Using Fast Manual Focus Lenses on the 5D4

Apr 30, 2021
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Hello, all - new member here with a question...
Has anyone had first-hand experience with an aftermarket focusing screen for the 5D4 that is optimized for fast lenses - especially, fast manual focus lenses?
I realize D-SLRs typically do not have the same focusing assurance as was afforded by the viewfinders in our film SLR's, in terms of a really accurate contrast between what's in precise focus and what isn't when using lenses of f/2 and faster. I also understand changing focusing screen to one optimized for such lenses is possible on the 6D and was also possible in the 5-series, at least up to the 5D2.
The lens that prompted this question is my new Zeiss Milvus 135mm f/2, so not only a fast lens, but at 135mm, d-o-f can be excrutiatingly thin at wide aperture settings. The 5D4 reliably confirms with a chirp that focus is accurate where I have positioned a single sensor, but it is a crapshoot as to how deep the d-o-f really is, beyond that one detail. For a lot of my shooting, Live View with magnification is not a practical alternative...
The conundrum is that I see in Canon's data that the 5D4 uses a fixed screen, yet there is a website that actually shows four different focusing screens that they produce, on a page devoted to the 5D4.
Am I missing something? Or do I need to hang a 6D (with specialized viewing screen) on this bulky but beautiful monster for less angst while focusing.
Many thanks!
 
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stevelee

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Sorry that I can’t address your question. But if you are wondering about depth of field, do you not use the DOF preview?

I also wonder how a different focusing screen would tell you more about DOF.
 
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privatebydesign

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Sorry that I can’t address your question. But if you are wondering about depth of field, do you not use the DOF preview?

I also wonder how a different focusing screen would tell you more about DOF.
The bright screens work much better for manual focus of fast lenses. The average focus screen is itself an f2.8 or so, special ‘bright’ focus screens are faster so are more accurate below f2.8.

This is easy to demonstrate, look through a DSLR with a fast lens on it, then take a picture wide open and look at it in review. The resulting image will have less dof than through the viewfinder!
 
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Apr 30, 2021
8
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Sorry that I can’t address your question. But if you are wondering about depth of field, do you not use the DOF preview?

I also wonder how a different focusing screen would tell you more about DOF.
Good points, both, stevelee! Actually addressing two separate issues.
1. Yes, I do use the d-o-f preview button on all my Canon SLRs, both digital and film. The only thing about it with the 5D4 is that I'm finding, with both the girth and weight of the Zeiss, it is a bit awkward accessing that button. Actually easier to do so on the 40D (on which the Zeiss produces some really exciting images at the 216mm equivalent), since the d-o-f preview button is at left of lens. Just ergonomically easier for me to use more "automatically."
2. Correct, a different screen might not tell me much about d-o-f per se, but it would provide more snap between what is in dead-on focus and what isn't. Just a lot of years with MF lenses on film SLR's , making me miss the focusing precision with MF with fast lenses on the 5D4. The Zeiss is capable of such stunning results, just trying to give it a better chance to do so, with higher rate of success, on the 5D4!

P.S: I remember the FT-QL with a 50mm f/1.8 lens. Lovely machine.
 
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Del Paso

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Aug 9, 2018
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Hello, all - new member here with a question...
Has anyone had first-hand experience with an aftermarket focusing screen for the 5D4 that is optimized for fast lenses - especially, fast manual focus lenses?
I realize D-SLRs typically do not have the same focusing assurance as was afforded by the viewfinders in our film SLR's, in terms of a really accurate contrast between what's in precise focus and what isn't when using lenses of f/2 and faster. I also understand changing focusing screen to one optimized for such lenses is possible on the 6D and was also possible in the 5-series, at least up to the 5D2.
The lens that prompted this question is my new Zeiss Milvus 135mm f/2, so not only a fast lens, but at 135mm, d-o-f can be excrutiatingly thin at wide aperture settings. The 5D4 reliably confirms with a chirp that focus is accurate where I have positioned a single sensor, but it is a crapshoot as to how deep the d-o-f really is, beyond that one detail. For a lot of my shooting, Live View with magnification is not a practical alternative...
The conundrum is that I see in Canon's data that the 5D4 uses a fixed screen, yet there is a website that actually shows four different focusing screens that they produce, on a page devoted to the 5D4.
Am I missing something? Or do I need to hang a 6D (with specialized viewing screen) on this bulky but beautiful monster for less angst while focusing.
Many thanks!
I do !
And promptly regretted it...
A few years ago, fitted my 5 DIII (5 d IV is similar) with an aftermarket focusing screen, replacement being "quite" easy, 2 screws had to be removed with a magnetised !!! screwdriver, so they don't fall into the body.
Focusing was easier, but less precise, because of a differing thickness compared to the original screen. So, precision suffered, especially with long teles (Leica R 560mm) and macro lenses. Metering precision suffered as well, by about 2/3 of a diaphragm.
There's also a risk of touching the extremely fragile screen, which you'll see afterwards through the viewfinder. And resale value could suffer.
I removed that full-matte screen, only to find out that the original allowed a more precise (not faster) focusing.
So, forget about what seems to be a good option (my opinion).
 
