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Thread: Build a Waist Level Finder?

  1. #1

    Build a Waist Level Finder?

    If this is somewhat off-topic for the f295 crowd, let me apologize in advance. I post here because there's a lot of creativity and ingenuity among the members here, and I can't imagine that someone won't have a good idea or two to share.

    I want to build a very small waist-level type finder to fit on some of my cheaper film cameras (like the Smena 8M []). Ideally it will attach to the hot shoe mount, so I can use it on different cameras. This is for street photography. My digital compacts (the Sigma DP1 and DP2) have LCD screens that I'm quite comfortable with using. I can sneak a quick peak at it from about chest level just prior to firing the shot. But I really want to be using film, and no film cameras have LCD screens. I've explored other options: TLR's have WLF's but they're big and I want to be shooting 35mm anyway. The Yashica T5 is the only 35mm compact that has a WLF (that I know of), but the shutter lag is a killer!

    So I think I have two options:

    1. Find a finder from an existing camera, or a similar mirror/prism apparatus, that I can attach to a hot shoe cap (or something else?). For example, the old Kodak folding cameras have tiny "brilliant finders" that seem to fit the bill. This might be my best bet. (Does anyone have one?)
    2. Build something with a prism or mirror. For this, I wouldn't even know where to begin.

    I'm not looking for a perfect device. I know I should take into account things like parallax error, focal length, etc., but all I really want is something that gives me a rough idea of where the camera is pointed, so I'm not lopping off heads and such.

    And really, I'm open to ANY ideas at all.

    Thanks for listening.

  2. #2

    Build a Waist Level Finder?

    Certainly, if you could find one, a folding camera's finder would work great.

    If you decide to build one, it can be pretty simple.
    You need an objective lens, a mirror (preferably front-surface) and a ground glass screen, in a small enclosure.
    Adding a lens or Fresnel lens to the outside of the ground glass can make it much brighter, by condensing the light that comes through the ground surface, into a tighter cone, towards your eye.

    (See: )

    At first glance, I think the focal length of the Fresnel lens should be about the same as the objective, roughly like this: Attached files

  3. #3

    Build a Waist Level Finder?

    Thanks dbell. That diagram is great and makes perfect sense. Still, it's a bit more than I want to get into at the moment. I picked up an old Kodak Six-20 on eBay, and I'm going to take the finder off and try to work with it.

    If you or anyone still following has any opinions -- what should I mount it to? A hot shoe cap? I want it to attach to the hot shoe...


  4. #4

    Build a Waist Level Finder?

    Quote Originally Posted by 2098
    what should I mount it to? A hot shoe cap? I want it to attach to the hot shoe...
    Hit a thrift store for an old, crappy flash unit, and take the shoe and bracket?


  5. #5

    Build a Waist Level Finder?

    Thought I'd check in. The finder I've rescued from the old folding camera is the perfect size and projects a very bright image. Problem is, it has a curved bottom and two flat sides. The challenge now is finding some way to mount it to -- anything. There are no holes except for a very tiny hole (on one of the flat sides) where it was riveted to the camera.

    Another thought -- instead of a hot shoe mount, it would be nice to use a very strong magnet. Then I could not only stick it on the shoe, but also on the metallic body of one of my Olympus XA's (which has no hot shoe).

    Thanks for reading...

  6. #6

    Build a Waist Level Finder?

    Quote Originally Posted by 2098
    Problem is, it has a curved bottom and two flat side
    Maybe some hot glue. Make a puddle on top of a small, strong magnet, and set the base in. Adjust to level while the glue cools.


  7. #7

    Build a Waist Level Finder?

    Hot glue is a good idea. Just to see if this will even work, I found that a piece of Gorilla brand black duct tape, folded over, holds the thing to the hot shoe quite nicely. Obviously not a permanent or easily portable solution, but enough for me to take the thing out shooting and see if I even want to continue down this road...

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