View Full Version : Tachihara Maxwell or Satinsnow

Dan V
6-Sep-2004, 10:05
Good Morning All,

Thanks to all of you who generously give your time and relay experiences so we might all benefit. From all of your postings, articles and links I have learned more useful information than I can remember - thank goodness for printers.

I am a newcomer to LF photography, so please bear with me if I seem to ask stupid newbie questions.

Two weeks ago I received my Tachihara 4x5 and 150/5.6 lens. I've opened the camera exactly one time and spent hours going over controls and movements. Focusing my first beautiful image on the ground glass was worth the purchase price(I think I'm in love). When time allows, hopefully in the near future, I may actually get out to try photographing with it.

Even before I got my camera, posts on this and a few other sites convinced me that I'd want to replace the Tachi's stock GG with something clearer. Now that I've seen images up close and personal, I expect to replace that stock GG. Looking for the clearest, cleanest, best illuminated image that I can view, early on I expected to go with the Maxwell screen; but now I'm wondering which is better (ie, clearer, with more even light distribution): the Maxwell screen or the Satinsnow? Anyone have experience comparing these two?


Gem Singer
6-Sep-2004, 10:37
Hi Dan,

The groundglass focusing screen that comes as standard equipment on all sizes of the Tachihara cameras has a built-in fresnel brightening lens. Before replacing it with an expensive option, get a high quality 4-6X focusing loupe and a well made darkcloth. It's different than focusing with a 35mm. SLR and takes some getting used to.

Leonard Evens
6-Sep-2004, 10:44
I have a Maxwell screen which I'm very happy with. I don't have any experience with the SatinSnow gg.

I could be mistaken, but I believe these are entirely different kinds of screens, which may serve different purposes. The SatinSnow, from their web page, appears to be a very finely ground ground glass, and they claim it is also bright. Such a screen might excel in showing fine detail. The Maxwell screen is a form of Fresnel screen, meaning it is designed to distribute light better. That is particularly important for wide angle lenses. But you can see the grooves under extremely high magnification, which for some people in some circumstances could interfere with seeing very fine detail. Personally, I've never had that problem with my Maxwell screen.

I suggest you take your camera out to take pictures and master the nuances of view camera technique as best you can. If your current gg is adequate, stick with it. If, on the other hand, you find you can't do some things you would like to do, consider the strengths and weaknesses of alternatives such as the Maxwell or SatinSnow, as well as others. I was happy to start with the standard gg that my Toho FC-45X came with, but in time I found that I couldn't compose or focus as well as I wanted with a wide angle lens in dim light. So for me, the Maxwell screen was the appropriate solution.

6-Sep-2004, 10:54

Is your Tachihara an older model or is it new? The new Tachiharas come with a very nice ground glass which, as Eugene pointed out, incorporate a built-in Fresnel. I have one of these on my 8x10 and it is a delight to use. Although the Satinsnow is a good basic ground glass, I'd much prefer to have the Tachihara. The Maxwell I've not used.

"Focusing my first beautiful image on the ground glass was worth the purchase price(I think I'm in love)."

So what's wrong with the ground glass you now have? Apparently it does the job pretty well. Since you indicate you're just starting out, I'd be inclined to suggest that you leave well enough alone and go make some photographs. :-)

6-Sep-2004, 11:13
I also have an 8x10 Tachihara and the GG is a delight to look at with my 210mm lens. but with my 380mm lens it gets darker and a little harder to focus. I wonder if the fresnel is optimized for wide angle lenses?

Ralph Barker
6-Sep-2004, 14:38
Careful, Dan. Paying too much attention to equipment threads on the Web can turn you into a photographic girlie man. ;-) (See Dan Smith's funny thread below.)

Although I've not used a Tachihara 4x5, like the others, I've found the standard GG on my 8x10 to be bright, and very easy to use. After you've used it for a while, as others have suggested, make any adjustments based on your own experience and requirements or preferences.

Gary Frost
6-Sep-2004, 15:44
I use a 4X5 tachihara and will also recommend the standard GG that comes with it. It is a good one. The fresnel seems just right for your 150mm, but is at the limit around 90mm esp with some shifts. The longest lens I've used on it is 240mm and that works as well. One of these days I will try the Satin Snow on one of my other cameras to see how it compares with my home-made #500 Carborundum GG.

6-Sep-2004, 18:00
I have just replaced the original cover glass & fresnel on my 4x5 Tachihara with the SatinSnow last month. The main reason is that the SatinSnow GG enables me to focus slightly easier & faster on my SA 90mm f8.

As everyone has mentioned, the original cover glass & fresnel on the Tachihara is already bright enough for any lens starting from 150mm onwards. But my primarily lens being the SA90, so focusing is not as easy in dim light situation. My first attempt of trying to get a brighter screen is with Velveteen, not much luck though. As I don't like the idea of not able to achieve tack sharp images on the GG, which is crucial for table top shots.

