View Full Version : How did you get into rangefinder cameras?
Time to come forward!
According to my wife, rangefinders are for photography geeks. I think I can agree with her, because, at least in my case, when I discovered rangefinders I was kinda bored of the SLR stuff. I had done macro, landscape and a bit of portrait with mine, but when it came to street and candids... I was at a loss.
Then I had to go to Iowa City.
Exploring a camera store, I saw a Bessa R with a 50mm lens for sale. The guy wasn't being unreasonable: he wanted $500 for the whole setup. Handling the camera my heart started to race: a whole new world opened up. I ran home and started planning to get myself a Contax, but I was advised to go the rangefinder way slowly, and for a bit less money, so I bought my Canonet and a few more compacts and here I am, turned into a RF enthusiast able to enjoy the benefits of the SLRs as well. In fact, when I travel, I carry both, my SLR and my Canonet (or some other RF).
So, what's your story? How did you get into rangefinder cameras?
well, it was a long time ago...
actually when i was much younger i started to read some photo mags and it got me thinking about becoming a photographer.
i read all the adverts and everything i could get my hands on re. cameras etc.
i bought my first camera shortly thereafter, an olympus 35rc, which i still have.
i then decided i needed a 'real' camera.
i bought a miranda sensorex, then a canon f1, then a nikon f2 and then a couple of olympus om1s.
after being quite happy with the whole slr thing, i decided that my style and preference for street shooting might be more condusive to using a rangefinder.
i bought a leica m4p and a 35 mm leica lens. hated it with no meter and moved on to a minolta cle and all 3 lenses. eventually had 2 sets of each.
then decided that medium format was the way to go, failing eyesight and arthritis in my hands, were also factored into this decision.
so i bought a mamiya 6 with normal & 150mm lens. eventually got a second body.(which is now for sale)
that's my story and i'm stickin' to it.
I saw a Canonet at used, and wanted it because of size, the leaf shutter, and I wanted a fast lense.
For me, it's a matter of early exposure. In 1954, when I first got interested in photography, RF was just about the only 35 mm game in town. There were a few SLRs, but they were clumsy and/or crude for serious street/PJ use. Most of the high end photo community used screw mount Leicas, soon to be replaced by the M3 introduced that year, Zeiss Contax and its Japanese "copy," Nikon. The rest of us used any of a considerable number of fixed lens cameras of varying prices and capabilities. I went through a considerable number of them, liked some more than others.
Other formats: the 4X5 Speed/Crown Graphic was a popular camera then. It made a workable hand held press camera and was equipped with a rangefinder. I used several of them owned by schools or other entities for which I did photography from time to time. Grizzled Old Timers used to disdain RF focusing, claiming that any real photographer would set distance by scale. Being an unreal photographer, I used the RF. Now that I am among the Grizzled, I still use the RF on my own Graphic when I am shooting hand held Polaroids. Reality is such a crutch.
From the late 1960s on I have probably relied more on SLRs, but there has always been RF 35s in my kit for those time when it made sense for some applications. They weren't always the most expensive ones, either. A modestly priced RF with a leaf shutter was just the thing for fill flash back when 1/60th sec was the fastest SLR synch speed, or if the picture had to be taken Most Discretely. At almost all times I carried one or another Olympus, Canonet, Minolta etc. on a short quick release strap under my jacket, which made my compulsive snapshooting possible.
I was not satisfied with any of the MF RF systems on the market, however, until the Mamiya 6. I could never justify the $, however, until after they were discontinued and the prices of used ones became reachable. That's my current outfit of choice, and even though it's a handful, that's what I tote everywhere.
RF cameras best fit most of the photography I do, although I have no prejudice against any of the other types. All have their place.
The first "good" camera I learned to use in the late 70s (I was 10 ish) was a Yashica rangefinder. I believe my uncle still has that camera and I told him that if he comes across it I would like it. My father has said for the last 25 years that camera took the best pictures of any camera he has ever owned. Well, I grew up and have been shooting EOS since graduating from college for the past 13 years or so, until I decided that I wanted to get a manual camera again back in December. I considered a Nikon FM3a until I saw a little article in Popular Photography about that little "wonder camera," the Canonet, and now I carry that, or my Bessa, or my Konica S3 with me every day, mostly loaded with TMax or Tri-X, and use the SLR for events and on vacations.
Well, actually my only previous contact with a rangefinder was during the Sonimag Foto fair here in Barcelona. I had the opportunity of trying a Voigtlander Bessa-R, and found it quite interesting, altough I was a SLR user...
