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Thread: New composition tool, small, compact !

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Feb 2002
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    781

    New composition tool, small, compact !

    There has been several posts regarding different means for composition without lugging the huge camera to every location.... I recently bought the Linhof Multi focal length viewfinder. Although the viewfinder is quite unique and does work as a composition tool, IMO, it's a bit limited and cumbersome. The fl's are limited and the aspect ratios are limited. If you want to change formats, you must change out the masks. The viewfinder was clearly designed for its intended purpose - to sit atop a Linhof field camera. As a composition tool, I would consider it OK at best, as its heavy, not pocket friendly, not easy on the hands, ice cold in cold weather, hot when the sun beats on it. Its also a bit cumbersome to continously change fl settings, as it was designed more for, set it and leave it. Its not really a zoom type lens such as 35mm zoom lenses.

    I recently came accross two interesting composition tools that may work well. The first is small, compact, and dirt cheap, its called the ViewCatcher. I just ordered one at Amazon.com for $9 + shipping.

    http://www.colorwheelco.com/viewcatcher/features.shtml

    The beauty of this little gem, is its ability to show any fl, AND any aspect ratio in the same tool with ease of changing between the two. AND it fits in your shirt pocket! You can mark the exterior with formats you shoot, 24x36, 6x9, 4x5, 5x7,6x12, 6x17, 4x10, etc. Then just slide the insert to suit your composition and see what format best suits the scene. Then look at your format markings. To determine fl, install a thin tape onto the frame, mark the lens fl's you own, (for example, 240mm lens = 240mm distance from eye to View Catcher) pull the tape to your eye, and see the fl required for that composure at infinity focus. Slightly closer focus will not change the fl, assuming its not macro type shooting.... For a small, compact and low cost system, this looks like a winner...

    The second item is a movie directors viewfinder, or composing tool. If you shoot wide to normal only, this viewfinder would suffice well. In 1.5 aspect ratio (which you can mask down to 4x5) it will show 18 - 200 mm fl's. If you shoot with long lenses, you could still simulate them by masking down further.

    http://www.kishoptics.com/viewfinder-set.html

    Hopefully this will add to the list of options, for composing tools....

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Sep 1998
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    10,356

    New composition tool, small, compact !

    " Its also a bit cumbersome to continously change fl settings"

    Why is rotating the ring around the eyepiece "cumbersome"? This is exactly how many zoom or vari focal length lenses work.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Mar 2004
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    San Francisco
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    New composition tool, small, compact !

    How is this thing superior to a piece of cardboard with a hole cut in it?

  4. #4

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    Jun 2005
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    New composition tool, small, compact !

    If you put this device at a distance of 240 mm from your eye you would get the right view only if the opening is the same as your format. Because this is not the case (even if you keep the right sides ratio) you would need to recalculate the distance according to the real size of the opening in use. There is the problem - the smaller this device is in comparision with your real format the less accurate is the field of vision (because the device starts to be too sensitive to the eye distance precision).

  5. #5
    Jack Flesher's Avatar
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    Nov 2005
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    Los Altos, CA
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    New composition tool, small, compact !

    My .02...

    I do use the Linhof thingy, but generally leave it in the front seat of my car simply to aid in pre-visualize to see if dragging out the camera is worthwhile.

    I have also cut out a 4x5 hole in a piece of mount board and attached a tape to it and carried it my bag. And I never used it. In the end, I found that using the thumb and forefinger of each of my hands in opposing "L's" created an almost exact 4x5 rectangle... Since I always had these with me, I could simply shove them in front of my eye, use however far away it is when I was properly framed to tell me the focal, then choose the focal length in my bag that was the closest match.

    Since I generally only carry 4 focals in my bag, it took about two days in the field to learn to "intuit" which lens was going to generate the image I was after, so I really don't even use this very often...

    The one tool I did use a fair bit, was a Zone VI viewing tool that "converted" a color scene to B&W. IMO this did more to help my B&W composition prowess that anything else...
    Jack Flesher

    www.getdpi.com

  6. #6

    New composition tool, small, compact !

    I have a Viewcatcher that was given to me by a painter friend of mine. It is a nifty gadget and I don't hesitate to share it with my students, but I still favor the white matboard cutouts for giving the most accurate view of what the finished image will look like on the wall. Though the neutral tone tool it employs is interesting, the opening of the Viewcatcher is on the small side for composing to my taste.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Feb 2002
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    781

    New composition tool, small, compact !

    Bob, changing the fl settings is not a smooth operation.... it's fine for its intended purpose, but for constant zooming up and back, its a bit cumbersome vs. other options. Again, if its sits atop a camera and you set it, and leave it, its perfect. And the fact its can work with many lenses makes this product very unique indeed, it can replace using many different fl viewfinders.

    gps, yep, sorry, I forgot to mention the compensation required for the smaller image size. But this is based on image diagonal and its a linear relationship.

    CXC, you could surely build one of these out of cardboard, but the nice aspect ratio changer makes it appealing.... hey, keep in mind here, $9....

    Agreed the size is small, but that also is the benefit, as I also had one of the larger 8x10 black boards with the cut out, which B&H sells, comes with fl tape measure.... and I too don't keep it with me enough..... but if I could put this in my shirt pocket, I would always have it....hey, its a $9 rough fl tool that can vary for different aspect ratio and fit in your shirt pocket? lets not loose perspective of what one can expect for $9.

    Jack, not sure if your still ignoring me, but if not, what device converts B&W into color for composure? And your 4x5 L method is quite effective, till you start using 1200mm lenses, or very wide angle lenses, it gets hard judging the fl required.... but you always carry your hands :-)

  8. #8

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    Jun 2005
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    New composition tool, small, compact !

    What is more, since the ratio of your chosen format to this device format is different for each of the chosen formats you would need either a different "tape" for each format or different scales on the same tape...

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Sep 1998
    Posts
    10,356

    New composition tool, small, compact !

    "but for constant zooming up and back, its a bit cumbersome vs. other options"

    There is nothing "cumbersome" about twisting a ring with your thumb and forefinger. If it is not on the camera then you hold it with one hand and twist with the other. That may be much less cumbersome then holding a piece of carboard or plastic at a cetain distance and trying to figure out what focal length from 75 to 360 (range of Linhof 45 finder) you are previewing with the other systems.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Posts
    781

    New composition tool, small, compact !

    Bob, I understand how to use it, but it won't fit in your shirt pocket without cutting your chest up. In the cold, the viewfinders stiffness and finger stiffness makes it bit cumbersome to zoom in and out, vs. moving a piece of cardboard to and from your face.... I am not knocking the product, its quite an engineering marvel, but it does not solve ALL the worlds problems, so c'mon.... be fair.

    gps, agreed, the easiest method is, write a conversion chart in small type, from your printer and paste it on the view finder... let the tape measure read in mm, so its a simple glance at the cardboard to have the fl for any format....

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