What will I photograph? What will my picture look like? Two fundamental questions in photography. The answer lies in the viewfinder, arguably the best and most important interface between the camera and the user. In this article, we will look at some (mainly third-party) attachable viewfinders for the rangefinder and other cameras.
The basic concept of the M Files series is to provide an overview of cameras, lenses and accessories that are not part of the Leica M system but are compatible with it. In this sense, a tour d’horizon of attachable viewfinders fits in perfectly: There are several items that are not part of the Leica M series or were not even made by Leica/Leitz but which work well with M mount gear. On the other hand, their use is certainly not limited to M-mount cameras and lenses. But let’s be generous.
Attachable viewfinders, a widespread accessory over the ages
Attachable viewfinders have been around for more than 100 years, and photographers use them for a variety of reasons. Either the camera has no viewfinder at all (in very early models and, ironically, again today in the digital market). Or the camera’s own viewfinder can’t cover a certain angle of view because it’s not technically possible or feasible. A third reason may be the superior performance of an external viewfinder.
Attachable viewfinders from eight decades
I guess hundreds of different viewfinder models have been made over the years. They have even become the subject of entire collections. It’s impossible to give a complete overview in this article. So, the story has to be exemplary. We meet viewfinders from eight decades, the oldest (the venerable Leica VIOOH) being a design from 1940 and the newest (Ricoh GV-3) from 2022. They all reflect in their own way the state of the art of their time.
It’s not about focal length; it’s about the angle of view
As beautiful as such a precision optical instrument can be, attachable viewfinders do have some shortcomings. Most attachable viewfinders support a specific focal length — or better, a specific angle of view. You can use one and the same “40mm” viewfinder with a 40mm lens on a full-frame camera, with a 26mm lens on an APS-C sensor camera such as the Ricoh GR IIIx, or with a 20mm lens on a viewfinder-less Micro Four Thirds camera like the Olympus E-P7.
Some attachable viewfinders show two or more angles of view
There are also attachable viewfinders that can provide more than one angle of view. These are either more or less “zoom” designs with hard stops for fixed focal lengths. Or they have a dual-frame viewfinder, as we know it from many rangefinder cameras, showing lines for a 28mm and a 90mm lens at the same time. I will show you both principles below.
The article’s main focus is on non-Leica products
While I usually focus on non-Leica products in my The M Files series, I will include some Leica items in this episode about attachable viewfinders. The reason for this is that these Leica viewfinders are popular, they are widely available (both new and used), and they are often considered to be benchmark products. We will see if this is true when we take a closer look at Voigtländer, Zeiss, Olympus and Ricoh viewfinders.
Attachable viewfinders for a specific angle of view
The most common type of attachable viewfinder is the one for a specific angle of view (that is, focal length, see above). Such accessories have been made by many manufacturers over the years, most recently by or for Contax, Voigtländer, Konica, Olympus, Ricoh and Leica. I will concentrate in this section on non-Leica-M-system viewfinders. Leica’s current metal bright line finders (for example, 12024 for 21mm, black) are certainly benchmark products, and the previous generation in the plastic housing (such as No. 12008 with or 12012 without lock for 21mm) is not as solid, but optically of similar excellence.
Voigtländer: Two generations of attachable viewfinders
Voigtländer made and still makes different models of attachable viewfinders for different angles of view. The earlier models were a bit plasticky, but they are widely available and easy to find. They have no frame lines — the angle of view of the lens is the angle of view of the viewfinder (more or less). The ones I tried are large and bright, but they fall off the camera quite easily; the plastic shoe has too little friction to grip the camera’s hot shoe securely. The newer Voigtländer viewfinders (€250) are all metal, beautifully designed and made, and they have frame lines.
