I have a terrific friend, Zoran, who from time-to-time lends me bits and pieces, some rare, some expensive, some commonplace, so I can try them out and see if I like whatever it is. This time around he has loaned me a remarkable bit of kit – a viewfinder that has no view – the strange but effective Voigtlander Kontur finder. I have borrowed it in my seemingly never-ending current quest for an accessory finder for my Leica IIIf with a 50mm lens.
I believe that the Kontur was made for the Voigtlander Vitessa fitted with an accessory shoe as an alternate finder to optical finders for quick snapshot use (although my version doesn’t sport one). Here it is fitted to my favourite Canonet (a QL19 that took me a month of lunchtimes to repair, hence the red leather skin, but that’s another story for another post):
It is a chunky black plastic cube, with an eyepiece at the rear, and no obvious viewing window on the front, just a black nameplate in a metal frame that notes it is for 24×36 and 35mm – yes, a viewfinder without a view. Check that again – a viewfinder with no view. When you pick it up and look through it with the customary one eye open, one eye closed viewing arrangement most of us use, all you you see a black field, outlined with a solid white frame line and a dotted parallax frame. Oh yes, and a white dot in the center. A very strange unit, this, for a finder. If you switch eyes, you see the same thing:
Not very promising, eh? But now if you open both eyes, all of a sudden the design reveals it brilliance, a breathtakingly simple and blindingly clever finder for fast work. This is an approximation of what you see (I hope that it is an internet first):
Clever, eh? All you do is set the lens to a suitable hyper-focal distance, and shoot away. It is fast, just perfect for street shooting. I believe that the viewing lens allows you to focus on the back illuminated frame lines – the central dot is to give your eye something to look at to make it all work in focus (but there is no straining to see the image at all). The other open eye sees the scene, and the brain superimposes the images, “seeing through” the blackness to give you a pretty damn fine rendering of the scene in front of you. Photo-journalist’s heaven. The finder works very well in dim conditions too. Confusingly, the numbers on the finder’s front screen mean that it is for a 35mm camera with a frame of 24 x 36mm, however this model gives a view of a standard lens – a 50mm unit on a 35mm camera, and not that of a 35mm lens.
Zoran might have a hard time getting this loaner back off me – I love it.