DSLR focus screens

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Stacey, Aug 27, 2004.

  1. Stacey

    Stacey Guest

    I'm looking at getting a DSLR, maybe the D20 when they hit the streets, as
    my first -real- digital camera. I shot with a friends D10 last weekend and
    found that it, like most autofocus cameras I've used, didn't agree with me
    where the focus plane should be most of the time.

    No biggie there but when I was trying to manually focus the lenses, the
    focus screen seems to be optimized for brightness, not for manual focusing
    and it was hard for me to see the exact plane of focus quickly, at least
    not as well as I can with the Maxwell focus screens I'm used to in my
    medium format cameras. My question is can the focus screen be fairly easily
    changed by the user (like my OM cameras) on any of these DSLRs or is it
    "built in" to the camera such that this isn't possible? Is the nikon the
    same in this focus screen respect as the canon?

    I'm sure people brought up on auto focus cameras don't understand what I'm
    talking about! :) And no need to reply with a "I never have any problems
    with using auto focus"...

    TIA for any help as this was the main issue I had using one of these.
    --

    Stacey
    Stacey, Aug 27, 2004
    #1
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  2. Stacey

    Guest

    Kibo informs me that Stacey <> stated that:

    [crappy focus screen on DSLRs]
    >No biggie there but when I was trying to manually focus the lenses, the
    >focus screen seems to be optimized for brightness, not for manual focusing
    >and it was hard for me to see the exact plane of focus quickly, at least
    >not as well as I can with the Maxwell focus screens I'm used to in my
    >medium format cameras.


    I'm right with you on this one. I grew up with manual focus, & the fact
    that my beloved 10D has a non-interchangable focus screen is possibly my
    biggest beef with that model. The fact that I mostly shoot in poor
    available light makes that lack particularly annoying.

    Speaking of which, are there any 1DMkII users here who can comment on
    what it's like for manual focussing? And are the screens interchangable?

    --
    W
    . | ,. w , "Some people are alive only because
    \|/ \|/ it is illegal to kill them." Perna condita delenda est
    ---^----^---------------------------------------------------------------
    , Aug 27, 2004
    #2
    1. Advertising

  3. "Stacey" <> wrote:

    > No biggie there but when I was trying to manually focus the lenses, the
    > focus screen seems to be optimized for brightness, not for manual focusing
    > and it was hard for me to see the exact plane of focus quickly, at least
    > not as well as I can with the Maxwell focus screens I'm used to in my
    > medium format cameras.


    FWIW, the 300D + 50/1.4 is easier to focus than my Maxwell-equipped
    Rolleiflex, and a _lot_ easier to focus than my Mamiya 645 + 35/3.5.

    I suspect that the speed of the lens has a lot to do with it<g>. Also, I
    suspect that the 300D is a better screen for manual focus than the 10D
    screen, and the 20D may be equal or better to the 300D.

    > My question is can the focus screen be fairly easily
    > changed by the user (like my OM cameras) on any of these DSLRs or is it
    > "built in" to the camera such that this isn't possible? Is the nikon the
    > same in this focus screen respect as the canon?


    The focus screens are not interchangeable in the low-end dSLRs. The 1D2 and
    1Ds have interchangeable screens.

    > I'm sure people brought up on auto focus cameras don't understand what

    I'm
    > talking about! :) And no need to reply with a "I never have any problems
    > with using auto focus"...


    I screwed myself the other day. Crawled out of bed at 4:00am and dragged
    cameras and tripod to catch the sunrise over Ohnishi Port (a tiny port on an
    island in Japan's Inland Sea), and completely forgot that 35mm lenses focus
    past infinity.

    Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarg!

    It's too dark for AF, and too dark to see the focus scale, and too dark to
    focus manually with the f/2.8 lens on the camera. (Exposures were in the 15
    second range.)

    The MF film shots came out fine.

