Recently, I received an email inquiry from one of our readers and was asking “How do one achieve precise focusing while using manual lens?”

Most cameras have a focus peaking function – be it a DSLR, mirrorless or Medium format camera. So what is focus peaking anyway?

Focus peaking is basically an aid that has been generally common to videographers and filmmakers. It has started to be known by photographers mainly due to the thin line that distinguishes still and video format options in digital cameras.

Focus peaking detects edges of highest contrasts in a scene and highlights them in a bright color which is usually of your choice. This is also similar to the contrast detect focusing function found in many cameras where it uses red, blue, green, white, yellow, or another color that allows photographers to recognize what is in focus and what is not. When your manual lens’ stooped down, it can help show how much of the scene is in focus on a certain aperture and depth of field.

While many cameras are starting to have focus peaking built in and coupled with a few additional options in the menu, the implementation of it may sometimes not be perfect or ideal. This can be remedied with the use of external monitors which have their own peaking capabilities. The options and settings available on many monitors can sometimes surpass that of the camera since these units have their own processor which can analyze footage and outline edges better than a camera which takes care of many other operations at the same time. External monitors also offer larger screen sizes for a larger viewing option of checking the footage and image before you take a shot.

One thing to watch out with focus peaking is that it may not be clear where the plane of sharpest focus is (i.e. eye or the ear) when using wide lenses and or when stopped down. Some cameras will give you peaking highlights on almost the whole image. Users may also be limited by their camera display. Although there is no best way to check critical photos, focus peaking would definitely help to quickly and effectively check focus as you shoot.

Glenn Wesley Dulay

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