Problems using MF SLR

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Truzi, Jun 16, 2013.

  1. Truzi

    Truzi Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,770
    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2012
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Can someone tell me how to take pictures? :redface:

    I'm having problems using my "new" meduim format SLR. I'm almost certain the problem lies with me, not the equipment. The issues I mention are diminishing the more I use the camera, but it's time I asked for advice. I'm running out of expired film so need to speed-up my learning curve.
    Yes, I have also used fresh film, and my problems (when present) are the same.

    I'm using a Bronica GS-1 purchased off ebay. AE finder, 100mm lens, and a handful of backs. My main camera is a 35mm Sears KS-2 (rebranded Ricoh XR-7). I'm having difficulty switching between the Sears and Bronica.
    If I spend an inordinate amount of time to take one picture using a tripod there are no problems. I am sure I'm not accounting for the differences between the format size, lens size, and quality of the cameras.

    Part of the problem is I traditionally take snapshots. I tend to use small apertures to bring everything in focus, aperture priority to let the camera think for me, and wide-angle lenses to get a wide field of view (which I know is not how I'm "supposed" to use them). I'm sure I'm not using the Sears "correctly," but it doesn't seem to matter with snapshots. Yep - 80% of the time I pretend my 35mm is a point-and-shoot. If I use the Bronica this way I don't have many problems.

    As I try to improve my photography, the Bronica is giving me issues and the Sears is not; my 35mm photos improve and MF degrade.

    When comparing the cameras, I use the 50mm lens on the Sears. Each camera's focusing screen has both split-screen and micro-prism ring.

    Focus:
    I'm having difficulty focusing on what I want at wide open aperture - the photos have shown a focus other than I thought. When present, the error is in different directions (before or behind) on different photos, with the subject the same distance, so I think it is me and not the camera/lens. If I try hard enough I can get what I want - but it is a lot of work.
    On my 35mm I usually ignore the micro-prism ring and focus with the split-screen, which is at a diagonal. Typically, I'll find a straight line to use it on even if it is not exactly at the distance I want to focus. This is usually fine even at f2.8.
    The Bronica's focusing screen does not seem as distinct. Also, the split-screen is horizontal, which I find a bit more difficult on any camera I've used. If I use it as I do on the Sears, I can have problems at wide apertures.
    When I use the micro-prism ring I generally have fewer issues, but it is thinner than the 35mm and not nearly as easy to see.
    Would a different screen (or optic) make a difference? Is it common practice to stop-down when hand-holding one of these cameras?

    Metering:
    Again, I don't have to think much to use my 35mm. The Bronica, on the other hand, seems to have much more "accurate" metering. It is fine in consistent light, but in mixed situations (e.g. dappled sunlight under trees) I can have problems that my 35mm does not have. If I manually set the camera to what the AE prism states, or use the AE lock function (or even an hand-held meter), I'm fine. If I leave it on automatic I sometimes have problems. In Theory I think I know the problem, in Practice I need help/advice.

    Although I don't consider the camera heavy, when hand-held the weight does seem to make a difference when trying to be still. I think this may be part of my problem.
    I have, though, managed to squeeze off some 1/4-second exposures in a forest that are acceptable to me in a 4x6 print.

    Disclaimer: I know what is acceptable to me may not be, and is likely not, acceptable to the more experienced and advanced photographers on APUG. So think of it in relativistic terms; improvement rather than perfection.
     
  2. lxdude

    lxdude Member

    Messages:
    6,943
    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2009
    Location:
    Redlands, So
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    For my 35's I prefer an all-matte screen, but for my ETRSi I much prefer the matte screen with microprism spot. The spot is big enough to be very useful. I imagine you can find the same for the GS-1.
     
  3. clayne

    clayne Member

    Messages:
    2,837
    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2008
    Location:
    San Francisc
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    It's possible, but pretty unlikely, that the film plane is out of focus compared to what the mirrored+prismed image shows through the viewfinder. That being said, remember that MF has an inherently shallower depth of field for the same aperture/focal length (not equivalent focal length, but lens FL) compared to 35mm.
     
  4. mwdake

    mwdake Member

    Messages:
    612
    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2007
    Location:
    FL, USA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    What shutter speeds are you typically using?
    You say when you use a tripod all is OK but sometimes have trouble holding the camera still and occasionally use 1/4 second.
     
  5. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

    Messages:
    4,134
    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2005
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Truzi, your real problem is that you're crippled and can't function without crutches.

    You might want to spend some time learning how to think like a photographer about the mechanics of obtaining a well-exposed sharp image. The best guide for beginners that I'm acquainted with is W. A. Blaker's book Field Photography. Long out of print, but you should be able to buy a used copy via abebooks.com, alibris.com, amazon.com, ...

