Tuesday, June 8, 2010
In his decades running a premier photo retailer in Southern California, Mark Comon has been a counselor, an advisor and chief troubleshooter for customers. He shares two of the most common problems he has heard and the fixes that take care of them.
Every day, photographers come to us for advice about cameras that won’t work and pictures that are disappointing. The two most common problems are: “My camera won’t focus properly,” and “My pictures are too light (or too dark).” Here are simple answers to remedy them. Use this checklist of what I look for when my customers and students have focus and exposure issues.
Since the introduction of automatic focus in the 1980s, no camera issue has been more vexing or so worrisome for photographers. Try these tips if your camera won’t focus (in this order):
Turn AF on. In the camera menu, on the front of the camera body or on the lens, is a setting for manual or autofocus. Some SLRs have a switch on the front of the camera (M = manual C = continuous AF-S = single AF) or a “slider” on the lens (AF or MF). These switches easily can be bumped. I recommend flipping the camera and/or lens to Manual focus, turning the lens focus ring manually and then re-engaging the autofocus. Remember to check both switches if you have both!
Reset the lens. On SLR cameras, quite often the lens isn’t “clicked in.” Simply remove the lens and reattach it to the camera, verifying the audible click. Check to be sure the AF-MF switch didn’t get bumped.
Adjust the focus points. Most SLR and pocket cameras today come out of the box with the camera automatically selecting where to focus in the frame. The cameras use sophisticated algorithms that look for faces, smiles, distance, and closest and largest items to determine on which “point” to focus. When the camera finds this, it illuminates a square or box (red, green or black) on the subject. With moving subjects, low-light pictures or complicated scenes where the camera can’t decide, it often gives up and won’t focus, or slows to a painful pace that’s quite frustrating.
To eliminate these frustrations, I often recommend the photographer to select the focus point. This assures the camera focuses on the subject of your choosing, plus the camera often will focus much quicker and accurately. In the camera’s menu or on the camera, choose to select the focus point. Use the thumb dial or control dial to move the point of focus. Remember, the center AF point on the camera generally is the most accurate, fastest reacting and best in low light.
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