Soft focus on Mamiya 1000s / 80mm 2.8

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by m00dawg, Feb 22, 2018.

  1. m00dawg

    m00dawg Member
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    I took a trip recently where I took my Minolta X-700 and my Mamiya 1000s and what I noticed is that the results on the X-700 seem to be noticeably sharper and that the 1000s is kinda soft. I went back and looked through my older scans and it shows the same - very few photos seemed to be razor sharp (including ones which uses smaller apertures and were on a tripod).

    I think something may be up but am not sure where to look. I had a number of photos where I focused to infinity (for things like sunsets) such that even if my focusing screen was mis-calibrated, if focusing to infinity those should be sharp. That makes me suspect the lens (it doesn't seem to have any fungus or anything to my eyes but)...

    Anyone run into this with the 1000s? Mine has been somewhat quirky (I have to help the shot counter gear reset back when changing film, it required new light seals) but otherwise seems to be working. It's just soft. Thinking of maybe switching to a Bronica SQ system because those seem to have easier to find waste level finders (I have a prism on my 1000s).
     
  2. Sirius Glass

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    If you are considering switching to a Bronica SQ system, for a little more money, a little longer wait between buying lenses, more bodies, lenses, accessories and services, you should consider the Hasselblad system. I was not completely happy with the Mamiya that I had and traded it and all the lenses in for a Hasselblad and never looked back. Take a look at Dead Link Removed which I have used for years for cameras and lenses. They are very conservative in their ratings, and they have an excellent return, exchange or repair policy.
     
  3. OP
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    m00dawg

    m00dawg Member
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    Oh yeah I've seen the results from a 'Blad and oh man! I know Bokeh is subjective but geez I've seen some truly buttery smooth results! And they're sharp too! I know Mamiya is capable of sharpness so I have to think something is wrong with my camera or lens. A Blad is something I'd like to move to but major problem is the price inflation for all film cameras (which in my view is sort of a good thing) seems to hit Hasselblads the most (doubly so since it's still a modern company and you can get digital backs if I'm not mistaken?). For just being a hobbyist it is a serious investment. And/or I'm selling off my D750 :tongue: which wouldn't be a bad thing (already pondering selling it anyway to maybe switch to a mirrorless that is more compact more-so for video - nearly all my still photography has been on film these days). Some cases a whole Bronica SQ-A system seems to be going for just the 501 bodies.

    That said, I like to keep my eyes open for soure - 500-series is still the main thing to look at yeah?

    EDIT: Also thanks for the welcome! Been a long time lurker (tons of great information on these forums!)
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2018
  4. Fixcinater

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    Try sticking some wax paper or frosted tape down on the film plane with the shutter open at B and see if you can find accurate focus. Tough, I know, with the body shape.

    Does the lens show signs of being opened/worked on? Is the contrast level appropriate? It would take a fairly significant bit of internal haze to soften it up to the degree you mention so not likely as you didn't mention overall contrast levels.

    Could you hold the lens in front of another camera like a DSLR or mirrorless to see if you can get a sharp shot, or even just the X700? "Free-lensing" is another term. Maybe this would show a defect. Obviously you'll have some space between the lens and camera body, but you can use your hands to mostly block this and get the lens focused.

    I found a WLF along with some other Mamiya stuff on ebay. Took a while but it was 2-3x cheaper compared to what most people are asking for just the WLF. Obviously this doesn't happen every day but switching systems isn't going to be without it's own problems.
     
  5. jim10219

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    I own a Mamiya C220, a Mamiya RB67, and a Hasselblad 500c. I've not noticed the Hasselblad to be any sharper than the two Mamiyas. Mamiya makes top notch gear, which makes me think there might be something wrong with your setup. I'd look for common threads between the soft pictures versus sharp pictures first. In other words, were both pictures developed and scanned the same way with the same film? Have you used multiple lenses with the Mamiya, and are they all soft? Are you doing anything else differently, like not using a tripod or shooting in a windy environment with one and not the other. In other words, we need to determine if the problem is a ground glass focusing issue, a film plane flatness issue, a film scanning issue, a lens sharpness issue, a technique issue, or some other problem. I don't have a Mamiya 1000s so I can't say for sure that what you're experiencing isn't just a symptom of that camera, but seeing as how happy I am with the two Mamiyas I do own, I feel like something might be amiss here, other than Mamiya just not being a high enough quality of camera.
     
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    m00dawg

    m00dawg Member
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    Ah I did some digging/reading and sounds like that would be testing for backfocus (forgot that was even a thing until now)? Starting to wonder if maybe the pressure plate on the film cartridge is the source of my struggles. Images through the finder I recall looking sharp. In fact I thought it might be the focus screen adjustment but that wouldn't affect focusing to infinity if using the lens markings.

    Either way yep I'll test some things out after work today to see what comes of it, thanks for the clever idea!
     
