How long does it take you to focus a manual lens?

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by blake_f, Jul 14, 2011.

  1. It takes me around 10-15 seconds to focus my Ziess 2.8 80mm CF lens with the standard Accu Matte focusing screen on my 503cx. That seems like a long time to me. I also notice that I cannot always find the sharpest, most in focus position on the focusing ring; I know it is there though. Is this normal or do I need to get my eyes checked?
  2. Well if you can't see fine print in sharp focus at a distance of one meter, you may need corrective lenses to use a camera. If you are over 40, it's time to get them checked, camera or no camera.
    Edit: To answer your question, maybe a second or two, or less, split image combined with microprisms make for nice focusing screens. :) Composing takes longer.
  3. I can definitley see fine print in sharp focus at a 1 meter distance but focusing on something with less fine detail is more difficult.
  4. It used to take me barely a second when I was younger but the advancing years and attendant long-sightednes meant that it took me several seconds toing and froing with the focus-ring. Recently I managed to buy a correction lens so now I can do it much faster.
  5. One thing that messes up focusing ability is astigmatism, as it distorts your view of things. If you have it, regular add on or built in adjustable diopters don't correct for it.
  6. Probably you need to get your eyes checked. I have never had problems in the past, I liked plain matte screens, and now (I`m getting old) I`m unable to manual focus with any screen except the brightest ones, with split images or with loupes.
    I always have in my bag a red light led lamp with three diodes (the ones used for biking), that I need to use when there is not enough light or contrast; I just place the lamp in the focus plane, making things way easier. Obviously, it`s useless under certain circumstances.
  7. I was amazed the other day. My dad has had bad eye sight for a few years now, hasn't been manually focusing or even really doing photography for about 15-20. I showed him my A900 & 58/1.2 lens and said "here, this is probably one of the best and brightest SLR viewfinders you'll ever pick up". He focused on me for about 10 seconds and took one shot, at 1.2, and talked about it for a while after. Later on I was using the camera again and came to the photo, I reviewed it on the LCD and he'd got it perfectly in focus at 1.2! Took me a while to learn how to focus well with that lens, sigh...
  8. david_henderson


    Depends. If for examlpe I were to focus with the original fairly dim, no focus aid screen of my Bronica on a low contrast subject it could take a lot longer than that without creating the certainty that I've got it right. If I'm focussing in Live View on my Canon 5DMk11 and I use the 5x and/or 10X magnification to check the likely shapness of foreground and background objects then again it can easily take over 10seconds. If I focus my Mamiya 7 rangefinder and then after I've determined what I want to focus on and got that sharp I might want to check the distance/likely sharpmess of parts of the subject away from the point of focus, and that might take quite a time.
    But if I'm not bothering with any of these nuances, have a bright screen and only concern myself with finding focus on one object in the frame, then I'd expect to do that in a second or two. I don't have great eyesight.
    So three hypotheses. First your eyesight isn't up to it. No harm getting this checked from time to time regardless. Over the years I've seen a large number of comments on here to the effect that now that the writer is getting older they need autofocus.
    Second possibility is that you are plagued with indecision- maybe you've actually been in perfect focus a few times before you realise that this is the best you're going to do.
    Third, for whatever reason you just need more brightness and/or more focus aids to give you the reassurance you need. If you haven't got a split screen device, maybe that would help you focus more decisively- works for a lot of people including me.
  9. Bob Sunley [​IMG], Jul 15, 2011; 02:15 a.m. One thing that messes up focusing ability is astigmatism, as it distorts your view of things. If you have it, regular add on or built in adjustable diopters don't correct for it.
    Well I have had my optician to cut me a corrective lens the size of a quarter. This fits perfect in the eypeace on an NC2 finder and does correct for astigmatism.
    The great thing about shooting square is not rotating the camera, and this allows you to correct for astigmatism.
  10. Oh one more thing, about two years ago I had a lot of trouble focusing all my cameras, that when I went to my doctor and he found a cataract in my right eye. When that was removed, the problem is all gone. In fact I no longer need corrective any lens in my cameras.
  11. How long does it take you to set up for a putt shot in golf? Sometimes one thinks too much.
  12. IMO focusing is A LOT faster, easier and more accurate with a split image screen than with any other type. YMMV.
    Henry Posner
  13. Henry,
    Yes, the split-image is another boon to the long-sighted photographer. Even the microprism wasn't much help to me. Mind you, now I have the correction lens, things are much, much better. It would be very helpful if camera manufacturers fitted a variable dioptre eyepiece as a matter of course.
  14. Actually, for me I prefer a plain screen, no split. I like a grid though but only have one right now. I used to focus very fast with my Bronica SQa system, but the Hasselblads slowed me down some when I switched, the lenses have more physical drag, PITA. I can still focus my ED-IF Nikkors very fast at age 51, but I don't see as well so I miss more here and there that I would have locked in before. I used to shoot a lot of sports MF so my technique is still pretty darn good to my surprise.
  15. It takes me minutes at best, but I am legally blind. I am faster than my guide dog, though, mainly because she does not have opposable thumbs.
  16. I am 23 and I have not been to an eye doctor in at least 5 years but I know I have an astigmatism so maybe that is the problem? I have used rangefinders before without problem so maybe I need one of those split image screens.
    I have an eye exam today so we will see what they say.
    As for lining up a putt shot it probably takes me 20-40 seconds but I am not a patient or regular golfer anymore.
  17. With my Yashica Electro, no time at all. I don't look through the viewfinder, just use the scale to set the necessary hyperfocal thingummybob. Fire and forget, so to speak.
  18. Using a Hassleblad, it can take me several seconds to feel comfortable with a selected focus. Using a Rangefinder Mamiya 7, it's much faster.
  19. My Hassy takes a while too, either with the WLF or a prism. There is a claim (and I can neither refute nor confirm this) that the Acute-Matte screens, while much brighter, are actually harder to focus. The theory is that based on how the glass is etched, images don't 'snap into focus' as obviously as they do on a regular screen.
    I can confirm that images don't snap into focus with my Acute-Matte screen ... but since my eyes are bad too, they never really snapped clearly into focus with my old screen either.
  20. I came back from the eye doctor and it turns out I have better than 20/20 vision however I do have a slight astigmatism and I am slightly far sighted so I could be the problem although it sounds like the Hassleblad just might be more difficult than other cameras to focus. Hopefully a range finder focusing screen will be easier for me to focus...if anyone has used one please share your experience.
  21. My eyes are not great and my far vision is blurry even with glasses.. With a proper diopter setting I see better through my lenses than than I can through my glasses. I did weddings for several years with manual focus Bronica PE lenses through a metered prism finder in which I installed a dioper fitting . It never occurred to me to worry about how long it took to manual focus. I got my pictures even when people were moving. I never noticed a difference in focusing time between accu-matte and regular screens. I have astigmatism as well. Never really bothered me as I keep my glasses on for shooting and they have corrections for that. The only time focus bothered me with the weddings is when outdoors it was 90 degrees, I was sweating and the glasses fogged up. My cure for that was f16.
  22. Blake, anything with a WLF can be tricky if your eyes are a little iffy. If you manually focus, and then set the focus just a hair closer, that usually solves the problem. I *suspect* that this is because your eyes are focusing on the front of the ground glass while the image is technically on the back of it, but someone with an engineering degree or a better understanding of optics can explain it. I just take pictures :)
  23. Zack, please forgive my ignorance, I am not sure what you mean by setting the focus a hair closer.
  24. Blake, say your subject is five feet away. You'll focus normally so the image appears focused, and then front-focus a little, so the meter is focused slightly closer than five feet away. I find this to be very helpful; not doing it means I usually get ears in focus instead of eyes.
  25. Hi Blake F.

