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My (very personal) final take on NEX AF...

Discussion in 'Sony Alpha E-Mount Cameras' started by nianys, Dec 5, 2012.

  1. nianys

    nianys TalkEmount All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    France
    Those who are familiar with my posts know how much bad mouthing I've done on the AF of the NEX system.
    To my credit, and to put things in perspective, let me re state where I come from, camera wise. I've shot DSLRs since 2002 with the venerable Fuji S Pro 1 and Nikon D100, all the way up to the modern though already obsoleted D700, with countless models in the meanwhile, including pro race horses like the EOS 1D MkII, Nikon D2H, etc..
    I discovered mirrorless earlier this year in shape of the Lumix GX-1, which has not only one of the fastest AF system of its breed, but also the most accurate and flawless even in dimmer light. So when it comes to autofocus, I easily confess having pretty high expectations.
    When I first unpacked my NEX 5N, slapped the 18-55 on it and started taking pictures, I had a very solitary moment, wondering if I had inadvertently stepped into a time warp back to the performance of the antic E-P1... I tested and tested, and promptly concluded that the NEX would become an all MF digital back for me.

    Getting the NEX 6 I had to try again and assess the much hyped "hybrid" new AF. I was vastly unimpressed with it ...
     
  2. nianys

    nianys TalkEmount All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    France
    (continued) Reading how many other users (whose opinions I respect and want to trust) seemed indeed pretty much at peace with their nex's AF, I decided to test again. And again. And then more. Every tentative, either with the 18-55 or Sigma 30/2.8, or even new 16-50, gave the same sloooww, unreliable, chaotic results. This was INDOORS, in my dimly lot living room (that very same place the GX-1 locked focus in instantly). Today, I decided to try it outside, and see what happens.
    I had a lightbulb moment. I finally understood why some of you are ok with the AF on NEX. In most cases it's actually acceptable, and in some (with Phase enabled), it's even reasonably quick (gosh, can't believe I wrote that...). The problem is the reliability, not in the accuracy, but in the speed. Sometimes it's gonna be fast, but the next shot is honna take twice as well to get focused. Not good...
    I did test with and without Phase, and yes, in good light, Phase is almost twice as fast. In poor light, there's no difference. The AF assist is better turned off (as weird as it sounds).
    So I guess this i know have a pretty complete and thorough view of NEX AF. I'm still not happy with it, and I don't intend stopping using my legacies anytime soon.
    But I do feel safe enough using the kit lens (18-55, I ditched the 16-50) for traveling.
    I'll receive the SEL 50/1.8 within a few days. This will be the last test and ultimate test.
    In the meanwhile, I realize that MF is given me a shooting experience that I highly enjoy, so there will be a dilemma as to which mode to use (AF vs MF)...
     
  3. SRHEdD

    SRHEdD TalkEmount Veteran

    396
    Nov 25, 2012
    Viera, Florida, USA
    Steve
    x2

    I'm wondering, you software people... should Sony make strides in this area, can a firmware update improve AF speed?
     
  4. christilou

    christilou TalkEmount Veteran

    420
    Nov 26, 2012
    Surrey, UK
    Christina
    Having read about the naff AF on the NEX line I find myself pleasantly surprised by the AF using the Sigma 30mm. Not tried the kit lens. I come from the speedy Olympus EM5 :)
     
  5. SRHEdD

    SRHEdD TalkEmount Veteran

    396
    Nov 25, 2012
    Viera, Florida, USA
    Steve
    I found the 18-200 to be as fast as the 16-50, dare I say it somehow seemed FASTER? Did you find that the 18-55 was faster than the 16-50? I, too, have the 50mm on the way, as well as the 19 Sigma ($99!!). I not a big legacy glass shooter though, and often throw a camera on full auto for snap shots. With all these lenses soon to be in hand, I WILL bail if it can't handle reasonable shooting in the conditions I expect it to. If I need a particular lens for a particular environment, that's certainly fine, but it then needs to perform reasonably fast.
     
  6. nianys

    nianys TalkEmount All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    France
    I didn't give the 16-50 much assessment time, to be honest. I tried it for a few shots, didn't fall in love with it, and quickly computed the huge saving I'd get on my NEX 6 if I sold it. The next day it was gone <grin>
     
  7. applemint

    applemint TalkEmount Veteran

    245
    Sep 20, 2012
    I found that outdoors even in good light the AF on my SEL 55-210 was slow enough to miss shots of people (street performers, buskers/musicians etc - they had moved slightly (or a lot) by the time the AF locked. :( It may be lens dependent of course. Using the same lens for static subjects is not a problem of course (nor any other AF Nex lens) but in comparison with my micro four thirds cameras (GF3 + G3) and my Alpha A37 the Nex AF is noticably sluggish at least on my original Nex 5 model (I have not tried any of the more recent Nex models apart from briefly in a shop).
     
  8. quezra

    quezra TalkEmount Top Veteran

    916
    Aug 22, 2012
    I've almost forgotten about NEX AF, it's so long since I used it :D My main complaint wasn't actually the speed (I got over it fast, finding MF so fun), but that it could often quite irritatingly miss focus so only centre focus was reliable. Outdoors, it is absolutely fine in any kind of sunlit conditions. But I rarely take those kinds of photos, I like dusk and indoors. And here, from what I can tell, all the mirrorless cameras suffer, even the much vaunted OMD (though it is still better, apparently, but not anywhere as great as the advertised speed).

