Linhof Viewfinder Gadget : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Does anyone here have experience with the Linhof shoe-mounted gadget that optically and mechanically shows the view seen by different focal lengths? Is it worth the effort to carry it around as opposed to my trusty card with a 4:5 hole cut in it? The ones I have seen on ebay seem to have a maximum focal length of 360 mm; are some longer? Are they still sold new? Does anyone know of alternative (i.e. lighter or cheaper) gadgets other than a simple card?


-- John Hennessy (, May 28, 2001


The Linhof Multifocus Finder is currently made. It is a zoom type finder for focal lengths from 75 to 350mm (for 45) and accepts rotating masks for formats from 6x7cm to 4x5" including 612cm.

The current masks do not fit the older non zoom type finder. Those are the ones where the image size changes by moving the front and rear lenses apart rather then rotating a ring around the eyepiece.

A second ring corrects for parralax.

-- Bob Salomon (, May 28, 2001.

The question isn't so much "Are they worth it to lug around?" as it is, can you afford it and do you want to?

Leica made similar devices for their cameras and provided you do the math, they work well. The device I have is, NO! I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP! called an IMARECT. No, it pre-dates viagra.

Bolex also made opto/mechanical viewfinders for their 16mm cameras and they cost even less, although they don't "zoom" like the others do. I think they had three focal lengths to choose from. It's strictly a low cost option you might consider if you bump into one in a parts box at the local camera store.

Zone VI/Calumet makes/sells what amounts to your cardboard card cut- out only it's smaller and has a lanyard to keep it around you neck and a filter which helps you preview a scenes contrast range.

-- Sean Yates (, May 28, 2001.

If you shoot regularly and have developed the skill necessary to translate the distance from your eye and the perspective card to a specific focal length lens, that will obviously be the best situation from an economic and logical perspective.

I acquired both a 4x5 and a 5x7 Linhof viewfinder for several personal reasons. 1) Because of my real job and a family, I shoot far to infrequently to be accurate enough with the perspective card. I would love to be making photographs every other day, but that is just not in the cards. 2) I have a wide range of lenses to be able to shoot with and 3) I want to make as sure as possible that where I drop my tripod legs is where I will in fact make a photograph. In other words, these devices save me valuable time getting to where I need to be and 4) I found my viewfinders in great condition used and at reasonable prices and they are an integral part of my pre-shot routine. You can get along fine without them. The botom line is determining if you will make enough use of one to justify a purchase. If you do decide to get one, I would recommend used and prepare to spend around $200+ for one in decent shape.


-- Michael Kadillak (, May 28, 2001.

I have one of these (expensive) beauties and here are my experiences and opinions FWIW: (1) It's heavy, due to the glass, to use as an independent viewfinder. It weighs 250g and I carry it in my shirt pocket with a string around my neck. If I leave it out of my shirt pocket it can damage my ribs as it swings while I walk. (2) It is WAY overpriced, like many Linhof accessories. It costs about twice as much as a Canon 75-300 Zoom EF IS Auto Focus but has way less functionality, if you think about it! Makes no sense. (3) It has focal lengths of 75mm to 360mm. (4) I DO like using it better than the card with a 4x5 cutout and the knotted string, which I used for some time before acquiring the viewfinder. (5) If I lost or broke the thing, I would go back to the card with cutout as the cost does not exceed the benefit, IMO.

-- Steve Baggett (, May 28, 2001.

"It costs about twice as much as a Canon 75-300 Zoom EF IS Auto Focus but has way less functionality, if you think about it! Makes no sense."

Except for scale.

Would you think that Linhof could possible handmake and sell as many in two years as Canon can machine make and sell in one week?

If Linhof could make, and the market was as large as Canon's you would see a price more in line with Canons.

And, of course, the German employees making them would be willing to make less per year and get fewer vacations and fewer benefits to aid in keeping prices down. And the DM would have the same value as the Yen.

It isn;t as simple as you may think.

-- Bob Salomon (, May 28, 2001.

Bob is right, it doesn't work that way. If it did, a Linhof Technika would have about a third as many parts as a Honda Civic (it costs about a third as much) or the car would have only about a few dozen moving parts.

Prices have to do with production volume. If you sell many pieces, you can price them lower and still recover your initial costs, if few, like Linhof then you have to price them high.

And I hope this does not introduce any doubts that the Linhof is a fine, fine, FINE camera. None better.

-- Mani Sitaraman (, May 28, 2001.

I have one of the earlier finders (when you zoom it all the way out, the image gets really tiny) and I love it -- but I have the Tech IV camera to go with it. Without the camera, owning it wouldn't make a lot of sense - unless you intended to carry it in your pocket and pull it out and use it to "scope" where to shoot from or what lens to use before you unpack your 4x5 kit.

