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Thread: Wista 45DX focusing problem, astigmatism? Try a bright screen?

  1. #1

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    Wista 45DX focusing problem, astigmatism? Try a bright screen?

    Shooting with 2 Wista 45DX field cameras (4 and 6 years old, new when purchase, original Wista fresnel screens)
    Primary lens: Nikkor-W 135 mm f/5.6
    Secondary lens: Nikkor-W 105 mm f/5/6
    Loupe: Wista 5x standard loupe

    I have been shooting with a pair of Wista 45DX cameras for about 6 years, and Iíve had a problem with focus fairly consistently throughout this time. I have been loosing more negatives than I should to bad focus. Typically the focus fall just in front of where I intended to put it. I primarily shoot portraits and end up with the personís garment in focus instead of the eyes, for example. I tend to shoot at a distance of 3-10 feet from my subject. My solution has been to stop down as far as the lighting situation will permit (f/11-ish), throw a little fill strobe and hope for the best. I use a loupe and a proper dark cloth. Admittedly this method works, but not as well as Iíd like.

    Over the years Iíve had my eyes checked regularly and I wear appropriate glasses, yet the problem remains fairly constant. I have astigmatism in both eyes, and I wonder if this contributes to my problem focusing. I am only 33 and my eyes are not that bad, however.

    Iím wondering if any of you have dealt with a similar problem, or if you have any suggestions to improve my focusing issue. Iím wondering if this is a problem with my cameras/lens/loupe, or my ability to focus. Would it be helpful to have a bright screen installed on my camera? Would a right-side up viewer be of any help (I am one of those photographers who has to turn her head upside down to compose the photograph)? Any thoughts would be much appreciated.

  2. #2
    unexposed darr's Avatar
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    Re: Wista 45DX focusing problem, astigmatism? Try a bright screen?

    I too wear glasses and have astigmatism in both eyes. The only time I know I have had problems with focus is when I have opted to wear my contact lenses instead of glasses. Shooting portraits with LF can be a challenge with limited depth of field and the inability to "live focus" with your subject. How is your focus results with still objects at the same overall settings?

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    Re: Wista 45DX focusing problem, astigmatism? Try a bright screen?

    And do you focus using the same fstop that you will expose with?
    Perfection is a moving target.

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    Format Omnivore Brian C. Miller's Avatar
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    Re: Wista 45DX focusing problem, astigmatism? Try a bright screen?

    Quote Originally Posted by laphotographe View Post
    I have been loosing more negatives than I should to bad focus. Typically the focus fall just in front of where I intended to put it.
    Your eyes may be good enough, but your ground glass position may have a problem. Do you have a loupe you can use on your ground glass? Try this test: Get some box cardboard, and cut it into strips to make a series of steps. Glue a piece of newspaper on each step. Using the loupe, focus on the middle step, making sure you can read the print. Now make a normal exposure, develop the film, and see if the middle step is in focus. If it isn't in focus, then your ground glass is out of alignment with the film plane.

    When I bought my Super Graphic, the ground glass had been replaced with normal ground glass instead of the original glass and Fresnel combination. I bought a Brightscreen replacement, and after futzing around, shimmed it into place with a strip of sheet film negative and a strip of 35mm negative. (Previous thread: Registration)

    If you don't want to get artsy-craftsy like I did, then send your camera to a repair tech for adjustment.
    "It's the way to educate your eyes. Stare. Pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long." - Walker Evans

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    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: Wista 45DX focusing problem, astigmatism? Try a bright screen?

    I suggest photographing (wide open) a newspaper taped to a wall at your normal working distance and see how your focus is on the neg. The other way is to focus on a ruler (say at the 6" mark) and see where the actual focus is on the negative. Nail down the exact problem.

    If your focus is fine in the above circumstances, then perhaps your subject moves a little away from the camera after you focus.

    If your focus is off, then perhaps, even tho the cameras were new, the film is not ending up on the exact plane as the GG.

  6. #6

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    Re: Wista 45DX focusing problem, astigmatism? Try a bright screen?

    Have you adjusted the loupe to be in focus on the grain side of your ground glass? That should be step #1 for all cameras.

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    Re: Wista 45DX focusing problem, astigmatism? Try a bright screen?

    Thanks to everyone for your thoughts.

    I ran some tests based on Brian's and Vaughn's suggestions and I should have the film back in the next few days.

    Bob, I'd like to ask you to clarify your question regarding focusing the loupe on the grain side of the ground glass. My loupe is adjustable, but I thought that it should only be adjusted like a diopter based on eyesight. Given that I wear glasses, I didn't think I needed to adjust the loupe, but perhaps I am wrong about this? How would I focus on the grain side of the ground glass?

    Adrian, I focus wide open.

    Darr, I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one who cannot focus with my contacts in. I just did a test to see if my focus is good with still objects as I'm honestly not sure.

  8. #8

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    Re: Wista 45DX focusing problem, astigmatism? Try a bright screen?

    Focus the loupe so you can see the texture of the groundglass clearly and in focus. You mentioned that you have astigmatism, but not if you are near or far sighted. If you focus the loupe without your glasses, be sure to use it with your glasses off. If you focus the loupe with, use it with the glasses. Personally, I find Fresnel an annoyance and never use it.
    One man's Mede is another man's Persian.

  9. #9

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    Do check the position of your ground glass. I had some problems with my Wista DX after installing a factory Fresnel screen. Also make sure that the screen is seated properly.

    And, yes, it is a good idea to make sure you loupe focuses correctly, but, even if it is off a little, it shouldn't make any difference to the focus, just the sharpness of the image you actually view.

    I'll wager there is a misalignment somewhere.

    Best,

    Doremus

  10. #10

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    Re: Wista 45DX focusing problem, astigmatism? Try a bright screen?

    To adjust the focus of your loupe properly. Turn on a light in front of the camera, remove the lens. Focus your loupe on the ground glass until the grain of the gg is in sharp focus. Now put your lens back on and shoot.

    Assuming that you have a Wista gg and a Wista fresnel installed on your camera and assuming that you had not focused your loupe then when you placed your loupe on the fresnel and focused you were out of focus by the thickness of the fresnel + the thickness of the gg + any space between the 2.

    If you don't have the fresnel then you would have been out of focus by the thickness of the gg.

    In photographic terms those can be large errors in focus.

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