    David J. Littleboy
    Tokyo, Japan
    David J. Littleboy, Aug 27, 2004
    #3
  4. Stacey

    dylan Guest

    Big problem with AF systems when you can't rely on them to focus, resorting
    to MF is limited by lack of a decent screen. Interchangable screens are
    useful, as per EOS 3 but I've seen no mention of one on the D20.

    Depth of Field scales on lens are also sadly missed....

    "Stacey" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > I'm looking at getting a DSLR, maybe the D20 when they hit the streets, as
    > my first -real- digital camera. I shot with a friends D10 last weekend and
    > found that it, like most autofocus cameras I've used, didn't agree with me
    > where the focus plane should be most of the time.
    >
    > No biggie there but when I was trying to manually focus the lenses, the
    > focus screen seems to be optimized for brightness, not for manual focusing
    > and it was hard for me to see the exact plane of focus quickly, at least
    > not as well as I can with the Maxwell focus screens I'm used to in my
    > medium format cameras. My question is can the focus screen be fairly

    easily
    > changed by the user (like my OM cameras) on any of these DSLRs or is it
    > "built in" to the camera such that this isn't possible? Is the nikon the
    > same in this focus screen respect as the canon?
    >
    > I'm sure people brought up on auto focus cameras don't understand what

    I'm
    > talking about! :) And no need to reply with a "I never have any problems
    > with using auto focus"...
    >
    > TIA for any help as this was the main issue I had using one of these.
    > --
    >
    > Stacey
    dylan, Aug 27, 2004
    #4
  5. Stacey

    Chris Brown Guest

    In article <cgmlh0$qn4$>,
    David J. Littleboy <> wrote:
    >
    >I screwed myself the other day. Crawled out of bed at 4:00am and dragged
    >cameras and tripod to catch the sunrise over Ohnishi Port (a tiny port on an
    >island in Japan's Inland Sea), and completely forgot that 35mm lenses focus
    >past infinity.


    Well, most EF lenses anyway. In total darkness, that gets to be a serious
    pain in the arse.

    >Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarg!
    >
    >It's too dark for AF, and too dark to see the focus scale, and too dark to
    >focus manually with the f/2.8 lens on the camera. (Exposures were in the 15
    >second range.)


    This one's half an hour (f/2.8):

    http://www.fastfoto.co.uk/Chris/LakeStars.jpg

    Took it whilst on holiday in the US a couple of weeks ago. It doesn't get
    that dark here in southern England. For that, I set the focus to infinity
    whilst still indoors, and then very carefully took the camera outside.
    Didn't want to risk using torchlight to set it in place, or I might have
    destroyed my night vision and fallen in the lake. ;-)
    Chris Brown, Aug 27, 2004
    #5
  6. I use the Oly E-10 and the manual focus awful. It uses fly-by-wire to
    adjust....and the focus ring just spins...there are no stops. How can you
    feel where you are? With my 35mm I could see a situation developing and
    measure the distance with my eyes. Look down at the lens and set the
    focus....raise the camera and shoot before the subject is spooked. What I
    want is a digital OM2


    "dylan" <> wrote in message
    news:QHCXc.35$...
    > Big problem with AF systems when you can't rely on them to focus,

    resorting
    > to MF is limited by lack of a decent screen. Interchangable screens are
    > useful, as per EOS 3 but I've seen no mention of one on the D20.
    >
    > Depth of Field scales on lens are also sadly missed....
    >
    > "Stacey" <> wrote in message
    > news:...
    > > I'm looking at getting a DSLR, maybe the D20 when they hit the streets,

    as
    > > my first -real- digital camera. I shot with a friends D10 last weekend

    and
    > > found that it, like most autofocus cameras I've used, didn't agree with

    me
    > > where the focus plane should be most of the time.
    > >
    > > No biggie there but when I was trying to manually focus the lenses, the
    > > focus screen seems to be optimized for brightness, not for manual

    focusing
    > > and it was hard for me to see the exact plane of focus quickly, at least
    > > not as well as I can with the Maxwell focus screens I'm used to in my
    > > medium format cameras. My question is can the focus screen be fairly

