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Old Mar 6, 2011, 7:21 AM   #1
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Default SX1 IS mis-focusing sometimes for flash shots in dark areas

I've had an ongoing problem with my SX1 IS mis-focusing when I shoot with flash in dark areas. I'm thinking maybe it's a problem with configuration (settings) of the camera?

It's hard to pinpoint if something different happens when shooting the photos that aren't focused, because I usually don't know until I later review the images or transfer them to a computer. The mis-focus seems to happen about 30% of the time under a "low-ambient-light shooting-with-flash" scenario.

In general though, I can say I'm seeing a green beam on the faces as the camera focuses, and I'm seeing a green box on the faces (at least most of the time.) And of course, it is not letting me actually take the photo until the camera believes it has focused on something.

My current camera settings are:
AF Frame: Face Detect
AF Point Zoom: Off
Servo AF: Off
AF Mode: Continuous
Digital Zoom: Off
AF Assist Beam: On
Usually I'm shooting these types of photos in P mode (although even shooting in A mode with a small aperature did not resolve it.

I have some samples below, and the interesting thing on these is I really don't see anything sharp in them; it's not as though the camera focused on something else in the scene instead of the subject in the foreground:



(Photobucket has reduced the resolution of the image from the original size.)





(Photobucket has reduced the resolution of the image from the original size.)







(Photobucket has reduced the resolution of the image from the original size.)


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Old Mar 6, 2011, 10:51 AM   #2
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Abe-

I believe that the Face Detect feature may be the culprit in the mis-focusing mix. Have you tried the camera in a low light environment using regular focus? Keep in mind that the SX1 has essentially two focus modes: one using primary focus and the other using the Face Detect mode. They do not work in tandem.

Sarah Joyce
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Old Mar 6, 2011, 11:53 AM   #3
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I had switched to Face Detect mode a few months ago when I first started chasing this problem. Before that, I think I was on "Flexi zone" in P mode ("Center" is not available in P mode.)

I think (barring any other revelations) I want to try switching AF Point Zoom to "on" as an aid to confirming sharp focus. Hopefully I'll be able to see enough when focusing in the dark. Also, I want to switch AF Mode to "single" (which will hopefully help avoid having the camera constantly shifting the focus.

I'll have a similar shooting situation to what the sample images show in about 2 weeks.

This camera definitely is more sensitive about focus than any other camera I've used before. They give you huge amounts of options and control on the one hand. On the other hand, it is not intuitive and is over-engineered. Truly a double-edged sword.
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Old Mar 6, 2011, 4:28 PM   #4
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Abe-

Yes, that does appear to be a double edged sword. As we know that the basic or underlying problem with your photos is the lack of photo environment lighting, the next step, logically seems to be, to add increased lighting that would help/promote accurate focusing within the photo environment.

The Canon S5 was the same way, when the light level within the photo environment, progressively decreased, you reached a point where focusing was very erratic, and you ended up with unfocused images. That is why that the hot shoe and the potential of an external flash was a huge "assist" to the camera. However, there was still a "glitch." If the lighting within the photo environment was insufficient, you were still hit with unfocused images.

I ended up sometimes just having a naked 100w light bulb illuminated within the photo environment so that I could properly focus on photos taken at Junior Proms and the like that were my "bread and butter."

Sarah Joyce
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Old Mar 6, 2011, 10:04 PM   #5
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My last camera (before the SX1 IS) was an S2 IS. I don't remember having the focus issues with it that I'm having with the SX1.

Panning back a bit (as a manner of speaking) it's curious why this is a problem now (about focusing in low ambient light.) This technology had been perfected years ago. My Minolta Maxxum was good with low ambient light focusing in 1985.

Another thought about focusing . . . why were film cameras so much faster than digital? I had an Olympus IS3 (super zoom from the early '90s.) I had put the thing away around 10 years ago when I started using digital exclusively. I pulled it out about 7 years ago and sold it on eBay. While checking it out and getting it ready for sale, I realized how fast it was at focusing. That was a great camera; I wish my digital cameras could focus as fast and accurately as it did. Still, it was the right thing to do selling it when I did. The reality was that I was not going to go back to film. Now have you seen how scarce film is in the stores? And I'm sure a lot of the C-41 processing has to be questionable with such low numbers of rolls being processed now. Not easy to keep a processor in control that way.
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Old Mar 6, 2011, 10:14 PM   #6
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Well said, Abe-

But we did not not move one iota toward a solution to your problem.

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