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Focusing: what am I doing wrong?

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Focusing: what am I doing wrong? posted by bashveank December 27, 2008 03:32PM reply | quote
posted by bashveank
Just got a Lensbaby composer for Christmas and I'm very excited about it. However, I still can't seem to get a decent image out of it. I was just at my family Christmas party and took about 200 out of 250 pictures that were too out of focus to be usable, even out of the better 50 there weren't any perfect ones. Is my problem focus or sweet spot?
Also, through the viewfinder I find it really hard to tell what's inside the sweet spot and what borders on being out of focus. Should I be trying to tell where the sweet spot is using the viewfinder, or should I just mostly disregard the viewfinder and bend the lens to where I think it would make the sweet spot go?
Re: Focusing: what am I doing wrong? posted by whitemiata December 27, 2008 03:57PM reply | quote
posted by whitemiata
Let me prefix this by saying that I'm a newbie too. I've just done A LOT of reading and a lot of practicing (and I've played with DIY T/S lenses which work in similar ways to the LB) but I get a low keeper rate myself (then again, some of my favorite results are NOT tack sharp at all... it's just that the LB look just works very well with the shot)

You didn't specify what camera and what aperture you were shooting at.

Let's pretend you're shooting with my camera... a Canon 40D. Well guess what? If you're shooting with apertures wider than 4.0 The viewfinder is lying to you.

If you own a fast prime you already noticed this when you saw that shots taken at F1.4 or F1.8 etc. end up having a much NARROWER depth of field than what you saw in the viewfinder.

Incidentally I believe this will be true of most (if not all DSLRs out there)

So for starters I'd recommend that you start practicing with the 5.6 aperture or the 4.0 if you really must.

Next I'd recommend that you practice in GOOD LIGHT... you know... outdoors etc. It's bad enough to have to deal with this whole new concept, you don't want to also deal with a dark viewfinder at the same time.

Finally I'd recommend you practice a little with .... a ... brick wall. There, I said it! It's the most absurd thing ever - the Lensbaby is probably the best cure for those who spend their days shooting walls and then complaining about aberrations and distortions ... and here you're getting a suggestion to practice with a wall.

Thing is... A wall works well to practice moving that darned sweet spot around.

So does a newspaper and so does a cross-link fence.

Incidentally practicing with the smaller apertures (kinda neat how that term actually makes visible sense with the LB <grin>) also benefits you by giving you a larger sweet spot.

Alessandro

P.S. The best results I've had indoors have been with a smallish aperture (4 5.6 or 8) and bounced flash. If you gel the flash with a CTO you can also retain that indoorsy tungsten look

attached is an example of a shot I took @ a birthday party on the 26th... the room was very dark (dimmed recessed lights) so I bounced my 580EXII with a CTO gel on it.
Re: Focusing: what am I doing wrong? posted by bashveank December 27, 2008 11:18PM reply | quote
posted by bashveank
Ah, that helps. I'll keep that in mind and do some practice. Thanks!
I'm shooting with a Nikon D200 and I've been using mostly f/4, but I used f/2.8 a bit.
Re: Focusing: what am I doing wrong? posted by JoJo December 29, 2008 04:27AM reply | quote
posted by JoJo
I used my LB for the first time today. I can see it is going to take time for me to get the hang of it. Alessandro, thanks for your advice. I can't wait to try the brick wall!

Jo
Re: Focusing: what am I doing wrong? posted by whitemiata December 29, 2008 04:55AM reply | quote
posted by whitemiata
JoJo,

I don't know what camera you have, but if it has LiveView (with magnification) that can help too. I have a Canon 40D and it has LiveView with magnification. I've done some practicing by following these steps:

1. put the camera in liveview mode

2. Move the magnifying box over the area where I want the sweet spot

3. Attempt to move the sweet spot to that area by looking at the unmagnified image on the LCD.

4. Once I think I have it nailed, I zoom in to the first level of magnification (5x) and see how I did. If needed I correct things a bit.

