With practice, scale focussing can be very accurate.
I have one of those little old Voigtländer shoe-mount rangefinders but have found that I focus just as accurately and much faster without it. I just need to remember whether the camera I use that day is in feet or meters...
-- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
Distance focussing: some options
To answer the second question first: Yes, definitely.
Originally Posted by darinwc
Regarding the first question:
there are at least two types of distance scale focusing:
Some cameras, like my Olympus Trip 35, require you to set the subject distance (guess or measured) before you press the shutter. These cameras don't give you any information about the aperture, setting the distance is all you have. In my experience the results can be superb (unless you've forgotten to set the distance before taking the shot).
The second kind of camera (those with manual focus primes and rangefinders) allows one to set the distance, as per the distance scale on the lens, but -in addition- has a depth of field scale as well.
Regarding scenics/street photography/architecture, using these two scales you can set the lens to "hyperfocal distance" by placing the infinity symbol against the corresponding f/ number, thus giving you the maximum available depth of field. This works best for higher f/ values (e.g. f/11 and above) and shorter focal length lenses (e.g. 28mm and below). You can then set and forget as everything from about 1.5m to infinity will be in reasonable focus. I use this a lot with my prime slr lenses and rangefinders and, lately, with manual focus "normal" zooms (use hyperfocal distance tables). I find the results excellent!
Again, regarding scenics and the like and using either slr or rangefinder, "focusing" on the subject (split prisms, Fresnel sceens and such) not only wastes time and effort, but also produces inferior results IMO.
However, when taking pics of your favourite girl, she being the main subject, by all means use standard focusing techniques and make sure she (her eyes) is sharply focused, the rest of the scene can look after itself.
Last edited by Galah; 04-01-2009 at 10:49 PM. Click to view previous post history.
I use scale focusing with my Speed Graphic and it is quite accurate. For me it's faster than using the rangefinder which is very dim. Also I have an old Kodak 35 which is scale focus only and it too works well.
Last edited by Wade D; 04-04-2009 at 05:09 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Reason: addition to post
I think that it is a fine method for many situations...especially when the camera has a D of F scale as well. I consider lack of a fine distance/DOF scale to be a big drawback of many bellows cameras. I can't stand the distance scale on RB/RZ, for one, and I miss D of F scales tremendously when shooting the Speed hand held. At least Sinars have a doohickey that lets you rig a fairly fine distance scale if you feel like spending the time to do so. Some press cameras with cam-driven rangefinders have rather nice distance scales as well.
Last edited by 2F/2F; 04-04-2009 at 05:37 AM. Click to view previous post history.
"Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."
- Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)
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It is the way many of the "older" generation started out, I did.
Back in 1960 you had no Auto Focus, Auto everything.
OK, there was the Kodak Instamatic: just drop in the film and shoot, nothing to adjust, the same with the Agfa Clicks and Clacks.
I started with a Regula 35mm manual everything and got tack-sharp pic's
So: yes scale focussing works.
There Kodak Instamatics had a thing to adjust (at least the ones i had - still have - did).
They offered a choice between a "full sun" or "half sun" symbol.
Here is a link to a rangefinder you can make with a pen and paper, or in my case I used a pen and an old hotel card.
This clever device works surprisingly well!
Yes. It is ok. Remember, only other photographers seem to care about perfect sharpness & focus.
When shooting street, that extra half second that may be needed to aling the rangefinder patches may mean a good photo has passed. I rarely work with anything but scale focusing, and my images haven't suffered.