how do you focus at night with an slr

Discussion in 'Australia Photography' started by joe, Jul 28, 2003.

  1. joe

    joe Guest

    hi all,

    i've been trying my hand at a little night time photography and was
    wondering how ppl focus at night (subject about 2m away).

    my camera (nikon f80, 28-200 tamron) struggled to auto foucus and i
    couldn't see much through the viewfinder to manual focus.

    my pissweak torch didn't help much either, i tried lighting the
    subject with the torch but it didn't really help.

    maybe a very powerful torch to illuminate the subject is the go.

    any hints ....?

    thanks in advance,
    joe, Jul 28, 2003
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  2. joe

    Miro Guest

    fast prime lens or a camera that lets you change the focus screen.
    Miro, Jul 28, 2003
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  3. If you do use a powerful torch to light your subject, don't forget to
    lock the exposure seperately to the focus, or you'll get underexposure
    based on the light that's no longer there...

    I find quite simple torches do a good job for focus assistance
    though... even little two AA cell penlights work OK... especially at
    two meters... hmmmm...

    I guess the F80 doesn't have any kind of focus assist light... some of
    the better Canon flashes bounce a red grid on a subject to help with
    focussing in low light conditions... I'm sure Nikon have the
    equivalent, then you could use the assist light to focus, and then set
    your exposure suitably once the flash is off...

    Generally though, if there is something there to focus on, I find the
    10D can get a lock... most night exposures have SOMETHING in them to
    get a focus lock on... if not, try using a hyperfocal table and
    setting your lens to infinity...

    Stuart Elflett, Jul 28, 2003
  4. joe

    Miro Guest

    There is no room left with all the acronyms.
    Miro, Jul 28, 2003
  5. joe

    Brenton Guest

    Yep.. agreed... set distance manually (if you have a lens with distance
    scales on it)... or the easiest way.. and this works for subjects even
    in pitch black....
    Use the "piss weak" little torch shining back at the camera and have the
    subject hold it or place it on the ground at the focal point for
    landscapes and still lifes.... then use it to manually focus on... this
    works really well... you will see fuzz (from the lazer matt screen) and
    then you will see the pin light source when it is in focus. It is
    actually VERY easy to get correct focus this way.
    Of course... I would not be asking hungry lions on the palin of Africa
    to "please hold my torch while I focus in you" ;-)
    Brenton, Jul 28, 2003
  6. joe

    Brenton Guest

    As I am currently in David's kill file.....can someone please reply to
    this and tell him to fix up the date on his computer... his posts are
    out of sequence and hard to follow... and I am sure that Perth is behind
    us in time.. not a day ahead :)
    Brenton, Jul 28, 2003
  7. joe

    Ken Guest

    That oughta do it
    Ken, Jul 28, 2003
  8. joe

    [BnH] Guest

    What object were you trying to shoot ?
    if it was pitch black .. well .. you can only guess :D
    * I remember reading somewhere , you can only photo what you can see ? *

    but if its dim [ like Sydney Opera House @ 2am :D ] you can just focus it
    and hope the best.

    btw if you want to buy a torch, buy Surefire :) my best friend outdoor
    sometimes its so bright .. I can't even see the object I am lighting ..
    as I was blinded by the beam :D

    or as other said , use flashgun that have IR illumination ..
    Nikon SB50dx is quite good for that purpose.

    [BnH], Jul 28, 2003
  9. joe

    Gavin Cato Guest

    It does have a focus assist light, and it also will light up the selected AF
    point in red (F80 has 5 point AF)

    I think thats a custom setting though, I can't remember for sure, I sold my
    F80 a few weeks ago.

    Gavin Cato, Jul 28, 2003
  10. joe

    Gavin Cato Guest

    Get a faster lens than the tamron, that'll let a lot more light through.

    I've never had a problem using MF though with slow lenses before (i.e. f/4
    and slower) although I have pretty good eyesight. Try and let your eyes get
    accustomed to the darkness, maybe hold your eye to the viewfinder for a bit
    longer than you are to let yourself get used to the low light levels, that
    might help.
    Gavin Cato, Jul 28, 2003
  11. joe

    Obake Guest

    anyone tried a laser pointer to focus on? i was at school and a kid got his
    laser pointer confiscated so i got to play with it for a minute. its bright
    and seems sharp. could one of these be used to focus?

    i also know sony uses a laser 'grid' auto focus assist. is this the same
    Obake, Jul 28, 2003
  12. lasers have been used a few times as D60 focus assists by the people over at
    dpreview forums... they work well it seems.

    You can get the ones that project a pattern or line drawing of something....
    I think these would work better than a single dot to focus on, as most
    cameras look for both horizontal and vertical lines of contrast.
    AU Digital Photo Of The Day, Jul 28, 2003
  13. joe

    joe Guest

    g'day chris,
    i was using the AF assist light, i think that's what saved a few of my
    photos however the AF still struggled.

    i shot a few with the AF assist and a few manual focus but it was
    tough to see the subject through the view finder and guage focus.

    joe, Jul 28, 2003
  14. joe

    joe Guest

    i was actually out trying to work on my low light/night time

    subject was a statue, no background lighting and on a dark
    night.....tough to see.

    i did have my SB80 with me but left the batteries at home (nice work

    the built in speedligh in the F80 is a nice feature, saved me from
    going home without any pics.


    joe, Jul 28, 2003
  15. I've got a $14.95 handheld laser at home that can project the line
    drawings... I'll give it a test... I also have a decent power unit
    that was about $300 when it was bought for me to do sales
    presentations... but no 'toys' to fit on that one... but I'll try it

    Stuart Elflett, Jul 29, 2003
  16. joe

    Bushy Guest

    Get the Nikon Speedlight flash to suit your camera, for my old F801's the
    SB24 was the unit of the day and you'll love it's focus assist light.

    I did 30,000 shots on one body and flash combination and about 6,000 of
    those were night shots and another 10,000 were flash assisted daylight or
    twilight in the main ring of the Brisbane Ekka and found that I used the
    autofocus to set a flash distance on the lens while I had time to play
    around and then hold the focus lock with my finger. If I set the flash and
    lens and shutter to fire manual at 1/4 power I could get three shots in a
    row before the flash would underexpose and then it would take a
    few........seconds to recharge.

    If you need to take action shots at varying distances, use prefocus as much
    as possible, and if taking shots of moving objects, you can prefocus on the
    ground where you expect your subject to be when ready.

    Manual focus is also OK sometimes, and a light or reflection at or on your
    subject can help.

    Laser pointers are dangerous. If you are taking shots where you are trying
    to focus on people or pathways then be very careful not to injure anyone!

    Hope this helps,
    Bushy, Jul 30, 2003
  17. Same
    Flatulant Dingo, Jul 31, 2003
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