

It seems the "norm" here is to be a gun cameraman producing great shots with the EX1 .... BUT ... rather than a cameraman who edits, I am an editor who shoots, and since having this wonderful camera I have made lots of mistakes!! If I were to be honest, I get better quality with my Z1 than my EX1, but that doesn't seem right.

I have still got some great shots with the EX1, but one area in which I have found the EX1 to be unforgiving is focus.

Everyone raves about having narrow depth of field, but it is a two edged sword. If you get it wrong - it shows!

Here in Perth, Western Australia we have extremely bright light generally, and even with a hood over my LCD it is bloody hard to see it clearly, especially with run'gun shoots, which I do a lot of - following people 'live" rather than set-up shots. The viewfinder is better sometimes, but not practical always ...

So, I have leant towards using either auto-focus or assisted Manual Focus, and have generally got better results this way .... but I would love to hear any tips on how to use manual focus in a mobile situation.

How do you approach the simple act of keeping a moving subject in sharp focus?

Peaking works ok on things like door frames, but doesn't show up so well with faces ....

Please discuss, and add your experiences,

Cheers

Peter
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Old September 9th, 2008, 01:31 PM   #2
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Peter...

All my work is run-and-gun. Presbyopia has fixed my eyeballs at a bit past infinity and reading glasses are too cumbersome.

I do all my focusing with the eyepiece and never used the LCD except to see the menu items while setting up the camera. The only other time I might use the LCD is in a studio where I'm shooting greenscreen, have the camera elevated, and can't see into the eyepiece.

The expanded focus button is also heavily relied upon.

I also use the eyepiece to judge exposure, relying upon the zebras set at 80 and 100, and also employing the histogram to give me a sense of dynamic range at a glance.

Here's a sample: http://hawaiigoesfishing.com/videos/mw_lures_2.mov
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Old September 9th, 2008, 02:59 PM   #3
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The depth of field is a little more shallow than most DV/HDV cameras but it's got a lot of tools to help you like expanded view, manual focus assist and peaking. I think those alone make it one of the most user friendly cameras to focus. But if that's not doing the job try a 7" HD monitor mounted on top of the camera. Lot more resolution than the EVF or the side monitor of the camera and much easier to see when you are in focus or missing it.

I wouldn't be surprised if someday we have lenses that get absolutely everything in focus and we play with depth of field effects in post. That would be fun!

-Noah
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Old September 9th, 2008, 03:14 PM   #4
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I am still learning my EX1 and haven't had much time to spend with it other than shooting my boys, but I've got quite a few hours in doing just that. I'm new to videography, from still photography, and I find focusing a much bigger challenge, especially with my EX1. I also have a little Sony HC9, and I very rarely have any focusing issues with it, everything stays sharp in autofocus, but that has very little DOF so it's understandable.

I can focus fine enough with my EX1 using shallow DOF, but as soon something moves further or closer, or I move further or closer, I have a tough time staying on the subject. That's obviously not an EX1 issue, but a moving subject issue. I'm still trying to figure out how you people keep a subject sharp as the distance changes. The auto focus hunts way too much to rely on it to keep up with something, at least in my experience. I will say this... at least in my opinion it is much more difficult to come away with a sweet video than it is to come away with sweet photographs. I've gained a whole new level of respect for you video pros who make it look easy.
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Old September 9th, 2008, 03:23 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Noah Kadner View Post
I wouldn't be surprised if someday we have lenses that get absolutely everything in focus and we play with depth of field effects in post. That would be fun!
Adobe is already working on it.
Adobe shows off 3D camera tech | Underexposed - CNET News
Adobe Magic Lens • VideoSift: Online Video *Quality Control

google: adobe magic lens
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Old September 9th, 2008, 07:10 PM   #6
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Hi Peter,

As a run 'n gun event shooter I must admit the Ex 1 was a big jump up from Z1 and fraught with problems!

The auto focus just doesn't work as quickly and hunts in low light, but after doing over 50 weddings plus other jobs this year with it I just love the output when I get it right.

I just find having heavy peaking on and using the histogram for exposure are the two biggest aids for successful run and gun. (Must admit I haven't hardly used the focus assist - not enough time on the job).

I use the viewfinder most of the time as all my weddings (in the church) are done on a monopod, so the extra anchor point helps, and with heaving peaking in the viewfinder most of the time I am looking at crap in the viewfinder, but when I get home, as long as I got the exposure and focus right, the results still blow me away, let alone my clients.

