Old 12-30-2011, 12:01 PM   #26
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Back button focus is the only way to go in my book. Like Chris said above, you get so quick with it you really don't have to think about it.

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Old 12-30-2011, 12:26 PM   #27
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I will disagree with this too to some degree. Depending on what camera you use, and what lens. Again, I dont know if you use Canon or Nikon. On Canon non-1 series bodies, the center focus point is the MOST accurate. Depending on what lens you use, if you use a F2.8 or faster lens (no matter what aperture you set your exposure for, autofocus is ALWAYS done wide open, then it "stops down" to expose the shot), the center focus point is enabled in "high precision" cross-type focus point. If you use slower than F2.8 lens, it is not as high precision. On Canon 1D and 1DS camera models, ALL focus points are "high precision" cross-type focus points (if you use F2.8 or faster lenses). What am I getting at? Some cameras are better than others when it comes to focusing using the non-center focus point. Some cameras suck pretty bad when using anything but center focus point. A good example is the Canon 5D. It sucks balls on anything but center focus point. Whereas the 40d, all focus points are pretty damn good. Depending on what camera I use, I will frame the shot and use one of the outside focus points. If I am using the 40d, I can do that, if I am using the 5d, I will use center point no matter what, and crop to my liking afterwards. This takes some planning before hand...
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Interesting, I didn't know this. With my 50D, I rarely use the center focus point. Usually the subject I'm shooting (train) is never in the center of the photograph. My 24-105 IS is pretty good at detail, but I always feel like I could improve the quality of my photographs a little bit (they are good, but I feel like they could be a tiny bit better. Maybe I need a 1D!). Maybe shooting with the center point could solve this super small problem. Any suggestions?
These technical details are all true, but in practice does it really matter? I suspect that if one is shooting train wedgie/scenes at typical daytime apertures, the extent of focus error from using a non-center focus point is trivial. And I suspect that, if the 5D generally had a problem with non-center focus points bad enough to affect even our types of photography, that the world would have exploded in Canon shooter protests. Troy, maybe your 5D is defective?
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Old 12-30-2011, 01:45 PM   #28
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Yes thats the way it is right now. I believe in one shot mode the camera refocuses for each shot? Setting focus to * would eliminate the camera refocusing but wouldnt that create new problems with the camera loosing focus when I zoom in or out, having to keep hitting the * button while the train is approaching sounds like a pain.
It's not a pain at all. I've been shooting that way since I got my first DSLR 6 years ago. Once you get used to it, pushing the * to focus/refocus becomes second nature. It's no more of a pain than pushing the shutter button to take a picture.

The only time I've ever moved the focus control back to the shutter button is when I've shot sports (primarily football). In that case I'd set the focus to servo.

If you have an exact spot where you want to get the train in focus, you point to the spot (single center point) and push the * button. Once you're prefocused at that spot, you don't have to worry about the train being out of focus when it reaches that spot. That's the way I've always done it with railroad photography (and any other photography that isn't sports) and have had great success with it.

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Interesting, I didn't know this. With my 50D, I rarely use the center focus point. Usually the subject I'm shooting (train) is never in the center of the photograph.
I'm assuming you always shoot with a tripod?
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Old 12-30-2011, 02:46 PM   #29
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I used to shoot with the 300D and the XTi, too and had to use the spot focus to make it work. I would sometimes miss shots if I didn't. Center focus points never did the trick for me because most times I never wanted to center my train. On a few quick shots, I might center the train and then crop down, but typically I want to do the least amount of cropping possible.

I also used that 15 to 55 mm piece of plastic they called the "kit lens" and you have to baby that thing. You have to tell it where to focus on or it will miss shots. As far as shooting modes, I only shoot manual. If my eye sight were better, I'd manually focus, too, but the camera and lens I use now typically do well for me.

I've always thought the Rebel series had lakluster focus, actually. As this forum remembers, when I got my Sigma 17 to 70 mm, I would complain about it. It focused so slow and sometimes I'd miss a shot. Upgraded to a 60D and the issues with the lens vanished overnight,
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Old 12-30-2011, 04:52 PM   #30
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One other thing I'll throw out about focusing: using Live View is money if you want to manually focus or check the accuracy of your autofocus. Turn on Live View, zoom in 10x, and then manually focus on the spot where you want the subject to be. When you're zoomed in 10x, you can really see the detail, especially if you're using an IS lens wihich minimizes the shake.

