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Part III: The Art of Manual Focus

The Nex system has, possibly not by intent, become an excellent manual focusing system also. This means many lenses from the manual focus era (yes, there was a time before cameras developed autofocus functions where everything had to be focused by hand) have a new lease of life.

The reason manual-focus has become much more popular is a feature called focus-peaking. This was added to the first models in the Nex system by firmware and is now standard. What this does is show you what is in focus in your frame by colouring it. You even get a choice of colours (I use red). As part of the manual focus, you can magnify the view by either 7x or 14x. This allows for both accurate and straightforward manual focusing. In the past with film cameras, manual focusing was always associated with a level of frustration. That frustration has been replaced by enjoyment. The NEX-system doesn’t just give you the option of manual focus, it takes that concept to give you almost an entirely new way to take pictures.

The red areas (peaked) in the screen reveal what will be in sharp focus in the final shot

If you want to use lenses that are not E-Mount, you will need to use an adapter. If you already have Sony or Minolta AF lenses one such option is the LA-EA1. This preserves aperture controls (so you can adjust the f-stop) and if you have an SSM or SAM lens, it will also give you autofocus. Nonetheless, the autofocus speed is not exemplary (the camera is still stuck with contrast detection). A more expensive option is the LA-EA2 which is bulkier and adds the phase-detection autofocus via an translucent mirror mechanism. This makes it a lot better at autofocus, but if your main intention is to use the camera for manual focus, it is a very expensive option.

The LA-EA1

Side-view: the tripod mount is useful to balance the camera and take the weight off the camera body

NEX-5 with LA-EA1 Adapter and 70-200/2.8 G SSM lens

The effect of this adapter can be illustrated with these snap-shots.

Local Pukeko, NEX-5, 70-200/2.8 G

Cow, NEX-5, 70-200/2.8 G

Now, neither the camera or the lens will have any stabilisation so having the means to stabilise the shot is handy. I use a gorillapod for SLR camera with a small Giottos ballhead.