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02-19-2016, 02:21 AM   #1
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Yet another focus screen question...

I have a Pentax K-01 right now. It has been a great camera, but I'm yearning for a Pentax that has a split screen focus. I know that it is an old-fashioned way of doing things, but it was how I learned photography back in the 1980s when I took photography in high school.

I know I'd have to install an aftermarket split screen but I had a question. Has Pentax traditionally used the same sized focus screens from the film to digital eras? I have a couple of old Pentax film cameras I originally purchased just to get the lenses from but I could never bring myself to toss them. So they went up on a shelf after that. I don't recall what they are right off the top of my head, but I do know they're old SLRs.

If the focus screens are the same size I figured I'd save a bit of time and money by harvesting one and installing it into another Pentax I have my eye on. If not, then I don't mind buying a focus screen and waiting for it to be shipped out.

I generally like the manual focus option the K-01 offers, but with my eyes getting a little weaker with age, I'd really like to go back to a tried-and-trusted method. Sometimes I think some people have become over-reliant on the auto-focus option. I like to force myself to work a little and do as much manually as I can. It gives me a greater sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

02-19-2016, 07:27 AM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by jerry7171 Quote
Has Pentax traditionally used the same sized focus screens from the film to digital eras? I have a couple of old Pentax film cameras I originally purchased just to get the lenses from but I could never bring myself to toss them. So they went up on a shelf after that. I don't recall what they are right off the top of my head, but I do know they're old SLRs. If the focus screens are the same size I figured I'd save a bit of time and money by harvesting one and installing it into another Pentax I have my eye on. If not, then I don't mind buying a focus screen and waiting for it to be shipped out.
All of the Pentax DSLR's (up to the brand-new K-1 full screen DSLR) have APS-C cropped sensors, and have correspondingly smaller focusing screens.

If you're adventuresome, it is possible to cut a Pentax film era focusing screen down to size -- there was a thread here not too long ago, I think, about someone doing so with a Super Program focusing screen -- but then there may be shimming issues for you to resolve (no pun intended) (really).

Another possibility is buying a screen already cut to size from eBay or from Focusing Screen, but you will still have to fiddle around with shims. [And, unfortunately, the excellent quality of Katzeye screens is no longer available now that the company has gone belly-up.]

In at least nearly all cases, though, you'll still likely have metering change issues to mess with (and/or perhaps screen darkening issues with smaller aperture lenses, depending on the type of screen chosen).

Last edited by fwcetus; 02-19-2016 at 02:19 PM.
02-19-2016, 12:44 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by jerry7171 Quote
Has Pentax traditionally used the same sized focus screens from the film to digital eras?
In a word, NO.

That being said, there are several users on this site that have successfully cut down FF focus screens from various makers to match the shape and dimensions to fit in their Pentax dSLRs. As noted above, there are also 3rd party vendors of cut-down screens, the most reputable at the moment (IMHO) would be the folk at focusingscreen.com. Favorites for users on this site include their Canon S-type and Nikon K3-derived screens. With aftermarket screens you can expect:
  • A somewhat dimmer viewfinder image than the stock screen, particularly with slower (f/3.5 and slower) viewing apertures
  • Loss of spot-metering if center focus aids are present. A split image may also affect other meter modes if it is blacked out due to narrow viewing aperture.
  • Potential unreliable metering if optional grid lines are ordered. I have personal experience with this issue on a focusingscreen.com screen.* As with many things, YMMV, but I put this point out as a caution.
  • Due to difference thickness of the donor screens from the original, it is fairly likely that the the installation will have to be shimmed. The process is tedious, though not particularly difficult.


Steve

* The laser-etch process used by focusingscreen.com produces a bright clean line that remains bright even as a lens is stopped down or the viewfinder dims while zooming. This was sufficient to severely bias meter readings at 70mm on my K-3 with Sigma 17-70/2.8-4 (C) mounted. This was a shame since I really liked the screen.
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