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Thread: New to the Rangefinder world... need advice on technique

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    Member gocchin's Avatar
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    New to the Rangefinder world... need advice on technique

    Hello all, I went from DSLR's to the X-Pro1 last year and really enjoy shooting legacy lenses on the Fuji. Admittedly I have always been curious about Leica and rangefinders and have been resiting the urge for an M9.

    Earlier this week I got the chance to pick up a 2 year old R-D1xG with M-Rokkor 40mm F2 in superb condition at less than the cost of a used M8. As many of you know, this camera still sells for new here in Japan!

    I love the way it feels, handles and its "analog" functionality but the truth is, after a few days shooting, I have come to the conclusion that I really suck at using a rangefinder.

    Is it normal for a beginner to miss focus so regularly and if so, any advice?

    The X-Pro1 I of course use magnification which really helps but that of course is not on the Epson. I do love the Epson viewfinder and am getting used to keeping both eyes open, I just can't get always get it sharp! (not to mention I have a very bad addiction to shooting wide open always on all my cameras.

    Otherwise I am still very excited about this cameras possibilities. The lenses, the colors produced.

    Any advice for mastering a rangefinder is much appreciated!

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    Super Duper
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    Re: New to the Rangefinder world... need advice on technique

    Hi and welcome!

    I have a few brief comments and suggestions and I'm sure many others here will have good advice for you.

    I've used a couple of RD1 rangefinders in the past and often times the rangefinder mechanisms in these cameras are out of adjustment, even when the camera is new. Other times a lens may be front or back focusing with the camera or the camera itself is not properly calibrated. This of course can happen with any rangefinder camera.

    What I would first do is see if you can test or borrow another rangefinder camera such as a Leica M8 or M9 with a lens that you know the entire camera/lens is focusing perfectly. Then take test shots and get used to the using the rangefinder. Achieving sharp in-focused shots will go a long way convincing you whether a rangefinder camera is for you.

    Dave (D&A)

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    Re: New to the Rangefinder world... need advice on technique

    I never use both eyes. You need to just use the viewfinder.

    Manual focus and using the rangefinder patch takes time and practice. Zone focusing, where you preset the focus at a small aperture and shoot within the DoF, is a fast way to use a rangefinder when things are moving. You are also just going to have to get used to focusing--turning the ring the right direction, anticipating object motion, and all kinds of coordination stuff. How you hold the camera is also important--the body resting in the palm of your hand while the fingers of that hand focus. The great thing about digital is you can just practice and delete.

    As far as accuracy of the rangefinder itself. Put your camera on a tripod and focus on something and see it the image is in focus. If it is not, then there are two possibilities, the rangefinder is off or the lens cam is off.

    The rangefinder is the easier thing for the camera company to adjust, but if focus is off because of the lens, you are only compensating for that lens and your other lenses will now mis-focus. It it is the lens cam, that is a lot harder to adjust. Since Minolta does not exist, you will need to find someone that can do that.

    There are two type of rangefinder alignment problems. One is horizontal alignment which will make the rangefinder to consistently focus in front of or behind the object (but always just one, not both). The other is vertical alignment where the images in the patch at slightly above or below each other--the patch looks a little fuzzy even when in focus. Neither problem is helpful.

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    Re: New to the Rangefinder world... need advice on technique

    Missing focus is totally normal! Dont' sweat it. I would try to stop the lens down, keeping the aperture at F8 outdoors should overcome any focusing issues even if the viewfinder is not totally aligned.

    Also to learn some basic focusing tips such as turning the lens barrel to the right (if your lens has a focusing tab, then its pulling to the left) means focusing closer, turning it to the left you are going farther to infinity. That's helpful if you are shooting a target moving closer/farther from you.

    And keep the ISO as low as possible. R1D has much lower ISO performance than your DSLR. I wouldn't' use anything above 400.

    Lastly. Slow down. To me the point of a rangefinder is to slow down and compose each shot more carefully then I would've done it on a DSLR. Shoot and delete doesn't work and is not rewarding. Take your time with each shot. Frame it, play with it. And ultimately don't take the shot if it's not right.
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    Member gocchin's Avatar
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    Re: New to the Rangefinder world... need advice on technique

    Thanks for the advice everyone. Will definitely take it slower, learn and practice.

    The focus patch is a bit misaligned vertically but luckily Epson service is easy and cheap so I'll send the camera off to Epson Monday to be cleaned and calibrated.

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    Member gocchin's Avatar
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    Re: New to the Rangefinder world... need advice on technique

    It's interesting to see the different metering and colors of the R-D1xG and the X-Pro1.

    Shot this just outside Tokyo Station, a street heavily covered by trees, with the sun just coming through. The X-Pro1 was on spot metering.

    Both at f4.0 (Fuji 35mm, Epson M-Rokkor 40mm), both jpeg's straight from the camera resized only.

    First is the Fuji then the Epson.

