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Thread: Focusing M8 is a challenge

  1. #1
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    Focusing M8 is a challenge

    I am going through my pics from our recent trip, my first with the M8. I love the small size and I love using wide apertures and narrow DOF. The good pics are great. I'm seeing the nice results from Leica glass. But I find focusing to be hard! Sometimes I cannot locate the 2 images to overlay. Sometimes I am uncertain how precisely I have matched the images in the viewfinder. Several shots were missed due to inaccurate focusing. Critical focusing also was slow. I also learned to use the distance scale to preset the focus range for shots taken at f/8. I do understand that with practice my speed and skill will improve, but I am still concerned about the problem seeing the images in the focusing rectangle clearly. Besides this general comment, I am also asking if there are other options to focus; is there an equivalent of a ground glass or other mechanism?

    Here's one that worked. 35mm f/2
    Last edited by tom in mpls; 2nd January 2010 at 18:22.

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    Re: Focusing is a challenge

    Be very careful where your fingers are. If you block the window for the rangefinder at all you will have problems. Try keeping the lens at infinity between shots, this way you know you only need to turn the focus ring in one direction to find focus.

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    Re: Focusing M8 is a challenge

    Tom:

    Are you using an eyepiece magnifier? Before I used one I was missing a high proportion especially on wide open shots. My percentages have improved considerably after I put on a 1.25X. I still have at best a 75% hit rate with the Noct or the 75 Lux.

    BTW I am in Mpls too so if you want to get together for a coffee and try out my M8 with the magnifier and some lenses drop me a line.

    Regards
    Prabha

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    Re: Focusing M8 is a challenge

    Tom,

    Very nice photo. I have some difficulty also (old eyes), and it seems like I miss focus on some shots. Especially, since I like shooting fast glass wide open. I have a 1.25 eyepiece magnifier that I used on my M8 all of the time. Haven't used it on my M9; but, I have a 1.15x's combination magnifier and diopter coming that I'm going to try. I'm curious to see what it does to the frame lines. I'm willing to give up a little around the edges for easier focusing. Cheers.

    http://mdriscoll.zenfolio.com

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    Re: Focusing M8 is a challenge

    I've thought about diopter corrected viewfinder, but really I must leave my glasses on or else I can't see a thing when I look up from the camera and taking glasses off and on doesn't work.

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    Re: Focusing M8 is a challenge

    Tom, this is an issue many M8 owners have had. Unless you have very good vision it can be a real challenge to focus the M8, especially in low light or where the subject is moving. That is why some of us have suggested that Leica should add an electronic focus confirmation thus aiding the MF process.
    V/r John

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    Re: Focusing M8 is a challenge

    I had the same difficulty with my M8, and eventually settled on a 1.25x magnifier as well. This is not the same as a eyepiece diopter correction lens, the magnification actually increases the effective rangefinder baselength. However it can also make the wider framelines difficult to see. Not sure how well it works with glasses, that may restrict the view even further.

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    Re: Focusing M8 is a challenge

    Quote Originally Posted by monza View Post
    I had the same difficulty with my M8, and eventually settled on a 1.25x magnifier as well. This is not the same as a eyepiece diopter correction lens, the magnification actually increases the effective rangefinder baselength. However it can also make the wider framelines difficult to see. Not sure how well it works with glasses, that may restrict the view even further.
    I understand that it does not have a diopter correction. Since it makes it more difficult to see the wide framelines I am concerned as well about using it with glasses.

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    Re: Focusing M8 is a challenge

    Tom,

    It is a pain; but, i take my glasses on and off when I'm shooting. I'll post again when i get the 1.15x magnifier. Cheers.

    http://mdriscoll.zenfolio.com

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    Re: Focusing is a challenge

    Quote Originally Posted by TimWright View Post
    Try keeping the lens at infinity between shots, this way you know you only need to turn the focus ring in one direction to find focus.
    This is very good advice which helped me a lot.