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Sporgon

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I haven't put one into a 5DIV, but I did use the proprietary ones on the 5D, 5DII & 6D.

The only advice I would give is be prepared for disappointment and frustration, especially with a 135mm f/2 lens. Using your standard focusing screen you have probably already found that the AF beep / blink to confirm focus is not accurate enough for these types of lenses when used in this way, and the manual focus screens won't help this. Also on a 5DIV you are looking through the transmissive LCD display which doesn't help either.

IMO the only way to precisely focus a lens like the 135/2 on a 5DIV is to use live view and magnify. Here's how I do it; compose the shot and flick the AF box to the part of the image you want sharp focus and magnify. I can then shoot away with only the magnified part of the scene in view knowing that my full composition is how I want it - more or less, the 5DS helps here. ;)

Incidentally I have found that with a very unforgiving lens focus peaking in mirrorless is no better for manual focusing than a manual screen, and it still comes down to magnification to get perfect focus.
 

zim

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Would a gripped RP be an overall better solution? the OP did mention getting another body.
 
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koenkooi

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Would a gripped RP be an overall better solution? the OP did mention getting another body.
There is no first-party grip and the 3rd party one I tried looks good, is well built, but doesn't feel like a Canon grip. It also needs an external plug for the shutter button to work.
 
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Del Paso

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Would a gripped RP be an overall better solution? the OP did mention getting another body.
YES !!!!
It is the solution I've chosen for my many vintage lenses.
But: the definition of the RP's viewfinder is very coarse, the R's is better, even though too contrasty, the R5's is good...
It's up to you and your bank-account.
 
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zim

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There is no first-party grip and the 3rd party one I tried looks good, is well built, but doesn't feel like a Canon grip. It also needs an external plug for the shutter button to work.
Didn't know that, assumed there was an OEM
 

stevelee

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The bright screens work much better for manual focus of fast lenses. The average focus screen is itself an f2.8 or so, special ‘bright’ focus screens are faster so are more accurate below f2.8.

This is easy to demonstrate, look through a DSLR with a fast lens on it, then take a picture wide open and look at it in review. The resulting image will have less dof than through the viewfinder!
Weird. Do you know what causes the discrepancy?
 

privatebydesign

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Weird. Do you know what causes the discrepancy?
Yes, the lenses actual aperture is faster than the light path through the focusing screen. It is deliberate and nowadays not so much of an issue because most people use AF or live view manual focus, or an MILC (which obviously doesn’t have a focusing screen).

Why was it deliberate? Well a bright focus screen isn’t as good for manual focus on lenses slower than f2 (ish). This is one of the reasons focus screens used to be user swapable, if you were going to manually focus fast primes on a body you’d change out the focus screen, if you were going to use slower lenses or zooms you’d put the ‘normal’ screen in or any one of the various options with different focus aids, though they were all ‘slower’, had higher f numbers, than the ‘bright’ screens. Obviously the bright screens were called that because when you looked through the viewfinder the image was literally brighter.
 

stevelee

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P.S: I remember the FT-QL with a 50mm f/1.8 lens. Lovely machine.
it was my main camera for about 35 years. I had an array of prime lenses for it from 19mm to 300mm. It had a giant lever that gave you a DOF preview. I know there is a tiny button somewhere on my 6D2 that I can usually find in less than 5 minutes, but I usually don’t bother. I can think through it and apply experience quicker. I either want to isolate the subject from the background, or I want the background to look naturally blurry but not jump out and scream, “HEY!!! LOOK AT ME!!! BUCKETS AND BEAUCOODLES OF BOKEH BURGERS!!!” and thus distracting from the subject, or I want as much as possible in focus. The subtleties in between those are lost on me usually.

The reason that very blurry backgrounds look unnatural in photos taken in bright sunlight is that the pupils in the eyes stop down in bright light, so the things you aren’t looking at are not that blurry. So your eyes are sort of like wide-angle lenses at f/11 or f/16, for comparison. I’m not saying don’t blur backgrounds much on sunny days. Just realize that it is a special effect and an artistic choice.

I remember the envy I had for the array of focusing screens you could get for a NikonF. At least one had a rangefinder in the middle of the screen.

Still, I can’t say that I ever have focusing problems with my 6D2.
 
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Ruined

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Aug 22, 2013
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Why not just pick up a 6D with its interchangeable focusing screen if you want something different? They are cheap and the sensor is pretty great.
 