Even though, I think the way I ended with a couple of RF cameras is worth mentioning... nonetheless is pretty strange... :)
I was looking for information about how to restore black paint from cameras, in order to do it with a beaten up Minolta SRT I acquired "by accident".
Starting from Google, I found this fantastic site (http://www.kyphoto.com/classics/forum) , which lead me to this again fantastic site (http://www.geocities.com/fzorkis), and this is the way how I ended owning a FED-2 w/Industar 26M, a Zorki 3M w/Jupiter-8, and a black Jupiter-12 :)
It's interesting how life (or the internet) redirect us to our destiny... isn't it ? :D
taffer, thanks for the site addresses.
"According to my wife, rangefinders are for photography geeks."
i need more info. how is it that i'm a geek?
Joe, it goes like this:
One day while we were driving I was extolling the virtues of the Canonet (for a change...). Then she simply said: "you know what? You're a photography geek."
"Then, if you like the Canonet you're a geek?"
"Yes, that's a camera for photography geeks."
I kinda liked it... Hence, the quote. She likes it too...
ah, i see.
you made the classic male mistake!
talking about things in detail, that are of absolutely no interest to the female of the species.
i get that when i talk camera, cars, tires, home theatre equipment etc.
makes perfect sense now...
I not only got into rf cameras, but went nuts collecting cameras when I was first exposed to cameras of the Former Soviet Union (FSU) by a friend. He bought a FED 5b off *bay for $20.00 and was showing it to me. I was fascinated with the purely mechanical operation of the camera and I was determined to get one. IIRC, I traded a Zeiss Contaflex Super for the FED 5b and a Voigtlander. I've been hooked ever since.:)
My first exposure to RF's was early in my collecting. I bought an Argus C3 and a Kodak 35RF at an estate sale. I already had an SLR but there was just something about lining up those two images... now I can't stop lusting after that one last camera.
I was looking for a camera to supplement my Hasselblad outfit.
I wanted something in metal, something with a solid feel and with good glass. Also wanted a fast, fixed lens as I didn't intend to grow the system but rather use it as a good snapper.
Seached and read and finally found the Olympyus 35SP rangefinder and it met all my criterias and then some. The spot metering is just dead-schmack accurate and the 7 element fixed zuiko lens is amazing.
I even brought it on my honey moon :-)
First rangefinder I remember was an Olympus. I don't remember what model it was. I really loved that little camera. I got it based on a magazine article recommending rangefindrs as backups for SLR's. Later it got stolen along with a TLR. It was compact, automatic, and easy to use.
Some time after that, I got a Super Press 23 by Mamiya. Best of both worlds. It is a rangefinder, and a larger MF than the TLR. I have taken a lot of photos with that Press 23. It also has interchangable backs, and can use sheet film. What's not to like? Did I mention interchangable lenses? Of course, it is a lot harder to fit in my pocket than the old Olympus was.:D
But it is still lighter than an SLR in MF, and with a focusing back, I can be just as persnickity with my composition, if not as fast. I like the rangefinder as a focus mechanism as that makes it faster when I am not using the focus back, and easier in low light. With its side mounted handle and long back, it is surprisingly 35mm like to use, just bigger. Surprisingly fast to use also.
Did I mention I like it?;)
I went into a pawn shop about 15 years ago and there was an M3 with a Summarit, 400mm Telyt and a visoflex. The shop owner was showing me the camera and put his finger on the visos mirror. At this time I didn't really know anything about Leicas (I was just a poor ignorant student) and I didn't know if it was worth the $150.00 he was asking, but the quality of it seemed good and I hated to see the guy touching the mirror so I bought it.
The shutter speeds were erattic and the Summarit lens was a dog so I eventually sold it for over ten times what I paid for it. As soon as it was gone, I regretted selling it (or as soon as the money was gone).
I have bought many Japanese Rangefinders, got my Dad's IIf and haven't rested until I got a M4. If only I would have kept the M3, I might have just kept cursing the low contrast lens and not started collecting rangefinders.
Chad that's a great looking photo as your avitar - do you have it posted somehere a bit bigger?
Chad that's a great looking photo as your avitar - do you have it posted somehere a bit bigger?
Thanks. The picture can be seen at
Ah, I sure can pick 'em :-) Ofcourse it was the winning photo!
