Okay, I am exhibiting pure ignorance here but I have to ask because I have never understood.
What's so special about rangefinder cameras of any type? To my limited knowledge, it seems as if technology passed by the rangefinders when SLR's were born but smart people keep spending serious money for these cameras. What is it they do so well that SLR's can't do?
Using one is a nice change of pace for me. It is like the difference between riding a horse and driving a car, if that makes sense. On the other hand it might be easier to borrow one to try out and see what the fuss is about.
I agree. I have fun using mine on occasion, but I wouldn't want one as my main camera system. There are too many limitations for the types of photography I enjoy. For others however, they could be ideal.
Oh, you're a devious one Nikon Bob! Suggesting to borrow one like I need a new "branch" of the Nikon product tree to feed my uncontrolable NAS. I can understand the analogy you describe and it makes sense to slow down. I just wondered if there was something about rangefinders that was uniquely better than SLR's.
They can be very small as in Leica IIIf, they can be very quiet, the lenses are generally smaller, there is no mirror blackout, and they can be handheld at slower shutter speeds than an SLR/DSLR with better chance of success. Having said that, they are fairly specialized in the way a 600mm F4 lens is and an SLR/DSLR is far more versitile. There are plenty of cheap old Yashica, Minolta rangefinders from the 70's that would give you the flavour of using a rangefinder without a huge outlay of cash. OTH I would not part with my old S2. I would not hesitate to use a rangefinder on say a trip to Europe where a lens less than 135mm is no burden for most tourists. Hope this is a little more detailed an answer. I also meant that as with riding a horse there is more interaction or more involvement with the process, and yes you do slow down. It depends if your style is like a sharpshooter or a machine gunner and each has it's place.
Ahhh, now that helps a bit. I just learned through another non-nikonians forum that I have been shooting a digital rangefinder, imagine my surprise! Actually, I have a point and shoot digital for the family quickies but I read where somewhere referred to that same camera as a digital rangefinder and thought that was a unique perspective.
I suspect these could be a lot of fun. Heck, like Rick says, even a pinhole camera can be fun. If only there were more time. Maybe a Nikonian trip...
Once again I'm stickin' my nose in with no experiance to back it up. From all that I have read it seems to me that the rangefinder cameras offer a subtlely different approach that allows a shooter opportunities a SLR cannot. Among these are the already mentioned lack of mirror movement and more simplistic set up. But as yet not mentioned in this thread is the advantages of the rangefinder design. The distance from glass to film is significantly shorter which offers sharpness above and beyond the SLR design. The ability to shrink the package and the quietness of the operation combined with the sharpness means I'm amazedf more PJ's and paparazzi arn't using them for the 'candid' work they need to do. It probably falls into the flexibility and range of the SLR system making the compimises worthwhile. Those same or similar considerations are why SLR's take the stage vs. medium format even with the recent advances of some MF systems. OK now I got to get a new job , I think I've talked myself into a rangefinder system...or MF...wait large format.....AAArGhh...
Yes, I was just reading this and you are on the right track. It's the sharpness and it's the quietness and the compactness too. It's much easier to go stealth which makes old rangeninders perfect for street shooting.
I don't know too much about Nikon Rangefinders but older Canon and Leica Rangefinder Cameras Load from the bottom and the film is completely flat against the shutter and with a good lens it's difficult to get a sharper photo.
Also there mis something about those old Leica-Canon-Nikon lenses that is hard to describe but the results are not quite the same as an SLR.
The short lens to film plane distance gives superior performance with wide angle lenses. This is why the M-series Leicas are legendary for quality when used with the excellent wide angle Leica M-mount lenses.
Also the lenses are usually smaller for the same focal length and speed.
While not exotic, I still have my mothers old Yaschia GS and still use it from time to time. If you get one, you need to deal with the battery issue (lack of exact voltage due to no longer supplied mercury cells), however, I have a work around for that.
Couple thoughts, its amazing how quiet it is, AND, how sharp the photos are when properly focused!!! Dare I say sometimes even puts my F5 to shame.
