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which 21mm finder - a comparison


menos I M6
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This is a thread, thought as a help for finding the best fitting 21mm finder for undecided 21mm shooters.

I will include only 21mm finders, which I actually own and use.

Please feel free, to add other finders, you used and compare them (not to commonly known internet rumors, but to your own findings, comparing them in practical use).

 

I just added the new Leica 21mm 12024 finder to my collection of 21mm finders here is a few thoughts:

 

 

positive points:

- fit finish and hot shoe mounting is superb (I would not expect any less for almost the same price as a Leica Universal Wide Angle Finder)

- it's the most compact finder with best optics and mirror frame lines (the old Leica plastic finder is more compact still, but has no bright lines - displays the 21mm frame as a tunnel view instead for about 1/3 the price, second hand)

- it is not the brightest of all finders, but quite bright enough, to be well usable (very slightly brighter than the M9 finder, which in turn is about as bright, as the UWAF)

- eye glass protection is excellent with very nice rubber

- compactness not only in height, but in the measurement of poking out of the back of the camera is very nice (important for left eye shooters and for tight packing in small bags with finder attached) - this point though is counter productive to a better eye point due to compact build of the finder - there is no free lunch, as they say)

- I like the 21mm bright lines in style of the Leica M3 50mm frame lines - they are bold, not to be confused by the 28mm frame lines, for the M8 crop sensor - nice touch)

- the leather pouch is fantastic - sturdy, well made and compact, but Leica, where is the last small detail of adding just a small lug on the pouch, to use a thin leather strap or chain on the pouch, making handling without dropping in busy situations easier and loosing the expensive finder more difficult - I'd like, to tie the finder on a small strap inside my camera bag, to not loose it!)

- cleaning the front and rear element is VERY easy, no strongly convex elements, where you cannot reach into the corners, no obstructions, yet just enough protection by the housing and eye piece rubber, to not damage the glass, when sitting it on a plain surface

 

 

negative points:

- most expensive 21mm single focal finder available (really, this had to be included in the negative points - you get almost a Universal WAF or three Leica 21mm compact plastic finders or 4 to 5 Voigtlander plastic finders or 3 Voigtlander compact brass finders - I'd like, to try out one of those sometime)

- it hides the shutter speed mark, to set the shutter speed at a glance (Leica, when will the selected shutter speed be displayed in the viewfinder, when using manual mode - this could have been solved since the Leica M7! This is one of my major wishes of improving shooting with the Leica M - would save me the checking glance over the shutter speed dial, when shooting in the night, to make sure, I didn't end up with a 4 second exposure, …

- I would not recommend it for usage with glasses (I don't wear any, but it has a very close eye point from my selection of best usable finders for 21mm

- due to the eye point and the compact design, the 21mm view is rather crammed, making it NOT the prime selection for shooters, who like scenes to evolve beyond the frame lines - you can see J U S T a bit of scene outside the 21mm frame lines - other finders are MUCH better for this (king of the hill here is clearly the Leica UWAF, which buys this scenic view and fantastic eye point by much higher distortion and a dimmer view)

 

 

Now to some comparison:

- Leica 21mm 12024 is less bright than Frankenfinder.

- is much less bright than Konica 21/35 finder, that comes with Hexanon Dual 21-35 (best 21mm finder by far for brightness, framing, eye point, but also largest 21mm finder bar Frankenfinder)

- gives a much tighter view, than Frankenfinder and a tighter view than Konica 21/35.

- is a bit (yes, that is indeed only "a bit" !) lighter than Frankenfinder, but slightly heavier than Konica 21/35 - feels similarly balanced though as Konica due to more compact built (less height on camera)

- worst eye point on the three premium finders - Frankenfinder having slightly the best eye point due to lower magnification - Konica 21/35 leading edge here by far with best eye point and high magnification + still much scene around the 21mm frame

- lowest distortion from the three (just a tiny bit lower than the Konica 21/35 and much lower than the Frankenfinder) - distortion is so low, that in actual use, I had to concentrate hard, to see it, after using other finders (don't even mention regular Voigtlander plastic finders here, which I did not include in the comparison)

 

 

Verdict:

Best finder overall (size, weight, usability considered):

 

Konica 21/35 (likely extremely hard to find, as only having been sold in a set with the Konica Hexanon Dual 21-35, made only 800 pcs)

 

Best, practical single focal length finder (with compromises in eye point and visibility outside the frame):

 

Leica 21mm 12024

 

Best buy (bang for the buck, not least expenses):

 

Leica Universal Wide Angle Finder (you get it all - the full package from 16mm to 28mm with parallax correction and bubble level - it's hard, not to consider this finder, when playing with the idea of shelling out the price for the 21mm single focal finder)

 

 

What do I do at the moment?

