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Katz Eye™ split prism focusing screen

J&A2009-2

Katz Eye is one of the leading brands of replacement focussing screen for digital single lens reflex cameras (dSLR). Today’s dSLRs ship with a stock focus screen that is optimized for auto-focus; Katz Eye lets camera owners replace this stock screen with one more suitable for manual focus. This is very helpful for photographers who are looking to move to manual focus Zeiss lenses, or photographers who work in low-light situations where their dSLR has a hard time keeping up on auto-focus.

The Katz Eye website is geared toward photographers who already know why they want one; the company is starting to realize, however, that there are a lot of photographers out there who don’t know about this split-prism focusing option, and they have plans to update their website with more information in the future.

I was nervous about installing the product myself, so before I ordered, I sent an email to customer service. I got a very detailed response almost immediately:

“The installation process isn’t too bad if you have a steady hand, good light, reasonable (or corrected) vision, and the patience to absorb all the available information in the installation guide,” emailed Rachael Katz.  “It’s a bit tricky, as the screen is easily scratched and the handling tab is quite small (about 1.5mm x 3mm), and keeping things clean during the process is always a concern.”

Rachael said many of her customers also choose to send the camera to Katz Eye or a local installer for professional assistance, and that ultimately, only I could know what is best for my unique situation. “Hopefully you will find your questions answered, but if not, please let me know and I will do my best to clarify for you,” she said. Totally comfortable that these people stand behind their product and are available to help customers, I placed my order.

Not to be outdone by the Katz Eye users on Flickr who complete the process themselves without difficulty, I set aside a quiet morning and mustered the nerve to operate on my camera. The only change I made from the installation instructions was to use a pair of flat-nose pliers with smooth jaws rather than tweezers to grip the tiny tab — but then again, if I hadn’t been drinking a grande Americano, maybe the tweezers would have worked just fine.

The whole operation took about 5 minutes start to finish; my first test shot with my new split prism screen, focus aimed at the star over the Starbucks siren’s head:

Nikon D700, Zeiss 35mm lens, f2 @ 1/400 second, ISO 400

Nikon D700, Zeiss 35mm lens, f2 @ 1/400 second, ISO 400

Since I’m first and foremost a portrait photographer, I should practice on people. And speaking of those I practice on most, they need to be picked up from school right about now, so I’m off.

Bottom line: I’d absolutely recommend this company and product. Here’s a link to another user who gave it [an artful] whirl.

UPDATE: Kate, here’s a very low-tech look through the viewfinder via my iPhone (onOne software app works, but it doesn’t capture the viewfinder details.) The split prism is a tiny circle in the center of the viewfinder between the “S” and “T” rendered in both focus and texture. If my iPhone phone quality were better, you could see the texture.

very low-tech look through the viewfinder via iPhone

very low-tech look through the viewfinder via iPhone

5 comments
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  • christine - hi JSV! that’s a great question. I didn’t see any noticeable difference in brightness when I swapped my original stock screen for the Katz Eye. I’ve been so happy with it. if I wanted to, I could always put the stock screen back into my camera body, but I don’t know why I would. I’ve gotten quite attached to it.

    this week, I’ve been using a Zeiss 18mm that I rented from from lensrentals.com (another company I’ve been very happy with) and using my Katz Eye with every frame.ReplyCancel

  • jsvfoto - 🙂
    Christine,
    How do you find the non-prism area of the screen? Is it as bright as the original stock screen or is there a noticeable difference in brightness between the two. I look forward to your reply.

    Sincerely,
    jsvReplyCancel

  • kate gardiner photography - that is sooooo bitchin! nice low tech solution. impressed the iphone cam pulled it off. thanks for giving a bird’s eye view!ReplyCancel

  • christine - just added the very low-tech photo to give you a rough idea; anybody out there know how to capture a Nikon viewfinder??? I think all of the ones I’ve seen online were shot with Canon, I’m not sure Nikon lets us?ReplyCancel

  • kate gardiner photography - hmm… looks pretty good. wish i could see what it looks like through the viewfinder. was tough to translate the photos on that link.ReplyCancel

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