i can barely see anything on the focusing screen?

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by russell_mcbride, Jun 7, 2003.

  1. ok. got my film holders all loaded up. i've been messing with the
    movements and setting up and breaking down of the camera...

    so i go to compose a shot (for real), and i can barely see anything
    on the focusing screen. i have the lens wide open (f/5.6). i have to
    squint my eyes, move my head around, move the loupe around to get an
    idea of what i am looking at, and guess. like having sun glasses on
    in the dark :)

    is it understood that the shen-hao 4x5 needs some type of accessory
    or something to view? i have read a bunch of threads about light
    falling off around the edges but i can barley see what my
    composition looks like in broad daylight. i am using a focusing
    (hood) tarp over my head and camera and it helps a little but not
    enough to get a good idea of the complete composition. i know one of
    the big advantages of the large format is that you see, exactly what
    will be recorded on film to the edges but i am having a hard time
    seeing what will be recorded in the center also.

    a sceen in an overcast day looks very bright! however when i look at
    the screen it looks like a slide that is 3 - 4 stops underexposed.

    russell mcbride
  2. Russell,

    You really need someone to show you basic procedures. In an hour or two you can learn more by being shown what to do in person than you could learn in a seemingly endless series of internet inquiries. I suggest that you begin again with another question, asking if there is anyone in your area who would be willing to give you a one-time lesson. Good luck.
  3. you need a fresnel type accessory screen, this will brighten the overall view on the
    screen. also try giving your eyes afew minutes to adjust once you pull the dark clothj
    over your head, also be aware that the ground under you can be very bright in
    comparison to the view on the groundglass. You also nned a good 3.3x to 4x
    focusing loupe to really focus with. It helps to move your head around as well.
  4. What is the focal length of the lens?

    In broad daylight, under the dark cloth, at f/5.6, with any reasonable choice of lens, the image ought to be bright. This should be true even with the simplest ground glass. If the lens is a wide angle lens, the illumination may fall off towards the edges. I started off with a simple gg, but I was able easily to focus and evaluate composition even with an f/6.8 90 mm lens in daylight. In dim light I had more trouble, but could manage. I do much better now that I replaced the gg with a Maxwell screen.

    How is your vision in dim light? Mine is not too great, but it is a lot better since I had my cataracts removed.
  5. Something else that occurs to me is that you may have presbyopia, i.e, you need reading glasses to get close to what you are looking at. If you are older than about 40 and you are not myopic, that would be the case. If so, you may be too far away from the gg. You can get drug store reading glasses as strong as 3.25 diopters, possibly higher. Those will allow you to get closer to the gg. The effect will be to shield it better from ambient light and also allow you to see the image better. But you should still use a loupe for critical focusing.
  6. A Fresnel screen won't make the image any brighter in the center of the ground glass, but it will spread out the light so the outside of the GG is brighter. The GG which came with my Nagaoka is too dark to compose or focus the image, and it's probable that you may have the same problem. It can be solved with a Maxwell or similar screen, but that will add another $150 to the cost of your camera. It's worth it, but annoying.
  7. Russell,
    Michael's suggestion of finding someone to help you with the basics really is a good one if possible. A good workshop is another option.

    It is rather dark looking through the ground glass, but if you use a good dark cloth and keep as much ambient light out as possible, you should be able to see well enough to compose and focus. It helps to let your eyes adjust for a moment when you first go under the cloth. If you have a Poloroid holder it may benefit you to set up outside in a bright area and try some simple subjects to practice focussing on. The Poloroid film lets you see instantly the results of your effort.

    Good luck, hang in there!
  8. In addition to the above information..if the image you see is blurry
    its because you are using a Zeiss lens, if sharp you have a
    Goerz lens closed down. ;-)

    CP Goerz
  9. Russell,

    I'm not familiar with the camera but if it has a removable bellows and one of the corners is not properly attached, the light leak will reduce the groundglass image viewability.

