Voigtlander 15-35 Zoom Finder

Its Voigtlander week!!

Voigtlander 15-35 Zoom Finder Leica M9 Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Biogon

With the proliferation of mirrorless cameras and large sensor compacts, the optical viewfinder, once restricted to rangefinder cameras and lenses has made a comeback. The Olympus E-P1 and the Leica X1 are two cameras that offer optical viewfinders as accessories. The Leica with its fixed lens and the Olympus as an option paired with the 17mm f2.8 pancake.

Most are OK but there are problems of getting the framing right. Many optical viewfinders are optimised for short distances e.g. 1 metre. However when you change your focusing distance the focal length of the lens changes. A lens that is 50mm when focused on a distant subject gradually shortens the closer you focus. A fixed optical viewfinder is therefore only really accurate at one point of focus. This is after all one of the advantages of the SLR with the mirror feeding the correct information into the viewfinder, so that you clearly see the differences in framing as you change the focus.

Rangefinder users have found ways to cope with optical viewfinders. On the Leica M9 any lens wider than a 28mm lens has to have a separate viewfinder since the camera doesn't have internal framelines for it. I have a separate viewfinder for my Zeiss 21mm, which is an approximation of what the camera will record. Since its set for close work I usually get more in the taken picture than the viewfinder would indicate.

This is all pretty complicated and using these optical finders involves a certain amount of guesswork. If you like wide angles and Leicas you could end up with quite a few viewfinders rattling around your pocket or camera bag. They are easily lost, and considering their cost, this is not good. The viewfinder for my Zeiss 21mm costs an unbelievable £340!!


The X1 optical viewfinder costs £240

Leica X1

Even the optical viewfinder for the Olympus 17mm, when bought on its own costs £100


Some Leica viewfinders cost in excess of £500. All of this seems pretty excessive when you consider that there's not really much to them.

Now fortunately there's the Voigtlander 15-35 Zoom viewfinder. 

The 15-35 is the range of lenses that it will cover (In 35mm or FF terms) It works for Leicas, including the X1 and for m4/3 cameras. Mine cost me £382. 

Voigtlander 15-35 Zoom Finder Leica X1

Voigtlander 15-35 Zoom Finder Leica M9 Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Biogon

Voigtlander 15-35 Zoom Finder Panasonic GH1 Olympus m. zuiko 9-18mm Zoom

Voigtlander 15-35 Zoom Finder Olympus E-P2 m. zuiko 9-18mm Zoom

This is a great piece of kit. Not only does it cover a range of lenses, but due to its variable zooming feature you can set up an accurate representation of the picture the camera will take.
This may not necessarily correspond with the preset lens numbers, but you are getting something close to wysiwyg (what you see is what you get) It works for my Leica + Zeiss 21mm, It works for my X1, which has a 35mm equivalent lens. (much better than the Leica viewfinder incidentally) and it works for m4/3. For the latter I find it incredibly useful in low light, as there's none of that degrading of the EVF or screen. Incidentally when set to its maximum - 35mm it covers the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 pancake, which is useful. 

Obviously its only for wide-angles, and doesn't work for telephotos or standard lenses, but it does get rid of the need to carry around lots of different finders. Its a strange looking thing, but very light and well-made. There are two types available. One - Type A - has markings for full-frame, 1.3x crop (for Leica M8) and 1.5x crop (APS-C sensors) The other - Type B - has markings for full-frame, 1.3x crop. (Leica M8) and 2x crop (m4/3). There's some confusion on the internet about whether the type B works on full-frame. Don't worry - it does. If you have say an APS-C and m4/3 camera you can use either. All you have to know is the 35mm / full-frame equivalent of your lens and it will work fine on both cameras.

This finder has received very enthusiastic reviews and rightly so. It really is a godsend to those of us that use wide-angle lenses on cameras without built in viewfinders. Since I can get the cost of it back by selling my existing viewfinders and end up with a superior product I'm well pleased. 

Useful little company Voigtlander.

Panasonic GH1 Olympus m. zuiko 9-18mm Zoom

Panasonic GH1 Olympus m. zuiko 9-18mm Zoom

Above - 2 shots using the 15-35 Zoom finder.

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