    > easily
    > > changed by the user (like my OM cameras) on any of these DSLRs or is it
    > > "built in" to the camera such that this isn't possible? Is the nikon the
    > > same in this focus screen respect as the canon?
    > >
    > > I'm sure people brought up on auto focus cameras don't understand what

    > I'm
    > > talking about! :) And no need to reply with a "I never have any

    problems
    > > with using auto focus"...
    > >
    > > TIA for any help as this was the main issue I had using one of these.
    > > --
    > >
    > > Stacey

    >
    >
    Gene Palmiter, Aug 27, 2004
    #6
  7. Gene Palmiter wrote:
    > I use the Oly E-10 and the manual focus awful. It uses fly-by-wire to
    > adjust....and the focus ring just spins...there are no stops. How can you
    > feel where you are? With my 35mm I could see a situation developing and
    > measure the distance with my eyes. Look down at the lens and set the
    > focus....raise the camera and shoot before the subject is spooked. What I
    > want is a digital OM2


    That's the price we pay for autofocus, I suppose. You can, of course,
    pre-focus on an object, then be ready for your exposure. But I wonder if
    they don't sell manual lenses for all these DSLRs -

    Gary Eickmeier
    Gary Eickmeier, Aug 27, 2004
    #7
  8. Stacey

    Stacey Guest

    Gene Palmiter wrote:

    > I use the Oly E-10 and the manual focus awful. It uses fly-by-wire to
    > adjust....and the focus ring just spins...there are no stops. How can you
    > feel where you are? With my 35mm I could see a situation developing and
    > measure the distance with my eyes. Look down at the lens and set the
    > focus....raise the camera and shoot before the subject is spooked. What I
    > want is a digital OM2
    >


    I'd pay $2000+ for a digital OM-2 but they aren't going to make anything
    like that....

    --

    Stacey
    Stacey, Aug 28, 2004
    #8
  9. Stacey

    Stacey Guest

    David J. Littleboy wrote:

    >
    > "Stacey" <> wrote:
    >
    >> No biggie there but when I was trying to manually focus the lenses, the
    >> focus screen seems to be optimized for brightness, not for manual
    >> focusing and it was hard for me to see the exact plane of focus quickly,
    >> at least not as well as I can with the Maxwell focus screens I'm used to
    >> in my medium format cameras.

    >
    > FWIW, the 300D + 50/1.4 is easier to focus than my Maxwell-equipped
    > Rolleiflex, and a _lot_ easier to focus than my Mamiya 645 + 35/3.5.
    >
    > I suspect that the speed of the lens has a lot to do with it<g>. Also, I
    > suspect that the 300D is a better screen for manual focus than the 10D
    > screen, and the 20D may be equal or better to the 300D.
    >



    I need to go compare the different screens. I know I'd never be happy with
    the focus screen in the 10D. Also does anyone else find all the "focus
    spots" distracting when composing? Maybe it's just me and being used to
    plain ground focus screens? I did like the lack of shutter lag and the
    images looked nice, just too many didn't hit the focus point I would have
    picked. I doubt anyone is ever going to make a -manual focus- DSLR, sigh..

    --

    Stacey
    Stacey, Aug 28, 2004
    #9
  10. Stacey

    Paul J Gans Guest

    Stacey <> wrote:
    >David J. Littleboy wrote:


    >>
    >> "Stacey" <> wrote:
    >>
    >>> No biggie there but when I was trying to manually focus the lenses, the
    >>> focus screen seems to be optimized for brightness, not for manual
    >>> focusing and it was hard for me to see the exact plane of focus quickly,
    >>> at least not as well as I can with the Maxwell focus screens I'm used to
    >>> in my medium format cameras.