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    Re: New to the Rangefinder world... need advice on technique

    I prefer the epson colors much better...
    David Young
    My journey into Leica: LeicaLux.com
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    Re: New to the Rangefinder world... need advice on technique

    I had my first range finder (m8) about 1 year ago coming from a nikon d40/d50 (which I believe share the same sensor as the RD-1)so there are lots of people with more experience than me here...These are what I have found/learned so far
    1. most faster lens do focus shift (when you change your f-stop, say from f1.4 to f4, the critical focus point move backward, usually) so you have to watch out for that. Try on a table with a ruler. I can say definitely the VC 40mm f1.4 and sonnar designs (say jupiter 3, zm 50mm f1.5 and many others) do this.
    2. I am a left eye shooter. I have managed to learn to shoot with my right eye (while keeping left eye open) indoors but outdoors is still work in progress. It is so difficult with the 0.65x magnification. I was told it will be much easier with an old m3 or use a magnification multiplier but you can't use some of the wider lens as easily.
    3. It is so awesome to use range finder to shoot people...their expressions are more relaxed
    4. Not sure about the epson RD-1 but there are so much more depth perception in my m8 files than say a d7000 that my uncle has. Shooting walls (a common habit of a lot of us) will show you the actual brick that pops out of the motor instead of being a flat wall
    5. range finder alignments are very important. I believe the RD-1 is not as accurate because the two view patches are closer to each other than leica. Also I think your lens is slightly long (60mm fov for 35mm eq.) which makes it a little more difficult. Try a wider lens with more dof. You want to get closer anyway, and your range finder lets you do that

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    Re: New to the Rangefinder world... need advice on technique

    Focusing a RF camera takes practice. With small DoF you will likely find that small things make visible differences, such as if you move the focusing ring into focus by going from far to near or the opposite way. This depends on the lens vs camera calibration. I have had a R-D1s, M8 and now M9, and they all have had some differences (even with the same lenses) that after some use become second nature. So just hang in there and keep shooting
    Leica Monochrom, Olympus EM-5, Ricoh GR

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    Member gocchin's Avatar
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    Re: New to the Rangefinder world... need advice on technique

    Thanks guys for all the advice... so far I love the experience. The whole process of thinking out your shot even before putting my eye to the viewfinder then framing it in the viewfinder and getting focus right... it's the technical execution that I am missing right now... but hopefully that will come with practice!

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    Re: New to the Rangefinder world... need advice on technique

    Quote Originally Posted by gocchin View Post

    Is it normal for a beginner to miss focus so regularly and if so, any advice?
    Yes, but only for a couple of hours while they learn the controls of the camera.

    So, shut the eye that isn't looking through the viewfinder, and stop the lens down to the point that it is at it's sharpest (wide open all lenses are softer anyway, so deciding what the problem is will be harder to do). See if things start to get sharper, but pay attention to shutter speed as well and don't let it drop too much.

    If the pictures are still unsharp put the camera on a tripod and bracket the focus of the same subject over a few pictures, one at least should be sharp, hopefully the one that most closely matches your viewfinder information. If that is the case you are moving the camera when hand held, be more gentle pressing the shutter. But with the camera on a tripod you will remove a lot of variables and if the picture that is in focus doesn't match what you thought was focused in the viewfinder you probably need the rangefinder mechanism calibrating.

    If the picture is still unsharp you might want to question your expectations from the RD1, it will not offer the same level of resolution as the Fuji, and the images from the RD1 will require in any case a different post processing workflow to get the most from them, like the level of sharpening that needs to be applied, increasing the amount of micro contrast to make them appear sharper, etc. The two cameras should not be compared directly without compensating for one being many generations behind the other. In addition the Rokkor lens is a very fine lens, but again it will be lower contrast than a modern Fuji lens, and increasing contrast affects perceived sharpness, so compensation needs to be made in post processing for that alone with the Rokkor.

    Steve

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    Member gocchin's Avatar
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    Re: New to the Rangefinder world... need advice on technique

    I have to really give props to Epson service. As I mentioned the rangefinder patch was misaligned vertically so I contacted Epson service and they had a courier pick it up later that evening. The next day they faxed me a quotation of their findings which included:

    "Rangefinder vertical alignment needed
    Infinity Focus out of focus - adjustment needed
    Sensor Cleaning
    Camera Cleaning
    Shipping from and back to customer.

    Total quote: 6825 yen.

    Please check off the I agree box and fax back if you want us to perform the above services."

    Of course I checked the box off and faxed it back and the next day my camera showed up at my doorstep all tuned up by Epson... a 3 day turn around for 70.00 shipping included!!
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    Re: New to the Rangefinder world... need advice on technique

    A tip on focussing which I found handy: if you aren't using zone focussing as described above, get into the habit of returning the focus to infinity after every shot. So, before every new shot, your fingers know where to find the focus tab, and you only have to move in one direction to find focus in the patch.

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    Re: New to the Rangefinder world... need advice on technique

    Quote Originally Posted by gocchin View Post
    ....Of course I checked the box off and faxed it back and the next day my camera showed up at my doorstep all tuned up by Epson... a 3 day turn around for 70.00 shipping included!!
    It's good to know your gear is not the issue! Keep practising and also take time to rest up. It's like learning anything, you need to try it for a bit, then rest for a bit and so on so you develop muscle memory, intuition and generally assimilate the knowledge.

    Concentrate on one thing at a time, e.g. practice focusing and ignore exposure and composition (it's easy to try too hard to get the perfect shot when you need to be concentrating on the basics), shoot a few things before you sleep. Look at the images, think about it, then sleep. If you wake up early feeling you've learned something or needing to try something, your brain is assimilating the data.

    You seem to love it, passion is a brain food, so you'll get it pretty quickly.

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    Re: New to the Rangefinder world... need advice on technique

    It would be doubly amazing to get that kind of service from Epson in the USA.
    My experiences with Epson service have not been so thrilling (speaking graciously).

    G

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    Re: New to the Rangefinder world... need advice on technique

    Practice, practice, then some more practice. The bad news, it takes several thousand hours of practice to get real good shooting a rangefinder. The good news, once learned you are very glad you invested the time. Don't get discouraged either. If it was easy, everyone would do it!

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