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Thread: 645DF+ Focusing issues - 1 year in

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    645DF+ Focusing issues - 1 year in

    Hi everyone,

    So, I've now been using my Phase One P40+ back and 645DF+ system for about a year now, and I still haven't managed to iron out the issues I have with accurate focusing.

    A while ago I asked about the Maxwell focus screens as a fix, but because of mixed thoughts and no definitive answer, I haven't bought one. (http://www.getdpi.com/forum/medium-f...s-screens.html)

    The issue comes about mainly when doing corporate headshots, where I like to shoot wide open with a very narrow DoF.

    After shooting this system for about a year and doing extensive testing with other P1 back/body combinations, and having my dealer repeat my results, I've come the the conclusion that it's not user error, but an inherent part of the camera design.

    Relying on the focus mask in C1P or stopping down are not viable solutions for me.

    I should also mention that I wear contact lenses, and with them, my eyesight is significantly better than 20/20.

    So here is what I think my options are - which may or may not help in any way.

    1) Use the Mamiya focusing loupe. *Done, and does nothing for me.
    2) Buy a Maxwell screen
    3) Move to an RZ67 Pro IID system (for better manual focusing)
    4) Move to a Hasselblad (V or H) system
    5) Move to a Rollei Hy6 system
    6) ???

    Both 4 and 5 have me buying a new back at a significant cost (I would think...after trading in my P40+).

    I would consider a Leica S system, but I also shoot with the Arca Swiss Rm3di and have never seen an adaptor, so would have to move to a full view-camera system. Again, at a very high cost (and added weight).

    Any other possible solutions? Any advice? Any thoughts?

    J R

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    Re: 645DF+ Focusing issues - 1 year in

    Double tap the shutter. Yea sounds like a hassle but for some reason once gets you close but the second tap gets you on target. You also have options in the menu for focusing speed or accuracy. Been awhile since I shot the DF but that's what I remember.
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    Re: 645DF+ Focusing issues - 1 year in

    Do you focus, then re-compose?
    Is there a consistent front-focus or back-focus issue?
    Is any particular lens trouble?


    --Steve.

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    Re: 645DF+ Focusing issues - 1 year in

    Don't know. I do wide open 110LS portraits on a fairly regular basis. I get maybe 90% hit rate in autofocus and maybe 80% hit rate with MF.

    When using AF I focus on the outside corner of the eye so that the AF doesn't trip on the nose.
    Last edited by dougpeterson; 12th December 2013 at 10:00.
    Doug Peterson , Digital Transitions | Email
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    Re: 645DF+ Focusing issues - 1 year in

    Pentax 645D?

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    Re: 645DF+ Focusing issues - 1 year in

    Will


    I take your point and you may have nailed a viable solution.

    The question remains, why does the 645DF have such a bad reputation with auto focus?

    I am sure others have observations which are much more technical than my observation.

    I don't know why Canon/Nikon can put 40 or so focus points in their DSLR cameras and Phase One seems to struggle with to implement three?

    My observation is that the Phase 645DF system just seems to focus on the highest contrast edge that is closest to the camera, almost where ever it appears in the view finder. My camera will happily focus on the grass at a clients feet rather than the face which is right in the centre of the so called focus area. Basically the focus point is just too large, and takes in too larger area and therefore will never be accurate - with portraits I often shoot manual focus except where I know the client is the closest object to the camera and the contrast on the client is the most dominant in the image and even then I am looking carefully to see if the plane of focus is going to be acceptable. The eyes give a little sparkle when the focus is nailed - of course that relies on the subject being large enough in the viewfinder for that to show.

    That little beep with the white dot just says to me the camera has selected something - and maybe not what you actually want.

    I would be very happy if Doug or others could shoot me down and describe the real problem with the DF AF cause I am finding it difficult to see the real reason.


    Mal

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    Re: 645DF+ Focusing issues - 1 year in

    Quote Originally Posted by malmac View Post
    ...
    My observation is that the Phase 645DF system just seems to focus on the highest contrast edge that is closest to the camera, almost where ever it appears in the view finder. My camera will happily focus on the grass at a clients feet rather than the face which is right in the centre of the so called focus area. Basically the focus point is just too large, ....
    Mal
    Yup. You too?

