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Thread: 4x5 Focusing Screens: THE FINAL WORD

  1. #11

    Join Date
    Jun 2002

    4x5 Focusing Screens: THE FINAL WORD

    I don't think you'll ever be satisfied so long as you split hairs over which fresnel is "best." The really right answer is to avoid using a fresnel and learn how to use a simple, old-fashioned ground glass with a good technique and darkcloth. Look at the fresnel as a nice luxury, not as an essential, and don't worry about it so much - use one when it works, but accept that with with some wide angle lenses it isn't going to work as well, or you're going to get lines, or you'll have to grid the ground glass itself (with a pencil!)

  2. #12

    Join Date
    Sep 1998

    4x5 Focusing Screens: THE FINAL WORD

    "you'll have to grid the ground glass itself (with a pencil!"

    His ground glass is a grid screen. that is the standard screen on a Linhof.

  3. #13

    Join Date
    Dec 1997
    Baraboo, Wisconsin

    4x5 Focusing Screens: THE FINAL WORD

    Nobody is going to be able to tell you the one all around best solution because there isn't one. If there were everybody would buy it and all the products except the one all around best one would disappear. Everything you can use is a compromise in some way. You'll just have to decide which compromise is lmost palatable to you.

    FWIW I've used original equipment Fresnels that came with my Ebony and Tachihara cameras, I've used the after-market Beattie screen, I've used a BosSreen on three different cameras inlcuding an 8x10 Deardorff, and I've used three or four plain ground glass screens. I didn't care for any of the Fresnels because the texture interferes with focusing and I didn't feel like buying multiple Fresnels for different focal length lenses, nor did I look forward to taking them on and off the camera all the time. I liked the BosScreen best and never had a problem in the heat of Florida summers, I don't know about cold because it doesn't get cold in Florida. At the moment I'm using a plain Linhof ground glass on my Master Technika and like it pretty well but may decide to replace it with another BosScreen. I can't see the entire image at once but I've done enough large format photography by now that moving my head around a little doesn't bother me and it's pure pleasure to watch the image pop into focus with that ground glass as compared with the Beattie screen that preceded it.
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  4. #14

    Join Date
    Sep 1998

    4x5 Focusing Screens: THE FINAL WORD

    "(are they milled to the precision that I require"

    If you are talking about the image plane then this statement is meaningless.

    On a Linhof the image plane is the bottom surface of the ground glass. This surface sits on the focusing shims on the back. The factory or the service center adjust the shims, not the screen, to the exact position required for optimal focus. In the case of your camera this was done long before it was delivered to you.

    There is nothing Maxwell, or any other manufacturer, can do for you to mill the screen for greater precision at the image plane.

    Some manufacturers may grind the glass finer or polish it to make it brighter but this will normally remove some of the "bite" of the screen which is what makes the image snap into focus quickly and surely.

  5. #15

    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    Chapel Hill NC

    4x5 Focusing Screens: THE FINAL WORD

    You have some very good answers above. I would add my thoughts on the subject. I have tried a variety of screens, and recently tried the Satin Snow (cheap, and always need to take a sparee gg with me). I have the Master 2000, and it is a very fine camera. I have a problem with my retina and do not dark adapt well at all. And I am almost nightblind. I generally use wide angle lens, and have photographed a lot of architectural interiors and in slit canyons.

    The critical issue with focusing is having an image on the ground glass of sufficient contrast that allows distinction of two adjacent points when racking the lens in and out. Fresnels will blur and cut down on the contrast due to the lines, but different fresnels will be different in this effect (due to the deepness of the rings, type of plastic, spacing of the rings). The cheaper the fresnel, the worse it is.

    The problems with the Linhof Super Screen is as people described. The lines are bothersome. If you go this route I think you have to remove the screen to do the fine focusing.

    The Boss screen - I went through two of them. Had bubbles form when my pack was in the overhead compartment on a cross country flight. Very nice screen thougth - probably the finest, but replacing them so often was not an option.

    The Satin Snow - no different than any other screen except that it gives a much finer image making contrast more evident. As someone pointed out the physics still apply - it is hard to focus with wide angles.

