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10-21-2009, 11:26 AM - 1 Like   #1
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Focusing screen reviews

After using some of the various focusing screens available for Pentax DSLRs it is time to put in writing how I really feel about some of them and the value they provide as well as some pictures to show how they look installed.

The short list of desired features:
  • Bright clear screen
  • Easily identifiable focusing aids
  • Reference marks
  • Relatively inexpensive

Some of the above requirements may force the selection toward one of the Chinese vendors on eBay. There are other options at various price points available to Pentax users.

Focusingscreens.com Ec-B:

Specifications:
  • Made from Canon Ec-B full frame focusing screen
  • Horizontal Split Image
  • Concentric reference mark
Features:
  • Rule of thirds grid optional
  • Comes in original packaging
  • Additional thin spacers supplied
  • Original screen installation tools
Price:

Approx $90 purchased direct from Focusingscreens.com

Package:

The Focusingscreen.com package arrived approximately eight days after ordering via US Mail to the east coast. Not only was all the original manufacturers packaging included but that was even repacked into a larger parcel. Short of completely crushing the box there is little chance that any screen received from Focusingscreens.com will arrive damaged. All the original documentation and tools are also included as well as a metal electronics tweezers and additional shims.

Installation instructions are provided online only but that is really not much of a hindrance as there are quite a few photographs of the entire process on their web site. There are also numerous YouTube videos showing precisely how to change a focusing screen on the various Pentax DSLRs.

The screen arrived clean and without any additional wear marks.

In Use:

If you have ever used an older full frame film SLR then you most likely have used a focusing screen that had aids for manual focus such as a micro prism annular aid and a split image area besides the matte. With today's DSLR being of the auto focus variety many manufacturers have only provided matte only focusing screen, although many have scribed marks to assist in locating the auto focus points. The problem with all matte screens is that critical focus of manual focus lenses cannot be achieved on a consistent basis. Pentax does offer additional focusing screen options on many of its DSLRs but other than different engraved marks they are all matte screens. This is where the aftermarket has filled the void.

This particular Canon Ec-B derived focusing screen has the addition of a horizontal split image and a concentric reference circle besides a laser cut echelette. Focusing manual lenses becomes an easy task with this particular screen. Auto focus is not affected by the installation of this particular screen. The matte area is bright and clear, it is a bit brighter than the OEM screen. The image appears to pop into focus. The split image is very accurate and can be used with an eyepiece magnifier for precision focusing. This is a welcome feature for high magnification macro shooters. There is no micro prism in this particular focusing screen.

I have used this screen extensively on one of my K20Ds with both very slow and very fast lens without any incompatibilities. One of the issues with split image areas is that one half tends to darken when slow lens are used. I was able to use this particular screen with a lens that has an f8 maximum aperture with no darkening at all. Fast lens have different problems usually associated with matte only screens, generally their depth of field is so shallow that on a matte only screen, where DOF is slightly exaggerated it is difficult to tell if you are precisely focused. The split image allows precise focus with little effort with even the fastest lenses that I had (50mm f1.4 and 85mm f1.4).

The reason that shims are provided is that these screens being built for other camera models may not be precisely the same thickness as the OEM screen. As long as the matte/fresnel surface is in the same position thickness of the screen is an insignificant factor in accuracy. The shims are provided so that the matte/fresnel surface of the screen can end up in the same place as the OEM. The use of the shims may not be necessary on some cameras.

One note about metering, with this as with all split image Spot metering is affected. It also varies based on lens maximum aperture and the actual shooting aperture. You cannot arbitrarily dial in a certain +- EV and expect it to work, Center weighted and Matrix metering seem unaffected.

The screen I ordered also included the "rule of thirds" lines to aid in composition. Please note that some screens might include architectural guides which divide the screen in quarters rather than thirds.

The bottom line:

I prefer this focusing screen to any I have tried up to this point.
  • Pro:
    • Good value at its price point
    • High level of quality
    • Ease of installation
  • Con:
    • No separate camera specific installation instructions included
    • Spot metering is affected

Similar competing products:
  • Focusingscreens.com Nikon K-3
  • JinFinance 45 split image
  • Travor 45 split image

Out of focus:



In focus:




Last edited by WheresWaldo; 10-21-2009 at 02:59 PM.
10-21-2009, 12:10 PM - 2 Likes   #2
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Pentax LL-80 AF

After using some of the various focusing screens available for Pentax DSLRs it is time to put in writing how I really feel about some of them and the value they provide as well as some pictures to show how they look installed.

