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Rolleiflex focus screen comparison test
Old 05-05-2014   #1
Dan Daniel
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Rolleiflex focus screen comparison test

I realized that I am sitting on four Rolleiflexes at the moment, all with different focus screens in them. And a spare hood assembly that I could put an original ground glass screen in and swap out easily. So what the heck.... This question comes up all the time, so maybe this will be of help to people.

My conclusion? The Maxwell Hi-Lux screen is my favorite screen, and this test didn't change my mind. The Mamiya screen, bought new on Ebay for $35, gives the Maxwell Split/Micro a decent run for its money. The Jinfinance(Oleson? NO- see update on page 2) screen is a great upgrade from the stock ground glass but nowhere near as nice as the Maxwells or Mamiya (you can't see it here, but the Jinfinance screen has a much rougher fresnel and ground glass pattern, and focusing away from the split has none of the crispness of the better screens). And the original ground glass? Well, I used them without a hitch when I was in my 20s, and I understand people liking their snap and feel, but they are not for me.

The screens:
Maxwell 'Hi-Lux' (plain screen, no grid)
Maxwell Split/microprism (no grid)
Mamiya RB67 'Type A'
Jinfinance (Oleson? NO- see update on page 2) (split image) (*see note below)
Original Rollei ground glass

Method: I choose a corner of the laundry room that had a decent range of light and shadow. I set up a Sony RX100 digital camera on a table. The Sony was put in MANUAL mode so that it wouldn't be adjusting away differences in brightness. I had the camera somewhat high up because putting it close to the screen caused serious vignetting of the screen image.Focus was set manually on the first Rollei's screen image.

I set each camera in place based on the Sony's LCD grid. Did a rough manual focus of the Rollei. Took image.

Image below is a compilation of five shots. NO adjustments to the files. Cropped and combined in Photoshop.

Ok, the compilation:



One flaw in my method was to set the manual exposure based on the Maxwell Split/Micro screen. I believe that the Hi-Lux is a brighter screen overall, and the problem in the above images is that it is slightly blown out from overexposure. Ideally I would redo the test.... yeah, right.... not today.

And a record shot of the overall scene. Shadows opened up in Photoshop-



NO- see update on page 2:::>>>* NOTE: Jinfinance is a seller on Ebay. He offers fresnel screens with a split image center. The screens are sized for Hasselblad or Bronica; they need to be trimmed to fit older Rolleis. The reason I question if these are the same screens that Rick Oleson sells is because there was a time when Jinfinance only had 45 degree splts. And Oleson was in the same position. Then Jinfinance got back 90 degree splits. And Oleson had them back in stock around the same time. The design and overall brightness that I see for Oleson screens on the internet appear very similar to the Jinfinance screens that I have put in a dozen cameras, so I think they may get their screens from the same place. <<<NO- see update on page 2
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Old 05-05-2014   #2
CK Dexter Haven
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Maxwells are excellent. I had one in my Rolleiflex TLR and another in the various Hasselblad 203FEs i had. The Maxwell was even better than the acclaimed Hassy Acute Matte(?).
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Old 05-05-2014   #3
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Very interesting comparison. I haven't see a screen comparison before, and it will help people like me. Thanks.
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Old 05-05-2014   #4
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I have Maxwell split/microprism. The image is surely clearer with Hi-Lux. Is focusing with Hi-Lux as easy as with Maxwell split/microprism?
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Old 05-05-2014   #5
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This is interesting and timely for me as I get a Rolleiflex MX Tessar ready to ship to Harry Fleenor for an overhaul. It hadn't been used for a least 20 years and the shutter is frozen, otherwise in very nice shape. The Maxwell would raise the cost of the bill significantly so wondering if its worth it? Who does your maintenance work, if I may ask?
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Old 05-05-2014   #6
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Thanks for taking the time to post this useful comparison. Do you find that the ease of focusing goes hand in hand with brightness? i.e., is the Hi-Lux not only the brightest but the easiest to focus?
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Old 05-05-2014   #7
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I have an Oleson screen in my MX-EVS and find it impossible to accurately focus without using the split prism. The surface of the screen is just too course. I sometimes even have a hard time confirming if the split image is lined up. I'm wondering if the screen is just not manufactured that well. I've been tempted to go back to the original Rollei screen but then that's a bit too dark for indoor/low light use. Looks like I'll have to shop around for a Mamiya screen or just shell out for the Maxwell.

