Growing up I had my Minolta X-700 as my camera. It was the early 80s and the notion of autofocus was a foreign concept. There were companies that were working on autofocus, but it was early days. (Oddly, Leica had some of the most advanced implementations before they sold off the tech. But that’s for a different day.)
I grew up with a focus ring. For the first 10 or so years, I only had manual focus.
It was like magic when I first got my Canon A2E that had autofocus. Point and click.
I shot with autofocus until a few years ago when I got my Leica M typ 240. That’s when I realized that manual focus still had a place in the world.
In many cases, I think having autofocus is almost a requirement now. If I’m shooting a fast-moving event in a documentary way I can offload some of my workload to the camera. It works well enough so I can try to engage with my subject more. But then I get to low light — when you think it would be harder to focus manually — when I miss having my eyes in the control loop of the system. I can focus my Leica rangefinder in light that I can barely see in myself; the magic of the coincident rangefinder system shines in dodgy light.
Can I shoot reportage with the Leica M or another manual focus camera? Of course I can… people have shot news and the like for a hundred years before autofocus.
When I was shooting in the dark theater at Rocky… I missed having manual focus and I missed a lot of shots due to not being able to focus in the darkness.