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6x6TLL
12-Mar-2019, 23:47
I've been having a lot of fun with my "new" 4x5, but one thing has been bothering me. I find it really hard to focus, even to see clearly when working with the groundglass.

I'm nearsighted and have astigmatism, and normally wear glasses. Ideally I prefer to work without glasses, but have trouble finding the sweet spot where I can see the GG clearly and work on composition and plane of sharpness.

First thing I need to do is get a dark cloth, I realize now how much it will help increase contrast and make it easier to see. Because of my vision, I want to keep my face 30-50cm away from the GG in order to see clearly, further when wearing glasses.

Of course when using a loupe I do need to wear glasses (or so I've been told, and it seems to bear out).

Because of this I wanted to solicit experiences and suggestions as how others deal with failing eyesight and working in LF.

I notice that with MF I end up using the loupe on the waist level finder more and more often the last few years. It's not ideal, but I can still see the whole frame and both compose and focus, although I prefer using the waist level finder alone when I'm able to, I find it results in better compositions and timing of the shot, as I can really see the whole situation in front of me in a way I can't with the loupe.

Thanks for any ideas and suggestions.

Emmanuel BIGLER
13-Mar-2019, 00:37
Hello from France!

I've been a regular user of MF cameras with waist-level finders since several decades, and a happy user of a LF view camera since about 20 years now.
Being also short-sighted with astigmatism, I also have to keep my glasses on for focusing.
Actually I had no problem accommodating in the past, then, with ageeing, happened what is not unexpected i.e. I'm no longer able to accommodate.
I was hard-pressed by friends and advertising to use what we call in France "progressive glasses", but I resisted and I routinely use 2 pairs of "fix-focus" glasses, one for reading (set-up for 30-40 cm / 12-16") and one for long distances.

For viewing the ground glass on a LF camera without a loupe, the "short distance" glasses work fine for me.

I sometimes use a loupe. There have been many discussions here on the proper magnification to choose, eventually I use a 4x loupe designed for looking at 35 mm negatives, the Rodenstock 4x.
I also have a 4x "Horizon" Russian loupe covering the 6x6 format, this loupe has an adjustable eyepiece.
Regarding loupes, besides magnification and possibilities to adjust the eyepiece, the main feature to check is the actual field that you can see with your eye-glasses on. Not all loupes of the same (say: 4X) magnification offer the same field of view when using eye-glasses. For example I once bought a loupe supposed to cover the 6x7 format. Poorly designed, It as almost unusable for me with my eyeglasses on, I re-sold it immediately to a friend who does not need glasses.
Same issue with the 1st generation of Linhof "multi-focal" viewfinders, I bought one, but re-sold it soon, since I was not able to see the whole field. Later generations of Linhof viewfinders have solved the problem.

With a loupe equipped with an adjustable eyepiece, or an adjustable distance between the loupe and the base, I can always properly adjust for either of my eye-glasses, either the "short distance" or the 'long distance".
I also use on a regular basis a 2X reflex viewfinder for my 6x9 and 4x5" view camera. With this relatively low-magnification viewer, my "short distance" glasses work fine.

photog_ed
13-Mar-2019, 08:07
I am very nearsighted, too (about -5 diopter) with a little astigmatism in my left eye. I am also in my 60s, so I have little to no accommodation left. I use Toyo 8x10 and Toyo 4x5 field cameras. The 8x10 has a beautiful, finely ground groundglass and no Fresnel lens. The 4x5 has a coarser groundglass and a Fresnel lens. I find that I can focus the 8x10 easily and precisely by removing my glasses. With the 4x5, I find I must use a loupe (with my glasses on) and even then I struggle to find best focus. My theory is that in order to produce a more directional scattering pattern that can then be focused by the Fresnel lens and thus brighter viewing, the 4x5 groundglass has a coarser grind. Anyway, the combination produces a very mushy-looking image to my eye, and makes it an unpleasant experience to focus, unlike the 8x10, which is a thing of beauty. One of these days I will replace the 4x5 groundglass/Fresnel set with a finer grind groundglass to see how it works out.

Alan9940
13-Mar-2019, 08:22
I need reading glasses for close focusing. I use a pair of magnifying glasses (the ones you can find cheaply at many merchants) to compose and focus on both 4x5 and 8x10. Works great! You could investigate different groundglass/fresnel combos or different makers of groundglass. The trade off with standard groundglass is balancing brightness against contrast. Both parameters help you to focus easier, but... In general, brighter glass = less contrast; while more contrast = reduced brightness.

6x6TLL
13-Mar-2019, 08:35
Thanks, I'll look into some reading glasses and see if they help.

