M9 struggling with focus

Started Dec 7, 2011 | Discussions thread
Peter Nelson
Veteran MemberPosts: 6,890
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Vinny find a hard edge in the field of view
In reply to Steven-T, Dec 13, 2011

Vinny I use rangefinder cameras a few times a week and I have found it difficult to focus as well. I have been using them since 2006. I read that you should find a streight line with a hard and contrasty edge and then use the left or right edge of the rangefinder patch when you are adjusting the focus. This way you can see better when the coincidental images are aligned for sharp focus inside the patch and also outside the patch as they become one unbroken line!. They become one image. The straight line within the patch moves as you focus until it aligns perfectly with the line just outside the rangefinder patch in the left (I use the right side) or right side of the rangefinder patch.

For people shots I use noses as they usually have a strong contrasty line seperate from the rest of the face. I also use peoples hair and recompose, I also use the shirt collar and recompose. Remember I did not invent this technique.

When photographing in the portrait position you can still use the same technique but now it's the top or bottom of the rangefinder patch that use. I use the bottom edge of the rangefinder patch to notice when a straight line is now becoming one line inside and outside the rangefinder patch and is in alignment for good sharp focus. If you do not understand this, please just say so and we can go over it again together.

Without this technique I think many of my shots would be soft. It works very well for close up shot's of people and even closer portriats work and it also works for buildings and landscapes. Always look for a contrasty and straight line somewhere close to where you want the focus to be at. It really works well.

If you think about it, have you ever noticed that it's really hard to foucus on any subject that's moving? Let's say your wife talking on the phone about 3-5 feet away. As long as she moves you can't get a sharp focus. Because you cannot see the contrasty straight lines in the viewfinder. Now ask her to stop moving for a few moments. Now you can see these contrast straight lines. Use the contrastly straight line approach from her nose, lips, shirt collar, or even where her hair stops on the side of her head and then the background is visable. You can then get a good sharp focus and recompose aiming at her face. Try it. Oh, yes it's a good idea to practice a lot on objects that are not moving. Any common household object is good. This way you can get a lot of experience with using the viewfinder/rangefinder patch and you will become good at it and trust yourself under pressure like photographing a friend or your wife. Always practice on still objects you will get to know the best settings and focusing distance for your lenses that way. Call them "Stll Life Studies" and then you can do PP and experiment with contrast and sharpness settings on the computer. You can aalso experiment with color adjustments and even have a lot of fun with B&W conversions. B&W conversions can take a real lot of contrast and sharpness adjustments and end up looking very good, much more than color images.

Lastly, photographing flowers is the very best thing to do to become really really good with your rangefinder style camera. I almost always use a 135mm on my 1.6 crop sendored R-D1 digital rangefinder. But 90mm is also good. I have the 35mm Leica M5 film camera so I think your Digital M9 FF will be ok using any FL, longer Focal Length lenses will be better. I focus at the lens minimum close focusing distance, around 3 feet. Then I actually sway my upper body in towards the flower or out away from the flower to get the exact part of the flower into critally sharp focus. This can become a favorite photogry pastime as flowers are very beautifull.
Have fun Vinny.
-Peter
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