Focusing Help

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by paladin1420, Jan 16, 2008.

  1. paladin1420

    paladin1420 Subscriber

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    I used to be pretty good at this, but lately I've been having a bunch of my shots come out of focus. I'm using an old Argus SLR (STL 1000) from the early 1970s and I've been using it since the early 1970s. The out of focus part is a recent phenomenon. I have a couple of suspects, and maybe some of you have run into this before or have suggestions.


    1. I'm a bit older now than I was in 1973 so my eyes just aren't doing what they're supposed to do
    2. I bought a new lens for the camera recently, it's a 28mm 3.5 vs. the 50mm 2.8 I'm used to.
    3. It's winter and many of my questionable shots are indoors with flash and there just isn't enough light to focus properly.
    4. I've been wearing glasses my whole life, and while my vision isn't bad, I've gotten progressively more farsighted since the last time I really used this camera.

    I have one of those rubber eye cup viewfinder attachments, but it doesn't accommodate my glasses.


    I suppose I could just wait for summer, stop down and take advantage of depth of field, but darn it, I used to be good at this.


    Any suggestions?


    Thanks
     
  2. Allan Swindles

    Allan Swindles Member

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    Louis, this is strange. Your 28mm lens will have a greater DOF than the 50 and I would have thought that your focussing would have to be way off - even at max. aperture. Is any part of the picture in sharp focus? As a test you could measure the distance manually and set the focus scale accordingly and check the results off BOTH lenses.

    Regards - Allan.
     
  3. paladin1420

    paladin1420 Subscriber

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    Thanks for the reply.

    I'm pretty sure that there is nothing wrong with the lens. I can get perfect focus in daylight. It's when I'm indoors with a flash or available light I mess up. I just can't see well enough through the viewfinder in those conditions.

    I've tried looking with my glasses on, but I can't get close enough to really see. Also, I wear variable lenses, so I'm not sure if I should be looking through the close up or distance part of my glasses to see the viewfinder better.

    Maybe part the problem with the wide lens is the DOF. Adjusting the focus doesn't change the view as much as it does with the 50mm so it's harder for me to see the change in the viewfinder?

    My focusing would probably be more accurate if I estimated the distance and set the focus ring accordingly without even looking.

    Would looking through magnifying (drug store reading) glasses help? Is there a "corrective lens" attachment I can get for the veiw finder?

    Thanks
     
  4. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    You might try a rangefinder fitted to the flash horseshoe and discover the distance on that, then set the distance accordingly but with a 28 mm lens unless your estimation of the distance is way off the DoF should cover the margin for error. At least I would have thought so. With flash then wide apertures and good available light shouldn't be a problem - once you've established the distance.

    Reasonably accurate rangefinders can be found reasonably cheaply. Well at least in the U.K. and there's the other problem. What is cheap and easy in the UK may not be so in the US and vice versa.

    pentaxuser
     
  5. paladin1420

    paladin1420 Subscriber

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    Thanks.

    An outboard rangefinder is not a bad idea. I will start looking for a cheap one.

    I might try focusing on something with the 50mm lens, check the distance and see if I come up with the same distance with the wide. Obviously not a great way to take pictures, but maybe a way to just get more comfortable with the new lens.

    I was playing around this evening, indoors, average interior lighting, and it's just really difficult for me to tell when the focus is right on but I guess if I did it enough I'd get better at it. I noticed part of the problem is that if I look without my glasses, my vision just isn't good enough. But if I use my glasses, I can't get my eye close enough to the viewfinder and there's a lot of distracting light coming in from the sides.

    Maybe if I could find one of those eyecups big enough to cover my entire lens. :smile:

    Thanks,
     
  6. paladin1420

    paladin1420 Subscriber

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    I might add that I neglected to mention that I generally use a tripod in low light, interior light situations - to eliminate an obvious culprit.

    The more I play with the camera, the more I'm convinced it's my eyesight and not the equipment that is the problem.

    How do you folks with eyeglasses deal with using an SLR viewfinder?

