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Thread: RZ67 Manual Focusing Aid for Speed

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    RZ67 Manual Focusing Aid for Speed

    Hi Guys,
    I wanted to start a topic about the use of the RZ67 (RZ67 Pro IID in my case) and solutions to achieve quick focus.

    For background, I am shooting people (models) primarily. My main kit to do this is a Canon 1Dx and its AF engine is absolutely superb. I can achieve focus and release the shutter on a moving model in less than a half second. I have the camera set up with back button focus and the rear dial selection of a focus point around a sequentially chosen oval configuration. Rock solid, and the subject's eyes in every capture is in focus, period. Well, let's say 99.9% are in focus, just to be realistic. LOL
    I also shoot with the Phase One 645 DF+ with a digital back and it requires focus>reframe, focus>reframe, etc. I have been speeding up my dexterity with that format and can achieve focus in about 2 seconds using the focus>reframe methodology. My "in-focus" percentage is less, let's say about 90-95% depending on ambient lighting.

    I have hung the digital back on the RZ67 ProIID and I really like the results of the lens and back configuration, most especially when shooting at f2.8. Without getting technical, I surmise the larger image circle, and corresponding left-weighted positioning on the MTF chart for a given lens, is one of the reasons the rendering is to my liking. I have two Mamiya left hand grips (articulating and fixed) and hand holding is not a problem from a weight perspective. But, achieving accurate focus of the eyes is not easy, at all. I have also used a monopod with similar results. Also, I should note that I have the Mamiya brand spilt prism focusing screen installed, but the split prism is TINY (!!!), and largely useless. I use the RZ with either the waist level viewfinder or the prism.

    So, since I like the bokeh and rendering of the RZ67 glass, I want to see what solutions others are using, if any, to achieve a quick, sharp, focus of people that are not necessary sitting "statue" still on a stool posing for an old-fashioned portrait. With this request, I want to set a few guidelines so the comments are meaningful...

    1. Aperture is f2.8
    2. Focus needs to be achieved within 2 seconds
    3. Handheld or monopod only, no tripods
    4. Subjects are people and will pause in their posing for a moment and would not ordinarily hold a pose indefinitely for me to focus
    5. Loupes are not an option for fast moving environment.

    As an aside, I remember talking to an employee at B&H Photo a while back and he told me he loved using his RZ67 and could focus on the fly effortlessly. I was intrigued, in a bit of disbelief, and yet wanted to know his secret.

    So, please share techniques or advice!

    Thanks!
    Ken
    Last edited by Transposure; 1st May 2014 at 19:41.

  2. #2
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    Re: RZ67 Manual Focusing Aid for Speed

    I don't think this body is suitable for handheld work.
    For good results you will need a tripod or a studio stand.
    Especially at 2.8.

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    Senior Member Grayhand's Avatar
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    Re: RZ67 Manual Focusing Aid for Speed

    Quick focus on the RZ with the 110mm at 2.8, that is a hard task

    I have used my RZProllD with the P45+ handheld a number of times with quick moving models.
    It is hard but the way I hade some success was to make a pre-focus for roughly where the model was and then move my self forward or backward to follow the model and keep focus.
    I found that this was a much simpler way to have "focus tracking" of the model than trying to all the time use the focus adjustment of the camera.
    It become like I was in a dance together with the model, tied together by an invisible string.
    When the model realized that the pictures got better if she was moving mostly sidewise comparing to back and fort, the success rate increased dramatically.
    Then it mostly become a question about "swaying" back and forth

    But the success rate at 2.8 was still a bit from 99%

    Ray

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    Re: RZ67 Manual Focusing Aid for Speed

    Ken, what you are asking can only be accomplished with a great deal of dedicated practice, perfect eyesight, and two handed dexterity.

    The RZ was designed with two focus knobs: Gross and Fine. Gross knob for speed. Fine for accuracy. When working with a 110/2.8 @ f/2.8 you need both. (Also, keep in mind with your digital back that 110mm effectively becomes a 200mm FOV).

    I dare say that B&H employee may well have left out an important detail that he/she stops down when working with moving subjects, thus benefits from hyper-focal distance type focusing where just the gross focusing knob will suffice, and allow work with a grip or mono-pod on the fly. If that employee was able to focus a RZ on the fly @ f/2.8 with a high rate of success, they are the only ones I've ever heard of that could, and I'd suggest paying them to teach you how it's done.

    Medium Format cameras were once the mainstay of professional wedding & event photographers, and for many years I used one including most recently a Hasselblad V with a digital back. In most, if not all instances where any motion was happening, I would select a stationary spot to focus on that anticipated where the subject would be, stop down to f/5.6 or f/8, and shoot when the subject entered the zone of pre-focus. This was the only way I could be assured of an in-focus image, especially when I would NOT have a second chance.

    I also have worked with an RZ for decades both on location and in studio. I used a Prism with a Mamiya flip magnifier for most work and got quite fast at using it but with motion work, even my speed wasn't enough. However, after much practice, I could accomplish fine focus with-in 2 seconds using the magnifier on the AE Prism usually on a tripod.

    - Marc

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    Re: RZ67 Manual Focusing Aid for Speed

    Thanks for the replies guys.

    Shlomi,
    I would say it is difficult, but not necessarily unsuitable. I have made some great captures, but it takes a lot of mental focus. I use a studio stand for my still work, but the point of my post is to find creative solutions for shooting people handheld.
    Thanks for your input.

    Grayhand,
    I like your idea. I have done this and at f5.6 it works pretty well. It is the f2.8 caveat that makes this tough. A little instruction to the model to keep it sideways is a smart thing. When doing this, I have used a monopod to take the "weight" of the kit out of the equation. That way I can focus on framing and focus only.

