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01-08-2012, 05:13 PM - 3 Likes   #1
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make your own optical viewfinder

I have an Olympus weather resistant point & shoot. It's a great little pocket camera - except it has no optical viewfinder, the same as the Q. In fact, unlike the Q, it isn't even an outrageously expensive option, nor is there a hot shoe for mounting.

So I made my own by gutting a cheap disposable camera. The view angle of the optics from the disposable camera is slightly wide and fairly close to the widest position of the Olympus' zoom lens. I carefully cut through the disposable to preserve as much of the viewfinder lens mount as possible. I carefully encased my little gem with pieces of quality black electrical tape. Since I have no mounting point on the camera, I put a small piece of 'soft' Velcro on the camera and a coresponding piece of 'toothed' Velcro on the bottom of the viewfinder. The build took about an hour.

When I attach the optical viewfinder, I turn on the LCD viewfinder and use it as a reference. While the two may not be exact, they are fairly close. Using the Q's hot shoe and gluing your homemade optical viewfinder to a hot shoe cover, you should be able to avoid this alignment step. You will need to practice imagining how much of your zoomed image will be captured when you look through the optical viewfinder. I always go just a teeny wider and crop as needed. But I understand that Pentax's optical finder doesn't work any better.

No it's not the prettiest or most durable photo accessory you will own, but it sure is useful every time you step into a brightly lighted scene. And the faster you are required to compose your photograph, the more you will be glad you have an optical viewfinder.

I have read the marketing fluff from nearly every camera manufacturer about how bright their camera's LCD is. Well the fact is, unless it is as bright as the scene in front of you, you will have trouble seeing it. The dinky add-on hoods are almost always a total waste of money. When you hold the camera away from your face, your eyes will react to the ambient light and in full daylight your pupils will close down and you will have trouble seeing that LCD screen. About the only thing that sort of helps is to toss a jacket over your head with the camera lens poking out. Yep, it's pretty much the same issue as all those photographers have focusing their large format cameras. Oh, and if the manufacturers could get their LCDs that bright, how long do you think a battery will last? Or, how blind would you become when you turned on your camera indoors?

Different people have different needs. But without a good optical viewfinder (or an 'up to the eye' digital finder), I suspect the majority of users' outdoor images on the interchangeable lens, non-SLR cameras won't be much better than many zoom point & shoot cameras. Only the user will pay a much higher price.

01-08-2012, 05:15 PM   #2
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Cool- got a pic of it? Even if it's not perfect, it's probably better than paying $249 for Pentax's VF! I still can't believe they priced a tiny lens 3x higher than their cheapest point and shoot camera.

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01-08-2012, 05:46 PM   #3
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Like I said, it isn't pretty. But I built it five years ago and other than maybe pushing down the edges of the tape occasionally, it has travelled around the U.S., Canada and twice to Europe. The 'toothy' Velcro on the finder sticks well to the inside of my belt case for the camera, and there is enough room to (literally) stick it in the corner where it is handy.

01-08-2012, 06:34 PM   #4

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Hi Jim,


Personally, I use a Leitz Brightline 50 with my Q and the 47mm EQ prime. Got a beater at a local camera show for $40, and though it's a bit tight (@ A foot on each side at 6 feet) it's very accurate as far as center of frame, and the close distance parallax error line works well. It's a non magnifying VF, so I can shoot with both eyes open, and it's pretty easy to frame the shot accurately.

There's a YouTube video that illustrates how to make one of the DIY variety with a shoe at

A very good idea IMO.


01-08-2012, 06:55 PM   #5
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Yep, that is mostly what I did, only the person in the video spent more time trimming and gluing up parts. The extra time obviously made for a nicer looking end product.

How much is your time worth? Mine isn't anywhere near $249 per hour. My junky little optical viewfinder does a good job and my cost was an hour of my time, a single use camera, a little decent quality electric tape and a small Velcro patch.

For those with no mechanical skill and/or no patience for crafts, with the way every camera manufacturer is releasing this style camera, I expect you'll find some enterprising Chinese plastic injection molding shop will be selling these out of Hong Kong for $9.95 on eBay before you know it.
01-10-2012, 11:07 AM - 1 Like   #6
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The LCD screen is definitely a challenge in bright light. I had no idea they were charging $250 for the viewfinder...That's nuts. I have a ton of disposable cameras at work I may have to try this out.
01-16-2012, 10:46 AM - 1 Like   #7
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Thanks for this topic Jim, I've built one for myself too. It is nearly the same focal length of the lens, just a tad wider. Not bad for parallax either, just need to remember to aim higher for a closeup subject.


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