I try, to get accustomed to the Leica 12024, as it is the most compact premium finder, poking out the least from the back of the camera.

If this doesn't work out over a longer term, I will be going back to the Konica 21/35, as in actual use, it is by far better than the Leica 12024 (loosing or damaging it though is a much more expensive issue, than doing so with the expensive Leica 12024).

When I go with my other Super Wide AND a 21mm lens, I will most likely carry the Frankenfinder instead - a much more sensible solution for multi lens/ multi camera (M8+M9/ film) kits.

 

 

A word about using a 21mm finder or not:

I have heard the comment a lot form people, I speak to, when being new to 21mm on rangefinder cameras.

People often do not like, to use an external viewfinder, thinking, it would be slow and complicated to use, thinking, it is quite an expense for an accessory, better not to be bought, saving some money after buying an expensive wide angle lens (I have heard this argument from people, who bought lenses like a Leica 21 Summilux!).

 

Well, being new to 21mm lenses, people often hardly are familiar with the technique of shooting with external finders, which there are several (most known, to be the pre focus, stopped down shooting with hyperfocal distance setting).

 

Let me tell you: you are missing about 50% of potential from your 21mm lens, trying to estimate framing and shooting it just with the limited internal finder of the camera.

It is not just about hyperfocal shooting or careful focussing by rangefinder and re-composing by external finder either.

Fluid use of an external finder in practical use is a mixture of all techniques from one frame to the other.

Having an external finder installed and ready to use allows you, to shoot one frame without it, carefully focussing a wide open lens, pre focussing and stopping down the lens in the next shot, while carefully focussing a lens wide open in low light and precise framing a scene with the external finder in another.

 

Do you want to miss out on 50% of these opportunities after paying up to several thousand EUR to Leica for an expensive Super Wide Angle lens - No? i didn't think so!

 

For the very reason of the diversity of shooting techniques with an external finder, there is such a great variety of different finders out there, which YOU must decide, how you want to use the finder most.

As of different strengths of each individual finder of different manufacturers, it is not uncommon or illogical, to own and use different external finders for different purposes.

Maybe you want the smallest and lightest finder always on the camera, that does allow you, to frame the odd shot, while being not in your way (think Voigtlander compact metal finder) - maybe, you want the perfect framing with parallax correction and integral bubble level for your landscape shooting, while being able, to check, how other focal lengths would change your critical composition (think Leica Universal Wide Angle Finder).

 

Try different finders! Buy the one/s that fit your purpose, but don't skimp on them, making the mistake of thinking about them as unneeded excess accessory or even "gimmick" - they are from from it!

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Thanks for this detailed post. I settled on the Leica 21mm finder and sold my Zeiss (although it is much nicer to look through and much brighter) because in the end the finder that facilitates the most accurate composition is the finder that should be used. The Leica 21 (with 28 framelines) is the most compact and accurate for this...and also expensive.

 

If I may add what I posted a while ago on another thread:

http://www.l-camera-forum.com/leica-forum/customer-forum/168679-21mm-viewfinder-leica-zeiss-4.html (#66)

 

I earlier wrote that I would get back to this thread after I had the opportunity of comparing the Zeiss and Leica (new model metal) 21mm Viewfinders. I have an M9 and 1.4/21 Summilux ASPH.

Some of us had earlier complained of problems framing with the Zeiss VF (see posts #9 & 15 in thread above), mainly a rotational error when composing which I found led to problems especially with architectural photography. As the Zeiss is designed for use on the Ikon (where the hotshoe is centred to the centre of the lens axis), it is not corrected for the hot-shoe on M-Leicas being offset to the centre-of-lens-axis.

 

These are my thoughts:

I had the opportunity of comparing in-store the Zeiss, Leica 21mm, and the Leica variable 21-24-28 VF (which was there second-hand) . I could have taken them home for further (and perhaps more precise and scientific comparison) but the outcome was obvious to myself and two of the specialised Leica staff with me so my decision was made. Most importantly we compared (as best we could) where the centre of the image was on the external VF compared with the camera's inbuilt viewfinder (using the centre of the image at the focusing rectangle) at both 2-3m and ~10m. I also attempted as best as possible to line up horizontals and verticals by eye through each of the VFs and checked whether this was correct on the final image.

At both distances, both Leica external VFs aligned horizontally & vertically to the centre of the image determined by the in-built VF. With the Zeiss finder the image centre was significantly up and to the right when compared with the camera's internal VF and the Leica external VFs. Therefore, one unintentionally frames incorrectly using the Zeiss finder as it leads to significantly rotation down and to the left. This may not be noticed in some standard photography, but becomes a problem for more accurate framing, especially in architectural or other photographs especially where line distortion needs to be avoided.