    I'd love to see a fine AF focus point on a new Phase platform: A single pin-point cross hair that can be controlled by joystick/toggle button, even if in just a small area of the viewfinder, that also lights up in red telling the user the camera AF has indeed locked focus and where it has locked focus....

    Yes, the AF on my DF works---but there's a whole lot of room for improvement....

    ken

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    Re: 645DF+ Focusing issues - 1 year in

    Hi, try the Hasselblad H4x. The AF is very very good. Even the H1 will be probably be better than the DF. Or wait for the new PhaseOne camera. I don't know when it is coming out though. Could be 4-5 months could be a year or more.

    The Leica S has superb AF but that is a whole nother system.

    Regarding the back the PhaseOne IQ backs have a screen good enough to check your shots in the field.

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    Re: 645DF+ Focusing issues - 1 year in

    Whenever I'm shooting with either my Hasselblad or a Mamiya 645 system I try to focus on the lower part of the subject's eye that is averting from the subject's nose. Trying not to focus too close to either the nose or the brows is immensely beneficial.
    I hope you get what I mean. Maybe the image below demonstrates better what I tried to express.

    I'm shooting this way and can happily say that I rarely have oof shots.
    They're both great systems though I prefer the Hasselblad. The AF is better and the one AF spot is much smaller / more precise. A H4X with an IQ back would be the perfect system (at least for me).



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    Re: 645DF+ Focusing issues - 1 year in

    When you're in close to your subject, not a problem.

    Now back up and take a group portrait, maybe a family of five. DF focus spot dead center. Camera on tripod. Yet, sometimes I still find the DF locking focus on contrast areas in front of the group like on the grass or sand, despite the focus point center being placed nowhere near there. Usually not a problem, but only because I find myself being extra careful with regard to focus. Translation: Sure wish Phase would hurry up and release a new platform with a more capable AF system that didn't make me work so hard...

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    Re: 645DF+ Focusing issues - 1 year in

    Ok...let me try to address everyone's comments/questions:

    Guy, yes, I have also found the double-tap method to help. I have no idea why, but it seems to make a difference. Problem still is recomposing after focusing...it takes too long to reliably have the client stay perfectly still. If the client sways back or forth an inch, the shot's blown.

    Steve, yes...AF focus then recompose (much of the time). No consistent back or front focus. I've spent hours trying to refine the focus compensation. And no, this seems to be an issue across lenses (mine and my dealer's).

    Doug, I'm not sure what you mean by 90% on autofocus and 80% on AF. I assume one of those numbers is for manual focus. Problem is, if I'm shooting an executive who only gives me 5-10 shots, and 2 of them are soft, there's a chance I've blown the shoot if the other 3-8 aren't great poses. I need to try, as you suggested, focusing on the lower corner of the eye, as opposed to the centre...I'm just afraid that I'll pick up the sideburn or ear instead. Manual focusing with a 'snappy' focus screen would be ideal, I think.

    Will, is there any way to attach a Pentax 645D to an Arca Swiss Rm3di? This is the same issue I see (along with price) with the Leica S2. I don't think there's a way.

    Mal / Ken, I think you're bang on with the DF autofocus. I have no idea WHAT the camera has locked onto. So, either a multi-point AF system (a la Nikon or Canon) or a manual focus screen that works (for me) would great.

    Ken_R, I may try out the Hassy, but moving to the H4x + IQ is not in my budget right now. Also while the IQ screens are great, they would be of little use to me in this case. I'm already shooting tethered, and have no time to stop and review my images at 100%. Keeping focus mask on is a good indicator of overall performance, but it only tells me what I have *already* done, not what I'm *going* to do. Yup...there's a new Phase body coming, but it could be out in a few months or years. I've tried to get some info, but their lips are tight for now.

    Max, it seems like you and Doug are describing the same technique. I'll have to try that. Unfortunately that doesn't address the recomposition problem (where the subject might move by the time I've recomposed).

    I have also noticed that no one has mentioned manual focusing. Is it a forgone conclusion that you can't manually focus these cameras precisely enough for this type of work?

    Thanks to everyone for their input so far. In a way, it's reassuring to learn that I'm not the only one with this type of issue. I think that in the mean time, until I find a better solution, in cases where time is of the essence (shooting executives), I will have to just stop down and forego the narrow DoF look. It's better to get the shot, even if it's not perfect, than to blow it entirely while in pursuit of artistic perfection.
    J R

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    Re: 645DF+ Focusing issues - 1 year in

    Yes, I accidentally wrote "AF" twice. I've revised my post.