    Thanks
     
  7. dferrie

    dferrie Member

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    Louis,

    I have worn glasses since I was a teenager (41 now) and it has always been a pain wearing glass and shooting. Some options (A) Could you get a diopter fitted to the eyepiece of the camera? (B) Get your eyes checked (C) Try contact lenses. I got contacts just over a year ago, only wear them in the summer and when shooting, it made a huge difference.

    Last November I was have awful problems with focusing, to the extent that I could not use manual focus cameras at all, noticed that my eyesight had gone the pot. I then found out that I have Diabetes and once I got my blood sugars under control my eyesight returned to normal.

    David
     
  8. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member

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    While you get greater DOF, a wide lens is harder to focus because the details are so small. Once I go wide, I generally use the smallest aperture possible to carry the most DOF, because you aren't generally going to get a pleasing bokeh anyway, and because wide shots aren't usually about isolating a subject. In many cases with 35mm you can just set a wide lens to a focus that gives the greatest coverage DOF wise, and using a small aperture, and bang away. For instance a 28mm lens on a 35mm camera, set at f11, at 8.5 feet will have a usable depth of field (smaller than 1/2000" Circle of Confusion) from about 6 feet to about 15 feet. So in keeping your subject at about that 8-10 feet away, you don't gotta worry. Set to 20' at f11, carries 10 feet to infinity. That should be pretty attainable with a flash, depending on your emulsion. Interiors using available light will of course call for a different strategy.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 17, 2008
  9. paladin1420

    paladin1420 Subscriber

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    David,

    Thanks for the info, I'm glad you caught the diabetes early. Maybe we can start to promote manual focus, analog cameras as a diagnostic tool :smile:

    I have been to the eye doctor within the past year and am due for a check up soon. I've been wearing glasses since I was 10 or 11, but it's only the last 10 years or so that I've been doing so full time.

    I'm farsighted, and my vision went downhill quickly from when I was about 40 to 45. It has since stabilized (I'm 48) and for the past few visits my prescription has changed very little if at all. During my period of rapid eyesight deterioration, my SLR was happily sitting on a shelf (with a half shot roll of Tmax 100), while I was off using autofocus cameras of one sort or another. So when I finally picked it up again, my eyesight was a long way off from when I put it down. If I had been using it all along, I might not have noticed the change. Compound it all with the use of a wider lens, the things I would normally try to focus on appear relatively smaller and harder to see.

    As for contacts, my doctor tells me that I have an astigmatism, which is hard to correct with contacts and since I'm farsighted, I can get by with out my glasses in a pinch for most things. Reading the display on my iPod or very fine print is a challenge with out the glasses, but I can drive, walk etc. just fine without them. Also, the thought of poking my finger into my eye on purpose is not appealing.

    I have done a search for "diopter +SLR" and find I'm probably not the first to have this problem. There's a bunch of viewfinder attachments available, all in the $20-$30 range. I now have to figure out which one would fit my camera and which correction I need but you have pointed me it a great direction.

    Thanks,
     
  10. dferrie

    dferrie Member

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    Louis,

    Glad I could help. Perhaos somebody like BH Photo maybe able to tell which Diopter would fit your camera viewfinder.

    David
     
  11. Allan Swindles

    Allan Swindles Member

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    Louis, I too have worn specs. for distance, for over 40yrs. and have NEVER found an eyecup that I could use whilst wearing them. Your optician should be able to tell you which dioptre correction lens would be most suitable if you choose to follow that route. I tried but could not get to grips with removing specs. to focus then having to put them back on to check the subject etc., the eyecup though, was excellent in keeping out extraneous light. I use the Olympus OM system and the range of optical accessories is second to non but they didn't work for me. I don't know the camera you are using but if you have/can obtain an eyecup which will accomodate a dioptre correction lens, you may find it suits - but they don't work with specs.
     
  12. paladin1420

    paladin1420 Subscriber

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    I'm pretty used to pulling off my glasses about half the time to focus now, so it shouldn't be a problem. I'm very uncomfortable putting my glasses next to the viewfinder anyway, I'm afraid of scratching my variable focus lenses, which would probably cost more to replace than my 35 year old camera.
     
