Split prism focusing screens

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by kallisti, Dec 24, 2009.

  1. kallisti macrumors 65816


    Apr 22, 2003
    While the AF on modern DSLRs is pretty darn good these days, there are times that you still may want to manual focus. With current standard focusing screens, it can be tough to achieve good manual focus. This is one of the advantages of rangefinder cameras.

    I recently replaced the focusing screen on my DSLR with one from Katz Eye. I like having a split prism focusing screen (one of the things I miss from my early film days when I was just starting to take pictures).

    While most of the time I am happy with AF, there are times I rely on MF (especially with macro or when shooting primes that don't support AF). Having a split prism focusing screen is an aid when relying on visual cues and/or the viewfinder focus indicator.

    The installation was extremely easy. Took 5 to 10 min total. They have online tutorials that walk you through each step. It has no effect on basic camera functions (metering, AF performance, etc.). It basically just adds a split prism to the central portion of your viewfinder image. The company also offers the option of adding grid lines (for example "rule of thirds" lines) if you so wish.

    Just throwing this out there in case it might be useful for anyone.
  2. CrackedButter macrumors 68040


    Jan 15, 2003
    51st State of America
    Funnily enough I have been searching the net for one today. I found one on ebay for my 1dsmk2. Great minds think alike hey!
  3. needlnerdz macrumors regular


    Jun 10, 2006
    hmm I forgot about this after doing some research shortly after getting my first dSLR... would be great as I always depending on this to MF an ooold Pentax, it's just a shame it's so expensive. Not to mention, this 'OptiBrite' brings the cost that much higher. In the end I'm sure its well worth it since it will help one get back into MF photography... but still wishing it could be a cheaper modification...

    Did you happen to go with this extra OptiBrite option and how does it compare to the brightness of your original manufactured screen? [although I guess its different from every camera to camera]
  4. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA
    As far as I've read, it will change your metering- spot metering is affected the most, with center-weighted the next-most- Katz says it depends on the mode and camera model- which model are you using?:

    Plus for the OptiBrite:

    Also- this is a little tidbit that you may want to keep in mind:

    Personally, though I grew up with split prism screens, I've never had a problem with the >o< "dot and arrows" indicators on my D2x and D3x- in fact I find them quicker than the split-prism method. I'd probably feel more limited with the "dot only" indicator on the D40. I tend to be in manual exposure modes when I'm manually focusing, but if I weren't, the above would all be of concern to me.

  5. CrackedButter macrumors 68040


    Jan 15, 2003
    51st State of America
    This isn't so bad for me actually, though it is good to know. I'm shooting a documentary with a light meter (I don't really need it now since the light stays the same all the time) and the autofocus of the camera isn't always able to work, going back to a split screen would be wonderful. Takes it back to the basics but you can always change the screen again if you're shooting a wedding!
  6. gnd macrumors 6502a


    Jun 2, 2008
    At my cat's house
    A lot of my lenses are manual focus so I've always struggled with focusing. The standard focusing screen is just not accurate enough. Then I bought a split prism focusing screen and now manual focus is such a pleasure to use. The difference is like night and day. True, if you use lenses with small aperture (like a kit lens at its maximum focal length or old M42 lenses that are manually stopped down) the light meter can get exposure wrong, but I always rely on the histogram anyway. AF is not affected at all.
    Since I've been using the split prism focusing screen I've also started manually focusing my AF lenses. It's also very helpful to see when an AF lens misses focus while auto focusing. It's very obvious with the split prism.
    Anyway, I can't imagine going back to a camera without a split prism focusing screen :)

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