Zeiss: T* coating and arguably the best image
Zeiss also has viewfinders in the ZM range. There are attachable viewfinders for focal lengths from 15 to 25/28mm, and they are simply excellent. They are super bright and give a remarkably large image; they are flare-resistant (thanks to the T* coating) and very well made. Although not as tiny as the newer Voigtländer viewfinders, they hit the sweet spot for me of combining small form and optical excellence. The frame lines, including the parallax marks, are very visible in all lighting conditions. I would say they are at least as good as the current Leica brightline viewfinders at almost half the cost (€400 vs €725). But for the price, Zeiss could really have added a case or a pouch.
Ricoh: Super small, featherlight and expensive
While Zeiss and Voigtländer have viewfinders for all common wide-angle focal lengths, Ricoh covers just two different angles of view — no surprise, as the attachable viewfinders for the two current GR III models are in line with their lenses. There is a ’28mm’ version for the GR III (with a real focal length of 18.3mm) and a ’40mm’ version for the GR IIIx (26.1mm, read more about this great little camera here). They are very small, which makes sense for such a small camera. On the other hand, the image looks very tiny, and there are no parallax marks (although there are marks for a square image if you happen to have the wish to set your camera to 1:1). And they are expensive for what they are (€230-250).
Olympus: An inexpensive solution not only for Micro Four Thirds
If you need a viewfinder for your 35mm lens or equivalent, the Olympus VF-1 optical viewfinder is worth considering. It was launched many years ago with the Micro Four Thirds 17/2.8 lens. The VF-1 was designed to provide framing control through a viewfinder for the early Pen camera models that had only a rear display. While not great, this small and inexpensive viewfinder can be helpful and is easy to find second-hand. It was only made in silver (the body is plastic).
Leica: The 36mm viewfinder is great, not only for X cameras
Speaking of attachable viewfinders for 35mm lenses, Leica’s own viewfinder for the X-series is worth mentioning. It was designed for a 36mm equivalent, but you can use it with a 35mm lens without hesitation, and with a bit of practice, it will work with a 40mm lens as well. It’s a brightline finder (Leica No. 18707) with a clear and large image. It’s not all metal, but is apparently well-made and optically great, with parallax marks. And it is easy to use.
Attachable viewfinders with multiple frames
There are a number of attachable viewfinders for more than one individual angle of view. They all work in much the same way: There are two frames or two sets of frame lines within your window, the inner one for the longer focal length (narrower angle of view), and the outer one for the shorter focal length (wider angle of view).
Voigtländer: 21/25 for a quick comparison
Voigtländer offers a 21/25mm viewfinder. It’s a second-generation model, very small and well-made. The eight-degree difference in the angle of view is just enough to leave some space between the two frames. The larger frame still leaves a bit of space around it, which I really appreciate: You can see what’s just outside your frame. And you can check instantly if the other focal length might be even better for what you want to show in your image.
Konica: The crazy viewfinder for the crazy 21/35 Dual-Hexanon
Another, extreme, example is the Konica viewfinder for the Dual-Hexanon 21/35mm lens (VL-6, discontinued). The viewfinder that came with the Dual-Hexanon actually has a pair of frame lines for 21 and 35mm. This is extremely useful, with the only drawback being that the 35mm frame is very small (imagine it as being similar to the viewfinder on the M6 when a 90mm lens is attached). Konica’s viewfinder itself is bright. There are striking design similarities to the first generation Voigtländer viewfinders.
Zeiss: The 25/28 combination has its limitations
Zeiss also has one combined viewfinder, 25/28mm. It is as well-built and beautiful as the other Zeiss viewfinders and has a bright and large image. As a bonus, it gives a good 25/28 comparison. But, to be honest, the difference between the 82-degree angle of the 25mm lens and the 75-degree angle of the 28mm lens is not that great. I tend to think of it as a 25mm viewfinder with a little extra. In practical use, you would never combine a 25mm with a 28mm in your kit but rather with a 50mm (a very nice pairing, by the way).