The short list of desired features:
  • Bright clear screen
  • Easily identifiable focusing aids
  • Reference marks
  • Relatively inexpensive

Pentax makes two basic screens for their DSLRs, the standard LL-60 and the LL-80. The LL-80 has an architectural grid engraved on the screen.

Pentax LL-80 AF DIVIDED MATTE FOCUSING SCREEN:

Specifications:
  • Genuine Pentax accessory screen
  • Architectural grid
  • Auto focus reference marks
Features:
  • Comes in official Pentax packaging
  • Original screen installation tools
Price:

Approx $45 purchased from B&H Photo

Package:

The Pentax package arrived approximately four days after ordering via UPS to the east coast. Not only was all the original manufacturers packaging included but that was even repacked into a larger parcel. Other than the supplied tool, no other items ship with the Pentax screen

Installation instructions are not provided either in the box or online at PentaxImaging.com. This omission is not much of a hindrance as there are quite a few photographs of the entire process on the web as well as numerous YouTube videos showing precisely how to change a focusing screen on the various Pentax DSLRs.

The screen arrived clean and without any additional wear marks.

In Use:

This screen is basically the same as the LL-60 screen that comes with the K10D/k20D. There is absolutely no difference in screen brightness and no difference in focusing precision. The advantage this screen has over the original screen is the addition of engraved marks that divide the screen both horizontally and vertically in quarters.

Auto focus is not affected by the installation of this particular screen. The matte area is bright and clear, just as the OEM screen. The image appears to pop into focus. An eyepiece magnifier is a must accessory for precision focusing. This is a welcome feature for high magnification macro shooters. There is no micro prism or split image in this particular focusing screen.

I have used this screen extensively on my GX-1S with both very slow and very fast lens without any incompatibilities. I was able to use this particular screen with a lens that has an f8 maximum aperture with little or no darkening at all. Fast lens do have a small issue associated with matte only screens, generally their depth of field is so shallow that on a matte only screen, where DOF is slightly exaggerated it is difficult to tell if you are precisely focused. I did not have difficulty using this screen with everything from a 50mm f1.4 to a 600mm f8 Mirror lens.

One note about metering, with this Spot, Center weighted and Matrix metering are unaffected. There is some annecdotal information that using the LI-80 version of this screen can actually improve the accuracy of stop down metering with older non-automatic lens. I can not verify the accuracy of that statement.

The screen also included architectural guides which divide the screen in quarters rather than thirds. This can aid photographers in making sure that horizons are level and buildings are plumb in their images.

The bottom line:

A good option if you must have a Genuine Pentax screen.
  • Pro:
    • Good value at its price point
    • High level of quality
    • Ease of installation
    • Does not affect any metering mode
  • Con:
    • No separate camera specific installation instructions included
    • Does not provide aid for manual focused lenses where precision is required

Similar competing products:
  • Focusingcreens.com Canon Ec-B
  • Focusingscreens.com Nikon K-3
  • JinFinance 45 split image
  • Travor 45 split image

Out of focus:

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In focus:

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Last edited by WheresWaldo; 10-21-2009 at 03:00 PM.
10-21-2009, 12:37 PM - 3 Likes   #3
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JinFinance 45 Split Image Screen

After using some of the various focusing screens available for Pentax DSLRs it is time to put in writing how I really feel about some of them and the value they provide as well as some pictures to show how they look installed.

The short list of desired features:
  • Bright clear screen
  • Easily identifiable focusing aids
  • Reference marks
  • Relatively inexpensive

Available screens from various eBay seller fit the requirements stated above. One of the first offerings available at very good prices was from a Hong Kong eBay seller, JinFinance. I believe their screens start life as a Chinese K1000 screen that is cut down to fit the smaller DSLR size.

45 Split Image Focusing Screen:

Specifications:
  • Chinese made focusing screen
  • Split image
  • Micro prism collar
Features:
  • Small plastic packaging
  • Metal tweezers
  • Pair rubber finger condoms
  • Shims available on request
Price:

Approx $40 purchased from eBay

Package:

The JinFinance package arrived approximately twelve days after winning bid via US Mail to the east coast. No OEM packaging of any kind is included. The screen package was placed in a padded envelope for international shipping. Although not packed as well as Pentax, KatzEye or Focusingscreens there should be little worry that the screen will be damaged in transit.

Installation instructions are not provided either in the box or online. This omission is not much of a hindrance as there are quite a few photographs of the entire process on the web as well as numerous YouTube videos showing precisely how to change a focusing screen on the various Pentax DSLRs. Even this forum has enough threads on focusing screen that you could get a very good idea how to install one without any written directions.

