I just wanted to give a shout-out to my recently purchased Voigtlander 90mm Brightline Viewfinder.
The main focal lengths that I use on my Leica and Voigtlander rangefinders are 15, 50 and 90. So I now own both the Voigtlander 15 and 90mm finders, both are the metal versions. The earlier, plastic versions, while often significantly cheaper and likely just as functional, just don’t appeal to me. They are larger and while I’ve never handled one, I just can’t expect much gestalt to them. Apparently, even their mounting foot is plastic. Something just seems improper about this. Besides, when you have a metal finder in your palm, the sheer density and precision will seduce!
I’ve been using the black 15mm finder with my 15/4.5 Heliar II for several years now and love it. A small bit of the black enamel has scraped off with normal use but the glass is still brilliant.
While my M6 TTL and Bessa R2 have built-in 90mm framelines, my 1930 I/III and 1947 IIIc of course only have 50mm finders. So I picked up a chrome 90mm brightline for use on these bodies with my trusty 1934 90/4 Elmar. Because I enjoy having a dedicated composition finder, I have toyed with using the 90mm finder on my M6 TTL with 90/2 Cron also.
The chrome finish is reasonably close in color to that of my IIIc though a little more satin. I believe it will be more durable than the black enamel and figured I’d get a different finish so that both finders were easily distinguished.
Markings on the finder are engraved and paint-filled as a proper piece of gear should be made, not simply painted on the surface like modern shit.
The 15mm finder does not have parallax correction, it’s not necessary. But the 90 does. There’s a scale on the shutter speed dial side of the finder that is marked for both feet and meters which goes from close focus to infinity. In practice, I only adjust it to roughly my focusing distance (close, middle or far) without really looking at the numbers and shoot a little wider than I would on an SLR so that any “slop” can be cropped if required.
I have not handled a Leica brightline finder but used, they usually sell for around the same amount, if not a little more than the Voigtlander ones. I chose Voigtlander because I was happy with the 15 and wanted a clean copy. Many Leica brightline finders one encounters which do not cost an arm and a leg for being NIB examples have small amounts of corrosion and/or paint loss.
But anyway, the parallax adjustment on the Voigtlander brightline is well damped for accurate setting and of consistent feel throughout its movement. The barrel seems to tilt smoothly back and forth too.
It’s shoe mount fits snuggly into all the bodies mentioned as well as in my Thumbs Up Grip, much tighter than my VC II meter actually, which, on my I/III requires a bit of cardboard to sure it in. The finder stays mounted just fine with use and when bopping around in my camera bag on the go. Yet I can remove it from the cameras without struggle. Awesome. Nothing better than an accessory to which one needn’t pay special attention.
Optically, the finder is just gorgeous. Peering through it almost makes life look nicer than it really is!
The framelines are etched in and their brightness is dependent on the ambient light. They can white out in very bright conditions and blackout in very dark ones. I think there is a just a physical limit to any type of etched frameline though and so far, shooting more in “normal” to bright situations, I haven’t been bothered as it is not often that the whole frameline disappears, only parts of it.
There are two sets framelines in the finder, an inner set which defines only the corners and an outer set which is nearly a full rectangle. I use the inner framelines to compose. I believe that the outer frames are there to both provide a little visual “breathing room” as well as to make one aware that hey, on film, you’ll get a slightly wider frame than what you see here. No complaints with this.
So if you’re considering a viewfinder for that special 90mm lens, I highly recommend the Voigtlander brightline. And really, don’t bother with those multi-focal length finders! You know the optics are inferior and the units are big and cumbersome. The brightline finders are high quality, dedicated compositional aids. And you’ll appreciate it once you use it!
Any other thoughts, questions, random pontifications? Drop me a comment!
Thanks for reading and happy shooting!
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