For most of our cameras featured thus far, we have been aided with the use of viewfinders/rangefinders with either auto-focusing or manual focusing functions. However, there comes a time where we encounter a certain camera which does not have the above capabilities! In those situations, we really had to consider how to focus on our photo subjects well without such focusing functions… and that’s where zone focusing fills in that gap!
Some of you might find it odd that a camera would not have a proper view/rangefinder that would be able to perform either manual or auto-focusing. However, this can be a common issue for modified cameras where the view/rangefinder is no longer usable due to an overhaul of the focusing system. For example, the Modified Instax 7s we are going to introduce has had the factory-standard plastic lens removed and completely replaced with a Yashikor f/3.5, 80mm lens extracted from a TLR Yashica 635 model (made in 1958!)
As a result, the focusing system in the Instax 7s clearly cannot work with the Yashikor lens, and therefore zone focusing is the only reliable means of focusing and capturing subjects. As described succinctly by Digital-Photography-School:
“Zone focusing is pre-focusing your camera to a certain distance away, say 10 feet, guessing the depth of field that you will have at that distance with the settings you are using, and then photographing subjects as they enter that range, and hopefully as close as possible to the actual focus distance on the camera.”
While zone focusing is used mainly for street photography (where photographers may be attempting to subtly take photos of passers-by without getting their attention), we have had to use zone focusing in order to use the modified Instax 7s! With (most of) the words out of the way, let’s introduce the modified Instax 7s (created by @cupcakeg2
Modified Instax 7s (Winnie the Pooh)
Presenting the modified Instax 7s! @cupcakeg2 hacked out the standard plastic lens and managed to replace it with the Yashikor lens, which surely took a lot of time and effort!
The numbers at the base of the lens are the calibrated distances so that we know where to turn the lens to!
The modified switch (pictured in front) is used to eject the photo, since we can technically cock the shutter and exposure as many images (on the same Instax film) as we want! A neat contraption to manage the film ejection process (and yes, “O” stands for “On”)!
@cupcakeg2 even managed to throw in a tripod mount screw for us!
Our First Shots
Zone focusing was honestly not easy! Even though we had the help of a distance meter, we did not really manage to capture Damian very clearly!
We had fun with some bokeh filters, using a maple leaf cut-out to manipulate the lights far off!
Taking pictures of foliage/plants is a good compromise in the context of zone focusing; you may not focus on the specific flower you intended, but you’re more likely to have captured other flowers further or in front of it!
For our first few attempts at zone focusing, we think this was a good try! Also, we noticed some vignetting along the corners when focusing up close.
Getting Used to Zone Focusing…
There are some basic knowledge about zone focusing that will help anyone (including us!) to master it:
- The smaller the aperture, the larger the depth of field will be; as a result, this compensates for marginal errors in guessing the distance of the subject from the camera;
- The further the subject, the smaller the depth of field will be; and
- The wider the focal length, the larger the depth of field; unfortunately we have had to improve our accuracy in estimating the distance (as the focal length of the modified Instax 7s is 80mm).
As a result, to avoid errors in guessing the distances, we rely heavily on the laser distance meter, which gives an accurate reading of the distance from the laser pointer to the subject. Obviously, we cannot really do this when taking people (whom we don’t know), so therefore we have had to revert to ‘guessing’. Since the Instax film has ISO 800, we are able to reduce the aperture (the Yashikor lens ranges from f/3.5 to f/22) to increase the depth of field in the daytime.
Zone focusing was not much of an issue here, as the shophouses’ windows were clearly beyond the furthest range (of 5 metres).
The camera works well in bright daylight due to the high ISO, and therefore this image was overexposed to get as much detail of the background (public housing) as possible.
Taken at a Hindu temple, we find composition to be difficult as the viewfinder is by no means accurate. As such, we had to ‘imagine’ the composition and how we would roughly want it to appear in our minds.
At f/16, you can see that the subjects are not out of focus, which exemplifies the importance of zone focusing.
Although our intentions were to frame the crane in the centre of the photo, we unintentionally relied on the 1/3 rule and took an interesting shot amidst the puffy clouds!
For this shot we tried to zone focus (without the distance meter) on the lady, but we did not get it right…
Due to the high ISO, taking shots indoors does not adversely affect the exposure of the image.
Here is an attempt to focus on the subject. We love how the Modified Instax 7s managed to capture the movement of the pool balls.
Another challenge was to trigger the shutter before the player moves. Here, it seems like the billiard table was more in focused than the player.
Although we thought we had our focused set correctly, the player was out of frame! This was due to the 80mm focal length, which is something to take into consideration before shooting.
And finally, Damian was captured quite well here (without the distance meter)!
We are definitely still learning how to zone focus, and are by no means skilled in that complex technique. However, we have the aid of the distance meter (at least for inanimate objects/willing participants), and so we hope to improve further! If you have any tips for us, do drop a comment below!
Till next time,