Dark cloth vs. Binocular reflex

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Hi all,

I take landscape exclusively. I find using dark cloth to focus is a bit slow sometimes. So I am thinking if a Binocular Reflex will help focusing.

My questions are how many of you find it useful? Or how many of you still using dark cloth after trying the Binocular?

Any comments is greatly appreciated. Happy shooting! Chin.

-- chinfan so (zcfs@home.com), November 13, 2001


Depends on the camera you use !! And if the cost is not too prohibitive!! You may be able to get one used? I still struggle on with the "horse blanket" but there is something "cosy' about being under it!!

-- paul owen (paulowen_2000@yahoo.com), November 14, 2001.

Hi Chin

I work with my Arca to 90% with the Bino and with my Horseman HF without because i don`t have one to it then for hiking is a Bino to heavy and bulky to me.

Good luck and good light!

-- Armin Seeholzer (armin.seeholzer@smile.ch), November 14, 2001.

Hi Paul,

I use toyo 45 Aii, the bino is selling USD5xx at B&H.


-- chin fan so (zcfs@home.com), November 14, 2001.


I use the Toyo binocular viewer on a Toyo VX125. I love it, but having said that, there are a few things to take into consideration. The viewer is light weight, but it is very bulky. It takes up a lot of room in my pack.

Another thing to consider is that because you look down into the viewer, you have to lower the height of your tripod which changes your perspective - for distant landscapes this probably isn't a big consideration though. The alternative would be to stand on something like a case so that you could position your tripod higher.

The viewer also altered the weight distribution of my camera over the tripod head since it sticks out at the back. This was a little too much for my old tripod head so I upgraded to a sturdier head and this added some more weight to carry.

I've read that a lot of people modify the folding Horseman binocular viewer for Toyos. The fact that it folds up is very appealing, but I couldn't find a lot of information on the Horseman viewer and the pictures I saw of it showed a large spring thing which looked kind of clunky to me and I wasn't sure how that would work on a Toyo.


-- Steven Dial (sgdial@bellsouth.net), November 14, 2001.

Not an answer but a continuing question.... Have any of you used a bag bellows on the back of the camera for focusing? I know that some modular camera systems are designed to allow a second bellows to mount on the back for this purpose. Is it practical? I would think that without the magnifying viewer (like the Sinar Bino) it would not be practical.

-- Dave Schneider (dschneider@arjaynet.com), November 14, 2001.

Hi Chin,

I use Horseman's binocular reflex with my Ebony SV45U2, and like it very much. It's a 2-piece unit, i.e. the main body of the viewer, plus a piece that I'll call the "face mask" that contains a magnifying lens to view the ground glass. The main piece folds to roughly 6x6x3" (about 15x15x8 cm) for carrying. It does take up a fair amount of room in your bag or pack, but much less than some larger viewers such as Arca-Swiss and it's very lightweight.

I like the viewer very much, and use it most of the time. However, you will still need to carry your dark cloth since you'll need it when the camera is high on the tripod, or if you are pointing the camera toward the ground.

Best regards, Danny www.dannyburk.com

-- Danny Burk (foto28@aol.com), November 14, 2001.

You might consider a compromise. I've taken the liberty of sending you a blurb on the BTZS focusing cloth. I've been using it now for 6 months and really like it. Definitely better than a horse blanket, and much, much, much less expensive (and lighter) than a reflex finder. WHM

-- Wilhelm (bmitch@home.com), November 14, 2001.

I've just begun using the Horseman folding bino reflex viewer. It is foldable as the posts indicate above, and so more packable than other similar units. One concern frequently voiced about reflex viewers in general, and not touched on above, is precision of focus. As I had just started using one, I was curious how realistic this concern might be. I tried with several subjects focusing with the bino viewer, locking down the camera, removing the bino and checking with a 4.5X loupe under a dark cloth. The bino viewer was brand new, and I am an ophthalmologist, and so spend most of my professional life precisely focusing optical images. I think I focused as accurately thru the bino viewer as anyone could have done. The accuracy of focus when checked under the loupe was quite simply POOR. It just wasn't close. Would this matter if you stopped down a lot? No idea. This happened to be a portrait, so I wanted pretty accurate focus so as to shoot at a wider f stop (f11). I will process negs soon shot with the bino focus and loupe focus to see if there is a diff in the final product. But based on what I could quite clearly see in the field, I do not think critical focus on the level of what can be achieved with a loupe is possible with a bino viewer at conventional 1.5 - 2X mag. That's no big suprise: we just see more accurate detail if we magnify 4.5X instead of 1.5X. I was just disappointed with how poor the focus was. I would not be at all sure of being able to use swings and tilts accurately. Whether this level of focus accuracy would matter in your work is obviously a function of what you shoot, what f stop you use and what your tolerance is for fine focus.