Thanks for taking the time to do this!
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Old 05-05-2014   #8
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I tried about every screen in several Rolleiflex cameras.
When it comes to consistent accurate focus for portraits i can only state that the older darker Rolleiflex ground glasses give best results.
No rollei Hi-D like in the GX or FX, no Maxwell or Beatie for me anymore.
I use my 2,8F with confidence with the original darker groundglass.
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Old 05-05-2014   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by froyd View Post
Thanks for taking the time to post this useful comparison. Do you find that the ease of focusing goes hand in hand with brightness? i.e., is the Hi-Lux not only the brightest but the easiest to focus?
I am interested in this too.
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Old 05-05-2014   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shortstop View Post
I have Maxwell split/microprism. The image is surely clearer with Hi-Lux. Is focusing with Hi-Lux as easy as with Maxwell split/microprism?
The image is brighter with the Hi-lux, but I wouldn't say clearer. My issue with the split is that I find it distracting for composing. I am often shooting in the street so what I want to focus on is often away from the center. But for some silly reason I end up using the split to focus all time. My limit, not a limitation of the split.
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Old 05-05-2014   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by froyd View Post
Thanks for taking the time to post this useful comparison. Do you find that the ease of focusing goes hand in hand with brightness? i.e., is the Hi-Lux not only the brightest but the easiest to focus?
Aactually, I am finding the Mamiya screen to be the best for focusing. It has a more definite 'snap' in and out of focus. I think this goes along with the oft-stated opinion that the old groundglass has the cleanest snap for focusing, as J. Borger says.

I put the Mamiya in less than a week ago, so I am still getting used to it. My opinion of its focusing function may change. It is a bit darker than the Maxwells. I am not certain how it will work for how I shoot. And that is key- what I find useful might be very wrong for someone else.
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Old 05-05-2014   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by twopointeight View Post
This is interesting and timely for me as I get a Rolleiflex MX Tessar ready to ship to Harry Fleenor for an overhaul. It hadn't been used for a least 20 years and the shutter is frozen, otherwise in very nice shape. The Maxwell would raise the cost of the bill significantly so wondering if its worth it? Who does your maintenance work, if I may ask?
I do my own maintenance. And overhauls for people and to cameras I then sell. I don't want to do anything against the rules here so I will PM you.

If you have the time and the money, Fleenor is the best. And you won't regret getting a Maxwell. Then again, from what I am seeing with the Mamiya screen, I wonder...
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Old 05-05-2014   #13
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In terms of brightness the Oleson is good enough for my money. Without actually playing with all the other with focusing it is hard to say witch is best.
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Old 05-05-2014   #14
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I have the Oleson in my in Rolliflex 2.8C. It is an improvement over what it had and I do not want to know what I am missing. (Gas control)
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Old 05-05-2014   #15
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Hey thanks Dan.

I'm using the Maxwell micro collar split prism... works great.
I had the Mamiya screen in a camera I have since sold. Highly recommend it.
Maybe not over the Maxwell although it did seem finer and gave a more clear image.
It's hard to remember exactly now. I had a Beattie screen in a 3.5f as well. Another excellent choice.

Cheers!
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Old 05-05-2014   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by f16sunshine View Post
Hey thanks Dan.

I'm using the Maxwell micro collar split prism... works great.
I had the Mamiya screen in a camera I have since sold. Highly recommend it.
Maybe not over the Maxwell although it did seem finer and gave a more clear image.
It's hard to remember exactly now. I had a Beattie screen in a 3.5f as well. Another excellent choice.

