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Author Topic: Much Anguish About Focus  (Read 20467 times)

Rob C

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Much Anguish About Focus
« Reply #40 on: April 21, 2010, 11:58:45 AM »

I sympathise with the writer who yearned for the old 500C/CM experience because it felt 'real photography'. How bloody true.

I no longer haver either 'blad, but wish that I did; I still have an F3 and also a D200 and D700, neither of which gives the feeling of the old Nikons. There is a suspicion that younger photographers will not suffer this feeling since they probably never knew the bliss of the simple, easy ways, where the big deal was seeing the right image before you and the mechanical feel was just so right it actually helped inspire you in your work.

But I suppose those days have passed for ever. Long live the synthetic mode... yeah.

Rob C

HarperPhotos

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« Reply #41 on: April 22, 2010, 03:29:54 AM »

Hello,

Well Rob all I can say is that I never what to work with film cameras again. I've be shoot professionally for 25 years and I just love the creative freedom that digital has to offer. I do miss the smell of the 669 Polaroid's thou.

Cheers

Simon
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Simon Harper
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John R Smith

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« Reply #42 on: April 22, 2010, 03:41:26 AM »

Quote from: HarperPhotos
Well Rob all I can say is that I never what to work with film cameras again. I've be shoot professionally for 25 years and I just love the creative freedom that digital has to offer.

Simon

It all depends what your definition of a "photographic experience" is. Quite a lot of people still ride horses, sail wooden boats, or drive classic cars, although they are all outmoded forms of transport. For some of us quaint eccentrics, the slam of a 'Blad mirror or the focusing knob of a Rollei TLR are an enjoyable and intrinsic part of the making of a photograph. If I just want to get quickly from A to B I would probably hire a 2010 Ford, but if I want an interesting and challenging driving experience I would pick an old Alfa or MG any day.

John
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tesfoto

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« Reply #43 on: April 22, 2010, 04:02:27 AM »

Quote from: John R Smith
Simon

It all depends what your definition of a "photographic experience" is. Quite a lot of people still ride horses, sail wooden boats, or drive classic cars, although they are all outmoded forms of transport. For some of us quaint eccentrics, the slam of a 'Blad mirror or the focusing knob of a Rollei TLR are an enjoyable and intrinsic part of the making of a photograph. If I just want to get quickly from A to B I would probably hire a 2010 Ford, but if I want an interesting and challenging driving experience I would pick an old Alfa or MG any day.

John


A few years back, I met one of the worlds top music photographers who still shoots with a Nikon F and his trusted Tri-X. He used to be a very good Jazz Musician before turning into photography.

I asked him why he still uses this old equiptment and his answer was that he liked the sound of the shutter.

No lightmeter, he calculate his exposure from experience. No camera lcd to look at to take away attention from photography, he knows when the shot is there. He delivers fast: 1 hour developing film and make 4 prints in the darkroom (no contact sheet).

My guess is digital would take longer when you calculate, computertime including storage.






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HarperPhotos

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« Reply #44 on: April 22, 2010, 04:19:28 AM »

Hello,

I get what you are saying. I still use a Sinar P2 and a Mamiya RZ. The great bit is that lovely Leaf Aptus 75 clipped on the back of them and tethered to a Imac, just wonderful.

Cheers

Simon
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Simon Harper
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rogerxnz

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« Reply #45 on: April 22, 2010, 05:12:33 AM »

I agree with all the foregoing about the difficulty of focusing with MFDB and the unreliability of the depth of field indicators on the lens barrels even though my experience is only from the low levels of an Aptus 17.

What I am surprised at is the lack of any rational explanation for these problems. Some talk about the flat plane of the sensor being the cause but all film backs try to keep film as flat as possible so the flatness of the sensor should be a plus for accurate focusing! Some talk about the thinness of the focal plane with digital but it is not as if film is of any substantial thickness itself.

It seems to me that the precision that an absolutely flat and rigid sensor offers should positively help achieve reliable focus.

So, why are we having focusing problems?

