“Waist Level” Finders & Magnifier Heads
Each of the cameras has its own “waist level”
finder. This misnomer goes back to the days when cameras
were routinely mounted on a tripod, which was presumably set at
approximately waist level. One might more appropriately
call these “chest level” finders, but the abbreviation WLF has
made it into common usage.
[C309-34] The Pentacon Six WLF
The original or standard Pentacon Six
viewfinder is the least good of the “waist level”
finders. Its main advantage is that it weighs a
lot less than the metering prism, and I happily used one
for about a year until getting my metering prism.
I then put it away and have not missed it! This
finder has a fold-up magnifier that assists with
Without a prism, all cameras provide a laterally-reversed (i.e., back-to-front) image, and this is particularly disconcerting with moving objects. However, one can push up a flap on the front of this finder, and pull up a frame at the back of it, to provide a direct vision “sports finder” that has no optical elements. One is of course then no longer looking through the lens – surely the raison d'être of the SLR, so one is no longer checking focus. It works, but I would not say that it is good.
[C311-20] The Exakta 66 WLF
|The Exakta 66 WLF is an
improvement on the Pentacon Six model, although it does
not offer a sports finder option. It flips up very
neatly, is well shielded to keep out stray light, and has
a large magnifier, which can be exchanged for magnifier
lenses with different diopter values to meet the needs of
the user. For studio use, landscapes, architecture
or other objects that move little or not at all, it is a
good light-weight and free alternative to the expensive
Exakta 66 TTL prism.
|One of the
advantages of the Exakta 66 waist level finder is that it
is easily possible for the user to change the magnifier
lens within it, to match his/her eyesight. According
to the Exakta 66 price list printed in November 1989 and
still current at least a year later, the full range
goes from -4.5 dpt to + 2.5 dpt in one-diopter steps.
In this image, clock-wise starting bottom left (at “7 o’clock”) are: +2.5, +1.5, +0.5, -0.5, -2.5, -3.5, -4.5. This particular waist-level finder, which I bought new, was supplied with a -1.5 diopter correction lens fitted. It is in place in the waist-level finder in this image. According to the camera instruction manual, this was the default value that was fitted as standard.
The right diopter lens for any particular
person will depend on their eyesight, and this is best
determined by an optician or ophthalmologist.
I have been told (2018) that Baierfoto unfortunately no longer has a selection of these lenses. However, they do occasionally appear for sale on the internet.
Arsenal really does get something right! This is
without a doubt the best “waist level” finder of the lot.
Clearly inspired by the Rollei TLR viewfinder, this “waist
level” finder is very versatile. Flip up the top,
and the sides come up, providing a very well shaded view
of the focussing screen. Do you want to take
pictures of something or someone special, but crowds of
tall people got there in front of you? Hold the
camera upside down above your head, and see to frame with
For precise focussing there is an excellent magnifier. If you are trying to follow a moving object, this WLF has the best “sports finder” of the lot: push in the front of the finder, and it will click into place. At the same time, the magnifier drops slightly to provide good shading. Use this direct vision finder by viewing through an opening on the back wall of the finder. Now to the good bit: lower your eye by a quarter of an inch or so to another opening on the back of the finder, and you are “magically” looking through the lens to check your focussing! – all achieved by a mirror within the finder that swings into place when you push in the front wall. See it on a camera, along with more important information on using this finder with a Pentacon Six, here.
[C309-33] The Kiev 60 WLF
Kiev 88-6 (Kiev “B.i.G.-Six”)
[C311-11] On the left: the Kiev 88 WLF; on the right: the Hasselblad 500C WLF
The Kiev 88 “waist level” finder looks remarkably like the earlier version of the Hasselblad finder – but then so does the camera! Unfortunately, over a number of years these finders were manufactured with an incorrectly calculated lens in them! When the image looks sharpest through the magnifier lens, it is not quite sharp on the focussing screen or the film!! Either get a replacement lens, or take Sam Sherman’s advice and stick some wedges to each side wall of the finder, so that they catch the magnifier about 1/8" before it reaches fully horizontal. It looks odd, but is then at the correct point of focus. But do check yours before changing anything. It might just be right!
The Pentacon Magnifier Head enlarges the whole image to facilitate precise focussing, which is particularly critical with close-up photography.
||The Magnifier Head enables
very precise focussing and very comfortable working,
especially when the camera is vertical for copying flat
originals. Here, the Pentacon “copying arm”
copying bracket has been mounted onto a home-made
copying stand. The 49mm to 58mm adapter ring has
been screwed onto the copying arm, and the standard
Pentacon Six 80mm Biometar lens has been screwed onto
this adapter ring (which is obviously not visible in
this image). It is possible to read more about
this copying arm bracket and adapter ring in various
brochures on Pentacon accessories. See, for
instance, the illustration from a 1973 brochure, and my
To copy these postage stamps, the 15mm extension tube has here been used with the 80mm Biometar lens, in order to be able to focus closer to the subject.
View of the focussing screen when using the Magnifier Head
When the Magnifier Head is mounted on the Pentacon Six, I can see the whole of the focussing screen with it, with the magnifier not far off the 0 diopter setting. The focussing movement extends quite high, and significantly lower, for some other settings, so I don’t know if some people will experience slight cut-off of their view of the corners of the screen, depending on their eyesight. Using the Magnifier Head also results in a much brighter viewfinder image than that which is obtained via the Pentacon Six metering prism, of course.
The Magnifier Head mounted on the camera
[C309-26] The Pentacon Six magnifier head
There is also a wide range of diopter correction to enable users to work without spectacles.
Does the Pentacon Six
Magnifier Head fit on the Exakta 66?
|It does indeed.
It offers a full view of the focussing screen on all versions of the Exakta 66, including Mk II and Mk III (Mod 2, Mod 3), which have a larger focussing screen.
||The only question was this: will the
strip of shutter speed electrical contact points that
are to be found between the shutter speed dial and the
viewfinder mount get in the way?
The answer is “no” – but the points do remain uncovered when using the magnifier head. This does not result in any operational problems for the camera, but it is best to avoid unnecessary contact between fingers and these points, as natural grease on the hands could result in poor contact between these points and the sensors on the metering prism when it is put back on the camera.
The Kiev 88 Magnifier Head
The Arsenal Magnifier Head fits the Kiev 88 (and
Hasselblad!) and provides extreme image enlargement (the Kiev
literature states that it is 4×) to facilitate precise
focussing, which is particularly critical with close-up
pictures. It incorporates diopter correction.
The Arsenal magnifier head can also be used with the focussing back. See the section on viewing aids.
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© TRA February 2002,
Latest revision: September 2018