In short, changing to SatinSnow GG, "will" not be brighter than your original Tachihara screen. So, depending on the magnification of your loupe (mine at 4X), you will see less fresnel lines with SatinSnow and perhaps that's the main reason of being able to focus easier & faster.

I would suggest that you get familiar with the original Tachihara GG with a good light tight focusing cloth, before making any decision.

Brian Ellis
7-Sep-2004, 08:13
There's a huge differnce in price between the Satin Snow and the Maxwell. The Satin Snow only costs $10. Why not get it and see how it works for you? At that price you can't go wrong(though exactly when you'll get it is another question, I ordered and paid for one about three weeks ago and it hasn't yet arrived). The Tachihara stock screen is as good as Fresnels get in my experience (which inlcudes the Ebony and Beattie Fresnels) but like all Fresnels not specifically designed for wide angle lenses, it can be difficult to use with a 90mm or shorter lens.

If you're going to get into the Maxwell price range you might think about the BosScreen as an alternative, especially since it's wide angle lenses that are presenting a problem with your Tachihara Fresnel. I've used a BosScreen on three different cameras and I think they're great, the image appears somewhat brighter than a normal ground glass (though it won't be as bright as what you're now getting with the Tachihara Fresnel)and much easier to focus and use with a wide angle lens than any of the Fresnels I've used (I've never used the Maxwell but it's a Fresnel which by definition means it will have the problems inherent in Fresnel lenses). I'm hoping that the Satin Snow works as well as the BosScreen for about a fifteenth of the price but until it arrives I won't know.

Dan V
8-Sep-2004, 09:27
My Tachi is new so the consensus is that the original screen should be adequate; and I will make initial tests with this in mind. Being an LF novice, I realize I need a lot of practical experience before making any GG or fresnel replacement decisions.

My main issue is with the visible lines on the fresnel which I find distracting - I never liked them on my MF Pentax either. Also, the GG on my Tachi may be "too ground" for my taste - something else to consider. My Calumet 7x focusing loupe helps in focusing the image, but also magnifies fresnel lines (and GG haziness, for lack of a better word); but I doubt this would be resolved to my satisfaction by switching to a 4x loupe - though I understand that the lower magnification would reduce the distraction.

My camera "manual" doesn't detail composition or construction of the GG or fresnel, but by placing the loupe on the back of the camera it's apparent that the layer closest to the photographer is made of plastic and therefore probably is the fresnel. In front of this layer and closest to the lens must be the GG, which I presume, is made of glass not plastic. I don't know if these two components are actually fused together or merely pushed together.

Does anyone know if these are two layers sandwiched or one fused unit?

Thanks to all for your helpful input. I will report back after some much-needed field work.

Gem Singer
8-Sep-2004, 10:56
Hello again Dan,

The Tachi focusing screens are made up of a sheet of plastic which has a ground surface facing the lens and a Fresnel grooved surface on the opposite side of the sheet. Then, there is a thin cover glass (plastic?), that has the fine black gridlines drawn on its front-facing surface. The entire viewing screen is a two piece assembly.

The frosted plastic screen with the Fresnel on the back is as fine as it gets. Since a rough ground glass surface and Fresnel grooves do not seem to be your problem, reducing the magnification of your loupe isn't really necessary. The grid lines are the problem. If you just cannot adjust to them, then I suggest replacing the cover glass to a plain one that doen not have grid lines. It's less expensive than replacing the entire focusing screen. Call, or e-mail Jim, at Midwest Photo Exchange. He will return from his trip next week.(www.mpex.com, or jim@mpex.com). He might have a plain Tachi cover glass in stock that does not have grid lines, or he may be able to order one for you.

Dan V
11-Sep-2004, 09:32

You are correct in your description of the Tachi focusing screen; just removed mine and checked its construction. But it's the distracting effect of the fresnel lines that I'm trying to minimize, not grid lines on the glass layer. If I decide to replace the GG, I'll report results.

David Karp
11-Sep-2004, 17:53

Have you received and tried out your SatinSnow groundglass yet?

11-Sep-2004, 19:41

If your issue lays with the fresnel lines, then perhaps you may experience what I've gone through. When I first got my Tachihara, I was using a Peak 8X loupe, my problem is the over magnified image with fresnel lines when using the SA 90mm f8 in dim light condition (around EV 4 to 6 @ ISO 100).

So, I've changed to a 4X loupe, and it helps a little to get rid of the fresnel lines, but however, the dimmness still exist. Since then, I have learnt to live with it and although the fresnel is there, I can actually see "hot spots" on the GG when focusing under certain condition.

Even with the SatinSnow GG, hot spots still exist, so learning to get use to move around the hot spot during focusing is crucial. And I believe there's the skill that many LF photographers have been doing it in the past and most probably the future.