    Then EOS-M came out and people were really laughing at the terrible STM speeds on the camera and all was ok in the world again :)

    P.S. Nianys, 50/1.8 doesn't have PDAF compatibility with NEX-6 yet, so you're going to be witnessing NEX-5 speeds, and I can tell you straight off it's nothing to write home about. Less 'hunty' but not particularly fast.
     
  9. SRHEdD

    SRHEdD TalkEmount Veteran

    396
    Nov 25, 2012
    Viera, Florida, USA
    Steve
    I bought my NEX-6 with the 16-50 and 55-210. The 55-210 was sold within a few days... nice build quality, but very slow to AF. The 18-200 seems much faster than that, certainly.
     
  10. nianys

    nianys TalkEmount All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    France
    Regarding the E-M5, it's been well documented it's very fast, but tends to suffer in low light and can be inaccurate at times. The GX-1 is equally fast but doesn't struggle at all in dim light, and focus is spot on. Pretty impressive. If there had been an APS-C sensor in this camera I'd never parted with it..
     
  11. dixeyk

    dixeyk TalkEmount All-Pro

    Jun 18, 2012
    Bellingham . WA
    Kevin
    The NEX has auto focus?
     
  12. Bimjo

    Bimjo Super Moderator

    Oct 28, 2011
    Washington State
    Jim
    Horses for courses, to loosely quote our British brethren. :)

    Since I shoot stuff that moves of its own volition about 1% of the time the AF speed (or lack thereof) of the NEX series cameras bothers me not.

    If, on the other hand, I shot 99% of my pics of people (who tend to move around a lot at inopportune times) I'd be grossly under impressed with the NEX AF speed.

    Then again, harking back to days gone by where photogs zone focussed their manual focus lenses and somehow managed to capture incredible moments, one is reminded that such is still possible today. The expression "f8 and be there" has as much validity now as it did then. And, we have the advantage of simply raising the ISO for each shot as needed instead of needing to shoot an entire roll at that speed.

    In sum- pick the right tool for the job at hand. You wouldn't dig a ditch for a water line with a table spoon and you wouldn't eat your soup with a backhoe. I hope. ;^)
     
  13. Bimjo

    Bimjo Super Moderator

    Oct 28, 2011
    Washington State
    Jim
    Yesssssss… you focus it yourself. LOL
     
  14. teefin1

    teefin1 TalkEmount Top Veteran

    618
    Sep 7, 2012
    How do you feel about a two camera kit? I remEmber you saying you have a dslr. It's something I thought about; NEX for pure MF and maybe an A57 for times when AF might be much more useful (although I do think Sony 'portrait' lenses are a lot more expensive than Canikon)
     
  15. nianys

    nianys TalkEmount All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    France
    Hmm, Teefin, I have to admit the thought of an SLT a-55 crossed my mind !! Best of both worlds...
     
  16. Bimjo

    Bimjo Super Moderator

    Oct 28, 2011
    Washington State
    Jim
    Well, it's one of the reasons I still have the K20. That thought in the back of my mind that I might at some time actually need the capability to AF on something quickly. That and it's already paid for and sitting here ready for use. And I can go much wider with a dslr much less expensively than I can on my 5N. Except I sold that lens to fund the 5N. ;^)

    I'm not sure there is one camera body that will do everything well. If you're going with a one-camera system you pick the one that hits the most high spots on your list of "must have" features. If you're willing to go with a multiple camera system you can pick bodies for specific purposes. Many people don't have that luxury.

    When I bought the 5N a year ago it was so I could have a casual camera that didn't weigh a ton that I would be more likely to haul around much of the time and it has been that. What I never expected was rediscovering the fun of manual lenses and what they bring to the photographic table. I never intended to replace my dslr, I intended to supplement it. Over time, my thought process has changed a bit. I may still keep the K20. I may sell it and buy more lenses I can use on the 5N. Only time will tell.
     
  17. SRHEdD

    SRHEdD TalkEmount Veteran

    396
    Nov 25, 2012
    Viera, Florida, USA
    Steve
    Wouldn't the new LA-EA2 adapter bring that same AF to a NEX body?
     
  18. Bimjo

    Bimjo Super Moderator

    Oct 28, 2011
    Washington State
    Jim
    Sure, but to my mind if you are going to go that route why not just use the dslr and get all the features that body has that a NEX body doesn't?

    If you are already invested in a ton of Sony a-mount glass that makes sense, if you're coming form another system, not so much.
     
  19. teefin1

    teefin1 TalkEmount Top Veteran

    618
    Sep 7, 2012
    That's the other thing I like about the NEX/SLT combo, there is the option of sharing lenses/ flash etc. Went to jessops today, love the A57 and the NEX 6, I swear the EVF is better than on my 7!
     
  20. Jefenator

    Jefenator TalkEmount Top Veteran

    876
    Nov 23, 2012
    Oregon, USA
    Jeff
    Nianys, I'll be very interested to hear your take on the SEL50. Being that you have sampled more nifty fifties than anyone else I know of! ;)

    I'd been meaning to experiment more with the face-detect AF mode - next time I'm with the nieces, I'll at least give that a whirl.