This week I’ll show you how to focus at night with a modern Lens, which is especially handy for anyone into astrophotography and photographing the milkyway. 

When shooting with a fly-by-wire lens, I always use the second technique. 

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This week I’ll show you how to focus at night with a fly by wire lens…..or a lens with no markings…..

With old school lenses, focusing used to be manual and everything would be displayed on the lens, from focal distance to hyperlocal points.

Nowadays, lenses are clean and slick…..but they have no markings on them whatsoever…..this is ok when focussing in the day using autofocus, but at night when there isn’t enough light about for the autofocussing system to work, you have to do it manually. 

These are the two ways I’ve found to be the best for speed and efficiency. This is with a sony a7rii and a7iii, but the menu options should be similar if you have a newer camera from sony…and to be honest if you have any decent camera bought in the past 5 years, you should be able to do this…just find the corresponding options in your menu system.

During the Night

  • Find a bright star
  • Switch to manual focus
  • Magnify in on the star
  • Turn the focus ring until you get the star in focus
  • Hope you don’t knock the focus ring or camera…otherwise you’ll have to redo the process. 

This is the technique I prefer to help focus at night

In the daytime, set your camera up so you can find and focus on something on the horizon….you might have to climb up a hill or get to a vantage point where you can see a long distance away.

  • Switch to manual focus
  • Turn off manual focus assist tab 1 13/14
  • Turn the focus ring until it the horizon is in focus
  • Whilst doing this make a note of what number is on the back scale when the point on the horizon comes into focus. 
  • Use the magnify tool to check you’ve got critical focus
  • When you’re out shooting at night, bring the focus back to this point. 

On my batis 25mm, I know that just at the point where the number turns into the infinity logo, it is perfectly sharp, so this is the method I prefer to use. 

If you are thinking of buying a lens, it might be worth getting a manual lens if you are having trouble to focus at night…I did a video on why a manual fast prime is great for astrophotography, click here to see that tutorial

Some cameras dont have this function, or don’t display the focussing distance, so on those ones, you have to use the first method. 

I also shoot the stars with a full frame camera: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPVEE…

The principles are the same, with a few subtle differences…

I also have a more recent video on the top 10 ultra wide lenses for astrophotography here: https://www.boxheadmike.com/10-ultra-wide-lenses-for-astrophotography/

…and you can find my astrophotography playlist here: https://www.boxheadmike.com/astrophotography/

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Mike

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