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Friday, 06 August 2010


I find the 40mm finder by Voigtländer is a tad more accurate (available from Gandy or the big NY company that starts with an A

If the conversion factor for the GF1 is 2X, wouldn't the 40 mm finder be a closer match for the 20 mm lens? We're contemplating doing the same thing for our GF1/20 combo.

PS: Didn't you once promise an in-depth review of your GF1? Did I miss it?

Why the 35mm, not the 40mm, Voigtlaender with the 20mm lens?

Mike, your review of Panasonic GF1 might be overdue for a very long time, I'm afraid. ^_^

I've long considered this after using the Olympus 35 optical viewfinder for just a few shots and finding it completely liberating. I simply haven't gotten around to it yet.
So thanks for the article ... now I expect all to be promptly sold out - yeah, thanks! ;)

Why the choice however, of the looser 35 framing versus the 40 that Voigtlander also makes?

How does the slightly different field of view work for you? And is it a pain to keep track of it off the camera? I think I'd lose it, and be too lazy to stick it on every time I pulled out the camera. Still tempted to try it, though.

I recently discovered, to my surprise, that the brightline frame in the optical viewfinder for the Olympus 17mm lens is actually a far better match for the Panasonic 20mm lens than it is for its allegedly "bespoke" lens. The "17mm" finder and the 20mm lens are a perfect pairing for the kind of approach you've been enjoying, not least because you get the 4/3 aspect ratio.

Having said that, I have just acquired a "used" Panasonic electronic viewfinder for my GF1, and I am besotted with it. Yes, it's sort of like looking a TV through a telescope, but I can live with that -- I'm taking photographs, not admiring the view. And being able to jam the thing against my face to steady the camera and frame the shot exactly has transformed my feelings about the camera (not to mention the sharpness of the results).


Just curious, what lens hood are you using on the 20mm? The 20 seems to be my lens of choice for the E-PL1 and I need to find a decent hood.

Who makes that lens hood for the 20mm? I need one of those!


I'm currently using a Voigtlander 40mm finder (also from Stephen Gandy) on an Olympus EP-1 with the Panasonic 20. It works well for me for street and casual photography. The framing accuracy is 'good enough' for that kind of work, which is what I got it for.

BTW, what's the lens shade you're using in the photo? And is it available somewhere other than Mike's drawer of old filters, hoods and doohickies?

Oh, and on the 'I paid too much for that lens' front, just got the 45mm Panasonic/Leitz. Tests using the girlfriend/backyard/cat protocol indicate that it's wicked sharp even wide open and it balances nicely on the camera. Neat hood included, too. And I get it that the market for micro 4/3 primes is not huge and having 'Leitz" on the barrel costs a bit.

But Sheesh, there goes the equipment budget for a couple of months...

I've been doing the same thing with the 40mm viewfinder on a E-PL1. It works great, but the lens takes a significantly wider picture than what shows in the 40mm viewfinder. The 35mm is probably a better choice, even if it does cost more.

satisfaction = results - expecation

So lowered (not necessarily low) expectation equals more satisfaction. Sweet.

Plus it's just as honest as trying to boost results over expectations because there's a fair chance our expectation are the faulty element in the equation anyway.

Cheers, Alistair

I've been using the same viewfinder/focusing technique with the Ricoh GRD for a few years. The ability to frame the photograph, using such a bright and large viewfinder, has been far more important to me than any focusing mishaps. Not having used a GF1 or another camera of this sort, I wonder, though, if anything else is lost when using the viewfinder. Like the full pleasure of using the focusing ring (GRD lacks one), or the relative ease of using manual focus lenses on such cameras. More importantly, why can't somebody give us an affordable camera of this sort with a large viewfinder?

It is interesting to discover the value that a small accessory can sometimes bring to a camera's usefulness and usability, isn't it?

