View Full Version : Curious about a Leica
My only experience with a rangefinder was with a Canonet, which I didn't care for. The reason was that I found the rangefinder patch, the ghosted image hard to see and line up to get a good focus. It must be said that I wear glasses and so I'm wondering if the viewfinder in the Leica is much more clearer than the Canonet ( I should think so) and perhaps the Canonet was not a good indicator of whether or not I would like the rangefinder experience (though that is the reason I bought it).
I got the Canonet in very good condition, from cameraquest, so I think it was more due to my eyesight than anything else. I"m used to big SLR type viewfinders, and I'm wondering what a Leica is like. I have a Fuji GA645 Zi, which is autofocus, but I love it when take a picture, there is no mirror black out, and when I push the shutter, I know whether or not I nailed the right expression. I am now shooting weddings, mostly low budget faire with two Olympus E1s, sometimes a Canon SLR (Elan II), when I get a chance to shoot film (which I love more than digital).
So any advice would be appreciated. Also, do they make a Leica M with a modern quick loading back, like most modern SLRs, and the Canonet GIII? I'm dying to try a Leica, especially for low light flashless black and white photography.
Sorry, no Leicas (other than the SLR's) that have quick loading backs. The M4 and later are pretty easy to load once you learn how to do it...the only thing is that the bottom detaches so you need to hold it somewhere while you load. I normally just put it in my mouth...
In any case, I have not used the Canonet GIII, but the rangefinder patch in Leicas are very crisp. I believe that the contrast in the M3 patch is considered the greatest of the M's, but my MP seems to be better. It may just be that the overall finder is brighter on the MP, or that my M3 is a touch hazier after years of use (it is 22 years older than I am...my dad was 9 when it rolled off the assembly line in 1956). In any case, the viewfinder is larger than the Canonet as well...it is slightly smaller than something like a Canon F1 or T90, but larger than some of the more modern prosumer SLR's. As an eyeglass user, you may prefer a .58 finder, especially if you are fond of 35 or 28mm lenses. Otherwise a .72 should be fine. The M3 finder might be a little high in terms of magnification unless you use an external finder.
Patrick, if you have any used camera stores in the vicinity or anyone who has a Leica, I think it would be the best to try one "in person"... You won't be sure until you've handled one yourself. The viewfinder should be better than a Canonet, provided it is not damaged (no separation, fungus, etc.).
As for quick loading, no luck... But, IMHO, the problem with Leca loading is blown out of proportions... Before buying my M2, I've never tried loading a Leica, and I got it perfectly from the first try. Never had any problems with it. The loading is clumsier than on a Nikon or Canonet, true - but it's not really a big deal, unless you shoot "machine-gun style", in which case you'd probably use a modern AF SLR, anyway. You just have to be a bit more careful than with a Nikon, and check that the rewind knob/lever turns as you wind the first two (blank) shots after loading film.
If you can, try to find one and handle it for a few minutes, and see how you like it.
And, yes, it can't be beat for low-light B&W photography. I'd be more careful about the lens, though... The camera just keeps the light out - it's the lens that makes the actual image :D
So, see which focal lenght suits you best, and go for a nice lens with no scratches and with undamaged coating.
Welcome, Patrick! I too have a Fuji GA645, but mine's the 645Wi wide-angle model. I've been using this for low-light-level environmental portraits, along with a Bronica RF645, mostly using Fuji NPZ800 film. (Examples in my Gallery here). I have also used Tri-X @1200 in Diafine and Ilford Delta 3200 at ISO 1600, and at these speeds the f/4 max aperture isn't really a problem, while the larger format limits graininess.
I think all fixed-lens 35mm RF cameras have simple unmasked finders with a rather fuzzy-outlined focusing spot. For that matter, so does my Fuji GS645S though otherwise its viewfinder is great. The Bronica, as with Leica, Voigtlander Bessa, etc, has a very sharp-edged crisp RF spot that can be used in a split-image way, as well as image-coincidence with the translucent spot.
