I love DSLRs but mirrorless cameras are so much better at manual focusing

Nikon D7200 with AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR
DSLRs are great – until you have to focus manually (Image credit: Future)

I started with 35mm film SLRs, where focusing screens were twice the size they are in modern DSLRs, and even then focusing was tricky. Matte focusing screens were a bit coarse for fine focus, while microprisms and split image rangefinders (anyone remember those?) started to black out with lenses slower than f/2.8.

Cut to the present day, and even the best DSLRs have crisper, but smaller focusing screens. You can get in the right ballpark very easily, but the fact is that for critical focus you’re going to rely on the autofocus system. You could switch to live view, of course, and magnify the image, but DSLRs are not really designed for live view and boy, don’t they let you know it.

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Rod Lawton

Rod is an independent photography journalist and editor, and a long-standing Digital Camera World contributor, having previously worked as DCW's Group Reviews editor. Before that he has been technique editor on N-Photo, Head of Testing for the photography division and Camera Channel editor on TechRadar, as well as contributing to many other publications. He has been writing about photography technique, photo editing and digital cameras since they first appeared, and before that began his career writing about film photography. He has used and reviewed practically every interchangeable lens camera launched in the past 20 years, from entry-level DSLRs to medium format cameras, together with lenses, tripods, gimbals, light meters, camera bags and more. Rod has his own camera gear blog at fotovolo.com but also writes about photo-editing applications and techniques at lifeafterphotoshop.com