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Manual Focus Aids

Michael Brossart , Feb 19, 2006; 07:57 p.m.

I'm looking at getting a DSLR camera and a couple of lenses. I've pretty well worked through my strategy with the help of the participants in this forum, but one question remains: What is the availability of manual focus aids such as split screen and microprism? I see very little on this topic in discussions and advertising. Is it a thing of the past, given up for matte screens? Is it a high end thing, beyond my reach (I'm in the Rebel XT range)? I've seen the Brighscreen product via their web site, but not in person. Is this avenue worth pursuing? Does anyone use it? I assume from what I've seen, it adds this functionality to the display screen, not to the viewfinder. Any thoughts are appreciated.

Why am I even interested? One of the many reasons I've decided to get back to the SLR format is better control over focus, specifically the ability to manually focus when AF just isn't working. I kind of like the idea of a little extra help when I manually focus to ensure crisp focus where I want it.

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Andrew Robertson , Feb 19, 2006; 08:27 p.m.

The first thing to try is setting the AF to all points, and then setting the lens barrel switch to 'M'. Press and hold the shutter half way down while manually focusing the lens, and you should see the AF points light up in the finder when the area covered by them is in focus.

This is often a really handy way to focus, especially in lower light.

Another thing to try is the angle finder. You can zoom in on the finder and get much finer grained focus. This is an expensive one, but I have used one for a while and am going to get one because it's nice for tripod work too.

Finally, there are at least two individuals who manufacture and sell their own custom made split prism focusing screens on the internet. I am not aware if they have them for the XT, but if not you could get one for the 10D or 20D and cut it down. I think they run about 40 bucks.

David Chew , Feb 19, 2006; 08:39 p.m.

Michael,

I manually focus the majority of the time with a variety of Canon lenses, especially wide-angle. My experience has been that the number one factor in ease of focus is the lens. In anything except bright mid-day light, I struggle with lenses slower than f/2.8.

Also, don't rule out some of Canon's older primes that do not have USM focusing; they seem to have a wider angle of rotation from close to infinity, making small adjustments easier. My absolute favorite lens to focus manually is the 24mm TSE; wonderfully long range because it can only focus manually!

Michael Brossart , Feb 19, 2006; 10:08 p.m.

Andrew, thanks for your suggestions. What's an angle finder? I've never heard of whan. Perhaps I'm too much of a rookie. Also, FYI, I do notice that BrightScreen doesn't sell a Rebel screen, but they sell a Rebel with their screen. I'm just not sure if it's worth it. They want an extra $300 for the body. Do you recall the ones who make the $40 options? Are these screen only I assume (i.e. does not affect the view finder).

Thanks.

Bruce Kapla , Feb 19, 2006; 10:54 p.m.

Michael, in reference to the focus screen, it has nothing to do with the display screen; the camera is focused entirely through the viewfinder.

Andrew C , Feb 20, 2006; 12:04 a.m.

Katzeye sells a split prism screen for the XT for around $100. For, I think, $50 more, a 'bright' compound is put on it that makes it brighter by 1-2 stops. I have a used split prism Katzeye coming that I got off Ebay for my 300D for $50; hope it does the trick with my M42 and Contax lenses. The 300D is fine focusing manually in the day, but in low-light I think it's the pits.

Chris JB , Feb 20, 2006; 12:58 a.m.

Here you go just stuck one on a 20d. magnifies x1.2 & 2.5 times for critical focus. this one is olympus and rotates 360deg. they are now available in digital with a 1.8 inch screen.

have fun


olympus angle finder on 20d

Jim Strutz - Anchorage, AK , Feb 20, 2006; 01:48 a.m.

I believe Haoda makes a split screen viewscreen for the 350D/DRebel XT. Price is about $70. I have one on my 20D and it's great.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/screen4DSLR/

Ben Anderson , Feb 20, 2006; 07:28 a.m.

I'd also be interested in hearing about anyone else with a rebel XT/350D who has a different screen fitted, particularly if it's a brighter one.

Peter White , Feb 20, 2006; 08:30 a.m.

For manual focus I would strongly suggest you save up a little more and get the 5D. Its standard screen will focus easier than the 350. And for $35 there's a better screen for fast lenses, the Ee-S screen. With the Ee-S it's almost like having my F-1 viewfinder again. It's very good.

The add the Anglefinder C if you need more magnification.

If you have to use the 350XT, certainly get the Anglefinder C. It will do more for you than the aftermarket screens, in my opinion. The reason is that the aftermarket screens will only help you in the center of the screen, in the focus aid itself. If you want to see focus across the entire screen, (mounted on a tripod and perhaps using a tilt/shift lens) you'll need something that will show you the entire screen, not just what's happening in the center. By magnifying everything you'll be able to see what's happening in the corners, at least when using the 1.25 setting.


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