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How do (did) you focus slow zooms on an MF SLR?
Old 09-11-2017   #1
Dante_Stella
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How do (did) you focus slow zooms on an MF SLR?

Serious question. The higher-end cameras (Nikon F and Canon F-1 series, for example) have interchangeable screens, some of which have focusing aids optimized to small aperture lenses. But for most 1970s-1980s SLRs with fixed screens am I the only person who finds it frustrating that the microprisms never "clear" and that the split-image becomes super-dependent on eye position?

Dante
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Old 09-11-2017   #2
Rayt
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I would zoom in to focus and then zoom out to shoot.
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Old 09-11-2017   #3
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Same as above, but don't go wide. Focus at about 50mm, then either in or out. For me even with primes it is hard to micro prism focus that are long or wide. Pentax made a 90s SLR that the screen can be changed: LX (I think, but it still is high $). Also, find where aperture is the widest f2.8 rather than f4.0.
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Old 09-11-2017   #4
Axel100
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Its an exercise thing to get used to dim viewfinders. But it works.
The other way is scale-focus. Slower lenses that produce dimmer viewfinder
images are mostly not so critical when it comes to depth of field.
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Old 09-11-2017   #5
sevo
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For the pro Nikons they made screens with prism angles matching slower and longer lenses. But most people back then did not bother to swap screens to match the lens, and went with iterative focusing on the matte field of the standard screen.
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Old 09-11-2017   #6
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When I finally got a camera with interchangeable focusing screens (Olympus OM-4), I installed a screen that had the split at a diagonal which really worked for me. I still miss the old OM-4 cameras for the spot metering system it had.
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Old 09-11-2017   #7
pagpow
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Dante,

The work-around on slow zooms when not having an appropriate microprism or split image screen (i.e. one optimized for smaller apertures) was to focus with the matte screen and recompose. Still frustrating, but it allows focusing.

Giorgio
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Old 09-11-2017   #8
Dante_Stella
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pagpow View Post
Dante,

The work-around on slow zooms when not having an appropriate microprism or split image screen (i.e. one optimized for smaller apertures) was to focus with the matte screen and recompose. Still frustrating, but it allows focusing.

Giorgio
Thanks - I never really thought of that as an accurate focusing surface with a fresnel, but I'll try it!

Dante
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Old 09-11-2017   #9
sevo
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dante_Stella View Post
Thanks - I never really thought of that as an accurate focusing surface with a fresnel, but I'll try it!
I've run into quite a few old-school photographers that preferred plain-matte screens, claiming that their three-step "too far, too close, hit the focus in the middle" method did not work that well with prism screens, them being too inconsistent when using a different aperture or focal length.
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Old 09-11-2017   #10
Spanik
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Even a lowly Practika MTL3 had a split screen prism with a ring of micro prisms (those were the least useful) around it. Never had troubles with that. You focus on an edge, recompose and done. Same with setting exposure, you point it a bit towards what you find important, set the needle, adjusted to taste and shot. Worked fine, even with Kodachrome. And the split getting darker is mostly how you hold you eye to the viewfinder, wiggle a bit and find the right position.

I never manage it with a matte screen.
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Old 09-11-2017   #11
f16sunshine
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I would grip the lens with one hand while holding the lens release button in.
Remove the zoom and replace it with a prime. Then focus and take

Slightly OT
All these years later, mirrorless cameras have put new life into slow lenses.
I feel like I've just discovered a lens I have had for 20+ years.
The Zeiss Contax.f4/40-80mm. It was always too dark with an slr especially at 40mm.
It's a nice lens onvthe Sony a7.
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Old 09-11-2017   #12
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You just turn the focus ring back and forth until the image is in focus. It is really not too hard.
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Old 09-11-2017   #13
ColSebastianMoran
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Dante, I didn't. I never was able to focus these lenses on DSLRs. For me, these lenses were DOA for these bodies.

Now days, mirrorless is a different thing. 10x Focus mag does the trick. And, focus peaking helps a lot too.
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Old 09-11-2017   #14
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Old 09-11-2017   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dante_Stella View Post
Serious question. The higher-end cameras (Nikon F and Canon F-1 series, for example) have interchangeable screens, some of which have focusing aids optimized to small aperture lenses. But for most 1970s-1980s SLRs with fixed screens am I the only person who finds it frustrating that the microprisms never "clear" and that the split-image becomes super-dependent on eye position?

Dante
"With care and deliberation."

If the micro prisms aren't clearing and the split images go dark, you use the fine ground-glass field around them for focusing.

On my Nikon F, FE2, and FM2, I simply fit the E screen and focused all lenses the same way: no microprisms, no split image, just a beautiful fine ground glass focusing surface and a rectilinear grid. That's all you need.

G
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Old 09-11-2017   #16
Ronald M
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Royal pain. Buy faster lenses.

Sometimes used matt area outside central microprism on my SPOTMATICs.

B screen on the Nikon F2`s I now have, full matt on Leica R bodys. Visoflex , the real ones, focus well anywhere. Electronic ones are garbage.

And speaking of garbage, mirrorless including every Leica , have a refresh rate way too slow and the screen looks like a movie from 1920`s where the image jumps instead of moving slow and smooth.

Mirrorless does not impress me one bit. It is a fad that deserves to die.
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Old 09-11-2017   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronald M View Post
Royal pain. Buy faster lenses.

Sometimes used matt area outside central microprism on my SPOTMATICs.