When someone sorts that out, I would like to know why some lenses do not focus at infinity with digital on the Flexbody. I noticed this with my 150mm Sonnar and found confirmation of the issue on the web. Focusing at infinity should be so easy to achieve but not with my 150mm lens on my Flexbody. The lens focuses fine on all my 500 series bodies. Other lenses focus at infinity on my Flexbody with no problem. I challenge someone to explain this situation.

Roger
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John R Smith

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« Reply #46 on: April 22, 2010, 12:29:16 PM »

Quote from: rogerxnz
What I am surprised at is the lack of any rational explanation for these problems. Some talk about the flat plane of the sensor being the cause but all film backs try to keep film as flat as possible so the flatness of the sensor should be a plus for accurate focusing! Some talk about the thinness of the focal plane with digital but it is not as if film is of any substantial thickness itself.
Roger

Indeed. I have a 1928 quarter-plate camera of uncertain origin, which has a very crude 6x9 rollfilm back. You focus on the groundglass in the usual way, then fit the film back, remove the darkslide, and make the exposure. If you saw how badly this focus screen mount is worn, saw how much the film bulges and curls in the back (no pressure plate) and how sloppy the mount for that is, you would reckon that there would be no hope of any focus at all, let alone quality. Yet the little 3-element Schneider Radionar produces stunning, tack sharp shots. So compared with all that, a 'Blad 500 with a Phase or CFV back should be a total Rolls Royce. And yet we can't focus the damn thing.

John
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Rob C

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« Reply #47 on: April 22, 2010, 03:20:35 PM »

It's something that puzzles me too, that idea that having a less flat surface on which to focus (film) will produce a greater number of sharp pics than a very flat sensor seems able to do on the same body. I've read the explanations offered, that the emulsion thickness allows the light to focus internally even at different depths (!) to the absolute surface... yes, but no. I just don't accept it as reasonable. There has to be something else going down - has anybody actually checked how flat all sensors really are? Are we assuming huge assumptions about manufacturing controls? Going by how they put out lenses today, I wouldn't be too convinced about QC of sensors either.

It's said that 'blad backs were sloppy: never felt mine sloppy in a front to back plane. Why would digi backs be any more well machined unless the idea is that 'blad and 'nica etc. were unwilling to go to the nth degree with their film backs? I'd imagine they were as well made as possible, in those days.

John R Smith has it right: 'feel' is about more than mechanics - it is also an emotion, and if photography isn't all wrapped up in emotions then it's nothing. Digi is certainly more convenient - even in my jaundiced opinion - but take time and the problems caused by the shrinking film industries out of it and I would have those 500s back in an instant. I liked heavy that way; I hate it for a walkaround number, which the 'blads seldom were (again, for me). Maybe the big problem I face is money: more of it, and a dedicated 120 scanner would be my passport to what I'd love to use today. I think. I told you it was an emotional matter.

Rob C
« Last Edit: April 23, 2010, 04:47:16 AM by Rob C »
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Fritzer

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« Reply #48 on: April 22, 2010, 03:36:53 PM »

Quote from: HarperPhotos
I still use a Sinar P2 and a Mamiya RZ. The great bit is that lovely Leaf Aptus 75 clipped on the back of them and tethered to a Imac, just wonderful.

I hear you , those are my main cameras too.
Have to admit, the RZ is still the only non-LF camera I can get the focus right with pretty much every time (A75 here as well) .
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gwhitf

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« Reply #49 on: May 08, 2010, 09:23:02 AM »

I have (hopefully) one final question about this focus issue -- specifically to people who are using Hasselblad V bodies with digital backs on them:

If you are having focus issues, can you tell me which scenario most applies to you?

1) "I'm shooting, and the subject is not moving, and I'm on a tripod, and I'm going slow, and everything is calm, and I focus and then refocus and then refocus again, and I just know in my heart that the focus is on the eyelashes, but many times, when the file opens up, it's either backfocused or frontfocused. I think it might be my focusing screen, but honestly, I don't have a clue".

2) "I'm shooting, and I'm not on a tripod, and I'm trying to follow focus on people that are in motion to some degree, and I'm walking around, and shooting from the hip, and I think when I shoot that it's sharp, but honestly, who knows? It sorta seemed sharp, on the ground glass, when I shot, but people were moving around. Maybe the V body is not the best body for that type of shooting".

