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Thread: Alternatives to focusing cloth?

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jun 2000

    Alternatives to focusing cloth?


    I?m new to LF and I?m struggling to get confidence with this new equipment. One of the things that I?m struggling the most is focusing at the GG with the dark c loth. I really dislike this system. It is very uncomfortable, I can?t stay under that cloth for more that just few seconds (especially in hot weather conditions )?not to mention the light spreading from the bottom?and the bellow sagging beca use of the cloth sitting on it while I?m trying to cover the back standard from the light??It drives me crazy.

    I just bought a Toyo VX125; I know that is one is of the best tools in business? but only if I can concentrate more on the images instead of spending time on the technical difficulties.

    As solution I was thinking to use the Folding Focusing Hood at which attach with Velcro on one or two sides a custom made (small) piece of opaque cloth. In few words I would have a folding focusing hood plus a miniature cloth attached to it with Velcro. Is there anyone that has already done it? What is the impression, if any? Are there alternatives that I should know? I also was thinking at the Toyo Balloon focusing hood. Is it worth the money? Is it too big for outdoor shooting? Sorry for my English and for so many questions; just short suggestions will be v ery much appreciated.

    Thank you.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Sep 1999

    Alternatives to focusing cloth? for BTZS focusing cloth.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Mar 1998
    Anchorage, AK

    Alternatives to focusing cloth?


    I know what you mean. I find it particularly frustrating to hike some place, and then in fading light try to make a photograph, while the steam coming off my body condenses on the ground glass. I have not devised a good solution. Here are a few thoughts.

    Avoid the BTZS focusing cloth. It is waterproof and extremely uncomfortable in warm weather. The shape is right, but why they chose to make it out of a waterproof material is beyond me. If you want to try one, you may try mine. If you like it, you can have it for half the retail price.

    The problem that I've had with the rigid (i.e., collapsable, but with rigid sides) focusing hoods is that I can compose but not focus with a loupe. The sides of the hood were too deep to allow the loupe to contact the ground glass. They need to be deep to block the light.

    I think a cylinder of dark cotton cloth with a drawstring at the camera end may work reasonably well. It could have a small opening along its side to give access for your hand holding your loupe and to give some ventilation. This would be essentially the same as the BTZS design, but with made with lighter weight and breathable materials. It's the kind of thing that you could easily make yourself.

    Good luck. Bruce

  4. #4

    Alternatives to focusing cloth?

    There is no perfect answer; I have tried all kinds of alternatives (including the BTZS cloth)and there is something good and something not so good about all of them. Currently I am using something quite simple and inexpensive -- a size medium black T shirt from Lands' End (cost, $12) that I find to be light weight, cool, easy to use, and quite satisfactory for my use. The neck goes over the back, my hands go through the arm holes, and it works. The disadvantage I find is that if the neck isn't placed precisely right over the back, it tends to slip off. But as I said, nothing is perfect in this area.

  5. #5

    Alternatives to focusing cloth?

    Mario, I think it would be a good idea to get a bright screen... Beattie's are nice and brighten the viewing 2.5 times! The folding hood is a good idea also. It will cut down the reflections you get from behind. Put them both together and you won't really need the cloth. Be prepared to spend $250-300USD but it is money well worth it. Cheers

  6. #6

    Alternatives to focusing cloth?

    I live in Arizona and have experienced the same problems you have with dark cloths. My solution is to use Toyo's monocular viewer. I prefer this over their focusing hood because it has a built-in 1.5x magnifier and I find this allows me to forego the need for a loupe. The body is made of rubber so it can be folded up easily for transport/storage and except for the cost (which isn't too bad if you can find one used), it has very few drawbacks. [Per my undated Toyo catalog, the part no. is 1024 FH45L but there are other companies that offer these in a Graflex fitment -- Cambo comes to mind -- so you may want would shop around.] for ]

  7. #7

    Alternatives to focusing cloth?

    Mario, check my review and comments on using the Horseman folding binocular view er. As an alternative to the straight bino which is a bellows type and very light, there is also the reflex f olding bino that some photographers prefer, for the right side up image. The Horseman acessories for the viewer have the same mount as Toyo's and are perfectly interchangeable.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Jun 2000

    Alternatives to focusing cloth?

    The Horseman Bino sounds great to me, expensive tough... if it is the one that B&H sells as "Horseman Binocular Direct Viewer" is just a little less expensive then the reflex one which it sounds too good to be true for the field but looks big from the image I saw. Very interesting also is the toyo rubberized monocular solution. I learned something today that will help me to find a solution to my frustrating initialization in LF. Thank you all.


  9. #9

    Alternatives to focusing cloth?


    Occasionally, I use a focusing cloth with 4x5 and always use one with 8x10, but the problem I have is my inability to adjust from extremely bright light to the dark image on the ground glass. This is particularly a problem at noon, on a sunny day at altitude. The solution I've found is a reflex viewer. I use a 90 degree viewer made by Cambo (sold by Calumet.) It attaches easily to my Canham, but I don't know how easy it would be to attach to the Toyo. Before using the Canham, I had a wooden field camera and attached it with two pieces of Velcro. The image through the viewer is bright and very sharp, which makes using a loupe a rare occurrence.


  10. #10

    Alternatives to focusing cloth?

    Mario, I fashioned a focusing hood of quarter inch thick plastic top and bottom, and vinyl cloth on the sides. It fits into the slots on the back of my Arca Swiss nicely, and was cheap to make. You can make a BTZS style darkcloth out of nylon or cloth, and they do a great job of blocking ambient light from below. A good solution is simply a tshirt, with elastic cord fed through the waist. I'm having the most success with a golf bag head cover, which is a light black nylon, and already had elastic drawstrings on both ends. It folds back nicely when you want to use the loupe, and it's quite small - folds up to about the size of a package of cigarettes. I originally used a "horseblanket" style, but found it a hazard in windy or warm conditions, and it didn't block light from below. Hope this helps.

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