What’s in a Viewfinder?

Canon A-1

This is a syndicated blog post from Rio Akasaka. It is being republished with permission.

The view within a viewfinder has always been an opportunity to display additional information to the user. In the photos below I go over 8 film SLR and rangefinder camera viewfinders.

CANONET 19 (1961)

The Canonet’s viewfinder, which sported what Canon called a “data center”, indicates the aperture at which the selenium light meter decides the photo will be taken.

canonet_850

canonet-manual

CANONET GIII QL17 (1972)

This is a fairly popular rangefinder – similar to the Canonet, a black needle moves to indicate the aperture at which the photo will be taken.

gliii_850

canonet-giii-manual

CANON EF (1973)

The EF featured a shutter priority mode which made it a nice feature that the viewfinder displayed both aperture and shutter settings.

ef_850

canonet_ef-manual

ROLLEIFLEX (1976)

The aperture that the user set is visible at the top part of the viewfinder; if the exposure is set correctly, the needle sits in the middle of the red setting triangle.

rolleiflex_850

rolleiflex-manual

CANON A-1 (1978)

The Canon A-1 has both aperture and shutter priority mode, so the viewfinder displays both information. An additional consideration that Canon engineers put into the A-1 was the ability to turn off the display as well.

a1_850

canon-a1-manual

CANON AV-1 (1979)

The AV-1 is one of the few cameras to feature aperture-priority only. My hypothesis is that most photographers were more keen to ensure photos were not blurry, and camera companies were therefore incentivized to develop shutter-priority cameras first.

av1_850

canon-av1-manual

CANON AE-1 PROGRAM (1981)

The AE-1 had a fully automatic (program) mode, which lit up the “P” LED. Otherwise it also had a shutter-priority mode which would light up the aperture selected.

ae1program_850

canon-ae1-program-manual

CANON NEW F-1 (1981)

With the Eyefinder FN viewfinder on the Canon New F-1 you were given a view of the shutter-priority viewfinder, which indicated the automatically selected aperture.

f1_850

canon-new-f1-manual