Double-Dutch: setting up the RedrockMicro Encore front-to-back

DSC_0014Hi all.

Since the last post i have received many inquisitive emails asking about the Sony EX1 picture profiles i use, about my personal experiences with the Encore and questions about our set-up and alignment procedure.
I think that the RedRockMicro website offers some pretty good and clear set-up instruction clips at http://www.redrockmicro.com/start that will help you getting up and running.

I have to admit that i nowadays use a slightly different approach in setting up the Encore for our EX1:  the other way around -> front to back instead from back to front. Yep, I’m Dutch…

Here are the straightforward steps i have eventually followed, giving me the best optical alignment with the least mechanical strain on the EX1 body. It’s just my particular way of doing, you might find the regular way more to your liking of course. This is a hands-on installation, not a scientific test-charts-at-the-ready set-up.

  1. take the Encore body, loosely mount the flip unit to the Encore via the blue coupler ring
  2. hold the flip unit towards you, keep the front capped, and shine a flash light through the flip unit’s entry, into the unit
  3. look through the flip unit at the exposed condenser lens and rotate the flip unit until the lens frame is neatly centred in the image
  4. tighten the four screws; just snug them up – applying force will drive them into the coupler ring and prevent future precision alignment
  5. attach the achromatic lens and screw-on the blue coupler
  6. attach the blue inner-ring to the EX1 lens via the 77<>72 step-down ring
  7. attach the camera to the baseplate, but not too tight
  8. loosen ALL the screws under the riser block and rod support
  9. put one raiser shim (not the thinnest one, but the #2) under the rods, tighten the rod support clamp
  10. put the camera on the riser block via the baseplate, tighten the baseplate, and make sure the whole structure is as wobbly as hell
  11. loosely tighten the two screws closest to the BACK in such a way, that the camera can be moved left/right but not up/down
  12. slide the rods in, tighten the rods support clamp
  13. slide on the RedrockMicro Encore body, move it towards the EX1 while manoeuvring the EX1 in-line with the approaching Encore
  14. if there is no vertical alignment, chang the shim under the rod support; thinner lowers the Encore, thicker brings it up
  15. let the EX1 and Encore smoothly connect, and gently push camera and Encore together (holding the EX1 by the lens), tighten the Encore thumbscrews
  16. gently tighten the screws on the blue coupler, one by one, without moving the EX1 (keep pushing them together), make sure the screws are tightened proportionally, by tightening opposite pairs – each time you feel the slightest resistance, switch to the opposite screw
  17. without putting to much strain on the whole structure, and keeping the EX1 still, tighten the screws under the rising block
  18. now you have fused the EX1 and Encore together and you’ll have a structure that you can use as a sledge hammer 😉
  19. now, switch on the camera, uncap the encore, switch it on
  20. do not be alarmed if you see that the frame of the flip unit is not centred -> the EX1 optical path moves in mysterious ways…
  21. zoom in to a point between Z-75 and Z-78 (zoom/focus settings can vary from camera to camera) the best setting is the one that looks best to you… Put the EX1’s MACRO switch ON
  22. attach a long lens (>=50mm), apply enough light (overcast sky daylight is top), take a high-detail subject or a professional test chart (brick walls are unforgiving focus test objects) and balance the focus between centre of the image and the area a quarter off the right or left edge while keeping the camera’s aperture (on manual) around F4-F5.6; use the front lens aperture to adjust the light – try to focus on the picture by finding the sweet spot of both the front and camera lens

This way our Encore is setup with the EX1 with the best results. For best results, attach a full-HD monitor. I can heartily suggest the budget ($250) Samsung 2333HD FullHD monitor with component connectors.

Here are some extra Encore tips “from the battlefield” (FOLLOW AT YOUR OWN RISK):

– If you want to clean the Encore’s condenser lens, because you see gray off-focus dust specks in your picture, try the following:

  • open-up the Encore’s top-lid by removing the thumbscrews
  • watch your picture, while you set the focus of the camera towards the back (closest-by setting)
  • take a cotton-swap, without touching it with your fingers, rub it with a microfibre/lenscloth until it get’s fluffy, blow on it with compressed air (not with your mouth…)
  • hold the swap between your finger tips, angled towards the condenser lens (you might even want to bent the swap slightly)
  • use the fluffy swap to clean the front and back of the condenser lens (through the little iron grate (back) and just behind the rotating groundglass (front)
  • move it from left to right like a window washer, moving fast and furious…; watch your action on the monitor
  • do NOT start blowing compressed air into the compartment, or you can start over again…

The procedure above will also change (reduce) the electrostatic load of the condensor lens. Because the groundglass rotates through the stationary air like crazy, an electrostatic field is formed. It can be both friend and foe; dust particles will stick to certain parts of the mechanism and stay there (until you start blowing air like crazy) , OR it will attach to the condenser lens and stay there. Until… you wipe it with a fluffy cotton swap.

If you run into dust settling problems on the condensor lens (important: ALL DOF adapters suffer from this, but the Encore has  one major advantage over all the others: you can open the box and do the magic cotton-swap-trick), there is one final solution – moving the dust further out of focus: (this is not for the weak-hearted)

  • remove the flip unit
  • remove the four corner screws from the Encore’s backside
  • gently remove the whole backside (groundglass is also attached to this part)
  • make sure that the shiny side of the groundglass is pointing towards you, if not, put it all back together again and we will say no more about it… 😉
  • remove the screws at the front of the groundglass (thus loosening the groundglass)
  • turn over the groundglass, replace the screws (not too tight) so that the matted side of the thing is now pointing towards you
  • put it all together again – you might want to blow some clean air in and OVER the thing, but you might want to opt for the magic-cotton-swap-trick if needed later on…
  • you will see that the focus on the groundglass has moved a few millimetres towards the front, thus moving the condensor lens further out of the field of focus

The above is a quick-and-dirty trick to solve severe dust setteling problems, that should honestly be addressed in a more professional matter: have it cleaned by a professional. If you want to do this yourself, take the condenser lens out and clean it with a dedicated lens-cleaning fluid and a clean microfibre cloth. Don’t blow or breath on it with your mouth please…
Again, my experience is that you should not unleash jets of compressed air into the Encore’s structure – you will only blow new dust in, and disturb “old” dust, unless you are doing so in a professional clean room wearing special clothing, and a shower cap…

I repeat, the above is our “modus operandi” – just applying common sense.

If at least one reader finds this helpful, I’m happy.

Cheers!  Martin.


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