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Thread: Back to LF Photo - advice on focusing screens

  1. #1

    Back to LF Photo - advice on focusing screens

    I'm getting back into Large Format Photography. After 30+ years. I just ordered an Intrepid 4x5 MK4 and a few lenses, etc... It will be several weeks until I get my new camera. Can't wait to get out in the field with the new set up.

    Anticipating having some difficulty focusing, I have been researching ground glass and fresnel lenses. Seems like a number of companies that made upgraded focusing screens are out of business. Only Bill Maxwell seems to be operating still. Spoke to him the other day. From what I hear from others he has always had the best product. It's a bit pricey for me right now. Was hoping for some updated information from members here.

    Some people say to apply some wax to the screen and that can make focusing easier. Some folks are selling screens on eBay that claim to be, effectively, a ground glass and fresnel screen sandwiched together offering two stop increased brightness. I see where sometimes a Beattie Intenscreen shows up on eBay, but may or may not fit my new cam.

    Right now I'm thinking I should wait till I get a hold of my camera and perhaps wax the screen or maybe add a fresnel screen or both.

    Any advice?

  2. #2

    Join Date
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    Re: Back to LF Photo

    2 stops brighter then what?

    That was Beattie’s old claim. But the comparison was to their screen in the Beattie cameras.

  3. #3
    Foamer
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    Re: Back to LF Photo

    I have no trouble focusing a Chamonix 045n, Gundlach Korona 5x7, and Kodak 2D 8x10 with the standard glass and a good loupe. I would suggest trying it and see what you think before spending the money.


    Kent in SD
    Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris,
    miserere nobis.

  4. #4
    Andrej Gregov
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    Re: Back to LF Photo - advice on focusing screens

    Bill Maxwell is great to work with. But his screens cost over $500 for 4x5. I wouldn't head in that direction unless you truly feel you needed 1-2 stops more light. Before that, I'd probably start with getting some F5.6 lenses and just see how you get along with the standard Intrepid screen. I haven't heard of waxing a screen--I leave it to other experts here to comment on that. There are many past threads about focusing screens. You might also try a custom Google search to search the forum and see what you can learn. The topic has been discussed many times.

  5. #5

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    Re: Back to LF Photo - advice on focusing screens

    Personally have found that OEM fresnels work the best for me. Beware of Chinese fresnel screens up for auction that claim to fit a list of manufacturer's cameras... they usually will have to be sized down in one dimension (if you are lucky, if not you will end up having to size down all 4 sides), or they are undersized to begin with. Personally have never been able to justify acquiring a Maxwell screen. When I was using my 4x5 or my 8x10 on a daily basis, yes justifying acquiring a Maxwell would have been a serious consideration. I seem to remember one manufacturer offering 2 or 3 different fresnels depending on the focal length of the lens you were using it with... unfortunately memory fails me as to the manufacturer's name. Bob, was it possibly Linhof? Once adapted an inexpensive "reading" fresnel to my 8x10 B&J Commercial view camera, and it actually worked quite well. Now always use a fresnel with my 4x5 that has a reflex back. For any larger format just prefer the plain GG, but that's just me.

  6. #6

    Re: Back to LF Photo - advice on focusing screens

    Thanks for all the advice. I think I'll hold off on anything for now.

  7. #7

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    Re: Back to LF Photo - advice on focusing screens

    Brian, I think holding off is a good idea. It's a fair bet you're overthinking things. Although I put a Maxwell screen in my '58 Rolleiflex, for years I used a '38 Deardorff with its original screen. Many folks (most I would imagine) get along just fine with OEM screens. Certainly in the case of the Intrepid, i'd avoid buying a screen that costs more than the camera. I don't think the screen would ever be the limiting factor in getting a successful image. Just my personal opinion.
    Last edited by Greg Y; 20-Apr-2020 at 10:55.

  8. #8
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: Back to LF Photo - advice on focusing screens

    A darkcloth that is actually dark, and that is large and easy to be under helps me more than upgrading my GG (especially considering the number/sizes of cameras I use). That and F5.6 to F6.7 lenses help a lot under the redwoods, but it is doable with my F11 lenses (19" and 24" RD Artars).

    PS -- I do not use fresnels.
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

  9. #9

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    Re: Back to LF Photo - advice on focusing screens

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg View Post
    Personally have found that OEM fresnels work the best for me. Beware of Chinese fresnel screens up for auction that claim to fit a list of manufacturer's cameras... they usually will have to be sized down in one dimension (if you are lucky, if not you will end up having to size down all 4 sides), or they are undersized to begin with. Personally have never been able to justify acquiring a Maxwell screen. When I was using my 4x5 or my 8x10 on a daily basis, yes justifying acquiring a Maxwell would have been a serious consideration. I seem to remember one manufacturer offering 2 or 3 different fresnels depending on the focal length of the lens you were using it with... unfortunately memory fails me as to the manufacturer's name. Bob, was it possibly Linhof? Once adapted an inexpensive "reading" fresnel to my 8x10 B&J Commercial view camera, and it actually worked quite well. Now always use a fresnel with my 4x5 that has a reflex back. For any larger format just prefer the plain GG, but that's just me.
    Wista offers 2. The Nikon K screen was available in different focal lengths for their SLRs.

  10. #10

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    Re: Back to LF Photo - advice on focusing screens

    Quote Originally Posted by agregov View Post
    Bill Maxwell is great to work with. But his screens cost over $500 for 4x5. I wouldn't head in that direction unless you truly feel you needed 1-2 stops more light. Before that, I'd probably start with getting some F5.6 lenses and just see how you get along with the standard Intrepid screen. I haven't heard of waxing a screen--I leave it to other experts here to comment on that. There are many past threads about focusing screens. You might also try a custom Google search to search the forum and see what you can learn. The topic has been discussed many times.
    Not waxing. Lacquering was the old way. But it will yellow over time and need to be removed and reapplied.

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