The Olympus E-P1 was a nice camera with above-average image quality. But the E-P2 with its outstanding electronic viewfinder accessory is an order of magnitude more useful to me. It isn't just the viewfinder's existence, either. But, rather, it's flexibility. I can flip it to any position within a 90 deg. swing. I most often use it flipped vertically so that I can use the E-P2 in almost a waist-level finder mode. (People also tend not to react strongly to seeing a guy with a camera positioned with his head down.) Its smart integration into the camera's functions, at a firmware level, makes it even more better.

And such useful accessories are not limited to opticals, either. Ergonomic stuff can be very valuable, too. Richard Franiec's superb custom grips for small cameras have been excellent small investments for me over the past few years. I cannot, for example, even remember my little Canon S90 before I outfitted it with his grip.

Similarly, many people swear by the additional comfort and stability that Tim Isaac's Thumbs-Up grips add to their Leica M cameras. I've never tried one, preferring to use Leica's own accessory grips.

Of course not all accessories are genuinely useful or beneficial. But some really are "essential" for full enjoyment of the host camera.

Why didn't you just get the Panasonic EVF? It's a few bucks more but it works with any lens.

I've been using an optical viewfinder with my Oly E-P1, not a Voigtländer, but the Oly one. I preferably use it in combination with manual-focus lenses which I prefer to pre-focus. Some day I must try it with the Oly 17mm and the mult-zone AF. Nice tip.

This is a topic that I’ve wanted addressed ever since I bought my Olympus E-PL1 when it first came out and a Panasonic 20mm fixed lens. I love the camera but, like you and probably most other users, I find live view useless in bright daylight.

But I’m surprised you didn’t mention a critical factor in choosing an optical viewfinder – its coverage. If I understand it correctly, the Panasonic 20mm lens is the micro-four thirds equivalent of a 40mm lens (on a 35mm film camera) – not a 35mm lens which is what your Voigtlander viewfinder is made for. As an old school street shooter who believes in full-frame shooting/printing, I am critically concerned with what happens at the edges of an image.

This is the reason I have resisted buying the Olympus VF1 optical viewfinder (which is made for the Olympus 17mm fixed lens - 34mm equivalent), a less expensive alternative to the Voigtlander 35. And on your Voigtlander link, just under the 35mm finder is a 40mm version at less cost. What am I missing here?

Also, it seems to me that the focus issue could be solved by simply setting the camera’s focus mechanism to image center, then use focus lock, reframe and shoot.
I did that for years with film cameras that had auto focus and it seldom ever slowed me down.

Joe Cameron

Mike - I use the bright line finders that were originally on my film Leicas with a bunch of small digitals, the Canon G series, the S90, even a Sigma DP2. The fact that I have to preset my zoom lens to a specific focal length or that the format ratio may not be an exact match is small potatoes compared to not being able to see anything on the camera screen in bright daylight.

But I use the same bright line finders on my big DSLR’s. That way I have a choice between the lovely “picture preview” of the SLR finder screen or the “everything sharp front to back and I can even see outside the frame lines” of the bright line finder. It’s sort of the best of both worlds in one package, and it sure is cheaper and more convenient than carrying both a reflex and a rangefinder.

Ken and COOP,
I thought that the 20mm came with a hood. No? If I'm wrong, and it doesn't, then the one I'm using is probably just a 46mm wide-angle hood I had "around the house" so to speak, in the boxes of old filters, rings, hoods, etc. I've collected over the years despite myself...I really just don't remember.

Sorry I can't be more help.


why are you not using the EVF?????

Why not Olympus VF-1?

I agree re the EVF. I've been very happy with it.

I bought the viewfinder as a last-minute thing before leaving on vacation, after sorting out what cameras I was going to take. I nixed the Olympus VF-1 only because I couldn't figure out how to get one in time.

I would like to try it, if only to compare it to the Voigtlaender.


You know what is more accurate, useful, and less expensive? A Panasonic G1. And the viewfinder doesn't fall off!

Thanks very much for this very helpful information. As a recent convert to the Panasonic LX3 who is now looking lasciviously at the GF-1, I have been giving considerable thought as to whether a viewfinder might also be a useful acquisition. I suspected that it was but had a few remaining questions; which you have answered superbly in this post. Thanks again.

my choice for digital:
E-P1 with snapshot-skopar 25mm/4.0 (manual focus) and a leica SBOOI.

but currently i cannot put the M4-P out of my hands.

