Be warned… this is a techy one.
15 years ago autofocus for SLR’s got good. Really good actually. I started to be able to focus faster, more accurately and more often than with a manual focus camera. A small part of me was sad that the older ‘analog’ technology was being superseded but the simple unavoidable fact was that autofocus worked. I could take photographs of birds flying toward me and the camera could find a sharp focus and keep up with the movement.
Autofocus lenses became the dominant paradigm… This was compounded further with the proliferation of cheap digital slr’s. It wasn’t that people couldn’t afford film slr’s it was just that photography has boomed as a result of the digital revolution. Plain and simple more people were taking photographs and almost everyone was using autofocus lenses.
Digital technology has of course moved forward – Fast. With the release of the Canon 5d Mark II and its successors from Nikon, Canon, Sony and the rest of the big manufacturers it is now realistic to shoot movies using these cameras. The sensors have fantastic low light noise qualities, they are relatively fast, produce brilliant color saturations and for the first time in history amateur film makers can afford cameras and lenses that produce desirable depth of field results (Much to the annoyance of purist film-makers who think this particular feature is abused by said amateurs).
So where is the technology comeback?
The proliferation of budding film-makers has created a demand for manual focus lenses and non graduated manual aperture rings. Companies such as Zeiss & Schneider are producing these lenses and they fit modern Canon and Nikon lens mounts. The glass is extremely high quality. They have superior construction as compared with their big brand counterparts and deliver exceptional image performance. These new lenses beats buying a second hand FD lens, pulling out the graduated aperture ring and converting them to fit the EF or Nikon equivalent mounts.
The move back to a mechanical analog system makes the sentimental in me very happy and now I have a perfect justification to go out and repopulate my lens collection with fast, prime, manual focus lenses.