    >>
    >> FWIW, the 300D + 50/1.4 is easier to focus than my Maxwell-equipped
    >> Rolleiflex, and a _lot_ easier to focus than my Mamiya 645 + 35/3.5.
    >>
    >> I suspect that the speed of the lens has a lot to do with it<g>. Also, I
    >> suspect that the 300D is a better screen for manual focus than the 10D
    >> screen, and the 20D may be equal or better to the 300D.
    >>



    >I need to go compare the different screens. I know I'd never be happy with
    >the focus screen in the 10D. Also does anyone else find all the "focus
    >spots" distracting when composing? Maybe it's just me and being used to
    >plain ground focus screens? I did like the lack of shutter lag and the
    >images looked nice, just too many didn't hit the focus point I would have
    >picked. I doubt anyone is ever going to make a -manual focus- DSLR, sigh..


    I have trouble manually focussing a 300D. The screen isn't
    really designed for it. And the accumulation of other marks
    on it (such as focus points) makes the job harder.

    And (replying to the previous post in this series) I too would
    like a digital version of a manual camera -- you know, the one's
    with the aperture rings and a distance scale on the lens. They
    can be *rapidly* set or, if needed, preset and then one only has
    to wait for the subject.

    ---- Paul J. Gans
    Paul J Gans, Aug 28, 2004
    #10
  11. Stacey

    Guest

    Kibo informs me that Stacey <> stated that:

    >I need to go compare the different screens. I know I'd never be happy with
    >the focus screen in the 10D. Also does anyone else find all the "focus
    >spots" distracting when composing?


    There's a custom function on the 10D to turn them off.

    --
    W
    . | ,. w , "Some people are alive only because
    \|/ \|/ it is illegal to kill them." Perna condita delenda est
    ---^----^---------------------------------------------------------------
    , Aug 28, 2004
    #11
  12. Stacey

    Matt Ion Guest

    Stacey wrote:


    > I'm sure people brought up on auto focus cameras don't understand what I'm
    > talking about! :) And no need to reply with a "I never have any problems
    > with using auto focus"...
    >
    > TIA for any help as this was the main issue I had using one of these.


    I do have to agree, I have the same issue with my Rebel G and my Digital
    Rebel. My trusty old Minolta X-700 had a split-screen circle in the
    center of the frame and a "diamond prism" ring surrounding that, as
    manual focusing aids. The Rebels (both film and digital) have no such
    aids; manual focus is only as good as your eyesight and the cleanliness
    of your viewfinder. Is this a common trait with AF cameras in general?
    Matt Ion, Aug 28, 2004
    #12
  13. Stacey

    Stacey Guest

    Matt Ion wrote:

    > Stacey wrote:
    >
    >
    >> I'm sure people brought up on auto focus cameras don't understand what
    >> I'm
    >> talking about! :) And no need to reply with a "I never have any
    >> problems with using auto focus"...
    >>
    >> TIA for any help as this was the main issue I had using one of these.

    >
    > I do have to agree, I have the same issue with my Rebel G and my Digital
    > Rebel. My trusty old Minolta X-700 had a split-screen circle in the
    > center of the frame and a "diamond prism" ring surrounding that, as
    > manual focusing aids. The Rebels (both film and digital) have no such
    > aids; manual focus is only as good as your eyesight and the cleanliness
    > of your viewfinder. Is this a common trait with AF cameras in general?


    Everyone I've ever used is like this. Some of the times the AF hits the
    right spot but many times it doesn't. Sometimes I don't know where I want
    the focus plane or what "the subject" is, how is a camera going to? :)
    I've tried to check focus on other cameras with the "screen" but it's
    really not high enough rez to see what's going on and the EVF are equally
    poor.

    I'd be happy to basically kill the AF, have a good focus screen and shoot it
    manually. Does the nikon allow the use of the MF only lenses? If so, that
    would suit my shooting style better.
    --

    Stacey
    Stacey, Aug 28, 2004
    #13
  14. Stacey

    Skip M Guest

    <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > Kibo informs me that Stacey <> stated that:
    >
    > >I need to go compare the different screens. I know I'd never be happy

    with
    > >the focus screen in the 10D. Also does anyone else find all the "focus
    > >spots" distracting when composing?