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    Re: Focusing M8 is a challenge

    Quote Originally Posted by m_driscoll View Post
    I have a 1.15x's combination magnifier and diopter coming that I'm going to try.
    Can you provide a link to the magnifier/diopter combo?

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    Re: Focusing M8 is a challenge

    Quote Originally Posted by tom in mpls View Post
    Can you provide a link to the magnifier/diopter combo?
    Here you go :

    http://www.japanexposures.com/shop/i...sort=2a&page=3

    The 1.15 with variable dioptre has been a significant improvement for me over 'fixed dioptre' correction lens + 1.25 magnifier combination. I wish I had got one a long time ago.

    ............. Chris

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    Workshop Member glenerrolrd's Avatar
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    Re: Focusing M8 is a challenge

    First I would point you to the Leica User Forum where a number of exhaustive threads were posted on this subject. Consider that you have three controllable elements that must work together(and each could be off).

    1. Vision....most frequently missed factor is that the viewfinder rangefinder patch appears at a virtual 2M. So your correction needs to be for seeing perfectly at 2M. The misconception is that its the same formula as reading glasses..its not . The Leica diopters have the best contrast..find them used at KEH for $50. Its trial and error . The viewfinder is set at -0.5 ..so if you know the diopter you want for 2M adjust.
    The 2nd part of vision is the magnifier...if you want the most accurate focus ..use the most you can tolerate. I use the 1.25X Leica magnifier for up to 50mm and the 1.4X for 75-135. If I need FOV for street shooting I go without the magnifier on the 21 or 28.

    The disadvantage of the magnifiers is a slight loss of contrast and narrowing of the viewfinder FOV (one of the big benefits of a rangefinder). I tried the ,formerly megapearls, versions. They have lower contrast than the leica but the advantage that they can be adjusted(diopter). The 1.15X isn t enough for the lenses longer than 50mm.

    2. Calibration...having been through half a dozen M8/M8.2 and now M9 bodies plus more lenses than is reasonable....its not unusual to have the body or several lenses that aren t focusing correctly. Calibration is a long boring topic..simple answer is to do some basic focus tests with the ruler. Keep in mind if its off a few inches up close it might be off by several feet at working distances. My 135APO was 2cm front at 1M and a full M front at 7M . DAG is your best bet to get this sorted out. Leica has significantly enhanced their calibration process since the M8 came out and my bodies have been good...the lenses are a mixed bag . The 50 1.4 asph frequently has backfocus issues.

    3. Technique....the more you shoot the better you get . If I haven t used my M s for a week I lose a little. Its hand eye coordination....and its not unlike sports...the subject can be moving and you maybe framing . I try to find a busy street area and take a walk shooting to practice . When I take my M s out after using the Nikon s for weeks ....I miss a lot more . If you shoot a DSLR and rely on AF ...it takes a little while to rotate back into the M s .

    But you are right to work on vision issues first.

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    Re: Focusing M8 is a challenge

    A few quick tips, and yes, focusing is the real test on a rangefinder camera. I can't add much to the vision issue which earlier responses answered. I use a 1.25 magnifier with every lens and I think it is almost required for any lens faster than 2.0 to help get a super sharp focus.

    If you are trying to learn to use a Leica for the first time, make things easier to begin with and practice on learning to focus.
    1. Set the speed to "A" so you don't have to worry too much about exposure. You can go to manual settings later.
    2. Try and get to f 5.6 or f8 if possible in your ISO settings so you can work on successful focusing techniques. You can work with narrow dof settings later. (To insure a margin of error in focus, use a larger f stop
    3. The manual has recommendations on how to hold the camera for critical balance and focusing without blocking light or part of the image. That's a good place to start, you may develop better techniques that work for you.
    4. Shoot, shoot, shoot - delete, delete, delete: Shoot a hundred images a day - it doesn't cost anything except a bit of time. Take the camera to work, for daily walks, shoot with it at stoplights, carpools, in your home, at the mall, EVERYWHERE. And rack the lens out of focus after each shot to really hone your focusing technique. Then load the images into your processor and see how consistant your focusing is. Delete all of them and start again tomorrow (unless you get some keepers of course).
    5. You will always miss focus on some photos, the same holds for DSLRs with auto focusing. Where the rangefinder can be extra hard to focus is in certain situations where a) The light is flat and the patch looses contrast b) there are multiple small images in the patch at close focusing distance of some lenses(small flowers come to mind with a 90mm) c) dark conditions of course. d) Some things are just hard to focus because of the light and color of the object e) You will learn to recognize these types of things and take more time to focus.
    6. My fingers are not very long and I use a soft release on my camera to help make that instant exposure when my focus patch aligns.
    Focus and composition are the strong points of a rangefinder system but it does take practice to get good (perhaps "natural" would be a better term), but a lot of it is muscle memory. I like the idea of racking the focus to infinity each time. In time you will get good enough to focus the lens and press the shutter at the instant the rangefinder snaps into focus.

