After picking up a Zeiss Ikon Tessar, I was curiously surprised to realize that the little beauty isn't equipped with a rangefinder. I was so enamored with the compactness of the folder that I never noticed the viewfinder difference about the class.
So, while playing with it yesterday, I was torn between using the flip up "sportsfinder" or the prism on the shutter housing. For no particular reason, I've always been distrustfull of the sportsfinders on my Crown Graphic and my tlrs. I therefore struggled with the tiny ("tiny" is being generous) little prism finder. Let's just say that it made framing and composition, wel, err...interesting...
Do any tlr or folder veterans have any experience and/or advise in the use of the, obviously easier to use, sportsfinder? Do you match up the front frame edge with the back? Is the finder relatively accurate?
The wire frame finder on my Voigtlander Rollfilmkamera and the similar ones on my Kawee Camera and Zeiss-Ikon 250/7 Ideal plate cameras appear to be quite accurate in terms of FOV and framing. Where there's larger than a peephole for the eye end, I do match up the framing of back and front; I'm pretty sure that's how they were designed to be used, since that puts the eye at a definite point both front to back and in a plane parallel to the film. With my Wirgin Auta, there's an additional factor introduced by the dual format masking in the frame finder, but even that's not hard; I line up the front and rear frames, then compose with the inner front frame (when I have the masks in for 6x4.5, which is most of the time).
One major advantage of the standard mounted wire frames on cameras with movements, like my plate cameras, or those (like a Speed Graphic) with interchangeable lenses, is that they automatically compensate for changes in lens focal length, bellows extension, and movements, simply by being in a fixed relationship to the lens while the peephole is fixed to the film plane.
Even if it weren't so dim and fuzzy as to be useless, I'd almost never use the bright finder on my Wirgin; I seldom do on the somewhat larger and heavier Rollfilmkamera (generally only when the camera is on a tripod and too low to easily use the wire frame).
BTW, I routinely use the sports finders on my TLRs, too -- scale focus and sports finder is almost the only way to use the Argoflex in dim conditions, due to the dim simple ground glass, and even with the bright Fresnel in the Reflex II it's more convenient for some shooting situations (like in a crowd or shooting over a barrier) than the waist level ground glass.
I've just spent ages lining up a folder viewfinder so what I see through it is what appears on the film. This is an albada type, folding, 2 lenses, and after using ground glass and focusing screens I thought what a lousy way to compose a pic - the lenses distort, the white line vanishes in a pale sky, and in framing up it was miles out. So I taped some tracing paper over the film gate to get an image and set aboul lining up the white lines to that image. It was quite a way out top and bottom and the viewfinder had to be raised about 2mm along its back edge. I also made a window out of black electricians tape on the front, large lens piece to block out anything that wont appear on film, making composing much easier.
Mine is an Ensign Selfix 820 and I love it, but I do think these folders are let down with toy like viewfinders.