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Sigma VF21 Viewfinder for DP2

Sigma VF-21 on the DP2 Merrill

Sigma VF-21 for the DP2

Sigma VF-21 for the DP2

I've just picked up an optical viewfinder for my DP2.  The Sigma VF-21.  Blimey. It's  tiny.  I really was quite surprised when I saw the packaged item in the store and even more so when I opened it.  

Size

Dimensions 21.9mm(w) x 22.7mm(h) x 25.1mm (d)   Weight - 15g  

I cant quite get over how tiny this finder is.  I've used all sorts of Zeiss and Cosina Voigtlander finders in the past and all have been larger that the VF-21.  

I have been using the Olympus Optical Viewfinder  VF-1 and without exaggerating, the Olympus finder is nearly twice the width and a good 5mm taller.  The eyepiece on the Olympus is square and digs into my eyebrow uncomfortably . The final and unforgivable issue with the Olympus item is that it was designed for a 17mm and the 20mm (34-40mm eqiv. )  lens on an Olympus EP-1, so the frame lines were vague and overly generous for the 40mm equivalent of the DP2 - So I decided to invest in a more accurate framing of a dedicated finder, designed to work with the DP2.

VF-21 Technical Specification

  • Camera: Sigma DP2
  • Type: Albada Inversed Galilean
  • Lens Construction: 5 Groups - 5 Elements
  • Frame Coverage:  Vertical + Horizontal 85%
  • Magnification: 0.53x
  • Diopter: -1pt
  • Eye Point: 15mm

There is a bright frame line for normal use and a 28cm close focus frame indication to account for parallax.  

View 

I'm really impressed with how bright this finder is.  The frame lines are bright and clear and the image is very sharp and refreshingly free from distortion. The frame lines appears rectangular bright and crisp. In good light the contrast is perfectly usable.  I'm instantly reminded of what is possibly the nicest parts of using a good finder: 

  • Infinite depth of field so aperture selection is a subtractive process
  • I love seeing what is happening just outside the frame  to make composition and timing easier.
  • Seeing the world and the picture at the same time!

Build Quality

It's the VF-21 is nicely put together.  It's light but seems robust and strong enough to leave on the camera.

Optically, the image is really very good.  As good as any external finder I've used.

The Plastic / Polycarbonate / Resin body is like the later model Voigtlander finders and all the nicer for that. - It's well built - nicely finished and well up to the standard I had hoped for - certainly well worth the £120 I paid for it.

Using the Viewfinder with AutoFocus

At distances over 2m it is relatively easy to judge the centre of the frame and with a bit of practice its quick and easy to use the autofocus on the DP2.   Focus lock is both audible (optional) and there is a usefully upward facing green LED that is easily seen with the finder raised to the eye. 

(If anyone knows why finders dont have a frame centre spot - please let me know?) For what it's worth I would infinitely prefer a frame centre mark to the distracting marks provided for situations where the external finder is used at 28cm.... ?  maybe a tiny x  or vertical line with a horizontal dash in the centre perhaps) - Discuss.

Parallax  can be a problem for close focus distances however the frame rapidly becomes accurate as subject distance increases from the camera - Personally I don't find this a problem as I tend to use the screen from close focus and tripod work.  

On sunny days, or by nudging up the ISO, the Zone Focus technique, or prefocus technique is well suited to using the viewfinder in manual mode.  

When to use.

For me, this little finder is mostly for handheld work at distances over 2 meters from the camera.

I will probably leave this on the camera all the time, unless I get a Sigma flash.

Conclusion

At the beginning of this piece, I emphasised how small this viewfinder is. I have to say though, that this does not take away from its usability.  I find it easy to use, and without concentrating on getting the viewing angle correct too - it seems to have a fair amount of tolerance for the distance the eye is from the lens - and gives a consistent view on the world.  Very easy to learn to live with.    

The VF-21 has changed the experience of using the DP2: it's a totally different experience than the arms length screen composition that you have to get used to.  It's not quite like using the built in finder of the Fuji X-Pro, or the X-100 and of course nothing like using a DSLR, but it is very nice.

For me the The VF-21 is a really positive improvement for the DP, and money well spent. Whether it will be for you depends on how you like to interact with the world around you and with your camera.