Ricoh: Their cheapest viewfinder is the most practical
Finally, Ricoh has also produced a multi-angle viewfinder for 21 and 28mm (GV-1, €160). It was designed for some GR models, which can be fitted with a wide-angle conversion lens. Not as miniature or expensive as the later attachable viewfinders, it is a good choice if you occasionally use a 21mm lens on a rangefinder camera. It is not as bright as a Leica or Zeiss viewfinder, nor is it as accurate, but it is certainly good enough to try out this particular way of photography.
Attachable viewfinders with a “zoom” mechanism
One viewfinder for several focal lengths: this is by no means a new invention. Leica was already selling them in the 1930s. The now iconic VIDOM was introduced in 1933 and replaced by the VIOOH in 1940. But there are newer solutions, too.
Built over decades: The VIOOH
I have used a VIOOH with quite some success, probably a late model. There were many changes over the decades that this viewfinder was built. The one I used is engraved with 3,5,5, 8.5, 9 and 13.5 (in centimetres of focal length). Other models have 7.3 or 10.5; this page gives a very good overview. The peculiarity of the VIOOH is that it does not zoom. It rather changes the angle of view by adjusting masks. The magnification factor is constant, so you see a large image at 3.5 and not much more than a pinhole at 13.5.
15 to 35mm, for full frame and crop cameras: Voigtländer‘s Zoomfinder
In a way, the Voigtländer zoom viewfinder for 15 to 35 millimetres is definitely a successor to the VIOOH — if only because of its retro design. Here we are talking about type A, which is suitable for full format. With an ingenious mechanism (additional scales), it can also be used for cameras with crop sensors (1.3x for the M8 and 1.5x for the Pixii, for example).
If you use the x1.5 scale, for example, switch to the 21mm full-frame Position, and you can read directly that you need a 14mm lens to cover this angle of view on a 1.5x crop sensor. Or, the other way round, switch to the 18mm position on the x1.5 scale, and you will see that this will give you the angle of view of (around) a 28mm lens in full frame (in fact, it’s 27, but there is not click stop for this value, intermediate positions are possible however).
The Voigtländer Zoomfinder is rather compact and even offers dioptric correction at the eyepiece (a rarity in attachable viewfinders). Also, in other respects, this attachable viewfinder is really astonishing: totally bright image, easy to use and at least sufficiently precise (here are some more technical data). It’s a pity that this little gem is no longer in production; it is very hard to find even second-hand (try also the manufacturer’s article number DA466A). Oh yes, type B was also available for Micro Four Thirds, but that is of no further interest here.
Made in Japan: The 12013 variable viewfinder
A much more recent design is the Leica 21-24-28 viewfinder (12013). This has a real zoom mechanism with greater magnification for the longer focal lengths. It’s a beautiful piece of glass and metal. Despite the prominent “Leica Camera Germany” engraving, it is made in Japan (less prominent engraving on the bottom of the shoe).
It has no frame lines, which is quite different from what you are used to in rangefinder photography — no chance of checking what is just outside your frame. It’s a bit like looking into a tunnel, but it’s quite big and bright, to be honest. And the leather case is nice, like a mini-M lens case. According to the Leica Wiki, the 12013 was introduced in 2006 (the drawing of the frame lines is misplaced in the article) and is now discontinued.
Frankenfinder: So bright, so clear — and so big
Finally, the Leica Universal Wide-Angle Viewfinder for M System, aka Frankenfinder (12011). So much has been written and said about this one; much of it is nonsense, but there are also great reviews, such as the one by Dante Stella. It is big but stunning both optically (so clear!!!) and mechanically. It supports 16, 18, 21, 24 and 28mm focal lengths. If you have several lenses in this range, the Germany-made Frankenfinder makes financial sense despite its high (€885) price.
Much like the old VIOOH, the Frankenfinder has a fixed magnification, and the frame lines change depending on the focal length used. That’s clever because you can easily see the effects of using a different lens. You can also set your distance between 0.5m and infinity for parallax compensation. A spirit level with glow-in-the-night background — visible through the eyepiece (!) — is the icing on the cake.
