Talk to me about RF Viewfinders...
So what's the deal about RF viewfinders?
In my research I see that they come in different shapes and sizes, as it were.
From Lieca's .72 and .85 to the Besa 1:1.
I don't quite understand all this.
I wear glasses and have shot with two different Nikon SLR's over the course of my photographic experience, F3 and F100, and I also shoot with a Holga, so I am quite accustom to not seeing everything through the viewfinder.
The viewfinder has a lens which renders what you see at a certain level of magnification. A viewfinder with 1.00 magnification like the Bess R3 renders what you see at life size - or as your eye would see it if it were not looking through a viewfinder or if you were looking through any other piece of glass. One of the advantages of such a viewfinder is that you can put the camera up to one eye & keep the other eye open since both eyes will be seeing the same image.
Other viewfinders present the viewfinder image at a level of magnification somewhat reduced from life size but to varying degrees. With an SLR, you are looking through the lens so you are seeing exactly what the lens sees. However, with a rangefinder you are looking through a separate window with a fixed size that is unrelated to the view of the lens you are using. The difference is that everything in the window is clear, but what you see through an SLR is distorted by the depth of field rendered by the lens & its maximum aperture, which is the aperture through which you are viewing regardless of what aperture you are using to shoot.Everything in the SLR is not necessarily in focus. If you want to see through the aperture you are shooting, you have to press your depth of field preview button if your camera has one & you have to try to discern a darker image as the lens is stopped down. with an RF, you must learn to imagine the depth of field for your lens & setting in your mind's eye. In contrast, you must add depth of field to what you see in your SLR as you stop down from maximum aperture.
The various reduced magnification images enable the viewfinder to adape to different lens focal lengths. The higher the magnification, the better for longer lenses because the field of view as represented by the frame lines in the view finder is smaller than that for wide angle lenses. However, increased magnification - anything approaching 1.00 - leaves less room for wide angle frame lines. The only way to provide enough room for a wide angle field of view is to reduce the magnification, thereby also reducing what you can see with longer lenses.
It seems to be generally agreed that a magnification of somewhere around 0.7 is the best for general use. Higher than that favors longer lenses. Lower than that favors wide angle lenses.
Because higher magnification gives a better view at what you are seeing, it is also considered an aid to accurate focusing. This is of greatest importance with longer lenses & with wider apertures because of the reduced depth of field. Longer base lines also improve accurate focusing because of the mechanical advantage. The combination of base line & magnification is often expressed as effective base length. The longer the effective base length, the more accurately the camera can focus - at least within the limits of the visual acuity of any particular photographer.
Frame lines are important for composition so you know what is in &/or out of the picture you are shooting. This will never be the same issue with an SLR because you will never get less than what you can see through the viewfinder - although you may get more if you can't see everything. If you ignored the frame lines in an RF viewfinder, the result can be chopping off some part of what you are shooting - like your mother-in-law's head. Not recommended.
SLR viewfinders actually have their own magnification, which is available in the camera specs. Because you are seeing what you get with an SLR, it is easier to focus longer lenses on an SLR as the lens itself increases the magnification of what you see. In contrast the fixed magnification of a RF makes wide angle lenses easier to focus than on an SLR because the lens itself reduces the manification in an SLR viewfinder when you use a wide angle lens.
So would the R3A not be a good choice if I were intending to use a wider angle lens?
The Bessa R2A was designed for photographers who prefer wide angle lenses and has built-in frame lines for the 35mm focal length. Many rangefinder photographers use external, hot-shoe mounted viewfinders for 28mm and wider lenses.
Originally Posted by mtbbrian
If you haven't already, I'd recommend going to Steven Gandy's website, www.cameraquest.com, as he is a Cosina / Bessa dealer and presents a wealth of information on his site about their cameras.
Originally Posted by mtbbrian
That depends on what lenses you plan to use. As others have mentioned, there are auxiliary finders that fit in the hot shoe and work with almost any focal length lens you can find, from 200mm down to 12mm. New Cosina finders run in the US$129 to US$150 range, and others can be found second hand. I'd second the recommendation to visit the cameraquest site for info on specific cameras and viewfinders. They have a nifty, tiny 35/28mm combo hot shoe finder with 0.50 magnification that I use on finderless bodies and my R3A.
The R3A/M in the C/V Bessa line has frames for 40/50/75/90mm lenses at lifesize or 1:1. The R2/R2A/M models have 35/50/75/90mm framelines at 0.7 times lifesize. So the R2 models only get you from 40mm to 35mm compared to the R3 models.
If you like to shoot almost all wides, the recently announced C/V Bessa R4A/M bodies coming in the spring with 21/25/28/35/50mm framelines built in might work well for you, but at about 1/2 lifesize or 0.52 magnification.
Smaller magnification finders mean less accurate focusing in absolute terms, but with wides the DOF will cover you.
There are built in finders in other rangefinder brands that cover as wide as 28mm. You'll need to follow up on specific models there.
Leica makes a 1.25X(?) screw-in finder magnifier that can get their recent finders closer to 1:1. It brings their 0.85 finder back to 1:1.0625.
The advantage of 1:1 is that both eyes match, and the frame floats in your field of vision with both eyes open. If you shoot left eyed, that doesn't do you any good, as the body will block your right eye. You have to give up magnification to get a wider view. Built in finders have more design restrictions than hot shoe finders.
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I find having different magnifications helpful. I have two Leica M6 TTL cameras. One is a .58, and the other a .85 magnification.
Why, well with my 75 mm lens having a .85 viewfinder makes focusing easier. With the .58 viewfinder I can use my wide angle lenses without an auxillary viewfinder.
Haven't use a Bessa. I'm blind in my left eye, so having a 1:1 viewfinder isn't important to me.
Originally Posted by mtbbrian
Auxiliary viewfinders require you to compose & focus in 2 sifferent viewfinders. Certainly less than ideal - & not recommended for anything that's going to be your general use or all-purpose lens as a 35 or 28 is for many people. If you prefer 40 or longer as your main lens & will only use wider occasionally, then the R3 is fine.
How can one know by looking at the camera what magnification it is? For example, my M6 view is smaller than 1:1, but is it a .85 or .75. Is it marked anywhere on the camera body? This info might help when looking at a camera you wish to purchase.
From the Leica's I have looked at, the M6 and M7, that information is engraved on the viewfinder on the front.
Originally Posted by Samuel Hotton
With glasses, you should expect to have "problems" with the widest frameline on any of the M6 frameline sets. Same thing with the 40mm framelines on the Bessa R3 family.