Split Screen Focusing


Link Posted 18/12/2014 - 19:41
I just picked up an ME Super and I am using the split screen focussing for the first time.

Ive just loaded a film so it will be a week or so before I can put a roll through it to make sure the camera is sound.


This split screen / prism thingy is hard to get used to after a big lay off! - (20 years)

at times its a bugger to ascertain whether Ive nailed it or not - for example on a pattern or mosaic.

Other times you are just throwing the lens out and in and ascertaining what you perceive to be in focus because you cant lock on to something solid in the middle.

Any one else any thoughts or experiences on this?
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Link Posted 18/12/2014 - 21:30
I use to find something vertical to focus on
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Link Posted 18/12/2014 - 22:58
I used an ME Super for so many years it became automatic... so automatic I'd have to go use one again to work out what I did. From memory, I either looked for something in the right plane that I could use the split screen on, or I ignored the middle stuff altogether and used the plain ground glass. The viewfinder is so big and bright it was never really a problem unlike trying to manually focus modern dSLRs which always feels like one is peering down the wrong end of a telescope...
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Link Posted 19/12/2014 - 09:44
What a brilliant camera had mine for years and only parted with because black bits were falling into the mirror there is a seal just inside just where you connect the lens. i still have the manual for it if you need it

Regards Dave


Link Posted 19/12/2014 - 10:35
When I used these cameras I never used the split image, relying just on the sharpness as perceived on the focusing screen. It depends on our eyesight whether we can do this. Also, the viewfinder is set at about -1 dioptre, so our eyes need to be able to focus on an image about 1 metre away, which is the virtual distance of the focusing screen. This is not adjustable like current cameras are, so a correction lens may need to be fitted over the viewfinder. Sometimes reading glasses can give a much sharper view, enabling better focusing.

When tested by Photo Technique people's ability to focus on the same spot varied by wide amounts between different people or even the same person at different times, so manual focus can be very inaccurate unless extreme care is taken. Depth of Field covers it usually, but modern AF is much, much more reliable than our own eyes.

The black bits were from the seals and buffers as 1970s and 1980s foam just falls apart in time. Fortunately, no need to throw a camera away because the foam seals can be easily replaced.

Hope that helps!
Best regards, John
Last Edited by johnriley on 19/12/2014 - 10:36


Link Posted 19/12/2014 - 12:25
My last MF film camera had a diagonal split and this worked perfectly if there were any strong vertical or horizontal lines in the shot. The surrounding area, brightened by a fresnel screen, snapped in and out of focus sharply and worked well with most subjects. I'm sure the MX Super is equally capable. As John suggests, good eyesight is critical unless you have a supplementary viewfinder lens. I checked out a friend's old SLR a few weeks ago and told him the lens was buggered because it simply wouldn't focus properly. Then the penny dropped: if anything was buggered it was my eyesight. I don't think many (or any) SLRs of that era had a variable dioptre viewfinder.



Link Posted 19/12/2014 - 23:39
The P30n has a diagonal split screen - I found it even harder than the standard one. I found that you need to shove your eye right into the viewfinder frame to be able to see both halves clearly but I suspect that John's comment about differential visual acuity (blimey-that's good!) is more than half of the argument. I had to give up on it eventually because my results were becoming ridiculously out of focus even though I'd have sworn the images were good in the viewfinder.
Oddly, with a *istDS and a K5 I happily use manual focus most of the time but even there, I find that the focus confirmation bleep/ icon is much more reliable than my Mk1 eyeball (and the diopter slider is hard over to the left on them both).
I can still operate a Watameter split screen rangefinder and an Exa iiB SLR split image viewfinder so the quality of the equipment must also have some bearing on the phenomenon.
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Link Posted 20/12/2014 - 10:45
Split screen and microprism focusing are great. Most of my film cameras have them and I installed a Katzeye with both in my K200D to allow me to use manual focus lenses on it.
Pentax hybrid user - Digital K3, film 645 and 35mm SLR and Pentax (&other) lenses adapted to Fuji X and Panasonic L digital
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Link Posted 25/12/2014 - 18:24
I think it's just a matter of getting used to it (with glasses/contacts if needed), and looking for objects at or close to the desired focal point where it will be obvious if they are 'split'. Try turning the camera to focus it if the object doesn't have vertical edges. I used split screen focusing for many years before going digital and never gave it a second thought - like Jonathan-Mac I changed my K20D screen to split prism and generally focussed manually, only the improved autofocus on the K5 convincing me it wasn't worth doing the same with that. Reverting to my ME Super is fine, the only minor complaint I have is the lack of dioptre adjustment, so I need glasses to focus,
K5IIs & ME Super with FA24-90, DA17-70, DA55-300, misc old primes; Fuji X20.
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