This week during our online advanced landscape class we talked about maximizing depth of field, and figuring out where exactly to focus in an image. Traditionally photographers have used techniques like depth of field preview, hyperfocal distance and LCD image review to check critical focus. I still use my depth of field preview button on my D850 to see in real time what is in focus in my image. Sure, the viewfinder does get dark when you close down to an aperture like F16, but I can see things pretty well once my eye adjusts. And let’s not forget about knowing what your hyperfocal distance is for your favorite wide angle lens at F16: I frequently don’t even worry about where to focus my 20mm, I just set my focus to 2.8 feet and know from 1.4 feet (17 inches) to infinity will be sharp.
But technology is changing how we shoot in the field. Honestly, I think now more than any other time in my career technology advancements are transforming photography. Better ISO, autofocus, and in-camera stabilization are changing how I shoot. And when it comes to maximizing depth of field and determining focus point, you don’t need to use the rule ‘focus a third into the frame’ anymore. Instead, use focus peaking.
Most new cameras have focus peaking. I have talked about focus peaking before in the D850. The only trick there is you need to be in live view to use it. Not so with mirrorless, since you are using an EVF. The other day I was shooting a landscape image using my Z6II, and wondered if everything was in focus. To check all I had to do was turn off autofocus using the switch on the lens. Just click it off, and suddenly the focus peaking red highlights illuminated the parts of my scene that were sharp. I adjusted both my focus and aperture setting until the red peaking highlights illuminated the parts of the scene I needed in focus. Just like that…one quick switch click, check focus peaking, and then click back into autofocus. In the future this is how I will check focus; no more charts, estimations or dark viewfinders.
Some photographers will assign a button on the camera to turn on focus peaking. Great idea if you use it a lot. I use focus peaking only for grand landscapes where I want maximum depth of field, not something I do everyday. Most mirrorless cameras don’t have as many customizable buttons as DSLRs, so I save the buttons on my Z6II for other functions like focus tracking and group area autofocus modes. Customize your camera buttons to reflect your shooting habits, chances are it will be different for everyone.
Technology marches on, and photographers need to be aware of the possibilities. Not matter what camera (DSLR or Mirrorless) you use, make sure you know all the possibilities it offers. One new feature just might change how you shoot.