    I used to give copies of Field Photography to friends who were floundering as you are.
     
  6. ntenny

    ntenny Member

    Messages:
    2,283
    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2008
    Location:
    San Diego, C
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Well, when a photon and a silver halide love each other very much... :smile:

    It seems like you have several different concerns tangling with one another, which makes it hard to tell what's causing what. Leaving aside any possible equipment failures, it seems like there are three completely separate problems:
    - You haven't gotten the hang of focusing with the Bronica's screen;
    - You're shooting at some very slow shutter speeds and getting camera shake;
    - The Bronica's meter is too responsive for the way you use AE.

    I think you can address the third by simply not using AE; it's kind of a crutch anyway and makes it very hard to learn about exposure. A few rolls shot on sunny-16 principles will teach you more than a few hundred shot with AE!

    As to the second, I don't think anyone can handhold a camera that size at 1/4 with any consistency! 1/125 or 1/250 will serve you better. That may mean opening up or using faster film, but the large negative means the tradeoff between speed and grain is less important than in 35mm.

    -NT
     
  7. polyglot

    polyglot Member

    Messages:
    3,472
    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2009
    Location:
    South Austra
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Like ntenny says. Besides, an MF SLR is NOT a P&S, it's a machine designed to be used with anticipation and careful composition. It doesn't do snapshots.

    Don't use it on a tripod for any speed slower than the inverse of the focal length, preferably 1/125 even for shorter lenses. Use mirror pre-fire (lockup) and a cable release on the tripod, no shortcuts.

    If you're in dappled light, you will definitely get issues with spot metering and that's telling you that will probably have issues with fitting the dynamic range of the image into a print. You either need to (assuming negatives) meter for the shadows or do some averaging metering with compensation. It sounds like you need to think a lot more about metering rather than just following the reading from the camera. Note that the meter reading tells you how much light is returned from some part of the scene and it will generally NOT be the exposure that you want.

    Yes, focusing an MF SLR is hard work and takes practise. It's far less forgiving than with a slow lens on 35mm. Don't even get the GS1 out until you have pre-visualised the photo that you want to make.
     
  8. Truzi

    Truzi Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,770
    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2012
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Thanks for the responses, they are all helpful. I knew this would be a learning experience and am quite enjoying it. My 35mm photos are also benefiting.
    Typically, I learn by purposely making exaggerated mistakes (to see what they are like) and get more control as the pendulum swings less each time.
    These particular mistakes aren't on purpose, though, and it's been a long time since I've been in this situation, so I'm a bit rusty.

    This is actually what has spurred me to get better in general. The camera arrived on a very overcast day and I just had to test it, and thus had to use the lens wide-open. It was one of those "I took this picture?" moments, so I decided my photos don't have to be flat and boring.
    For focusing, at first I though that a slight change of position would be less important on a larger negative, but then realized the size of the lens is more important in this case (simple physics, so I should have known better).

    I forget exactly, but they were fairly slow speeds on overcast days or in a forest when I encountered these issues. I can identify my motion blur in the photos, but the point of focus was confusing me.

    I wanted to make a clever response, but can't find a smart-phone app for that :smile:
    Seriously, though, you're right. I do have some rudimentary knowledge, but unfortunately I still leave it to the camera most of the time. If I'm doing something specific that I actually have to think about, I do okay (by my standards).

    I try not to shoot less than 1/60th in 35mm, faster if possible. I only did 1/8th and 1/4th in the forest while muttering something nasty about myself for being stupid enough to forget my tripod. I didn't care enough to go back and get it because I'm still testing and getting a feel for it, and actually the hike was the object, not the pictures. I had my 35mm for non-testing photos.

    The screen is difficult. I'm getting better, but wonder if a different screen might help. The micro-prism seems to work best for me on this camera, but it's so hard to see, relatively speaking.
    I think I'm not holding still enough. Also, back to the lens DOF, I think simply shifting my position after focus can make a difference even if it's only an inch or two.
    I've never used a good coupled meter before - this one is really throwing me.
    I've only used Sunny 16 a few times, but was pleasantly surprised with the results. Back to the crutch thing, though, this was only with meterless cameras. (Yes, I was too lazy to pull out my hand-held meter.)

    When I used the AE-lock in dappled light and got a good image, I think it was by accident (it was the shadows). Is there an easy way to tell where the "spot" is? I'd like to think in the exact center, but something tells me I'm wrong.

