Your handheld shooting technique for cameras with a WLF to avoid shake blur?

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Steven Lee

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I bought my first TLR almost 5 years ago and it's time to admit: I still have not mastered shooting them handheld. The two systems I shoot regularly with are Rolleiflex and Mamiya C-series TLRs. Let's say my lens is 80mm and my exposure is 1/125s. Under those conditions, no matter what I try, the results are massively worse than my Hasselblad which primarily lives on a tripod.

With 35mm cameras I've always had decent results with exposures equal to 1/focal length, but not with medium format. I suspect the culprit is the WLF. All my medium format cameras have waist level finders, so my prism/eye level habits don't apply.

What's your secret?
 

Laurent

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I have no issues until 1/30, sometimes 1/15. I do not enlarge big, though.

I simply use the carrying strap to stabilize the camera, by tensionning it a bit from my neck
 
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reddesert

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I don't know if I have the results to justify my habits, but: with an eye-level camera, I can usually brace the camera against my forehead, cheek, or nose. (If the light is low I will even brace a digital P+S with no finder against my head, which looks crazy but probably helps.)

The waist level finder, as you likely know, is a misnomer, it's really a chest-level finder, and holding it out in front of you invites more hand jitter. I try to butt the camera against my chest, and as Laurent said, tension the neck strap.
 

neutron450

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I rarely shoot without a monopod these days. It eliminates camera shake and helps me keep level to the horizon.
 

Eugen Mezei

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The problem is not the WLF but the TLR. I guarantee you, you will not have the problem (or it is less of a problem) with a SLR with WLF. (The Hasselblad format.)

TLRs are recommended unisono for being cheap (yes, they were once, but not since they were overrecommended), silent (they are) and shake free. I fell for that too but never was confortable holding my TLRs.
The problem is, you hold it in the palm of your hand. But the TLR is tall (after all it is two cameras stacked one above the other, with the heavier one, because of the glass masse of mirror and groundglass, on top) and his centre of gravity is relatively tall, way away from your palm. So it easily wobbles.
You also hold a Hassi format (e.g. Hasselblad, Kiev 88, Bronica, RB67, Mamiya 645) in your palm but his weight is in your palm, not 15 cm above.

You can wear the TLR hanging from your neck. I doubt it gives more stability.
You can work out techniques how to push the exposure button/lever. E.g. I had to learn using my middle finger to only slightly touch the lever of the Rolleicords lever, comes not naturally.

I now come to tuch the 100 mark of how many TLRs I have, from the most appreciated ones (Rolleiflexes, Mamiya interchangeable lenses, etc.) to the cheapest ones. The only one that I can use without it wobbling in my palm is the Seagull. Its weight distribution is so, that it is more heavy at the bottom. Dont know why, maybe the Chinese put a piece of lead into it.
 

guangong

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You should be able to shoot at even rather slow shutter speeds if you don’t use excessive force when holding camera. Much easier to hold camera steady when relaxed and gently firing shutter. Use camera strap to support both a TLR or eye level camera. Relax. Don’t try too hard. Don’t work too hard. Shooting with a camera uses the same principles as shooting a gun. However, best to have additional support when using very long lenses.
The more weighty and solid built, the easier to hold a camera steady.
Of course, LF is a different game.
 

Dan Daniel

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Well, just my approach to carrying and firing a TLR. I use the Op/Tech Pro Loop strap. But I only use the two connector ends, clipped together into a wrist strap. Wrap this around my right wrist. A little tension between the camera strap lugs and my wrist stabilizes some. It is held in my right palm, thumb at back. so the hand itself adds some stability. And the left hand adds a 'third point' -ha, a tripod! :smile: - of stability. Combined with what guangong discusses- relaxation- I do fine.

Interestingly, light pressure between right hand fingers and the wrist strap while the camera is hanging down means I can carry the camera for hours with minimal exhaustion. I developed this way of carrying when shooting in cities as a way to protect the camera and be able to move quicker than with a cameera swinging off my neck, but I use it all the time for most any camera.

Except a Mamiya TLR! Haven't tried it but I bet this would reach the limits. You'll need to try it. Rolleis, Autocords, etc. sized cameras it works well for me.

