Intro: 35mm Viewfinder for Leica, Fed, Zorki Cameras
Let's make a lovely viewfinder for our LTM camera. Finders for your wide lenses are pretty expensive at the moment, they can cost as much as a lens or even a 'new' camera body. This is a cheap way to go about it.
I make mine from the finders of old point and shoot cameras. Available by the ton for a snip at flea markets, car boot sales and all the other exotic places you can find folks' unwanted junk. Disposable cameras are good, often you get a free AA or AAA battery too.
Some more upmarket cameras have a brightline finder, they are great because the full finder is often wide enough for 28mm. Dual purpose!
Try to find one as near to the lens you are using. I have a Summaron 35mm f3.5, so I need a finder wide enough. Some cameras have a 40mm or 38mm, check out the finder, if there are frames in it, then the full width will be good enough. This one is 34mm, almost perfect.
Step 1: Obtain the Parts Necessary:
1 old plastic 35mm camera with a 35mm lens, Viewfinders from zoom lens cameras aren't suitable.
micro screwdriver - I used the one from a spectacle repair kit,
piece of thin plastic old credit card or similar,
fine marker pen,
fine grit sandpaper,
and possibly a mini fret saw.
What we are going to do is remove the viewfinder from the old junk camera sand make it fit the accesory shoe on your Leica or other interchangeable lens rangefinder camera.
Step 2: Dismantle the Camera
unscrew anything until you get the top and front off exposing the viewfinder. Now when you are doing this if the camera has a flash, the capacitor could hold charge. Look for the capacitor, it's a huge thing the size of a battery, if you're lucky it will tell you what it is. Pull it out gently avoiding the contacts then using an plastic handle screwdriver short out the terminals. Mine was dead, if you are (un)lucky you'll get a crack and a flash as the cap discharges. Alternatively snip the red and black wires with plastic handled scissors and discard the cap carefully. Now you are safe and won't get a shock if you touch the wrong bit of metal. Let's carry on...
Step 3: Removing the Finder
I was lucky here, with this camera all i had to do was remove the paper from the top of the finder and unscrew the tiny screw buried inside. Mostly though, the finder is moulded into the body of the camera. In that case, remove and mechanism and wires surrounding the finder then go at it with the hack saw. Cut out the finder, not too close though, a few millimetres either side is good. When the finder is out we go to the next stage.
Step 4: Covering the Top (and Possibly Sides)
You will have to make a new top for the finder, the original one was paper. Most cameras finders are topless, this allows the manufacturer to fit the lenses in. Try not to let the lenses fall out, if they do you need to put them back carefully the right way round or the finder will be out of focus. Using the paper cover as a guide, I marked out its shape on the piece of plastic. Cut the piece out slightly larger leaving a small overhang.
If you've had to hack this viewfinder out of its camera now is the time to file and sand it to shape. Drop the lenses out carefully and lay them down safely to one side remembering their positions. Hack and file away until you've got it into reasonable shape. Sometimes their may be a hole where an LED went, you could fill it with a little epoxy or cut a fillet of plastic card and cover it up. You may want to cut more plastic to smooth out the sides. Why not.
Step 5: Cover the Finder
Gently rub the edges of the finder 'box' to key them for the glue, gently roughening the plastic where the glue is going to go. I used an old sanding block. It was just enough. Blow out the debris from inside the finder and replace the lenses if necessary making sure they are fingerprint and debris free.
Mix a dot of epoxy and using a toothpick gently draw a bead of adhesive around the edges of the finder, put a tiny dab on top of each lens and spread it thinly. Not enough to squeeze out though, just wet them. Spread more adhesive thinly across the plastic that will be the top, then position it gently on top of the viewfinder and press down gently. Hold it like this for 5 mins or if it's possible put something on top to keep the pressure on.
I use 5 minute epoxy, others take more time. While that's curing, lets go to the next step. Making the foot.
Step 6: Make the Foot
I measure by eye, you could use a ruler. I measured how wide the inside of the accessory shoe is and marked the plastic. Cut a strip out and try it for size. Check the fit. If it's a little too tight, that's ok, we can deal with that later. Cut two or three squares out, all the same size and measure each one in the shoe. My camera shoe was high enough for 2 and a bit pieces to slide in.
Sand the plastic down the line up the squares and glue them together making a triple-decker sandwich. While that's curing make the 'leg'. I don't know what it's actually called but it connects the foot to the body. Leg. The leg is going to fit between the rails of the shoe, so using a piece of plastic cut a strip narrow enough to be clear of the rails. I allowed about 1mm narrower. sand the strip down on both sides. It's easier at this stage. Then cut small squares out of the strips. I cut four initially but ended up only using three. Glue them together like the foot and let them cure.
When the foot and leg are solid, put the leg dead centre of the foot and glue it down. It's good at this point to decide which will be the front of the foot. When that's dry, measure it and see if it needs to go higher. Extend the leg as much as you need. It's best to have it about a millimetre above the camera top so it won't scratch it.
When that's all done, start filing the edges down and trial fitting it into the shoe, don't make it too loose just so it will slide in with some resistance. Some shoes have springs, my FED doesn't. When it's all done it's time to attach it to the finder.
Step 7: Attaching the Foot and Lining It Up
Slide the foot into the shoe on the camera and place the finder on top of the leg.
If the finder is sloping then attaching it to the foot will make the finder point upwards. We need it to point forwards and be level with the top of the camera. I was really lucky today, my finder had a flat top and bottom. No problem, but the last one I did was a sloper. Cut tiny fillets of plastic, glued down with the tiniest of adhesive and pad the edges until the finder points points straight forward. make sure thef ront and rear surface are vertical and it's good to go. Use glue to gently attach the finder to the foot, taking care not to get any on your precious Leica, align the finder laterally so it's pointing straight forward.
When it's cured, slide the finder out of the shoe and if necessary drop more glue between the fillets to strengthen the join. Hint: let the glue go off first, when it's starting to harden, push it into the spaces. That way it doesn't drip all over.
When it's all set. Cover the lenses with decorators masking tape - the paper stuff will not damage the lenses, don't use anything else, and trim the masking tape to the edges. Then go over all the viewfinder with fine sandpaper or a nail buffer smoothing off all the edges. Rounding the foot slightly is a good idea, it slips into the shoe better.
Step 8: Paint It, Use It
Clean off any debris from sanding down and paint the finder to suit you. I have some done in matte black but I wanted silver for this.
Make sure the masking tape is stuck firmly round the edges of the lenses then paint. Don't paint the underside of the shoe or the top of the foot that will slide under the rails. Paint scrapes off and can dry in lumps to your camera or glue the finder to it if it's left on. Try to avoid painting over the masking tape too much, it may still be wet later and smudge over the lens when the tape comes off
Et voila. A cheap and cheerful finder for your precious FED Leica or Ilford Witness..
I know someone will ask what the engraving says on top of my camera so here it is:
им. Ф.Э. Дзержинского
which translates as
FED Labor commune
in the name of F.E.Dzerjinski