Author Topic: Alternative focusing screens for DSLRs - focusing on the matte area  (Read 15145 times)

arthurking83

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My focus screen experiences have been:

first attempt for a better alternative on the D70s, a cheap .. and definitely nasty! .. ebay product.
While $30 wasn't a huge hit to my pocket, it certainly wasn't worth that amount(other than if one ever needed replacement).

moral to that story is if you want a better focusing screen(ie. experience) avoid the cheap ebay products. If you have somehow managed to damage the focus screen and simply need a replacement at $30 they're ok.

My next experience was with the Katzeye with optibright fro my D300.
In hindsight I should have also purchased one for the D70s, only because(with hindsight) it's too late now as they no longer exist. The hope being that an enterprising person may take up such a challenge one day.
In a word, the Katzeye with optibright on the D300 was, for all intents and purposes, perfect.
It's easy to focus at the periphery using just the matte even with such lenses as the 50/1.2(wide open) and even the dingy dark old 500/8.
A small amount of darkening is apparent with the 500/8, and any other smaller than f/5.6 lens(ie. lenses with teleconverters, etc).
My other lens that pertains to this point is an old Tamron 300/2.8 for which I have both a 2x and 1.4x T/C and can confirm that is still bright enough to use easily and still coarse enough to focus accurately too.

My katzeye had both microprism and split prism focus aides. I was a bit weary of Katzeye's marketing about their unique split prism design, in that black out is delayed till very late in the small aperture range .. but my fear was unfounded.
Where the relevance to the Tamron lens comes into it, is that it's my only lens that I can test at small apertures(eg. f/11 or f/16) and still get a shallow DOF to test both focus accuracy and split prism blackout.
Blackout begins to appear at about f/16 on the Tamron lens with both T/Cs attached(ie. at 840mm and f/16 and close range focus)
Even in such conditions, while the vf is significantly darker due to f/16, and the split prism is only slightly blacking out .. focus with the split prism is still easily achieved on good subject matter.

I couldn't give an accurate assessment of the brightness difference between the stock D300 screen and the katzeye with optibright, but the katzeye is most certainly brighter to begin with .. maybe 0.3 to 0.7Ev(possibly more) AND more accurate to focus faster lenses.
Manual focus has never let me down, other than for my inability as a practitioner. That is, with a stable camera and static subject matter, I can hit focus 99.99% of the time with the D300 + Katzeye.
In give and take situations where fast focus is required(of a manual lens) it's most certainly my inability that misses the shot.

My third experience with another focus screen is as Sten, with the S Type from focusingscreen.com for my D800E.
Accuracy is superb.
As above in terms of capability in ideal conditions and situations. I can hit focus easily due to the coarse nature of the screen.
Only problem is the darkness through the vf.
Once again  .. one word .. massive!(darkness).
With fast f/2 or faster lenses it's not a huge problem. in fact, barely a problem. But with an f/2.8 lens of any type ... 300mm or 24mm! .. the vf is darkened enough to notice it.
Add an f/4.5 lens and it's almost a pain in low light.
Add a 500/8 and it's murderous(the darkness through the vf) .. except in very bright light.

While the stock D800 is brighter than a stock D300, with the aforementioned screens fitted now, the D800 is now a few Ev darker at f/2.8 than is the D300 + katzeye(optibright version).

So much so that the D800+S-Type with a 24-70/2.8 mounted and zoomed in to 70mm is about as dark as the D300+Katzeye with the 500/8. Both setups pointed at a blank pale wall/screen to replicate the same lighting for each focal length.
if I switch the lens/camera combos(ie. D800 with 500/8 and D300 with 24-70/2.8) it's like having one eye closed(obviously the D800 eye) where by comparison to the D300 eye, a blank white PC screen is a very very dark grey and the D300 is bright enough for anyone to consider white.

The method used for the above comparison is to hold the two camera/lens combinations at each eye at the same time, in a sort of binocular manner.
Both pointed to the same PC screen, with a blank white page.
The same method used with no lens mounted on either camera produces near identical brightness levels.
For accuracy in observation, the D800 vf is significantly larger by comparison to the D300, and with the two respective screens fitted, (D800 + S-Type) and D300 + Katzeye) there are colour balance differences too. S-Type is more red cast and Katzeye is more green cast.
I can't remember there being any colour cast to either of the stock screens, and it's fiddly to replace and check this without a direct comparion.
Next time I catch up with anyone with either a D300 or D800, I will try to remember to check for this colour cast difference.

