Focusing Loupes? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I am new to LF, and have a question regarding which loupes work best for focusing. I know loupes are very personal, but I just want to know what people find works best. What power is recommended? Is is better to get one geared towards the task at hand (longer, rubberized ends, etc), or just use a good general purpose 35mm loupe?

-- Larry Huppert (, November 27, 1998


Respectfully submitted for your consideration, with all the usual caveats...

When I started LF, my first kit came with a Toyo 4x loupe since the camera store that sold me the kit had misplaced the original loupe. I used it for the first year or two. Subsequently I learned you could use a 50mm 35mm camera lens.

In two of the three studios I worked for, they used either older copy lenses, process lenses, or enlarger lenses, just whatever was on hand. In the third, there were 6 photogs. Some of them used loupes, some didn't and some used them just to check critical areas, as they stopped down. But they all shot a polaroid, color or B&W, 4 X 5 or 8 X 10. This was mainly to check contrast and to have something for the client to approove to cover the studios butt. I never heard a client at any of them complain about sharpness.

For myself, as I said, I used to use the loupe, but now, unless I shoot a "wide" or "normal" shot - like a landscape, where the subject is either far away or small enough that it is difficult to see detail on the GG, I use the loupe. For close-ups or Extreme close-ups, I find that the GG with the Fresnel is enough. I am almost always stopped down to the max anyway so as long as I can see fine texture/detail where I want it, wide open, and then use the focusing scale and Kodaks depth of field scale in their "Professional Photo Guide" or whatever it's called, I'm o.k. In 4 X 5 I don't enlarge greater than 11 X 14, although I have made some 16 X 20's I prefer not to as it's hard to process paper that big in my darkroom. In 8 X 10 I make contact prints. Under those conditions, I have been happy with my system. For others, this may be too casual an approach.

A linen tester seems to be a good approach to me. They fold up small, are light and usually have some kind of scale engraved on the base to help you judge. A lot of studios loupe the chrome or neg to check for focus, not trusting the GG, Fresnel, brite screen, whatever. If the chrome is sharp,, it's sharp. now we can burn a few.

-- Sean yates (, November 27, 1998.

Lately I have been happily using the Toyo 3.3x focusing loupe. I like it because of the long eye relief and the ability to tilt the loupe so that it is lined up with the light path through the lens when looking at an off axis angle. (I am sure this is not the right terminology). This is the loupe that you describe as being longer, with rubberized ends. For examining the film itself use a standard 4x loupe. To critically check focus when shooting in the field or in the studio when and where possible I use the negative from a Type 55 Polaroid. this can be quickly cleared in warm running water or a bucket of the recommended sodium sulfite solution.

-- Ellis (, November 27, 1998.

I've had pretty good luck with a Calumet 4x loupe made by Rodenstock. The Toyo was crisper and about 1/2 the price. But, the wider field of the Calumet has been an aid to me, possibly because of my unfortunate need for contacts/glasses. I've also been playing with a magnifier of the brand "magnivision" This is a 2.5 inch magnifier with a 1/2 inch stronger diopter in the bottom center. Early results are encouraging but it's way too early to recommend it.

-- Mike Long (, November 29, 1998.

For all my inexpensive (and very expensive) equipment, I have always used the eyepiece from a cheap plastic 2x2 slide viewer. Magnifies enough to see the grain of the glass and whatever sharp contrast differences and lines there are on the GG. Just make sure that whatever you use will allow you to view the image from the correct angle. Looking at the image at the edges of the GG can be frustrating to say the least especially when the light levels are low. As for just viewing the image on the GG without the aid of a "loupe", I wish my eyes were that good. And movements would be out of the question. The galleries that represent me would throw me out on my ear were I to show them work like that. If it ain't sharp, it ain't sharp. If you use a tripod, why not use a loupe?

-- james (, December 04, 1998.

I use a general purpose 8x loupe for the critical focusing and movements. I found I had a problem setting up roughly, especially with wide-angles. This was solved with a strong pair of reading glasses (+4 dioptre). I don't normally need glasses, but I can't focus as closely as I used to do, and these let me see clearly the whole frame, from different angles, 10 inches in front of me.

They only cost #2.99 (UK pounds), and must rank as the cheapest lenses I have ever bought, and a matching pair at that!

-- Alan Gibson (, December 07, 1998.

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