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What is parallax error in photography?

Discussion in 'Photography Techniques' started by BBW, Mar 5, 2011.

  1. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 7, 2010
    betwixt and between
    Since we've got at least one thread which mentions parallax, and I'm sure we may have more, I thought it would be helpful to have a thread that explains what parallax error is and how one can either avoid it, or maybe not even have to worry about it.

    Here is a link from dpreview's glossary entitled "Viewfinder" that explains a bit about the differences in viewfinders and the possibility of parallax error.
    I'd welcome your explanations and thoughts about parallax issues with regard to photography.
  2. WJW59

    WJW59 New Member

    Feb 20, 2011
    If you are viewing through the lens that actually takes the image then parallax is a non-issue. When you have different lenses for viewing and taking, such as a TLR, rangefinder, or when using a separate optical finder, it can be an issue. The closer the subject is to the camera the larger the problem.

    A good example is a TLR (Twin Lens Reflex) with different shooting and viewing lenses. The upper lens is your viewing lens and is mounted about 2 inches above the lens for the film. If you focused on something 50 feet away, the difference in height between the lenses makes little practical difference. If you are focused on something 3 feet away, the height is a big difference. There were devices made specifically to adjust for this (Mamiya Paramender) by allowing a tripod-mounted TLR to be raised by the difference in lens height just before taking the photo.

    Rangefinders had to adjust for both vertical and lateral parallax as the optical center of the rangefinder view was both above and (usually) to the left of the lens. Many of them had a moving line, frame, or mark that showed the actual area that would appear on the film. The better the camera, the more accurate this frame would be. In most cases, the marked area would usually only cover about 90% of the film so small errors would be covered.

    The EVFs for the compacts all use the image coming through the lens so there is no problem there. The optical finders will present the same problem as the TLR since you will be above the lens and not viewing through it. If the hot shoe is also offset, then you get in to the rangefinder-type problem. Once again, if your subject isn't close, no problem. If you around the minimum focus range for your lens, it could be a real problem. This is one reason I decided to order a VF-2 since I know I'll get a 17/2.8 at some point.
    • Like Like x 1
  3. bilzmale

    bilzmale Super Moderator Emeritus Subscribing Member

    Jul 17, 2010
    Perth, Western Australia
    Bill Shinnick
    A simple way to experience parallax is to hold a finger aabout 40cm in front of your face and look at it first just with just your right eye and then with just your left. The finger appears to jump from side to side.

    Go on, try it - no-one's watching. :smile:
    • Like Like x 1
  4. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 7, 2010
    betwixt and between
    Appreciate your responses, WJW and Bill!

    I practice my parallax error quite often as I try to see which eye works best with my glasses while I'm reading.:wink:
  5. Isn't Parallax error in photography when you miss the shot because you are too drunk to focus on the subject........ or is that Parallex error? :laugh1:

    Sorry...silly mood!!:biggrin:

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