Cheers!
these screens fit the 3.5f perfectly or they have to be modified?
can i swap them myself or need a professional?
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Old 05-08-2014   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DanP View Post
these screens fit the 3.5f perfectly or they have to be modified?
can i swap them myself or need a professional?
Hi Dan

The Maxwell and Beattie screens are made for specific models and are ready to instal.
The Mamiya screen must be modified although, I don't have experience doing so. Maybe someone else can reply.
Beattie screens are available at B+H and other places.
Bill Maxwell has his own un-official website. There is contact info there to reach him.
He is a very personably man and will spend time on the phone making sure you get the correct order.
I've ordered from him 3 times.

Cheers!
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Old 05-08-2014   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DanP View Post
these screens fit the 3.5f perfectly or they have to be modified?
can i swap them myself or need a professional?
Yes, those in the know, please post more info on where to source and how to modify a Mamya screen for a 3,5 Rolleiflex.
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Old 05-08-2014   #19
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I bought my Mamiya screen on Ebay. There are various models with rangefinder splits, microprisms, etc. You'll need to search for what the codes mean. Mamiya has explanations.

Ignore the information on the mirror adjustment!!
https://web.archive.org/web/20130319...lex_screen.htm

The stock Rolleiflex ground glass is about .051 inch thick. The Mamiya screen is about .065 inch thick (as I remember- measure your own). On older Rolleiflexes without removable screens, you will need to either shim the focus hood up, or reset the viewing lens focus.
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Old 05-08-2014   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J. Borger View Post
I tried about every screen in several Rolleiflex cameras.
When it comes to consistent accurate focus for portraits i can only state that the older darker Rolleiflex ground glasses give best results.
No rollei Hi-D like in the GX or FX, no Maxwell or Beatie for me anymore.
I use my 2,8F with confidence with the original darker groundglass.
Do you mean the original fresnel screen or a real piece of ground glass?

I don't think 2,8F comes with a real piece of glass. Did you later swap it?

I wonder how do the original fresnel screen and the original ground glass compare.
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Old 05-08-2014   #21
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I just ordered a RZ screen to install in my old Yashicamat. $45 including Post from ebay for a New A3 212-421 screen.
Since I sold my Rollei T the Lumuxar in the Yashica has taken the place of Tessar in my line up along side the Xenotar in the 2.8D.
The Yashica screens are actually quite bright but not very fine.
I'll post a tute on the instal if it goes well

^^ @ Axiom
The GG is very fine grained and focus is lovely accurate but, the screen becomes quite dark going away from the center.
I would agree that to some extent the GG is still the most accurate view especially for Portraits where you would wish to get critical focus on the eyes.
In lower light they lose their advantage quickly.
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Old 05-08-2014   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Daniel View Post
I bought my Mamiya screen on Ebay. There are various models with rangefinder splits, microprisms, etc. You'll need to search for what the codes mean. Mamiya has explanations.
Caution : there is a Mamiya RB/RZ screen designed for macrophoto which has a microprisms center disk and is very bright. This screen has microlenses in it, like the Beattie screens (don't know about the Maxwells). The composing image is very bright, but focusing is almost impossible, because everything always seems to be in focus (well known problem with all those acute-matte screens designed like the screens for AF cameras).