The camera is an Arca Swiss F-field metric, reasonably new. The ground glass seems pretty bright and contrasty, just not enough when I actually want to do critical focus with it. Never having used a LF camera before, I don't really have anything to compare with. It has an integrated fresnel. I'm sure a dark cloth will help the contrast and brightness.

Graham Patterson
13-Mar-2019, 09:20
I use flip-up magnifiers on my normal prescription glasses for focusing (and also for fine work like crimping network cables!). The do not replace a good loupe with my prescription glasses for critical stuff, but they get me pretty close. They are also handy for seeing shutter settings just in front of my nose 8-)

The nice thing about flip-ups is that I can switch to normal distance vision quickly.

I use ones from fishermaneyewear.com, but there should be alternatives.

Doremus Scudder
13-Mar-2019, 10:16
6X6,

I think you'll find, like I did, that you need some kind of weaker magnification for general viewing/composing and then something stronger for fine focusing.

I use reading glasses or flip-down 4x magnifiers attached to my progressives for general viewing. Something similar will certainly work for you. The exact strength you'll need depends on your eyesight and what you like as a comfortable working distance. Get a bunch of cheap reading glasses from your local drugstore and try them out. Once you have found the right diopter correction, you may even want a pair of reading glasses made in that strength with additional correction for your astigmatism. My astigmatism isn't bad enough that I can't get by with over-the-counter readers.

As an aside: When in the field, I wear my "hiking glasses" with a neck strap so I can take them off and simply let them hang, allowing me to don the reading glasses easily (which I carry in a small pocket in my photo vest). However, when not wearing a neck strap, I prefer to carry my 4x clip-on, flip-down glasses, which slip easily into a shirt pocket. Once attached to my glasses, I flip them down for viewing/composing and back up to view the scene itself.

On to the next part: I've found that reading glasses get me nowhere close to correctly focused. For that, I need a loupe or other stronger magnifier. I've used loupes up to 8x. My preference now is for a hand-held collapsible 5x magnifier. At any rate, you'll likely need something similar. Whether or not you decide to use your stronger magnifier/loupe with your glasses is up to you. If you get one that has a wide enough viewing angle, then using glasses is easy. I switch between focusing with and without my glasses. Sometimes I use the magnifier together with both my progressives and the flip-down readers. Just keep in mind that you need to focus on the frosted surface of the ground glass where the image is formed. Any way you can accomplish that is just fine.

Another tip: I am spending less and less time under the darkcloth these days. I find that a viewing frame works very well as a compositional aid, even indicating which lens I should use (close to your eye = wider lens and vice-versa; I'm rarely wrong with my first lens choice these days and if so, then only one focal length away in my assortment). As for choosing the plane of sharp focus and applying movements: I find it helpful to visualize where I want the plane of sharp focus in the scene itself, and then choose two or three focus points. Only then do I go under the darkcloth and start fine focusing. My point here is that the more work you can do in your head and by viewing the scene without the ground glass, the easier your task of focusing and applying movements will be.

And, do get a darkcloth :)

Best,

Doremus

rdeloe
13-Mar-2019, 11:37
I have dreadful eye sight. All the advice you've received is really solid so I'll just add a couple small points.

* Not all loupes are created equally. For example, if you ask for favourite loupe many will respond Toyo 3.6x. I've tried one, and it's well made and probably great for many people. But it didn't work with my eyesight. To be able to see anything I had to lift it off the glass a bit and move it in and out. Very fiddly. I made a loupe out of a couple lens elements I bought, and it works better for me. You may find yourself going through several loupes before you find one you like.

* Not all ground glass is created equally, and not all fresnel lenses work the same. I have a Wista 45VX that has a fresnel lens and ground glass combination that is very bright in one portion at a time. With my bad eyesight I find it very hard to view. I also have a Toyo D45M with a much finger fresnel lens. The overall image is definitely dimmer than the Wista, but I can see more of it at once (which is a big help with my eyesight). So you may have to try different cameras and viewing systems to find something that works for you.

Peter Collins
13-Mar-2019, 11:49
+1 what Doremus wrote about a viewing frame.

I made mine out of 2mm birch plywood sold by Michael's, the craft store. I made mine full size; the opening is 4x5, which is what I shoot. Full size, and closing one eye, gives me exactly the lens with the focal length for the shot. That distance is the distance between my eye and the viewing frame.

A viewing frame also tells me where to set up the tripod and camera. It's a lot easier to walk around with my viewing frame, which weighs less than an ounce (<~30g) to find the place where there is a photograph than to set up the camera and move it around.

Bob Salomon
13-Mar-2019, 12:06
+1 what Doremus wrote about a viewing frame.

I made mine out of 2mm birch plywood sold by Michael's, the craft store. I made mine full size; the opening is 4x5, which is what I shoot. Full size, and closing one eye, gives me exactly the lens with the focal length for the shot. That distance is the distance between my eye and the viewing frame.