5. Once it looks good at 5x I zoom to the max level (10x) and see how I did/correct.

Please note that I'm doing this primarily to practice... basically I figure that if I get 15 minutes of practice in every day by switching between viewfinder and LiveView I will eventually learn by feel what I need to do to get very close to where I want to be pretty quickly.

I'm also doing some practicing with my other lenses in MANUAL FOCUS mode. I figure the more I train my eye to recognize when things are in sharp focus, the faster I will get. Let alone the fact that there are definitelly some situations where manual focus comes in handy even with an AF lens.

I have to say that whatever one might think of the results I'm getting with my LB, it has definitelly encouraged me to improve my skills more so than any other lens I own. Kudos for that!

Alessandro

P.S. Actually for static subjects where you want something to definitelly be tack sharp, LiveView with magnification for final confirmation isn't a bad mode to be in to actually take the shot if you're either on a tripod or shooting at shutter speeds that are fast enough where you're not being killed by the "P&S hold" :-)
Re: Focusing: what am I doing wrong? posted by JoJo December 29, 2008 06:09AM reply | quote
posted by JoJo
I have a Nikon D70. I'm not familiar with LiveView. I'll check it out. Thanks.

Jo
Re: Focusing: what am I doing wrong? posted by jWebb January 01, 2009 02:38AM reply | quote
posted by jWebb

The LB is like any other lens; the smaller the aperture the wider the depth of field. Alessandro is correct in recommending to start out with a small (f/5.6) aperture disk and practice, practice, practice. I will also recommend that you be sure you have tuned your eyepiece diopter to your vision. If you aren't sure how to do this, check your book of instructions for the camera. The keeper rate with the LB is smaller than normal lenses, but the rewards are greater. Good luck.
Jack
Re: Focusing: what am I doing wrong? posted by jumpinjimmyjava January 03, 2009 09:41PM reply | quote
posted by jumpinjimmyjava

Hi bashveank, I have a Lensbaby 2.0 and I shoot wide open, NO aperture ring installed. This way your viewfinder is the brightest it can get and it is much easier to see if you have a good focus. Secondly (less is better than more) just practice achieving a suttle blur effect when starting out. Your keeper rate will be much higher and your pics will look fantastic. Thirdly, try to achieve focus with both eyes open. This works for me sometimes when I am having trouble focusing, especially in low light conditions. Good luck - jimmy

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion #quote The Dalai Lama
Re: Focusing: what am I doing wrong? posted by whitemiata January 04, 2009 09:24AM reply | quote
posted by whitemiata
jumpinjimmyjava makes a couple of great points. While I did suggest playing with the 5.6 there is a definite advantage (especially indoors) to having a brighter view. I would even add that having the smaller sweet spot makes it easier to see it (in LiveView or with a non-lying focusing screen <grin>).

That said, depending on what camera you have a wide open LB will look VERY DIFFERENT in the viewfinder than the actual photo, due to focusing screens designed more for giving a bright view than accurate focus (you know... with autofocus and all the manufacturers presume we don't need to judge focus, just blindly follow what their AF system says <grin>).

This can be plainly seen if you have a camera that offers LiveView. I am very aware of this problem, but still it amazes me how different the image looks at F2.0 between viewfinder and Liveview.

I ordered an EF-S high precision matte focusing screen for my 40D and am hoping to eliminate this *hurdle* ... but for those who are shooting with a manufacturer's focusing screen I'm afraid that you really can't trust what you see in the VF as much as you'd like to.
Re: Focusing: what am I doing wrong? posted by ranfoto January 06, 2009 04:55PM reply | quote
posted by ranfoto

One more point to add to this discussion .....

Simple lenses are soft because the light scatters, so don't expect broad lighted images to look very sharp .

Look for direct or hard light that is more contrasty so your images "look' sharper. Flat light is boring light for most subjects, so keep that in mind .

Great imaging is about capturing interesting light that reflects off your subject and background .....Bending is more then just making blurs fun, but that's just my opinion on the subject, there are no rules in this game so go for it !



