Thursday, August 27, 2009

Beware Point-and-Shoot Film Cameras with Post Pre-Focus Focussing

This will be a short post, but I wanted to share some potentially informative experiences with high-quality, point-and-shoot film cameras I've accumulated recently, especially for street photography shooters and those trying to photograph fast and oft-moving children...

Apparently, the "pre-focus" (when you push the shutter button down halfway to "pre-focus" in order to minimize the delay before the shutter is actually tripped) on many point-and-shoot film cameras doesn't actually focus the lens; it'll only determine whether there's enough light to take the photo, and whether assistance from the built-in flash will be needed. Also, it allows you to fix the exposure level and recompose the shot. I guess this behavior is meant to minimize the battery drain caused by focussing the lens and then not taking a photograph.

For street and child photography, the extra amount of time needed to focus the lens upon pressing the shutter button the rest of the way down, can easily lead to missed which my experience can attest.

One of the highly-touted point-and-shoot cameras of the 1990s was and is the Yashica T4/T5. The lens quality is quite nice and it even works relatively well with the built-in flash. The only drawback I've experienced with it: it doesn't actually focus the lens until you press the shutter button all the way down. Luckily, it focusses pretty fast; but it can't compete with a camera that actually focusses the lens upon partial pressing of the shutter button.

I was surprised to find this out about the Yashica T4/T5 because the point-and-shoot cameras I had gathered before acquiring the Yashica T4 actually focussed the lens on pre-focus.

It turns out the Leica Minis (I have both the Mini II and Mini III) actually focus upon pre-focussing; I didn't realize how lucky I was to have selected them as my first compact film cameras for my street and child photography. (Note: I've noticed my Mini II with a 35 f/3.5 lens focuses slightly faster than my Mini III with a 32 f/3.2 lens.)

Two others I've collected that don't have the focussing delay after pre-focus:
  1. The Ricoh GR1, GR1s, and GR1v. The Ricohs, in fact, have a "snap" focussing mode that even eliminates time to pre-focus.
  2. The Konica Hexar AF. This isn't a very compact point-and-shoot camera; but it's the fastest auto-focussing film camera I fast as my Canon SLR and DSLRs.
Anyway, if you're looking for compact and/or point-and-shoot film cameras for street and/or child photography, you should be aware that many of these types of cameras are like the Yashica T4/T5 in that true focussing doesn't occur until the shutter button is fully depressed.

As I gather and/or use other point-and-shoot film cameras, I will try to make sure to report my findings here at the blog.

Michael Grace-Martin is a professional wedding, portrait, event, stock, and fine art photographer based in Upstate New York. He is also the author of this blog. All images and text are (c) Michael Grace-Martin Photography. His main website is:

1 comment:

  1. I had the exact same experience with the T5 I bought recenly. The first time I used it, I wasn't sure if it aquired the right focus distance before recomposing. All it does is give you a green light. My contax G1 does focus the lens when you press the shutter button halfway, so the resulting shutter lag is negligable. I'm lookig for a cheap carry anywhere p&s for quick opportunity shots on the street. The T5 is a bit slow for the task. A very cheap Nikon L35AF2 is much twice as fast, but is still doesn't prefocus the lens. I'll have to look into the Leica miniII. Thank you for pointing this out!