    >
    > There's a custom function on the 10D to turn them off.
    >
    > --
    > W
    > . | ,. w , "Some people are alive only because
    > \|/ \|/ it is illegal to kill them." Perna condita delenda est
    > ---^----^---------------------------------------------------------------


    They're still there, they just don't light up...

    --
    Skip Middleton
    http://www.shadowcatcherimagery.com
    Skip M, Aug 28, 2004
    #14
  15. Stacey

    Big Bill Guest

    On Fri, 27 Aug 2004 22:34:19 -0400, Stacey <> wrote:

    >I need to go compare the different screens. I know I'd never be happy with
    >the focus screen in the 10D. Also does anyone else find all the "focus
    >spots" distracting when composing? Maybe it's just me and being used to
    >plain ground focus screens? I did like the lack of shutter lag and the
    >images looked nice, just too many didn't hit the focus point I would have
    >picked. I doubt anyone is ever going to make a -manual focus- DSLR, sigh..


    My DR will focus manually - I just switch the lens from auto to
    manual. The screen doesn't seem to do a real good job, though.
    As for the focus points not being where you want them, I can make my
    DR use just one of them (any one I want) to match the subject
    placement; I usually just keep the center one chosen.

    The autofocus seems to be working pretty well; here's a cropped shot
    taken with the DR and a Canon EF 75-300mm 1:4-5.6 III lens.
    The hummer is about 200 ft. away, lens at full tele, handheld.
    Shot taken in a pine forest; auto focus used (not bad, IMO, given the
    clutter in the way).
    The hummer was very shy; when he saw the camera, he hid. Other birds
    (mostly house sparrows) had no problem with me taking shots up close,
    but this guy was camera shy.

    http://www.pippina.us/images/img_8335a.jpg

    As you can see, chromatic aberration is high with the high contrast;
    good thing I got the lens at a great price!

    Bill Funk
    Change "g" to "a"
    Big Bill, Aug 28, 2004
    #15
  16. In article <>, Stacey <>
    wrote:
    > Everyone I've ever used is like this. Some of the times the AF hits the
    > right spot but many times it doesn't. Sometimes I don't know where I want
    > the focus plane or what "the subject" is, how is a camera going to? :)
    > I've tried to check focus on other cameras with the "screen" but it's
    > really not high enough rez to see what's going on and the EVF are equally
    > poor.


    If you don't know where the subject is, what are you doing putting the
    camera to your eye?
    Randall Ainsworth, Aug 28, 2004
    #16
  17. Stacey

    Geshu Iam Guest

    Stacey <> wrote in message news:<>...

    > I'd be happy to basically kill the AF, have a good focus screen and shoot it
    > manually. Does the nikon allow the use of the MF only lenses? If so, that
    > would suit my shooting style better.


    Do you know if Nikon's flange distance is the same on the MF and the
    new AF?

    I have problem to focus when I tried a MF lens on Kodak's new 14n. The
    image on the screen is not focused no matter how it's supposed to be
    at the best focusing point. The only reason I can give is, my MF
    lens's expected flange distance does not match the camera body, or
    that of the AF lens.

    The same problem is not that obvious on the DSLRs that has smaller
    image sensor, that the image in the viewfinder is much smaller due to
    the "cropped-down". Well, but that's another big problem I have on the
    cropped DSLR.
    Geshu Iam, Aug 28, 2004
    #17
  18. Stacey

    Stacey Guest

    Randall Ainsworth wrote:

    > In article <>, Stacey <>
    > wrote:
    >> Everyone I've ever used is like this. Some of the times the AF hits the
    >> right spot but many times it doesn't. Sometimes I don't know where I want
    >> the focus plane or what "the subject" is, how is a camera going to? :)
    >> I've tried to check focus on other cameras with the "screen" but it's
    >> really not high enough rez to see what's going on and the EVF are equally
    >> poor.

    >
    > If you don't know where the subject is, what are you doing putting the
    > camera to your eye?