Hope this helps, Cheers Vaughan
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Old September 9th, 2008, 07:43 PM   #7
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I'D agree peeking is your best focus friend. So is zooming all the way in, and 2X zoom button - take focus manually and zoom out. I have my peeking set to RED too. Also, check to see if you back focus is on - search back focus - as mine like many early users discovered was way off... YOu will notice this if you zoom in focus and zoom out - it should be in focus, if not - your back focus is off. I had my camera serviced by Sony and they fixed it along with a few upgrades.
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Old September 10th, 2008, 12:50 AM   #8
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Thanks for the responses guys, and I loved the fishing clip, Dean - very nicely shot and put together.

Keep the ideas coming - can't get enough of other people's experience!

Regarding the use of the histogram - I'm somewhat histo-illiterate, so how do you approach using this?

Peter
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Old September 10th, 2008, 01:54 AM   #9
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Peter,

Histogram....left = black levels.....right = whites.

Just go outside and watch whites crush, and go inside and open iris to watch the levels rise from black. You'll get the idea quick enough, so you can start quickly noticing if whites are too bright or picture is too dim.
This is a very quick way to get very reasonable iris settings, as depending on your PP settings, you can quickly notice when things are not within the range they should be.(ie. whites clipping). As long as there is space on either side of the histogram, your levels will be pretty good and it will give you a quick reference.

I started using the histogram from this forum when some videographers that came from still photos were already using the technology, and now I'm used to it, it does help a lot, as you can see your levels in an instant, and a quick tweak of the iris can make sure you're not crushing whites or blacks!

As I said previously, I use heavy red peaking for my run and gun, so with peaking on and referencing the histogram all the time, what I see on the day looks like crap, but virtually guarantees I'll get a good picture into the computer.

Cheers Vaughan
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Old September 10th, 2008, 01:55 AM   #10
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The histogram has a button assigned on the side of the camera to turn it on and off.

It displays the statistics of tonal distribution in your image. For example, if you see a spike at the left side with a very small amount of "mountain range" in the rest of the histogram, you have a dark image. Most of the data is in the lower portion of the tonal scale resulting in the spike on the left side.

A high-key image would create the opposite: a spike at the right side of the histogram. If it's an evenly distributed "mountain range" then you have a wide variety of tones in a well-lit scene.

If you "center" the "mountain range" in the histogram you're most likely going to be able to capture all the tones in the scene, from highlights to shadows. The "likely" part is that the histogram might not accurately represent what's happening in each channel of the image.

Let's say you're shooting a stage scene with red lights. Your histogram in the camera might be showing a spike to the left. Mostly dark. But if you look at the same image and look at the histogram for the red channel, that spike will be positioned much further to the right.

Anyway, the zebras plus the histogram, and watching for burnouts in the skin tones can help ensure good exposures. Of course that comes in addition to making sure everything is in focus, the composition is interesting and the camera is actually recording.
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Old September 10th, 2008, 02:04 AM   #11
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The histogram display is small so I treat it as a quick check. If envelope against the RH edge then something will be over exposed -- need to keep inside that edge. When under exposed the histogram will be peaking somewhat to the centre or further left. So a quick look tells you whether your exposure is not far out.
Then you have the brightness measurement and the two zebras plus, I suppose, how the image looks in the LCD (or EVF). I think the last is deceptive.

I have peaking set to yellow, to which the eye is quite sensitive.
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Old September 10th, 2008, 06:21 PM   #12
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I don't have any problems with focusing. I zoom in all the way, hit the 2x button, focus, and then zoom out. Cumbersome and takes time, but it works. Peaking also helps quite a bit, but nothing like zooming in.
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Old September 10th, 2008, 07:51 PM   #13
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Thanks Gabriel - yes, I'm up with the principles of focus, it's the practice of following a moving subject and keeping 'em sharp!

I do a lot of educational video involving children, which means I am often hand-holding the camera at waist level using the top handle. In this position it's often not practical to use the viewfinder, and in bright sunlight the flip out screen can be hard to see clearly.

Peaking is a big help, but as I said, it works better on sharp lines than faces.
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Old September 10th, 2008, 09:39 PM   #14
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Peter,

It has been mentioned several times in threads here that the EX 1 auto focus seems to be improved with the new firmware 1.11 that is out now.

I have sent one of my ex's back to Sydney for the upgrade and several fixes, so it will be interesting to try it out on it's return.

(supposed to take two weeks, and then we'll be in Qld for the school holidays so I won't be able to report on it for a while!!)

Vaughan
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Old September 10th, 2008, 10:01 PM   #15
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Thanks Vaughan - I'll be very interested to hear how this goes. One thing - the fact that the auto focus is slow to "update" can be seen as a good thing - momentary objects coming between camera and subject don't change the focus. It'd be nice to be able to choose between fast and slow reaction ....

I bought my EX1 from Sydney, but I'm in Perth - will cost a few hundred to send back including insurance, so I'm tempted to try doing the upgrade myself. I've downloaded the 1.10 and 1.11 firmware but haven't been game to do it .... yet.
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