If I can work out an accurate method to capture this with consistent and accurate exposure levels to indicate the differences, I'll reply once again with those results.
But needless to say that S-Type screen at f/2.8 is approximately 3Ev darker.
You don't see this at f/2, it may well be darker than even a stock screen with an f/2 lens but it's not a noticeable. Neither is it a notable difference compared to the katzeye.

One last point, if you can bear with me.
Even tho I have commented that this S-Type screen from focusingscreen.com produces a darker vf, focusing is still somehow possible even in very dark conditions.
The other day when out with some friends, I had the opportunity to have one final play in the dark, and the thought of manually focusing the D800 in the dark crossed my mind for no obvious reason.
I mounted the Sigma 50/1.4 I have(old model) as the other thought was for how well AF would work.
AF in this dark situation was out of the question.
Couldn't give an accurate estimate of an Ev level, other than barely anything other than a well lit ferris wheel was visible through the vf. Seeing in this dark was easy enough with the eye, but not so much through the camera .. nor Lv mode(it was all noise or too dark too). You could make out shapes via Lv mode, but the noise levels with the increased gain of the Lv system made focusing on anything impossible.
YET! somehow I still managed to focus accurately in this darkness ... manually. And not only once(by luck) but consistently once I got my eye in.
Out of 4 frames, the first attempt was missed(frontwards).
Once I got my eye in(to the light conditions), the next 3 shots were all focused. At 50mm with an acceptably sharp lens(not the sharpest at f/1.4) in almost total darkness.

So on one hand the S-Type sounds like a major liability, yet even with that obvious liability it still allows accurate focus.

I've never experienced either AF issues, nor metering issues with either focus screen fitted.
Arthur

Erik Lund

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Thanks for the heads up!
Erik Lund

Řivind Třien

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Thanks for the response all of you, and Sten and Arthur in particular for sharing your experiences.

Sten, It is encouraging to hear that you would go for the S-screen again.

Arthur, it sounds to me like the brightness of the non-Optibright Katzeye is in many ways close to the S-screen. I think my experience is similar, that it is possible to focus in pretty low light even with these not so bright screens - I would like to add - as long as wide optics is not involved (although I have sometimes success with that too, but then far from 100%).

I now and then surprise myself by doing these super fast manual focus captures in the blink of a second in not so favorable conditions, and with no chance of rocking focus back and forth. I think that the brain perhaps after a while learns to stop at just the right point, decision taken before the image looks crisp (there is a little reaction time before stopping movement of the focusing ring). But then it is essential to have a realistic blur of out of focus subjects relative to the final capture.

I likewise use the amount of blurring to estimate how much I need to compensate for IR shots (Particularly with my 105/2.5) after obtaining sharp focus on the screen. This is just a minor twist of the focusing ring toward closer focus.
Řivind Třien

Erik Lund

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One more aspect to take into account when seeking to get the plane of sharpness correct is that for some lenses that plane moves as the lens is stopped down, you dont see that on the matte screen of a DSLR, until you hit the aperture stop down, but you will see it in live view and on an EVF that works with lens stopped down...
Erik Lund

Tektrader

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I have a Katzeye split/screen and prism combo screen here for my D7000 which I don't have anymore. Anyone want it?
Graham Johnson

Řivind Třien

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Re: Alternative focusing screens for DSLRs - focusing on the matte area
« Reply #20 on: November 13, 2015, 23:03:08 »
I became recently aware that a last batch of Katzeye screens was announced at the Katzeye web site in September. I got an answer from Rachael this morning:
"It is good to hear from you.  We are still collecting orders for the final production batch, though not for much longer.  We are within a couple of weeks of closing off the order-taking process.  I would have to check inventory to see if we have any of the all matte material left in stock.  My sense is that we probably don’t, but I will check into it and let you know."