The best Mamiya screen is the regular "A" type. The brightness is on par with Rick Oleson's screens and the original Rollei screens fitted on the 3.5F and 2.8F cameras, but the Fresnel is more refined, hence a more even illumination all across the frame.
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Old 09-04-2015   #23
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Sharing my experience with my 2.8B, it came with a screen swapped from 2.8E. All my rolls shot at f/8 or larger shows missed focus. Then I installed Rick Oleson's screen and it showed the infinity is not reached. So having a split prism helps in this case.
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Old 09-04-2015   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jwicaksana View Post
Sharing my experience with my 2.8B, it came with a screen swapped from 2.8E. All my rolls shot at f/8 or larger shows missed focus. Then I installed Rick Oleson's screen and it showed the infinity is not reached. So having a split prism helps in this case.
The old Rolleis came with ground screens of real glass, quite a bit thicker than the later plastic models - I believe plastic was installed as from the 2.8E (the D I had in my hands had still glass)
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Old 09-05-2015   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron (Netherlands) View Post
The old Rolleis came with ground screens of real glass, quite a bit thicker than the later plastic models - I believe plastic was installed as from the 2.8E (the D I had in my hands had still glass)
I think that is the case. My 2.8B came originally with glass screen, then my friend swapped it with a plastic screen from his 2.8E. The difference in thickness may affect this. Although, I put Rick's screen on my Rolleicord III which had a glass screen and it performs admirably with no adjustment. So if this B came with the same glass thickness as the Cord III (am I right to assume that they are?) there should be no need for adjustment when I installed Rick's screen. But I had to. So I'm thinking the viewing lens needs adjustment.

This friend of mine then put a Maxwell screen on his 2.8E, and guess what, his E also missed the focus. I think it was the Hi Lux from Dan's compilation above. This screen is amazing in terms of brightness and snap, tho I read above that as light transmission goes up focusing accuracy goes down, I will have to wait for the test roll from the 2.8E to confirm this. The experience of focusing itself, with Maxwell screen has been very pleasant. Maybe his E also needs to have its lenses adjusted.
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Old 09-06-2015   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jwicaksana View Post
I think that is the case. My 2.8B came originally with glass screen, then my friend swapped it with a plastic screen from his 2.8E. The difference in thickness may affect this. Although, I put Rick's screen on my Rolleicord III which had a glass screen and it performs admirably with no adjustment. So if this B came with the same glass thickness as the Cord III (am I right to assume that they are?) there should be no need for adjustment when I installed Rick's screen. But I had to. So I'm thinking the viewing lens needs adjustment.
I have no experience with a 2.8B, but I know that many types of Rolleiflex have a different frame for the ground screen than a Rolleicord; it could make the difference in correct focussing.
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Old 09-06-2015   #27
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I have Maxwell screens in my 2.8 D and the Tele Rollei, plus Canon F1n, while I have some $30 ebay bought screen for the Automat. All screens seem to help me in better focusing than with the original screens. The Maxwell 35mm screens are the original screens that Maxwell treated with some stuff to make it better.
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Old 09-06-2015   #28
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I have an Oleson screen (grid + split image) on my Rolleiflex K4/50 which I really like, as bright as a Yashicamat screen. Rick gave me some advice on using the split image rangefinder. He said that after a long while he discovered the split image was easiest to see if you have the screen some distance from your eyes -- like at waist level -- instead of bringing it up close.
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Old 09-06-2015   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by summar View Post
I have an Oleson screen (grid + split image) on my Rolleiflex K4/50 which I really like, as bright as a Yashicamat screen. Rick gave me some advice on using the split image rangefinder. He said that after a long while he discovered the split image was easiest to see if you have the screen some distance from your eyes -- like at waist level -- instead of bringing it up close.
I'll try that thanks for contributing. I actually do the exact opposite.
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Old 09-06-2015   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by summar View Post
I have an Oleson screen (grid + split image) on my Rolleiflex K4/50 which I really like, as bright as a Yashicamat screen. Rick gave me some advice on using the split image rangefinder. He said that after a long while he discovered the split image was easiest to see if you have the screen some distance from your eyes -- like at waist level -- instead of bringing it up close.
I remember Rick told me that too, but if you go that route, you have to fold the magnifier to compose. At least that has been my experience.
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Old 09-06-2015   #31
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I have a maxwell screen (plain matte with grid) in my Tele, but kept the original screen for my 2.8F because it has a large microprism (no split, just this huge microprism) in the middle which is fairly rare and I love it!
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Old 09-06-2015   #32
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Quote:
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I remember Rick told me that too, but if you go that route, you have to fold the magnifier to compose. At least that has been my experience.
I've played with this too a while back and I noticed that normally I wanted to have the camera higher up for taking a photo than at waist level. The method works really well but I usually find by raising the camera up again for composing, I have already moved the camera back or front missing critical focus.