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    m00dawg

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    Ah valid point and contrast was asked earlier. The contrast seems to be pretty good (in both BW and Color). Ektar for instance is super vivid. All the C-41 film was developed in two batches on the same day. The sharpness differences are the same within the same batch and across them (the softness is also apparent in other film I've developed). I haven't made many darkroom prints from the 6x4.5 BW negatives yet, but the few I made did indeed look sharp. The scanner is the same in these cases though - a V800. I tried using both the V700 and V800 holders for 120 (I don't bother with the V800 35mm ones, way too dusty). Grain can be seen on both 35mm scans and 120 so the softness appears to be on the negative itself as best as I can tell.

    I think the problem is the film plane or the lens (at least in part - I suppose the focus screen could be out of alignment, but as noted, that shouldn't affect infinity focus?). I don't have other lenses to try. Thought crossed my mind but since I'm not super deep into the system, I figured if I was going to do that I might opt to try the square format just to have an opportunity to test that out. I suppose i could just get another focal length so it's not a total waste (over just buying the same lens) and a spare film holder couldn't hurt though.

    I'll try the back-focusing stuff and see if that sheds light on anything.
     
  8. John Koehrer

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    Do what Fixinator suggests first. It eliminates/isolates a very common problem.
    Keep in mind that it's possible for the screen or lens may be the culprit.
     
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    m00dawg

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    Hope I did this right but I did, I think, what Fixinator suggested, and put some blue painters tape along the inner film guide for the film plane and looked down the front of the lens. At infinity and fully open it was beautiful and very sharp to my (admittedly not amazing) eye.

    Some samples (granted not exactly apples to apples) between the X-700 and 1000s images I took last week during my vacation, along with what I hope was the right-ish method Fixinator was referring to?

    https://imgur.com/a/3q6aA
     
  10. MattKing

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    If the problem is with the focus plane, it will be a problem with where the camera focuses, not the overall sharpness of the image.
    Have you examined the negatives under a high powered magnifier? It would remove any questions about whether the problem arises in the scanning stage - which is incredibly common.
     
  11. OP
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    m00dawg

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    Hmm I busted out the negatives onto my Beseler 67 enlarger. I have no means to print color but I looked at the results at max height of the enlarger and with a grain focuser. Certainly it's sharper than the my V800 scans but still shows some softness I don't recall seeing in 35mm - it looks to have a uniform lack of sharpness that actually makes it a little hard to focus from the grain enlarger as there are no hard edges to focus on first before the grain. I took a photo of a dock for instance and the border from it to the water should be a nice line to focus around, but it's notably soft.

    I did bust out some black and white negatives I took last year and they seem sharper though still not razor sharp like I can get with my X-700 or N80 in 35mm. I also have a few 4x5 scans that look amazing off the same scanner such that I'm not (yet) convinced it's the scanner necessarily. I can see the grain on the scanner but the blur seems to be "past" it if that makes sense. Granted, I do scan 35mm and 4x5 using the V700 holders but have to use the V800 120 holder for 6x4.5 since the curling is often way too pronounced to scan without having the ANR glass. That may be cutting quality some, but the results from my enlarger - I mean they're passable but not amazing.

    I do have a bunch of E-6 rolls I won't be able to develop at home and will be sending those to a lab (probably The Darkroom since my local lab can't do E-6 dev). I plan on getting at least medium scans from them and can look at sharpness using better equipment. Some of the E-6 was taken under similar conditions as my C-41 so I'm hoping to get some good examples to evaluate.

    I'd normally say it's just my terrible focusing :tongue: but since it's still soft at infinity, I'm not sure. Looking at the lens itself though doesn't show any issues that I can see (no signs of repair and the glass looks quite clear).
     
  12. Theo Sulphate

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    If the film isn't being held flat, you'll get a soft image. Or if for some reason the focal plane is further back than it should be (that is, excess distance between film plane and lens), then even focusing at infinity will not be possible and you'll get a soft image.

    Have you tried focusing on, for example, a picket fence or even a tape measure to verify if there is a definite point of sharpness somewhere?
     
  13. Neil Grant

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    is the focusing screen sitting properly? On the original Mamiya 645 series (the metal bodied, fixed-back ones) like yours, the screen sits ontop of three cross head screws and these can be adjusted to get the focus 'right'. You need to see what's 'going on' at the film plane. Can you place some frosted plastic on the film rails to judge lens focus? 'Film focus' to coincide with 'screen focus'. Of course, your camera may have other problems. Can the mirror fail to seat properly over the years? The 1000s is from the 1980's I think. Mine 'continues', with peeling leatherette, a mesy re-seal job (first attempt) and a taped down battery cover. They seem to be getting a bit rarer these days. These never were the easiest of cameras to focus. RB is much better.
     
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  15. John Koehrer

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    If you use frosted tape instead of the painters tape, you can focus directly on the tape.
    Use enough to use to cover the entire film aperture.
    In my earlier post I forgot that another possible alignment problem might be the mirror stop
    in the mirror box. The mirror stop is where the mirror rests in the down position.
     