The screen arrived clean and without any additional wear marks. There was two adhesive plastic coatings that have to be removed before installation. Care must be take to not damage the screen during removal as the plastic coatings are really stuck on well. Cleaning of the screen is required to remove any remaining residue from the adhesive.

In Use:

This screen is a throwback to the early 80's split image screens available on the least expensive full frame film SLRs. There appears to be no difference in screen brightness from the OEM screen. The advantage this screen has over the original screen is the addition of the split image and micro prism collar.

Auto focus is not affected by the installation of this particular screen. The matte area is bright and clear, just as the OEM screen. An eyepiece magnifier is a nice accessory but not mandatory for precision focusing.

I have used this screen extensively and is still installed in my GX-1S. It has been used with both very slow and very fast lens without few incompatibilities. When this particular screen was used with a lens that has an f8 maximum aperture, there was noticeable darkening in the micro prism area making it all but unusable. The darkening also affected the split image but careful eye placement could at times restore the image to both halves of the split image. Fast lens or scenes with adequate brightness did not have any issues obtaining precision focus. I did not have difficulty using this screen with everything from a 50mm f1.4 to a 50-200mm f5.6 Mirror lens.

One note about metering, with this Center weighted and Matrix metering are unaffected. There is a noted overexposure using spot metering and this split image screen. To be completely fair this affects all split image screens on Pentax DSLRs.

Build quality is not up to the same standards as Pentax, Nikon, Canon or KatzEye. There are noticeable areas near the split image that show flaws in the grinding of those features. These usually show up as dark specks or in the case of this particular screen an extra dark line around the split image area.

The bottom line:

A lesser quality screen that is very usable for those that don't want to spend the money.
  • Pro:
    • Good value at its price point
    • Ease of installation
    • Easy to see precise focus on manually focused lens
    • Does not effect auto focus operation
  • Con:
    • No separate camera specific installation instructions included
    • Poorer quality from other brands
    • Visually darker than other screens
    • Affects spot metering negatively

Similar competing products:
  • Focusingcreens.com Canon Ec-B
  • Focusingscreens.com Nikon K-3
  • Pentax LL-80 Focusing Screen
  • Travor 45 split image

Out of focus:



In focus:


Last edited by WheresWaldo; 10-21-2009 at 03:03 PM.
10-21-2009, 02:57 PM - 1 Like   #4
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Focusingscreens.com Nikon K-3

In an effort to find the best screen for the way I use my Pentax DSLRs I have come across and used many different types of screen from the least expensive Chinese screens to genuine Pentax screens.

The short list of desired features:
  • Bright clear screen
  • Easily identifiable focusing aids
  • Reference marks
  • Relatively inexpensive

Some of the above requirements may force the selection toward one of the Chinese vendors on eBay. There are other options at various price points available to Pentax users. This review focuses (pardon the pun) on the Nikon K-3 screen sold by Focusingscreens.com

Focusingscreens.com Nikon K-3:

Specifications:
  • Made from Nikon K-3 full frame focusing screen
  • Horizontal Split Image
  • Micro prism collar
  • Concentric reference marks
Features:
  • Rule of thirds grid optional
  • Comes in original Nikon packaging
  • Original Nikon screen installation tools
Price:

Approx $90 purchased direct from Focusingscreens.com

Package:

The Focusingscreen.com package arrived approximately seven days after ordering via US Mail to the east coast. Not only was all the original manufacturers packaging included but that was even repacked into a larger parcel. Short of completely crushing the box there is little chance that any screen received from Focusingscreens.com will arrive damaged. All the original Nikon documentation and tools are also included as well as a metal electronics tweezers. Not extremely useful for Pentax installation but at least you know exactly what you are getting.

Installation instructions are provided online only but that is really not much of a hindrance as there are quite a few photographs of the entire process on their web site. There are also numerous YouTube videos showing precisely how to change a focusing screen on the various Pentax DSLRs.

The screen arrived clean and without any additional wear marks.

In Use:

It bears repeating that if you have ever used an older full frame film SLR then you most likely have used a focusing screen that had aids for manual focus such as a micro prism annular aid and a split image area besides the matte. The matte only focusing screen, although many have scribed marks to assist in locating the auto focus points are simply not adequate for precise manual focusing. Pentax does offer additional focusing screen options on many of its DSLRs but other than different engraved marks they are all matte screens. This is where the Focusingscreens has found its niche.

This particular Nikon K-3 derived focusing screen has the addition of a horizontal split image and a concentric micro prism collar as well as a concentric reference circle besides a precision echelette. Focusing manual lenses is a no brainer with this particular screen. Auto focus is not affected by the installation of this particular screen. The matte area is bright and clear, it is a bit brighter than the OEM screen, although not quite as bright as the Canon Ec-B screen. The image appears to pop into focus. As seen in the pictures below the screen almost completely clears when in focus. The split image is very accurate and can be used with an eyepiece magnifier for precision focusing. This is a welcome feature for high magnification macro shooters. The micro prism in this particular focusing screen appears to be well made and does not suffer from the darkening found in the JinFinance or equivalent screens.

