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wbabbott3

A modest proposal for a "New" Leica R

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Back then, at the end of R camera and lens production, we were promised a "new" R camera to replace that well-loved camera and its lenses.

The SL can mount R lenses and it can help you focus a MF R lens with Live View and the joy stick enlargement. But mounting an R lens on an SL is only half of providing an equivalent R camera.

The MF experience is a two-fold hand and eye operation: focusing the lens by hand AND using a split-field viewfinder to focus it. That latter step is not now available for the SL, but could be furnished very simply.

In AF mode, the SL sensor gets light through the mounted AF lens, detects the degree of un-focus (the error signal), and issues commands to the lens's motor to focus it.

With a MF lens attached, everything is the same except that the commands have no where to go and are not used.

To me there is a simple way to use that degree of un-focus (the error signal) with a MF lens.

Let it drive a computer- generated image of a split-field viewfinder.

As the MF lens is focused by hand, in lieu of a motor, the state of focus would be displayed as if there was a real, split-field optical viewfinder in use. Thus the eye-hand manual focus of the R camera would be preserved in the SL, or other AF cameras that can mount a MF lens.

Think about it this way: 

Simply replace the motor focusing an AF lens with a hand focusing a MF lens, guided by a synthetic computer-generated split-level display in the Electronic View Finder.

With this bit of digital skullduggery, any AF camera with an EVF which can mount a MF lens can be used exactly like any MF camera with a split-field rangefinder.

I hope Leica will provide this feature in the near future so that R lens fans can use their MF lenses with an SL body just the way they used them on an R camera body.

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The Fuji X series have done something similar to what you suggest (they call it "digital split image"), however the implementation is poorly thought out (like many aspects), I do not think the poor implementation kills the idea itself. I am sure Leica could do it properly.

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You don't like focus peaking? Focus peaking tells you, what will be sharp in the image. All of it, not just one point in the center of the image. /Jan

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I don't know about anyone else, but using an SLR has never been all about using a split image rangefinder, to me. On nearly every SLR I've owned, one of the first things I did was replace the standard screen with micro prism or split image rangefinder focusing aids for a plain matte fresnel screen, preferably with scribed grid lines. Much easier to see with. :)

The SL is a good replacement for an R body, for me. But I'd rather a CL body, as is or, preferably, with a FF sensor: it's closer to the size and weight of my R6.2 where the SL body is larger and heavier, like the Leicaflex SL. 

Edited by ramarren

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I also always preferred a plain (or grid) matte screen as the best way to judge sharpness. I do better with that than with focus aids.

Edited by TomB_tx

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My thanks to my fellow Leica users for your comments, which made me realize my myopia with regard to rangefinders. All of my experience until the SL arrived was with Leica optical viewfinder cameras, M, R and S.

After your comments, I went back to the R manual and found that in addition to the split level universal one I used there were four others available I have never even tried.

Which leads me to say that my suggestion was not intended to be a paean to split filed but simply to a way to use a mirrorless camera's computer to create an artificial viewfinder in the EVF when using a MF lens. And I am delighted to see that Fuji has provided a "proof of principle," no matter its utility.

Also, I have no problem using focus peaking, when it appears, to verify what is in focus, but I use it to visualize depth of field. For some reason It comes and goes in my M240 and SL. When it appears, it is indeed helpful.

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The problem with the Fuji split-image implementation is that it simply doesn't work very well, and the Fuji EVF in general I find to be substandard quality.

Magnification and peaking are the best assistants to focusing with an EVF available so far. The Leica SL and CL EVFs are pretty much state of the art, both without and with use of these assistants. 

BTW: I wish I could find the focusing screen numbers for the R6.2. I only acquired that camera recently and I'd really like the #4 screen for it, but the R6.2 instruction manual doesn't list the numbers, and most of the dealers I've spoken with don't have a clue... 

Edited by ramarren

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Late in the life of the R system Leica introduced yet another viewfinder screen, which was effectively the standard screen with additional grid lines. I've got this screen on both my R8 and R9.

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1 hour ago, ramarren said:

BTW: I wish I could find the focusing screen numbers for the R6.2. I only acquired that camera recently and I'd really like the #4 screen for it, but the R6.2 instruction manual doesn't list the numbers, and most of the dealers I've spoken with don't have a clue... 

Here you go...!

 

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On 2/17/2019 at 9:58 AM, ramarren said:

I don't know about anyone else, but using an SLR has never been all about using a split image rangefinder, to me. On nearly every SLR I've owned, one of the first things I did was replace the standard screen with micro prism or split image rangefinder focusing aids for a plain matte fresnel screen, preferably with scribed grid lines. Much easier to see with. :)

The SL is a good replacement for an R body, for me. But I'd rather a CL body, as is or, preferably, with a FF sensor: it's closer to the size and weight of my R6.2 where the SL body is larger and heavier, like the Leicaflex SL. 

Exactly the same here. Full matte screen on all my R cameras in the past. No microprisms either, they black out just as easily and make a horrid "hole" in the middle of my frame.

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2 hours ago, M9reno said:

Here you go...!

 

Excellent, thank you! And there was a 14 306 available in the box as new on Ebay. Note: "was." :D

G

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Dear friends,

From all the many comments and opinions this topic has elicited, I had a "blinding glimpse of the obvious" which is that, with modest effort, Leica "could" afford every mirrorless camera it produces with every rangefinder screen it has ever produced.

That would make all the dealer and ebay searches for the "screen I used to have" obsolete and be a Leica system wide resource for the long haul. That R6.2 screen you loved? Here it is, right in your new camera or a simple download away. Hmm... I can dream, can't I?