So if anybody are in the market,  there might be a possibility, but one will have to act rather soon. I will update when I hear back regarding the all matte screen.
Řivind Třien

zuglufttier

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Re: Alternative focusing screens for DSLRs - focusing on the matte area
« Reply #21 on: December 14, 2015, 17:42:02 »
Now that the screens from Katzeye and those are ridicously expensive, I looked into alternatives and ended up buying a Canon EG-S for my D700. Well, it doesn't fit to begin with but after filing it down a bit it will ;) Just use the old screen as an example.

I paid about 30 euros if I'm not wrong. The screen is getting quite a bit darker but manual focussing get's easier, especially if you use fast primes which I do most of the time.

I ended up make a few very small scratches on the screen while filing down... But I can live with that, especially at that price point!

arthurking83

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Re: Alternative focusing screens for DSLRs - focusing on the matte area
« Reply #22 on: December 14, 2015, 18:37:22 »
Now that the screens from Katzeye and those are ridicously expensive, I looked into alternatives ....


.... The screen is getting quite a bit darker but manual focussing get's easier, especially if you use fast primes which I do most of the time.

....

I suppose the term ridiculously expensive needs to be predefined accurately.
While they are pricey, I actually didn't find them expensive, and would gladly pay that price again simply for the sheer quality.

My two main cameras are D800E and D300. D300 has the Katzeye and D300 uses the S screen from Focus Screen Dot Com.
FSDC is good, but the Katzeye is clearly a lot better .. by a few orders of magnitude. The primary difference is in the brightness level comparison.
I would assume that with normal screens fitted, the D800 would offer a brighter more accurate screen to the D300's vf.
The Katzeye is so much brighter now, and a little more accurate to focus, but that's mainly due to the split prism option I ordered from Katzeye.

In my testing, I think Katzeye claimed that split screen was good down to about f/11 or so before blackout, and I can confirm that .. I think down to about f/16 even!(that is f/11 is still usable)
Arthur

Řivind Třien

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Re: Alternative focusing screens for DSLRs - focusing on the matte area
« Reply #23 on: December 14, 2015, 21:30:46 »

Are you comparing to the Optibright treated version of the Katzeye?
Řivind Třien

arthurking83

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Re: Alternative focusing screens for DSLRs - focusing on the matte area
« Reply #24 on: December 15, 2015, 19:50:03 »
Yes .. Optibright version for D300(I forgot to mention)
Arthur

Řivind Třien

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Re: Alternative focusing screens for DSLRs - focusing on the matte area
« Reply #25 on: December 16, 2015, 13:06:15 »
Thanks Arthur, the Optibright version is about midway between a stock screen and the one without the treatment with respect to transparency/realistic depth of field per my previous experiments (as mentioned earlier I have one in my D200). I have been communicating with Rachael at Katzeye about their final production run, however things have been delayed because they moved to a new facility and have not gotten inventory unpacked yet. She estimated that material for 0-2 all matte screens would be available. Because of this uncertainty and because I was pretty much geared towards the non-Optibrite treatment all matte version for more realistic depth of field view (as in my D40x/D5100), I went ahead with an order of an S-screen from focusingscreen.com for my new D7100. it is already on its way to me so we will see how that works out. One thing I like about that alternative is that there is no engraved circle, which could become a slightly messy on top of the marked oval for the extent of the  focus area.
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Řivind Třien

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Re: Alternative focusing screens for DSLRs - focusing on the matte area
« Reply #26 on: December 17, 2015, 10:50:44 »
I just thought it is worth mentioning that the images for the D7100 install on focusingscreen.com's web site are incorrect. They assume D7100 and D7000 have  the same layout. Inspection of my D7100 (below) shows that it is similar to D300, which is correctly used as example for the D7100 install at the Katzeye site. On the images showing  D7000 in Focusingscreen's instructions, and D90 on Katzeye's site, the retaining wire has to be pulled towards the mount to be released, while on the D7100 (and D300) it is pushed towards the screen for release. The retaining wire has a bump to make it easier to release it.