    Unfortunately, I use the settings to make the in-camera meter happy, not to make the image better. (Basically, "line-up the needles" in the 35mm.) This is a large failure on my part with any format, but it is a difficult habit to break. Oddly, I'm very much against this type of thinking with other things.
    This is also my first experience with this kind of metering. I certainly knew about it, but didn't imagine how different it would be from my 35mm.

    I think I will now work backwards thanks to your comments. I'll be very deliberate and methodical until I get the hang of it, and only then do my typical experimenting. It is also nice to get confirmation on some of my suspicions.

    I'll see if I can post some crummy examples.

    I'm not frustrated or complaining, just getting advice. I really like this camera and learning to use it is a lot of fun.
    It does remind me of my "good" classical guitar. I've two, both purchased used. One is a La Patrie and very nice, especially considering it is factory-made and has a bolt-on neck (which you don't do with classical guitars).
    My "good" guitar is of unknown origin; it had been literally smashed over someone's head in a bar fight, and almost completely rebuilt by someone who specialises in classical instrument repair. This was before I acquired it, and although we don't know it's original manufacture, it is for all intents and purposes "hand-made." Quite a superior instrument. I don't consider myself good, but am even "less good" on the better guitar. It really exposed the weaknesses in my technique - things not noticed on the other guitar.
     
  9. Truzi

    Truzi Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,770
    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2012
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Never posted pictures to this particular BBS... hope it works as I expect.

    Okay, here are a few bad pictures I took at two different times, processed by the same lab in a Phototherm. They wet-print scans. I've not manipulated the images. I have better examples with comparable distances to the subject, but those are B&W I process myself, and I do not have a scanner.
    These rolls were shot to test the camera and backs for obvious problems such as scratching, frame advance, etc. - mechanical tests - so I did not take notes. They are all hand-held.

    Feel free to critique them aesthetically as well as technically - I'm here to learn.

    Rock (about the size of your head) and over-grown bush next to our driveway.
    Fuji Pro 400H, in-date, very overcast day (got to love Fuji for this). Aperture wide open (f=3.5). Probably 1/30th or 1/60th. This was my first roll.
    Tried to focus on the edge of the rock facing the camera in order to have the lichen in focus. Focus ended up a bit behind that point.
    ---_0038.jpg


    Working hand-pump at a vacation cabin in Hocking Hills, Ohio. Partly sunny day.
    Konica Centuria Pro 400, exp 2009. f=3.5 (maybe 4), probably 1/60th.
    I tried to focus on the pipe for the hand-pump. Instead, the brick just in front of the pipe is in better focus.
    16-A_Frame-Hocking_Hills-06.05.13.jpg
    Since some argue it is not a color, you do not see a magenta cast in this expired film :smile:


    Another in Hocking. Same partly sunny day, but under a full canopy in the forest (no dappling).
    Konica Centuria Pro 400, exp 2009. f=3.5 and either 1/4th or 1/8th.
    I'm not sure what I tried to focus on. Soft, but I like it.
    14-A_Frame-Hocking_Hills-06.05.13.jpg
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 16, 2013
  10. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

    Messages:
    16,811
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2005
    Location:
    Delta, BC, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Truzi:

    As you probably have realized, your attachments didn't work.

    Go to the "Advanced" screen, and the Paper Click in the toolbar is the best way to attach and embed a digital image. Play close attention to the file type and size limits.

    As far as the location of the spot, sometimes the manuals indicate that, whereas for some cameras (e.g. Mamiya 645 Pro) they don't.
     
  11. Truzi

    Truzi Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,770
    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2012
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Damn, it worked the first time, but then I edited to fix a typo and some grammar. I'll try to fix it. I think the links are working, though - they do on my end.
     
  12. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

    Messages:
    16,811
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2005
    Location:
    Delta, BC, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    You were probably editing things when I checked - they are working now.
     
  13. Truzi

    Truzi Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,770
    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2012
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    No, I double-checked after your post (after I'd edited), and I only saw the links as code.

    I've searched in the past, and never could find the size limits for attachments - which is why I've not uploaded before. Where can I find them?
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

    Messages:
    16,811
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2005
    Location:
    Delta, BC, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    When you click on the Paper Click on the "Advanced" page it takes you to a page labelled "Manage Attachments". If you scroll down that page, there is a table lower down with all the format choices, and the file size (expressed in terms of pixels).
     
  16. Truzi

    Truzi Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,770
    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2012
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Ah, I just used the little picture icon. I'll check it out. I had expected something in the FAQ.
     
  17. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

    Messages:
    16,811
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2005
    Location:
    Delta, BC, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    And as for your problems with focussing, I'd suggest practicing in better light until you get used to the camera.

