Merklinger: Focusing the view camera : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread


I just acquired the book "focusing the view camera" by Harold Merklinger, and read about his "hinge rule". My question: has anybody practical experience with Merklinger's system? Does it work, and do you have any tips to give? How convenient is it to estimate the distance from the camera to the plane of sharp focus? I still find it somewhat difficult to imagine how this should be done practically.

Lukas Werth

-- Lukas Werth (, August 13, 1998



I really love Merklinger's book, and his other one, too, The Ins and Outs of Focus. Other explanations of the Scheimpflug rule I have seen do not account for how tilts affect focus, but Merklinger does. I still have a hell of a time with tilts but Merklinger's procedure makes it way easier - you set your tilt according to desired plane of focus and then rack the standard back and forth until it lies in the desired angle.

-- Erik Ryberg (, August 13, 1998.

I haven't seen the books, but am reading the articles on his web site:, including the animations showing how movements change the plane of sharpest focus. Brilliant. It has stared me thinking about knocking up some "angle templates" for my camera.

In the articles, the critical dimension is "J", the distance from the lens to the required plane of sharp focus, measured parallel to the film. If you want the ground in focus, and the back is vertical, and the lens is six foot above the ground, then the distance is six feet. If you are sideways on to a wall, looking up, J can still be measured, and the lens angle calculated, but translating that angle into a combined tilt and swing is much harder.

-- Alan Gibson (, August 13, 1998.

I know this post is a few months old but I wanted to add what I felt was most interesting to learn from this book. In most average situations, not including close-up studio or still life, it is not necessary to use alot of lense tilt. Most lens tilts will be 5 degrees or less, maybe a little more for longer lenses. Before reading this I would struggle with my lens tilts because it seemed like I should be using more tilt. It is probably from looking at the camera advertisements where they show off the camera with a 45 degree tilt. Well, thats it in a nutshell, most pictures will benifit from at least a small amount of tilt and if you are tilting more than 10 degrees then you are probably tilting too much except for close-up work.

-- Jeff White (, November 10, 1998.

I have not read Merklingers books but I did read his article in View Camera a while back. I'm no engineer or mathematician and it seemed IMHO, rather verbose to me. I prefer Jim Stones explanation of focus, tilt and swing in his book on the view camera, combined with an article in Darkroom & Creative Camera Mar/Apr '96, about focus spread. It really isn't that hard. I think maybe - call me crazy - that people starting out would benefit from some hands on with an 8 X 10 as everything is magnified - the depth of field is shallower, the lenses longer, the need for focus control greater, AND, it's EASIER to see what's happening on that big ground glass.

-- Sean yates (, November 10, 1998.

I agree that Jim Stones article is much better for understanding depth of field, focus and swings and tilts. It is the approach that I use when working in LF. Both of Merklinger's books are too long, over 100 pages each and could have been presented in 4 pages as effectively. He puts out a fairly easy to understand idea and then hits you with pages and pages to back it up. They are good books if you really want to understand what is going on with focus but I am not going to do all that math in the field. If you understand the hinge distance identified as "J" he gives you a couple of charts that list how much tilt or swing would be needed for the particular lens that you are using. It was intersting for me to see that the amount of correction necessary was usually a small amount.

-- Jeff White (, November 10, 1998.

I too have tried to wade through Merklinger's book and found it both interesting but rather tedious. I have applied a simple principle that I once read in an old Zone VI catalog regarding focusing: "Focus on the far, and tilt for the near." If you want to emphasize the near you use back tilt. With base tilt (like most field cameras) then the focus will have to be adjusted slightly after tilting. For me, this simple principle seems to have worked. Wondering if others have done the same.

-- John Wiemer (, November 12, 1998.

Short answer: Yes, it does work. Suggestion/tip....Reread the book several times, do the calcs on the samples, compare the chart answers, and get out in the field and use it. Harry

-- Harry L. Martin (, October 20, 1999.

I read the book-twice-.VV=Very verbose. I just got back from a Howard Bond course on the view camera. So simple. The work we did involved tilts and swings so minute that it was difficult to accurately make slight changes. For most non-studio work lens and/or back changes are very small. The most important part I think is a detailed inspection of the GG with a loupe. George

-- George Nedleman (, October 20, 1999.

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