View Full Version : Tips on focusing (4x5)

24-Aug-2016, 12:59
I have a strong case of soft images. No matter how hard I try I cannot seem to focus my shots properly. Granted, my eyesight is not the best, but still, I really work hard in trying to get the sharpest image possible. Any tips on how to focus? Especially from guys like me who have poor eye sight.


David Schaller
24-Aug-2016, 13:49
My eyesight has gotten worse, and the "progressive" lenses are not adequate anymore. I've been doing two things I never used to have to do. One is use a loupe. I use a cheap 4x plastic one, which if I lose I can easily replace. The other thing is to put my nose right up on the ground glass, using no glasses or loupe. Between both of these methods I'm getting fewer mistakes. I do try to see it all in focus by f16, then stop down one or two more stops(with 4x5) to be safe. If you search this forum there are many past threads on this topic.

24-Aug-2016, 14:45
Most people focus for max sharpness... But this also means that in focus, that something small becomes smaller (like a wire, twig on a tree, etc) might vanish to the eye when in perfect focus... Combine that with grain on a GG, dimmer light, angle of tilt on movements where the loupe now does not sit flat on the GG but would have to be tilted for max light to be seen, make it harder...

Here is something else to look for... When a lens is in focus, it is not only sharpest (resolving fine detail), it also has the greatest contrast, color saturation, color separation, edge sharpness/harder edge on outlines, overall brittleness, brightness (when color/contrasts pop), less diffuse/mushy look, etc... So there are other things to spot, so set-up your cam in the yard some afternoon, focus on many different things, and when you are close to the focus points, slowly roll the focus back and forth and see if you see a difference in those other qualities, too... Become aware of these, and incorporate these into your focusing procedure, so you have other points to check against... That way, you might have a few things to look for, and you will soon combine these in total...

Different focus aids/GG's work different for different people, so test different ones to see what helps you the most... But some of the other qualities listed above, different viewing distances may work better/worse, than right up against the GG, so try different viewing distances too...

Good luck!!!

Steve K

Jim Noel
24-Aug-2016, 15:28
A loupe is a necessity even for those of us with very good vision.
A pinpoint light source is very handy. AN led flashlight with a single LED , like one of those cheapie key rings, placed at preferred point of focus provides an excellent source on which to focus, day or night. If there are specular highlights on or near the preferred focus point, also make excellent focusing points.

Graham Patterson
25-Aug-2016, 12:25
I have some astigmatism, so whatever magnifier I use, I have to include my prescription glasses in the mix.

26-Aug-2016, 11:04
Unless you are focusing beyond infinity, frequently out-of focus negatives have something unintended in sharp focus. While diagnosing a fuzzy image problem don't forget to evaluate your tripod and aperture selection also. See the articles on 'how to focus a view camea' and 'how to select the aperture.'

26-Aug-2016, 11:08
Get one of these and never look back: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Hening-Type-II-MC-6x-Focusing-Loupe-Lupe-Diopter-Adjust-For-4x5-8x10-Camera-/281089085585?hash=item4172371091:g:VKEAAOSw9N1VywPw

Jon Shiu
26-Aug-2016, 11:42
Is it possible that your ground glass/Fresnel are not positioned correctly? I recently saw a camera with the ground glass installed backwards, so not possible to get an in focus image on the film plane.

26-Aug-2016, 13:12
Get one of these and never look back: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Hening-Type-II-MC-6x-Focusing-Loupe-Lupe-Diopter-Adjust-For-4x5-8x10-Camera-/281089085585?hash=item4172371091:g:VKEAAOSw9N1VywPwNice. Pricey. But I guess worth it if it is as good as you say it is. How does this differ from a loupe?

Ken Lee
26-Aug-2016, 13:44
Some lenses exhibit focus-shift when stopped down. My old 210mm Heliar lens had it.

Focus wide open, then stop down the lens gradually while looking through an inexpensive loupe or strong reading glasses.

26-Aug-2016, 17:53
I just find it easier to use. It's more like looking through a microscope, and I can adjust it so that I don't need to try looking through my glasses (although I can, with the progressives.)

26-Aug-2016, 18:06
At 64 I finally keep a pair of +2.5 reading glasses in the camera bag. They work great for quickly getting close. Then I fine focus with a loupe. Works great for me.

26-Aug-2016, 19:02
i got one of these years ago
a guy on ebay sold it to me for like 20$
it comes in handy on pretty much every camera i use it on ...

Graham Patterson
26-Aug-2016, 20:58
At 64 I finally keep a pair of +2.5 reading glasses in the camera bag. They work great for quickly getting close. Then I fine focus with a loupe. Works great for me.
I keep a set of flip-up magnifiers in my bag. It is not just the focus screen - I am convinced the numerals on the lenses are becoming fuzzier each year... Fisherman's Eyewear sell good ones. I like having my regular glasses on - I may not see trouble coming, but at least I'll recognize it when it arrives!

Merg Ross
26-Aug-2016, 21:14
Is it possible that your ground glass/Fresnel are not positioned correctly? I recently saw a camera with the ground glass installed backwards, so not possible to get an in focus image on the film plane.

Jon, my initial thought also.

Mario,what camera are you now using? How are you judging the soft images, from negatives or prints? You need to provide more information on your process --- the problem may be other than your eyes.


Doremus Scudder
27-Aug-2016, 10:30
... the problem may be other than your eyes.

Indeed. If your negatives are soft all over, i.e., nothing at all is in focus, then you likely have problems other than focusing. Is the image sharp on the ground glass as you view it through the loupe? Regardless of whether you need to wear glasses or not, you should still be able to see the image come into focus with magnification.

Try this: focus on an object 10-15 feet away in a scene with lots of other objects nearer and farther away and make a negative (or maybe you have one already). Examine it closely with a loupe. Something should be in sharp focus; ideally, the object you focused on, but if not, something a bit closer or farther away. If nothing is sharp, you've definitely got other problems. If something other than the object you focused on is sharp, you may have a ground-glass misalignment. But, first things first; do the test above and report back.



Robert Opheim
27-Aug-2016, 12:49
I would also look at the lens. I have two older lenses that really don't focus well. One is a fake Gorez dagor made by Burke and James and one is a Hugo Meyer that is probably not spaced right in the Deltax shutter that someone put it in. Neither will give a sharp focus. Also are you getting focus shift when stopped down? Are all of your lenses producing the same out of focus result? If so than I would think that (as mentioned above) your ground glass may be out of alignment. Additionally I used to get camera movement from an undersized Gitzo tripod head - and wind.

Peter De Smidt
27-Aug-2016, 19:21
My favorite magnifier is a Pentax SMC Photo Lupe 5.5x.

But if nothing is sharp, I would check the lens, ground glass placement, film holder, and support system (tripod + head).