B screen on the Nikon F2`s I now have, full matt on Leica R bodys. Visoflex , the real ones, focus well anywhere. Electronic ones are garbage.

And speaking of garbage, mirrorless including every Leica , have a refresh rate way too slow and the screen looks like a movie from 1920`s where the image jumps instead of moving slow and smooth.

Mirrorless does not impress me one bit. It is a fad that deserves to die.
Perhaps your comments are a troll snark that deserves to die instead.

G
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Old 09-11-2017   #18
Steve M.
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The split prism blacking out on slow zooms bothered me for a long time (and like others, I resorted to using the matte part of the screen to focus on the few zooms I had that weren't AF). But one day, quite by accident, I discovered that if I moved my eye around a little bit in the viewfinder, shazam, the blacked out split prism would go clear. It was a little tricky, but it happened. I also discovered that nearly every time I had already pre focused the lens using the matte part of the screen, the split prism showed that I had missed the focus. Maybe not by enough to make any difference, but it was indeed a little off.

This is regarding film SLRs, which usually (or so I hear) have much better and brighter focus screens than DSLRs. The only DSLR I ever owned, briefly, was a Nikon D50, and it certainly had a darker and squintier viewfinder than my N8008s, which was like looking through a large picture window with lots of eye relief..

And let's not forget focus confirmation lights. Some of my Nikon film cameras had nifty little green lights in the corner of the viewfinders to tell you when you had correct focus.
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Old 09-11-2017   #19
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Which specific "1970s-1980s SLRs with fixed screens" are you talking about. A little more info might give a more exact answer.... Slow lens and split microprisms don't work well together as others have said. I, personally have a difficult time with split screens and prefer the matte screen and yes they can be hard to focus quickly.
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Old 09-12-2017   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dante_Stella View Post
Serious question. The higher-end cameras (Nikon F and Canon F-1 series, for example) have interchangeable screens, some of which have focusing aids optimized to small aperture lenses. But for most 1970s-1980s SLRs with fixed screens am I the only person who finds it frustrating that the microprisms never "clear" and that the split-image becomes super-dependent on eye position?

Dante
I also run into that on my Bronica with 2x converter on the 80mm lens. Ordinarily, the waist level finder allows a lot of freedom when looking at the split image on the screen. But with the 2x resulting in an effective f5.6 aperture, I really need to center the eye. Of course, with the flip-up magnifier that's almost a given, but when shooting from waist level, it is a bit of a bother..
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Old 09-12-2017   #21
Sarcophilus Harrisii
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve M. View Post
The split prism blacking out on slow zooms bothered me for a long time (and like others, I resorted to using the matte part of the screen to focus on the few zooms I had that weren't AF). But one day, quite by accident, I discovered that if I moved my eye around a little bit in the viewfinder, shazam, the blacked out split prism would go clear. It was a little tricky, but it happened. I also discovered that nearly every time I had already pre focused the lens using the matte part of the screen, the split prism showed that I had missed the focus. Maybe not by enough to make any difference, but it was indeed a little off.

This is regarding film SLRs, which usually (or so I hear) have much better and brighter focus screens than DSLRs. The only DSLR I ever owned, briefly, was a Nikon D50, and it certainly had a darker and squintier viewfinder than my N8008s, which was like looking through a large picture window with lots of eye relief..

And let's not forget focus confirmation lights. Some of my Nikon film cameras had nifty little green lights in the corner of the viewfinders to tell you when you had correct focus.
It's worth being aware of the fact that whilst a split wedge rangefinder incorporated into a single lens reflex focus screen enables you to quickly and easily get your focus on your subject accurately, it may not always necessarily be the most reliable option for achieving precise focus. It's something I've experienced myself in the past.

A split RF can usually be perfectly accurate but it's good to be aware of the possibility of error. If focusing a particular lens with a screen incorporating a split gives different points of focus with the plain glass or microprism, the latter two are more likely to be correct than the split. This article in the March 1965 issue of Modern Photography by Herbert Keppler discusses the reasons why inaccuracies can occur when using a split. It's well worth being aware of the point if an SLR is being used to auto-collimate another camera. Where possible a plain ground glass screen should be used to assess the focus target at the film plane of the camera being adjusted. Using a split RF for the purpose may yield perfect adjustments but it's also possible to induce calibration errors: a screen without a split avoids this problem.
Cheers,
Brett
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Old 09-12-2017   #22
sevo
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve M. View Post
I also discovered that nearly every time I had already pre focused the lens using the matte part of the screen, the split prism showed that I had missed the focus.
The edges of that lens (which are what a split prism selects) miss the focus - a matter of spherical aberration...
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Old 09-12-2017   #23
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It's called (in Nikon speak) a Type B (or D) screen, Dante. It's the solution that was offered at the time (for interchangeable screen cameras) and there is no better solution now (well, live view in the digital realm). If you have an FM or FE, you're kind of limited to F3.5 or faster... like the 28-50/3.5 and the 50-135/3.5 zoom-Nikkors. Even then they darken the RF spot a bit...
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Old 09-12-2017   #24
Sarcophilus Harrisii
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sevo View Post
The edges of that lens (which are what a split prism selects) miss the focus - a matter of spherical aberration...
Indeed, the above nicely sums up the explanation discussed in the article I linked in my previous post.

Some additional discussion of the challenges involved in achieving accurate focus both with a rangefinder and a single lens reflex (including the advantages and limitations of split RF reflex focus screens with various focal lengths) may be found in this article by Bennett Sherman in the May 1965 issue of Modern Photography.
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