Electronic attachable viewfinders
With the advent of Live View — made possible by the move from CCD to CMOS sensors — it became feasible to judge the image that is about to be taken from the camera’s display. The most common way of doing so is, of course, through the rear screen of digital cameras. However, the first mirrorless system, Micro Four Thirds, also pioneered the electronic viewfinder. Remember, this was at a time when the SLR principle was dominant everywhere else. For cameras without built-in EVFs, attachable viewfinders became available. And they are useful — unlike working with the display, you hold the camera close to your body, which reduces camera shake. And you get a clear picture even in bright sunlight.
EVF-2: Leica or the Olympus alternative?
Olympus’s first electronic viewfinder was the VF-2 (1.44 MP). It could be fitted to the viewfinder-less Pen camera bodies but also to the ZX-1, a pioneering compact camera at the time with a one-inch sensor and very good image quality. I’ve heard that the VF-2 was actually made by Epson, and that’s where Leica will have sourced it from. The Leica M (Typ 240) and M Monochrom (Typ 246) have adapters for an EVF by means of an electronic interface below the hot shoe. If you need an EVF for one of these cameras, you can use the Olympus VF-2 instead of the Leica EVF-2. It costs less than half the price on the second-hand market, under €200, compared with over €300 in March 2023.
The electronic versions of these Olympus and Leica attachable viewfinders are identical except for the brand name. I have only an M body (Typ 262), which doesn’t support live view. But I still use the Olympus EVF-2 on the X-E, which (like the X2 and X Vario) has the necessary interface. The resolution is too low for precise focusing or fast-moving objects, but for defining your frame it is better than you might think. And a fun fact: The newer (!) Olympus VF-3 is an inferior successor to the VF-2.
Leica Visoflex 020: Finally, an acceptable resolution
With the Leica T (later changed to TL) came the Visoflex 020 electronic viewfinder (€520, considerably less when bought used). Released in May 2014, it had a resolution of 2.36 MP (a decent standard at the time) and became the EVF for the M10 in 2017. It has a different interface to the Olympus VF2/Leica EVF-2. But it shares a very practical feature: The tilting eyepiece allows you to take pictures with the camera in front of your chest (a bit like the two-eyed Rolleiflex and similar cameras).
I find the Visoflex, despite its moderate resolution by today’s standards, very useful when using wide-angle lenses or lenses with notorious focus shift. The downside is that it quickly drains the battery of the M10. And it makes the camera a bulky piece of kit that, with the EVF attached, hardly fits into your usual bag (read here a suggestion by Jono Slack to overcome this problem).
The Visoflex 2, an impressive extension to the M11
For the sake of completeness, I should mention Leica’s latest attachable electronic viewfinder, the Visoflex 2 (€725). It has the same electronic interface with the camera as the Visoflex 020. But the M11 seems to have a better signal output. As a result, the Visoflex 2 can deliver its full 3.7 MP resolution only in combination with the M11. It also works with the M10, but with limited resolution and thus is not a real improvement. I tried the new Visoflex once on an M11 and was quite impressed.
For a more competent review, read our editor’s article on the Visoflex 2 here. His comparison with the Frankenfinder is very interesting because these two very different attachable viewfinders have more in common than you might think: Very good technology, a somewhat bulky appearance and the potential to divide the Leica community into supporters and opponents.
Conclusion: Attachable viewfinders, their pros and their cons
In all cases, you will ask yourself whether working with attachable viewfinders is comfortable. I would argue: No, it is not. It is not the usual fast and seamless photographic experience that makes working with a rangefinder camera unique. It always takes two steps to get everything set up. One look through the camera’s viewfinder to set focus and control exposure, and a second look through the attachable viewfinder to get your composition right. And if you have a camera without light metering, you need a third step with your light meter. It’s neither fast nor intuitive.