Edited by wbabbott3

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On 2/17/2019 at 6:10 AM, TomB_tx said:

I also always preferred a plain (or grid) matte screen as the best way to judge sharpness. I do better with that than with focus aids.

Same for myself.

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On 17 February 2019 at 2:10 PM, TomB_tx said:

I also always preferred a plain (or grid) matte screen as the best way to judge sharpness. I do better with that than with focus aids.

I suspect that this is down to experience and the ability to assess the whole image as much as anything else. Focus aids are great when there is a specific part of the subject that suits their use and which they can be easily used on. But they are less helpful in any situation which has any complexity in it. Which is when experience and a plain screen work very well. Thinking about it, its probably one of the reasons that I find EVF cameras to be rather less satisfactory for me than I probably should do.

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On 2/19/2019 at 8:19 PM, jaapv said:

Exactly the same here. Full matte screen on all my R cameras in the past. No microprisms either, they black out just as easily and make a horrid "hole" in the middle of my frame.

The only problem that I find here Jaapv is that as I predominately use a 21mm Super Angulon F4 lens on My R8's I find that I need the split image for accurate focus.

I have recently changed one from the Grid Line screen to the standard one (only £16 from Ffordes) because I just couldn't focus the 21mm totally accurately without the split image.

I would though agree that with 90mm and above long lenses then the plain screen is the best.

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3 hours ago, pgk said:

I suspect that this is down to experience and the ability to assess the whole image as much as anything else. Focus aids are great when there is a specific part of the subject that suits their use and which they can be easily used on. But they are less helpful in any situation which has any complexity in it. Which is when experience and a plain screen work very well. Thinking about it, its probably one of the reasons that I find EVF cameras to be rather less satisfactory for me than I probably should do.

The EVF though can be zoomed in for "Super Accurate" focus which is to me at least far better than any optical screen.

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3 hours ago, paulmac said:

The only problem that I find here Jaapv is that as I predominately use a 21mm Super Angulon F4 lens on My R8's I find that I need the split image for accurate focus.

I have recently changed one from the Grid Line screen to the standard one (only £16 from Ffordes) because I just couldn't focus the 21mm totally accurately without the split image.

I would though agree that with 90mm and above long lenses then the plain screen is the best.

 

3 hours ago, paulmac said:

The EVF though can be zoomed in for "Super Accurate" focus which is to me at least far better than any optical screen.

For me, the need for a split image or other optical focus aid in a 35mm format SLR begins at 28 to 24mm unless the viewfinder is exceptionally good. Since I'm normally using 50 or 90 mm lenses with SLRs, and a 35 works well for quick focus too, I can use the plain Matte Fresnel with scribed lines most of the time and only switch to the split image or microprism screen when I go to ultra wide lenses. The downside to an SLR is that you have to adjust the installed screen to both the focal length and your intended use mechanically to get the best performance out of the camera. 

As you say, the EVF in the CL is much more versatile since I can magnify for critical focus, I can use peaking for speed, I can add grid lines and horizon level, or I can leave it plain and clear view. It adapts to very low light and brightens up the finder, it lets me see DoF precisely, and provides an estimate of actual exposure. Where it becomes difficult is only when using long lenses in middling light or less, which is where EVF refresh rates drop and camera movement make the view jittery unless you have 'continuous on' image stabilization (either optical or in-body types). Since that happens normally when I've pulled out the tripod to stabilize the camera anyway, it's of only minor impact to my photo work...

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Slow wide-angles are always problematic! Yes, you can 'zoom' in on an EVF for critical focus and I use this function when applicable. Its slows things down though and a plain ground glass remains far faster but I still think the 'experience' factor is significant. As is the fact that we like certain ways of doing things, gain experience in them and then find it difficult to spend the time learning a new technique which we don't enjoy as much. EVF cameras are good and getting better but I still don't particularly enjoy 'virtual' viewing of the real world. A plain ground glass screen is about as simple and uncluttered as it gets.

Rather to my surprise I'm starting to use some old plate cameras. One is a 12" x 8" and I have to admit that the image view on the focus screen is quite extraordinary and has an appeal all of its own. I set this camera up with an 1890 lens of suitable coverage on it and showed my wife how the image appeared and she was amazed - having never looked at a large format viewing screen before. She can see the appeal. I am convinced that the way we take photographs and the choice of equipment we use has a great deal to do with the final images that we produce. I don't think the choice of equipment is arbitrary because I think that its contribution is significant. I'm reading about Carleton Watkins at the moment and his decision to shoot 'mammoth plates'. The concept of doing so was calculated and effective. Bring that up to date and our choices still [should] reflect the way we operate.

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PGK's comment resonated with me because I spent 20 years using a Rolleiflex, staring at a 2¼ x 2¼ inch ground glass screen and focusing very nicely, as did my wife, who was not particularly a photo fan, but who made many memorable well focused images of our family. True, there was a magnifying glass available but I can't remember ever using it; there was no need, the ground glass did the job.

Perhaps the appeal of the split screen viewfinder to me is misplaced. Be that as it may, it is my impression that the response to this topic indicates that there is more  to the subject of viewfinders than meets the eye.

 

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What Leica really needs to do on the SL2 is implement an auto maginification of the image when a manual lens focus ring of the R lens is turned (of course the could make it so you could turn the feature on or off in the menu). Way faster. Don't say it can't be done - Sony does it with manual focus lenses on their cameras.

In addition to this, how about showing only the enlarged image in a central area of the viewing screen (like the size of the rangefinder patch on an M camera or the split-image prism of the old R screens - or maybe even have the size user selectable in the menu) so it doesn't disrupt your composing. I find it very distracting to be taken out of the moment to loose my composition to have to check focus.

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