Tom Trujillo The CUBAN NIKONIAN! D700, D70s, F5, N70, 8008, F-PhotoT
"Nikonians membership - My most important photographic investment, after the camera"
I've owned several rangefinders, Canonette(sp?)Yashica GSN,Olympus SP and M2 & M3 Leica. (yea, I admit I'm more of a equipment freak than a photographer!) I never cared for the blobby yellow focusing spot in the less expensive cameras. But I have never been able to focus a slr as accurately as with a Leica. The split image focusing is contrasty and very precise with lenses 90mm or shorter. I'd still own one today if I could build a complete system without mortgaging my house. I also really like the Olympus SP but they are hard to find. The last one I saw was mint but the leaf shutter was sticky so I passed. The only range-finder I still own is a old Petri, nice looking and solid but a really rotten lens! A nice $25.00 paper weight. Curious, does anyone have experience with the new Cosina built RF's?. Is the focusing any where close to the Leica?
As long as it's calibrated, focusing should be about the same on all of them. Some glass is a bit brighter, some a bit less, but all quite naturally useable. Cosina/Voigtlander Bessa L is an impressive camera: x125 flash sync, 1/2000th exposure. Not as quiet as older classic Leica screw mounts and just what can I say: too new! Built-in light meter - why? Whoever uses these things normally has a much more accurate light meter hanging around the neck anyway...
On a subject of focusing, especially when speed and action is concerned - why bother when most of the time one can easily use hyperfocal measurements? everybody got spoiled with all kinds of things automatic...
>That said, the M6 is built totally solid, and if you >can get with the idea of carrying only three lenses >around, 28mm to 90mm, they are a joy to use.
Well put, Andy! Besides, the images produced by Leica glass pleases your eyes more than anything else.
>I simply enjoy using well made mechanical things >be it a camera, a rifle, or a really well made tool.
Yes, I totally agree on this. For those of you who are into guns, I personally feel the sexiness of a Leica is pretty close to a well-built revolver: no jamming, it just shoots whenever you press the trigger --- there's no wait!
You are correct that because of the way rangefinders focus they require no mirror for reflex viewing/focussing which eliminates mirror movement/slap. This does not depend on the shutter used as both my Leica IIIf and Nikon S2 have focal plane shutters like an SLR/DSLR. As quiet as these two are, my cheap Minolta and Yashica rangefinders are even quieter as they use leaf shutters. For versitility a SLR/DSLR cannot be beat but rangefinders do have their uses.
For all that's been said, the potential for sharper focus, the small compact package, the nuances of those lenses, the sense of nostalgia, the simplicity etc, none of that outweighs what one must pay for the lenses. I don't disagree with anyones desire or reasons for loving rangefinders, but the bang for the buck just aint there in my rather undeducated opinion. For my temperment, I see the appeal of view cameras, medium format, digital etc, but rangefinder have virtually no appeal for me. But as they say, there's no acounting for taste and I'm probably the poster child for that cliche'.
Check out one of the "cheap" fixed lens rangefinders with a leaf shutter and you will be surprised how quiet it is. I think quieter than a Leica but even more limiting re no lens interchangability and very limited shutter speeds etc..
>Kent > >Check out one of the "cheap" fixed lens rangefinders with a >leaf shutter and you will be surprised how quiet it is. I >think quieter than a Leica but even more limiting re no lens >interchangability and very limited shutter speeds etc.. > >Bob
Bob, I was thinking about that... I used to have the Canonette 1.7 and for some silly reason got rid of it. It was very limited in function and I don't remember if the shutter was a clunker. Has anyone any recommendations on rangefinders fixed lens or otherwise that are less expensive than a Leica that are also as quiet? What about the Nikon S?
If you mean less expensive new rangefinders check out Voightlanders at Cameraquest. They are cheaper than a new Leica but still not a casual purchase just to try out to see if you like them. Vintage Nikon rangefinders are expensive by comparison and on par with certain older Leicas. You might want to check forums specifically dedicated to rangefinders. There are various Russian made rangefinders, copies of both Contax and Leica models, that may be the cheapest entry into rangefinders with inter changable lens capability. I have no experience there so can't comment. Hope this helps a bit.
I have a few Yashica Electro 35 GSN rangefinders. They are very good. This model has a fixed 45mm F1.7 lens---a very sharp lens. The shutter is a lot smoother/less noise than the M7's. Another rangefinder I like is the Voigtlander Vitomatic 11 or 111 with the 50mm F2 lens. They're hard too find, though; and I still like the GSN better, even though it sets the shutter speed automatically.