At some point in the past, I developed a short-lived love affair with Russian (actually Ukranian) Kiev rangefinders. I ended up with a half dozen of the camera bodies and over a dozen lenses for them. But the viewfinders were so weird, I bought Leitz and Canon viewfinders and zone focused the things. It proved to be a much simpler work method.

I bought an Oly E-P1 with 17mm and finder a few weeks ago. While I also got the 14-42mm kit zoom, I like using the camera with the 17 and finder. I liked it so much, I also bought an Oly 25/2.8 standard 4/3 lens with and adapter to use on the micro 4/3 body. The old Leitz 50mm viewfinders work great, although they are certainly not "high eye-point".

The camera's AF, despite some reviews, works better and faster than my aging eyes when using my Leica RFs. When shooting, I turn off the LCD and shoot with the viewfinder, not worrying about focus. The camera gets it right pretty much every time.

As a side note when using the micro 4/3 Oly, I also got the Voigtlander adapter to use my Leica lenses, particularly the 35 and 50mm Summicrons. Unfortunately, I've been very disappointed in trying to use them with the LCD as a focusing medium. My problem in focusing these lenses with the LCD is that my eyes are not good enough to determine correct focus on the unmagnified LCD image and, when magnified to 7X or 10X, the image is so shakey I can't determine focus either. A camera with an EVF would be much more useful when using MF, IMO.

Hahhahah, I just bought the GF1 and love it, but find myself consistently taking it to my face only to remember it doesn't have a finder!!
I'll get one. And only guessing i believe the 20mm (love the lens) is fairly wider in results than a full frame 40.
I'm thinking of getting a G2 in the future for the "system", although the GF1 and 20mm concept is pretty much self contained. If I get a good VF it would be as close to an MX with a 40/1.8 as I could get.

By the way, I wanted a hood too, but the little 20 seems almost impossible to flare or lose contrast, impressive. I guess that's why Panasonic doesn't provide one (it's not a cheap lens at all), they're bragging about it.

I chuckled when I saw the photo of Mike's GF1 with a hood on the 20mm lens because we once had an email correspondence where he claimed this lens didn't need a hood and I claimed that it did.

Anyway, the hood I use on mine (and which appears to be similar to the one on Mike's camera) is a Chinese-made replica of the Contax GG-1, which was made for the G-series of cameras. eBay has plenty of sources for them and if you're bucks-up, you can always buy a real Contax version, too, although they're somewhat more difficult to find these days.

"Although live view on the screen is actually great for indoors and low-light situations—I actually like it better than a viewfinder sometimes—shooting in bright sunlight can be very frustrating."

Why not make a small focusing cloth and attach it to your hat? It shuts out glare from the top and both sides!


Just to confirm that the Oly OVF for the 17mm is nearly *perfect* with the 20mm lens.

I'm surprised nobody seems to find such an external/detachable VF clumsy. I don't have a µ4/3 camera myself, but have been seriously considering one. However, one of the main attractions has been the compact size and pocketability (is that a word?) of the camera. But attach such a VF and it looks like the compactness is gone. I wonder how much bigger should a camera like that be to have a built-in OVF?

Ahhrrgggg.......there it is again: the ghost of Contax past.

You show a GF1 but I only see a Contax G2 with a Biogon 21mm and viewfinder. How I wish I still had that camera with all it's beautiful lenses.... but off course with a full frame sensor in it.

PING....the ghost is gone... sigh.

So if the GF1 is the only digital camera you currently own, what did you take the picture of the GF1 with, hmm?

I've been using an E-P2 with a Voigtlander 28/35 mini finder and I find the 28mm frames is a bit wider than the 17mm lens but the 35mm frames are accurate for the 20mm at longer distances. A finder is a must have accessory IMHO.

I use a 40mm Voigtlander finder with my GF1 and 20mm. The aspect ratio is set at 3:2 and matches the finder very well. I'm happy with the image quality using 3:2.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, I can see the framelines with my glasses on without any strain. I could never say that about the Leica finders.

