Shot with Minox GT-E on Kodak Portra 400

Guess your focus

  Most of the people today use either SLR or cameras with live view, that allow them focus precisely. Well, most of the people today shoot digital. We are talking about film cameras, and today I’m going to talk about scale focus cameras.

Shot with Minox GT-E on Kodak TMAX 3200

  What is a scale (or zone) focus? It's the focusing system where you choose the zone you are focusing to.  Sounds complicated? It actually is not. You have a camera, the viewfinder, and either ring or switch, where you choose approximate distance to your subject. Some of these cameras have symbols (a close person, a group of people, trees, building(s)), some would have a scale of meters or feet.

Shot with Olympus Trip 35 on Fuji Superia 400

  What’s interesting about these cameras is that most of them are really compact. Lomo LC-A, Olympus XA2, Minox 35 GT-E are cameras that you can put in your jeans pocket. Cameras like Olympus Trip 35 became iconic with time, and while not so pocketable, are still very compact. There are many foldable medium format cameras that have scale focus.

Shot with Minox GT-E on Kodak Portra 400

  Why use scale focus? Before rangefinders - and later, SLRs - became more affordable, manufacturers released cameras with scale (or zone) focus. Using it allows you to preset desired focusing distance, and if your eye is trained, it is a very convenient system. It is very useful for landscape and street photography.

Shot with Olympus Trip 35 on Fuji Superia 400

  The symbolic scale is usually translated to ~3f/0.8-1m, 5f/1.5m, 10f/3m, and infinity. When shooting landscape, you set your focus to infinity and all you have to care about is the photo composition. For street photography, it’s the same idea - you set your desired focusing distance, and all you care about is catching the moment. While lately I use medium format, I still cary a 35mm camera with me, and most of the times it’s a scale focus one.

Shot with Minox GT-E on Kodak Portra 400

  In the next post I will be talking about rangefinders, and why I took two go them with me when we went camping to Gaspésie.

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