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Thread: Speedgraphic portraits with a rangefinder

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Apr 2017

    Speedgraphic portraits with a rangefinder

    Does anyone know of a workaround to correct parallax issues when shooting tightly cropped portraits focused with the rangefinder as opposed to the ground glass. Im currently using a side mounted kalart rangefinder that admittedly needs recalibration to be accurate across all distances, but currently focuses perfectly at 6 ft, along with a Kodak 6 3/8" (162mm) lens. As I mentioned, everything is fine if I stick with a distance around 6 ft, but the portraits are not as tight as I would like. If I recalibrate for closer distances, the image is not centered in the frame due to parallax issues caused by the fact that the rangefinder is side mounted. I am hoping there is a workaround for this.

    The speed graphic is relatively new to me so these might be stupid questions, but would simply using a longer lens like a 210mm or 240mm and calibrating the rangefinder accordingly solve the problem, or am I just going to have to settle for focusing on the ground glass when I want a tight portrait?

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Del City, OK

    Re: Speedgraphic portraits with a rangefinder

    Are you composing through the rangefinder? They usually come with a sportsfinder wire and a viewfinder. You should compose through the viewfinder or sportsfinder, and just use the rangefinder for focusing. My Anniversary Graflex only has the sportsfinder, so I will set the focus with the rangefinder, and then compose through the sportsfinder. It works well enough for what I use it for. For more important shots, I usually compose on a tripod through the ground glass anyway.

    Even using one of the proper finders, there will always be some parallax to deal with. That's always going to be the case unless you compose through the taking lens. But the viewfinder and sportsfinder are designed to deal with that a bit, and they should also give you a better idea of where the film's borders will actually lie than the rangefinder could hope to.

    Generally when shooting close up with a rangefinder of any kind, I will compose and focus the shot first, and then give a quick look to see where the lens is actually pointing towards to give me a better idea of what effects the parallax effect is playing. So with something like a medium format TLR, I will usually set up the camera so that it looks how I want it, and then raise the camera up the distance between the viewing lens and the taking lens (for close up shots only) right before the shot. That way the taking lens is now where the viewing lens was when I composed and focused the shot. I'd recommend the same with the Graflex, but I believe that the viewfinder and sportsfinder were designed with parallax in mind, so I don't know how much to compensate when using them. Though your best bet is probably just to take a wider shot than you need, and then crop to get the framing right.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Los Angeles, CA

    Re: Speedgraphic portraits with a rangefinder

    I know this isn't what you want to hear, but unless you are ground glass focus/compose it really is best to not shoot too tight and address the composition by cropping.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Sep 2010

    Re: Speedgraphic portraits with a rangefinder

    You may find the techniques used here helpful.

    With a Kalart RF camera, run out the track until the arm just drops off the RF. Then do a Big Shot Shuffle against a focusing target with the camera on a tripod. This will be your closest focusing distance. Now focus the lens on the target on the ground glass and make some witness marks on the track and slide so you can find this spot again.

    Now to make an accurate composition. Use the open frame finder. Raise the frame on the front standard fully to open, but then lower it to be flush with the top of the front standard. Next adjust the peep sight for the most accurate view. To you it will appear to be a view from slightly to the side. Ask your subject to look into the lens, not at you.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Jan 2001

    Re: Speedgraphic portraits with a rangefinder

    Just compose and focus on the frickin' ground glass. That's what it's there for.
    Wilhelm (Sarasota)

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    San Joaquin Valley, California

    Re: Speedgraphic portraits with a rangefinder

    I remember school portraits being done with a (I think) Crown Graphic. The photographer was a pretty cool guy and he let me see the two points of light the camera projected on a classmate, when they were focused on the same place he'd take the shot.
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.
    I'm not OCD. I'm CDO which is alphabetically correct.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Mar 2017

    Re: Speedgraphic portraits with a rangefinder

    'but would simply using a longer lens like a 210mm or 240mm and calibrating the rangefinder accordingly solve the problem...?'

    The Kalart rangefinder cannot be calibrated for lenses that long. The stated range is about 90mm to 165mm, though I've gotten close with Aero Ektars, which are 178mm. But I've never been able to get them focusable with the RF at both ends (near and far). Which makes sense, since the thing is not designed to do it.

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