Mounted on my camera, I can easily compare the view between the finder and the ground glass. If parallax is adjusted properly, the finder works very well.

I think Toyo also made or makes a variable finder for their 4x5 -- probably pretty expensive.

One could figure out what the equivalent focal legnths were with a 35mm and carry a 35mm slr camera and a zoom. If you have time to burn maybe try making one out of 2 brass or copper pipes that fit together like a old pirate telescope and have a mask at the far end --- match the view to your existing lenses. You could make a proto- type out of toilet paper tubes. I'm sure that at some point someone like Hama has made some sort of cheap version of this for photographers, film directors or art directors to "eyeball" their shots -- scour ebay.

-- william blake (, May 29, 2001.

"I have one of the earlier finders (when you zoom it all the way out, the image gets really tiny)"

That's is why the current zoom version is so much better. On yours at 360mm the image is the size of your small finger nail.

On the zoom type the image at all focal lengths is large and easy to use.

-- Bob Salomon (, May 29, 2001.

This is for Bob Soloman:

How can one tell a current model from the old model? And what is the current retail USD price? The prices on ebay seem to fluctuate like the biblical reed in the wind.

-- John Hennessy (, May 30, 2001.

The current ones (made over the past 20+ years) are black and have 2 concentric rings around the eyepiece. One for zoom and one for distance. Each is color coded by lens groups. It does not pull apart to change focal length and it covers 75 to 360mm.

Most on ebay are very old.

For currrent pricing check with a camera store.

-- Bob Salomon (, May 30, 2001.

To answer my own question about cost: US$690 from Robt White, which is likely the best price around. That is about 25% of the cost of my TK45. Thus, I am sorry I brought it up and I'll stick to a card!

-- John Hennessy (, May 30, 2001.

John: your question is a good one deserving of an answer in photography terms. Yes, the Linhof VF is excellent as it gives you a view and perspective which approximates what you will get with various lenses. This is true for the later models of the VF anyway and will do so with far greater accuracy than cards and other contraptions. I mount mine on a camera shoe which has an attached handle and cord for round the neck carrying. This last item prevents dropping this very expensive VF. It helps me study the subject without having to set up my Linhof.

-- Julio Fernandez (, June 05, 2001.

I just made one of these for pennies. I took an empy 35 mm slide mount, masked it to a 4:5 ratio, and filled the hole with a piece of translucent Scotch tape to provide a diffusing screen. I then removed the thick plastic diffuser from one of those freebie slide viewers you are supposed to hold up to a light, inserted the slide mount and held the whole thing behind a nasty 28-85 mm zoom lens I don't use any more. Voila, a zooming viewfinder! It's a bit bulky, but it works.

You can improve on this by using a telescope or microscope eyepiece to focus on the aerial image. With a 35 mm frame size you will need a (spendy) wide-field, low power eyepeice, so it's better to use shorter focal lengths and a common-as-muck 5x or 10x eyepeice. Look for cheap video or home movie camera zooms, which are physically more compact than 35 mm wide angle zooms and are very cheap on the used market.

Increasing the power of the eyepeice will let you go to longer focal lengths, and most eyepieces have a place to put graticles where it is easy to add a cardboard or plastic mask. Making an adapter to mount the eyepiece behind the lens is a simple task for a competent machine shop, or you can use t-mount components from, say, Edmund ( If you can live with the bulk of a 35 mm zoom lens, Kenko sell an adaptor which fits major 35 mm brands directly.

Calibrating the focal length of one of these devices is a simple task. Just frame a shot on your view camera, adjust the viewer so that you see the same thing, and make a mark on the zoom scale. The rest of the scale should change proportionately, but unless you own huge numbers of LF lenses, you can just repeat the calibration for each lens you own.

-- Struan Gray (, June 11, 2001.

"I just made one of these for pennies. I took an empy 35 mm slide mount, masked it to a 4:5 ratio,"

You could have used a Gepe slide mount that already has a metal mask in this proportion.

-- Bob Salomon (, June 11, 2001.

"You could have used a Gepe slide mount that already has a metal mask in this proportion. "

Much as I like to support local industries, that would have cost more than pennies. As it was, I almost broke my budget with the Scotch Tape.

A better use of my time would be to find a cheap erecting prism (ohh err missus). Actually, I have one, from an old Practika camera with changeable viewfinders, but that's hardly a widely-available solution. No doubt you'll let us know if RODENSTOCK, LINHOF, GEPE or KAISER have something that will do the job for more money.

-- Struan Gray (, June 11, 2001.

Actually if someone wanted to see one we would send a sample of the mount at no charge, but that might have also been too expensive for you. I am sure BiWex would have also.

-- Bob Salomon (, June 11, 2001.

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