EDIT: Just to clarify, once you manually focus, turn off Live View and shoot normally. And if you're using the * button to focus, you don't have to worry about the camera re-focusing when you press the shutter.
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Old 12-30-2011, 10:13 PM   #31
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Center focus points never did the trick for me because most times I never wanted to center my train.
Ok, you're the second person to mention that in this thread. Are you using a tripod when you say you don't want to "center" the train? When I've used a tripod in the past for train shots, I've moved the focusing point around to the exact position I wanted after composing my shot, but hand held it's different. Just aim at the exact spot you want to be focused on and then quickly recompose the scene. Piece of cake process.
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Old 12-30-2011, 10:13 PM   #32
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I figured out how to set the focus to the * button, isnt as inconvenient as I had thought but I will need to shoot some junk trains to get the hang of it. Just have to get used to it so I can do it in a hurry, I ussualy dont have much setup time for my shots.
I dont do time exposures that often so I dont use live view much, but I'll have to read up on how to use it properly. I ussualy just do test shots in the day to check the focus but that didnt help with the camera refocusing.
And yes I know the kit lens sucks, I'm wishing right now I had just bought the body only and bought a 18-250 lens instead of the kit lens and the 55-250.
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Old 12-31-2011, 12:10 AM   #33
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90% of my shots on here from 2009 onward were taken with either the kit 18-55, or the 55-250. The older non IS 18-55 was a pretty bad lens, but the newer image stabilized version supplied with everything from late 2008 forward does quite fine.

Or maybe I'm just the lucky one..

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Old 12-31-2011, 03:56 AM   #34
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Or maybe I'm just the lucky one...
No, I can second that the IS kit version is a good starter lens at least. I started out in August with the 18-55/55-250 set and it did a good job, although the bug bit me fast to upgrade. I replaced the 55-250 with the Tamron 70-300, and added the Canon 50mm f/1.8 shortly thereafter. Today I received the Tamron 10-24 and will receive the Sigma 17-70 on Monday to finally replace the 18-55. I'm keeping both Canon kit lenses for the future and/or backup.

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Old 12-31-2011, 04:29 AM   #35
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With the kit 18-55 IS.

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Old 12-31-2011, 04:41 AM   #36
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One other thing I'll throw out about focusing: using Live View is money if you want to manually focus or check the accuracy of your autofocus. Turn on Live View, zoom in 10x, and then manually focus on the spot where you want the subject to be. When you're zoomed in 10x, you can really see the detail, especially if you're using an IS lens wihich minimizes the shake.

EDIT: Just to clarify, once you manually focus, turn off Live View and shoot normally. And if you're using the * button to focus, you don't have to worry about the camera re-focusing when you press the shutter.
BTW thats how I do my Night shots, AF wont work well or at all. If your are set less then 70 MM and the train is likely past infinity you don't NEED AF at all just set to the infinity mark unless shooting wide open.
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Old 12-31-2011, 04:47 AM   #37
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FWIW, Grumpy uses the * and Live View to focus a lot of his shots:
http://blog.grumpysworld.com/?page_id=18
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Old 12-31-2011, 04:48 AM   #38
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90% of my shots on here from 2009 onward were taken with either the kit 18-55, or the 55-250. The older non IS 18-55 was a pretty bad lens, but the newer image stabilized version supplied with everything from late 2008 forward does quite fine.

Or maybe I'm just the lucky one..

Loyd L.
Well I have some 700 some shots taken with a point and shoot so good enough for RP doesnt really take much apparently lol. But I have heard that the kit lens is nowhere as bad as it once was. I'll just have to experiment with what gets good results. Funny how the manual part of the settings took maybe an hour to figure out while getting whats supposed to be automatic is taking months. I'd still like a 18-200 though just to have a all purpose railfanning lens for those times where theres no time to change to the right lens.
I'll post some shots of the * experiments when I next get out to shoot some trains, hopefully no more out of focus results.
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Old 12-31-2011, 04:49 AM   #39
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Just have to get used to it so I can do it in a hurry, I ussualy dont have much setup time for my shots.
Shooting on the fly takes time and knowing what's ahead for shots as you may know but shooting the * wont take much time to get used to it and likely love it.
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Old 12-31-2011, 04:55 AM   #40
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Just remember, you don't necessarily have to re-focus if you're shooting multiple shots of the same train that's moving toward you.

In fact, I would ditch one-shot mode and put the camera on burst mode; just press the shutter button until you get your shot or the camera's buffer fills up.
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Old 12-31-2011, 05:52 AM   #41
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Just remember, you don't necessarily have to re-focus if you're shooting multiple shots of the same train that's moving toward you.