Still, the Oleson screen is a great value, I prefer using it for the fact it gives corner to corner clarity.
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Old 09-07-2015   #33
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I have never had an issue with critical focus using either my E3 or Rollei T with the original screens they came with from the factory. It is the screen in my 500 C/M that I had to replace as that was near impossible to focus. Too often I read threads where someone has just got his first Rollei and he is sending it in for CLA and having a new screen installed before even trying the factory screen.
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Old 09-09-2015   #34
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Skip Rick Olsen's cheaper screen.

If any of you folks remember the late Jim Lakey of BrightScreen, he completed a replacement focusing plain screen for the Mamiya RB67. It has a center Spot magnifier that Rick will cut down to your camera's screen size and he will have the ability to etch any one of his custom grid line pattern for you in this screen.

AND Yes, this BrightScreen replacement comes very close to the Maxwell screen. I have four Maxwell screens which is very bright and is the King of the screens.

I brought Jim Lakey's widow and Rick together to offer this customized screen for sale. I am not involved in any financial way or receive any incentives in any way. Rick has this as a higher end screen for the removable screen Rolleiflex. He CAN and WILL cut it down to fit the non-removable screen from the older Rolleiflex. The Rolleiflex SL66 screen is similar in size. I am currently testing the treated screen for my SL66 ans 2.8F and will report back to the FB forum.

Not sure why I was unable to upload more one file. So I will upload what I can.
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File Type: jpg BrightScreen Test_Page_2.jpg (32.2 KB, 161 views)

Last edited by Evanjoe610 : 09-09-2015 at 16:29. Reason: typo
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Old 09-09-2015   #35
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Here is the remainder of the file:
SEE CHART AS JPEG.

Focusing Screen Test for Rolleiflex TLR
Rating it from a Scale of 1 to 5, with 5 as Brightest, 4 as Moderately Bright, 3 as Average, 2 as OEM, 1 as Dim.


A. The test would not be consider a true scientific test, but one of an end-user viewing the Available View as projected with the waist level finder open MINUS the critical focusing diopter.

B. The test was perform on a tabletop with Infinity set focusing out to my backyard in 10AM Daylight SUNNY Condition.

C. Brightest based on a One-To-One viewing through the WLF. Results were as expected as the original OEM screen was replace accordingly.

D. The same test applied ay nighttime, but focusing at my TV & Stairway with available night lighting coming from a picture window. This test was a harder on the focusing screen, as I wanted to simulate Available lighting for night shooting for either a Wedding shot or a night scenic shot. Tripod is necessary for the night scenic shoot, but for a Wedding, you have to use whatever light you have available. Some Wedding photographers use a Video overhead lighting setup with their lighting staff…

E. Contrast was base upon the ability for the focusing screen to SNAP into focus at the desire end destination.

F. The best for all around application was the MAXWELL Hi Lux Plain Screen. Followed by a Close Second was the BrightScreen with the Large Spot Magnifier. That spot magnifier really helped with the light gathering at nighttime.


