I'm quite nearsighted, and have worn glasses or contacts for decades (since second grade). I gave up contact lenses about ten years ago.

Before giving up contacts, I bought a Zeiss Ikon 532/16 (Super Ikonta B), 6x6 with coupled rangefinder, but I stepped away from photography before going back to full time glasses. Now, on picking up the camera again, I find it's hard to use the very small viewfinder (I can see the RF patch pretty well, but can't see all the edges of the frame at once) because of the distance from eye to viewfinder enforced by my glasses.

I've just purchased a Kiev 4A, a Soviet copy/upgrade of a pre-War Contax 35 mm RF camera (intechangeable lenses, similar overall to an early Leica); I've wanted a camera in this class for a long time, but I see that the viewfinder window (based on a Zeiss-Ikon design, of course) is very similar in size to that on my Super Ikonta, and I suspect I'll have the same problem using the viewfinder.

I'm aware of diopter eyepieces that can be added to various cameras, but as far as I can see, these Zeiss-Ikon designed viewfinders don't have a provision for such a corrective lens (if they're even available in -6.75 diopter strength). I might be able to cut up a lens from an old pair of glasses and attach it, but I hate to make a permanent alteration that affects every subsequent user, to a camera that (in the case of the Super Ikonta) is a decade or so older than I am.

What else might I be able to do in order to see through these tiny viewfinder/rangefinder windows?

  • With Canon's introduction of the RF lens mount, you might want to spell out that you're referencing "rangefinder" cameras rather than RF mount bodies.
    – Michael C
    Mar 19 '20 at 20:20
  • 3
    I thought it was clear -- I spelled out "rangefinder" first time before using RF, and nowhere here do I mention Canon.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Mar 20 '20 at 11:05
  • I'm the one who actually edited your header to change it from "RF" to "rangefinder".
    – Michael C
    Mar 21 '20 at 6:45
  • USPS delivered the Kiev 4M, and I found that I can actually squash my glasses in enough to see the entire finder frame. Not sure what I'll do about the Super Ikonta (it's a favorite, because it's the most compact 6x6 I own that has focusing other than scale).
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Mar 25 '20 at 12:15

I feel your pain. You may need to focus by distance then shoot with an accesory shoe viewfinder. Braun made a universal acc shoe finder that you can find on ebay from time to time.

  • I see a number of accessory shoe finders on eBay -- none that match the 50 mm lens, however, unless possibly the Zeiss one that's only three times what I paid for the camera and lens.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Mar 23 '20 at 11:19
  • Some cheap finders have frame lines for multiple angles of view. They are made specifically for that purpose.
    – user85781
    Jan 3 at 19:41

I use a mirrorless camera with focus peaking, not a rangefinder. However, when focus assist is enabled, I see a magnified view through the viewfinder, which is akin to your being unable to see the entire frame.

  • Shoot with both eyes open. Use one eye to focus the camera. Use the other eye to evaluate the scene. Over time, you should become familiar with the field of view of the lens.

  • Use an accessory viewfinder, as Robert Allen Kautz suggests. You can pair it with the distance scales or zone focusing.

  • Find a different camera that works better with your glasses or can take corrective eyepieces.

  • Purchase a different set of glasses with a smaller frame that sits closer to your face.

  • Use an old pair of glasses that you don't care about scratching up.

  • Go back to using contacts when you are using your camera.

  • Both eyes might work, except the Contax/Kiev cameras have interhangeable lenses, from 35 mm to 180 mm focal length with RF coupling (longer lenses are available, but they're scale focus only). Accessory finder may be the answer. Finding a different camera is kind of like a "don't have that problem" answer. I've got other rangefinder cameras, but this is the highest quality interchanging lens rangefinder camera I can afford.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Mar 22 '20 at 2:32
  • People buy and try different cameras all the time. I've switched cameras because of the viewfinder. It's a viable option, whether you choose to exercise it is up to you.
    – xiota
    Mar 22 '20 at 21:10
  • Did you miss "this is the highest quality interchanging lens rangefinder camera I can afford." The other options are a Fed (Barnack Leica built in a "reparations" factory like the Kiev is a Contax II), or a Zorki (some sort of hybrid?). Neither is as well made a camera as a Kiev, from what I can find out. Might have been handy to have the M39 Leica mount instead of the Contax mount, but I won't be able to afford a bunch of lenses for either one.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Mar 23 '20 at 11:11
  • Going back to contacts is not an option at present. Old glasses won't matter if they get scratched, but they'll still keep my eye too far from the viewfinder eyepiece. My existing glasses are already as close as I can get to the "John Lennon" tiny round lenses.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Mar 23 '20 at 11:16

You.... just have to get used to it.

I've had to mash my nose into the eye piece to get a good field of view, and professional cameras (I know you're not talking about) have 'high relief' finders for that very reason. Apparently Photographers have been blind for ages...

Commonly my glasses get smooshed, nose grease all over them, the nose pads are bent- but that's because I'm smashing my eyes into it to see. I don't like contacts.

The viewfinder on a rangefinder is really limited- there's not much optics there to move the focal point out and easier to see.

So... smoosh away.

  • Nose contact isn't the issue. In my 532/16 Super Ikonta B, the closest I can get with my glasses on (lens touching the viewfinder surround and smashed into my eyebrow), I can't see all of the frame at once. This risks damage to my glasses (bifocals cost more than the camera), as well as making final framing difficult. But I can't see well enough without my glasses to frame with confidence.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Mar 20 '20 at 19:39
  • I hear you- my nose gets in the way. See, that's fundamentally going to be the problem- the finder doesn't contain optics to 'push' the image out to you. You're just going to have to flick your eye ball around, sadly. It does make for funny situations where you 'tune out' part of the image and miss something obvious though...
    – J.Hirsch
    Mar 20 '20 at 19:43
  • With the price of film these days, that's getting less funny...
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Mar 20 '20 at 19:45
  • 1
    What you might not fully appreciate is that those cameras existed to be used- rarely. They were for documentation. Full up photos were a big deal, done slowly, with lots of hoopla. For street photography they'd be shot at the waist, looking down/mirror, or have a square gridded external finder. That little window wasn't used hardly at all. Times have changed though, and most photos were cropped as needed if printed, or delivered on contact prints. And anyone that did have a photography hobby had a lab, so they cropped them (my grandparents, for instance).
    – J.Hirsch
    Mar 20 '20 at 19:50
  • That's probably true for family cameras, but the Contax II (the Kiev 4a is a Contax II built in Russia after all the tooling was moved following the War) was mainly built for professional photographers, specifically photojournalists. The then-new "miniature" format allowed them to take and use cameras in places where previous large format and medium format cameras were impractical. The 35 mm double frame format was only really standardized a few years before the war, with the appearance of the Leica, and cameras like a Contax (or Kiev) weren't aimed at amateurs.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Mar 22 '20 at 2:20

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