I have always set up my cameras to zone focus by simply going into manual focus mode, setting the focusing distance scale to my desired focusing distance and shooting away. The problem with this approach is that it is difficult to keep the focusing distance consistent because more often than not I am accidentely bumping the focusing ring. However using the settings I describe below I have been able to circumvent both of these issues and have a reliable zone focusing setup….”
I made heavy use of zone focusing via setting hyperfocal distance during a years-long urban documentary project during the analog era when relying on a pair of Leica M-Series cameras and mostly 28mm and 35mm lenses.
Of the two my preference was the 28mm lens as its medium wide-angle focal length allowed me to be right in the middle of crowds and close-up to my human subjects while still revealing telling details of the environment in which they and I found ourselves.
Narrower or wider than 28mm or 35mm does not cut it for that approach, as I have proven to myself many times before and since, and ultra-wideangle lenses like the otherwise excellent Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 R and Fujinon XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR with their 21mm and 24mm equivalent focal lengths impose a so-called “lensey” look on the image the perspective distortion of which draws undue attention to the lens and not to the subject matter when using it up-close and in-deep in the street.
Setting one of two hyperfocal distances for either closer or more distant action with the 18mm-equivalent 28mm Leica lens was a brilliant solution to the need for maximum speed and meant I could concentrate on seeing and getting into the zone, achieving maximum flow, achieving extraordinary outcomes that evaded a slower, more deliberate approach.
My term for this high-speed, highly-focused approach to urban documentary photography was “visual athletics” and it produced challenging, heavy-muscled images that upset the denizens of my then-local art and photography community and challenged them in accepting my work as art much less as being in any way creative.
More fool them, now that photography is understood as an art form in its own right and that so-called street photography has become an acceptable creative practice.
It can be a thankless task, though, to be something of a provincial pioneer in any art form.
Ah well, get out the world’s tiniest violin.
Meanwhile Sydney-based documentary and street photographer Steve Dimitriadis of zone focus has my gratitude for sharing his zone focusing methodology using his Fujifilm X-T2 camera and Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R lens.
As I have written here a number of times, I am not a fan of Fujifilm’s ageing 18mm almost-pancake lens and have been waiting far too long for its modernized replacement.
A Fujicron-style Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R WR lens would be an acceptable upgrade especially for urban documentary photography but even better would be a far more versatile professional-style manual clutch focus lens in the manner of the Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 R, XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR and XF 23mm f/1.4 R for stills and video.
Fujifilm, where is the Fujinon XF 18mm that Patrick of Fuji Rumors has been telling us is coming for ages now?
- Fuji Rumors – Don’t Worry, Fujinon XF 18mmF2 MK II Will Come… and it’s Not Just a New Product Number, but a REAL New Version!
- Fuji Rumors – Fujifilm Plans Fujinon XF 18mm F2 Mark II Lens (SRP)
- Fuji Rumors – Where is the Fujinon XF 18mm F2 MK II ? … and About Fujifilm Lens Roadmaps
- Wikipedia – Depth of Field
- Wikipedia – Flow (psychology)
- Wikipedia – Scale focus
- zonefocus – How I Set Up My Fujifilm X-T2 for Zone Focusing
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- Breakthrough Photography X4 Brass UV filters – B&H – I rely on this brand’s beautifully-made non-binding knurled traction frame UV filters to protect all my lenses with filter diameters from 39mm up to 105mm.
- Fujifilm XF 14mm f/2.8 R Ultra Wide-Angle Lens – B&H
- Fujifilm XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR Lens – B&H
- Fujifilm LH-XF16 Lens Hood – B&H
- Fujifilm 18mm f/2.0 XF R Lens – B&H
- Fujifilm XF 23mm f/1.4 R Lens – B&H
- Fujifilm LH-XF23 Lens Hood for XF 23mm f/1.4 R – B&H – working close to your subjects in crowds demands protecting your cameras and lenses as much as you can, especially the front of your lens.
- Vello LHF-XF23 Dedicated Lens Hood – B&H – appears to be made in the same way as Panasonic’s pricier lens hood above.
- Vello LHF-XF23II Dedicated Lens Hood – B&H
- Fujifilm XF 23mm f/2 R WR Lens – B&H
- Fujifilm Lens Hood for XF23mmF2 and XF35mmF2 R WR Lenses – B&H
- Fujifilm 35mm f/1.4 XF R Lens – B&H
- Fujifilm X-E3 Mirrorless Digital Camera – B&H
- Fujifilm X-H1 Mirrorless Digital Camera – B&H
- Fujifilm X-Pro2 Mirrorless Digital Camera – B&H
- Fujifilm X-Pro2 Mirrorless Digital Camera with 23mm f/2 Lens (Graphite) – B&H
- Fujifilm X-T2 Mirrorless Digital Camera – B&H
- Leica CL Mirrorless Digital Camera with 18mm Lens (Black) – B&H – Leica’s APS-C sensor digital rangefinder-style camera with 28mm-equivalent f/2.8 interchangeable lens is one possible solution to Fujifilm’s lack of a decent 28mm-equivalent 18mm lens.
- Leica Q (Typ 116) Digital Camera – B&H – Leica’s 35mm sensor digital rangefinder-style camera with 28mm f/1.7 fixed lens is another possible solution to Fujifilm’s lack of a decent 28mm-equivalent 18mm lens.