Clumsy as they are, at times attachable viewfinders can save you
There are, however, situations where a viewfinder does make sense. The most common is when you want to use super-wide-angle lenses under 28mm that your non-SLR camera simply doesn’t support. Another use case is if your camera’s viewfinder is damaged. Finally, there are viewfinder-less cameras, and in the case of a digital model, you may not want to use the screen for various reasons. One such occasion is very bright sunlight. When I was out skiing with the GR IIIx the other day, the small attachable viewfinder would have been a great help…
Attachable viewfinders force you into slow photography – why not give it a try?
When it comes to the question of which viewfinder to get, I would recommend the Zeiss models if you only need one focal length. They are beautiful, bright and large. Leica’s Frankenfinder is the most versatile and accurate, but it is bulky. However, if you need it only once in a while, the affordable older Voigtländer viewfinders or the also not-too-expensive newer Voigtländer viewfinders might be just the thing. Either way: Give attachable viewfinders a try!
What is your experience? Is an attachable viewfinder a pain or even quintessentially proof of the clumsiness of rangefinder photography? Or just the other way round, is it a wonderful tool that shows you a bright and clear image of what you are about to photograph? Do you avoid using an attachable viewfinder, or is one part of your regular workflow? Any favourites among my small selection or beyond the few viewfinders I am showing here? As always, the comments section of The M Files is yours!
The M Files
The M-Files series reviews cameras and lenses that are equipped with the M bayonet without actually belonging to the Leica M system. Of this ongoing project, all parts so far are available in English exclusively here on www.macfilos.com:
- Introduction to the M Files series
- Voigtländer Bessa R4M with Voigtländer 35/1.4 and 21/4
- Konica Hexar RF with Konica 50/2
- Rollei 35 RF with Sonnar 40/2.8
- Zeiss Ikon with ZM 25/2.8, 35/2.8 and 50/2
- Bessa T with Voigtländer 35/2.5 and 15/4.5
- Leica CL with Leica’s compact 40/2 and 90/4
- Minolta CLE 40/2, 2,8/28, 90/4 and several 21mm wide-angles
- Conclusion: Measuring the rangefinder world
- Encore: It does not always have to be Leica – my top lens recommendations
- Distagon revisited — the Zeiss ZM 18 and 35-millimetre lenses
- Zeiss again: Three more ZM lenses (2,8/21, 2,8/28, 85/4)
- Three lenses from Konica – M-Hexanon 28, 90, and the sensational M-Hexanon Dual 21-35
- Voigtländer APO: 35/2, 50/2, 90/2.8 – the attack on Leica’s heart
- Contax Conversions: Carl Zeiss Planar 50/1.4 (ex SLR) and 45/2 (ex G system) for M Mount
- Voigtländer Color-Skopar 21/3.5 VM and Ultron 35/2 VM: Attractive and affordable
- Voigtländer, Zeiss, Ricoh, Olympus, Konica: Attachable viewfinders from eight decades (this article)
Die M Files auf Deutsch
Die M-Files sind eine Serie über Kameras und Objektive, die mit dem M-Bajonett ausgestattet sind, ohne direkt zum Leica-M-System zu gehören. Alle Teile der weiter anwachsenden Reihe sind neben der englischen Version auch in deutscher Sprache auf www.messsucherwelt.com erschienen:
- Einführung: Worum es in den M-Files geht
- Die Weitwinkel-Expertin: Voigtländer Bessa R4M mit Voigtländer Nokton II 35/1.4 und Color-Skopar 21/4
- Die moderne Messsucherkamera: Konica Hexar RF mit M-Hexanon 50/2
- Ein großer Name: Rollei 35 RF mit Rollei Sonnar 40/2.8
- Design trifft auf Tradition: Zeiss Ikon mit Carl Zeiss Biogon 25/2.8, Biogon 35/2.8 und Planar 50/2 ZM
- Der Messsucher-Sonderling: Voigtländer Bessa T mit Voigtländer Heliar 15/4.5 und Color-Skopar 35/2
- Die andere Leica: Leica CL mit Summicron-C 40/2 und Elmar-C 90/4
- Das unterschätzte Innovationspaket: Minolta CLE mit Minolta M-Rokkor 2,8/28, 40/2 and 90/4
- Zusammenfassung: Die Vermessung der Messsucherwelt
- Zugabe! Gedanken zu Nicht-Leica-M-Objektiven und eine persönliche Top-5-Hitliste
- Zeiss Distagon ZM – Liebe auf den ersten und den zweiten Blick
- Zeiss ZM zum Dritten: Die Objektive 2,8/21, 2,8/28 und 4/85 für Leica-M-Bajonett
- Konica M-Hexanon 28, 90 und das sensationelle 21-35
- Voigtländer APO 35, 50, 90 – Stich in Leicas Herz?
