For calculating and setting the focus to the hyperfocal distance, the computers in modern cameras already recognize the needed variables (focal length, aperture and of course format). I wonder if any cameras have taken advantage of this. Provisions for zone focusing, other than for the hyperfocal distance, would be somewhat more complex in terms of the interface, but the calculations for the camera would still be trivial. This would do a lot to overcome the disadvantages of AF lenses when trying to zone focus them.
I think you are making life harder for yourself than it needs to be. in the good old days before AF and predictable AF, we prefocused on a particular spot and waited for the subject to come into the scene. This works well for fast moving objects like cars and motorcycles, some sports shots and is still used. It does take some practice to get the timing right.
Sorry Ronk, I don't quite follow your point. As you know it's not hard to zone focus with MF lenses. I've owned a lot over the years (and still use my Nikon F3, which I kept after giving a bunch of Nikon gear away). You mention the use in sports, but I think zone focusing is the way to go for other situations, like street photography and other human scenes, and it's the only way to do the sorts of landscape work I've been focusing on lately. But I would claim that generally AF lenses DO make it hard to zone focus. You have to know pretty much what the zones are and find a spot the right distance away, and hold that focus. Much harder than lining up the marks on the lens. Granted, those marks weren't all that precise, but by and large they did the job. And if you needed more accuracy you could get it. Moreover, it wouldn't be hard for the camera companies to adopt my suggestion (at least regarding the hyperfocal distance, which is, as it happens, what I need to use currently).
I don't know that AF is really all that neccessary in landscape shots on a tripod, especially. Why not just put the lens in MF mode, meter, compose and shoot?
Even with the modern scales on today's lenses, judge the distance, set the focus manually and shoot. As they say, F8 and be there.
I've got a VERY handy use for AF in landscape/tripod situations - I use it to set the diopter thumbwheel. I point the camera at something and let the AF sync on it. Then I rotate the thumbwheel until it looks the sharpest. THEN I take my time with composition and focusing. This trick solved my "why the HECK are these pictures out of focus" problem - admittedly they weren't much out of focus, but it was annoying and a niggling little problem. Oddly enough it took me quite a while to figure this one out.
I guess I'm not being clear. I'm not looking to use AF but rather to use zone focusing, generally at the hyperfocal distance for the greatest dof. This is trivial to do with MF lenses but not with AF, especially if one need to change aperture, and especially if (as is often the case for me) at dusk. This would hold even with a tripod but as it happens I am taking camera moving images, for which reason AF would go haywire. Anyway, Ronk is correct for most purposes certainly.