Magic Lantern Feature: The Focus Panel

on November 20, 2014

There are a lot of very cool tricks you can do in the focus panel.  I prefer to leave the autofocus features alone, but if you practice with the workflow, you could use it to speed things up on your shoot.

TRAP FOCUS

If you are using an older vintage lens- or a lens that is manual focus only- this can help speed up your shooting. You need to have an adapter with a Focus Confirmation chip for it to work, or else you need to be in Live View mode. My suggestion: Get the Focus Confirmation models of adapters. It’s rarely more than a few bucks more, and its better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

HOLD AF BUTTON- In this mode, you hold whatever you have designated as your AF button (Either half-shutter, or your back-focus button) to activate this setting.

CONTINUOUS- This digitally “presses” the AF button for you all the time so that the camera automatically takes a picture as soon as it gets missile lock.

Focus Patterns-

If you are using autofocus, or if you have enabled trap focus, you can customize the focus patterns in your camera.

You have to have your camera in any photo mode with the live view turned off. As you look through the viewfinder, change the selected arrangement using your arrow keys and press “SET” when you are done. If you want to see what you have as your Focus Selection, press ZOOM IN twice.

Follow Focus-

This is one of those features that I am sure sounded like the future of filmmaking in the drawing room. In reality, it is more tedious and not as effective.

Unless you have a very expensive motion control system, you should be focusing manually, with your hands on a follow focus. Yes, the stepper motors have gotten better, but even with magic lantern, the process of setting and timing out your rack focus points takes more time than it is worth.

ML recommends focus step sizes of 1 or 2 with a small value for the step delay, increasing step delays if the motion is not as smooth as you like.

To rack focus while recording- yes, you must be recording- focus on what you want your SECOND POSITION to be and press MENU. Then rack focus manually to your FIRST POSITION.

Call action.

When you want to rack focus- press PLAY and focus will shift to the SECOND position.

Press PLAY again and you return to your FIRST position.

I can see you this could be useful in a dialogue two-shot where you are going back and forth, but you should familiarize yourself with this setup very well.

You can trigger the rack focus either using the arrows.

FOCUS END POINT

This lets you set the end point of a rack focus. Find your mark on where you want the lens to END, then press SET. Now you can use your arrows or scroll wheel to change your STARTING focus. You can keep adjusting your starting focus point- that’s not set in memory. But your ENDING focus point is stored in memory and will be the same each time regardless of where you start.

RACK FOCUS

This triggers the rack between the beginning and the end of the focus moves. Press again to go back in reverse.

SET- The rack has a 2 second delay

Q- Rack will start immediately

PLAY– This will automatically record the rack focus in one go for you.

If you are outside the Magic Lantern Menu, press PLAY to start the rack focus.

Heres how to do it:

1) Find where you want your SECOND FOCUS POINT to be.

Set up how long you want the delay to be and what size steps you want to use between that and your FIRST focus point

2) Go to FOCUS END in the FOCUS menu in ML and hit SET to mark it.

3) Find your starting focus withe the left and right buttons while you are still in the FOCUS menus in ML and micro-adjust with the scrollwheel.

4) When you are ready to start, go to RACK FOCUS and press either SET or PLAY- press it again to run it in reverse.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this segment, it’s very cool that your camera can do all these things. However- just do it manually. If you screw up your set up even once with the automated system, you will have lost any mechanical advantage of doing it in camera.

FOCUS STACKING

This I something I could POSSIBLY see the use for. Lots of macro-photographers use focus stacking because they have such a shallow depth of field. Landscape-photographers will also use it to make sure that their foreground and their background are both tack sharp.

Setting this up is the same as setting up rack focus, determine how many focus steps to skip, which will be how many shutter actuations you get. Either press PLAY or depress the shutter to star the photo series.  You can set:

number of pictures

number of pictures before your focus point

number of pictures past your focus point

number of focus steps

amount of time you need to allow the flash to recharge

and finally- this lets you copy the rack focus range.

FOCUS SETTINGS

This is to set the time and distance settings for your autofocus to use during these modes.  Step size, delay between shots, delay before starting, and even direction.

FOCUS PATTERNS

This lets you set up the different patterns of Focus Points.