View Full Version : Toughest RF
I'm sittin' here at my desk peering across the room at a couple of Barnacks that have hung in there for 70+ years and a fistful of Zorkis - 50+ years each. In a tough-nut-RF challenge, not a bad bunch.
So I'm tossin' it out there for your late night consideration... What's the toughest RF on the planet -- the hands-down WWW RFF Tough-Guy Champeen of the Uneeverse? :bang: :bang: If you put two bare-knuckled RFs in a six-sided chain-linked ring, no holds barred, and threw in wind, rain, cold, heat, dust, my wife's meat loaf, etc., who'd come out on top?
(And I'm not looking for just a bunch of bragging. :cool: I'd like to know some personally experienced facts. Over the next year or maybe longer there's a growing possibility I'll be frequenting from time to time some various, shall we say, *challenging & unpredictable environments.* Some of my current gear will go along, but I'd also consider others. Sooo...?)
I'll even add another player -- make it a tag team event. What's the Toughest Tough-Guy Digital out there? [RF, P&S, DSLR, CIA, whatever..]
What say ye? Anyone...?
Looking for rangefinder war stories? :)
The toughest I've had experience with was, hear hear, the Bessa R I sold here for 99 EUR (http://www.rangefinderforum.com/photopost-classifieds/showproduct.php?product=4185&cat=500). Judge by its looks. I guess if you threw it into a sack together with a Leica, the Leica would come out the winner because of its weight alone. But of you drop both off a cliff, you lose 99 EUR on the Bessa and 500 or more on the Leica, so that's not a fair comparison in my eye :)
Otherwise I have a Canonet 17 that has given me fairly satisfactory response to rough treatment when mountaineering.
In my experience, it's difficult to dent an FSU camera body but the rangefinders on them often get unaligned easily. Having said that, my current FED-2 has been dropped and knocked around for the past 5 months and its rangefinder is still in perfect alignment from when I last calibrated it.
The Nikon F2 hands down tougher than any other camera ever made. The Achille's heel of all RF type cameras is the RF itself--to easy to knock out of alignment.
My Contax II have met the ground on several occasions, including a very nasty trip bouncing down a stairs flight. None of it affected the functions, it did get a dent or two though.
Prior to that it was a couple of (surprise) Kiev bodies. They worked in -30C at cold weeks in Minsk and Moscow, sometimes covered with a layer of frost. Still recall how cold they felt through even thick gloves, and the chill on eye from VF for the moments you bring camera to focus/compose.
FED-2 felt robust enough, save for the VF assembly. I used the camera just for a roll or two though.
My Leica M4 did not take a modest fall on concrete from chest height very well. The top cover jammed in, the shutter stuck and RF calibration went south. I was however able to bring camera back to correct function within 12 hours.
Overall I feel that M Leica is not suitable camera to banging around heavily. Its VF is perhaps the most complicated around, it is wonder that it works so reliably at all. It will not appreciate heavy knocks.
Another thing is the famous rounded edges: they make for a sexy shape, but they lack rigidity of the angled sides on Contax/Kiev. Hence they dent so easily. Leica could use ribs inside the top cover to address that, but that would've made machining a lot more complicated.
All that said, it is necessary to distinguish robustness and reliability. Leica M is by far more reliable than Contax system: am yet to have a neg ruined by the camera, while with Kiev/Contax it happened on and off. Best way to put it, Contax is a brick but is quirky, you can learn its quirks and live with it, but with Leica M you don't have to. But, don't drop a Leica :)
I don't now if it qualifies, but the camera I use in hill-walking trips is the humble and small FED-50. It has survived jumps, water, dust, mud, dirty hands and falls - on a variety of grounds, some of them very hard. keeps working as a beauty. Weak point : the fixation lugs for the neck strap do not resist if you have to crawl on the ground. even with the camera under the coat.
The IIIc and IIIf are pretty tough, if for any reason that they are so simple. For one thing the RF seems to be a lot less delicate than on the M cameras. The IIIf has an improved shutter that is less prone to bounce.