 

In summary:

the Zeiss 21 VF is a delight to use: relatively cheap, a bit large compared with the Leica 21 (but not with the 21-24-28 variable (or Frankenfinder), well constructed, and has a glorious bright image with average frameline visibility, but poor framing accuracy However, to me it does not fulfil it's primary purpose as a viewfinder (accepting limitations inherent in VF accuracy with RF cameras) and especially with the rotational error that it encourages when framing.

The Leica 21 VF is outrageously expensive and not as bright as the Zeiss or Leica variable 21-24-28. However it is quite bright enough, much more compact than the others, well constructed, and the framelines (including perspective correction lines). Most importantly I believe it to much more accurate than the Zeiss, and after all this is the main purpose of the VF. I had no problems with framing and especially accurately aligning verticals & horizontals. It also comes with a lovely little padded leather box (so it bloody well should for the price).

With all three it is relatively easy to smudge the front glass and eyepiece (perhaps more so the eyepiece of the Leica 21)

I am told the previous plastic clad Leica 21mm external VF is much brighter but I haven't seen one.

I should add that I considered the Leica variable 21-24-28 VF as it was only $400 and in mint condition. However, I don't need one for 24 or 28, it is very large, distorts much more than the others, , there are no frame-lines and one simply frames to the black edge of the field of view, and the distortion and out of focus areas at the periphery at 21 and 28mm only (24mm is fine) make it very disconcerting to use for anything more than very quick framing.

Despite the outrageous price (however let's put it in perspective compared to the cost of the 1.4/21 Summilux) I didn't hesitate buying the Leica 21mm because in the end it does the job accurately and the Zeiss does not! For the first time I am confident framing with 21 now I have this VF, it is surprisingly accurate for framing and perspective!

 

Regards all,

Mark.

Edited by MarkP
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If the newer Leica 21mm finder still has additional M8 frame lines then it would be useless to me.

I still use the plastic Leitz 21mm finder with lock and find that adequate.

I would like to try the newer Leica 21mm finder but no one has one to try!

I'm glad to see another source that has had rotational problems with the Zeiss finder on M cameras.-Dick

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MarkP - sounds, like you found your best compromise with the finder.

 

Dick, I have been comparing the older discontinued plastic finder with lock against both the new 12024 and my Konica 21/35 finder in the shop (to my best luck, the shop had about 10-20 pcs of the chrome version of the new Leica 21mm finder and about 10pcs of the 12024 - black paint version on stock and I could compare first hand ;-).

 

Leica plastic 21mm with lock vs. Leica new metal 21mm 12024 (black):

 

- plastic finder has no bright lines, but framing is with black borders instead

- plastic finder is slightly lighter (slightly meaning, that it is so little, one wouldn't feel the difference in actual handling - if one would use the finder on a compact PS camera though, the plastic finder's lower weight might be of interest)

- plastic finder is dimmer (not just slightly, but with a big enough difference, to be clearly visible, when raising the finder to your eye, being accustomed to the scenes natural lighting)

- plastic finder has a slight amber tint to it, while the new metal finder is neutral in color

- plastic finder, complete in small leather pouch goes second hand for about 1/3rd the cost of a new metal finder

 

- metal finder's bright line frames are intelligently contrasted (21mm frame is big, rounded corners, bright lines, while the additional 28mm framing is only hinted by small brackets in the corners - this feels about as comparing the 50mm frame and it's 75mm framing brackets in the camera's viewfinder, when shooting 50mm - it really doesn't disturb or distract)

 

In fact, I find the small corner brackets of the 28mm frame a nice plus, as they often help aligning your composition to objects inside your frame - sort of helping as a grid - I find them in no way distractive.

 

Personally, I prefer the bright line frames with slight view out of the framing over the dark frame composing of the old plastic finder. This is enough argument for me, to pay triple the price.

 

As an accessory finder for occasional use though, the old plastic finder with lock is a great buy!

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Thanks Menos for the summary. I'm now looking for one of these because I just got a 21mm. Do you find the 28mm lines clutter the views too much when using this on full frame?

 

See my post directly above yours - I find the 28mm frame lines not distracting, but rather helpful in times (they are not really frame lines, but just brackets in the corners).

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The framelines in the new 21mm finder are not at all obtrusive. They are not only for the 28mm (ie M8 framelines), but also for 2m vs infinity distance correction. Note this applies for the 18- 21- and 24mm finders. See scan of insert supplied with finder, below:

 

I agree with Menos that the various framelines are very helpful for correct horizontal alignment of the image when framing.

Furthermore, I find that the 28-equivalent frame-lines increase the utility of the finder: sometimes with the 21mm Summilux fitted I will frame and shoot for 24mm or 28mm if I don't want such a wide angle and don't have the 28mm Summicron with me.