Thanks.
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Gilles L

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« Reply #50 on: May 08, 2010, 10:30:17 AM »

Quote from: gwhitf
I have (hopefully) one final question about this focus issue -- specifically to people who are using Hasselblad V bodies with digital backs on them:

If you are having focus issues, can you tell me which scenario most applies to you?

1) "I'm shooting, and the subject is not moving, and I'm on a tripod, and I'm going slow, and everything is calm, and I focus and then refocus and then refocus again, and I just know in my heart that the focus is on the eyelashes, but many times, when the file opens up, it's either backfocused or frontfocused. I think it might be my focusing screen, but honestly, I don't have a clue".

2) "I'm shooting, and I'm not on a tripod, and I'm trying to follow focus on people that are in motion to some degree, and I'm walking around, and shooting from the hip, and I think when I shoot that it's sharp, but honestly, who knows? It sorta seemed sharp, on the ground glass, when I shot, but people were moving around. Maybe the V body is not the best body for that type of shooting".

Thanks.

I've been shoot with the CFV-39 and a 503CW for a little over a month now. I primarily shoot your scenario #1: tabletop objects with controlled lighting and on a tripod. After getting used to the system, focusing is now a non-issue and I hit the mark just as much as when I was using a AF system. The focusing screen certainly plays a great role. I use a Acute Matte D with split image and microprism. The screen is very bright. I am still contemplating a Bill Maxwell's screen. I've tried waistlevel finder, chimney finder and PME45. I still prefer the waistlevel finder and systematically use the built-in magnifier for critical focusing.

Regarding scenario #2, I have not done any extensive shooting outside, but I've done a fair amount of testing handheld. Camera shake is a big concern, although I just bought a CW winder, and this may solve the problem. I was able to handhold some shots with a 180mm at 1/125th, so that's promising. I still need to do more shooting.

The system is definitely growing on me...

Best, Gilles
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bcooter

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« Reply #51 on: May 08, 2010, 12:42:53 PM »

Since the photography world has turned upside down, I've begun to use the cameras I like more than just the cameras that will just easily do the job.  

I understand with looking for an edge and going back to our roots.  I like real cameras, with minimal menus and real knobs for fstop and shutter.  There is just something that feels natural with a film based camera vs. a all digital dslr with spinning wheels and menus that go on for ages.

I'm sure that's why I like the contax and the Leica.

In the film days I had two elms and always found focus to be a challenge.

I used them, loved the build quality but when time permitted, I can't count the number of times we shoot a 665 pn polaroid, washed off the neg and checked focus.

Once I moved away from them I found every camera I used to be easier to focus than the v series.

Actually had the Contax not come along I "might" have gone to the 200 series blad, because I like focal plane lenses, but once it became a 645 world it just made no sense to me to shoot a square camera.  Taking a back off and on was more effort than just moving the Contax on an L bracket from vertical to horizontal and the Contax has a right angle grip.

The last 2 1/2 projects I've gone away from the Canons and to the Contax and p30+ backs.  The previous project I shot over 900 frames all manual focus with the 120 macro.

Honestly since I've used the Canons for so long now, I was kind of concerned about focus, especially all manual focus but it's kind of like riding a bike, it all comes back quickly and since I processed and checked all 900 something frames there were only 2 that were soft.  Now I shot most of the shoot at high f stops so that helped, but still f 16 or f 5.6 out of focus is out of focus.

Not to go off topic, but the only issue I have with the Contax is the p30+.  It's a bullet proof back but I have and always find the color response very tricky with skin tones.  It just seems so sensitive when the curves are moved around.  Maybe the p40 dalsa chip fixes this, but I don't think I'd put 20 grand on another cropped chip digital back.  I've thought about looking for a used Leaf 54s, or maybe a 75, because the Leaf files seem less sensitive to moving the curves, but it's probably difficult to find a used Leaf with a Contax mount and I have this felling that the next and only expensive camera I'll even consider will be an EPIC.

Then again, I think it's all down to personal style and then again when it comes to color response, and sharpness I'm still blow away with the 5d2.  I think it's much better than my two 1ds3's, much better than anything else I've  tried (color response that is).