    The 20/20 Brightscreen. Nice screen, very fine lines of the fresnel, but with focal lengths below 150 the light drops off. This has the integrated gg/fresnel. I no longer use this screen for that reason.

    The Maxwell screen. Bill will talk your head off, but he knows what he is talking about. The fresnel is incorporated into the gg. His is the best screen so far that I have tried. I had one on my first camera, and then bought another for my Master 2000 when I got the camera. This screen has very fine fresnel lines that have not interfered with my seeing the image, and is as contrasty as a naked gg. I have used it in a variety of circumstances, and even with a 58 mm lens in dark factory buildings. I highly recomemd this screen. I suggest that you order it with the corners intact, since normally people like them cut off and that is how he has them made. But he can have them made with the corners intact. And by the way, the grid with the screen is the finest I have seen, and are unobtrusive.

    Another note, if you use a 6X loupe you will get an additional stop of brightness. An 8X will add nearly a stop-and-a-half. Again, you get what you pay for, so if light to critically focus is an issue buy a very good loupe.

    I hope this helps.



  6. #16

    4x5 Focusing Screens: THE FINAL WORD

    First of all, thank you to everyone for putting the time and effort into these responses.

    Second of all, I've noticed that these forums about large format photography so frequently become small inquisitions if not full blown Kenneth Starr type investigations rooting out deep and powerful emotions on matters of a merely technical nature... but then I remember that we are all engaged in a form of artistic pursuit, and this enlivens strong feelings in people.

    Third, I am a photographer, thank you to some of you for noticing this oversite. I am rather new to large format photography, but pride myself in having derived my living solely from magazine photojournalism and fine art sales of my personal work. To that effect, I currently have a solo-exhibition of 35 prints at the Leica Gallery in Tokyo, Japan (stop by when you have a spare moment), an exhibit at the Alice Austen House Museum in New York, and one more at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

    Fourth, I just felt compelled to warrant my inquiry with the substantiation of having little money (an artist) and a lot of pride and perfection in what I do... I feel a lot of other people in this forum do to, and may benefit from this wonderful string of answers about a shocking detail of large format photography; you drop several thousand dollars on a piece of equipment, yet constantly learn that it is never quite ready to start working without another addition, another back, another lens, or another adjustment. It's a revelation to the new comer and as one member pointed out, it is an excellent idea to really learn as much as possible on your own while benefiting from other's mistakes.


  7. #17

    4x5 Focusing Screens: THE FINAL WORD

    I read the "user terms" pretty carefully and think it is ok for me to ask this: does anyone have a linhof superscreen for the master technika with a grid on it that they would be willing to sell?


  8. #18

    Join Date
    Sep 1998

    4x5 Focusing Screens: THE FINAL WORD

    There are no Super Screens with a grid on it. The Super Screen is a plain focusing system. To add a grid to it you would need the discontinued Linhof CM Grid Overlay for the Super Screen.

    The Super Screen is not discontinued, only the CM Grid Overlay is.

    Sorry I said you were not a photographer. When you called yesterday I thought you said you were an artist.

  9. #19

    Join Date
    Sep 1998

    4x5 Focusing Screens: THE FINAL WORD

    "The problems with the Linhof Super Screen is as people described. The lines are bothersome. If you go this route I think you have to remove the screen to do the fine focusing."

    Again wrong information.
    You can not remove the grooves from a Super Screen regardless of what you try to do.

    The Super Screen is a single piece of acrylic with a grooved side and a smooth frosted side. The grooved side can not be detached from the smooth side. The Super Screen is a solid piece of acrylic and not a sandwich construction.

    So you must have mistaken something else for the Super Screen.

  10. #20
    jim landecker JimL's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Vancouver, BC

    4x5 Focusing Screens: THE FINAL WORD

    I've settled on a BosScreen with a removable fresnel, even though it's said a fresnel shouldn't be used with that screen. I found that even though the BosScreen scatters light better than the Linhof groundglass I had, to me the light falloff was still unacceptable without the fresnel. With the fresnel on, I get even illumination with most of my lenses, and the BosScreen, which shows fine detail very sharply, is a pleasure to focus with, especially in the corners with w.a. lenses. I don't mind the fresnel grooves - the only thing that bothers me is that my fresnel is getting pretty scratched up from the loupe.


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