    "I am 23 and I have not been to an eye doctor in at least 5 years but I know I have an astigmatism so maybe that is the problem?”

    Me too, astigmatism. I can see the fine twigs at the top of a tall gum tree 200 meters away without my glasses. I have long range glasses and medium to reading range glasses. I have had glasses since I was 12, the optician said I did not need them !! Guess what, my written maths, which I constantly got wrong suddenly improved to the same standard as my oral question maths.

    Personally I won’t go without my glasses they make everything much much easier too achieve.

    I have noticed that LF GG work with the short – medium range give excellent focus. For MF the diopter of the focusing screen can stuff up the focusing if it does not match the glasses in question.

    I have also found that not all opticians under stand that what I have is correctable, I am in my latter years and have moved a number of times to places out reach of my last good optician so have had “try out” to find someone who is actually good. In my case I can see that the newly proposed lenses are better than the ones being replaced.

    Sorry to go like this but if you get the correct lenses I am sure you will hate to be without them. I can not understand these fashion conscious people who won’t wear their glasses and go around in some kind of gray mist instead of seeing the world in crisp, clear contrast – nuts, it’s a beautiful world if you can see it clearly.

    Best Regards

  26. I think that even with perfect vision, it is still necessary to rock the focus back and forth through the point of best focus. The only way to know when the image is a sharp as possible is to compare it with an alternative at a different focus setting. So one goes from unsharp to sharp to unsharp on the other side; then back to the sharpest setting. It is the fingers, which have been doing the focusing, that remember where that intermediate sharpest point is, and are able to retrace their movements back to that point. The entire nervous system is involved: eyes, brain, skeletal muscles, muscle memory. So I think that some "hunting" back and forth is a normal part of focusing on a groundglass. If the groundglass has a microprism, that hunting is not necessary, at least not for me.
    This of course is in addition to the limitations of one's vision. At age 70, mine is getting a bit limited!
    A split-image or coincidence rangefinder is a lot easier to focus with. You can see when the image is exactly in focus: it's go or no-go. There's no "almost, but let's see if we can get it any better. whoops, that's not as good; OK, turn it back a little; maybe that was too far?"
  27. Using Hasselblad 500 models - it was improved for me when I fitted Accumatte screens, but then even better with split image. But nothing faster than the rangefinder in the Leica M3: "zap .. on the spot .. click .. done"
    ( 60+, I am now long sighted as well as having astigmatism in both eyes. )
  28. I can focus a whole lot faster with my Mamiya 7ii than I can with my RZ Pro-II. That said, I don't shoot sports - I'm not in a hurry.

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