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Focusing - Manual Lenses

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by grt_napa, Jun 23, 2007.

  1. I am a newbie to the mf lenses for my D200 and D70 DSLRS. Just bought a 200 1:4 ai lens and am difficulty focusing. Also just acquired a 28 mm 1:2.8 ai-s lens and the focusing was a breeze. Any learning curve observations will be greatly appreciated. Is the problem with my vision (being 68 yrs with corrected 20./20); my technique, the D200's focus screen???? I am reluctant to go the Katz Eye route if the only rationalization is for using a MF lens. Your thoughts...and thank you!
  2. ultimind


    May 13, 2007
    Cleveland, OH
    I sold most of my manual lenses but I kept my 55mm F1.2. I find it extremely difficult to use on my D70 not having a Katz Eye focusing screen. It's a breeze to use on any film body that has a split prism finder. I don't think the screen is worth it for me just for one lens though.
  3. I've got a different problem in that I have 7 lenses that I manually focus (5 AI/AIS lenses and two macros that have CPUs), so I have a KatzEye.

    However, if you have just one (or one that is critical, for example I wouldn't bother if I had a 8/f2.8 fisheye), learn to use the "green dot" focusing aid. I find that I have to use both the green dot and the split image rangefinder. And moreover I don't have a Katzeye for my 2nd body anyway.

    The design of the screen makes a massive difference in the net usability of manual focus. The Katzeye is not just a split image range finder - it also has a microprism collar and the "tooth" of the ground glass is also quite different and much more usable for manual focusing. Additionally, the Katzeye is much brighter than at least most of the Nikon screens (I have the OptiBrite option), making it considerably easier to check focus when using the DOF preview.
  4. Sounds very similar to the problem I had with my 180mm AIS, 2.8. I almost gave up this great lens before I finally mastered it. BTW, I have horrible eyesight.

    The problem I was having was that the longer focal length made it imperative that I hold it very steady while focusing, and the weight made it impossible to hold steady, especially after the first couple of shots. I do have very weak arms, but they are improving by using this lens. :smile:

    A tripod rarely works with this lens, because if I'm shooting an animal, it's moving too much, and if I'm shooting something stationary, I use my 50mm and just get closer. But using a tripod is the preferred choice whenever possible.

    I went back to what I learned in the old days when I was shooting rifles to learn how to use this lens. I always steady the camera against something steady whenever possible. If not, I try to steady myself against something steady, lay down on the ground, whatever.

    If nothing is available, I wrap the neck sling around my forearm one twist, and brace against the strap. I also widen my stance and pull my elbows tightly into my body. Actually, I usually do these things even if I'm steadying against something else.

    The only problem I have with using a sling, for the length of sling I'm using, I find it works well in landscape aspect, but a little awkward when I turn the camera 90 degrees for portrait aspect.

    How you breathe is very important. I always take a deep breath, let it out, breathe back in, and hold it while I focus, recompose and shoot. As you become faster with practice the easier it becomes because you don't have to hold your breath as long.

    I like my focusing screen, and consider it essential to me being able to use my 180. Here's the one I use: http://haodascreen.com/default.aspx They're not terribly expensive, and you can save the screen that comes with the camera so you can put it back to stock.

    When I focus, I always start with the lens at close focus and focus out so I only have to search for the focus in one direction. I keep my concentration on the center split screen and work on keeping it on the subject as I focus. I watch the whole screen out of the corner of my eye, when I get closer to focus I slow down a bit and pay attention to the split screen at the center. When the split screen starts to line up, I slow down more so I won't go past my focus. When the focus light comes on, I recompose, shoot, breathe.

    It takes a while to explain, but all this can be done very quickly.

    It's worth while to spend time practicing these techniques before actually taking the camera out in the field. One benefit is that once you learn to manual focus your 200mm, manual focusing shorter lenses will become a snap!

