Is focusing by a distance scale OK?
There are quite a few cameras out there that use a distance scale for focussing. What are your opinions about using a distance scale over more precise methods like rangefinder, slr, and autofocus?
Is it accurate enough?
I think it is fine provided you are using a suitable lens and know you will be operating at higher f-stops to guarantee the depth of field to get the sharpness. Using a distance scale with a 200mm lens at f2.8 is asking for trouble..;-)
I've been using a Kershaw 6x6 with an 80mm lens and have found it OK with the following provisos:
You need enough light/fast enough film/a tripod to enable you to use a smaller aperture. I have generally been shooting at f/11-f/16 to guarantee depth of field.
If you're shooting mainly at or near infinity it's less of a problem and guessing shortish distances is pretty easy but guessing middle distances can be hard so depth of field is key.
A longer lens would be a no-no.
Because you're forced to use smaller apertures and it's difficult to guess middle distances you aren't going to be able to throw backgrounds out of focus very easily.
The nice thing about the Kershaw and other similar folders is that they're incredibly compact and lightweight - no electronics, no batteries, no anything much. You get the benefit of a medium format negative with a reasonably sharp lens and a carry anywhere camera. This makes it very attractive for long hikes, etc.
You can get by on a shorter lens with a small aperture.
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If you are happy with the sharpness of your photographs using that method then of course it's OK. I sometime do that with my rb67 in low light.
Last edited by Christopher Walrath; 04-01-2009 at 06:56 AM. Click to view previous post history.
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Just remember-if you set a lens to other than infinity focus infinity will not be at maximum sharpness. You may not be able to detect it but tis so
Originally Posted by darinwc
I've gotten very good at judging distances. That's probably a bigger issue than the actual act of using zone focusing. Quite a lot of my 35mm shots are done on an old finetta 88 camera which has zone markings and no rangefinder and I've never had a problem unless I've misjudged the distance.
But I don't enlarge larger than 8x10 so maximum sharpness isn't a big issue with me.
Darin, my primary use for scale focusing is to get the focus in the ballpark as quickly as possible, so that my time looking through the viewfinder or groundglass is minimized. Time spent focusing through the VF or GG is time not spent looking directly at the subject and appreciating its full context.
Scale focusing is quite commonly used by street photographers to set themselves up, discretely, for impromptu shots. This is true not only for smaller 35mm and 645 gear... it is also a quite reliable way to operate the press cameras (Crown Graphic etc.).
Something that I recommend to any student, as an exercise to try to get away from the idea of the gear dominating your photography and regain the raw enjoyment of 'capturing' a scene: shoot a few rolls or sheets by scale focusing alone... not looking through the VF at all. Depending on your system, your distance judging skills etc., the results can be excellent for subjects at distances from ~3 meters out to infinity. Closer shots are harder, of course, but generally students are amazed at how well this works at ~f/4 or even wider.
I would suggest learning hyperfocal technique along with scale focusing, i.e., develop the ability to recognize three critical distances: the distance to the primary subject, and the distances to the near and far focus points. Of course, the biggest way to screw up scale focusing is not to recognize how much DOF you have at a particular subject distance and to account for your own error in estimating that distance.
Last edited by keithwms; 04-01-2009 at 08:11 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Sure, as long as the scale is accurate and you are accurate at estimating distance.
I use scale focus all the time on my Perkeo folder and have no complaints. I have considered the neat little shoe-mount rangefinder that Voigtländer makes, but the success I'm having without it, coupled with its rather sobering cost, keeps me doing guestimate and set. (I'm even doing it in meters!)
Of course, if one starts hanging closeup lenses on and going in for semi-macro work, one will definitely want to measure.