    Because it will sometimes become apparent when I start focusing and
    looking at the scene? You've never starting to shoot and then thought "Wow
    the bird on that tree limb sure look cool" and changed your focus point?
    How would the camera know I'd rather focus on the bird rather than the
    crowd of people standing behind it or vice versa? Or sometimes I then can
    tell there is nothing there and move on.

    Or I then can tell there is nothing there and move on. Everyone has a
    different way of working and seeing things, I can't "see" using a
    rangefinder and this is probably due to how I work the camera and my vision
    of things. YMMV
    --

    Stacey
    Stacey, Aug 29, 2004
    #18
  19. Stacey

    Stacey Guest

    Big Bill wrote:

    > On Fri, 27 Aug 2004 22:34:19 -0400, Stacey <> wrote:
    >
    >>I need to go compare the different screens. I know I'd never be happy with
    >>the focus screen in the 10D. Also does anyone else find all the "focus
    >>spots" distracting when composing? Maybe it's just me and being used to
    >>plain ground focus screens? I did like the lack of shutter lag and the
    >>images looked nice, just too many didn't hit the focus point I would have
    >>picked. I doubt anyone is ever going to make a -manual focus- DSLR, sigh..

    >
    > My DR will focus manually - I just switch the lens from auto to
    > manual. The screen doesn't seem to do a real good job, though.



    That's been my problem.

    >
    > The autofocus seems to be working pretty well; here's a cropped shot
    > taken with the DR and a Canon EF 75-300mm 1:4-5.6 III lens.
    >


    I expected people to post responces like this. :) I could post a dozen
    where the camera didn't focus on what I wanted it too or missed the plane
    of focus I would have used focusing myself. Changing sensors etc seems more
    work that just focusing the camera manually to me. I've never been a fan of
    AF and probably never will be.
    --

    Stacey
    Stacey, Aug 29, 2004
    #19
  20. "Stacey" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > Big Bill wrote:
    >
    > > On Fri, 27 Aug 2004 22:34:19 -0400, Stacey <> wrote:
    > >
    > >>I need to go compare the different screens. I know I'd never be happy

    with
    > >>the focus screen in the 10D. Also does anyone else find all the "focus
    > >>spots" distracting when composing? Maybe it's just me and being used to
    > >>plain ground focus screens? I did like the lack of shutter lag and the
    > >>images looked nice, just too many didn't hit the focus point I would

    have
    > >>picked. I doubt anyone is ever going to make a -manual focus- DSLR,

    sigh..
    > >
    > > My DR will focus manually - I just switch the lens from auto to
    > > manual. The screen doesn't seem to do a real good job, though.


    I suspect that you aren't used to manual focusing SLRs. The DR here is just
    fine for manual focus.

    > > The autofocus seems to be working pretty well; here's a cropped shot
    > > taken with the DR and a Canon EF 75-300mm 1:4-5.6 III lens.

    >
    > I expected people to post responces like this. :) I could post a dozen
    > where the camera didn't focus on what I wanted it too or missed the plane
    > of focus I would have used focusing myself. Changing sensors etc seems

    more
    > work that just focusing the camera manually to me. I've never been a fan

    of
    > AF and probably never will be.


    You are missing the point that the automagic multi-point AF modes are idiot
    modes that try to make the camera a P&S.

    The standard way to use AF is to select only the center AF point, point the
    camera at the subject, half depress and hold the shutter release to lock
    AF/AE, recompose, shoot. Not a whole lot different from using a split
    prism/microprism area at the center of the screen. Except that it'll focus
    accurately on a lot more things than you can with a split prism.

    Also, in MF mode, the AF system will report focus as you focus manually (if
    you hold the shutter release half depressed as you focus). This is quite
    powerful since you can turn on all the AF points and tell what's going in
    and out of focus.

    The 300D/10D/20D screens are a lot smaller than, say, the F100 screen, so
    aren't going to be as bright as that camera's viewfinder. But with AF off,
    these things have lovely uncluttered screens, precisely what you claim you
    like.

    David J. Littleboy
    Tokyo, Japan
    David J. Littleboy, Aug 29, 2004
    #20
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