-- nathan congdon (ncongdon@jhmi.edu), November 14, 2001.

Hi Steven, your concern is exactly my concern too. I don't have room for this binocular in my back pack, that means I have to spend another couple of hundred dollars to buy a bigger one. And I certainly don't like the perspective of lowering down the camera for this. Moreover, I would point towards the foreground in most of my shots, that is a big problem. I recall all these trouble when I rent a Fuji680 several weeks ago. I should have think of them before asking this question. I do have a heavy duty tripod head, the problem in your 3rd paragraph is not a concern to me. I would be intersted to know the horseman flodable one which can save a lot of space and may be it can rotate when the camera is high or pointing towards the ground.

I did also consider the monocular, that doesn't have all the problem above like the binocular, but I recall when I used the Fuji680 waist level finder) my eye will be very tired when doing those fine tue tilt adjustment.

Dave, the bag bellow looks like having a big mouth so a lot of light still doesn't shade out, am I right? I will use it with a loupe so it doesn't matter to have no magnifier inside.

Danny, do u think the manification of the Horseman binocular reflex is big enough to fine tune the tilt focus?

Wilhelm, the BTZS cloths looks cool, looks like it shade out light better than Horseman Focusing Cloth which I bought 1 year ago. Looks like it is much lighter, less bulky and easier to attached to the camera. If I knew this, I wouldn't have buy the Horseman. But can u tell me how it stick to the camera? is it quick and easy?

Thank you all! Never tired of shooting! Chin.

-- chin-fan so (zcfs@home.com), November 14, 2001.


u are absolutely right, for no movement focus, since we are doing landscape, we will focus the 1/3 the distance from near to far point, so the absolute focus accuracy is not a concern there. But for some tilt or other movement fine tune focus adjustment, I think it's a concern.

Thank you. Chin.

-- chin fan so (zcfs@home.com), November 14, 2001.


For a long time I used the Sinar system and had the option of the bino-reflex and a wide-angle bellows with bino-viewer. The Reflex only ever got used when shooting higher or lower angle shots. The bag bellows arrangement worked commendably, allowing the GG to be inspected in many directions.

Now I am totally Linhof and have teir reflex monocular and their focussing bellows ... but all day, every day I use either the flip-out hood or a dark-cloth.

Why?? Focussing accuracy with a 4x or 6x loupe is far greater than with the 1.5x to 2x magnifiers in the other viewfinders, I can move around the bright-spot with short lenses quite readily, and I don't have to carry and assemble components that turn my camera into a leviathan.

I have the reflex viewer because it is a specialist tool that make some difficult chores easier but I never consider it a necessity. The bellows eyepiece, on the other hand, is no problem to carry and is handy when excessive light behind my head renders the flip-out impractical.

The horse blanket is a multi-function device for me; rain shield, blanket, as well as viewing accessory. It is always on stand-by in the car or close-by; it is only ever occassionally employed. Shooting architecture in built up areas, cinemas, shopping plazas, etc. the horse blanket cuts me off from the world - my awareness of potential risks lurking close-by is considerably impeded and in a generally hot humid climate like Sydney in summer it is a downright uncomfortable fashion item.

Out shooting landscape exclusively, as you suggest, I would opt for the lightest and least bulky option. The BTZS hood is great as previously stated and would be my second choice to fitting/adapting some bellows viewing accessory.

Good luck ... WG

-- Walter Glover (walterg@netaus.net.au), November 14, 2001.

The front of the BTZS is pleated with elastic, so that it fits over the back of the camera, but stretches to cover rangefinder, and viewfinder, and other protrusions on the camera body. It is virtually instant on/off. The thing is cut and sown in such a manner that one's head holds it open to view the entire ground glass, not with a piece of cloth hanging down in front of one eye as it always seems to happen for me. The entire bottom of the BTZS is open, but can be sealed with the attached VELCRO to keep out light, but allow you to get right by the screen for critical focusing, or to insert holders.

-- Wilhelm (bmitch@home.com), November 14, 2001.

