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Questions about prism finders


New Member
Hi there,

I love the size and brightness of the acute matte WLF, which is what I have for now, but would be curios to try other view finder options. What are your thoughts about using a prism finder? I am considering getting a cheaper one, to use along with the WLF and eliminate the left - right problem.

Keeping in mind that my primary interest is photographing people, do you think that a prism finder would be a good idea to get?

Is it easy it is to change the view finders in case I find myself in situations where one is better than the other? Is it just like changing a lens, or is it a more involved process?

Also, which finder should I look into getting if I don't want to spend $400, but don't want to lose all of the benefits of the acute matte. Non-metered is OK and I am leaning toward a 45 degree one.

Thanks for your advice in advance.

For people pictures, I think a prism finder is very useful and the 45 degree type is best in my opinion. They are very easy to interchange. The only disadvantage of the prism is the weight. I use metering prisms, but not essential if you are hasppy with a separate meter.

The "Acute Matte" is not the viewfinder, but the focussing screen, so you will not lose any of the advantages of the Acute Matte when only changing to another finder.

45 degree prisms are great finders.
They make using split-image rangefinder screens easy (the fixed eyepiece position keeps your eye in the right position over the thing).
And the extra bit they make you lift the camera up helps prevent the nostril-vista perspective a camera held at the waist level with waist level finder produces.
And prisms are bright too.

Changing finder involves removing and reattaching the magazine as well. So it's a bit more to do, takes a bit longer, than changing a lens.
I think that once you use the PM45, you are not going to be switching back to the waist-level very often. The TTL metering with the PME-45 is, I think, worth the additional cost.
Stephen Van Devanter (Vandevantersh) wrote on May 30:

' 2007 - 9:47 pm,I think that once you use the PM45, you are not going to be switching back to the waist-level very often. The TTL metering with the PME-45 is, I think, worth the additional cost.'

* 2!

I brought a PME-45 within the last month from Samy's in Los Angeles for $150. I will carry the WLF but based on past experience I will probably never use it. I highly recommend getting one and using it with your Acute Matte screen. YMMV*

*YMMV => Your Mileage May Vary
Hi Judit,

Like Q says: 45 degr finders are well recommended. Only downside: added weight, and of course the camera is less compact than with a folded WLF.

That said, my 45 degr finder is essentially a permanent part of my 500cm. My camera has a AM with split-image and 'checker-board' lines. This works well with the 45 drg finder.

One side note: you *might* find an older finder which has its meter calibrated to the classic (dimmer) screens. An AM, being brighter, makes the meter go off the mark. Mine is like that. In my case the offset is 1 stop. I just correct it by setting the film speed differently, you can of course also have the meter recalibrated. I just never bothered.

I agree with all the above. I have the PM-45 and like it very much. You will notice one key difference being the lower magnification available. But, my PM 45 now resides permanently on a 503CW. Yes it adds weight and a lot of bulk, but what the heck!

When doing very critical focusing on a tripod, I revert to the WFL - the pop-up magnifier is ideal for that sort of function.
Thanks a lot!

Newer, used metered finders (PME 45) sell for around $500 and up, so I will probably go for a PM45 unmetered version or a PME 3, which I assume is an older, metered version.

I assume that the one Stever has is an older version, otherwise, the $150 price tag sounds too low?

I have read some articles that suggest that the metering in the older metered finders are not that great. Would you agree with that? Or shall I just go for a metered one, have that extra option and learn to use it well? Is there any advantage to getting a newer, non-metered one?
Or you could buy a 45 degree prism finder for the Kiev 88...fits the 'blad just fine and costs practically nothing! Yeah, I've been told I was cheap before...I prefer to call it "frugal"!
Mwah.... I have the opportunity to play with metered Kiev prism. Didn't like it for one bit.

The unmetered one I have not tried, at least that one is virtually indistinguishable on the outside from the Hasselblad one :)

$150 for a PME45 is dead cheap. Almost obscenely so, really.
It would be a very good (i.e. low) price to pay for a PME51/PME5 or PME3 too.
The latter go for about $300, the PME45 for at least twice, but usually more even than three times as much.

