View Full Version : Viewfinder for large format?

9-Sep-2011, 09:49
Hi, I am new to this forum as well as large format photography. Is there a hand held external viewfinder that covers most focal lengths? I'd like to compose with the viewfinder first before I spend time setting up the camera.

9-Sep-2011, 10:48
yes and no. There aren't that many zoom finders out there and they don't cover a wide range like the cinema finders.
search large format viewfinder on ebay.
linhof makes one but you'll need to take out a small loan to pay for it:)

9-Sep-2011, 10:50
Even better, use the Search function on this forum. Try "viewing frame" and you'll have to your heart's desire...

Kevin Crisp
9-Sep-2011, 10:53
I take it you did not actually search "viewing frame" before offering that helpful advice.

9-Sep-2011, 11:01
I take it you did not actually search "viewing frame" before offering that helpful advice.

Did you, wise man??
On the first page of results (Search - viewing frame, show posts) in the thread "About handheld viewfinders" the OP can find much to his delight...;)

douglas antonio
9-Sep-2011, 12:52
there is a linhof viewfinder.
the newer one covers 75-360 mm iirc.

Bob Salomon - HP Marketing
9-Sep-2011, 13:22
there is a linhof viewfinder.
the newer one covers 75-360 mm iirc.


You do.

douglas antonio
9-Sep-2011, 13:23
bob, i was wondering when you would drop in;-)

Warren Clark
9-Sep-2011, 14:40
Hi james,
I use a Horseman zoom finder with detachable hand grip. Very useful
for finding tripod location and focal length of lens needed for a particular
shot . Mine covers 90-400mm and came with a 6x9cm mask also.
Jim Andracki at MPEX may be able to locate one.

Warren Clark

9-Sep-2011, 15:40
I use the Linhof multifocal viewer, the older tan version that you slide to select focal length.

It's a good survey viewer. It won't give you exact composition, but it will aid in focal length selection before you set the camera up.

The tan version is much less expensive (used) than the newer black one. The newer one has an optical zoom that gives better detail at long focal lengths.

- Leigh

9-Sep-2011, 17:12
There are also a number of Chinese-made viewfinders that give a field of view from, if I'm not mistaken, 58mm-210mm.

Wayne Crider
9-Sep-2011, 19:01
If your shooting a Graphic you can always use the speed finder, or, make a 4x5 cut out in some cardboard or mat board and attach a string to it. Mark the string with you focal length choices and hold the marked on the string under your eye. Cheap, simple and lightweight.

Frank Petronio
9-Sep-2011, 20:57
If you do a little comparison testing, you can get the zoom lens on your digital camera to correspond to your large format focal lengths. Practice helps, but a digicam is more powerful, multi-purpose tool when you think about it - proofing, exposure, color temp, all of this info is imperfect but still very useful.

10-Sep-2011, 06:28
like the cinema finders.

Cinema finders (aka "director's viewfinder") are very useful as composing tools. Plus, they are much less expensive than the Horseman. For example, Amazon has this one
for $100. I have one and use it a lot for picture hunting.

It will NOT give you what focal length to use for 4x5 or 8x10 as those are not cinema formats, but you can certainly use fudge factors to get close. BTW, the Horseman is $650+.

And, yes there is the 8x10 mat board with a 4x5 hole. It won't fit in your pocket, but will give you a very good hint as to what focal length to use. Hold it 8" away from your nose, and that's what an 8" lens would cover. 14" away demonstrates a 14" lens, and so forth.

Justin Cormack
10-Sep-2011, 06:38
There is also an iphone app, which is not cheap (cheaper than a real one, more expensive than a wire frame!) but might work for you, except for very wide lenses. It lets you set which lenses you have and the format.


Jim Noel
10-Sep-2011, 07:28
After using Linhof variable focus and Graphic finders I sold them and went to a simple card with a string attached.
Piece of mat board with a 2x 2 1/2" hole cut in it. A string is attached with a knot 1/2 each desired focal length. Hold proper knot to nose and view is what will be seen by that lens. I also have viewing cards for 5x7. The 4x5 can be used for 8x10,

Ken Lee
10-Sep-2011, 07:34
You can also use your hands. Two fists together at arm's length = 300mm on 4x5, two open hands = 150mm, etc. It depends on your body size.

Another approach is to use a small card, or a Zone VI viewing filter (if you can find one). Hold one hand against the cheek-bone and extend the index finger. Hold the filter with the other hand. For different focal lengths, move the filter to different phalanges (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phalanx_bone) along the index finger.


(I have placed white tape on mine to mimic the look of a white matt board. The tape can be moved to simulate different aspect ratios.)

You can make your own by cutting a 4:5 hole in a round piece of plastic or cardboard. It won't have a filter in it - but if you're shooting in color, you don't want the filter anyhow.