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/06/2009 04:56PM by ranfoto.
Re: Focusing: what am I doing wrong? posted by ChrisG January 09, 2009 12:27AM reply | quote
posted by ChrisG

I am struggling with the same issue. But I think it has also to do with an incorrect diopter.
If this is not correct all your images will be out of focus. What you can do to set it correct is to put your camera on a tripod and put the camera in liveview mode. Focus on the subject and use a x 10 mag. When it is perfect in focus look at the viewfinder. Is the object also correct in focus. If not, correct your viewfinder. Because it is a manual focus this is very important to do.

just my 2 cents...

Chris
Re: Focusing: what am I doing wrong? posted by SKF January 09, 2009 07:07PM reply | quote
posted by SKF

Some great tips here.

That comment from whitemiata about using LV is worth the weight of my mac in gold. I haven't played with my LV much (D300) but I just did then, using my bench as a tripod and you can get that sweet spot sharp as. But only if your diopter is calibrated to your eye. I like the LV method for the diopter but I use a 60mm macro on a tripod and get something sharp, well sharp.

Great forum, keep up the good work

Steve.

steve
Re: Focusing: what am I doing wrong? posted by rannestad January 25, 2009 06:01AM reply | quote
posted by rannestad

Some fine tips from the previous posters. Liveview may be ok, but not very dynamic in my opinion. I have LiveView on the Canon 40D, but use it very seldom.

Here is my suggestion. The suggestion which has helped me several hundret per cents:)
Change your focusing screen to a manual type. Period.

I don't know if Nikon has an origianl focusing screen for the D200, but you can get one from Katz-eye. Have a look at a post I wrote some time ago:
[lensbaby.com],

I have three cameras:
*Nikon D70 with katz-eye focusing screen (without split screen)+ kps 1.35x viewfinder magnifier.
*Canon 40D with original Canon precision matte screen for manual focus.
*Canon 5D with original Canon precision matte screen for manual focus.

Due to the magnifier and the super katz-eye screen on the Nikon, I almost always get sharp images on that camera.

The bright large viewfinder on the 5D including the focusing screen has made me switch to mostly focusing manual even on fast standard optics such as aperture f1.4. I seldom use autofocus.

For the 40D I have a high hit rate with the manual focus, but I also use autofocus (on standard glass). I don't think the Canon focusing screen is as good as the katz-eye + I don't have the magnifier. The D200 is probably quite comparable to the Canon 40D in this respect.

This turned out to be a long post. The conclusion is: Get a new focusing screen, preferably a katz-eye without split screen and without brightening treatment. Optionally you may consider a magnifier.

-----------------------------------------
My website: [www.fotoaalborg.dk]
Blog (English): [www.retrofoto.dk]
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Re: Focusing: what am I doing wrong? posted by b2photos April 28, 2009 02:38PM reply | quote
posted by b2photos
Has anyone tried using a view camera focusing loupe through the viewfinder and adjust your diopter, especially when trying to focus at f16-f22? Thought about that when i was shooting f22 in somewhat low light conditions, it may help some?
b2photos



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/28/2009 02:38PM by b2photos.
Re: Focusing: what am I doing wrong? posted by Yossarian May 06, 2009 01:57PM reply | quote
posted by Yossarian
Quote
rannestad
....... The conclusion is: Get a new focusing screen, preferably a katz-eye without split screen and without brightening treatment. Optionally you may consider a magnifier.

Thanks for that tip. Just wondering: Why do you suggest getting the Katz-Eye WITHOUT the Brightening Option? I am eyeing this screen already for some time, and have always thought that the loss of Brightness the normal version gives you might be a real problem in most other uses, apart maybe from the Lensbaby Focusing. And changing the screens on the field isn't really practical me thinks.
How is your experience with the screen you mentioned (on the Canon 40D) with Low Light Photography and conventional lenses, compared to the Standard Canon screen?

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