I have used this screen extensively on my second K20D with both very slow and very fast lens without any incompatibilities. One of the issues with split image areas is that one half tends to darken when slow lens are used. I was able to use this particular screen with a lens that has an f8 maximum aperture with no darkening at all. In fact I have also used this screen with the Zenitar FE stopped down to f11 without darkening. Quite a feat for a small piece of plastic. Fast lens have different problems usually associated with matte only screens, generally their depth of field is so shallow that on a matte only screen, where DOF is slightly exaggerated it is difficult to tell if you are precisely focused. The split image and micro prism allows precise focus with little effort with even the fastest lenses that I had (50mm f1.4 and 85mm f1.4).

One note about metering, with this as with all split image Spot metering is affected. It also varies based on lens maximum aperture and the actual shooting aperture. You cannot arbitrarily dial in a certain +- EV and expect it to work, Center weighted and Matrix metering seem unaffected.

The screen I ordered also included the "rule of thirds" lines to aid in composition. Please note that Pentax grid screens include architectural guides which divide the screen in quarters rather than thirds. One other interesting thing about this screen is the rather large reference circle. On a Nikon film camera this circle is supposed to correspond with the area covered by the center weighted area of the built in exposure meter. On a 1.5x crop camera such as the Pentax DSLrs it is almost as big enough to cover the center nine auto focus points, almost but not quite! It does provide a bit of an idea of where they are. This reference circle does not disappear as much as the "rule of thirds" grid and appears as a very thin black circle.

The bottom line:

My second favorite screen and a slightly cheaper alternative to the Katz-Eye screen (especially if you need the engraved guides).
  • Pro:
    • Good value at its price point
    • High level of quality
    • Ease of installation
  • Con:
    • No separate camera specific installation instructions included
    • Spot metering is affected

Similar competing products:
  • Focusingscreens.com Canon Ec-B
  • Pentax LL-80 screen with grid
  • JinFinance 45 split image
  • Travor 45 split image

Out of focus:



In focus:




Last edited by WheresWaldo; 10-21-2009 at 03:04 PM.
10-21-2009, 03:58 PM - 1 Like   #5
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Travor 45 Split Image Focusing Screen

This was in the middle of my search for the perfect focusing screen. There are now so many options that simply did not exist a couple of years ago.

The short list of desired features:
  • Bright clear screen
  • Easily identifiable focusing aids
  • Reference marks
  • Relatively inexpensive

Available screens from various eBay seller fit the requirements stated above. One of the first offerings available at very good prices was from another Hong Kong eBay seller, Travor. I believe their screens also start life as a Chinese K1000 screen that is cut down to fit the smaller DSLR size.

45 Split Image Focusing Screen:

Specifications:
  • Chinese made focusing screen
  • Split image
  • Micro prism collar
Features:
  • Small plastic packaging
  • Metal tweezers
  • Pair rubber finger condoms
  • Shims available on request
Price:

Approx $40 purchased from eBay

Package:

The Travor package arrived approximately eleven days after winning bid via US Mail to the east coast. No OEM packaging of any kind is included. The screen package was placed in a padded envelope for international shipping. Although not packed as well as Pentax, KatzEye or Focusingscreens there should be little worry that the screen will be damaged in transit.

Installation instructions are not provided either with the package or online. This omission is not much of a hindrance as there are quite a few photographs of the entire process on the web as well as numerous YouTube videos showing precisely how to change a focusing screen on the various Pentax DSLRs. The one thing that should be documented is that there is a plastic film over both sides of the focusing screen that must be removed before installation, more on this later. The micro prism area does appear a bit cleaner than the JinFinance, I believe this is just sample variation.

In Use:

This screen is a throwback to the early 80's split image screens available on the least expensive full frame film SLRs. There appears to be no difference in screen brightness from the OEM screen, as a matter of fact it might be a tad bit dimmer. The advantage this screen has over the original screen is the addition of the 45 split image and micro prism collar.

Auto focus is not affected by the installation of this particular screen. An eyepiece magnifier is a nice accessory but not mandatory for precision focusing. I would normally say that the screen was clear at this point but there was a problem. The plastic film over both sides was held on so tightly that it was nearly impossible to remove it smoothly. The end result was that the screen has some burnish marks on it from the removal process.