Obviously the M series is very tough, with the track record to prove it. As has been mentioned earlier, the RF itself is the weak spot and can be knocked out of alignment, if it gets a good bash. In my experience the post M4 cameras are more prone to having the RF going vertically out of alignment. The M3 and M2 are particularly sensitive to impact, because their prisms are glued with Canadian Balsam that becomes brittle with age.
If I had to make a list of the toughest cameras I would say the Nikon F/F2/F3 is at the top along with the Leicaflex SL, the M4, and believe it or not the Hasselblad 500 series.
I would also add the Canon EOS 1-v to that list. Very, very tough and heavily sealed.
My Olympus XA-2, though not a rangefinder (it's scale focus), has been bashed about in all sorts of circumstances from snow through rain to tropical sun. It's travelled the world with me and just keeps on going. I'm not gentle with cameras either btw.
A friend had a Ricoh Singlex SLR camera that he swore was the toughest camera he'd ever used. The thing weighed a ton but he joked it was a good travelling camera because it doubled as a hammer, weapon, rock etc.
I think my vote would be my IIf. It has taken so much shaking... However, the CLE did the same and gave no trouble at all. But the CLE is battery-dependent.
My M's haven't been mistreated like the IIf or the CLE (yet), so I don't know.
my vote goes to the Nikon S2.
they just keep on ticking.
The Barnacks seem to be as tough as nails. At least my IIIc is.
The older M series is a close second.
my two canon P's have proven to be pretty tough little buggers. Simpele finder, solid construction. Even if the RF gets out of alignment they're dead simple to put back (small screwdriver in the camera bag takes care of it in no time).
Having curtains that won't burn is a plus too.
This summer I took one of my IIIC's with me on what I thought was going to be a short hike. It turned out that the site I was going to look at was an hour's climb up some very rough terrain in 100 degree weather. Anyway, I fell twice coming down both times right on the Elmar 50 which caused the infinity lock to bend out at a 90 degree angle and I lost the little screw that stops you from focusing closer than 3 meters, and the camera itself lost quite a bit of vulcanite both times.
I took it in for a CLA when I got back, and it turns out that the camera and lens were fine. The rangefinder was still spot on. The only thing that was wrong with it was that the fast speeds were a little too fast-but that was happening before I left.
Plus, I can only imagine how mad I would have been if it had been an M with a newish Summicron that I fell down on.;) I was only mildly concerned about the potential of hurting my Barnack.
I can honestly say I've only ever dropped one camera, my Minolta Z1 digital. It bounced across the hard kitchen floor from shoulder height. Not a mark on it and it still works perfectly!
I know accidents happen but I'm always careful not to drop *any* camera, so far just that one incident to mar things.
Just the info I was looking for. I've actually been eye-balling the Nikon.F group for a couple of months.
I too have jolted one [of six] Zorki RF out of kilter, but not bad. The strap broke on one of my Barnacks which in turn plummeted to a full header on a concrete driveway... but walked away unmolested. :bang: :eek: :angel:
I'm not too easy on equipment myself, but the models Zorki.1 and Leica.III that I have seem ready for about anything despite their age and yeah, the little quirks here and there. :cool:
Thanks guys for all input. Interesting stuff... and I'd welcome any other additions. http://www.rangefinderforum.com/forums/images/icons/icon14.gif
Another vote for the Leica IIf. Simplicity.
Don't forget that the Speed Graphic and the Linhof Super Technika are rangefinder cameras -- I suspect that either of those could flatten any of the above in a pounding contest.
Also, there's gotta be someone on the group who owns a Graflex KE-4 (or its civilian cousin, the Graphic 70,) a 70mm rangefinder system camera designed for the US Government by Hubert Nerwin of Zeiss-Ikon fame; his other credits include the Contax II and IIa, Tenax II, and Contessa, but if you needed a camera that could be used in a pinch for hand-to-hand combat, you'd pass over any of those in favor of this beast:
(Picture from Zeiss Historica website)
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