- Contax auf Leica: Carl Zeiss Planar 1,4/50 (ex SLR) und 2/45 (ex G-System) für M
- Voigtländer Color-Skopar 21/3.5 VM and Ultron 35/2 VM: Bezahlbar und bezaubernd
- Voigtländer, Zeiss, Ricoh, Olympus, Konica: Aufstecksucher aus acht Jahrzehnten (this article in German, not yet published)
I have the external viewfinder Fujifilm offers for the X70, with 28mm and 21mm (equivalent) frame lines. The 21 is for the attachable wide angle adapter. I am sure I read somewhere that the Fujifilm, Konica, and Voigtländer viewfinders, the ones that look similar, were all made by the same company and re-badged. Maybe the Ricoh as well?
I found the viewfinder to be very useful on the X70, which unlike its big brothers the X100 series, only has the rear LCD for composing. Unfortunately Fuji did not incorporate a means of turning off the LCD. (The X100 series you can). So one cannot extend battery life by using the viewfinder.
Thanks, Martin, for your feedback. I can well imagine that the Fujifilm viewfinder is good. The similarities are astonishing, and it is likely that all theses viewfinders were made by the same manufacturer indeed. JP
Hi Joerg-Peter. Wow! What a tour-de-force exposition of this fascinating niche within the world of camera gear. As I have commented previously, I am not a rangefinder user. In fact, I am surprised to be the first person commenting on your article (although someone might be commenting in parallel…). Nevertheless, I still enjoy learning about the idiosyncrasies of this rangefinder domain! I do marvel at the contortions rangefinder users are willing to go though to overcome the fact that the image you see in the rangefinder window is not the image seen through the lens.
Reading your article brought home to me how wonderful my Q2 is: a superb viewfinder, showing me exactly how my composition will look, and a superb lens and sensor, delivering incredible images.
Although we know that Leica will never make a Q2-like camera with an M-bayonet, given the appearance of a third party rangefinder with an M-bayonet (the Pixii you are reviewing), I wonder whether there could be a third party manufacturer out there who could produce such a camera. I think it would have a significant market! Once again, many thanks for the article. Cheers, Keith
“..I wonder whether there could be a third party manufacturer out there who could produce … a Q2-like camera with an M-bayonet..”
B-b-but many digital SLRs – the Sony A7 series, for example – already take a simple mount adaptor so that they can be used with M-bayonet lenses! (..Though why would you want to, when there are so many excellent ‘native’ Sony E-mount auto-focus lenses around anyway?..)
As long as the depth of the original camera’s mount (the distance between the lens mount and the sensor, also sometimes called Flange Focal Distance) is LESS than the depth required by M-mount lenses (..which is 27.80 mm..) then there’ll be an adaptor available to fit M lenses onto that other-brand camera body.
For example; FFD of a Sony A7 series camera: 18.00mm, FFD of Leica M mount: 27.80mm, therefore an adaptor of 9.8mm thickness (with the correct connectors at the ends!) will attach an M lens to a Sony A7 series camera! Simples!
(Just look at all these cameras’ FFDs shorter than the M mount here: tinyurl.com/FFDmounts ..and that doesn’t even mention the ready-to-use 12 megapixel M-mount module for the Ricoh GXR ..same pixel resolution, but lower hi-ISO capability, as the Sony A7S series.)
