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I've updated my Leica M article series with a new page 43 on how to focus the Rangefinder / Meßsucher

 

The Decisive Moment - Focusing the Leica M - Part 2/5

 

 

 

This is the 2nd of 5 new pages on focusing a Leica M. The first page is also online here:

 

The Minority Report - Focusing the Leica M - Part 1/5

 

Feel free to comment and suggest further tips. Next page is on using the EVF

 

 

 

 

 

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Hi Thorsten!

 

I miss this (maybe I skipped it reading your pages?)

 

Once the viewfinder is corrected optimally, there are three methods of focusing, in ascending order of difficulty aka training.

1. The broken line method. Look for a vertical line in the image and bring it together in the rangefinder patch to be continuous.

2. The coincidence method. Look for a pattern in the image and bring it together to coincide. This may lead to errors with repeating patterns.

3. The contrast method. Once you have focus by method 1. or 2. a small adjustment will cause the rangefinder patch to "jump" into optimum contrast. At that point you have the most precise focussing adjustment.

Coming from this post in the FAQ:

 

http://www.l-camera-forum.com/topic/216580-leica-m8-m82-m9-m9p-mm-mtyp240-faqs-questions-with-answers/?p=2464049

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Thanks Thorsten, having read the article and having used an M for the best part of a year, I'm wondering if the M camera is the best tool for me for street photography if shallow DoF is the aim (why else spend so much on a fast lens other than for low light, or static subjects).

If I look at my hit rate, I would say the number of keepers I'm getting compared to an AF camera systems has gone down by an order of magnitude, or possibly worse. The only way I can achieve respectable numbers is to use f8, but that leads to boring photographs having everything in focus, or near focus. In your own words, you recommend hitting the shutter and to accept the attrition, and/or pre-focusing and awaiting your subject to enter a particular point in space - and it will be a narrow plane for a fast lens. I'm resisting the temptation to revert to AF, but to use the M effectively I might need to get myself a 28/f2.8 for the widest zone of focus and accept the DoF as a limitation.

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Hi Steve, I'm relatively new to range finder too - even more than you are - so I'm still learning the ins and outs of RF focusing too, but I have been learning to appreciate having a larger DoF.

 

There are times when a shallow DoF is perfect for the situation, but I think that if all (or even most) of your compositions rely on a thin DoF then you need to look at adjusting how you compose. I used to shoot everything with my 85mm f1.2 at f2 or wider, and while you can make some very striking photos with it, they all start to look samey after a while and I realised it was a bit of a crutch allowing me to get away with thoughtless composition.

 

I've also learnt to embrace the slightly less technically perfect photo since I've had my M. I've found that perfect focus doesn't necessarily make or break a photo as much as I'd thought it did.

 

The M is forcing me to think about my backgrounds a bit more, which I'm just starting to do, but enjoying so far

Edited by ralphh
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Interesting to read what you said, Ralph, now that I'm more or less forced to use the 'f8 and be there' technique, I'm also paying far more attention to the background before taking a shot (I only do street photography, I have little or no interest in photographing 'things').

 

I currently have a 50/f1.4 ASPH and a 35/f2 ASPH and I'm wondering whether I'd see an improvement if I had a 28/f2.8 (no need for a fast lens when I'm more likely to set it to f8 anyway). I'm trawling the usual social media to help my judgement. Any thoughts from you?

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Interesting to read what you said, Ralph, now that I'm more or less forced to use the 'f8 and be there' technique, I'm also paying far more attention to the background before taking a shot (I only do street photography, I have little or no interest in photographing 'things').

I currently have a 50/f1.4 ASPH and a 35/f2 ASPH and I'm wondering whether I'd see an improvement if I had a 28/f2.8 (no need for a fast lens when I'm more likely to set it to f8 anyway). I'm trawling the usual social media to help my judgement. Any thoughts from you?

I don't think the lens matters too much; the 28 isn't going to be be different from you 35. I have the 28mm 2.8 and it's a bit of a pain to see the frame lines. sometimes I wish I had a 35, except for all the times I find my 28 is just wide enough it's a good cafe lens.

 

Whatever lenses you have, the grass will always seem greener though.

 

I find that if I want an undistracting background I actively look for one, and if I want a photo with more content, I look for a good background. As pretty as an f1.4 shot is, there isn't much content in it. People look for 3 seconds and go 'that's nice' and move on. The photos that people look at for longer are the photos with lots of things to be found in them.

