Tuesday, August 24, 2021


By Heinz Richter

There has hardly been any accessory for the Leica cameras that hasn’t been offered by Leitz/Leica in one form or another and still, other companies have made a variety of accessories that proved to be a valid alternative to their Leitz/Lerica made counterparts.  Some of them even elevated to the status of the very rare, collectible accessories.

One such accessory is the adjustable Braun Universalsucher (Universal Viewfinder).  Just like the Leitz Imarect finder the Brown offers adjustable viewing fields for 35/38mm, 45/50mm, 85/90mm and 135mm and parallax correction in meters and feet from 0.35 meters (1.5 feet) to infinity.

Leitz Imarect Viewfinder

Braun Universalsucher

Focal Length and Parallax Adjustments

Viewfinder set for 85/90mm

Leica III with Braun finder

Unlike the Leica M cameras, the Leica screw mount cameras had no adjustable viewfinders and therefore lack any possibility for previewing focal lengths other than 50mm.  The only exception was the Leica IIIg which also had a viewing frame for 90mm lenses.  With those cameras the Brown viewfinder, just like the Imarect, allows the use of other focal lengths by simply adjusting the viewing frame of the finder.

It is definitely not as sophisticated as the Imarect, but that doesn’t diminish its usefulness at all.  I used one for many years on various Leica screw mount cameras with lenses from 35mm to 135mm.

Even today I use it occasionally with my Leica Digilux 2 for night shots.  While the electronic viewfinder of the Digilux 2 is not at all bad under normal lighting conditions, it is virtually useless at night.  Framing is almost impossible.  With the help of the Braun adjustable viewfinder I am able to cover the focal length range of the Leica DC Vario Summicron with the exception of focal lengths wider than 35mm.  Even with the lens at 28mm the finder has proven to be useful in aiming the camera correctly.

Thus this little accessory from years past still is of value beyond that of a collector’s item and I am glad to see that it still works just as well as it did when it was first made.

Not all accessorie viewfinders were just meant to allow the use of other focal length lenses on the Leica.  Some also allowed for more precise focusing of the camera.  The rarest of these accessory viewfinder was the Flexameter.  It too fit onto the accessory shoe of the camera.  Unlike a rangefinder, the Flexometer utilized a 50mm Kühn-Rekatar f/2.8 lens which projected an image onto a ground glass where it could be focused.  A flip up magnifier allowed for more accurate focusing.  The subject distance was then read off the lens and transferred to the camera lens.  The Flexameter essentially converted the camera to a twin lens reflex design.

 Flexameter on Leica IIIg

Top view with focusing magnifier folded up

Flexameter with original packaging

The Flexameter was made in Wetzlar by the company of Kühn.  The name will be familiar to many that are interested in the history of the Leica.  Frau Dr. Elsie Kühn-Leitz was the sister of Ernst Leitz II.  Her husband Kurt Kühn established a small company in Wetzlar for the manufacture of camera accessories, one of which was the Flexameter in the mid 1930s.  Of course cameras other than Leica could be used with the Flexameter also, but it was mostly sold to be used with Leica cameras.

Today the Flexameter is a rather rare collector’s item with only a few left.  It is definitely one of the more unique accessories for the Leica cameras.  Even though it was made by a company other than Leitz, its uniqueness is further underscored by the connection to the Leitz family and the Leica camera.

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