Snap-to-Contrast:
• The Maxwell does a gradually Out-of-Focus into a Steady Focus. The BrightScreen takes a complete different approach. I found it to differ than all of the screens used in the test. In the Out-Of-Range Focusing, it display the Out of Focus object reference as a Pixelated object until it is fully in true focus.
• Overall the Maxwell is the KING and does deliver what it claims to do. Where it really shine, was in the available lighting test.
• The Rolleiflex Hi-D Screen was promise to be a Fantastic screen. However, the BrightScreen was far superior to it overall. The Rolleiflex Hi-D Screen was better than the other screens, but not by much.
• As you approach the closer range of focus, it disappears and is a soft in Focus until you arrive at the final point of focus. Then the image is overall in Focus. First time using and seeing this type of focusing. I would have to test it further on other cameras when the chance arises after they are all CLA.
Any questions or to test further under a different setoff criteria, please advise accordingly.
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Old 09-09-2015   #36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by summar View Post
I have an Oleson screen (grid + split image) on my Rolleiflex K4/50 which I really like, as bright as a Yashicamat screen. Rick gave me some advice on using the split image rangefinder. He said that after a long while he discovered the split image was easiest to see if you have the screen some distance from your eyes -- like at waist level -- instead of bringing it up close.
I have found this to be true as well (Rolleiflex Automat K4B), but I the Oleson split image is basically useless in anything less than bright sunlight. My Automat has the small magnifier which is difficult to line up with the split image circle.
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Old 09-11-2015   #37
Ron (Netherlands)
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Originally Posted by Evanjoe610 View Post
Here is the remainder of the file:
SEE CHART AS JPEG.

Focusing Screen Test for Rolleiflex TLR
Rating it from a Scale of 1 to 5, with 5 as Brightest, 4 as Moderately Bright, 3 as Average, 2 as OEM, 1 as Dim.


A. The test would not be consider a true scientific test, but one of an end-user viewing the Available View as projected with the waist level finder open MINUS the critical focusing diopter.

B. The test was perform on a tabletop with Infinity set focusing out to my backyard in 10AM Daylight SUNNY Condition.

C. Brightest based on a One-To-One viewing through the WLF. Results were as expected as the original OEM screen was replace accordingly.

D. The same test applied ay nighttime, but focusing at my TV & Stairway with available night lighting coming from a picture window. This test was a harder on the focusing screen, as I wanted to simulate Available lighting for night shooting for either a Wedding shot or a night scenic shot. Tripod is necessary for the night scenic shoot, but for a Wedding, you have to use whatever light you have available. Some Wedding photographers use a Video overhead lighting setup with their lighting staff…

E. Contrast was base upon the ability for the focusing screen to SNAP into focus at the desire end destination.

F. The best for all around application was the MAXWELL Hi Lux Plain Screen. Followed by a Close Second was the BrightScreen with the Large Spot Magnifier. That spot magnifier really helped with the light gathering at nighttime.


Snap-to-Contrast:
• The Maxwell does a gradually Out-of-Focus into a Steady Focus. The BrightScreen takes a complete different approach. I found it to differ than all of the screens used in the test. In the Out-Of-Range Focusing, it display the Out of Focus object reference as a Pixelated object until it is fully in true focus.
• Overall the Maxwell is the KING and does deliver what it claims to do. Where it really shine, was in the available lighting test.
• The Rolleiflex Hi-D Screen was promise to be a Fantastic screen. However, the BrightScreen was far superior to it overall. The Rolleiflex Hi-D Screen was better than the other screens, but not by much.
• As you approach the closer range of focus, it disappears and is a soft in Focus until you arrive at the final point of focus. Then the image is overall in Focus. First time using and seeing this type of focusing. I would have to test it further on other cameras when the chance arises after they are all CLA.
Any questions or to test further under a different setoff criteria, please advise accordingly.
This might al be true but as a lot of us know and experience: the brighter the screen, the harder it is to focus. Therefore I really prefer the original later Rolleiscreens, since they seem to combine the best of both worlds: quite bright (not the brightest) and snap very well into focus!
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Old 09-11-2015   #38
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why do some people say that maxwell screens are easier to focus than original screens, and other people say that original screens are easier to focus than maxwell screens?
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Old 09-14-2015   #39
Ron (Netherlands)
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Originally Posted by aizan View Post
why do some people say that maxwell screens are easier to focus than original screens, and other people say that original screens are easier to focus than maxwell screens?
If that is the case, ultimately you have to experience yourself - as is the case with a lot of things said here on the net......
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Old 09-14-2015   #40
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Originally Posted by Ron (Netherlands) View Post
If that is the case, ultimately you have to experience yourself - as is the case with a lot of things said here on the net......
Well said, although said on the net...
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