 

I would like to reinforce what I posted above: my understanding is that no other viewfinders other than those made by Leica will correct for the hotshoe on M-mount cameras being offset to the mid-lens axis. This means that the centre of non-Leica viewfinders will usually be above and to the right of the true middle of the image. In casual day-to-day shooting this may not matter much but is especially relevant with architectural or other photography where alignment of horizontals & verticals is important.

 

 

 

Edited by MarkP
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  • 3 weeks later...

- plastic finder has no bright lines, but framing is with black borders instead

 

- plastic finder has a slight amber tint to it, while the new metal finder is neutral in color

 

I've got 2 of the older plastic finders, one marked "Leitz" (got it cheap b/c the lock lever was broken off, but the foot still fits plenty tight) and one marked "Leica". I don't have them at hand, but AFAIK they both have bright line frames. And neither one has anything remotely like an amber tint.
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I've got 2 of the older plastic finders, one marked "Leitz" (got it cheap b/c the lock lever was broken off, but the foot still fits plenty tight) and one marked "Leica". I don't have them at hand, but AFAIK they both have bright line frames. And neither one has anything remotely like an amber tint.

 

Are you sure, it's a 21mm finder?

If so, there are then different versions of this finder, I suppose.

I tried the 21mm plastic finder with lock.

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  • 2 years later...

I have a question to help eye glass wearers like myself, is the view of the 21mm frame lines in this 12024 viewfinder much like the 28mm frame lines in a 0.72x M body?

 

The reason I ask is that I need something for framing with a 21mm lens but since I use 28mm a lot the 28mm frame lines are a nice thing to have in one finder. I have managed pretty well with the 28mm frame lines in my M6 by moving my eye around to see where each corner is, given how important it is with ultra wide angles to be aware of what is out there having to move the eye about a bit doesn't worry me that much (would like to work a bit faster with the 28 though). Or is this issue so bad compared to other viewfinders that eye glass wearers should be looking at one of the alternatives?

 

BTW I have a 0.85x M7 now which is pretty much my perfect M camera, I would really like to work from that one camera and just leave this viewfinder on it rather than carry multiple bodies.

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Has anyone tried the Voigtlander 21/25 Frankenfinder?

 

Voigtlaender - 21/25mm Viewfinder

 

If it is essentially the same as the older 21mm, which I think it is, then it's my favourite. The Leica finders tend to stick out at the back of the camera, meaning that if you hold the camera in the conventional right eyed vertical position the back of the finder digs you in the forehead when you are focusing. Not so the Voigtlander finder, and its cheaper, and its bright.

 

Steve

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Has anyone tried the Voigtlander 21/25 Frankenfinder?

 

Voigtlaender - 21/25mm Viewfinder

 

If you mean the plastic external vf for the first version (ltm) CV21/4, then yes, I have used it. It's ok. Small and light and a good, tight fit in the hot shoe.

 

You might also want to consider the accessory external viewfinder for Ricoh's GRD1-iv range. It seems to be the same finder as the CV21/25 but with 21mm and 28mm frame lines (no 25mm).

It might be more useful if you have a 28mm lens as well as a 21mm. There is no parallax correction with any of these finders, the silvered frame lines are printed onto the end of the viewfinder closest to your eye. They are more helpful than accurate, but good enough in most situations.

The Ricoh version might be a bit cheaper if you shop around, but check that the aspect ratio of the frame lines is correct for your use before buying one!

Edited by honcho
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Careful with the Ricoh finders for the GR-D.

I have the large version of these for my GR-D cameras (21 + 28mm).

It is in all aspects the same finder as the very similar Voigtlander branded products except for one detail:

 

the Ricoh finders have a different foot, which has a very different offset to the hotshoe to pass the pop up flash of the GR-D cameras. This leads to a different framing when using on a M camera.

 

The Voigtlander mini finder (28mm only) has no such offset foot.

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I have both the Leica 21mm and the Zeiss.

 

I have never given it too much thought: I nearly always pick up the Zeiss because it is just so much nicer to use, and with the M, when absolute compositional accuracy is needed I use the EVF instead anyway. But for quick spontaneous shooting, the Zeiss works better for me than anything else.

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....the Ricoh finders have a different foot, which has a very different offset to the hotshoe to pass the pop up flash of the GR-D cameras. This leads to a different framing when using on a M camera.....

 

True, but the offset foot also means the Ricoh finder is offset from the lens axis on Ricoh GR-D's. Whether it creates an unacceptable composition error probably depends on the a-o-v of the lens and distance from subject. I use the external vf more often than not on my GR-D as an aid and have never really given much thought to the offset foot.

 

I agree the mini finder could be a better choice for a 28mm lens with this in mind, though.

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