Hmmm.....a Canonet.....hmmm..... Don't have one of those.......hmm
I really enjoy mine. The small size makes it easy to carry. I've heard differing views on the lens. Mine is sharp and contrasty. The shutter speeds only go up to 500 and the meter only works on automatic and takes mercury cells or an alkaline equivialant. But if you can get one cheaply it is a good camera.
I got into it back in 1978, I was 14 yrs old in Junior High School and started to monkey around w/one of my dad's rangefinders. I started to shoot some sports photos for my school newspaper and my faculty advicsor actually submitted 10 of my shots to my local weekly paper. They ended up running all of my shots, providing me with a credit line and actually paying me for them! I was hooked at this point and commenced onto a professional career that lasted until I was 32 yrs old and I was a commercial advertising photographer for a major Philadelphia retail chain (catalog and newspaper fashion stuff, from 2 1/4 square format to 8X10 sheet film) I've always enjoyed the ease of use of rangefinders and the simplistic technical aspects of using them, they also yeild some of the most spontaneous images I've ever taken. Often pros will smirk at rangefinders but if you show them the images captured by one with a classic lens design they will want to know more, because it's less fluff and techno jargon (no digital manipulation, etc) it's just plain old shooting skill, composition, exposure, focus, etc. It's primal I guess
Summitar, your signature says it all...
Found an old camera in my neighbor's trash.* He said, "You want that old camera? It's not working; Take it if you want it."
"It" turned out to be a Canonet QL 17 in the case with a Canon D flash. I added a new battery and light seals. Haven't looked back since.
*Why was I looking in the trash? I was walking my dog and she stuck her nose in it.
Either luck or fate, JP, here you are now... addicted! :) :) :p
I came to range finders by way of a digital coolpix 880, purchased a couple years ago. The camera fit my purposes for some web things I was (and am) still working on. The imediacy of image capture to computer really is amazing. I was able to review a lot of pictures almost instantaneously - no turn around time trips to the lab. The web stuff was adaquate enough (but just barely). Very shortly the web became the least interesting to thing me. The quick turn -around- time afforded me a sense of a personal visual narrative, previously unacertained in other media. Trips to the developer would never have happened. What is it that I want to hold still long enogh to look at? One needs/ learns to be patient. Well, um, enter my interest in film , because digitals won't do it for a good spell.
The funny thing is --is that I am the proud owner of three rf's by way of ebay. - none of which are operable at the moment. Which still puts me in a position of a wannabe. Really, I don't relish the idea of camera repair, but one does what they must. I'll get there. Every camera formatt (eh, em time) has it's limits, but There are some absolutely wonderful, sometimes even stunning portfios produced by members on this site that tell me that this is a rich formatt to pursue. And a wannabe might not be a bad place to start!
got my first when someone listed an olympus ec on ebay under slr cameras. i guess because it wasn't listed under rangefinders nobody bidded on it. got it for about $15. camera was in mint condition (seller offered me $30 if he didnt have to sell it; i assured him his baby found a good home with me). as summintar stated i was amased by the simplicity of the camera and the excellent images it takes. i love this model for street photography because it has zone focusing. have since aquired as many of the old classics as i can afford (canonet, rollei, olympus). they all are great cameras and conversation pieces with younger people who only know point and shoots.
My mother's cousin gave me a Polaroid Swinger for high school graduation at age 17 - 1967. I really liked it, but soon chafed under its inherent limitations and high cost of film. I commandeered Dad's Retina 1, which he hadn't used in years. My friend Roger taught gave me an old GE light meter, taught me the basics of exposure and also B&W darkroom work, and away I went. I became an avid amatuer at that point.
After a year of using the Retina, I retired it and bought a used Nikon F, Photomic T (I just found the receipt for the long-gone Nikon a few weeks ago).
I liked the Nikon a lot, but in 1973, I got a copy of the recently-revised "Leica Manual" by Morgan (or is it Morgan & Morgan?) That book caused me to be fascinated with Leicas, and by September of '73, I bought a Lecia IIIc and Serenar 50mm lens at Olden Camera in NYC. A year later, I bought a collapsible 50mm Summicron, also at Olden.
Over the next few years, I used the Leica extensively, even as I sold the Leica and bougth some OM-1's, lenses, etc. I eventually bought a DS M-3 and a Minolta CL.
Sadly, I sold all my cameras around 1980-81 - getting married, buying our first house, and raising a family brought other priorities.