And second element- a soft release button. I like the convex soft mushroom style, allows for a lot of comfortable relaxed finger pressure positions, not demanding a specific angle of pressure. That's a match technical one in the photo- very well made but a too silly naming system so I am not certain what it is called.
 

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bags27

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We each have different bodies and different muscular and neurological strengths. We each stand slightly differently no matter how much we practice the "feet spread, elbows tucked" etc. Each of us responds differently when pulling the release button, etc.

I'm 76 and starting to experience the muscular uncertainties of that age. Yet, I've taken photos recently with my Rolleicord Vb(ii) that are at least as sharp as those with my Blad 500 c/m. I don't know why that is; it just is.

We all run test rolls on various things about cameras. Why not run test rolls on how we stand, etc?
 

Don_ih

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I hold a tlr between my palms, with the fingertips of my left hand under the camera. I push the shutter button (or slide the shutter lever in the case of a Rolleicord I have) with my right index finger. The back of the camera is held against me. My problem with tlrs isn't shake (it doesn't shake at all) - it's seeing well enough to focus. I've never used a waist-level finder on any other camera for that reason. I think I only have one for a Bronica ETR, though. (Unless you count the RBGraflex...)
 

Sirius Glass

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You should be able to shoot at even rather slow shutter speeds if you don’t use excessive force when holding camera. Much easier to hold camera steady when relaxed and gently firing shutter. Use camera strap to support both a TLR or eye level camera. Relax. Don’t try too hard. Don’t work too hard. Shooting with a camera uses the same principles as shooting a gun. However, best to have additional support when using very long lenses.
The more weighty and solid built, the easier to hold a camera steady.
Of course, LF is a different game.

I agree one has to slowly fire the shutter of a TLR not push it down. 1/[lens focal length] is the typical longest shutter speed most can use. With the Hasselblad I use the 45 degree prism which is pressed against the forehead for three point stability with the hands.
 

MattKing

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If it is a C330, you have a choice of shutter releases. Use the one that is on the front, not on the side. That way if the push causes the camera to move, the direction of travel is parallel to the line between subject and camera. And use your left hand to cradle the base of the camera while you use your middle finger on that hand to slowly squeeze the release into the camera.
Or even better, use the left hand trigger grip.
My neck strap is as short as I can make it, and I use all the other techniques mentioned above to stabilize the camera.
 

miha

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We are all different by I find my C330 one of the easiest cameras to hand-hold at slow speds.
 

grahamp

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If you are comparing the 'blad on a tripod to the TLR hand-held, start out with a shot with both on a tripod. There is always a chance that the unsharpness is focusing, not camera shake.

The Mamiya C cameras are actually quite good handheld because their weight means more inertia.

I think most of the techniques (use what support is available, trip the shutter once you exhale, squeeze the release, not push it) have been covered. Don't have unreasonable expectations - if the camera is not on a solid mount, it will be moving. The best handheld technique cannot approach a solid mount.

I am nothing like as steady as I was 20, let alone 40 years ago, either. I rarely even attempt to handhold under 1/250 these days. With judicious support I might be down to 1/60 with acceptable (to me) results, but the odds are going against me.

I have a great respect for bi-athletes!
 

Dustin McAmera

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I can't imagine keeping a hundred cameras I didn't like using. 🤔

I sometimes use my cameras with a WLF (TLRs and SLRs alike) by shooting with my eye still at the focus magnifier, so the camera's at about shoulder height. I will have the strap round my neck, and wound once around my hand to shorten it so it helps brace the camera.

I have braced the camera on my bent knee, as they show you in one of the old Yashica instructions; not often enough to say if it works.
 

DWThomas

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I agree with many of the suggestions upthread. One has to experiment and sometimes simply adjust/compromise a little and hope for the best. Now in my eighties, I am definitely not a "rock" for hand-held work but I (usually) manage. I generally keep the neck strap short, add support for the weight mostly with the right hand (left needed for focus knob), and squeeze the shutter release. In some recent exercises (examples in my gallery here) I did a basic focus then used the sport finder mode (Yashica Mat 124g) bracing my left forearm/back of left hand against a column. Some shots were as low as 1/15 or 1/25 and most were taken at an aperture near wide open to make it all the more tedious. They're not what I might have done with a tripod, but tripods, monopods, and even selfie sticks were excluded by the museum rules.

