Correcting for parallax
After years of shooting with SLRs, I got bit by the rangefinder bug. Started with a Contax IIa with the F2 Sonnar and ended with that plus a Retina IIIc, F2 Xenon; Walz Envoy 35; Karat 36, F2 Heligon; and a Kiev IIa with what could be its original Jupiter-8 (both 1956.)
They all have their charms but the Contax and Kiev are the most fun.
The problem is: I have yet to master framing on a rangefinder after all those years of seeing exactly what the film sees. Some of these cameras seem to be closer to correct than others, in particular the IIa and the Walz. Not sure why ... but the Walz does have a frame line.
I'm thinking that has something to do with this so-called "parallax correction."
I've googled that term a few times and still don't have a solid understanding of what it is.
Here are two recent prints from negatives made with the Kiev IIa and Jupiter-8 ... they clearly show my folly in framing.
Any info about parallax correction, or tips / rules-of-thumb about adjusting the frame to correct for the difference between the viewfinder and the lens, is appreciated!
ps. you should all go buy the SLRs i have listed in the classifieds. I'll make you a deal on both! After my rangefinder binge, I need to thin the SLR herd.
As you can see, I cut off their hands. My original framing included their hand and moved their faces farther right.
Unless you are quite close parallax is not usually a problem, but some rangefinder cameras will correct for that as you get closer.
It's easy to make a test for example with a bookshelf as your subject. Centre your camera and look in the viewfinder with your eye centered, and mark where the four corners of the finder are with small, but easy to see objects/Post it notes, etc. on the bookshelf. Take a photo, develop your film and check the results. This will show how much deviation there is in the system at the distance you focused. I check parallax at the closest focusing distance. You'll get used to correcting your framing at close distances in a very short time.
Just as easy as Aron's method, but doesn't require you to waste a film. Same thing, just leave the film out, open the back door, set to Bulb and open the shutter (cable release with locks are good to have). Grab a focussing screen from an SLR (if you don't have one lying around you can get one for a Canon or Nikon FF (d)SLR from fleabay for $10. Gently hold the focussing screen over the hole where the film would normally sit, and you can see the entire image as would be captured on the film, with the added advantage of swapping back with the viewfinder in real time. (just make sure your shutter doesn't close while you're working, if it closes you might break it.)
What camera were you using for the example pics?
Parallax correction basically works by having framelines in the viewfinder - which move towards the lens the closer the lens is focussed. So this "corrects" parallax, or more accurately compensates for it in the viewfinder.
Many older RFs without compensation simply show less of the image than there is actually going to be, this helps minimize cutting things off due to parallax - but also means sometimes you get things in the edges of the photo you didn't count on!
Two thoughts here:
- Don't frame so tightly. That will help to allow for parallax. Of course, that goes against our instinct, especially if you've been shooting with SLRs. I have this same issue with a Super Ikonta 6x9, and I have to remember to correct for vertical parallax when shooting anything closer than about 10 feet or so.
- Try an external viewfinder. Zeiss Ikon made a turret finder for the Contax IIa. It's a bit costly, however, it does allow you to correct for vertical parallax, and the way it's constructed, it centers the eyepiece over the lens, which means that it automatically corrects for horizontal parallax. The downside is that this viewfinder is a bit costly. It generally sells for about $225, but sometimes you can chance upon a good deal and get it for less. The Soviets made a version that is identical to the prewar turret finder made by Zeiss Ikon. The location of the accessory shoe for the Kiev / Contax II and the postwar Contax IIa is different, and that's why it's best if you use the correct finder for the camera that you'll be using.
Thanks for the suggestions. I actually own the pre-war Zeiss turret finder and it works fine. I also have the external finder for the Retina. But in both cases, the finder takes away from the simplicity of using the camera.
All of your explanations do help me better understand how the finders correct for parallax, so tht i hopefully I can mentally do it a bit better in the future. Thanks for the responses.
Originally Posted by elekm
Rule of thumb that you can use immediately; If you don't correct for parallax, you'll cut their heads off when you move in close.
That's one of the reasons to love Leica (and other cameras where the framelines move appropriately).
I have a Contax 11, a very similar camera that I've used for more that forty years,and the answer is practice, practice, practice until it becomes second nature.
This is kind of what I thought the answer might be. Practice, I shall.
Originally Posted by benjiboy
Thanks for the responses, everyone.