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Larsskv

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I own a set of Zeiss prime lenses. My solution is to have a dedicated 6D with an EG-S focusing screen. I also own a 1DX (high shuttercount that I got very cheap), which I often use for the same purpose. The 6D is quite good, but not as good as the original 1DX, which has a fantastic standard focusing screen. I did try a dedicated focusing screen on a 1DXII some years ago, but it didn’t beat the 1DX with the standard screen.

A very good solution is of course to buy any R camera. They have focusing aids (zebras and focus guide) that make focusing MF lenses with the EVF quite a bit easier than with any DSLR. This will be very apparent in poor lighting situations. (I find it very difficult to focus MF lenses at f2 without daylight). Still, if I have decent light, I prefer using optical viewfinders when shooting MF lenses. The 1DX rules, but the 6D is still a very nice camera for that purpose.

All this said, yes the Zeiss primes are very good, and they have very decent contrast levels, but for the most part and when all things are considered, I do prefer the images I get from my comparable L primes. To me, using MF lenses is a hobby, and more for the fun of it, than for getting the results.
 
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Apr 30, 2021
8
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Why not just pick up a 6D with its interchangeable focusing screen if you want something different? They are cheap and the sensor is pretty great.
Thank you, Ruined - That sounds like a very practical move. Hopefully, I could rent one with that EG-S screen to determine if it does what I'd heard in terms of focusing with MF lenses - especially with that 135/2 Zeiss!
 
Apr 30, 2021
8
2
I own a set of Zeiss prime lenses. My solution is to have a dedicated 6D with an EG-S focusing screen. I also own a 1DX (high shuttercount that I got very cheap), which I often use for the same purpose. The 6D is quite good, but not as good as the original 1DX, which has a fantastic standard focusing screen. I did try a dedicated focusing screen on a 1DXII some years ago, but it didn’t beat the 1DX with the standard screen.

A very good solution is of course to buy any R camera. They have focusing aids (zebras and focus guide) that make focusing MF lenses with the EVF quite a bit easier than with any DSLR. This will be very apparent in poor lighting situations. (I find it very difficult to focus MF lenses at f2 without daylight). Still, if I have decent light, I prefer using optical viewfinders when shooting MF lenses. The 1DX rules, but the 6D is still a very nice camera for that purpose.

All this said, yes the Zeiss primes are very good, and they have very decent contrast levels, but for the most part and when all things are considered, I do prefer the images I get from my comparable L primes. To me, using MF lenses is a hobby, and more for the fun of it, than for getting the results.
Thank you, Larsskv, for your well reasoned response - most valuable to me as it addresses my concerns based on your own first-hand experience. As I still shoot a lot of film, I do really miss that exquisite pleasure of seeing an image come into precise focus in the viewfinders of my Contax, Nikon, and other film SLRs!

Based on your experience, I'll try to at least rent a 6D with an EG-S focusing screen to confirm that combination conforms more to what I've enjoyed with those film SLRs. Thanks also for mentioning the 1DX, an option I hadn't considered, as well as the warning that more recent iterations were not as satisfactory, even with dedicated screen.

I've also considered the R-series of mirrorless cameras as a solution, what with the focus confirmation aids, as well as in-body IS. As I continue to love a bunch of vintage M42 MF lenses, such cameras also have been attracting my attention. I'm a bit concerned, though, that in the case of the Zeiss 135/2, with its size - and weight! - I could be creating an ungainly front-heavy contraption that might be less than a pleasure to use. Also, like you, I think I'm partial to optical VFs when shooting MF lenses.

And, yes, I agree with you that, in practical terms, Canon L-series primes are hard to fault. After - finally - experiencing the special qualities of Carl Zeiss lenses, as a result of adding some Contax film SLRs, I succumbed to a Zeiss promotion to try one free for three days, through LensRentals. The build quality of that Milvus 135/2 and the results I got in terms of colors and contrast (at least when I got it all right!), combined with LR's attractive "Keeper" price for a lens that was for all appearances brand new, prompted the purchase. So, it's going to be more of a lens to challenge my abilities in shooting where I have the luxury to be careful and deliberate. That said, I think I'd like to better the odds for more keepers (as well as less frustration in the process!) by making the right move in terms of adding the right new body, whether a 6, a 1DX, or one of the R's.

Thanks again for some valued guidance!

Steve
 
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Ruined

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Thank you, Ruined - That sounds like a very practical move. Hopefully, I could rent one with that EG-S screen to determine if it does what I'd heard in terms of focusing with MF lenses - especially with that 135/2 Zeiss!
I have a 6D with an EG-S installed specifically for this purpose and it is excellent. You see much thinner DOF than the bright screen . Of course on the downside it's also significantly darker in the OVF, but not an issue with a fast lens. In terms of sensor performance the 6D is excellent (much better than 5d2) so won't be losing much there from 5d4.
 
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