Leicas are pretty nice cameras, and I've enjoyed my M2 since the 60's, but as you probably have found there's just something about medium format that's hard to approach with 35mm film. You might consider a nice MF RF like the Bronica RF645, or Mamiya 6 and 7II.
Lets see, a couple things, Denis has offered very good advice, before making such a large investment make your way to a camera shop to handle a Leica, or whatever, before you buy. That will give you a nice piece of mind in your decision making process.
Now, I am sure your Canonet is in good condition, fully serviced and cleaned before sale by Gandy's folks. That said, the best Canonet rangefinder/viewfinder can not hold a candle to a Leica, Bessa or the new in May '05 Zeiss Ikon RF/VFs. The new cameras (and used in these lines) have bigger brighter finders, the RF patch is bigger and more defined, they can be bought with different magnifications to match your needs and the base length is longer leading to more accurate focusing. I had the opportunity to go to the PhotoPlus Expo in NYC and handled the new ZI and a .72 Leica MP within a few minutes of each other while having my Bessa R2 in my pocket. To be very honest with your, in a very quick comparison, the ZI has the best viewfinder of the bunch. It is very large and bright, the 28mm framelines are fully visible, and with a naturally long base length, focusing was a snap with this camera.
I guess I could have just said "YES" to answer your question, but I want you to know that there are choices out there, all which are good options.
Welcome to the forum, Patrick! :) I came from an SLR (Nikon) to a Leica M6TTL and had absolutely no problems with the focusing, and found the Leica easier to focus in dodgy light situations than my Nikon F3. It's a good idea to try one in a store if you can.
Also to pick up on Doug's point, a MF rangefinder like a Bronica or Mamiya produces incredible quality images compared to the 35mm format, and you get a swing back too!! ;)
I own a Canonet QL17 and a newer rangefinder (Bessa R2) and can only comment on that. On newer rangefinders, the rangefinder patch in the middle is brighter, clearer and has more contrast. Also, the rangefinder patch is not yellow like on the Canonet which makes it easier for some. If the focusing system of rangefinders is difficult for you, you may want to skip it completely though. I know I can definitely lock focus with an old manual focus SLR about 5X faster than with my Bessa rangefinder.
One thing that helped me was lens choice even though you don't look through the lens. My old CV Nokton was a bit difficult to focus but my current Leica 35mm has a focusing tab which has made it easier for me to slide it right into focus.
No question that RF cameras can provide easier focusing in dim light.
My Leica is an M4-2 purchased new in 1983. Yes, I've read stories about how some think that model isn't quite up to previous ones, but it kept the company from going belly-up. Their idea of depending on SLRs for business wasn't too bright. Too much competition compared to being the only one for RFs at the time. (USSR aside!!)
History aside, I find also that I can hand-hold the Leica at lower speeds than with an SLR - I've been known to go down to 1/8th and get decent slides with miminal depending on other support. (I'm not a great fan of tripods.)
I happened to buy my camera when the 50mm had the little tab for finger-focusing. Later ones don't seem to have that. The 35 and the 90 have normal focusing rings.
I know I can definitely lock focus with an old manual focus SLR about 5X faster than with my Bessa rangefinder.
I'm the opposite, I can now focus faster with the Leica than the F3. I had to learn to stop "swinging" the lens around the focus point with the Leica, an SLR technique that I've used for years. Instead I always have the RF lens set at infinity, rotate the focus ring in one direction until the image snaps together in the patch, then take the pic.
The key is to only focus in a single direction, not back and forth. Once you get used to it it's real quick... :)
I find I can lock focus with the RF's much faster than the SLR's for 135mm lenses and shorter. It is not for lack of using SLR's for a long time; I have almost every focus screen made for the Nikon F and F2, and many for the F3. The SLR method of focus tends to be overshoot and converge. The RF tends to be one-way registration point found, frame and fire.
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