Focusing Tips – The Force Focus Trick

My new (but 10 years old) Lumix FX38 isn’t always great at focusing on small objects up close I’ve found, especially in the generally lower light beneath woodland canopies.

It’s more the size of the object (and the size of the focusing area of the camera) that causes problems, as I’ve found by putting my hand where I want it to focus (ie directly next to the subject, and at the same distance from the lens) then locking the AF, I can then remove my hand and press the shutter button all the way down to capture the shot.

It’s not the first time I’ve done this, and a handy trick to use, which reduces the number of situations where otherwise I might not be able to make the picture I want to.

I’ve also used it in conjunction with my rocking focus trick which is also very useful and increases the focus hit rate of most cameras.

How about you? Do you have any focusing tricks you use to increase the usefulness of your cameras?

As always, please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

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11 thoughts on “Focusing Tips – The Force Focus Trick”

  1. I nearly always shoot closeups and macro in manual focus, pretty much the same technique you describe as “rocking focus.” My camera isn’t mirrorless, so I don’t have the advantage of full-screen display for focussing. However, I replaced the focus screen with the Canon “Super Precision” version, and that improved accuracy considerably. This change was particularly helpful for shooting fast, adapted lenses wide open.

    1. I use this technique all the time, and probably more with viewfinder cameras (DSLRs), and especially with a shallow depth of field where focus is more critical.

  2. I’ll have to experiment more with rocking focus, which I think I’ve probably done without even realizing it but it’s helpful to specifically acknowledge the usefulness of such techniques. I’ve been doing more finicky closeups in the rust garden. The more skills like these in my quiver, the better.

    1. I’ve just always found it easier to very gradually move my whole body forward and back than rotate the lens (with manual focus lenses) and with AF it sometimes doesn’t quite lock on what you want it to, so this technique avoids having to hope the camera will lock on the correct point sooner or later.

  3. My “trick” is to focus manually as much as I possibly can 🙂 Especially closer objects.
    I love nice big viewfinders for that reason. I wish I could buy the new Pentax camera that is coming out next, which will have an exceptionally big and bright viewfinder made with special glass, but it will probably cost more than a used K-1.
    I tried electronic viewfinders but panning the view makes me not feel all that great, so I’m sticking with the opticals – in other words, DSLRs.

    1. Chris, can you tell me more about your experience with the EVF? One of the reasons I’m strongly considering mirrorless as my next upgrade has to do with my obsessive use of adapted lenses. I shoot almost everything handheld, so stop-down metering doesn’t usually work well, and of course the optical viewfinder in a DSLR is too dark to focus when a full-manual lens is stopped down. This means I can typically only use adapted lenses wide open. In theory, an EVF corrects for this, providing a WYSIWYG preview of the shot at all apertures. Based on your experience, is this likely to provide the advantage I’m seeking, or are there other issues that might render this intended use less desirable than I realize? Also, in your experience with “normal” lenses, does the EVF provide sufficient resolution for good accuracy in manual focus mode?

      1. Hi Jack,
        The EVF experience is, I think, highly personal, and as a tool, you have to weigh the pros and cons and decide if it’s for you or not. I was lucky to be near a shop where I could come in whenever I want to, and try out Canons, Fujis, Panasonics and Olympus. I think the best implementations, in general, were the Fujis – not sure if it was the EVF itself or the software reducing the lag. But my style of shooting is to keep my eye on the viewfinder a lot and keep refocusing and panning around and with the EVF that made me feel uneasy, even a bit nauseous after a while.
        But I will say that the newer cameras with the very high viewfinders are spot on for what you want, they absolutely provide resolution for good accuracy, and more. The refresh rate also gets better and better with every new release.
        Me, personally, I get what you say – if you stop adapted lenses down the OVF gets dark. I “get around” that by choosing a mount that has what I need (the K mount) and has current cameras for it, and then I just have some lenses that cover what I need – well… with 20+ lenses I have more than that, but the point is I could probably have 4-5 and be perfectly happy. I’m not a collector and I don’t feel the need to try out every lens that was made, to find out what I like and what I don’t like. But I know other people who have a habit of buying and selling old lenses and in fact one of them just bought a Fuji and a whole set of adapters in preparation for a lot of lens buying, after he bought most of what he wanted in K and M42 mounts… he went for Fuji and I think it’s also what I would pick if I absolutely had to go mirrorless.
        Sorry if I can’t help more, since I haven’t really had a mirrorless system. But honestly, for your use case, I think it would be a very good fit, just make sure you get a recent and high spec EVF.

      2. I’d agree with Chris’s response, I’ve only used fairly old EVFs and find they make my eyes and head ache pretty quickly, but perhaps a modern one wouldn’t. In theory they are excellent. Definitely try one on a modern camera in person if you can before buying.

    2. It is a lovely, immersive experience, using big, optical viewfinders and fast lenses that make them even brighter, and easier to focus.

      I’m with you on the EVFs. I haven’t used a very modern one, but those I have used kind of stutter and yes this makes me feel a bit queasy too. The Lumix FZ38 I bought a few weeks back has a fairly decent EVF but after experimenting initially I’ve found it’s too eye aching and headache-inducing, so just use the (very decent) screen now.

  4. Chris and Dan, thanks much for your replies. I’m not interested in replacing my native Canon lenses, so the EOS R is probably my “go to” for an upgrade from the 5D. I can understand how a lag in the EVF could be extremely troublesome, even when you’re not panning. For one thing, it has to keep pace with the changing image as you dial the focus ring back and forth. The EOS R would be the most expensive body I’ve ever purchased, so I need to be sure it can handle my few shooting idiosyncrasies. Based on what you’ve both said, I’ll take an adapted lens and visit the local photo center to confirm everything. Thanks!

    1. If you’re buying new Jack then absolutely go to a camera shop and try some stuff out in person and see what it’s like. I completely expect my views on EVFs to be improved if I had used them on cameras newer than a decade old! 🙂

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