Leica 135mm (SHOOC) Finder
The SHOOC Finder
The Leica 135mm finder, also known by the name "SHOOC" - makes a great companion to the 4/135 Tele-Elmar-M or other 135mm lens on film or M9 bodies. Unfortunately, for M8 shooters, you'll need a finder with 180mm framelines (of which there are some, but few - and somewhat hard to find).
While some film bodies and the M9 have 135mm framelines, you'll be framing with the smallest set available - even on models equipped with a .85 viewfinder. Even the strongest magnifier currently available, the Leica 1.4x won't improve the view drastically, though it will definitely help with focusing and accuracy. If you don't have the framelines, then a finder is a necessity if you're not the type to zen your shots. Enter the SHOOC.
The SHOOC finder was produced from 1951 through the 1970s, but is still relatively easy to find on the used market. Let's face it, 135mm was just not a hugely popular focal length for the M system (though perhaps undeservedly so). The trick is finding a nice, clean copy. They do exist though, as the photo above illustrates. The biggest problem seems to be the usual nicks and scrapes and hazing of the optical elements. Currently, they go for $85-150 (or more) depending on condition - though you shouldn't pay more than $150 for a mint copy. Some come with a little leather snap case, others with the original box.
What makes the SHOOC a joy to use is the fairly 1:1 (1x) view it affords in framing, allowing you to essentially shoot with both eyes open - making for easily used framelines. Unlike simpler finders, the SHOOC has a ring which you can adjust to correct for parallax and is scaled in feet and meters. Another nice feature is the smaller set of frame corners just inside the more complete outer framelines - which indicate the true field of view when focused at the minimum focus distance (since the lens' focal length actually changes from infinity when thus focused). The framelines are very easy to make out, even in dim lighting. A little amazing, actually. Unlike some other finders with a black field around just the framing view, the SHOOC has a fair bit around the framelines much like the camera's viewfinder. Not a lot, unless you move your eyeball around a little - but still plenty for anticipating action coming into view.
Construction is of course, top-notch and true to Leica style. It comes in a chrome finish only. Unlike cheap finders, you won't find any plastic on the SHOOC - especially on the critical hotshoe foot! If you snap this one off, you'll have bigger problems. There is nothing loose on the finder, it doesn't rattle and it's just a solid little chunk of metal and glass. Because it only applies to the 135mm focal length, it's quite compact - especially compared to other 135mm-capable finders on the market (many of which are of the "zoom" variety).
One thing worth pointing out, as it has come up in the past and might not be immediately obvious - is that you put your eye up to the larger, black side (opposite side as pictured above). This leads to the one niggle with this finder. It works best if you can get your eye right up against it - which is easier to do in portrait than in landscape orientation because your nose will invariably hit the back of the camera, or worse - your viewfinder! The problem is that the finder is thinner than the camera body, and no part of it protrudes rearwards; it's essentially flush. You can mitigate a little by sliding the finder slightly backwards in the hotshoe. But be careful - you increase the likelihood of losing it because it's not fully seated now.
Shooting a 135mm lens on a rangefinder is not the "scary monster" it's made out to be, unless you have poor eyesight that's not compensated for (via diopter adjustment and/or viewfinder magnifier) or shoot at too slow of a shutter speed to counteract camera movement. Using the old rule of reciprocal shutter speeds, you would typically want to use at least 1/125s or faster... In any event, between using a viewfinder magnifier and the SHOOC finder, you could indeed find bliss in sampling some of Leica's most unsung lenses. They're still a relative bargain due to the "bad press" on the Internet. In fact, some of the 135mm lenses that Leica offers are amazing in their character and performance. You don't even need to splash out for the latest 3,4/135 APO-Telyt - the 4/135 Tele-Elmar-M mentioned earlier is far cheaper and nearly as good.
The SHOOC finder is a decent addition to your gear, and when combined with a magnifier - makes shooting 135mm lenses easy and rewarding.