Never tried it personally but have also seen suggestions to use a cord with a loop on the bottom to hook under your foot and then pull against with it secured somehow to the camera. Gut sense is that sounds rather fiddly.
 

guangong

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If you try too hard, you will never be able to hold a camera steady. One must be loose and relaxed.
 

Sirius Glass

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If you try too hard, you will never be able to hold a camera steady. One must be loose and relaxed.

Instead, inhale, hold your breath, slowly squeeze the shutter release, then exhale. It sounds silly but remember to breathe, just like in swimming, skiing, snowboarding and ice skating. [The alternative is not so good. Relaxing is important for the enjoyment of photography.]
 

blee1996

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TLR is my most favored form factor for medium format, and I can easily hold to 1/8s if not slower. I hold the TLR like a newborn baby, with four points of body contact. My left hand and right hand cradle left, right and bottom sides. I stick out my stomach a bit to provide the 4th contact to the back of the camera. Hold my breath, slightly exert pressure from all four sides, and squeeze the shutter release gently and slowly.

But it only works well for TLRs with a push-in shutter button at lower front panel. For Rolleicord that needs to side swipe the shutter release, or earlier Ikoflex that shutter release button is on the top of front frame, I can introduce camera shake quite easily. So I have to exert more pressure from the 4 slides in order to negate the shutter trigger effect.
 
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Steven Lee

Steven Lee

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Thank you everyone who responded. This thread gave me a few ideas.
 

Rolleiflexible

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Instead, inhale, hold your breath, slowly squeeze the shutter release, then exhale. It sounds silly but remember to breathe, just like in swimming, skiing, snowboarding and ice skating. [The alternative is not so good. Relaxing is important for the enjoyment of photography.]

I agree breath is everything. But I shoot after I exhale. :smile:
 

dourbalistar

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And second element- a soft release button. I like the convex soft mushroom style, allows for a lot of comfortable relaxed finger pressure positions, not demanding a specific angle of pressure. That's a match technical one in the photo- very well made but a too silly naming system so I am not certain what it is called.
It's a Bug-O, so yes, a literal shutterbug. Match Technical makes a long post and a short post version, and Leica Store Miami's website has a photo and explanation of the differences. I have a few Match Technical soft releases on my cameras, including an older version of the Bug.


2020.05.31 Roll #247-04886-positive.jpg
by dourbalistar, on Flickr
 

bags27

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Addressing two suggestions above:
1. I've used the "cord monopod": very easy to make one. What they effectively do is minimize vertical hand shaking. Costs under $10 to make, is completely negligible to carry, and sometimes helps. I figure it's worth about half an f/stop.
2. Yes, a soft shutter release on the right camera is tremendous. I use one on my Leica M4-P and feel it's worth a full f/stop.

The 2 above help me with various cameras. Ditto pressing the camera against my chest.

And then there's always simply shooting at a higher ISO and adjusting during development.

And to say something absolutely sacrilegious, since I scan my negatives and use them digitally, I figure Topaz sharpen, moderately employed, is maybe another f/stop.

So, various strategies with various cameras gets me 1.5-3 or 4 f/stops, which, at my age, is often the difference between using or depending upon a monopod or tripod.
 
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Steven Lee

Steven Lee

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So... I've been practicing today.

One thing nobody mentioned, and apologies if you did and I missed it, is heartbeat. When I am using a prism finder pressed against my eye socket, supported by my hands forming a triangle against my body, it's not a problem. But when a camera is held near the waist/chest area, it easily picks up the heartbeat. I can clearly see it in the viewfinder. Yes I can pay attention to and control my breathing, but my heartbeat easily reaches 100bpm when I'm hiking and I am yet to master the art of stopping my heart for a few seconds. That seems to be the variable I am trying to isolate.

I suspect this wouldn't be a problem when wearing heavy/winter clothes, but I am the year-around t-shirt type.
 
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