Yes the rangefinder can easily accommodate a leaf shutter but many such as the Leica and the CV cameras still use focal plane shutters. Even a Leica is pretty loud compared to a leaf-shuttered Canonet rangefinder.
Have you ever seen a Kodak Retina Reflex or a Zeiss Ikon Contaflex SLR? These are interchangeable lens, leaf shuttered SLRs. The mirror slap is loud but they do synch flash up to 1/500. They are COMPLICATED beasts to repair and that makes a lot of sense when you think about how many extra mechanical actions must happen to allow open aperture viewing compared to a focal plane shutter. Neither have an instant return mirror meaning that the viewfinder is blacked out until you advance the film. The Nikon F was one of the first SLRs that was equipped with an instant return mirror.
I have an old Ricoh rangefinder, which uses the leaf shutters. I like it a lot (not just because it's old, though that has it's appeal for me as well). Why do I like it? Well, it's a hell of a nice camera! I like the quiet operation, the quality of the build, and the nice contrasy lens.
While I'm very familiar with this particular camera, I am not very familiar with the other rangefinders. And though I like my rangefinder a lot, well, "It ain't a Nikon."
I can understand why others, like myself, like the rangefinders. But for me, the SLR allows me to 'see' my photograph better, especially in regard to DOF preview. This is why I favor the SLR's over the rangefinders. I will still never part with my rangefinder, though.
Two of the five images were made with an SLR, by the way. I don't really see anything about the remaining shots that couldn't have been done equally well by an SLR. (This is coming from a guy who owns some rangefinders and likes them.)
I love my Konica Auto S2. A 45mm 1.8 lens that is really sharp, though this camera is heavy (bigger than the Canonet). The lens to film ratio that others have been talking about also apply to point and shoots, although the fixed lens variety are the ones that take most advantage. This is why the Olympus Stylus Epic takes such sharp photos (Though nowhere near as flixible as even an old rangefinder). I took a an old cheap Canon Sure Shot Date to Europe in 2001 and got extremely sharp photos.
I >don't really see anything about the remaining shots that >couldn't have been done equally well by an SLR.
Rick, I think the shots taken indoors or in less than well lit areas with a rangefinder will be sharper than same taken with SLR. Take a look at the photo of the men inside the room as an example of where a rangefinder may best an SLR. Many pros argue that the SLR's mirror slap causes vibration that shows up in images at shutter speeds around 1/30 to 1/15. Also, as you know, with a rangefinder there is never a blackout of the image when the shutter is fired.
And finally, the photographer may have taken several images in that room with his M7 that would have been inaudible compared to the loud mirror slapping noise of an SLR AF whizzbang D2h,70, N80 etc. Anyways, just a thought.
I took some pics of a little man holding up a tip tray this evening, among other subject matter---flashless, low light shooting---hand holding my Electro GSN with low shutter speeds. If I were a little bit deaf, I wouldn't have heard the smooth little click. My wife surely did not. The good part of this is that I know the pics will turn out well. Did I mention that the Yashica Electro 35 GSN is a rangefinder?
I think there's a lot we're guessing at in these photos. We don't know how posed the shots were, we don't know if a tripod was used, but we do know an indirect, supplemental flash was used in one shot which implies a less than candid approach. My point is that without additional commentary by the photographer, we can't tell if a rangefinder was instrumental or a hindrance in these shots. All we really know is that the photographer took them with a rangefinder and what settings he used. If these shots had been taken with an SLR (easy to imagine, right?) would we have concluded that an SLR was essential to taking them? The logic is identical.
Here's an interesting piece regarding rangefinder myths. Again, keep in mind that I own several rangefinders, so I'm someone who likes them:
Isn't there an elephant in the room we're ignoring? Mirror slap is a tiny, fairly high frequency vibration (I would imagine), while the motion of handholding is rather large (you can _see_ it with anything longer than a 50mm). At slow shutter speeds, with anything lower than a 50mm, how can mirror slap make any difference at all? It can't. It's a drop in the bucket. So that myth seems very unlikely. Or have I missed something here?
Focusing in the dark with AF, especially when there's not much contrast causes the SLR to hunt, even when using an F5.
