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Tips & Tricks

Inexpensive Trick to help You Nail Focus on Manual Cameras

By Justin Heyes on October 19th 2014

There is something special about shooting film that makes it a different experience than  shooting digital. I am not talking about the age old debate of which medium produces better images; it’s the experience of manual focusing your lens with a split screen, micro Prism or ground glass. These aids help produce relatively sharp images, but sometimes the focus is still just a little bit off. Here is an accessory that costs less than your coffee and will help you nail focus 100% of the time.




At around a $3 the Rosco swatchbook is one of the best things a photographer can keep in their camera bag. Starting as a way to identify each gel by specific number, what their name is, and the purpose they serve, they quickly became cheap quality color modifiers for speedlights and lens filters due to their high optical quality.


Using a swatch of either red, yellow or orange can add that right amount of contrast in your viewfinder to help with focusing. This method can be used on SLRs and rangefinders alike. Using a swatch of either red, yellow or orange can add that right amount of contrast that is needed. Experiment with different colors to see what your personal preference is. In my experience, the #2003 Storaro Yellow is Perfect for SLRs and #318 Mayan Sun for rangefinders.

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Justin Heyes wants to live in a world where we have near misses and absolute hits; great love and small disasters. Starting his career as a gaffer, he has done work for QVC and The Rachel Ray Show, but quickly fell in love with photography. When he’s not building arcade machines, you can find him at local flea markets or attending car shows.

Explore his photographic endeavors here.

Website: Justin Heyes
Instagram: @jheyesphoto

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Jason Boa

    INTERESTING !! I will give it a go .

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  2. Mircea Blanaru

    Very nice idea not to mention it is very cheap and even if it is not working in every case it is not a big loss in your pocket!

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  3. Ian Moss

    This is interesting. I don’t know if it’ll work for everyone though. My daughter is severely dyslexic and uses blue overlays to reduce contrast, making it easier for her to focus on the words. Certainly I find it easier to focus a camera through a yellow filter, but my daughter finds it almost impossible to use. I don’t think this is very generalisable.

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  4. John Cavan

    They used (maybe still do) make yellow tinted sunglasses for rifle shooting. They did help with the contrast aspect when trying to focus on your target, so I don’t imagine it would be much different here.

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  5. Ralph Hightower

    Huh? I’m confused. I haven’t used a rangefinder camera so the gel over the viewfinder may make sense. But with my 34 year old Canon A-1, I haven’t had to make any compensation for B&W contrast filters on the lens. Yea, focusing is trickier with a filter, particularly using a green filter. I also have center-weighted, selective (12%) and spot (3%) metering screens.
    Yesterday, I was at an event where I was photographing 50+ year old items behind glass. I think that my Canon EF 24-105L was focusing for the glass instead of the object and description, so I switched it from AF to MF. Yea, the EF isn’t an FD lens; it was mounted to my 5DIII.

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