The Quest for the Ultimate Viewfinder

left to right: Voigtländer Kontur – Altix Finder – Home made Finder

This has been an ongoing thing since I got my Leica IIIa. It’s a wonderful camera and I like carrying it with me and using it, but as I already said, the viewfinder is downright crappy, at least when you have to rely on glasses to see anything, like me.

So I have been searching for a solution for some time. I killed a nice working Canon ShureShot AF7/8 point and shoot camera to tear out it’s gorgeous finder as I related here and it basically works.

Home-brewed contraption

The finder is huge, spectacular… but giving me a 35mm field of view which does not play well with my 50mm lenses.

A great guy lurking on 35mmc, Raymond Yee from Lost Lens Caps, has offered to 3D-print me a housing for my hacked finder and I’m anxiously waiting for it right now – he sent me pictures and it really looks great, though I don’t understand why he’s not sending that crappy Contax G1 along with the finder…IMG_2079I scored an Altix finder on the bay, a nice metal 35mm finder with 50 and 90mm ‘blinds’ that snap on to give the right view. It’s nice, looks quite OK on the Leica and is really easier to use than the built in finder. The good thing is that the Altix finder has a distance scale that does not focus the finder as I first assumed, but it heightens and lowers the rear end of the finder to account for parallax error. Great idea!

With the 50mm blind it allows me to see the whole frame, even with my glasses on. Quite nice I think.

Then again I got a very battered Voigtländer Kontur finder, that will need a bit more explanation.

It says 35mm on the front, but that refers to the film format – the finder is 50mm!

In fact, put it’s giant eyepiece to your eye and behold….. nothing. Nothing but a nice white 50mm frame line, a dotted parallax corrected frame line and a small dot in the center! That’s it, no nice view out!

OK, how is that going to work as a finder you say? Here’s how: you simply don’t squint your left eye shut when you look through it! What happens? Your brain combines the images from both your eyes and you will see the brilliant white frame line superimposed on the scenery… Voilà!IMG_0343Easy peasy, brilliant idea, no?

No, not really, as it takes some mind-bending to get used to this system. It’s really not easy to convince your brain that those two images belong together as, at least my brain, always tries to convince me that there’s either one or the other.

Until now I have not yet made friends with the Voigtländer Kontur!

So that leaves me with several possibilities:

  • Adapt to the original Leica finder
  • Adopt the Altix
  • Stick with my home-brewed finder hack and get a 35mm lens
  • Wrangle my brain around to work with the Voigtländer Kontur

Choices, always choices – kills me every time!

They have one thing in common, they are quite big, even the Altix, and they really succeed in destroying the nice lines of my Leica IIIa.


Altix – classy, old fashioned but still big

I have to say that the Altix looks best of the three. Goes nicely with the outlandish style of the Leica and well, it’s adapting to different focal lenghts.

A versatile piece of metal and glass – quite solid feeling too. And what’s more, the copy I bought is clean – bet there’s been a problem with eBay!

I think I’ll send the Kontur on – it’s too big, too cumbersome to use and as a simple proof of the principle of two-eyed-photography it’s not convincing to me. No I’ll not hoard things any more!

Then again, when I get the nice housing for my home made finder it might become my favourite. I’ll just have to find a way to draw 50mm frame lines on it, or at least dots, marking the corners.

I’ll expand this post as soon as this finder is completed!

As always, thanks for being here and reading this!

11 thoughts on “The Quest for the Ultimate Viewfinder

Add yours

  1. Very nice article (and site, by the way). Shortly after I bought my IIIa this spring, I bought a Leica VIOOH Universal Finder. It doesn’t have the large viewing area and it may not make it easier for you to view with glasses on (and I do feel your pain as a long-time glasses wearer) – it does help somewhat for me. It does, however provide “framelines” for 35, 50, 73, 90 and 135mm lenses should you have or find lenses in those lengths.

    I will be following your adventures with interest.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks a lot!

      I know the VIOOH Finder but the problem is that, as you say it won’t solve my problem with glasses completely, and as I’m always somewhat short on money, it’s a bit expensive….


    1. Sorry Jorge, compacts with 28mm lenses and big finders to slaughter are very rare. Perhaps someone else here has an idea?

      My Canon AF7 finder has 35mm framelines but some room around them so the full view might be approaching 28mm though.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So, you just had to remind me didn’t you?
    I used to own this original crome Leica 35mm finder a while ago. A masterpiece made out of metal and glass. Then I decided to take a nice series of pictures on my way home from the ship, from the backseat of a taxi heading south from Lerwick to the airport at Sumburgh in Shetland.
    I finished a roll of FP4 during the 40min’s the drive took, and went on the plane before I realized my finder had gone. Nowhere to be found.
    I tried calling the taxi company as well, explaining what I was looking for and why. They couldn’t find it. Could have slipped from the floor onto the road or something when we stopped, but gone it is.
    Probably the most expensive and useful piece of equipment I ever lost, and I hate to think about it to be honest 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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