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View Full Version : Notes to self: VERY low light focusing


Trius
10-29-2006, 17:59
Tonight I went to the monthly jam at Johnny's Irish Pub here in Rochester. Tons of fun, and this time I got chummy with some of the regulars, etc. I had Tri-X in an Oly 35SP, a 35LC, and Fuji Superia Xtra 800 in an XA. Metering with a handheld meter and rating the Tri-X at 12800 a la merciful, I was shooting at f2.8 1/30s. The XA has no underexposure override, so wide open the exposure would be 1/4 @ f2.8. We'll see how things fared!

Anyway, some mental notes about the three cameras...

The SP is the easiest to focus in such dim conditions. With effort you can see the patch and be pretty sure of focusing. The LC is not nearly as good (at least my sample) and the viewfinder is dimmer. With a LOT of effort I could sometimes be fairly certain of my focus, but I'm not hopeful.

The XA patch was pretty much invisible. Only when focusing on some neon lights in a far window, or on the leg of a white folding chair, could I even begin to get a focus confirmation.

Between the LC and the SP, the LC has the better/quieter shutter noise. I believe Rich Silfver has mentioned this too. The XA is perhaps as quiet as the LC, but is a totally different pitch.

Next time I will definitely leave the LC at home. It's a nice shooter, but in this environment, with music and conversation going, a quieter shutter isn't important at all. Since this was the first roll through the LC since I got it back from CLA, it's not a fair test of the camera. A roll of Tri-X at reasonable EI (200) is next up, but I have some exposures left on the current roll.

One other problem I encountered was that with such a low light level, I initially made quite a few exposures at an incorrect shutter speed; I just couldn't see the shutter speed dial on the SP correctly. Next time I'll take one of my AAA Mini Mag lights. DOH! Yeah, I could have turned all the way to 1/500 and clicked back, but I hadn't yet had enough Guiness to think clearly.

Earl

jlw
10-29-2006, 18:09
Here's an alternative to risking losing a Mini Maglight in an ale-induced fog: Carry one of those little squeeze-type keychain flashlights, the kind that uses a red LED. I got mine as a giveaway at a motor show about three years ago, and it's still going strong. I put the keychain ring around one of my fingers, and wear it with the light part hanging down into my palm. This keeps it handy, and it's small enough not to be in the way when I'm gripping a camera (or beer glass, or whatever.)

The key advantage is that a red light is supposed to preserve your eyes' dark adaptation better than a bright white light.

Trius
10-30-2006, 02:55
jlw: What a great suggestion! I'll seek out a couple of those lights; I know I'll lose at least one!

Pherdinand
10-30-2006, 04:18
just don;t forget to show us the resulkts:)
You know, one image tells thousand words.

Trius
10-30-2006, 08:49
I will. The Tri-X will have to be souped (with trepidation) and scanned, so it make take awhile for those, but I'll try to be quick. ;-)

The Superia I can have developed and scanned at my usual place once I finish off the roll.

Earl

Trius
11-27-2006, 10:52
One Tri-x roll was a bust; highlights but no other detail, so I'm sure that my metering was off. :( A Superia shot (XA), both colour and a b&w conversion, are in my Flickr gallery, but inserted here.

http://static.flickr.com/121/305126783_906d81c16b.jpg?v=0

http://static.flickr.com/104/305126781_f292b3022d.jpg?v=0

I went again last night, but without Tri-X or a penlight. I had Superia 800 in an SP and 400BW in the LC. I was shooting the SP & 1/2 with some bracket shots at 1 sec(!) and thought the camera was malfunctioning. The shutter speed seemed way too fast. What I finally discovered was that the sound of the shutter closing was so much quieter than the initial opening noise, that I hadn't heard it because of the music. So those shots will be bunged. But once I figured that out, I should be OK except for the normal "too slow to handhold" issues. So this is a case where a shutter was too quiet, at least partially. The LC's shutter opening and closing sounds were at equal volume.

I'll have the films from last night processed later this week.

varjag
11-28-2006, 00:09
Trius, you really need a faster lens there.

Abbazz
11-30-2006, 18:59
The SP is the easiest to focus in such dim conditions. With effort you can see the patch and be pretty sure of focusing. The LC is not nearly as good (at least my sample) and the viewfinder is dimmer. With a LOT of effort I could sometimes be fairly certain of my focus, but I'm not hopeful.

The XA patch was pretty much invisible. Only when focusing on some neon lights in a far window, or on the leg of a white folding chair, could I even begin to get a focus confirmation.

Earl,

For easy focusing in complete darkness, try the "Focuspot" trick (courtesy of Kalart Corp. see this link (http://graflex.org/speed-graphic/kalart-focuspot.html)). It's quite simple: you use the rangefinder the other way round by shining a laser pointer through the eyepiece and adjusting the focus to cause the two red spots projected on your subject to merge. Just make sure not to focus on the eyes of the aforementioned subject :D

Cheers,

Abbazz

Trius
11-30-2006, 19:11
Eugene: No sh#t! It was with the XA, at largest aperture, f2.8. The Tri-X in the SP and LC (both @ 1.7) wasn't exposed properly, so no results.

Abbazz: Thanks for the tip. I'll check that out. Even with a focus aid like that, the DOF will be very shallow. I'm also going to try the tape on the rangefinder window trick, though that may make the view too dim. I have a few other ideas up my sleeve.