Once again, not to move off topic, but I think a lot of the debate we see about 35mm vs. 645 is between the two, there just isn't that much difference in real estate.  Granted 24x36 vs 36x48 seems almost twice size, but with a cropped chip, it's still not that much of a difference as say a 35mm vs. an RZ or a square 6x6, or a 6x7 camera.

Personally and I say this because I'd kind of like a leaf, I think Leaf would be smart if they offered very quick turnaround and change of camera mounts, without waiting.  

My only fear of Leaf is what direction they are going since Phase now owns them.  Are they now flush with money and R+D or they considered just to be a stepping stone to move current leaf customers to Phase?  Will LC 11 continue with the next apple os upgrade, or will it just be dropped in favor of C-1?

I don't know because medium format land seems to be limited in actual hard fact information.    

BC


P.S.  This post is not meant to start a 645 vs. 35mm debate.  Those go nowhere.
« Last Edit: May 08, 2010, 12:44:28 PM by bcooter »
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fredjeang

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Much Anguish About Focus
« Reply #52 on: May 08, 2010, 12:54:09 PM »

Why not a FF P65 ?
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gwhitf

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« Reply #53 on: May 08, 2010, 06:21:11 PM »

Quote from: Gilles L
I am still contemplating a Bill Maxwell's screen.

Who is this mythical Bill Maxwell guy, and what is he doing that some large corporation like Hasselblad can't do? You read stuff about it him, and he seems like some Jimmy Durante or Yogi Berra type, sitting in a smoke filled basement somewhere, trying to get away from his wife, but he's able to grind something out that's truly unique. Can anyone describe what he makes, and why it's so good?

Is the market so small that Hasselblad just doesn't bother ripping him off?
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Rob C

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« Reply #54 on: May 09, 2010, 04:52:48 AM »

Quote from: gwhitf
I have (hopefully) one final question about this focus issue -- specifically to people who are using Hasselblad V bodies with digital backs on them:

If you are having focus issues, can you tell me which scenario most applies to you?

1) "I'm shooting, and the subject is not moving, and I'm on a tripod, and I'm going slow, and everything is calm, and I focus and then refocus and then refocus again, and I just know in my heart that the focus is on the eyelashes, but many times, when the file opens up, it's either backfocused or frontfocused. I think it might be my focusing screen, but honestly, I don't have a clue".

2) "I'm shooting, and I'm not on a tripod, and I'm trying to follow focus on people that are in motion to some degree, and I'm walking around, and shooting from the hip, and I think when I shoot that it's sharp, but honestly, who knows? It sorta seemed sharp, on the ground glass, when I shot, but people were moving around. Maybe the V body is not the best body for that type of shooting".

Thanks.



Okay, you pose the questions in good enough faith, but I sort of imagine that scenario (2) is being proposed with a huge amount of tongue in your cheek? At least, I hope so!

I used 500 series for many years, and on the very first job I shot outdoors, hand-held, I had imagined I was dealing with a super Rollei TLR; imagine my expensive disappointment when I discovered how wrong I had been.  It isn't the focussing, it's the blasted mirror bouncing around like an enraged rat trap! But, connect it to electronic flash in the studio and you can walk around with it as long as your wrists hold out. But then, you obviously know all that from the sort of work you do so well.

In effect, I suggest that the 500 series should always be mounted on a tripod, which is more or less what Hasselblad themselves suggested when they put out that leaflet about mirror-up employment being a very, very good idea.

And why not? You can't reinvent physics - accept how great a tool it is for what it does so well. Nothing covers all needs.

Rob C

Rob C

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« Reply #55 on: May 09, 2010, 05:00:26 AM »

Quote from: bcooter
Actually had the Contax not come along I "might" have gone to the 200 series blad, because I like focal plane lenses, but once it became a 645 world it just made no sense to me to shoot a square camera.



I understand the temptation, but I could never get it out of my mind that Hass had started that way and gave up in favour of lenses with shutters. Apart from poor flash synch there was the problem of uneven curtain travel which was also present with many 35mm fp shutters until the F3 came along...

I expect they reinvented the 6x6 fp system for themselves in an effort to catch sport shooters and also widen the product line - how many cameras of one type will you sell when they last for ever?