    645D AF points are very closely bundled to the center of the frame. They may (or may not) still be useful for what you do, but just having multi-AF points is only one part of a multi-AF system - having them meaningfully spread throughout the frame is the other.

    In my experience the AF on the S2 and H4X are just as prone to pick up the nose on a portrait as the DF+, but by all means you could test those systems to see if your experience is different.

    You may be able to find a way to hack an S2 or 645D onto an Arca RM3Di, but since they have mirror boxes in front of their sensors there would be no physical way to use wide angles at infinity. It would be limited to macro and maybe bread-box size applications.

    You might also try the old Safety+Reach technique. Shoot a Safety shot at f/8, then shoot your (however long you have left, whether 3 or 50 images) "Reach" shots wide open knowing that some percentage of them might miss. With a Profoto Air (and some other) transmitter you can turn the light up and down from the camera, making it fast enough to consider for this application.
    Doug Peterson , Digital Transitions | Email
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    Re: 645DF+ Focusing issues - 1 year in

    Quote Originally Posted by JRBERNSTEIN View Post
    ....
    I have also noticed that no one has mentioned manual focusing. Is it a forgone conclusion that you can't manually focus these cameras precisely enough for this type of work?

    ....
    I think manual focus with the DF series (and her sisters) is difficult primarily because the demographic that can afford a Phase MFDB (true joke) are going to be mostly middle-aged and older with tired eyes. I also wear contacts with 20/15 vision (they were 20/10 once I stopped practicing law) but I still find my eyes take a bit longer to adjust and focus manually. Where I have the time, manual focus is fine. But otherwise I appreciate using auto focus.....

    Focus mask on the IQ180 definitely gives me more confidence and does help, but it's not a replacement for a camera platform with a capable AF.

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    Re: 645DF+ Focusing issues - 1 year in

    In my experience, the Maxwell screen will not help. It removes the split prism, but otherwise seems extremely similar to the Mamiya matte ground glass. I couldn't see an advantage (for the price, upwards of $385).

    There's no question the center focus circle is too large and it will pick up the first contrast it detects (what it detects is not always consistent in changing conditions). I've had some (varying) success with the side points in placing them on a cheek or an eye and missing the nose. But it is not seamless enough to change them on the fly, which makes using them somewhat impractical.

    It's not a perfect focusing system (by far), though it does seem to work well enough for some. I strongly believe that a day of experimentation with non moving objects helps to get an understanding of what can work and what seems to cause the most issues (most of the time). Where you place objects in the frame, their depth, the amount of contrast, and how the camera reacts to these factors. I don't know that this experiment yields consistent results, but I do think it increases your chances of a higher hit rate.

    The alternatives are well known - Hy6, H4X, but that may not be viable for everyone, and even so, there may be other factors that keep the DF+ as the preferred solution.


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    Re: 645DF+ Focusing issues - 1 year in

    Quote Originally Posted by JRBERNSTEIN View Post
    ...
    I have also noticed that no one has mentioned manual focusing. Is it a forgone conclusion that you can't manually focus these cameras precisely enough for this type of work?

    Thanks to everyone for their input so far. In a way, it's reassuring to learn that I'm not the only one with this type of issue. I think that in the mean time, until I find a better solution, in cases where time is of the essence (shooting executives), I will have to just stop down and forego the narrow DoF look. It's better to get the shot, even if it's not perfect, than to blow it entirely while in pursuit of artistic perfection.
    I used to work with an RZ67 for which I had two different Beattie Intenscreens. One plain and one with a diagonal split prism. They were the brightest and best focussing screens I have ever used. I achieved good results with it. However, having to shoot this system for a couple of hours was extremely fatiguing both mentally and physically.

    Though I'm probably the youngest guy around here I have no problem admitting that I suck at manual focussing these 645 cameras. Their screens are to bright making it almost impossible to distinguish where the plane of sharpness actually is. It always seems like there is more in focus than there actually is.
    So before getting an even brighter screen I suggest you get yourself the Mamiya 645 AF Type C microprism spot screen or however it is called. Not because of the microprism center (which is soo small, that it's almost useless) but because that screen is much more matte, making off-center focussing much easier. Especially if you have modeling lights that assist you. And last but not least, tell your clients not to move a single bit.

