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Auto focus limitations
Manual focus
Is it in focus?

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This is an extract from my training manual handed out on the courses I run on the Sony EX1.

If you haven't attended the course you will probably find it helpful to use this and the Sony manual which came with your camera.


by Christina Fox

There are two ways of getting your pictures in focus. You can leave the focus on AUTO and let the camera do it for you or you can adjust it manually.

THE TROUBLE WITH AUTO FOCUS ... is that it doesn't work well under the following conditions:

  • When the subject is not in the centre of the picture (particularly when there are moving objects in the background)
  • When another subject passes between the camera and the point of interest
  • In low light conditions
  • If there is a bright light behind the subject (e.g. a window)
  • When the subject is bright (e.g. a car with its head lamps on)
  • When the subject is of low contrast - walls, the sky
  • If the subject is made up of fine repetitive patterns
  • If the subject is behind vertical bars or a chain link fence

I would always recommend you shoot in manual focus. But, this is a high definition camera - which means you really have to get the focus right or it will be very obvious if you don't.

The good news is that Sony have provided extra features to help you with manual focusing, such as expanded focus, the push auto and peaking.


Switching the Sony PMW-EX1 to manual focusMANUAL FOCUS

First of all we need to switch the EX1 from auto to manual. This switch is located on the lens of the camera.

Once you switch to manual focus the letters MF will appear in the LCD screen and viewfinder. (If you are still in auto you will see AF instead.)

There are two ways to operate the focus in manual…




Full manual and auto focus on the Sony EX1



  • Set the FOCUS switch to MANUAL
  • Make sure the FOCUS RING is pushed forward (in the direction of the AF/MF arrow).
  • You can now use the focusing ring to manually focus your shots
    However, the focusing ring rotates infinitely. If you are used to cameras such as the PD150, Z1 and V1 - then you'll feel at home with the focus ring in this position.


·    This time ensure the FOCUS RING is pushed back towards the camera body (in the direction of the Full MF arrow).

If you are used to working with cameras such as the DSR 450, 500 and 570 - then you'll probably prefer to work this way.

This mode gives more certainty in focusing as the focus ring has definite end stops and a marked range finder that tells you the focussing distance (useful if you want to use the markings for focus pulling).

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Peaking in red on the SonyEX1In High Definition focus is very critical, so there are three features to help you ensure focus is correct.

1.     PEAKING works by emphasising sharp edges by giving them a little added zing (in the viewfinder and LCD screen only). Peaking clings to sharp edges to emphasise they are in focus.

If you are finding it difficult to see the peaking (the default colour is white) then you can change its colour to red (as in the image on the right) or yellow and the level to high, medium or low.

I recommend you switch the Peaking ON and change it to RED and MEDIUM in the CAMERA SET MENU.

Peaking works in both STBY and REC mode.

In the above picture you can see the red peaking clinging to the edges of the flowers. But, it is not always easy to see on some subjects. Faces don't tend to have many hard edges (unless they are very wrinkled) so you may not see peaking on a face. So....

2.    The EXPANDED FOCUS button will zoom the picture in further to help you check focus. This works in both STBY and REC mode.

3.    The PUSH AF button switches the camera to Auto Focus while you push it. The best way to make use of it is to zoom in as close as you can to the point of interest (eg your interviewees face). Then push and hold the PUSH AF button until it finds the focus.

Once you see the shot has focused, stop pushing the button and then frame your shot.

This function only works when the focus ring is pushed forward in the infinity mode.

© 2000 - 2010

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Christina Fox