A viewing frame also tells me where to set up the tripod and camera. It's a lot easier to walk around with my viewing frame, which weighs less than an ounce (<~30g) to find the place where there is a photograph than to set up the camera and move it around.

Even easier, and pocketable, to use a good variable finder like the Linhof. It also corrects frame size as you change the distant ring.

Paul Ron
13-Mar-2019, 12:13
once you get a dark cloth, you will see a big improvement seeing the image. that will make a world of difference.

i pull my shirt over my head n camera as a dark cloth. it works very niceky but scares the wildlife n passer byers.

6x6TLL
13-Mar-2019, 13:46
Thanks for the great suggestions! I'll do a search and see what dark cloths are recommended here. I have tried with a shirt and a hoodie, and found both too fiddly, kept falling off, and I still got a lot of light from underneath, but maybe that's to be expected.

A few months ago I made a 4x5 viewing frame out of cardboard and gaffa tape. I plan on tying a string to it with a few knots on it, one at 90mm, 150mm, 210mm, and 300mm to indicate focal length. It's a lot easier as Peter and Doremus pointed out to wander around with a viewing frame than the entire camera and tripod. I do try and pre-visualize each shot, and am slowly improving.

The loupe I use is great, Rollei (Schneider) 3x for 6x6 viewing, I can see the smallest detail pretty easily with my progressive lenses. But it's really difficult to compose with a loupe, so will try looking into some reading glasses to get something that I can use for viewing the ground glass as a whole and for composing.

I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one with less than perfect vision around here, there's hope for me yet!

Paul Ron
13-Mar-2019, 14:16
check the "how old are we" poll? this is a retirement community n just about everyone is half blind.

:cool:

Graham Patterson
13-Mar-2019, 14:32
" ...just about everyone is half blind."

I think my half-blind half takes over when I make photographs!

Greg Davis
13-Mar-2019, 16:07
A custom reader that takes your astigmatism into account will work better than progressive bifocals for working on the gg. It will provide the clearest vision with the widest field of view. A company like Warby Parker will make one and ship to your house for $95 total. Over the counter readers are only available as positive strengths, but if your distance vision is a -5, your readers need to be algebraically calculated and include the astigmatism correction.

6x6TLL
14-Mar-2019, 01:00
Hi Greg,

that's a great tip and something I'll follow up. I need to get my eyes checked again anyway, and will see what I can have made up that will work.




A custom reader that takes your astigmatism into account will work better than progressive bifocals for working on the gg. It will provide the clearest vision with the widest field of view. A company like Warby Parker will make one and ship to your house for $95 total. Over the counter readers are only available as positive strengths, but if your distance vision is a -5, your readers need to be algebraically calculated and include the astigmatism correction.

Luis-F-S
14-Mar-2019, 08:00
I had a pair of 5x reading glasses made by my optometrist. This was Fred Picker's suggestion 30 years ago and it's worked well ever since. I usually us it in combination with a 4x Toyo loupe.

Corran
14-Mar-2019, 09:55
I'm very near-sighted so I sometimes focus with my glasses off, and often compose that way. I can see the focus area pretty well close to the GG. This also helps reduce eyestrain from focusing my vision too close.

I use a jacket for a darkcloth. A slightly larger "real" darkcloth for 8x10 and 8x20 but I don't carry massive pieces of cloth out into the woods if I don't have to.

I use a 10x loupe for critical focus. I bought this loupe from someone selling me a couple LF lenses and I've used it ever since - it's tiny and works great. I use the loupe with my glasses on - not sure how you would do it otherwise. Just make sure it is focusing on the GG properly.

And I'm in my 30's thank-you-very-much ;).

Michael Kadillak
14-Mar-2019, 10:10
Easiest thing to do for ease of focusing is move up to the 11x14 format and stand back from the GG about two feet and focus with the rear standard knobs you can reach under a large dark cloth that can close out all extraneous light. You don't need any loups or focusing devices at all. It is like watching a big screen TV. (Tongue in cheek.....)

6x6TLL
14-Mar-2019, 23:58
I like the sound of that, just not the idea of carrying it all!

I was on the fence about starting with 8x10 instead of 4x5 because of the bigger GG and my eyes (as well as that huge negative), but the 4x5 won out in the end due to weight, portability and price. I may well go 8x10 yet, but want to spend a few years really getting familiar with 4x5 first.


Easiest thing to do for ease of focusing is move up to the 11x14 format and stand back from the GG about two feet and focus with the rear standard knobs you can reach under a large dark cloth that can close out all extraneous light. You don't need any loups or focusing devices at all. It is like watching a big screen TV. (Tongue in cheek.....)

neil poulsen
15-Mar-2019, 04:26
. . . First thing I need to do is get a dark cloth, . . .