    This is just what I've worked out for myself. There might be a better way. If anyone reads this and has any suggestions, I'd appreciate the input. :smile:
  5. ultimind


    May 13, 2007
    Cleveland, OH
    Miriam makes a great point about the rifle training. I've applied some of the same methods to shoot with my MF lenses. I used to shoot with my 300mm F4.5 ED-IF all the time and it's next to impossible to use that lens to shoot a moving subject without pretending that you're shooting a gun instead of a camera. One little messup at 300mm and the shot is ruined.

    The biggest problem I always had with the MF lenses I owned was the dampness of the focusing ring. A few of my lenses like the 300mm F4.5 ED-IF, the 35mm F2, 55mm F3.5 micro, and a few others i've owned had extremely silky smooth focusing and it had almost no resistance. Perfect for quick focusing once you mastered the lens. On the other hand, lenses like my 400mm F5.6 Heinz Kilfitt, 100mm E-Series, 135mm F2.8, offbrand 200mm F3.5 (surprisingly sharp) all had such stiff and overly damped (maybe the grease and turned to glue?) focusing that they became impossible to use for anything that moved quickly.

    Another issue I ran into especially with my 55mm F1.2 is that my D70 won't show a DOF preview below F2.8. So using the green dot method (I dont have a split prism screen) isn't realistic for F1.2 or F2.0. These are my favorite apertures on this lens so taking pictures with it really becomes hit or miss. I have to take several shots that the camera's AF sensors consider "in focus" and hope that one of them was in focus.

    Portraits at F1.2 become a hassle because if I have someone filling the frame, the DOF is freaking tiny. If my focus isn't dead-on with their eyes, the shot is ruined. Stepping down to about F2.8 fixes this but then why own a F1.2 lens?
  6. Had a serious session using a tripod today in ideal lighting conditions and still experienced focus issues with my MF 105 ais and 200 ais. Headed online and purchased the Katz Eye. Hopefully that will solve my MF focus problem and enhance my working with AF lenses as well. Thanks for your thoughts/suggestions!
  7. billg71


    May 4, 2007
    Atlanta, GA

    You'll love the KatzEye! It's brighter than the Nikon screen, the split-image is nice for vertical lines but most of the time I can focus with just the blank areas of the screen. The microprism collar isn't my favorite, it seems to lose it's effectiveness with lenses slower than f2.8 but really works well with f2 and below.

    Having the eyepiece diopter adjusted right is a must for MF with the D200.

    And the green dot works, too in low light .

    Have fun,

  8. Hi All,

    I've been thinking about a Katz-Eye. I'd like to use it for close up shots with limited DOF, for more precision. Those of you who have one, did you install it yourselves, and was it easy to accomplish? I tremble thinking about disassembling my beloved D200. Thanks.
  9. Jack, I should have asked the same questions before rushing to buy so there will be at least two anxious parties awaiting feedback. My best,
  10. I can verify that installation of the Katz-Eye would be pretty simple for someone who's comfortable cleaning a sensor. You get access to a .pdf with instructions and pictures when you purchase.

    My first SLR had a micro prism focus screen (not a split prism) and I wish the micro prism section of the Katz-Eye was bigger; as Bill points out, the split prism section works best for subjects with vertical lines.
  11. I have one in my D2h. The installation was not painless, although it wasn't horrible either. The design of the D2h's focusing screen "holder frame" is such that this is not a slam-dunk. I got the screen installed wrong twice before I got it right. It's easy to check - put a lens on and see if the green dot agrees with the split image rangefinder. Almost anyone can do this, but on the other hand I wouldn't recommend doing it when you're under pressure, or when you've already had a frustrating day.

    Don't underestimate the value of the ground glass on this screen, either. The standard screen has ground glass too, but it's different and the KatzEye is much easier to use.
  12. I'll echo Brian, as I put a Katz-Eye in my D2h.
    It was a challenge, but not to bad if you don't hurry, or get stressed.

    I got mine for the reasons Greg (bitmaker) points out.
    The AF system can be fooled into focusing on something other than
    the intended target. Sometimes its hard to see that the camera decided to focus on something next to the intended target. Its great to watch the split screen snap on to what you want to be in focus.

    I wouldn't want to be without mine.
  13. slappomatt


    May 13, 2006
    San Diego CA
    I believe nikon screens are plastic.
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