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11-04-2022, 08:45 AM   #1
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On Rangefinder Viewfinders

I started out in photography with a Werra 1B around 1958, it had and still does have a nice brightline finder with some room around the edges, it has a 50mm F2.8 Tessar lens surrounded with a 1s -250s mechanical shutter, I was perfectly happy with this for a number of years until I got really annoyed by the number of backs of heads that appeared on film but not in the viewfinder caused by the offset of the lens from the optical finder, so then naturally I bought an SLR which cured that problem and I've used SLR's and DSLR's ever since, that's about 65 years now.

Then I got the Leica bug, maybe its the advertising, I don't know, but then due to price constraints I bought a Canon Model L2, after all it had the same M39 thread mount as the Leica's, this has a nice little viewfinder adjustable for 35 and 50mm fields of view plus another for detailed focussing, I quite liked it and still do, after all it has a much simpler loading method and it wasn't too heavy.

Yes but it still wasn't a Leica and eventually I gave in and bought a 1951 IIIc model which at some point had been factory converted to a IIIf, Leica used to do factory conversions back in the day, a very nicely made camera but I never got on with the viewfinder finding it a bit squashy especially for somebody with glasses and so I tend to use this camera with a Russian turret slip on finder which I find is much brighter and clearer to my eyes.

Then the other day I was allowed to look through the finder of my daughter in laws 1957 (I think) Double Stroke M3 fitted with a 50mm F1.5 Summarit lens, the barrel of which does not intrude into the viewfinder, the lens's focal length was important as it brings up the brightline frame into the viewfinder for that lens. I was really impressed by the uncluttered clarity of the image, in my view it has the best finder of those mentioned above as it gives a 91% view of the image, and its only the brightline frame for that lens which appears, no clutter from the lens's frame lines for other focal lengths intruding into the image or meter readings or anything like that. I noticed on Analog Insights that, when choosing a second lens, quite a lot of time was spent in selecting a lens for an M6 with the minimum intrusion into the bottom right corer of the viewfinder.

I can now understand why the Leica crowd hold up the M3's camera's viewfinder as being the best against that of the M2 and subsequent models which have a 72% view of the image and those of the Leica brigade who complain about those models from, I think, the M4 onwards, just talking about film cameras here, where the finder is cluttered with frames for several lenses visible at the same time.

I thought my little IIIf was fairly heavy but this M3 is in a different league altogether and from the weight of it and Summarit lens you would not be walking around with it and a pack of other lenses for long, of course at Leica prices you probably wouldn't be doing that anyway.

Of course I had to give the M3 back and return to my trusty K70 with its very clear finder, and what I like to call my digital Leica in the shape of a Pentax Q10 with its 01 F1.9 47mm lens.

11-04-2022, 10:58 PM   #2

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Viewfinders do matter a lot. You cannot get brighter than with a rangefinder - unless you like to watch viewfinder TV. 0.72 is great magnification which works fine with 50mm glass. That means you are not only walking with the perfect finder, but also with the optimum lens. Call it self limitation or ultimate pleasure.
Pentax does very well on SLR viewfinder, keeping them bright.
11-05-2022, 02:09 AM   #3

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My favourite r/f viewfinder was that fitted to the Retina IIIS … don't remember if it had auto-parallax but it certainly had auto bright-lines for 35mm, 50mm, 85mm and 135mm. Even at 35mm there was "space" around the edges so's it'd do a good approximation with the 28mm Curtagon fitted.
Far far easier to use than the turret viewfinder, but, of course, you're limited to the Schneider and Rodenstock lenses available with r/f coupling.
You might care to note that the later lenses, for the Kodak Instamatic Reflex, will fit, but don't have the r/f cam, likewise the 200mm Tele-Xenar.
11-05-2022, 08:24 AM   #4
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I'd forgotten about the Retinas, I had one briefly with and F2 lens, it was acquired by a then girlfriend who promptly dumped me, or in the phraseology of the time gave me the bullet, what I always wanted but never got was a Voigtlander Prominent, I must see what they're going for now.

Before I parted with the M3 I sidled into the kitchen and borrowed the scales, the M3 + Summarit lens + non working Leica Meter M weighed in at 1082g, the IIIf + 50mm F 2.0 Leonon S (made in Japan originally with Leotax Cameras) at 655g and the Canon + 35mm Canon F2.8 lens at 686g while the Werra with its built in 50mm F2.8 Tessa weighed in at a measly 497g. It seems that quality weighs on other things apart from your wallet.

I do have a 6 x 9cm Zeiss Ikonta folding camera and can say that the pop up viewfinder is truly appalling, you are working in strictly guess and fiddle territory with this one, its no wonder you see all those old family photos with parts of the heads and legs missing.

I am getting to like my IIIf more and more.


11-06-2022, 09:49 AM   #5
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I have a Petri 1.9 fixed lens rangefinder (color corrected super), and it has some of that Leica feeling of density, though it's smaller since it doesn't have removable lenses.'

It has a very nice viewfinder, with a bright rangefinder spot and very visible bright lines...

It has great ergonomics, but it does have a fragile coupling for its Copal SV (it does have X-sync, though) shutter. It took me a couple of tries to get one that really worked properly.

It was made in that period of the 1950s when the Japanese were clobbering the Germans in rangefinder-world but hadn't quite got to SLRs yet...

I have a Konica Pearl of about the same vintage (645 folder), and it is also remarkably well built.

11-07-2022, 05:38 AM   #6
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I've had a few RF cmameras over the years, and until the late 40s/early 50s the VF are very small and hard to read.
The cameras from the lates 50s (Agfas, Voigtlanders, ZeissIkons) improved the size, brightness and coverage
The Japanese cameras took a leap forwards though. The NIkon S y way better than the Contax IIa

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