R focusing screens

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Hi all,

I have an R6.2 and don't like the split image central circle of the standard screen. So I'm thinking about the optional screens.

For my type of shooting (travel/street photos of people), focusing speed is more important than accuracy. And I don't use lenses longer than 90mm or slower than F2.8.

What will be my best option? Should I get a clear screen or one with microprism? How about third-party offerings?


-- Maestro Logos (Maestro_logos@mac.com), February 13, 2001


Maestro, I don't find anything fast about focusing with a plain groundglass. I can't really focus just once, decisively, the way you can with a rangefinder, for example. I have to rock the focus back and forth until I see the point of best focus go in and out. Then I allow my fingers to remember where that point was, and return to it. On the other hand, a microprism does help me to see decisively where the best focus is, so that the need to hunt back and forth is reduced or eliminated. I'd say they are probably the fastest, handiest focusing aid for reflex cameras.


-- Bob Fleischman (RFXMAIL@prodigy.net), February 13, 2001.

I second Bob. The screen with just the central microprism is best for general shooting. The split image hybrid is a pain. Funnily enough I like the split image/microprism screen for the Hasselblad, but it does not seem to work so well on the Leica Rs.

-- Robin Smith (smith_robin@hotmail.com), February 13, 2001.

Hi Maestro, I like the plain glass with grid especially so for traveling since many of those pictures have buildings of one kind or the other in them. The grid helped in seeing whether converging lines are too distracting. I tried the microprism but didn't like the way things looked in the finder. I am sure this is quite personal in nature and it would best be decided by trying them out before your purchase if that is possible. Happy shooting.

-- Steven Fong (steven@ima.org.sg), February 13, 2001.

When I used SLRs, all my cameras had a plain screen fitted. I do not like screens with large central focusing aids. Plain sceens work fine with long focus lenses but are difficult to use with superwides in dim light.


-- John Collier (jbcollier@home.com), February 13, 2001.

The all-matte screens for the R's (that includes the R8)are quite coarse and grainy compared to, say, those found in current AF SLR's. Especially in dim light or with slower lenses (f2.8 and down)it's as though there were a nylon stocking streched across the screen. I;ve got one for my R8 and the only time I use it is with the 400/6.8 Telyt because the rangefinder spot on the universal screen goes dead black. I surely would not recommend it for fast focusing. I also have an all-microprism screen for my R6-6.2-7. It is not just a universal screen minus the split rangefinder. The outer part of the screen is not a matte ground glass, it's a fine fresnel screen with concentric circles. With fast, midrange lenses (35/2, 50/2, 90/2) there is not the grainyness present with the universal screen, and the central microprism functions well. If you use these lenses, then the all-microprism screen is the best one for you. With the ultrawide lenses, especially slower ones like the 21/4, the split- image screen is the only one that lets you pinpoint the focus; likewise, with longer lenses (180 and above) they magnify the microprism to such an extent that it looks like a honeycomb and never goes completely clear when in focus, so it gets irritating. I have not tried the Beattie screens in an R body, but from experience with a Nikon F3, I wasn't impressed.

-- Jay (infinitydt@aol.com), February 13, 2001.


I agree with Jay. I have tried the split image, the plain ground glass and also the microprism screens on 50/f2 and 100/f2.8 lenses. The best, without doubt, is the microprism one. With the ground glass screen you will lose part of the wonderful brightness of the R6.2 viewfinder. I hope this helps Javier

-- Javier (j_perezbarberia@hotmail.com), February 13, 2001.

I should clarify, that I currently have the universal screen installed in all my R bodies, as it is the only one that works with all lenses. Only when I am intending to use the 400 Telyt do I replace the R8 univ. screen with the all-matte, and I haven't used the all-microprism screen in I don't remember how long, because it is not very good (for me) with 21, 28 or 180 and up. As an M user I find it rather ironic that the same photographer who hates central focusing aids in an SLR is happy with the central focusing patch in a rangefinder body. I switch-hit all the time and I'm so used to focusing in the center and recomposing, I actually like the universal screen the best. Even in my F100 and F5, unless I's shooting a moving subject, I lock out all but the central AF sensor. My metering preference 99% of the time is spot, so basically I'm used to doing all my serious business in the center of the screen.