Twenty-plus years later, in late 2001, I decided to plunge back into my old hobby. Leicas were much to expensive for me by then, so I started collecting and using Soviet rangefinders. My favorite is now the FED-2 series, especially the next-to-last model, characterized by dual Latin/Cyrillic logo, vulcanite covering, and strap lugs. I also very much enjoy my Kiev 4 and Kiev 4a.
Around 1958, when I was a junior in high school, I purchased an Argus C-3 from a classmate for five dollars. It was my first rangefinder camera. In 1960 I upgraded to a Japanese Beauty Super II with a fixed 45mm Canter f 2.0 lens, a truly wonderful little rangefinder camera and lens which I bought for $35 via mail order. This was my main camera until 1970 when I bought a Canon FT-QL (another great camera). From 1970 to around 2002 I only used Canon SLRs (manual focus). Now I am getting reinterested in rangefinders, especially Russian ones which I have purchased on eBay such as the Fed 1g, Zorki 4, and Kiev 4am.
I got interested when I figured out I could either use a rangefinder or I could take out-of-focus pictures. I just can't do ground glass focusing unless I spend lots of time doing it. The Rangefinder is instant, and I trust it. I've not been let down, except by the Contax G2 and that only because I didn't have a great understanding of the system first.
I have a nice Nikon SLR Outfit I am satisfied with. Been shooting 35mm since 1969 when I bought a Minolta SRT 101 and a 58mm f/1.4 with my paper route earnings. It replaced a viewfinder 35mm from sears which I loaned to a girl and never got back. Which replaced a Kodak instamatic 101. Remember the flash cubes? I date myself. I like shooting the Nikon for many things. It is what I take when the the task at hand is photography. But there is a need that the Nikon and quiver of lenses just does not fill. That being a stealthy street camera which does not shout PHOTOGRAPHER to all around. Its true, people hardly notice the Olympus 35 SP and are not alarmed by it like they are when I have the Nikon and its 28-70 f/2.8 and SB 28 speed light mounted. It has been great and I have been collecting some nice photos with it. That RF with its fast f/1.7 lens and the appropreate film allows me to take available light photos without flash which adds to its stealth. Another use for the range finder is in near infared photography. I like to use opaque IR filters and on an SLR that means I can not see my composition. But with a range finder it not a problem. The SP does not have a "R" on its focusing scale nor the hyperfocal markings. But my Yashica LYNX does so I use that for the IR shots. I find that the RF is on my sholder or in the car quite often as it is easy to carry. And the images I get with it are as good as I am getting with my Nikkors. Just not as fast nor as versital. Those fast pro zooms are a tough act to follow.
After using my Yashica SLR during college, and graduating to a Nikon FG in the early 80s, I drifted away from photography for a while. My entre' into classic cameras was an Argus C-3, purchased about 1993. Since then I have acquired a couple Retinas and, most recently, a Kiev IV.
Rangefinders can be a lot of fun, but they are not for every purpose. SLRs clearly have the edge in versatility.
My primary focus is on Zeiss Ikon cameras. I think that the Contaflex series of SLRs is the greatest thing since the sexual revolution. Yet the lure of Contax (or Commie Contax Copies) and compact, high quality rangefinders continues. I just need a good deal on a Contax IIA......
my memory is so bad, but someone had one for sale here awhile back. would have bought it myself if i had the money.
I used twin lens reflex cameras rather than single lens reflex cameras to shoot weddings because the medium format SLR cameras were too noisy for my taste. Even though I loved the 2¼ square (6x6cm) medium format TLR cameras, when I finally replaced them I decided to switch to the slightly larger 6x7cm and 6x9cm formats. It was at that time that I made the switch from the quiet TLR to the quiet rangefinder.
As a female geek (yes, we are around) I got into rangefinders when I bought my Mamiya 6. Decided I wanted a more hand-holdable MF than those square boxes out there. Fell in love with it. Not too hard to make the adjustment from SLR for me. Then I discovered "classic cameras" via ebay. Got two wonderful Art Deco cameras (including a kodak Bantam Special that could kill someone if aimed correctly). I just love how well these old cameras are made. (probably the archaeologist speaking here). The other factor is the search for the ever-larger negative. Hence my newest town, Crown Graphic 4X5. Lovely machine. Since I'm much more partial to BW than to color, these old lenses give me the effects I want. Digital just leaves me cold--although I have no problem with other people using it I have no interest in it. I do scan and do some "proofing" with computers, but since I'm after BW I am teaching myself wet darkroom stuff. It's more real.
To me, at least.
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