View Full Version : Alternatives to focusing cloth?

mario abba
26-Jun-2001, 01:38

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.

26-Jun-2001, 01:54
www.darkroom-innovations.com for BTZS focusing cloth.

Bruce M. Herman
26-Jun-2001, 03:37

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

Dick Deimel
26-Jun-2001, 09:54
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.

Scott Walton
26-Jun-2001, 10:21
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

Jeffrey Goggin
26-Jun-2001, 10:26
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 ]

Paul Schilliger
26-Jun-2001, 10:57
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.


mario abba
26-Jun-2001, 11:56
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.


Pete Caluori
26-Jun-2001, 12:05

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.


Mike Mahoney
26-Jun-2001, 12:20
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.

E. Rothman
26-Jun-2001, 15:31
I have the Toyo VX125 and use the balloon focusing hood. It works great, is lightweight and compact, is far more effective at blocking out light than the standard focusing hood, and is quicker and less cumbersome than a darkcloth. I use the fresnal/groundglass combination that came with the camera - nice bright even illumination across the entire groundglass. The only criticism of the balloon focusing hood is its cost, but you may be able to get a good price from either Robert White (www.robertwhite.co.uk) or Badger Graphics (www.badgergraphic.com).

Paul Schilliger
26-Jun-2001, 17:35
Anyone heard of the 'Wood Hood'? It isn't an owl specy , but a kind of cloth sle eve that holds on the camera on one end, and behind the ears of the photographer on the other end. Emil Salek uses o ne and likes it. Maybe he'd let us know where he got it.

mark lindsey
26-Jun-2001, 19:35
try to avoid getting any type of focusing hood. all you need is more crap to carry! do what you can with the focusing cloth and good luck.

Struan Gray
27-Jun-2001, 05:18
I have been playing with some surgeon's loupes. These look like spectacles, but contain a magnifying lens and shallow-angle prism combination which allows you to focus on close objects while retaining binocular vision. They only occupy a part of the visual field, so you can see past them without taking them off. Their power is about 4x-5x.

With these I have no need to have my hands inside the darkcloth, so I can live with a very simple tube of material. They also eliminate wobbly hand syndrome because the brain naturally adapts to your head movements and ignores them.

For high-magnification I also have a more powerful pair which look like something out of the film Brasil: two half inch diameter chromed telephoto lenses suspended in front of your eyeballs. They work, but a small high quality conventional loupe is much easier to carry around.

I inherited these, so I'm not sure where you could buy or try a pair, but medical supply firms will be listed in the yellow pages.

27-Jun-2001, 13:57
You're whining about using a focusing cloth? Get a black piece of cotton cloth (it breathes), sew a piece of white cotton cloth to one side to reflect heat. If you want use a collapsible focusing hood like on a Linhof Technicka or a Horseman 45A, buy a Horseman focusing loupe that's made to use with the collapsible hood (they're extra long and extend past the hood).

Use the focusing cloth. It's light weight, doesn't take up much room, and can be folded or stuffed into a case with no detriment to its functionality.

Hot weather conditions??? I photograph in the Southwest US most of the time. It's a pleasure to get out of the sun under the focusing cloth with the white reflecting the heat. Humidity? I've photographed in the US mid-west on near 100 degree days with 95+ humidity. Concentrate on the photo not how uncomfortable you might be - it can't be that bad...