    Good luck with that.

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    Re: 645DF+ Focusing issues - 1 year in

    Quote Originally Posted by JRBERNSTEIN View Post
    Will, is there any way to attach a Pentax 645D to an Arca Swiss Rm3di? This is the same issue I see (along with price) with the Leica S2. I don't think there's a way.
    If you do that, the AF won't work...

    Sorry, did not see the Arca part of your post. Perhaps you need two cameras? One back on the Arca and then a 645D/D800E/S2/A7R for when you need AF.

    There is no problem in this forum that can't be solved with money.

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    Re: 645DF+ Focusing issues - 1 year in

    Quote Originally Posted by Shashin View Post
    If you do that, the AF won't work...

    Sorry, did not see the Arca part of your post. Perhaps you need two cameras? One back on the Arca and then a 645D/D800E/S2/A7R for when you need AF.

    There is no problem in this forum that can't be solved with money.
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    Re: 645DF+ Focusing issues - 1 year in

    I used to do double taping, until I adjusted Custom Function XX (I don't remember the number and that is the problem with modifications in custom functions instead of a dedicated button) so instead of "fast autofocus" I switch to "precise autofocus" or something like that. Much better for overall focusing, low DoF portraits are still hard though.

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    Re: 645DF+ Focusing issues - 1 year in

    Yup, I've tried both fast and fine focus in the custom functions, and have even fine tuned the focus with one of the custom functions. Of course neither of those can help with the manual focus difficulties I've had.

    At this point, I'm not changing anything and am holding out for the next iteration of the Phase One Mamiya 645 back. Fingers crossed we'll see something at CES!
    J R

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    Re: 645DF+ Focusing issues - 1 year in

    There will be no P1 or Mamiya Leaf announcements at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

    In the past major professional photography announcements were often/usually made at Photokina or Photo Plus. In the last several years this trend has been less evident in when/how major professional photography announcements were made.
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    Re: 645DF+ Focusing issues - 1 year in

    Quote Originally Posted by dougpeterson View Post
    There will be no P1 or Mamiya Leaf announcements at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

    In the past major professional photography announcements were often/usually made at Photokina or Photo Plus. In the last several years this trend has been less evident in when/how major professional photography announcements were made.
    Yup...I know, but we can always hope!
    J R

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    Re: 645DF+ Focusing issues - 1 year in

    Sounds like you have the exact problem Truefocus on the Hassy was designed to answer. Focus+recompose usually moves your focus plane by tilting the sensor-plane forward. It's not a question of initial accuracy, but that you're moving the plane of focus back by moving the centre of your sensor forward, and thus the field of focus backwards, just enough to impact sharpness.

    If that's not the problem, you may have some serious alignment issue with your mount, AF sensor or focusing screen holder.

    Good luck and love to know if you can fix this.

    - N.

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    Re: 645DF+ Focusing issues - 1 year in

    Apart from the fact that I believe the Mamiya is a PoS, you may have better luck in some cases with focus if you focus on the mouth and then recompose, the eyes may then be in focus. This trick may work if your point of view is eg. at the height of the model's eyes. And maybe even if your PoV is at the model's chin

    I think Hasselblad invented something called TrueFocus to solve this problem. Of course, those ridiculous dSLRs all have multiple focus points that one can lock onto an eyeball ...

    Edmund

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    Re: 645DF+ Focusing issues - 1 year in

    Is it true that the 645DF+ with the latest 2.24 firmware has the left and right focus point disabled permanently?

    The Mamiya Credo user guide 1.20 shows two ways to change AF behaviour:
    - on page 17, they say that the Exposure Metering Mode Button doubles as the Focus Point Selection Button, but don't explain how to do that
    - on page 71, they explain how to change AF point via the Credo menu. But changing the AF point there and then using C1 on the 645DF+ mode dial is not reflected in the AF icon on the cameras LCD screen.

    very mysterious, or am I overlooking something?

    geb

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    Re: 645DF+ Focusing issues - 1 year in

    My dealer keeps telling me to wait for Photokina before changing systems (playing with the idea of an RZ system at present to try and solve our costs in mirror and shutter replacements with the DF, I can buy 8 lenses with shutter built in for the cost of a DF shutter replacement, but still avoid having to use a tech camera). Although I doubt any new P1 body would solve my issues I wonder if he knows something we don't or is just hoping?
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