    Now, if Leica would double the size of the rangefinder patch, or make a moveable patch that reads eye pupil (retina?) movement so the patch was always over the area you want to be razor sharp, that would be a great improvement for the next generation body.
    O.C.
    Last edited by oc garza; 3rd January 2010 at 19:10.

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    Senior Member Per Ofverbeck's Avatar
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    Re: Focusing M8 is a challenge

    Lots of good advice already. However, do face the facts: even when everything works (incl your vision), it does take a lot of practice to get fast and proficient with a rangefinder (Im neither, after letting my M2 stay unused in a cupboard for 15 years, but Ive gotten it out for some practice while waiting for my M9).

    So, just start shooting! Digital shots are for free, once youve got the gear, and you can see the results right away. Your shooting statistics *will* improve!

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    Re: Focusing M8 is a challenge

    1) I think it is important to make sure lenses are calibrated correctly. I mean at short and long distance.
    In my case I had several lenses which were not 100% accurate.

    2) I think it is also training and getting used to the rangefinder focusing

    3) if it is very shallow DOF shott several images so your chance is better to have one perfect image

    4) eventually the 1.25 magnifier helps - I do like it

    5) as nice as shallow DOF is - it is hard to get perfect foocus when you take images of people. Therefore I also sometimes shoot some images with shallow DOF but also some where I close the f-stop a little

    6) at short distances it is sometimes easier/faster to move the camera (with your head)a little back-or or forward instead of turning the focus of the lens.

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    Re: Focusing M8 is a challenge

    A lot of good advice here, but I must disagreewith one thing: viewfinder magnifiers are not the cure-all they are sometimes made out to be. In principle the rangefinder works best without these visual aids, and for a considerable number of users they lessen the focussing accuracy instead of enhancing it. I am one of those. I have them, but never use them. The a and o is to get the eye- diopter combination right, and the best way to do that is to walk over to your local optician, use his try-out lenses between your eye and the ocular and just test for the value that gives you a stress-free sharp view in the rangefinder patch - not necessarily the whole image. That is the value you must get from Leica. In a pinch the stand with throw-away reading glasses at the drugstore may serve the purpose. After that, as said before - practise and practise again..
    Note that there are three ways to judge focus in the RF patch.
    1. "broken vertical"the simplest, just line up an edge in the image
    2 coincidence focussing - get to see a structure sharp in the RF window.
    3. the final touch: once you have focus with one of the methods above, a minimal twist will make the RF patch "jump" into higher contrast - that is when you have perfect focus.
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    Re: Focusing M8 is a challenge

    Thanks everyone for chiming in on this topic. I am very much aware that the top 3 methods to improve focus are practice, practice, and practice. Also after reading these messages, I think I did well with many keepers. But it was very slow and my subjects were patient.

    Quote Originally Posted by t_streng View Post
    6) at short distances it is sometimes easier/faster to move the camera (with your head)a little back-or or forward instead of turning the focus of the lens.
    Very good. It seems obvious but I hadn't thought of it.

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    Re: Focusing M8 is a challenge

    You INDEED do very well with your keepers. Keep focusing and keep clicking

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