So – if you really want to! – you can easily use Leica M-mount lenses on Leica L-mount cameras, AND on the little APS Ricoh GXR, and on the full-frame Canon R series cameras, the full-frame Nikon Z series, etc, etc. You get an electronic viewfinder display of exactly what each lens sees – and, if you use a ‘Techart’ auto-focus adaptor on a Sony A7 series camera, you also get auto-focus with manual-focus M-mount lenses!
So there are ‘third party’ manufacturers out there who already do make many cameras onto which you can easily fit all kinds of assorted M-mount lenses!
Hi David, many thanks for all the tips on using M-mount lenses on non-rangefinder cameras. My description of a Q2-like camera with M-bayonet was rather imprecise. What I had in mind was a camera to which M-lenses could be attached directly, without an adaptor, with a full-frame 47 megapixel sensor, similar size and shape to the Q2, and similar ergonomics, e.g., for control of shutter speed and aperture. IBIS would be great as well, but not critical. My Lumix S5 is only slightly bigger than the Q2, and it possesses IBIS, so it might be possible. Thinking about it, Panasonic is probably the company best placed to make such a camera. It would probably take an M-mount alliance of some kind though. Cheers, Keith
What you’re talking about is a full-frame version of the Epson RD-1 ..but, alas, the RD-1 has only an APS-size sensor ..and it’s nowhere near a 47 megapixel sensor! ..However, it does have a ‘native’ M mount, has a handy shutter-speed dial (with a lift-&-twist ISO selector), mechanical shutter-wind-on lever, frameline selector lever for 50mm, 28mm and 35mm lenses (..does that ring a bell? ..doesn’t it suggest use of the Leica ‘Tri-Elmar’ 28-50-35mm triple-focal-length lens?..) and it has a pretty, circular, dial with mechanical pointers showing chosen White Balance, image resolution, battery status and number of frames left on your (2GB) SD memory card. Apertures are selected, as usual with M-fit lenses, on the lens itself.
It has built-in electronic colour filters (for use with b&w photography)..and is the only camera I can think of which has a blue filter, for making b&w photos look as if shot with old original blue-sensitive film ..for whiting-out backgrounds!
It has a reversible fold-away viewing screen – for those ‘purists’ who don’t want to look at the photos they’ve just taken (..!)
It has a clear glass, M-fit-rangefinder-coupled, 1:1 LIFE SIZE viewfinder, with a rangefinder patch in (almost) the centre (..depending on the distance at which you’re focusing).
You can choose manually-selected or automatic shutter speeds, with up to ±2 stops over or under exposure, and speeds from 1 second and ‘B’ to 1/2000th of a second.
No IBIS, sorry.
Dear Keith, sorry for replying only now – and, honestly, I can fully understand your renewed love for your Q2. It is such an intuitive tool that thing gets in the the way between you and your photography. In fact, I noticed once more how clumsy rangefinder photography can be… but I love it all the same, and The M Files is a project that I really came to like. Good to read that in appeals also to readers who don’t belong to the narrower target group. All the best, JP
A great article Jörg-Peter. With my Ricoh GXR I use the 28mm plasticky Ricoh 28mm which is not a great option especially when wearing glasses. I own a Pentax 47mm, a wonderful finder for the 50mm macro lens or 47mm crop mode on the GR. The Leica EVF-2 never leaves my X Vario or X2. Some people find it poor but there’s enough resolution to compose your image.
Fully understand, Jean. An optical viewfinder is had to beat, period. But in a way, the EVF has also grown on me. I particulaly like the possibility of checking the image I just took without taking the camera off the eye. Ideal for journalistic work! JP
I have the 21mm zeiss viewfinder which is wonderfully clear and bright.