Walter, thank you for your extensive opinion, and thanks Wilhelm for telling me the way that BTZS works. I may like to try to pleat elastic things on my horse blanket to try to simulate the BTZS, since the BTZS + shipping still cost me double of the horse blanket. But problem still exist is as Walter said, the awareness of potential risks lurking close-by is impeded and the hot climate problem too. I may finally have to buy this BTZS. Chin.

-- chin fan so (zcfs@home.com), November 14, 2001.

Using the binocular viewers is by no mean making critical loupe focussing subsidiary. The Horseman viewer is well thought in this regard, for it is mounted on a hinged frame that serves both to set the viewer for both horizontal and vertical shots, and for easy opening of the viewer for loupe focussing. Some camera makers deliver the viewer without the hinged frame, for simplifying the adaptation (Ebony). This in my sense is a big loss and will make loupe focussing so much more difficult. If the reflex viewer is too bulky and weird with it's retaining spring (designed to catch on a special pin put into the accessory socket on some cameras), you have also the choice for the straight viewer. It folds quite small on a bellows and is very light. The trade off is the reversed image, but you will be able to wiew comfortably from any height and this is to take into consideration. The Horseman viewers are well thought and adapt on both Toyo and Horseman, and maybe on other cameras with some machining. I have adapted one on my Technika with some machining. You will need some rubber foam self adhesive strips to make it light tight and more comfortable. Having used the Horseman viewers for some years, I would never go back to something else.

-- Paul Schilliger (pschilliger@smile.ch), November 14, 2001.


Thank you for the comments, I 'll have to find out if a Horseman direct viewer can installed to Toyo 45Aii.

-- chin fan so (zcfs@home.com), November 15, 2001.

Chinfan, the answer is probably yes, if the camera takes the standard accessories such as the Toyo folding viewing hood. The Horseman frame is exactly the same as the Toyo's and probably comes out of the same fundry.

-- Paul Schilliger (pschilliger@smile.ch), November 16, 2001.

"Focussing accuracy with a 4x or 6x loupe is far greater than with the 1.5x to 2x magnifiers in the other viewfinders"

The Linhof Focus/Metering Bellows was changed several years ago so that it has two 2x loupes in the eyepice that screw together.

Use both for 4x for focusing and 2x for seeing the entire ground glass or for inserting the exposure meter adapter.

The old style with only a single 2x loupe in the eyepiece has been discontinued for many years now.

-- Bob Salomon (bob@hpmaretingcorp.com), November 16, 2001.

Paul, thank your for the confirmatiom. Bod, are u saying the direct viewer has not enough magnification?

Regards. Chin.

-- chin fan so (zcfs@home.com), November 16, 2001.

2x simply isn't enough magnification for proper focusing. But it is very good for viewing/composing.

-- Bob Salomon (bob@hpmaretingcorp.com), November 17, 2001.

If You have the old Linhof focusing bellow with the 2x loupe You can exchange the loupe. I did that and I like the two piece loupe very much.

Best regards

-- J. Hildebrand (j.hildebrand@hildebrand.de), November 21, 2001.

Hi Bod & J., thank you for the information. Right now I am using a Peak 22X loupe, a friend told me to use this one when I was new to LF. I know it's overkill now. But I am thinking if 4X is good enough or do I need a 10X? If 4X is good enough, I am thinking of the Cabin 4X (cad$90 in my city Toronto) and Toyo 3.6X (us$40 + us$13.5 in Bager Graphics shipped to Toronto). The good thing about Toyo is it has rubber edge to prevent scratching the ground glass but Cabin is a bigger nice loupe that looks like a Rodenstock 4X. It can investigate transperancy as well as prints. If I can make some rubber to the edge of the Cabin, I will definately buy it.

Thank you again. Chin.

-- chin fan so (zcfs@home.com), November 22, 2001.

Dave Schneider raised some time ago under this posting the question whether there exist other backside wide angle bellows for viewing than that of the Sinar. In fact, I am using a somewhat similar device on my Toyo IIA Field Camera. It is an original Toyo part. Instead of the flip up hood, it has a foldable bellows hood with an opening about 3 inches square. Since I am shortsighted, I can put my eyes (without glasses) straight to this opening and watch the groundglass through there in all its splendour. For focusing I use a Toyo loup which can be put to all points of the groundglass through the opening, since the bellows is quite flexible. I really recommend this device to all of you out there who are shortsighted.

-- Emil Ems (emil.ems@cec.eu.int), November 23, 2001.

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