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Would You Like to Have Autofocus While Shooting Video?

Published: 02/11/2010
By: larry

When purchased my Canon 5DMkII  I was I was naive about video. I didn't realize that when shooting video in LiveView autofocus is disabled so you have to focus manually. Woa, big surprise and what a challenge.

Luckily, when shooting most real estate subjects you're using a wide angle lens with a lot of depth of field so you don't need to worry that much about focus.

However, focus becomes a major challenge if you are shooting an person where you want to take advantage of the ability to shoot wide open with a lens that has a nice bokeh so the background is out of focus and the person is in focus. When shooting stills this is a piece of cake? When shooting video where autofocus is disabled focus becomes a world class challenge!

After going through this focus struggle with my 5DMkII my attention was grabbed when I recently noticed the Nikon D7000 specs say that, "the D7000 can maintain AF during live view and movie shooting, thanks to its AF-F ('full time') AF mode". Wow, where do I sign up? Oh, except all my Canon Lenses don't work on the D7000. On second thought, maybe Canon can change the microcode in the 5D so autofocus works in LiveView. I have no idea how good this full time autofocus mode works on the D7000 but it sure sounds good to me!

I thought I'd bring this issue up since there may be others out there used to shooting stills that have no idea that autofocus goes a way on most current DLSRs when they start shooting video. But it looks like that is starting to change! Thanks Nikon.

Update: Nov 6, 2010. Robert Barr sent me this test video of his new Nikon D7000 to show us the quality. Unfortunately this doesn't demonstrate the new AF-F full time auto focus mode.

12 comments on “Would You Like to Have Autofocus While Shooting Video?”

  1. Yea I just got this a few days ago... IT IS AMAZING!!!!! Seriously. The only thing is you have to keep the shutter depressed so if you are using a steady cam it can be a bit wonky. I am probably not doing something right but I have not had time to read the entire manual it is the size of a harry potter novel. It is the closest camera to come to the quality and features of the D300 in my opinion. I will still be using my Nikon D300 for my still photography through, at least for the time being. I like the way certain things are laid out better on the D300.

    I am going to start offering video tours with my new camera. I look forward to seeing what kind of quality video I can pull out of the new D7000. Just want to take some time to get used to it before I take it out in front of clients.

  2. My brother is the expert when it comes to video. He tells me he doesn't generally like auto focus because it hunts and won't always focus on what he wants it to focus on. I would suggest an HD monitor and follow focus like this: http://www.redrockmicro.com/redrock_dslr.html. There are several companies which provide such equipment. If you are doing interviews, you'll just need to increase the depth of field enough so that if the person leans forward or back any, they don't go out of focus.

  3. In general with a wide angle lens the focus is not a huge issue. I also like to manual focus myself. Takes practice but you get better results. Same reason I use manual focus and controls on my digital. It is pretty cool though and I am impressed by the ability of the camera to track what you want. I was doing tests with the 80-105ml lens and cars moving towards/away the frame. It seemed to do a pretty good job overall.

  4. Love my Canon 7D. Video is terrific. Once AF is available - whole new worlds will open up for me, at least on the soccer field. Love using my 400mm with video... but tough with moving target. 😉 With Real Estate, the target is stationary, so no biggy right? In fact, zooming in and out or changing focal points may not be such a good idea anyway. Typically, it's bad technique. When you have to zoom in or out (like on a pool waterfall), just make sure your focal point is set on the farthest thing you want in focus (probably the water); then zoom in on it (for instance). I've found this to work well considering the camera limitations.

  5. I use the 5D Mark II and with a wide angle lens, and it's really not an issue unless you get very close to things... which can happen in tight, small condos in the city! You just have to be aware of the limitations and work around them, which is the name of the game with these types of cameras and video.

    I haven't read anything about how WELL the auto focus works on the Nikon, only that it actually has the function.

    It's all still early in the game. I'm sure within the next year or two some sort of autofocus will be added to all DSLR cameras with video. Remember, video on the 5D was an afterthought by Canon originally - this entire video thing pretty much blindsided them in regards to the wide adaptation of this camera for video.

    Also don't forget.... on professional video cameras, there IS no autofocus! That's just a feature on consumer grade video cameras. So the concept isn't all that whacky, but AF sure would be nice!

  6. Thanks for posting about video. So far Nikon has been far behind because of videoformat, even though their camera sensitivity has been at the top of the list.

    Now they have make the first real "hybrid" camera, which could be big one for them. BUT...i think
    it's not yet samekind of AF what real videocameras have. So Canon D60 and nikon will be on same
    level. And I'm quite sure Canon will keep it's place on top, so many have bought Canon lenses
    and bodies. Also Nikon was late. Those who have earlier Nikons are exited but so far, I don't belive
    this is killer camera. I know the d7000 quite well because I have two evaluation cameras, d7000 and sony a-55.
    I like them both but decided to buy the Sony.

    And one thing more about those who do real estate videos. I think real professionals NEVER use
    autofocus even they have it on camera. They do so called "Focus pull" always if there is need
    to re-focus. I'll use old tip from one of my friend who has shot TV news for about 30 years.

    "Take focus to 2,5-3 m front of you and you don't have to do anything after that" It works also in
    realestate videos, if you have autofocus on, you can be sure it's jumping everywhere.

    So I think there is no need to change camera, you just have to learn to use it right...:0)

  7. Actually Nikon wasn't late - they started DSLR video with the D90. The next generation of Canons eclipsed what Nikon started. This is the second iteration of Nikon's video. I have the D7000 - don't think it's autofocus is magic because it is not. When compared to smaller camcorders with their much smaller sensors, the depth of field is very shallow making autofocusing much trickier than in a camcorder. You get FAR superior video quality with the larger sensors (either DX or FX) when compared to those camcorders but even with face recognition live view does not use the best focusing recognition so it hunts trying to pick up differences in contrast, but the shallower depth of field makes it hard unless there is very good lighting or strong contrast. Make sense? I shot my first video with it and have started documenting some of the best practices as I learn them.

  8. In addition to the autofocus feature, the D7000 is of great interest to me because it accepts external mics. High quality video images, but with raspy autofocus, zoom, and camera handling noise really diminishes the entire product.

  9. Auto focus may not in be the answer all you hope for. Think about the results as the systems searches for the focal point and how long that takes. When the camera gets lost and searches from short to long will make for poor results and more post editing. Why I turned off auto focus on the Tamron 10-24 shooting stills on a 40D. It got in the way. I'm not doing video or have the experience of Fred Light, but on a point and shoot (older S5-IS in my case) I got to experience that focus hunting first hand. For the most part I found the video on Canon S5-IS excellent for the price. Auto focus needs contrast to focus, so I see a potential problem in RE shooting when you hit that blank wall or sold color room with no detail. A side note: When I was using the S5-IS, it was mostly head shots. Something about a bald head in bright light gave the camera fits.. I certainly hope the results on the new Nikon and the "soon" to be released 5DM3 are all that we could hope for. Aside 2: External audio input is of extreme importance for most applications. That or do audio separate from the video.

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