    It would be a good idea to find a subject to use for focus tests that makes it easy to tell when you are front-focussing or rear-focussing.

    Something like a picket fence running from the foreground to the background.
     
  18. Truzi

    Truzi Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,770
    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2012
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    OK, just checked my post again. I'd thought the software would reject something too large. Should I resample my images and replace them?
     
  19. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

    Messages:
    16,811
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2005
    Location:
    Delta, BC, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Yes - the software resizes in a strange way (when it doesn't reject them outright).
     
  20. Truzi

    Truzi Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,770
    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2012
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I'm sorry, I'm being especially dense tonight. My images are jpg and within the limits. I was looking at the limits for jpeg. I'm a computer tech, and normally don't differentiate between jpg, jpeg and jpe. :whistling:

    I prefer png for web graphics, but jpg is what I got from the lab and I didn't feel like converting.
     
  21. ntenny

    ntenny Member

    Messages:
    2,283
    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2008
    Location:
    San Diego, C
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Those don't look as bad as I expected from the original post---focus is placed a little forward or back of where you wanted it, but nothing I wouldn't expect from some struggles dealing with the shallow DOF of a large aperture in a large format.

    It seems like that nice vertical pipe should have been an extremely easy target to focus on with the horizontal split prism, though. I wonder if you aren't shifting your posture a little bit back or forward after focusing---the kind of unsteadiness that you can get away with if there's more DOF, but in these examples it would be pretty easy to lean just a little and get this amount of shift. A heavier camera might exacerbate that; so might some little things that people tend to do while focussing, like holding their breath (don't do that).

    I'm also led to compare to guitars, but I have the opposite experience from you. On the old dreadnought that I've been playing for the last 25 years, I'm a badass, or at least I can get myself into that playing space where I *feel* like a badass. When I got a really good, really responsive fingerpicking guitar, I seemingly became a much worse player, because all my bad habits were audible! Just so with focussing in larger formats---the little bit of slop that you wouldn't have noticed on a 35mm camera suddenly matters.

    The largest format I've ever shot is 8x10, but I'm told that the Absurdly Large Format people---20x24 and so on---basically need to go over the ground glass, micron by micron, with a loupe, deciding *which* eyelash is going to be in critical focus. Phew.

    -NT
     
  22. clayne

    clayne Member

    Messages:
    2,837
    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2008
    Location:
    San Francisc
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Whatever you're scanning with you're getting great scans. Don't change anything - just try and diagnose any focus issues, if any. MF DOF, wide-open is almost razor thin (it only gets thinner the large the format). But either way, I think that setup has great potential.
     
  23. polyglot

    polyglot Member

    Messages:
    3,472
    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2009
    Location:
    South Austra
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    That tall pipe: if you focused accurately on the top then I would expect the bottom to be OOF because the camera is pointing slightly downwards therefore the pipe does not lie within the plane of focus. I'd not be surprised to see both the pump-head and the brick about 200mm in front of the bottom of the pipe.

    Yeah, you missed the rock. It happens.

    The log works very well though; I do like the blurry green foresty look.
     
  24. Alex Muir

    Alex Muir Member

    Messages:
    406
    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2009
    Location:
    Glasgow, Scotland
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    You see replacement screens advertised for Bronica cameras. Beattie made some and I believe another company did too. It is very easy to replace the screen on the SQ series, and I would expect the GS to be similar. These screens claim to give better focussing by being a stop or more brighter than the original screen. Perhaps someone here has used one and can say if it is a worthwhile investment? Alex
     
  25. Truzi

    Truzi Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,770
    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2012
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Thanx for the feedback.

    The negatives were scanned by the lab that processed them.
    There are worse pictures (mostly worse composition and lots of magenta)... I picked the better ones that illustrated my issues with focus.
    I had focused on the pipe a bit above the middle, where the light made it easier. Then I apparently moved, so the air is probably nicely focused somewhere :smile:
    When I take a slow hand-held exposure, I focus first, then take a stance I know I can hold. Motion blur and mirror slap are different issues that I can identify and know how to deal with.

    Looking back, I don't think the focusing screen is my issue (though will look into getting another to make life easier). I think my main problem is shifting my posture (even slightly) combined with not realizing how shallow the lens DOF is compared to 35mm. These will be tough as they involve a life-time of habits more than anything else.
     
  26. Jeff Searust

    Jeff Searust Member

    Messages:
    361
    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2007
    Location:
    Texas
    Shooter:
    Med. Format Pan
    Don't take anything slower than 1/25 or so hand held... no matter how "steady" you think you are.