The viewfinders of most rangefinders are very bright and focusing using the 2-diamonds mechanism is more binary in nature: when the 2 diamonds overlapse it is focused; otherwise, it is not. There's no guessing because the diamonds are so bright --- even if the room has no light. Comparatively speaking, try focusing an SLR manually in the dark room, you will have a hard time determining for sure whether the focusing ring-band is truly clear or slighty blur; and, for that matter, whether the fine focusing line is lined up or not.
For your entertainment, this site has more rangefinder info than you'd need.
In short, my point is this: there are features & strengths in rangefinders that SLRs are clearly not in a position to compete in. Perhaps, that's why pros are still using them. I also want to add that I own an F5 and a D100 and I enjoy them both deeply.
Arthur, if you are comparing SLRs with matte screens or microprisms to rangefinder cameras, I concur. If it's a body with a split-image screen and a fast lens, I find I can do just as well with an SLR as with my M6. I just repeated the experiment in a severely darkened room, and at least for me, both were equally easy to focus. I used an F3 with a K screen and a 50mm 1.4 for the test. The room was far darker than I would choose to photograph in.
There's a certain irony to this discussion in that we both choose to own rangefinders as well as SLRs. That means we probably have more in common than we do as differences. My favorite aspects of rangefinders are the extremely compact size of lenses (some are just plain tiny), the simplicity of operation (a refreshing break from AF cameras on occasion), and the non-threatening image they project to others. People just seem to react differently to a rangefinder with a little lens on it than a big SLR with a zoom.
The website you mention is a great one. I've peaked at it before and it has a lot of great info.
I don't remember Arthur saying the pic could only be taken, or even could better be taken by a Leica RF v a SLR...
Ol' Dante's slash and burn myth-busting writing style - I'm afraid he meets or exceeds the foolishness written by some of the Leicaphiles - eg. Leica is a religion, all other cameras are....< fill in the blank > I think its all been claimed.
I do like the quiet. No its not silent, but less face it; "click" is less obstrusive than.."click, clunk, whirrrrrrr".
I do like the positive focusing - and I firmly believe it's faster and more positive than any other system. And I do like seeing more than what's in the frame. I'd guess the later is purely pers pref. I do, however, believe staring directly at and only at what you're shooting on ground glass can be better for mental focus.
If I were going to Northwest Pakistan - about as removed from the world as the Moon, my M6 would be a good choice, as long as I would be happy with 'Normal range' lenses, It always works, its small and easy to tote, etc.,etc.
In the non-rose colored glasses department:
No one, no how will ever convince me that the M6 is easy or intuitive to load. The very best I can say is "you can get used to it".
It bugs me - more pers pref - that plastic bodied cameras of many stripes, lets say specifically the N-80 feels 100% more natural because of the molded shape.. Extend that to why Nikon in its wisdom, put that handy little finger rest on the lowly FG (lowly but Loveable. ) and did Not on the Fmxxx, the F3. An with the M6 as well. I can and do solve that with a photoEquip grip on my FMs and my M6, but.....
I simply will not use the M6 beyond the range of < 28mm or > 105mm. You simply have to estimate, imagine or remember what the DOF is. I use the DOF preview very frequently, and its now part of my picture making. On the short side, using a 21 or a 24mm on a M6 is purely silly. To have to affix a separate viewfinder, adds a level of clumsiness to say nothing of its specific to a certain lens. Carry three lenses with three specific viewfinders.....Not exactly intuitive, on a very carry friendly, quick handling camera.
Nearly as bad as the design of the F5, carrying around an integrated battery compartmant sooo large.... A design that is elegant, Only if you need the blazing advance speed. Of course, since I'm generally quite happy with manual advance - this a an issue far more important to me, than many.....
Peanut breath and all, I'm afraid elephant does stay in the room.. While you make an intriquing point about the vagaries of handholding and its true its probably the major problem many folks encounter in losing that 'edge' of sharpness. Although its true that current day cameras are orders of magnitude better on mirror damping than previous, a mirror slamming to a stop does induce vibrations at various frequencies, some of which are quite persistent. There's a whole legion of folks to whom this is a major point.
So here's some more, uninvited and highly biased thoughts on the matter. We've probably long passed the point of overall discussion to a degree of nits that we might not be able to return from.
From an idiosyncratic guy that made a purchase of a brand new of an F3HP, after passing on the beautiful new F6.