  16. OP
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    m00dawg

    m00dawg Member
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    Hmm I might not be understanding that procedure quite right. Focusing on the masking tape I thought might be easier (since it has letters on it) but either way tape it to the film plane lines behind the shutter right? Then look through the front of the lens to find focus? Mirror could be an issue though yep. I was thinking mirror slap could be a culprit - I rarely lifted the mirror for shots during my vacation last week (in part because I was hand holding and was trying to take photos of ocean sunsets and needed to make sure the horizon was straight). The other suggestion to run a roll of film through and check focus using a ruler I think is a good idea.

    I think my direct next steps may be to see what the E-6 scans look like though and go from there. That will at least discount the scans being an issue without having to burn any film.
     
  17. MattKing

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    You use the tape at the film plane as a substitute for a ground glass at the film plane.
    You view from behind the camera, to check that when the infinity focused subject is accurately focused in the viewfinder, it is also accurately focused at the film plane.
    If there is a difference, then the camera will focus on the wrong plane - which is different than an overall inability to render a sharp image.
    The latter could arise from film or camera movement during exposure, or problems within the lens.
    On the subject of film movement during exposure, it is a bit of a long shot, but do you have another film insert you can try to see if the problem might originate there?
     
  18. skysh4rk

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    Your issue with the Mamiya could very well be solvable, so I don’t necessarily recommend running out to buy anything, but I will say that the Bronica SQ series is great (particularly SQ-A and SQ-B). I have owned or own a number of 6x6 systems (e.g., Bronicas, Hasselblads, and Rollei SL66) and I rate the SQ series above the Hasselblad, especially if you’re using common focal lengths (where Hasselblad has an advantage is wider range of accessories and some unusual, albeit expensive, lenses).

    The Bronicas handle better for a better price with indistinguishable performance in my view.

    That said, I do miss my 110mm f/2 dearly...
     
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    m00dawg

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    *OH* duh ok now I get it. That's something I can easily try perhaps tomorrow. I wasn't thinking of using the tape as a makeshift ground glass, but that makes perfect sense now!

    Re Bronica, yep the idea of 6x6 is compelling since I've never shot square outside of Polaroid snapshots back in the day and I've heard good things about them (although I've also heard Mamiya's are generally great too which makes me think surely something is up with mine). A WLF is one thing I really want to try just to see if I'm any good with it (and I wonder if that'll be sort of practice composing via ground glass for when I bust out my Intrepid 4x5)
     
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    m00dawg

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    Gave that a try (wow Scotch tape works surprisingly well as a ground glass, that was rather fun!) and while I don't have the best eyesight, I checked focus at 2.8 and infinity with and without my Peak 4x loupe that I use for LF. Things look pretty sharp to me, though not sure how well I might be able to spot the softness I'm seeing.

    Looks like I can get an insert from Japan for about $30 off eBay. That's probably worth trying out.
     
  21. MattKing

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    And having an extra insert can be very handy!
     
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    m00dawg

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    Finally have an update! I received the additional film holder yesterday so ran through some Foma 200. Including a number of tests, two of which are here:

    Dead Link Removed

    I put them there since the full images are big and didn't want to risk any scaling/resampling issues. While I would say I could get sharper results on my X-700 (though I didn't A/B compare here), those results are rather sharp - certainly better than I have been getting. These were on a tripod with mirror-lock up. I think that's key.

    I think my softness issue stems from perhaps the lens being soft wide open and also the mirror slap being a bigger factor. I took some hand-held shots of the kiddo at f4 and they look decent but not as sharp as the above bricks. Likewise I took some shots with the tripod but without the mirror locked up and they were soft. I've noticed that after I take a shot with the mirror locked up, it'll sometimes fall back down (instead of remaining locked) which makes me think that's also a potential issue. Guessing a CLA is probably ultimately in order but the good news is that I was able to get sharp photos.

    While I've been waiting for the film holder I've been looking into the Bronica SQ and I still think I'm going to work towards that. I really want to try the square format, and also a WLF which seem to be a bit easier to find with SQs, although the cost of the whole system seems certainly higher than the Mamiya 1000s. I have taken some decent photos with it as well so it's served me well, but the square format is very enticing to me now...
     
  23. Fixcinater

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    Can you post one of the off-tripod shots that is soft?

    I’ve noticed my M645 isn’t much more susceptible to mirror slap issues than my 35mm cams are. Also the 80/2.8 shouldn’t be terribly unsharp wide open...makes me think something is wrong with the body.
     
  24. OP
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    m00dawg

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    Yep! Uploaded a few more. Some images from the roll are of the family so I can't share those, and annoyingly they're perhaps the best examples. I had a few on a tripod but wasn't using a cable release and I don't believe I was using mirror lock. They're soft. The ones I added are hand-holding so not the best examples since I may just be bad at hand holding. Also not the best film choice to test for sharpness, I'll admit.
     
  25. MattKing

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    Camera movement most likely.
     
  26. OP
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    m00dawg

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    For hand-holding that's definitely possible, but my tripod shots with the mirror down were still soft. I think I was around 1/125. For hand holding, someone feel free to school me on this, but my hope is a WLF could make the platform more stable since I'm not trying to hold a heavy camera up to my face? I've never used a WLF but that's definitely something that, regardless of the MF system, I really want to get.
     
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