In fact, I would ditch one-shot mode and put the camera on burst mode; just press the shutter button until you get your shot or the camera's buffer fills up.
That depends on if I want to shoot RAW or JPEG, my RAW buffer is only 7 shots. If I know theres only one shot I want with a fast moving train that works as I can just burst when it gets near the right spot. If its a slower moving train where I want multiple shots, one shot works much better with RAW.
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Old 12-31-2011, 01:24 PM   #42
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FWIW, Grumpy uses the * and Live View to focus a lot of his shots:
http://blog.grumpysworld.com/?page_id=18
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Static focus involves composing your shot, estimating where your subject will be at the time of exposure and then focusing on that exact spot before your subject arrives there. Static focus is achieved using the following procedure:

* compose the shot,
* determine precisely where the lead locomotive should be,
* aim the center of the focusing screen at this point,
* focus on this point (using manual focus or one-shot autofocus),
* recompose to restore the original composition,
* fire the shutter only when the lead locomotive arrives at the desired location.
This is how I've always done it. I don't see how it's possible without separating the focus control from the shutter button, hence my use of the * button for focusing.
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Old 12-31-2011, 02:13 PM   #43
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In fact, I would ditch one-shot mode and put the camera on burst mode; just press the shutter button until you get your shot or the camera's buffer fills up.
A lot of different opinions on here, none of them perfectly right or wrong, but I don't shoot in burst mode on trains. I tried that before and usually ended up with ten shots, none of them with the train right where I wanted it. I shoot in One Shot mode and take a couple of shots where the train is where I want it. I suppose if I were shooting trans that went really fast, then I might reconsider.

Shooting with the old 300D and XTi, I do remember the buffer filling up really quick, too. Not so much on the 60D when I shot baseball in fast burst mode.
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Old 12-31-2011, 06:15 PM   #44
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These technical details are all true, but in practice does it really matter? I suspect that if one is shooting train wedgie/scenes at typical daytime apertures, the extent of focus error from using a non-center focus point is trivial. And I suspect that, if the 5D generally had a problem with non-center focus points bad enough to affect even our types of photography, that the world would have exploded in Canon shooter protests. Troy, maybe your 5D is defective?
No, it's a well documented fact that the 5d and for that matter 5d2 (which shares the same focus system as the original 5d) is really lacking in AF capabilities compared to newer xxD and 1D cameras. For most things, it dont matter, but for shooting moving targets (sports, trains, etc), it is lacking.
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Old 01-01-2012, 05:18 PM   #45
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A lot of different opinions on here, none of them perfectly right or wrong, but I don't shoot in burst mode on trains. I tried that before and usually ended up with ten shots, none of them with the train right where I wanted it. I shoot in One Shot mode and take a couple of shots where the train is where I want it. I suppose if I were shooting trans that went really fast, then I might reconsider.

Shooting with the old 300D and XTi, I do remember the buffer filling up really quick, too. Not so much on the 60D when I shot baseball in fast burst mode.
When I shoot with my 5D, I typically don't use burst mode as it's just too slow and I'm likely to miss that "perfect" spot. If I'm shooting a train on a bridge or something, I'll just wait to fire off that one shot when it's in the spot I want to catch it. Sometimes I fail though and push the shutter button too late, resulting in a branch or something in front of the nose of the loco.

However, when using my 60D, I definitely use the burst mode because of the faster frame rate. I like to have the option of picking between several photos with the nose of the train just fractions of a moment apart. From there, it's easy to pick the "winner" and delete the rest.

At times, I still wish I had a faster frame rate than the 60D. I'm really particular about what I consider the perfect placement of a train, especially on a bridge.
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Old 01-01-2012, 05:22 PM   #46
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I am impressed with the fast frame rate of my 60D. I tested it out at a few South Carolina Gamecock basbeall games. It would last from the wind up to the swing. Maybe I will go out and reconsider shooting trains that way, but again, most of the trains I shoot here aren't going that fast to begin with.
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Old 01-04-2012, 01:11 AM   #47
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Thanks guys for the suggestion about the * button, tried it out today and it worked great. No out of focus pictures, glad to get rid of the uncertainty whether the shot is going to be in focus or not.
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Old 01-04-2012, 03:09 AM   #48
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Good to hear it worked out for you, Nikos. It's not for everyone, but neither is driving a car with standard shift.
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