B&H Explora: Using Optical Viewfinders on Cameras that Already Have Viewing Systems – COMMENTARY

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/tips-and-solutions/using-optical-viewfinders-on-cameras-that-already-have-viewing

“… My attraction to optical viewfinders has to do with visual simplicity. Specifically, when composing a photograph, I don’t want to have to peer through a barrage of backlit numbers and flashing icons. I want zero distractions—I don’t want my subject bordered by a Broadway theater marquee….”

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Leica Brightline Finder M-21 optical viewfinder for 21mm lenses (14mm in APS-C and 10.5mm in M43)

Commentary

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Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 R prime lens, equivalent to 21mm in the 35mm sensor format.

The appearance of this article by Allan Weitz is a timely one given I am currently contemplating buying a Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 R ultra wide-angle prime lens for my Fujifilm X-Pro2, for architectural and documentary photography.

I had hoped to use this beautifully optically-corrected 21mm equivalent (in the 35mm sensor format) lens to shoot high quality 4K video on my X-Pro2 too but have set this plan aside after finding that Fujifilm dropped the ball on allowing us to customize picture profiles and especially sharpness settings in their recent 4K video firmware update for the X-Pro2, doing a Canon by crippling a long-promised, much-needed functionality.

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The art school’s Linhof 4×5 Master Technika Classic rangefinder metal field camera taught me the value of optical viewfinders and optical/mechanical rangefinders as well as large format sheet film photography, for documentary photography and portraiture.

I hope we do not have to wait too long for the ability to customize sharpness, noise reduction, contrast, colour, highlight tone and shadow tone for video as is permitted on all the other current and recent generations of Fujifilm cameras so I can put my X-Pro2 to work on producing great video footage to match the high quality of its stills.

The Eterna video picture profile would also be very welcome on the X-Pro2.

The X-Pro2’s amazing Hybrid Multi Viewfinder that I love using in its ERF-in-OVF mode for stills and video, with electronic rangefinder (ERF) image lower right in the camera’s optical viewfinder, can only properly handle focal lengths between 18mm and 56mm inclusive, so I must rely on the X-Pro2’s excellent though non-articulated monitor or its suboptimal electronic viewfinder (EVF) for lenses wider than 18mm or longer than 56mm.

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Graflex Crown Graphic 4″x5″ sheet film field camera for use in the hand or on a tripod.

When reading Mr Weitz’ article on optical viewfinders, I was reminded of how useful I found the OVFs on the Linhof, the Graflex Crown Graphic upon which I relied in my magazine photography career, my Rolleiflex twin lens reflex cameras and the odd borrowed specialist camera such as the superb Hasselblad XPan panorama camera and Hasselblad SWC Superwide.

The XPan was made by Fuji Camera as it was then known and marketed in Japan under its own product designations, the Fuji TX-1 and Fuji TX-2.

Leica has produced its superb but incredibly expensive external optical viewfinders for many years now, from long before the famous portrait of a young Henri Cartier-Bresson with external OVF-equipped early 20th century Leica was made.

Something I especially like about composing through an optical finder is that unlike the black-bordered, tunnel-like view of the scene you get with LCD, electronic, and conventional reflex viewing systems, optical finders allow you to see beyond the borders of the frame, which gives you a definitive edge when photographing fleeting moments.

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Fujifilm VF-X21 External Optical Viewfinder originally for the Fujifilm X70, for use with 21mm and 28mm equivalent lenses such as the Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 R and XF 18mm f/2.0 R on the X-70 and other cameras.

I am now in the market for a good but affordable 21mm optical viewfinder to go with the second-hand Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 R that its current owner is currently using on a trip to India and hopefully the lens will return safe, sound and free of dust.

Fujifilm, Voigtländer or another brand altogether, I am looking forward to the digital version of a camera view-finding experience that I grew to love during the era of analog cameras, film, photochemicals and, sadly for me, a debilitating photochemically-derived dermatitis that prematurely ended my magazine photography career.

Roll on digital photography!

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  • Fujifilm VF-X21 External Optical ViewfinderB&H
  • Fujifilm X-Pro2 Mirrorless Digital CameraB&H
  • Fujifilm XF 14mm f/2.8 R Ultra Wide-Angle LensB&H
  • Linhof 4×5 Master Technika “Classic” Rangefinder Metal Field CameraB&H