New Voigtlander Bessa R3a
I just recently purchased a brand new Bessa R3a, and It is definatley taking some getting used to. I am having problems focusing correctly due to the fact that I have been shooting a Auto focus camera for years and used to the convenience. When I line the two images up in the viewfinder, I can't ever really tell when they are lined up perfect. Also.... if I shoot with enough depth-of-field, does it really matter if I am not right on? Another thing, I noticed it has a white window in the front to light up the brightlines.. what happens if I am in a dark room? How do I focus properly and compose?
Rangefinders take a little getting used to, but you soon get the hang of them and then they can be very precise indeed. It's a matter of practice. Extra depth of field does mean your focus doesn't have to be bang on and you can also just use the depth of field scale on the lens to get a useful zone of focus if you are in a situation where you have to work fast, but if you get time, it might as well be right. I find a good bright screened rangefinder like a Voigtlander or a Leica easier to focus in dim light than an SLR and you will still see the bright lines as long as it is not completely dark. Mind you I never did like auto focus. It doesn't know what I want to focus on and I hate the slight (sometimes not so slight) time lag between pressing the button and the shutter going off. That's another nice thing with rangefinders, even over a manual SLR, there is no shutter lag at all, because there isn't even a mirror to swing out of the way.
I think most of your concerns are simply the change in working style. The rangefinder on the R3A is about like having a split image focusing screen optimized for a 50mm f:1.4 lens on an SLR. It may just be more sensitive than you are used to. One thing to check out is the vertical alignment of the rangefinder, which can cause the two images not to snap like they should. Find a strong, contrasty horizontal line (power lines work well) and see if they are properly aligned or if they're offset vertically. A good hard drop in shipping can cause vertical alignment to go out. Also make sure you don't need dioptric correction to see clearly. The R3A can take a common Nikon SLR diopter finder lens, but I forget the model. I find that the focusing on my R3A is slightly snappier when I have both eyes open (works if you're right-eyed, for lefties, the body is in the way).
Rangefinderforum.com has a discussion of adjusting vertical alignment on the R3A if you search for it, and either photos or a link to photos of how to do it. You do have some leeway on focus with smaller f-stops. See cameraquest.com for some information on what apertures are the limits for the R3A rangefinder at common focal lengths.
As for brightness of the finder lines, I shoot constellation photos with the C-V brightline finders, and the only light is from the stars on a moonless night. I can see the finder lines clearly (and MANY more stars than any SLR I've seen) under these circumstances. If you have enough light to focus, you should be able to see framelines.
If you get into a really dark spot, I'd take this idea: http://www.leicagoodies.com/shine.html and run with it. Mine would be a red LED, point back at the finder frame window, and be dimmable.
You're probably doing fine on focusing.
Hope this helps,
Since I grew up with rangefinders, and then MF SLRs, I don't mind focusing. However, I sure love my wife's Contax G2 kit!
Funnily enough, I was discussing this very point this morning with JJ from Leica. Here's my way of demonstrating focus:
Give someone a reflex and a soft pencil. Ask them to go to infinity, then focus on a subject (say) two or three metres away. Mark the point focused against the index, with a soft pencil. Go back to infinity (or the nearest point. Focus again on the same subject. Mark again. Repeat (say) five times. Note the spread on the pencil marks...
Now try it with an M-series.
His version is asking five different people to focus both.
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