The PME45 differs from the older PME51/PME5/PME3/PME/VFC-6 significantly.
The older ones offer center weighted integral metering. The PME45 (and the 90 degree PME90) offers this, and spot metering, and incident light metering (it has a little dome, like the one on hand held meters, on top). The PME45 offers a few more choices for programming the display too, whereas the older ones only display the EV value.

You can find user manuals for the older meters, plus one for the PME90 (same metering modes and options as the PME45), plus one for the unmetered PM45) here.

But despite more choice of metering modes, the older PME51/PME5/PME3 meters are perfectly good. Accurate. And easy to use.
Hi Judit,

I have a PME, this pre-dates the PME3. The difference being that the PME3 is calibrated for AM screens. And, so Nordin writes, the electronics in the PME3 are supposed to be better.

I can only comment on my PME, apart from it being 1 stop 'off' (it was never recalibrated for an AM screen) it measures very nicely and accurately.

I have used it mostly for negative film, but slides (chromes) came out just as fine for me. With all this metering stuff you have to know how to use them, after all you have the brains to judge the scene, where are the highlights, where are the shadows etc. Don't expect the PME meter to be intelligent. This goes for any meter for that matter.

For a very unskilled novice such as myself, the metered finder saved a lot of film and processing cost. The meter is also very good with the CFV back.

This may be a bit off topic,

but have any of you notice any difference when shooting a portrait with a WLF as oppose to 45degree or even using normal 35mm slr cameras.

How the subject/the sitter is different or reacting differently when you are looking down or bowing infront of them/him/her as oppose to when you are looking almost straight at them through the camera?

I am not sure if I was able to express this clearly but give it a try!

I find, that a person appear more relaxed when I am bowing infront of them with my camera, this is also a gesture in some cultures (I am danish and this is not one of ours ;-) though living in Australia)
I know there is the whole thing about making the sitter relaxed talking to them etc... but this is different I think.

Food for thoughts....well if it isn't then I am off buying a
PME-45 :)



That is a very perceptive observation on an extremely subtle nuance in a portrait environment.

I can't speak to it's accuracy, but I sure like your thinking and concept!

Yes, you would be correct, big difference when shooting with a wlf as opposed to the prism, people are generally a lot more relaxed, hence why its all I use, I do have a 45 prism, but have only used it a couple of times, but focusing is a real problem at times and often resort to the magnifier. I also believe you get more interesting image at times, when shooting at a lower level with the wlf, depending on subject matter.

Yes, I find that focusing is a PITA, but what a joy to look through such a bright view finder :) when you got it in focus ;-)

I will try in the near future to see if I notice an obvious difference for a sitter to be photographed with a WLF or "35mm style"


It has not been mentioned yet so I will again praise the HM2 rigid focussing hood. It is lightweight, can be used with glasses, gives a brilliant viewfinder image and allows the before mentioned relaxed atmosphere.


Using 45 degree prisms, you're not exactly looking straight at the sitter, but still be bending down.
But the photographer-camera contact can be more intense using a prism, though using a waist level finder (and certainly the chimney Ulrik suggests) can also 'glue' the camera to the photographer's eye.

Perspective will depend on how you set the camera up: to suit your finder, or to suit the picture best.
That's a choice you'll have to make.
Handholding the thing, a camera with prism will make you lift the camera a bit higher, avoiding the belly-button and nostril-gazing perspective that you get when shooting with a waist level finder from waist level.

If you set the camera on a tripod, frame and focus the thing, you do not have to look through the viewfinder, but can look up, engage in conversation with the sitter, and push the release when you think the moment has come.
But that, of course will only work in a rather static setting, without too tight framing and in which focussing is not critical.

And whether that relaxes the sitter more than when the photographers appears to be more intensely concerned with his or her camera depends on the sitter. Some will feel more uncomfortable having to engage in small talk with a complete stranger, and would rather have you just get on with it.