A question for those of you who work with the Oly OVF--is it 3:2 ratio or 4:3?


I'm glad to see that works well for you -- I suspect it would for me too, for the same reasons.

I am eagerly awaiting the Panasonic 14mm f2.5 prime (28mm equivalent field of view is my "natural"way of seeing, photographically), which will become the standard lens on my GF1. I hope there's an equally good 28mm Voightlander OVF available, as that combination will be my own personal Nirvana!

A pentax K20D and 35mm f/2.8 DA Macro, on loan from Pentax USA. I've had it about since it came out, and have used it extensively. It's one reason why I don't currently own my own DSLR.

Pentax has been a big booster of TOP in several ways--they're our third major advertiser, after Fabio Riccadi of LightZone and Michael Tapes of RawWorkflow.com, all of whom (especially Fabio) have been integral to the health and continuing viability of this site.


"Why not make a small focusing cloth and attach it to your hat? It shuts out glare from the top and both sides!"

That's the spirit. Attach a few strings with corks on them and it'll keep the flies away as well.

You guys laugh, but one of the reasons George Eastman developed the Kodak was that the citizens of Rochester would make fun of him when he got all loaded down with his photo gear for a day's excursion taking pictures....


Many months ago I bought a GF1 and EVF. With great excitement I unpacked it, took a look through the EVF, hated it and sent it back.

Fast forward to one month ago and I bought a G1 for the built-in viewfinder--reports said it was far superior to the add-on EVF. The reports were right.

Choosing the G1 over the GF1 felt to me like choosing substance over style. Sure, I liked the RF styling of the GF1, but did it buy me any advantage in terms of making photographs?

The G has been a pleasure to shoot. The GF1 with EVF was every bit as big as the G1, and probably a more difficult shape to get into a coat pocket, so I didn't lose anything in portability.

The articulated LCD of the G1 is another big plus, in my book, because it provides a great street shooting option.

Finally, I saved some money with the G1 kit zoom and 20mm 1.7 versus the same lenses and GF1.

In retrospect, I would have saved myself some time buying the GF1 and optical VF from Camera Quest and gotten much the same result. Very possibly the best of both worlds, but minus the articulated LCD.

IMHO, both cameras produce excellent files and both are fun to shoot with when tricked out to your particular taste.

Using a Voigtlander OVF 25 mm on my LX3, and yes, it adds a sense of ease and playfulness to using this camera. The view is not exact, but after some while you know how far to look outside the "box" to know what will be in the picture.
I put a C setting with OVF, AutoISO up to 400, and AF with automatic choice of focus points, and I love it for street shooting as well as on the beach or in very bright surroundings.

Last week-end, I was visiting relatives and put my Leica M3 (With Voigtlaender 28/3.5 and the Voigtlaender 28 mm metal finder on it) on the breakfast table while leaving the room to fetch something. When I come back, everyone was startled - they had been taking turns looking through the external viewfinder and were completely floored by the brightness and clarity of the view. From my nine year old nephew to my mother who has been shooting an SLR since the early seventies. Thought-provoking :-)

I also own the GF1/20mm combo, plus the optional VF, and I must regretfully disagree with Photogdave.

I really think it's not even worth its price. It does tilt, but it does so all the time, so I always fear or breaking it when I take the camera out of a bag.

It's really small, and it's so far not as good as the G1's internal that you've got to wonder why they didn't use that one (for which I'd pay even more.)

Last but not least, it keeps sliding off its slot so easily I also fear losing it altogether.

The Voig Mike mentions looks tempting (I always use central-point focusing so I guess focus-and-recompose wouldn't be a hassle), but... $169? That is mucho money...

Mike, The Oly VF is 4:3. A great match for the 17mm lens and the Panny 20 if you use the outside of the frame lines. I actually liked the VF1 so much that I bought an EPL1 and the EVF to have the ey level finder experience with all focal lengths. Must say I much prefer the optical finder on my EP1. I did get the 17mm and finder off eBay for about a third or the retail price, which was nice.


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