Zone Focusing and Manual Lenses

I'm sure that many street photographers use Zone Focusing so that they can rapidly shoot without the need to first focus or be subject to the whims and vagaries of auto focus. It's a technique I use all of the time. I can shoot faster and the camera responds faster as there's no AF lag. It's a win-win for us. The only downside is when we need to quickly adjust our zone, then for a lot of cameras that can involve a bit of fiddling.

If I need to change the zone of focus on some of my cameras, I have to make sure the camera is on and awake, then bring the camera to my eye or in front of my face to read the DoF, aperture, and distance. It's not a big deal, but it slows me down and draws attention as I fiddle. It can become more of a fiddle if we're working with a rear screen only camera under a harsh sun.

If we're going zone focus and working our cameras on MF mode, then why not go all of the way with a manual lens? Yes, I realize we lose any opportunity for AF, but is that such a loss when on the street? The old Fujifilm cameras like the X-E1 and X-Pro1 were notoriously slow and hesitant focusing cameras when used with stepping motor equipped primes like the 35mm f1.4. Click the release and then wait . . . wait . . . wait while we listen to all of the grinding as the thing hunts back and forth. I'm wiling to bet that a bunch of us upgraded to newer models simply to get away from the focusing grind of these old cameras.

But put a manual lens on the front of these old grinders and they work as fast as the newest models. It gives these old bodies a new lease on life.
Voigtlander 40mm f1.4 Nokton lens and Fujifilm M mount adapter

I like being able to see all of the settings at a glance without the need to lift the camera up, turn it on or wake it up. A quick look down and I can see if the settings are right. If we're trying to move quickly and quietly, the MF lens can't be beat.

I tried using old SLR bayonet and M42 mount lenses on my X-E1, but thanks to the need for the long SLR flange distance, the adapter + lens was very bulky, making for a more awkward arrangement. Yes, I had all of the benefits of an MF lens, but it was a bulky package that was also off balance for waist level or hip shooting. It worked, but it wasn't the best.

I always knew that I could slap an M mount adapter and a Leica lens on a Fujifilm camera, but no way was I spending $2K for a lens. Then I discovered Voigtländer M mount lenses. They go for about the same price as a Fujinon prime and being an M mount, they're a very compact fit on an x system camera.
Fujifilm M mount

My first attempt with a Voigtländer lens involved using an after market M mount adapter that was poorly made despite its more than $100 price tag. The flange distance was off which put the distance and the DoF scale off. Pointless for my uses. I tried a cheap M mount that cost only $20, but despite its accurate flange distance, it had a sloppy fit and it was almost impossible to remove the lens from the mount.

So I sucked it up and bought the Fujifilm M mount adapter despite it being north of $200 (these are Canadian prices BTW). Wished I had bit that bullet right from the start.

Not only is the fit and the lens release perfect, it also electronically couples to the camera. There's a silver button on the adapter that when pressed, automatically pulls up the manual lens screen on the camera. This makes changing lenses quite quick as we can then rapidly select the new focal length.
Fujifilm X-Pro 1 mount adapter settings

On cameras like the X-Pro1, this automatically zooms the OVF so that when we look through it, the angle of view and frame lines are perfect for the lens. There's none of that shrinking frame lines problem that old, manually coupled Leicas have. While a manual lens cannot connect to the camera to accurately adjust for parallax error on close focusing, the frame lines do come up with a parallax correction for portrait distances, which is more than adequate for street use.

So if we're still working with an old camera like my X-Pro1, give some consideration to manual lenses, especially the M mount models, as they'll give that old tank a new lease on life. Better yet, they're a joy to use for us old film guys. They reconnect us to all of our old manual film camera instincts. I don't know about you, but that gets my old film days creativity re-energized.