 

I use my Leica for photographing my daughter mostly. Her face in front of a load of bokeh balls gets a bit repetitive after a while so I'm very happy to be shooting at f4 and f5.6 much of the time, and f8 if I know I need it.

 

I've kinda built up though, starting at f8 and working my way up. I will shoot wide open semi regularly now, but only if I specifically want bokeh balls, not because that's the only background I know how to make.

 

I take a LOT of photos these days. Several hundred a week, and I still have focus issues with the M, but I have a lot of happy accidents with it too.

Edited by ralphh
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Well being in focus is only one aspect of a photo. A lot of Steve McCurry's work is not massively sharp either. Being able to zoom in to 100% on our computers has lead to an obsession on sharpness to the point where it's almost the only thing photographers think about anymore.

 

I was running through a field of long grass with my daughter the other day. I was running, she was running and I was taking photos.

 

Focus was very difficult.

 

Many were in focus, but the one below is by far my favourite shot. I missed focus on her completely and even cropped her head in half.

 

By luck the two storks of grass to the right are more or less in focus and anchor the composition.

 

This was one if my happy accidents. I didn't intend this at all, but it sums up the feeling of summer to me more than anything I could have thought to compose on purpose and I love it

Edited by ralphh
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If you look at HCB's fabulous work, a lot of his were out of focus too. But he was HCB and no one gave a damn, he was and still is revered like a god.

 

A lot?  Very few were out of focus as far as I've seen.  His photo of Saul Steinberg comes to mind.

Edited by zlatkob
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If you wish to see a perfect illustration of Ralphh's point, look no further than Alvin Langdon Coburn. All are spectacular, and yes, most seem soft. I would suggest looking up Coburn's portrait of Mark Twain.

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Thanks Thorsten, having read the article and having used an M for the best part of a year, I'm wondering if the M camera is the best tool for me for street photography if shallow DoF is the aim (why else spend so much on a fast lens other than for low light, or static subjects).

If I look at my hit rate, I would say the number of keepers I'm getting compared to an AF camera systems has gone down by an order of magnitude, or possibly worse. The only way I can achieve respectable numbers is to use f8, but that leads to boring photographs having everything in focus, or near focus. In your own words, you recommend hitting the shutter and to accept the attrition, and/or pre-focusing and awaiting your subject to enter a particular point in space - and it will be a narrow plane for a fast lens. I'm resisting the temptation to revert to AF, but to use the M effectively I might need to get myself a 28/f2.8 for the widest zone of focus and accept the DoF as a limitation.

 

You can shoot f/8, but if you ant to shoot wide open that can be done. 

 

Check the focus of the camera first, and if that is ok, then I would look at focusing technique in the street. Let people walk into the focus, and take 2-3 photos in series rather than one (leave the camera on C for Continuous). 

 

I've met so many who claim they are unable to nail the focus, but it's easy if you do it right. 

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Thanks Thorsten, an interesting read. That thing about repeating pattern and focusing, done that error once and learn not to repeat it.

 

 

 

Used to be a believer in tack sharp focusing till quite a few years ago when the revelation of "sharp" and "detail" were not the same and I might go out on a limb and consider quite a few of us had that revelation. Its one of the allures of the M.

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How did HCB manage? He regarded sharpness as a 'bourgeois' concept. It is nowadays a modern obsession, particularly with pixel peeping on large screens. If you cannot get the photos you want with the camera/lens combination you have, then you need to change one or both. You can, however, get perfectly acceptable photos with the time honoured zone focus method

 

Thanks Thorsten for the article.

 

William

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HCB was another time. Appreciated as his photographs are by connoisseurs, they probably would not make the grade on Flickr nowadays.

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HCB was another time. Appreciated as his photographs are by connoisseurs, they probably would not make the grade on Flickr nowadays.

 

 

Yup.   A 2011 story about a 2006 event: Why You Shouldn't Give Too Much Weight to Anonymous Online Critics [PetaPixel]

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Thorsten thinks too much fuss is made over the ability to see outside the frame lines on an M rangefinder; his very interesting article says this:

 

From this I personally conclude that the expanded view doesn't matter in reality. I seldom notice, and I never marvel nor think "Wow, it is so nice to see what is outside the frame."

 

But given the discrepancy between the view through the lens and the view through the viewfinder (parallax) the expanded view avoids giving you a false sense of security - what you see is what you get, plus or minus a little bit around the lines. I agree it's nothing to swoon about, but it is important.

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