Manual-Focus Film Photography: How to Use a Focusing Screen

how to use a manual focus film camera with a focusing screen

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I finally edited another educational video for all my budding film photographers out there!

When I first got my trusty Minolta X-700 film camera years ago, I had no idea what a focusing screen was! I just thought it was a weird circle in the middle of my viewfinder. (Which in a way it is—but a useful one!) And when I did finally figure it out, my photos got a lot sharper—who would have thought?! So now I’m here to pass on that knowledge to you!

It’s easy to learn how to use a focusing screen once you know what it does, and I’ve got you covered.

If you’re getting into film photography, there’s a decent chance your first film camera will be a secondhand camera from a while back. If it’s not an old point-and-shoot, it might be a manual-focus film camera. And if it’s a manual-focus camera, you might be in need of some manual focus tips!

Lots of manual-focus cameras have mechanisms built in to help you nail your focus more easily. One of the most common things is a focusing screen! Lots of film cameras use them, but they can be confusing if you’re not used to them.

Psst! If you’re working on your manual focus, you might want to check out my post and video on zone focusing, too.

In the video below, I’ll walk you through two of the most common mechanisms: split prism and microprism focusing screens.

My Minolta X-700 uses both of those methods combined into one, and some cameras will have just one or the other. I filmed some examples through the viewfinder of my Minolta so you can see what I see when I shoot, and see how to use a focusing screen firsthand.

If your camera uses split prism or microprism focusing, or both, or if you’re considering getting a manual-focus film camera and want to learn more, I hope this helps!

Without further ado, here’s the video:

Have you tried using a manual-focus camera before? Does yours have a focusing screen? If so, I hope this helps! Let me know in the comments, and as always, feel free to ask me whatever questions you may have!

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