Holy diopters, no wonder you're having a problem!

I tried this once, when I had left my dark-cloth at home. It was near to impossible to focus, much less copose.

Consider getting a good loupe that's intended for focusing on a ground glass. You can find them made by Schneider, Rodenstock, Fuji, or Toyo. Or, others? For me, it was literally a revelation when I went from a cheap loupe to a good one made by Schneider.

Especially as I get older, I've found that a pair of glasses optimized for about a 11 inches to be essential for viewing. An optometrist can prescribe these. Or, I purchased two drugstore glasses, one for the left eye and one for the right. With difficulty, I can switch lenses on one side for correct viewing in both eyes. (Depends on the brand.) Prescription glass work better; but, the drug-store glasses will suffice.

6x6TLL
15-Mar-2019, 07:38
Holy diopters, no wonder you're having a problem!

I tried this once, when I had left my dark-cloth at home. It was near to impossible to either compose, much less focus.

Consider getting a good loupe that's intended for focusing on a ground glass. You can find them made by Schneider, Rodenstock, Fuji, or Toyo. Or, others? For me, it was literally a revelation when I went from a cheap loupe to a good one made by Schneider.

I have this loupe (upper left in picture, made by Schneider): https://rolleiflex.us/products/frame-base-for-loupe-magnifier-6x6-for-rolleiflex-6000-series-cameras

I was under the impression that it's perfect for focusing on a GG as well. No?

Yeah, a dark cloth is at the top of my list, right behind film :-p.

jose angel
15-Mar-2019, 11:09
Well, Id say yours it is not my "perfec" GG loupe for 4x5", but its just a loupe (and looks to be a good one), so it should work. Mine is somewhat similar :)
About the dark cloth, I have never had a "real" one. I just used a cut of fabric, thick but also lightweight, which I used to trim up to the perfect size. Years later, I noticed that I wanted a wider one, so I bought a different fabric, this one thinner, and larger. I also have a third one. So better to have different ones, I use them all. I hold them when needed with a couple small plastic hardware gripping tools.

jim10219
18-Mar-2019, 19:40
I'm pretty heavily near sighted. I don't see close up as well with my glasses on, so I take them off to compose and focus under the dark cloth. I just use a cheap thread counter as a loupe, and it works great for me.

The difference maker for me is the darkcloth. Get a good, large darkcloth. Something you can wrap around your whole camera and head, and even block any light out that might be reflecting off the ground. Once you've blocked out all of the light except for the GG, it's easy to compose and focus. Plus, a large darkcloth works as a great shoulder pads for carrying your camera while still attached to your tripod over your shoulder. Doing that, I find large format cameras much easier to work with than rangefinders or SLR's.

PRJ
19-Mar-2019, 12:24
I can't see for squat either. Glasses are fine for 35mm. For medium format looking down I really need to use reading glasses, which are just a weaker correction than my normal glasses. Your Optometrist can help you with those. For 4x5 I prefer to not use glasses at all when focusing. My eyes have a natural focus at about 8 inches or so. If I want to be real critical I have a loupe that is part of a 35mm lens and I just place that on the ground glass. It is really small but I can see the grain of the glass with it. I really don't use it much though.

Jac@stafford.net
19-Mar-2019, 13:07
Just a note from one who dearly needs a ground-glass loupe.

My cameras have a ground glass (GG) hood shroud to minimize reflection and the best loupe is a long one which reaches the GG without banging our forehead on the shroud.

Among the worst are short loupes. May I add, that the Silvestri 8X loupe with an attachment to facilitate corner
inspection cannot work with a GG hood. The Silvestry is a tiny little thing that is likely most appropriate to medium
format with no GG hood.

cowanw
19-Mar-2019, 15:45
In the course of getting cataracts operated on and of having one Macula which is so so, I decided to invest in a monocle. they are available in all the usual diopter strengths and a number 4 is a good portable one eyed (mono) way to see a GG as well as the enlarger image and prints. Win, Win, Win

mrred
20-Mar-2019, 19:21
I had one of these given to me. Great for focusing.

https://shop.cnib.ca/ProductDetail/mag0510400000_cnib-branded-2x-wallet-size-magnfier

Peter De Smidt
20-Mar-2019, 22:07
I really like a Pentax 5.5x Photo Lupe with an opaque skirt for ground glass viewing, although it's big.

aaronnate
21-Mar-2019, 09:14
Just use a dark t-shirt for a dark cloth. Put it upside down over your neck so the wide bottom goes over the camera. Not very fashionable but works. It helps a lot. My eyesight is bad and the advice here works for me. I tend not to use a loupe just take my glasses off.