The D7100 focusing screen retaining wire and catch (reflected in the mirror):

Řivind Třien

Řivind Třien

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Re: Alternative focusing screens for DSLRs - focusing on the matte area
« Reply #27 on: December 28, 2015, 08:02:44 »
I received the S-screen from focusingscreen.com just before Christmas and installed it yesterday without getting a single dust spot. So far it does not seem necessary to install any additional shims or remove the one present; focus seems accurate. My initial impression reflects those of Arthur with respect to brightness, although not quite as dramatic as he describes :)  : "But needless to say that S-Type screen at f/2.8 is approximately 3Ev darker" (perhaps a printing error for f/8?)

Focusingscreen.com S-screen (FS) comparison to D7100 stock screen with 105/2.5:

f/2.5:  FS is 0.66 stop dimmer than the stock screen, depth of field realistic.
      Stock screen depth of field as an exposure at f/4.5-5.6

f/2.8:  Both about the same brightness as at f/2.5
     
f/4:  FS 0.66 stop dimmer than at f/2.5, ca. 1.5 stop dimmer than the stock screen.
    Stock screen about the same brightness as at f/2.5

f/5.6:  FS 1.66 stop dimmer than at f/2.5, ca 1.75 stop dimmer than stock screen
      Stock screen 0.75 stop dimmer than at f/2.5

f/8:  FS is 2.3 stop dimmer than at f/2.5
     Stock screen 1.3 stop dimmer dimmer than at f/2.5

(Results obtained using constant exposure of viewfinder with AW1 as recording instrument, using adjustment sliders in CNX2 to judge exposure of selected points in image. I also did a series with the FS screen where I adjusted exposure according to the aperture used on the lens.)

In conclusion I must admit that the screen is dimmer than I really wish for. If one depends on frequently using lenses with max aperture of f/8 I would think twice about installing the screen. However I am presently testing under worst case conditions with very little daylight or even night scenes(need to turn off the viewfinder O-LEDs for framing then...) , so I think it will work for me with my Nikon 12-24mm and the 300PF with 1.4 converter. The 105/2.5 is unproblematic.

Unfortunately I forgot to do systematic before - after meter tests with different lenses. Results so far indicates that metering needs exposure compensation of at least -0.3 to -0.7 EV .

I do not have access to my other camera bodies right now, so comparison to the all-matte Katzeye screens  with and without Optibright will have to wait.
Řivind Třien

Řivind Třien

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Re: Alternative focusing screens for DSLRs - focusing on the matte area
« Reply #28 on: January 14, 2016, 22:45:13 »
I do not have access to my other camera bodies right now, so comparison to the all-matte Katzeye screens  with and without Optibright will have to wait.

I finally got to compare the S-screen from focusingscreen.com in my D7100 to my all matte non-optibright Katzeye screen in my D5100. To make comparison even with respect to viewfinder image size I used a magnifier on the D5100 while not on D7100, and a 55mm f/3.5 simultaneously on each body. The consensus is that the S-Screen is much darker than a similar Katzeye screen in spite of the inferior viewfinder of the D5100. This was quite a bit of a disappointment as I thought the differences mentioned above by Arthur could have been due to comparing an Optibright treated screen to a standard screen with less transparency. With 105/2.5 mounted on D7100 and compared to 55/3.5 on D5100, the D7100 viewfinder was still less bright, probably by 1/3 to 1/2 a stop. Actually 50mm/1.8 on D7100 was about the same brightness only slightly brighter than 55/3.5 on D5100. So too bad Katzeye is ending production. Perhaps one will have to find a source for the FM3A all matte screens and have it cut oneself...

I wonder why the screen is less bright? could it be that the fresnel lenses of the Canon S-screen is not well adapted to Nikon's register distance/typical exit pupil location? Or perhaps the screen is just even less transparent, althogh both screens do seem to provide a pretty realistic view of the background blurring. I do also have a feeling that contrast suffers somewhat. The FM3A etc. was known to have a quite big and bright viewfinder.

I wonder what size/shape the D500 screens will be?
Řivind Třien

stenrasmussen

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Re: Alternative focusing screens for DSLRs - focusing on the matte area
« Reply #29 on: January 14, 2016, 23:10:39 »
Your finding makes it clear (no pun intended) that the Optibrite from Katzeye is more friendly for MF.
If I get the D500 I don't think I will replace the screen as I would use it for AF work. But popping the screen out to check its dimensions will be easy.