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A challenge to focus under low-to-no light conditions....any solutions?

Discussion in 'Sony Alpha E-Mount Cameras' started by WNG, Apr 10, 2015.

  1. WNG

    WNG TalkEmount All-Pro

    Aug 12, 2014
    Arrid Zone-A, USA
    Will
    I guess I'm venting with this thread after disappointing results from my native lenses on my a6000.
    I was in Yosemite, and along the Pacific Coast last week. Endured the brisk cold night to take some long exposures in near dark with only the Moon as light source.

    The conditions don't allow the AF to lock onto anything with the Sony and Sigma lenses I was using.
    The EVF and monitor are useless.
    DMF/MF mode provided the slidebar to manually set to Infinity.

    Days later, I review the shots at home to discover nearly all of them aren't sharp. Focus had missed the infinity mark. I elected to shoot with the modern native lenses for their sharpness and for the hope of more keepers. Manual-focus lenses wouldn't have been any easier here.
    But now I see the limitation of these 'electronic' manual focus lenses.

    If I had only prepared before hand with my manual-focus lenses with taped marks for Infinity on them....maybe I wouldn't have lost so many shots. Painful to have lost the Yosemite photos!
    ATM, I can't think of another way around this 'shots in the dark' situation.

    How do you folks get around this under similar conditions with your mirrorless rigs?
     
  2. AlwaysOnAuto

    AlwaysOnAuto TalkEmount Top Veteran

    717
    Feb 17, 2015
    I feel your pain Will.
    I usually just take my MF lens and go to infinity, take a shot, back it off a tad bit, take another shot and then hope for the best.
     
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  3. chrid

    chrid Super Noob

    807
    May 5, 2014
    australia
    Chris
    If you have the moon above you (or even bright stars) maybe you could have used that to focus on, if all you wanted was infinity.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  4. Kirkp

    Kirkp TalkEmount Regular

    151
    Nov 2, 2014
    I guess another approach would be to stop down so focus isn't so critical. Of course that requires a very steady tripod.
     
  5. davect01

    davect01 Super Moderator

    Aug 20, 2011
    Fountain Hills, AZ
    Dave
    A trick I have used in MF is to pop the flash and focus. Then close the flash and shoot.
     
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    • Informative Informative x 1
  6. jai

    jai TalkEmount Top Veteran

    589
    Feb 4, 2013
    When on a tripod, long exposure, proper manual focus lenses come into their own. The only thing to watch out for is flaring, which will probably be worse on things light street lights
     
  7. izTheViz

    izTheViz TalkEmount Top Veteran

    537
    May 10, 2013
    Paris
    Yannis Marigo
    This is what I love my MF lenses. Just turn the ring to infinity and that's it. No issue with focusing and almost no risk to get non sharp photos. Same goes for very long exposures.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  8. WNG

    WNG TalkEmount All-Pro

    Aug 12, 2014
    Arrid Zone-A, USA
    Will
    I should've mentioned that I was in the Yosemite Valley, with the camera aimed at El Capitan and Bridal Veil Falls. The Moon was behind the falls.
    1/4-1/2 mile distance....so assumed infinity was the right choice for the Sigma 19 and 30, and SEL1855. All began at f11 or f10 to get sharpness to the edges. Up to 30 sec. only since I didn't have a remote for Bulb. Tripod was used. Only when it was nightfall that I upped to f5.6 to gain some more light.

    A good idea to use the Moon to set focus. Then try to re-aim the camera at the subject in the dark wouldn't be so easy with the shutter held at halfway. ;) (when using DMF)
     
  9. NickCyprus

    NickCyprus Super Moderator

    Oct 11, 2012
    Cyprus
    Nick
    Been there. Difficult situation. I carry a small but powerful flashLight with me. Point it somewhere to focus help a bit.
     
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  10. chrid

    chrid Super Noob

    807
    May 5, 2014
    australia
    Chris

    If you have continues auto focus off then it shouldn't refocus on shutter release, simply then change the camera to manual focus after setting it. I don't think the a6000 has the ael/focus hold button switch combo, but maybe you can still assign focus hold to a custom button ?
     
  11. oopsydaisy

    oopsydaisy TalkEmount Rookie

    24
    Dec 26, 2014
    I make sure to turn off the Live View Display Setting Effect and go with manual focus
     
  12. ryanlio

    ryanlio TalkEmount Regular

    26
    Mar 13, 2014
    Popping up the flash will kick in some electronics where u can then focus.. just like davect01 mentioned. .. was it a tip from jason Lanier?
     
  13. WNG

    WNG TalkEmount All-Pro

    Aug 12, 2014
    Arrid Zone-A, USA
    Will
    I'll try Dave's tip next time, and see if it'll work with the distance and light levels that will be similar.

    Nick,
    I tried the flashlight trick at the beach, but the subject was just too far away. That time, I was trying to get Morro Rock into focus.
     
  14. Kirkp

    Kirkp TalkEmount Regular

    151
    Nov 2, 2014
    • Informative Informative x 1
  15. alaios

    alaios TalkEmount All-Pro

    Jan 11, 2013
    Düsseldorf
    Alex
    One more point for hyper focal distance focusing. I am using it time now with my film camera and is the best way to focus.. in reality I do street photography with my film camera and I do not even need to focus. Frame and boom! So simple
     
  16. Kirkp

    Kirkp TalkEmount Regular

    151
    Nov 2, 2014
    Old school photography! With DOF tables and the sunny 16 rule you can turn off all the automation. Or Looney 11 for moon photography. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Looney_11_rule
     
  17. davect01

    davect01 Super Moderator

    Aug 20, 2011
    Fountain Hills, AZ
    Dave
    I don't remember where I learned this one, but it was not an original idea.
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2015
  18. ryanlio

    ryanlio TalkEmount Regular

    26
    Mar 13, 2014
    Oh.. u can just try at night at home.. switch off all lights. . pop up the inbuilt flash.. u will then see the viewfinder or lcd lights up.. kinda like having night vision.. focus.. then pop back your flash.. hope this helps.
     
    • Informative Informative x 1
  19. WNG

    WNG TalkEmount All-Pro

    Aug 12, 2014
    Arrid Zone-A, USA
    Will
    It was a dark night here and gave this a try...
    turns out it's defaulting to the BULB output when the flash is popped. I tried BULB when I was in the dark at the park. And it's not bright enough still.
    Oh well.

    I did manage to get one capture ( https://flic.kr/p/s8Ffa7 ) that was in focus from that night. My consolation.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  20. pbizarro

    pbizarro TalkEmount Veteran

    358
    Nov 24, 2014
    Portugal
    It's easy to blame it on the gear, but really, one needs to prepare adequately for such situations. At least now you know what to do next time.

    As for shooting landscapes at night using hyperfocal distance settings, well, it will not work. First of all, you do not want to shoot at night at f/8 or f/11, not enough light gathering. You want to be shooting at wide open, or near wide open, and in this case, depth of field is narrow. One solution is to do a focus stack.