I have used this screen extensively and is still installed in my GX-1S. It has been used with both very slow and very fast lens without few incompatibilities. When this particular screen was used with a lens that has an f8 maximum aperture, there was noticeable darkening in the micro prism area making it all but unusable. The darkening also affected the split image but careful eye placement could at times restore the image to both halves of the split image. Fast lens or scenes with adequate brightness did not have any issues obtaining precision focus. I did not have difficulty using this screen with everything from a 50mm f1.4.
About f5.6 id the lower limit before the darkening becomes a real problem.

One note about metering, with this Center weighted and Matrix metering are unaffected. There is a noted overexposure using spot metering and this split image screen. To be completely fair this affects all split image screens on Pentax DSLRs.

Build quality is not up to the same standards as Pentax, Nikon, Canon or KatzEye. There are noticeable areas near the split image that show flaws in the grinding of those features. These usually show up as dark specks around the split image area.

The bottom line:

A lesser quality screen that is very usable for those that don't want to spend the money.
  • Pro:
    • Good value at its price point
    • Ease of installation
    • Easy to see precise focus on manually focused lens
    • Does not effect auto focus operation
  • Con:
    • No separate camera specific installation instructions included
    • Poorer quality from other brands
    • Visually darker than other screens
    • Affects spot metering negatively

Similar competing products:
  • Focusingcreens.com Canon Ec-B
  • Focusingscreens.com Nikon K-3
  • Pentax LL-80 Focusing Screen
  • JinFinance 45 split image

Out of focus:

Name:  CIMG3003.jpg
Views: 28099
Size:  36.7 KB

In focus:

Name:  CIMG3004.jpg
Views: 19200
Size:  49.0 KB
10-21-2009, 04:51 PM   #6
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I've only been able to glance at your reviews, but big thanks to you for taking the time to do this and to present it so very well.
10-21-2009, 06:58 PM   #7
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Thanks for the reviews. I have the Travor screen in my K10 and want to replace it with the Nikon K3 screen. Do the screens from focusingscreen.com have the plasic film on them like the Travor screen do? It was a real pain to remove.
10-21-2009, 07:01 PM   #8
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thanks for the great review this is a big help as I try to decide what screen to buy for my 100ds.

10-21-2009, 09:01 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by wasser Quote
I've only been able to glance at your reviews, but big thanks to you for taking the time to do this and to present it so very well.
Thanks, just trying to give a little back to the community.

QuoteOriginally posted by rockmaster1964 Quote
Thanks for the reviews. I have the Travor screen in my K10 and want to replace it with the Nikon K3 screen. Do the screens from focusingscreen.com have the plasic film on them like the Travor screen do? It was a real pain to remove.
The Nikon and Canon screens from focusingscreens.com do not have the plastic film on them.

QuoteOriginally posted by Ramitt Quote
thanks for the great review this is a big help as I try to decide what screen to buy for my 100ds.
I am hoping that a KatzEye owner will add their review to this thread, there are currently 4 pages of focusing screen threads and the information on each screen is scattered throughout them. Bringing it all into one thread willl only help everyone.
10-21-2009, 10:03 PM   #10
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Thanks for the excellent work

I've used a few China made screen, and now settled on the K3 screen from focusingscreen. Really love it.

But on K7 camera, the best way to get spot on shot w/ manual lens is by LV, especially w/ lenses like 50/1.2, 85/1.4 or 135/1.8.
10-24-2009, 07:40 AM   #11
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Is the stock screen in the current Pentax dSLR matte along the same level as the screens in the mf film bodies? I am wondering how much of an upgrade the Pentax macro screen would be compared to the "stock" screen other than the rulers.
10-24-2009, 08:59 AM   #12
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Many, many thanks

This is an incredible help. I appreciate all the time (and money) you put into sharing this.

michael mckee
My Port Townsend – A City in Photographs
10-24-2009, 04:17 PM   #13
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Great review and very concise.
This will help a lot of those who are thinking of or would want to change their screens.
I was tempted before but I would still go for the stock screen and just use a viewfinder magnifier.
I guess I would not want anything to affect any regular camera function (like metering).
This is an awesome review and it made me more sure about just using the stock screens.
Thanks for this!
10-24-2009, 04:18 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by mysticcowboy Quote
This is an incredible help. I appreciate all the time (and money) you put into sharing this.

michael mckee
My Port Townsend A City in Photographs
Specially all the time and money! 2 thumbs up!
10-25-2009, 10:07 PM   #15
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Now available!

I just ordered an EC-L cross screen with grid lines for my GX-10. I'll let you know how it goes. It looks like they have all of them in stock .. at least for k10d right now.
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