Rob C



EricWHiss

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« Reply #56 on: May 09, 2010, 04:34:55 PM »

Quote from: gwhitf
Who is this mythical Bill Maxwell guy, and what is he doing that some large corporation like Hasselblad can't do? You read stuff about it him, and he seems like some Jimmy Durante or Yogi Berra type, sitting in a smoke filled basement somewhere, trying to get away from his wife, but he's able to grind something out that's truly unique. Can anyone describe what he makes, and why it's so good?

Is the market so small that Hasselblad just doesn't bother ripping him off?

You should give him a ring (770) 939-6644 -  he has an assistant but usually he'll answer the phone and loves to talk.  He'll tell you all about it.  He actually may be supplying screens to some of the manufacturers and/or will know who is making the stock screens for many cameras.   His Hi-Lux treatment definitely makes the view brighter but there are other tricks he can do to tailor the trade offs to your preference as well as add whatever focus aids and grid or crop lines as you like.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2010, 04:35:15 PM by EricWHiss »
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John R Smith

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« Reply #57 on: May 10, 2010, 04:11:11 AM »

There is not much wrong with the Hasselblad acutematte screens (of which I have three examples). I also have various earlier standard screens, and the difference is astonishing. If Maxwell's screens are better again, they would be well worth paying for.

The screen, I feel, is not really the problem with the V-system focus issues. It is more likely that there is not enough magnification using either the WLF or the prisms to actually see the very subtle variations in sharpness which we need to distinguish the absolute plane of focus. A 6x loupe would probably help, as others have suggested. The other issue is that the critical area of foucus for a great many compositions lies between say 20 feet and infinity, exactly the area of lens helicoid with the smallest movement and least finesse.

John
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Chris L

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« Reply #58 on: May 13, 2010, 03:49:38 PM »

I too have been having problems with focusing lately, here is my story; I sold my medium format / digital back system because I was not having much luck manual focusing, I think my eyes are going bad. I have been shooting the Canon 1Dsmk3 and was noticing that certain lenses were front focusing, about 5 feet in front of the subject when the subject was at least 20 feet from the camera, and other similiar situations. It never seemed to happen when I was relatively close to the subject. It was only happening with my 300 F4 L and 85 1.2 L lens and 100 F2 non-L lens. My 50mm 1.4 non L seems to be work fine.

I called canon support  and had them walk me thru the micro-adjustments procedure, seemed to help a little bit but not really sure. Thats the problem, the front-focusing problem is not consistent. I called canon again, we did the lens test on the phone, I emailed him jpgs of a ruler shot at a 45 degree angle, everything checked out fine.

Then he said this, which surprised me, " for best results use the CENTER only AF focus point and recompose once you get focus. Do not use the other surrounding AF points, those are only for al servo mode when tracking a moving subject. Really? They told me that yesterday, I shot today with his advice and he seems to be right, I nailed focus more often than not, but it is too soon to tell.

Has anyone else heard this? I was thinking of sending all my lenses and camera body to canon to be checked out just to be sure there isnt an actual problem, but I would prefer not to obviously.

Just to re-iterate; the main focus problem seems happen when I am at least 20 feet away from the subject, and after focusing and recomposing from a non-centered AF point the camera places the focus a few feet front of where I focused.
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Rob C

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« Reply #59 on: May 13, 2010, 05:01:44 PM »

I have no idea about the reason for christo's focussing problems, but on the MF slr cameras, I suspect that one reason some cameras are better than others in this respect is the way that focussing is done.

Take the Rollei TLR and the old Mamiyas: you wound a knob at the side of the body, a natural movement, quick to do and easy on the wrist. Contrast that with the helical focussing system of other such cameras, where the lens itself has to be messed around with in an unnatural, twisted wrist manner. I think the difference in comfort also carries over into how comfortable/confident the eye becomes when the wrist is not at ease. It's all connected, as they say.

Having had both the Rollei TLR and then the 'blad straight after it, though I was able to focus both well, I do think I remember the Rollei as quicker. And without doubt, once you start to 'hunt' with focussing, it goes nuts very quickly - or at least, you do!

Rob C
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