Voigtlander Kontur Finder

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.


Through the Olympus E-P2 electronic viewfinder

This is, I believe, a first for the web. I have been looking for an age on the web to find comparison photos that show what you see through the Olympus E-P2’s electronic viewfinder, and what the camera sees. Having failed in my quest, here is a quick comparison pair I have shot for our enhanced understanding of this digital marvel.

What the camera saw:

and now, through the viewfinder:

First things first – the real view through the finder does not suffer from chromatic abberation – this is a a problem introduced by my trusty Canon A720 IS in its macro shooting mode. Second thing – the image you see through the finder is not washed out in the highlight areas – this is again an image issue introduced by the second camera as the dynamic range of the scene can’t be properly recorded. (Maybe a HDR would be better, but nevermind, it was beyoned me today)

The image through the finder is clear, colourful and provides an excellent perception of what you will see in the image you shoot. there is a big range of setting information available, this shows just one mode. In summary, no, its not the same as a Leica’s rangefinder viewfinder, it’s different and in many areas, it’s better. It gives a full screen image of the view that results from the focal length mounted or zoomed, unlike an optical finder. It stops one having to use this as a point and shoot arm’s length unit, with all of the attendant problems that method of shooting brings. I love it.