  13. loman

    loman Member

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    Why don't you get a M42 camera with a brighter focussing screen?
    Like any of the fujica series, or the chinon ce, ce2 or ce3, that should at least make it a little easier on your eyes.
    The good news is that they cost next to nothing these days. Might even be cheaper than to get a diopter for your stl 1000.
    Best Regards
    Mads
     
  14. Pitxu

    Pitxu Member

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    Hi Louis,
    I don't really think it's your eyes that are the problem here, I'm in a similer situation myself. A 28 is allways more difficult to focus than a 50 because of it's inherently greater dof, even wide open, which makes it difficult to discern the real point of focus. Added to this the fact that your 28 is only f3.5, this exgagerates the problem. A faster lens, or a brighter focus screen would surely help. I don't know your camera, does the focus screen have any aids, like split field or micro-prisms?


    Pitxu.
     
  15. paladin1420

    paladin1420 Subscriber

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    The focus screen on my camera has a circle in the center of the view that exaggerates the focus. It was called "micro split image focusing spot" in the manual. It works OK for most situations, but indoors or low light, especially with the 28mm, it becomes difficult.

    It's a comfort to know that there are issues focusing a wide lens, other than my eyes.

    However, I have gotten some really useful information from everyone's help in this thread. I will use the DOF to my advantage as suggested and, although I hadn't considered it before, I'll look into getting another M42 body with a brighter viewfinder.

    Also, I have to see my eye doctor in the next month or so and I'll see what he can tell me.

    Thanks
     
  16. paladin1420

    paladin1420 Subscriber

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    Getting a different camera is something I didn't consider, but you're right, since I only need the body it should be cheap enough. Do you know if viewfinder brightness is rated so models can be comapred?

    Thanks,
     
  17. loman

    loman Member

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    Hi Louis
    I doo know that the fujicas are supposed to have the brightest focussing screens (well the Bessa TM has the brightest screen of any m42, but it's also quite a lot more expensive).
    I think that generally the Fujica st801 is supposed to be the best. It has an electronic shutter, but it should still be able to last 1-2 years on a set of batteries. If you want a more compact camera, there's the fujica st-605 (which is a mechanical camera, only needing batteries for the light meter). There's also a fujica st701, st705 (higher shutter speed) and a st901, but I don't know anything about those.
    Best Regards
    Mads
     
  18. loman

    loman Member

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  19. ehparis

    ehparis Member

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    I suppose that "all of the above" might be a good answer but this overlooks the fact that different lenses focus best with different focusing screens. The Nikon F3, for example, has a total of 19 different screens available, a bit of overkill IMO, but an example, among other things, of how different screens work better with various focal lengths.

    A wide angle lens, for example, would benefit from a different screen from the one best for a 50mm. Compromises have to be made which is why certain common features are the default screen.

    I don't know if the Argus has optional screens, but doubt it. This doesn't mean that you can't concentrate on one or more of the features of the present screen. The one(s) selected (split screen etc.) may differ from the way you focus the 50mm but there's usually time for thoughtful consideration of how to focus, especially with unmoving subjects.

    With my aging eyes wide angles provide a series of problems that I don't have with a normal lens or telephoto. Focusing is one of them and I've generally taken advantage of optional screens for my pro Nikons. There are other alternatives, though, as noted. Many of the "standard" screens have as many as three or four focusing aids.

    Jerry
     
  20. paladin1420

    paladin1420 Subscriber

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    Sorry about the long gap between replies.

    No, I can't change screens on my Argus. It was not a high end camera in its day, sort of a pro-sumer SLR (1973) and it was a bit behind even those times - screw mount when most SLRs had more updated lens mount systems, not hot shoe etc. But to a 13yo, it might as well have been a Ferrari.

    In the meantime I have moved toward a solution or two. I have been practicing a lot with the wide lens and I think I'm getting a better feel for finding good focus points now that I'm more aware of what the issues are.

    I also bought a Canon G-III QL to play with, and it is really easy to focus. Of course, I just got it and haven't processed any photos yet, but I have high hopes for my focus results.

    Regards,