    Good luck
  10. There can be a lot of factors at play here. First, are you using the dark cloth properly? It should be tight around all four sides of the camera back (i.e. don't just drape it over the camera so that light comes up on the ground glass from below, use velcro or even your hands to keep it tight around the camera back so that all ambient light is kept out). The View Camera Store sells a special type of viewing cloth that's very easy to use and has elastic around the four sides that attach to the camera back. Second, as others said, if you're using a 90mm or wider lens that will make a big difference as may a Fresnel or similar brightening accessory. Actually a plain ground glass can be better than a Fresnel with wide angle lenses unless the Fresnel itself is wide angle. If you're using anything longer than a 90mm lens in decent light you shouldn't have problem with an F5.6 lens as long as the dark cloth isn't letting light in. How is your vision? Do you read without reading glasses? Many of us use some sort of add on glasses for ground glass focusing and composition. I use plain old $10 drug store magnifying glasses. How far away from the ground glass are you holding your head? Don't put your nose on it (except when you use a loupe). For initial composition and rough focusing your head should be about a foot or so back from the glass. In any event, don't get discouraged, eventually you'll be very comfortable with the ground glass, it just may take some time and maybe a visit to your eye doctor. If you do see an eye doctor take the camera with you. My eye doctor didn't have a clue as to how camera viewfinders and ground glass worked.
  11. Russel,
    Make sure the dark cloth seals out light as much as possible.

    The pop-up hood on my field camera (busch 4x5) is pretty lousy.
    Im working on designing a new hood. But its really hard to beat an old black t-shirt. I stretch the collar around the back of the camera. I can put a hand through the sleeve to use a loupe. Didnt know 'old navy' sold focusing hoods, did you?

    Also, dont put your face too close to the glass. I found that 6-12 inches works well.
  12. Russell, if you're near Ann Arbor, Michigan, Howard Bond has a one day view camera class on October 11 this year. You can get a list of his workshops for this year at http://www.apogeephoto.com/howard_bond.html. I've taken his Zone System as well as his printing workshops and I highly recommend them. Be prepared to look at a lot of wonderful prints.
  13. "i am using a focusing (hood) tarp over my head "- some tarps are opaque, some are not- is this one?
  14. Sounds like your new to LF. This happened to me when I started. But it got better the more time I spent under the dark cloth.
  15. Russell - is it possible you're forgetting to set the lens aperture to f5.6 before attempting to focus? If so, you will be trying to view and focus at whatever aperture the lens happens to be set for. Another thought - is the lens actually opening to max aperture?
  16. i got the camera out to shoot some 90 mm 4x5 on a new f8 lens the other dy and couldnt see a thing.. come to find out the posts mentioned earlier aobut move back from the fresnel were rigt on.. my eyes had gone to crap in the time the camera was in the closet.. cant see a thing up close.. thanks dave...
  17. thanks everyone for the advice, the time you spent reading my post and responding is greatly appreciated. it is very frustrating at this point in the game (at the start line) but from reading all of the responses i can see that it is the nature of the beast and will subside with time and practice.

    is there anyone living in new jersey that would be willing to give a beginner a crash course in the basics of lf photography? maybe i could tag along one day while your shooting so it would not be an inconvenience to you.

    russell mcbride
  18. Russell, (this is not meant to be an insult, we all have made silly mistakes), but don't forget that you must remove the film holder from your camera before you can see an image on the ground glass.
  19. Russell, you have a plethora of good answers. Don't gloss over the lens length question. 210ish lenses are easier to use, especially in the beginning. No magic here, just a larger image on the groundglass. I suspect most of us experienced what you are going through; I certainly did. Don't get discouraged. Try setting up your camera in a private place like your backyard where you won't be bothered by curious onlookers. Do this sometime when you are not under time constraints. Get under the dark cloth, which should be very dark. Most people initally get too close to the glass to see. (Make sure your shutter is open. Don't laugh, that's why we often emerge briefly from under the tent!) Finding a good tutor is an excellent idea. A properly installed fresnal may help, but give yourself a chance to become accostumed to the groundglass first.
  20. thanks everyone for all of your help. it's working and little (by very little) at a time i am slowly learning how to use this thing. i am nowhere near ready to feel confident with the movements but i am perfectly fine with that for now.

    thanks again,

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