    Marc,
    Thank you for your detailed reply. I have definitely practiced and my eyesight at 49 years old is pretty good. Dexterity also comes easily for me as well.
    Yes, the coarse and fine adjustments, speed and accuracy. Totally agree. Also aware of the FOV crop.
    As for the B&H guy, I can't recall if we talked about f2.8 or not. He could very likely have been using f5.6 and that is something I can already do. It would explain a lot. I am very adept at things requiring refined dexterity, so studio shooting with enough light to use f5.6 or greater would explain his ability to be successful with the RZ handheld.
    I totally understand and embrace your event technique of having prefocused locations to "not miss the shot". Been there, done that too from time to time.
    I have the prism and I have the flip up magnifier as well. I haven't used the magnifier for moving subject work, only for critical focus with still work. I do not have a lot of experience with the RZ. I bought it 1-2 years ago and have tried to use it whenever I know that I can be assured of good results, and at times when I can experiment a bit. So, I do appreciate your seasoned viewpoints!

    I have attached two pics of the grips I use with e RZ. the dual grip is my own design that mimics the Mamiya Aerial Grip (aka Marcus Klinko). I have made the dual grip to help stabilize the camera for precisely this type of work. It has helped a bit. I also wired the hot shoe on the left hand grip so my Profoto transceiver sits nicely connected on top....sweet! I still have to wire up the articulating grip in the second photo. I really like the articulating grip a lot. It is very comfortable and being able to change the angle is awesome. I will also be looking to add the dual grip to that grip as well. I only bought it recently. Again, I am looking for stability in order to aid with achieving faster focus.

    One of the things that I want to look into, that I think will have a HUGE impact on the capture accuracy is the focus screen. As I noted in my first post, I use the standard Mamiya brand split prism screen. The split prism works, but it is so ridiculously small in the viewfinder, it is nearly pointless!! It is probably 2% of the viewfinder area. I would like to find a focus screen that has a split prism in the middle that is 10% of the viewfinder area, ideally with a diagonal split instead of horizontal. That would make it much easier to find a vertical line or horizontal line (maybe a cheekbone) to quickly align and shoot.

    Your thoughts? Any such screen?

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    Re: RZ67 Manual Focusing Aid for Speed

    This is the screen I am using...


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    Re: RZ67 Manual Focusing Aid for Speed

    Could you post an example from RZ vs DF+ - I would be interested to see what are the benefits of using the old rig.

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    Re: RZ67 Manual Focusing Aid for Speed

    A few suggestions.

    Consider the Mamiya RZ Focusing Screen Type C which is a larger micro prism circle without the split center. Once you practice with the Microprism is can get quite fast. It has a smaller coarse micro prism surrounded by a finer one if I recall correctly.

    Mamiya Focusing Screen Type "C" 212-424 B&H Photo

    Another idea is to have a custom magnifier fitted to the viewfinder that just covers the taking area of the DB rather than the whole 6X7 film framing. This will get you in closer to the Microprism circle.

    - Marc

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    Senior Member Grayhand's Avatar
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    Re: RZ67 Manual Focusing Aid for Speed

    A little tip regarding the focusing screen:

    It really does not matter which you choose if it is not rightly adjusted.

    I am now on my third RZ camera and many different focusing screens.
    And for all of them I had to adjust the focusing screen to be able to have optimal focus.
    And I have learned the hard way that the screens are more or less all different.
    Now I have tree old focusing screens of different kind that is more or less OK.
    But my focusing screen with the range finder center was way of on this RZ, even that it was ok on my previous RZ.
    I had to apply two small strips of duct tape to the resting points on this focusing screen.
    I do it like this because if I adjust the camera, then the other focusing screens will be way of.

    My first RZ I sent in for adjustment, but the service center just sent it back and said it was inside the border of tolerans for this camera.
    But they were thinking in terms of film and not digital backs

    So I had to do it my self..

    Ray

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    Re: RZ67 Manual Focusing Aid for Speed

    Beattie screens seem pretty good especially for low light (B&H carries them).
    Beattie Intenscreen Focusing Screen - Grid-Lines & 83325 B&H
    Also Maxwell precision used to make awesome ones, but don't know if he is still in biz.

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    Senior Member segedi's Avatar
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    Re: RZ67 Manual Focusing Aid for Speed

    This one looks to have the large split that you are looking for:
    Beattie Intenscreen Focusing Screen - Matte w/ Diagonal 83324

    I have the Mamiya split/microprism and find it adequate, but I'm one to shoot still objects. Kudos to you for trying to use the beast for moving models. Personally, I'd find a way to make the most accurate system (in your case the DSLR) work for me instead of trying to use what I consider a studio camera as something else. I'd find it a heck of a lot less frustrating!

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    Re: RZ67 Manual Focusing Aid for Speed

    I'll disagree with seg... You can nail quick focus on models as long as they understand how you are shooting. Models that have worked with LF photographers have no issue with MF... I find the best models know how to pose and hold. If I'm shooting expired 4x5 type 55 I know the model can handle an RZ67.

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    Re: RZ67 Manual Focusing Aid for Speed

    Quote Originally Posted by reflectedlights View Post
    Beattie screens seem pretty good especially for low light (B&H carries them).
    Beattie Intenscreen Focusing Screen - Grid-Lines & 83325 B&H
    Also Maxwell precision used to make awesome ones, but don't know if he is still in biz.


    He is still in busniess and still takes phone calls. The guy is extremely no-nonsense and tries to make sure you get the best product for your needs.

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