One thing that i've experienced many times whilst working alongside other photographers, primarily on events is a look of surprise when they see i'm shooting in manual focus or with a manual lens.
A great number of photographers I've come across seem to think that they know everything about photography and focus so much on getting the 'best' gear. Therefor they limit themselves and their approach. Rather than sharing skill sets and approach they come across arrogant and limited in their discussions. You can see the same thing in the comment threads of blogs, YouTube videos and Instagram feeds. This is such a shame, whether its born out of the stress of running your own business and other photographers being 'competition' or just general insecurity or obnoxiousness. The bottom line is we are all working in the same field, doing something that we love. If you don't love what you're doing working in this industry then you shouldn't be working in it. We all have information and tips to share. No one has the definitive 'right' way of doing it and this idea from my experience has held many professional's back.
Anyway to my point.. I work extensively as and studied as a cinematographer. The first Professional grade camera that I owned was a Canon 5DMK2. So I started out shooting predominantly on 'Photography' lenses such as the 24-105 L series. The first thing I would do is switch Auto Focus off. The main reason is to pull focus without any interference and as you know when buying 'Cine' lenses they generally come without an Auto Focus option for this exact reason. Now being a photographer alongside a cinematographer that 5D MK2 gave me the ability to both shoot great video and photographic content. So using the same lenses and camera I would be swapping between both regularly. This isn't the same path most photographers take and that's fine. Autofocus takes a lot of thinking out of the equation especially when starting out, which I completely understand. The thing is, I can pull focus incredibly well. Sure thats because of my experience and the endless hours doing so but this has meant that not only do I NEVER have to second guess my autofocus system or use focus hold. But I also have full control no matter the conditions. For example, when shooting a first dance in a very poorly lit dancehall. Often your autofocus will struggle to get the accuracy you're after. You won't miss the dance on the whole but you might miss that perfect look the couple give each other or the reaction in the crowd around them. If you can pull focus manually, all you need to know is how far away from them you are. No matter how much you move around to vary your composition you can pull the focus without thinking and get the shot time after time.
This also means i've never been excited about how many 'Focus points' a new camera body has or how fast a new lens is. If I had a fiver everytime I heard a photographer claim they will only buy a lens with the 'Red Ring' on when discussing this topic i'd be able to buy every L series lens out there. The problem with this thinking is you're missing out on a wide range of gear out there. Now i'm not saying there aren't other pro's to owning this kind of gear as there obviously is. What i'm saying is that perhaps more photographers should step out of their comfort zone and try shooting manual. It's not something you can snap to quickly in high pressure environments such as in a wedding ceremony but if you get it down prior then it makes the whole process more involved and controlled.
Now I feel the need to reiterate this point briefly. This is not a rant about spending a lot of money on lenses or other gear! I own L series lenses and regularly rent them for my shoots. This is a rant about the downfalls of being close minded.
Here's a solid example. One of my favourite lenses is the cheapest lens I've ever purchased. It's a 50mm 'Vintage' lens I found in the basement of a shop in Digbeth. It cost me £25 and about 20 minutes of cleaning and an adapter got it ready for action on my DSLR for a total of around £35. That's cheaper than Canons 'Nifty Fifty' and the build quality feels on par with if not better than the L series 50mm 1.2. Now it has its pro's and con's and ironically one of the cons is the focus wheel. It's not the fastest but if anything that gives me a better feel of the movement and solid accuracy. I was reluctant to use it for professional shoots as I only purchased it as a random test but after getting acquainted with it I starting bringing it along to both video and photo shoots. The amount of times I feel as though i'm getting looked down upon by other photographers for using it especially when I reveal it's Manual Focus only is on par with how many times I use it. I'm used to this and it never really bothers me, especially when i'm freelancing for another photographer and a few weeks after the shoot I get an email asking what lens it was as they can't get over the shot's I produced with it.
Manual focus isn't for everyone, just like flash photography isn't for some people but that isn't to say you shouldn't give it a shot. Or at least appreciate other photographers techniques and approach, especially if it's something you feel like you couldn't pull off. If you're comfort in your routine and set up then you're stuck. Always try and push yourself out of your comfort zone. You're bound to have a few stumbles and perhaps even give up, but by doing so you've still learned something along the way.