Zone Focus culture shock

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Murray@uptowngallery, Jul 10, 2005.

  1. Murray@uptowngallery

    Murray@uptowngallery Member

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    I am accustomed to focussing with an SLR. A rangefinder was an easy transition. A Crown Graphic was an easy transition in principle (haven't shot enough to say I know what I'm doing, but I can see to focus).

    I have some folders 6x9 and 6x4.5 with that require 'zone focus'. Maybe I'm 'downgrading' too far, if zone focus is technically speaking used in those camera with two or three focus settings ONLY.

    So let me clarify by saying these have distance scales and I dare not guess (I did on the first roll and won't do that again). I use a separate rangefinder, and can see that at landscape distances and f/11-16 I try to use with those old Tessar or triplet lenses setting shouldn't be too critical.

    Even with the one that was CLA'ed my results are horrible...compounded by every human error possible. While I'm trying to sort out what caused what (forgetting to bring a tripod, motion blur, etc), I do see nice images posted that are reasonably close up at open apertures, and they DO have the subject in focus.

    I imagine that wide open & thus with very narrow DOF, on a scale focus camera you're taking chances...separate rangefinders don't seem to have enough distance resolution to get close to pinpointing a narrow DOF.

    It seems common sense tells me to err more on the side of stopping down because of the obvious variables with such a camera, but the whole experience is taking a lot longer to get used to than I expected.
     
  2. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    It would help to see some results, but in general any zone focus settings on an old rollfilm folder will be based on the assumption that you will be contact-printing the results. Zones might be 5 - 8 feet, 8 - 15 feet, 15 feet to infinity. If they were, it is obvious that even with "correct" zone focusing the actual focus could be off 7 feet - negatives subjected to any degree of enlargement will look fuzzy. It should be possible to focus accurately with a separate rangefinder, unfortunately the distance markings on this and the lens will probably be very small and hard to read.
     
  3. jjstafford

    jjstafford Inactive

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    A few folders were very good and the rest are, imho, just adequate, so don't expect miracles. However, there is one potential grave flaw to your approach which you should check, and then a minor one.

    #1 - calibrate the camera's focus scale _to your separate handheld rangefinder_, and keep the combination, don't switch around. You can't tell which is off. Do it with a ground glass and loupe. You will probably have to add distance markings to each.

    #2 - apparent focus shift as you stop-down. Many lenses were sharper at the edges than the center when wide open, and when stopped down, the focus in the center shifted. It is hardly noticeable in small prints, but may be an issue with enlargement.
     
  4. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    I use an old Agfa Isolette 6x6 folder quite a bit. It has zone/scale focusing. Most of the time I leave it set to infinity and shoot at f/11 and above. Needless to say I only use it on days when there is good light (unless I'm doing night shots with very long exposures).
     
  5. Murray@uptowngallery

    Murray@uptowngallery Member

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    'Scale'...that's the term I think I was looking for (and had misplaced).

    I also know about opening bellows & then winding.

    The mistakes are just killing me...like using a spotmeter for shadows and moving exposure the wrong way thinking about EV number rather than Zone, and double exposures. I had one roll with a Moskva V where I forgot where I had put the 3/8-1/4 tripod adapter so I just 'leaned' on the tripod...it was before sunrise, so with long exposures leaning wasn't stable enough. Finished the roll and realized the adapter was in the bottom of the case...can't be in the camera because the case mount is 3/8...grrr...the lab said they looked like Holga stuff...not funny...

    I guess making mistakes is good if I learn from them...

    Comparing the rangefinder and the camera scale is a good idea...

    Thanks

    Murray
     
  6. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    Scale focusing is a hoot. It is like having low-tech autofocus. great for street photography. I used to love using my little Voigtlander Vito B and I still like to go out with my scale focusing Nikonos V in downpours that would drown my SLRs. Also enjoy my zone focusing LOMO LCA.
     
  7. Murray@uptowngallery

    Murray@uptowngallery Member

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    Good to see words like enjoy & love...

    Sometimes with those particular cameras I feel pretty speechless telling someone why I prefer them over digital...
     
  8. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    Neal, good to see I'm not the only one here who likes to play with an LC-A! You might like to check out a few of my LC-A photos.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 11, 2005
  9. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    Two critical points for scale focusing, Murray.

    First, the infinity focus of the lens must be set correctly. If not, the whole scale will be off.

    Second, you need to be able to estimate distances. It comes with practice, I've found; I can pretty routinely nail the focus with a 6x9 folder, on a scale, at distances of five feet and under (and I have the scans to prove it), but I've been shooting various scale focus cameras almost exclusively for a couple years. My first adjustable camera, and my first 35 mm (same camera), a Pony 135 Model C, was scale focus, and I used to put on a close-up diopter and, with the scale focus, produce nicely focused images that were much larger in the print than in front of the lens (though for that I used a measuring device).

    Keep trying -- but first get a ground glass or frosted plastic and check your infinity focus to be sure it's correct, or you'll just drive yourself nuts...
     
  10. Whiteymorange

    Whiteymorange Member

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    I just reset the infinity focus on a junk-shop Agfa Isolette II with a Solinar lens using Scotch tape as the "ground glass." It seems to have worked very well. Zone focusing on this camera is encouraged by a red dot on the focus ring and the instructions available here (thanks to Richard Urmonas and to rolandandcaroline.co.uk for the link.) Great camera, though 6x6 rather than the requested 6X9. I may have to give up the old Kodak Pocket Premo folder that I've been carrying around for the last few years.
     
  11. Murray@uptowngallery

    Murray@uptowngallery Member

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    Thanks D & W. I realized that one of the problems I had, despite using a rangefinder to set the scale, was my insistence on using up some decades-old 620 film. Lab howled about how curly it was, and despite opening the bellows before winding, the focus was totally uneven...I then realized the film was probably stuck in a fetal position. One roll cracked while winding and another made some pretty ugly noises at one point in the roll and got so hard to wind I thought it had slipped out of the take-up spool.

    I'll have to try hyperfocal focussing too & see what it does for me...anything to take some of my own errors out of the situation can't hurt.
     
  12. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    Get a roll of something modern -- Plus-X, TMY, or if you're on a budget even J&C Pro 100 or Lucky SHD 400 -- and try that. These films won't be as curly, have much more reliable film speed than anything old enough to be original on a 620 spool, and they respool nicely (in fact, Pro 100 respools better, in my experience, than TMY). Best of all, Pro 100 and Lucky SHD are really, really cheap. :smile: