View-finders, View-meters - Antique and Vintage Cameras

Adams View-meter

c. 1893

Adams & Co.



Image of Adams View-meter

A hand-held view-meter for assessing the viewpoint and lens to use. Lens/lens type. Adjustable for different angles of view. Made of aluminium.

  • Short model with blue filter.
  • Longer model without filter.

References & Notes:
BJA 1894, p. 336. BJA 1900, p. 362. BJA 1907, p. 321.

Sinclair View-finder


Style 2

James A. Sinclair & Co. Ltd



Folding frame finder, lazy-tong construction, adjustable for different angles of view. Two image ratios were available, style 1 for quarter-plate etc. and style 2 for vest-pocket and postcard. These were for hand-held use as a view-meter to determine the viewpoint or as a conventional view-finder attached to a camera.

Price 5/-.


References & Notes:
BJA 1913, pp. 724, 1048. BJA 1926, p. 530.

Folding Frame Finder


Parallax correction to rear sight.


Zeiss-Ikon A. G.



For 6 x 9 cm images. Black finish. Fits accessory shoe.

References & Notes:
BP 203668/1922.

Heywood-McKellen Finder

c. 1897

S.D. McKellen & Co.



Image of Heywood-McKellen Finder

Frame finder and view-meter. For quarter-plate cameras with 4" to 7 ½" lenses; 5" x 4" cameras with 5" to 9" lenses and half-plate cameras with 6" to 11" lenses. Mahogany and brass. Dovetail fitting to a plate on the camera.

References & Notes:
BJA 1898, p. 364. BJA 1899, p. 328. PA 1898, p. 547.

Adams Finder

c. 1894

Adams & Co.



Image of Adams Finder

Brilliant type finder. Three lenses, No. 3 size, aluminium.

One of Adams specialities was a brilliant finder with triple lenses. It was fitted to better quality cameras. Produced in three sizes in either brass or aluminium.

References & Notes:
BP 9119/1894. BJA 1898, p. 1339.


Adams & Co.



Brilliant type finder. Two lenses.

References & Notes:
BJA 1898, p. 1339.

Folding Reflecting Finder


Newman & Guardia Ltd



Adjustable for rising front, spirit levels. Box.



R & J Beck




The Cornex used a frame at the focal point of the front lens to outline the field of view, on some versions the frame could be rotated for portrait or landscape.

References & Notes:
BP 17006/1898.



Adams & Co.



This uses a pentaprism to produce an image that is upright and not laterally reversed. A negative lens in front of the prism determines the field of view. The prism has five, parallel-sides, comprising an entry surface, exit surface and two reflecting surfaces, one side is not used.

A very expensive finder that did not sell well. Price 25/-.

References & Notes:
BP 9057/1898. BJA 1899, pp. 377, 910. BJA 1900, p. 358. BJA 1903, p. 363. Phot. Journal 1898, p. 27.

Folding Brilliant Finder

Zeiss-Ikon A. G.



Image of Folding Brilliant Finder

This is a view-finder that was sold as an accessory to fit on to the front standard of a folding roll-film camera. Box.

Code Names:



Warwick Brookes



Image of Limpet

This is a combined focusing magnifier and view-meter. It is based on a patent by Warwick Brookes for a suction device to attach items to glass. As a focusing magnifier it is simply attached to the focusing screen. When used as a view-meter it clips into a wire holder mounted on the camera and a piece of ground glass is attached to the rubber rim of the finder. The price was 2/6.

Address on container: 350 Oxford Rd.

Holder to attach to the camera, ground glass screen. Tin container with Warwick Brookes label, the instructions are printed on the inside of the container.

References & Notes:
BP 13340/1891. BJA 1892, p. 158. Photography in a Nutshell (1897), advertisement section p. 10.

Further Information:
The Photographist p. 17 has an entry on Warwick Brookes.

Direct Vision Finders

Image of Early Direct Vision Finder

Early Direct Vision Finder
. 1890s. Single bi-concave lens.

Folding Direct Vision Finder

Folding Direct Vision Finder
. 1920s. Lens/lens type. The eyepiece is of blue glass to remove colour differences in the scene.

Tubular Direct Vision Finder
. c. 1930. Rhaco, Frankfurt a.m.. Lens/lens type. The eyepiece is of blue glass. Spring grip to attach to side of camera.

References & Notes:
BJA 1932. BJA 1935, p. 129. Phot. Journal 4/31, p. 161.

Direct Vision Finder
. Post/lens type with rear mirror. The mirror could be folded under the finder when not required allowing the finder to be used at eye-level. French.

Direct Vision Finder
. K.G. Corfield, Wolverhampton. Tubular finder without lenses, mask at front, for 13.5 cm lenses.

Primus Magnum Finder

W. Butcher & Sons



Image of Primus Magnum Finder

Large single bi-concave lens with cross-hairs. Approximately 1 ½" x 2".



Voigtländer & Sohn


West Germany

An opaque finder that projects an outline of the field of view, one eye looks into the finder the other at the scene. For 24 x 36 mm image format, parallax markings.

Telescopic Hood




This fits over the top of a brilliant finder, blocking out extraneous light and magnifying the image. Eye-sight adjustment. Production continued under Zeiss-Ikon.

References & Notes:
ZI Cat. 1936, p. 29.

Folding Hood for Finder

This fits over the top of a brilliant or reflecting finder, blocking out extraneous light. Similar models were made by Newman & Guardia.

Direct Vision Finder



West Germany

Image of Direct Vision Finder

For 75 mm lenses, model no. 423. Probably for a Contina III camera.

Ensign View Finder Magnifier

c. 1935

Ensign Ltd



Image of Ensign View Finder Magnifier

This fits over the top of a brilliant finder, blocking out extraneous light. Produced in different sizes.


References & Notes:
Ensign Cat. 1936, p. 55.

Praktica Roof Prism

Carl Zeiss


German Democratic Republic

Image of Praktica Roof Prism

This fits on to the hood of the waist-level finder for eye-level use. Praktica FX fitting. Model no. 10800.

Leather case.

Ikoflex Roof Prism



West Germany

This fits into the hood of the waist-level finder for eye-level use.

Leather case.

Fresnel Screen

Plastic Fresnel screen that fits into the hood of a twin-lens reflex.

Instructions, case.

Focusing Screens

Kombinat VEB Pentacon


German Democratic Republic

Interchangeable focusing screens to fit a 35 mm single-lens reflex.

  • Ground glass with cross hairs in clear spot. Box.
  • Ground glass with grid. Box.
  • Clear glass with full-width, graduated cross hairs. Box.
  • Ground glass with full-width, graduated cross hairs. Box. Marked 207 812.

The term 'view-meter' usually described a hand-held finder used to assess the scene and the best viewpoint and, if adjustable, which lens to use. A view-finder referred to a finder attached to a camera showing what will appear on the negative, but the terminology was not rigid. The main types are described below:

Frame Finders
These have no lenses and consist of a rear sight and a frame some distance to the front marking the subject area. Often the sight is adjustable for parallax. Available in hand-held form from the 1850s.

An unusual arrangement was fitted to some pre-war Rolleiflex cameras, there was no back sight, the frame carried at its centre a small concave mirror with a hole in its centre. The photographer looked into the mirror and centred the reflected image of his eye with the small hole.

A positive lens in front of a mirror casts an image on to a horizontal ground glass screen, the lens might be adjustable for rising front. Parallax correction lines were sometimes marked on the screen or, rarely, the lens may be movable. The image is upright but laterally reversed. Largely replaced by the Brilliant finder.

Similar to the reflecting finder but with a positive lens in place of the screen. The image is upright but laterally reversed. Adams & Co. claim to have introduced this type of finder in 1894, which may be the case. From that time the brilliant finder started to replace the reflecting type. Beck introduced an improvement by raising the top lens and including a frame-mask at the focal point of the object lens to give a much clearer outline of the field of view. Large brilliant finders were used on some twin-lens reflex cameras such as the Voigtländer Brilliant.1

  • Pentaprism
    These were intended as waist-level finders, a pentaprism (five parallel sides) is used to produce an image that is upright and not laterally reversed. A negative lens may be in front of the prism to determine the field of view. This type of prism was first used (on cameras) by Adams in the Rectiflex finder. Later models were the Aufsu for the Leica. Despite giving a much clearer image than brilliant finders they did not prove popular.
  • Richard Roof Prism
    This is a prism with four triangular faces - two reflecting surface (the roof), an entry and an exit surface. It was intended to replace the mirror of a waist-level finder. The prism deflects the image through 90 degrees and corrects the laterally reversed, inverted image produced by the front lens. The description shows the prism sitting behind a positive lens and below a ground glass screen or a lens, mirrors could have been used in place of the prism.2

Double Mirror
There were surprisingly few designs for waist-level finders employing two mirrors enclosing an acute angle, one design made use of curved mirrors.3

Curved Mirror
This comprises a doubly curved mirror and a sighting post. The finder is used at chest level. The mirror is set at 45 degrees, from the side, in vertical cross section it is concave, from the front it is convex in cross section (a saddle surface). The finder gave an upright, laterally correct image. A small horizontal post was used to align the eye to the centre of the mirror.4

Direct Vision (Eye-level)
  • Single Lens
    A concave lens usually having cross hairs giving a reduced image of the field of view. Popular in the 1890s.
  • Lens/Post
    Similar to the above but with a rear sight added.
  • Post/Lens
    The reverse arrangement to the above, more popular on continental cameras than in Britain.
  • Lens/Lens (Reverse Galilean)
    Consists of a front negative lens and a positive rear lens. Sometimes enclosed in a tube. The rear lens may be of blue glass to remove tonal values. This basic finder was later developed to include suspended frames for different lenses.
  • Without lens
    Consists of a simple tube with a mask to outline the field of view, sometimes with plain glass, front and rear. This could be considered a frame finder but was much smaller. Used on Periflex cameras with long-focus lenses.
  • Telescope, Monocular
    Consists of a miniature telescope or monocular with a positive objective lens, eyepiece and probably an image erecting prism.5
  • Universal
    Similar to a lens/lens type but for multiple focal lengths. The simplest has the field outlines for several lenses drawn on a transparent mask. The Leitz Vidom finder had two L shaped masks which were slid together or apart as the lens was selected; the image remained the same size but the image frame changed. The front, image forming, lens was converging, an erecting prism (Dove type) was fitted giving an upright but reversed image. Zeiss used a fixed rear component with several converging front components of different strengths, this had the advantage that the image size changed within a fixed frame. Porro prisms erected and reversed the image. Another option was a varifocal arrangement having a moving lens component, used on the Kodak Ektra.

The original pattern had a semi-silvered lens with a concave inner surface but of neutral power placed a short distance in front of an opaque sheet with a sighting hole at its centre. The inner surface of the sheet was black with an outline of the field of view in white. The finder was open, the field of view outline was reflected by the semi-silvered lens back to the eye making it appear suspended on the subject. Several variations exist notably combining it with a lens/lens type finder. The field of view outline for several lenses or images sizes were often combined in one finder. First used on accessory finders for the Contax, 1932, and then on the Contaflex, 1935.

Suspended Frame
A development of the Albada finder was to display frame markings within a Direct Vision finder of the reverse Galilean form. A separate window with diffuser illuminated the frames which were superimposed in the finder by a semi-silvered mirror or similar. Frame markings for different lenses could be displayed selectable by interchanging the camera lens, this was usually achieved by a masking plate moving relative to the plate carrying the frame outlines but optical arrangements were possible. When integrated into the camera, compensation for parallax and field reduction when focusing at close distances might be included.

Direct Ground Glass
A positive lens giving an image on a ground glass screen. A mirror may be placed behind the screen.6

A positive lens is focused on a ground glass on which is drawn an outline of the field of view. The subject is viewed with one eye direct, the other looks into the finder. The two images merge to give an outline of the image area superimposed on the subject. Never popular but used on the Kern Bijou of the early 1920s. A variant was the opaque spot without an outline used on the 1895 model Verascope.7

For Reflex Cameras
These form a special case in that, generally, the image has been cast on to a horizontal focusing screen by a mirror, the image is upright but laterally reversed. The hood to the finder usually incorporated a magnifier and quite often fold-down sections to provide a frame finder. Various options exist to provide eye-level viewing:
  • Single Mirror
    The simplest was to set a mirror in the hood parallel to the reflex mirror. This gave an upside down, laterally reversed image, which was considered a drawback. Despite this, single mirrors are found on many reflex cameras including early Rolleiflex models, an accessory was available for the Soho that fitted to the top of the focusing hood.
  • Two Mirrors
    Having two angled mirrors with their line of intersection horizontal and at right angles to the lens axis gave an upright image that was laterally reversed. This solution was used on the Wrayflex camera, 1951, but similar designs date to E.L. Doyen's patent of 1897.8
  • Three Mirrors
    Two mirrors arranged above the focusing screen with their line of intersection parallel and to one side of the lens axis (forming a roof) reflect the image down to a third mirror at 45 degrees which directs the image to a finder; this gives an image that was upright and not laterally reversed. This arrangement was used on the Gamma Duflex of around 1948. Other three-mirror arrangements are possible.
  • Roof Prism
    These have unfortunately acquired the name of pentaprism, equally unfortunate is the usual diagram showing the light-path. They consist of an entry surface with two reflecting surfaces (the roof) angled at 90 degrees above the entry surface and set at an angle to the horizontal. The two reflecting surfaces both reflect incoming rays to the opposite surface, due to the tilt they then reflect the light to the front of the prism, where a third reflecting surface directs the light to the finder. The other surfaces are not used. The prism laterally reverses the image without inverting it. First used on the Contax S, 1949, though there were earlier proposals. Roof prisms were available for cameras with fixed waist-level finders where they would sit either inside or on top of the hood.

A condenser lens is often sited above the focusing screen to deflect light at the margins of the screen to the eye, an early example is the Stevens condenser fitted to some Thornton-Pickard cameras in the 1930s and the Contaflex of 1935.9 A Fresnel screen serves the same purpose with less weight and bulk.

Parallax, the difference in view point of the camera lens and the finder, was overcome in several ways. The simplest was to manually tilt the finder, on frame finders the rear sight could be raised. Automatic correction was provided on some twin-lens reflex cameras, on the Rolleicord masks in the view-finder were adjusted by the focusing mechanism, on the Voigtländer Superb the viewing lens tilted. The first rangefinder camera with parallax correction was the Kodak Ektra, 1941, where a movable lens, inside the finder, was coupled to the focusing mechanism. Other cameras used a movable frame. Leitz produced a variable length extension tube for close-up work in 1935 (nooky) with parallax correction by a moving frame, the frame also compensated for the reducing field of view. A thin wedge in front of the rangefinder window allowed the rangefinder to be used to focus.

Rising Front
With a brilliant or reflecting finder, raising the front lens would show the effect of rising front. On some finders this was manually adjusted (e.g. Sibyl) on others such as the Adams Identoscope finder the lens was connected by levers to the rising front and was adjusted automatically. Thornton-Pickard proposed having a plumb bob visible in the finder so that tilting the camera would register the amount of back tilt needed to keep the image vertical. In the finder of some Linhof cameras a pendulum shows whether the camera is tilted.10

The illustrations show an N&G finder (right) where the front lens can be raised, the indicated value is then set on the rising front. The Sinclair finder (middle) was similar except it tilted. The Adams Identoscope finder (far right) used a lever, as the camera's front was raised the tail of the lever moved against a fixed pin, the top of the lever lifted the lens of the finder.

References & Notes:
PA 1891 shows some early finders.

[1] Hill & Adams, BP 9119/1894. Beck, BP 9227/1895. BP 17006/1898.

[2] Jules Richard, BP 11640/1896. BP 15132/1898.

[3] J.B. Weber, BP 9103/1894.

[4] Busch, BP 2359/1907. BJA 1909, p. 554. Sinclair Cat 1910, p. 193.

[5] Used on the Zeiss Magnar camera of around 1908.

[6] Early examples are: Thompson Revolver camera, 1862; Marion Academy, 1882; Beck Frena, 1893.

[7] Voigtländer produced a finder where the field was outlined in white on a black field (Kontur).

[8] Doyen, BP 18695/1897.

[9] Stevens, BP 378270/1932.

[10] Identoscope, BP 11670/1905. T-P, 10269/1907.

Camera Accessories

Lens - Filters

  - Supplementary

  - Attachments

  - Prisms & Mirrors

  - Hoods

View-finders, View-meters

Rangefinders, Distance Meters

Reflex Finders

Focusing Magnifiers

Delayed-Action, Self-Timers


Tripods and Stands

Flash Equipment & Lighting

Close Up - Stands

  - Framing & Focusing

  - Bellows & Tubes

  - Lenses

  - Meters & Calculation

  - Microscope Attachment



Film Format Adapters

Film Handling