However the view perfectly matches a 24mm lens which is a bit annoying but one adapts. My real problem with it is that it sits off centre, not over the lens and I always seem to get a tilted Horizon. I thought it was just me but a quick glance around the net found many others with the same problem. So these days I use the evf on my M240 for my 21 and 15, but just for framing, I still use the rangefinder to focus.
It always amazes me how I can focus through the evf with a magnified view and then check the rangefinder and it will be out. I really feel I can only trust the rangefinder for focussing. At least with the evf the Horizon is level now.
That’s interesting, Mark,
thanks for your contribution. I did not notice such a massive deviation but you are right, it takes a bit getting used to any specific finder/lens combination. And, also true, the Leica M’s hot shoe does not sit exactly in the optical axis. For wide angle lenses, I found that tolerable, but your mileage my vary.
PS: Your framing/focusing workflow the the EVF on the M240 makes perfect sense in my eyes. I think once used to it, you are pretty fast even with this additional step.
Great piece, JP. As you might expect, I have a ton of older viewfinders, including some old folding ones for exotics like the 7.3 cm f1.9 Hektor etc. The VIDOM and siblings looked nice, but the reversed view is hard to get used to. The VIOOH was a big jump forward with the correct view even though the TUVOO 28mm attachment does not give a perfect view. The fixed lens items such as the SBLOO and SBOOI, for 35mm and 50mm respectively, are superb in their original metal guise, but are less good in the more recent plastic versions.
Moving on, that Voigtlander Zoom finder, which is very bright, is good, but I prefer the ‘Frankenfinder’ with its all round view and the spirit level below. It is very useful for recomposing and despite its size it is probably my favourite ‘modern’ Leica viewfinder. If I am going to take photos of interiors or car shows where there are fixed items that is my ‘go to’ finder. I’m afraid that the Leica 21-24-28 finder, which was not made by Leica, is an absolute disaster in my book. It is probably the worst item with a Leica name that I own and I never use it.
I also don’t like any of the add on EVFs, particularly the ones that start to tip up as soon as you put your eye to them, which I find very disorienting. I usually keep mine under control with a piece of Blu Tack to stop this from happening.
Overall a mixed report with top marks for the Frankenfinder, the SBLOO and the SBOOI and maybe some of the Zeiss and Voigtlander items which I have.
Before finishing, have you ever used any of the old frame finders with no glass in them?
Thank you, William, and I am once more in awe for your truly encyclopedic knowledge. Unbelievable! I must confess that many of the viewfinders you are mentioning never crossed my way, but I wholeheartedly agree on your ranking the Frankenfinder on top of the selection in my article. This an amazing piece of gear! The Leica 21-24-28 is certainly not the best viewfinder I have seen but I wouldn’t be so harsh because it is useful after all. As for the EVFs, I really like the tilting function, but I agree that it was even better if the knuckle was adjusted a little tighter. The old frame finders I only know from books and second-hand shelves, never used one. JP
As a wearer of spectacles and user of old cameras, I find many built-in viewfinders difficult to use. So I’ve built up a small collection of acessory finders, which greatly improve the useability of my old cameras. My favourites are those with brightlines, in particular the Leitz SBOOI – a large clear 1:1 view with space all around, closely followed by a couple of Voigtländer Kontur finders.
You don’t mention the Kontur finders. If you look through one normally (ie. with one eye closed), you see nothing except a black background with brightlines superimposed, but Konturs are intended for use with both eyes open. In that way your brain is tricked into seeing the brightlines ‘hanging’ over the scene in front of you. Kontur finders were made to use with for 35mm (rare – I’ve never seen one) and 50mm lenses in 35mm format, and for ‘standard’ lenses on 6 x 6 and 6 x 9 medium format cameras.
Sounds fascinating, Alan, I never even saw one of the Kontur finders. I must try this one day. And I agree, finders with brightlines are preferable and be it only for being very similar to the built-in rangefinder of your camera. That’s what I like most about M and similar cameras, you can also see what is NOT in the image. Thanks for making me aware of the Kontur! JP