AYOOC Waist-Level Finder

Leica's “waist-level” finder AUFSU for 50 mm lenses is rare enough; but this one, AYOOC with its swing-in lens for a 35 mm field of view, is very rare indeed. Whereas in late 2018 an AUFSU might go for $300-400 or £250-350 or 275-375€, an AYOOC could well fetch twice that (up to $1000, £700, 800€), or maybe even more if it's in really good condition.  Then again, the even rarer AHOOT (with a 28 mm swing-in lens instead of 35 mm) could easily cost 50% more than an AYOOC. 

All three are therefore likely to be of less interest to photographers than to collectors; the more so as there's no means of locking them in the accessory shoe. This means that they could conceivably fall out and get lost, which is a shudder-provoking prospect; though elsewhere on the site there's a useful precaution against this.

AUFSU was introduced in 1932 and the other models followed; all are of course more accurately described as “chest level” finders. Slightly less obtrusive than eye-level finders, the more so as the camera can be turned left or right, they seem to have petered out during WW2.  Those who were used to similar finders on roll-film cameras might harbour an inexplicable weakness for them, but they were expensive and specialized and never sold well: perfect conditions for something to become a rare collector's item. 

In the 1970s I had an AUFSU, simply because I found one cheap in an old-fashioned camera store. If I'd found it at all useful, I'd have kept it; but I didn't. Instead, I sold it for several times what I'd paid for it. This one was inherited by a young friend: I borrowed it for this article. 

Admittedly, if you like waist-level finders, AUFSU, AYOOC and AYOOT are among the best ever. Centre the cross on the rear lens of the main block with the circle on the front lens, and you know that your eye and the camera are aligned correctly. Otherwise it's all too easy to assume that things are correctly aligned when they aren't. On the other hand, it's surprisingly time consuming to align the two. 

The image is greatly reduced (at a guess, about 1/10 life size) in a square frame, which in turn has little black squares in the corners. These are for “portrait” and “landscape”: draw imaginary lines vertically or horizontally according to which composition you want. There are two feet to go into accessory shoes, according to whether you are holding the camera vertically or horizontally, and there's an accessory shoe on the back so you can mount other accessories: in particular, a circular bubble level DOOLU, which will set you back another $250-300. 

Cosmetically and optically, this one is nigh-perfect, but it does have one (I believe reparable) fault. The mask on one side of the front glass of the main optical unit, the one with the little square corners, is displaced less than 1 mm vertically: there seem to be two masks, left and right, each with two corner-squares attached to it. Thinking that the mask might merely have slipped, I tapped the whole thing smartly on my knuckle, hoping that inertia would move it: I didn't want to bang it too hard. The mask didn't move, but the auxiliary lens popped out. It appears to be merely a press fit – it popped back in easily enough – but if it were my finder I'd add a couple of tiny dabs of glue just to encourage it to stay in place. Assuming, of course, that I was ever going to use it. Which I almost certainly wouldn't.  

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Words and pictures copyright (c) Roger Hicks 2018