Best regards to all,
In the Hills by the Finger Lakes...:)
" A velvet hand, a hawk's eye - these we should all have." - Henri Cartier-Bresson
But Andy, I'm not denying the significance of mirror slap. I bought an FA for macro work primarily because my N80 doesn't have MLU or mirror pre-fire. So I'm not denying that its an issue. I'm just saying that compared to the motion introduced by hand holding, the motion of mirror slap _must_ be insignificant, as in approaching zero. Such motion is lost among the course motion of handholding. That's all.
But while we're confessing, I also own 3 viewfinders. Edit to read rangefinder not viewfinder, of course.
Well, I certainly stand beside myself with those 2 deep explainations.
The S3 is so expensive because it's a "Nikon" rangefinder. The great Yashica Electro 35 GSN is not expensive because it has "Yashica" stamped on the body and it has "Hong Kong" engraved on the bottom solid BRASS plate. Hope this helps.
Woah! My sense of humour has been unearthed! Finally.
Although I love rangefinders, expecially manual/non-auto models---with sharp lenses---I find SLRs far more practical in the real world. That's what you wanted to hear, right? In my early days of photography I was big on macro and double exposures, so I had to get an SLR. Though the FM was a better SLR, I preferred the Yashica FR because the viewfinder was more accurate and the lenses a bit sharper. Nevertheless, I miss the old FM tank with its unGodly mirror slap---WHACK! WHACK! WHACK! Right on the back of my head. Did I mention that I also had a motor-drive for the FM? It was of great use at the beach. I just wished I had a better 200mm Nikkor back then. The "Q" version was terrible.
Not to confuse anybody, I love both the FM2T with my E's and the fabulous Yashica Electro 35 GSN.
PS: the Nikon S3 rangefinder costs $2695 US at B&H. This should make clear the rangefinder is better. WHACK! WHACK! WHACK! (mirror slap)
I've seen pros with Leicas and I've seen pros in similar situations with SLRs. Like most of us, it probably depends on who you talk to. I saw a show where a photographer was spending time in the Belgian Congo. He had both. Neither failed. Biggest problem? Bugs were so thick they got inside the cameras while changing film!! He probably needed a DSLR.....or digital rangefinder....which were not available at the time.
Isn't Ken Johnson a moderator here? Heck. He sold my an Electro GSN via E-bay back in July. But refused to send it to me because I live in Canada, a mere 160 miles north of him. However, he did send it to my wife's nephew in Germantown MD (3500 miles from Tacoma), and I did eventually receive it even though he spelled the nephew's 1st and last names incorrectly. See what I go through to get these little Electro devils? Oh, the pain, the pain.
PS: not too worry. I'm not bi-polar. My personality never changes.
For myself, well that's easy to answer, I'm an o'l timer from the 1940s and for me I'll take a fully manual rangefinder camera over any other. Plain and simple, it brings the "thinking" back to taking photographs!
It is basically unexplainable along the lines of why people spend serious money on old classic cars and airplanes and the ocassional steam train. Don't ever assume that only smart people spend serious money. No real rational justification but fun and the joy of using something different ( not better ). It is sort of like the facination about digital cameras which I do not understand and am ignorant of but that has saved me a pile of money so far. I may eventually get that too, you never know.
Have a Merry Christmas everyone and may you find a rangefinder under the tree or any other camera for that matter.
A lot of arguments have already been given to convince everybody that both FR and SLR types of camera have their own advantages and disadvantages and both have their place in our bags, I want to add just two more - first, shooting black and white with high density color filters, you can still see normal image in the viewfinder of a rangefinder camera, and second, in the SLR world, the closer the field of view of the prism is to 100%, the better, but an average RF viewfinder is 120% at least, we can control not only things we want to be in the field, but also those we want to keep outside the field - isn't it better to see them in order not to let them inside the frame? As for the model to use, the natural choice is a Voigtlander Bessa R2A and R3A - very solid built and only for a small fraction of Leica price. As for Nikons... Nikon is the SLR champion, it's RFs are out of date technologically and priced for collectors. If you want to enjoy some nice old Nikon RF glass, there is modern Bessa R2S with Nikon mount (as well as R2C with Contax mount) along with R2A standard (Leica-mount) model. Leica IS better, but not that much like it is more expensive, at least, before you try yourself in the RF world and make sure you should invest in Leica bodies.