Which Brand Lens is Best for Manual Focus?

basil_chiu

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Ladies and Gentlemen,

I'm wondering which brand of lens is best suited for manual focusing.

I NEED a focus-assist gadget found in the middle of the viewfinder of older lenses. (E.g.: two halves that match when the image is focused). The lenses coming with newer dSLRs don't have these.

1) What lenses still have these "focus-helpers"? 2) What dSLR uses such lenses?

I am switching to dSLR, BUT I like manual focus because a) I'm a dinosaur, b) it forces me to think about selective focus and depth of field and c) it makes me think about composition.

I currently use Canon FD lenses (on a Canon FTb body).


Baz
 

TBaraki

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Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the split circle focus is part of the body not the lens.

I'm confident they can be bought and swapped into most bodies.
 
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basil_chiu

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Hmmm...OK, in that case: what dSLR uses a split-circle (or similar) manual focusing system?
 

Big Mike

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That's correct, the focusing screen is in the body, not the lens.

I don't think that any DSLR actually come with the split circle focus screen, but you can buy them and put them in, or have them put in. I'm not sure which models allow this.

Here is a site that makes the screens and has a list of supported camera models. http://www.katzeyeoptics.com/
 

Digital Matt

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As far as manual focus lenses, if you like Canon and stick with it, buy lenses that have ring USM motor. They are autofocus lenses that let you manually focus at anytime, without flipping the switch to manual focus.
 

Tiberius

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And if you for some reason feel like switching to Nikon, be sure to get their AF-S lenses which have the same instant MF-override feature.


As other have said, no DSLR bodies come stock with such focusing screens, so your best bet is to get a body that KatzEye makes a screen for and install a KE screen.
 

Sw1tchFX

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I currently use Canon FD lenses (on a Canon FTb body).
If i'm right, FD lenses won't work on any Canon AF digital body.
 

Tiberius

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If i'm right, FD lenses won't work on any Canon AF digital body.
Correct, but he might want to stick with Canon for either brand loyalty or the fact that Nikon and Canon traditionally alternate direction of turning on either Zoom or Focus (I forget which since I've never used a Canon other than brief demos in stores).
 

Jeremy Z

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Boy basil, I like manual focusing too, but focusing manually on a DSLR is a pain.

First, you'd need to get a DSLR that has an interchangeable focusing screen. This is only the super-expensive ones. Then, you'd need to buy the screen and install it. Only then would you consider the lenses. For manual focus on autofocus camera bodies, I like Tokina the best. But they don't make as big of a range as Sigma or Canon.

My advice: Keep your FTb and the optics that go with it and get your manual focusing thrills with it. Have the negatives scanned when you submit the film for processing.

Get a DSLR, and forget about manual focusing until you find that you actually need it. I think you'll find that they focus quite well 90% of the time without your help, hehehe.
 

Digital Matt

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First, you'd need to get a DSLR that has an interchangeable focusing screen. This is only the super-expensive ones.

The company that Big Mike linked to makes focusing screens for most cameras, including the consumer models, and instructions on how to change them.
 
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basil_chiu

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Wow! That's a big help, guys! Thanks!

I was intrigued by the Katz Eye system. In my financial situation, it'll hafta wait. That's money I could spend on a lens.

I'll keep that instant-MF-override feature in mind when selecting lenses and bodies. I'd never heard of it, so thanks!

You're right about FD lenses, Sw1tchFX. They're incredible quality, but haven't fit any cameras in, oh, 30 years.

I'm partial to Canon, Tiberius, but I'm not loyal to them. My search seems to be a Canon-Nikon race so far.

And JeremyZ--I think you know where I'm coming from. I think you're alluding to the notion (and you're probably right) it's cheaper for me to adapt to the technology, rather than the other way around. (That's what a buddy told me).

Maybe what I'm looking for is a dSLR body that can focus on various zones.
 

Don Simon

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Pentax's current range of DA lenses also let you manually focus at any time. I think the newer Tokina zooms have a similar system, not sure about Tamron or Sigma, but this is an extremely useful feature if you alternate between AF and MF and don't want to keep flicking a switch.

IMO one of the most important things to consider is the viewfinder size, brightness and eye relief. Some dSLRs have tiny, dark viewfinders which make accurate manual focus very difficult; a split-circle screen would definitely help but it's best to start with a decent viewfinder, so take a look around.
 
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basil_chiu

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Your advice is very helpful. It seems my next step is to find a body that accepts lenses allowing for on-demand autofocus (without flipping a switch).

My next question is:

Are there any dSLR bodies that allow users to select which viewfinder zone to focus on? I.e.: are there any dSLRs that will focus off-centre, if I choose?

I humbly await your responses, oh masters...
 

Big Mike

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Are there any dSLR bodies that allow users to select which viewfinder zone to focus on? I.e.: are there any dSLRs that will focus off-centre, if I choose?
Absolutely. I'd guess that most of them do. My 20D has 9 different points.
You can check the specs. of any digital camera HERE
 

Tiberius

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Your advice is very helpful. It seems my next step is to find a body that accepts lenses allowing for on-demand autofocus (without flipping a switch).

My next question is:

Are there any dSLR bodies that allow users to select which viewfinder zone to focus on? I.e.: are there any dSLRs that will focus off-centre, if I choose?

I humbly await your responses, oh masters...
I think all of them have that functionality. I know the entire Nikon Line (D40/D50/D70/D80/D200/etc.) have this functionality, as do all the Canons I'm aware of (XT/XTi/20D/30D/etc.)
 

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