-- Jay (infinitydt@aol.com), February 13, 2001.

Thanks for all the responses.

I'm a little confused by all this focusing screen terminology. How exactly does ground class differ from matte? And what makes up the surrounding area of the microprism-only screen?


-- Maestro Logos (Maestro_logos@mac.com), February 14, 2001.


The following information might be helpful in understanding the range of Leica R focusing screens, of which five are available from Leica.

1. The 'universal' screen, which is shipped with the camera. This has three focusing areas, namely: (a) a central split-image rangefinder, surrounded by (b) a circular microprism area, made up of small rectangular microprisms, covering an area that corresponds, roughly, to the selective metering area. This is surrounded, to the edges of the viewfinder, by (c) a plain background, which is actually made up of tiny triangular microprisms. This is the most generally applicable screen and works with most lenses; however, the rangefinder (a) and microprism (b) areas can darken with telephoto or macro phography, forcing you to use the plain background for focusing.

2. The 'microprism' screen, which is the same as the universal except that it lacks the central split rangefinder. Some people prefer this to the universal because they find the central rangefinder distracting. This screen is also likely to darken with telephoto or macro photography.

3. The 'matte' ground-glass screen, which has an engraved circle corresponding with the selective metering area but consists entirely of fine ground glass, not microprisms. This is not the same background as the first two screens. Some find it harder to use because it doesn't 'snap' in and out of focus like the first two sceens. However, it is usually considered to give a brighter image and to be suitable for telephotos and macros.

4. The 'matte screen with grid', which is the same as #3 above but has a grid engraved on it and a '+' at the excact centre, to assist with positioning, scaling and camera alignment. Some people use this as their main screen, because they can use it to check that the camera is properly aligned with buildings or the horizon and as an aid to composition.

5. The clear glass screen, which is a specialised screen for use with optical instruments such as microscopes. This screen is not really suitable for general photography.

The above information is summarised from Arthur Landt's book on the Leica R7. I hope you find it helpful.

Regards, Ray Moth

-- Ray Moth (ray_moth@yahoo.com), February 14, 2001.

The problem with information you get out of books and brochures, or even the translated-from-german owner's manuals, is that sometimes they are misleading or plain wrong. The "All Microprism" screen is most emphatically *not* the same as a Universal screen without a split-image rangefinder spot. Beyond the central microprism, the All- Microprism screen is a *fresnel*, not a matte ground glass like the Universal screen. A fresnel screen is comprised of a series of etched concentric cirles which gathers (and so effectively multiplies) the available light and also distributes it more evenly into the corners. The All-Microprism screen is slightly but noticeably brighter overall than the Universal. The downside is that with high-magnification lenses (telephotos, macro) or slower lenses, the texture of the fresnel lines as well as the central microprism tend to stand out in relief and serve more as a distraction than an aid.

-- Jay (infinitydt@aol.com), February 14, 2001.

Maestro, if you buy from the second-hand market be aware of this. Although apparently identical I have found that screens labelled as R4 are darker than the R new ones (labelled as R). Has anyone experienced the same?

-- Javier (j_perezbarberia@hotmail.com), February 19, 2001.

I think that the screen is technically all very small microprisms which accounts for its great brightness. The center spot is coarser microprisms. I think that if it was a fresnel screen then no "real" image could be formed on the surface and you could not focus using it, although the iamge would be superbly bright (as in the original Leicaflex). However, it is certainly true that the microprism is much brighter than any ground glass screen, which is what Jay means.

-- Robin Smith (smith_robin@hotmail.com), February 22, 2001.

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