View Full Version : Leaf shutter, interchangeable lens rangefinder?
A comment by Bill in another thread reminded me of a prototype that was announced in the late seventies or early eighties for an interchangeable-lens, leaf-shutter 35 mm rangefinder. Possibly a Mamiya. It never went into production, as far as I know. Can anyone remember this?
Mamiya had a rangefinder called the "Magazine 35" which had interchangeable backs, but it was a fixed-lens as far as I know. I don't even know if it was a leaf-shutter, although that was the era for them and Mamiya did make leaf-shutter rangefinders.
I'm sure you already know about this website, but for others who might be interested:
Mamiya Rangefinders (http://herron.50megs.com/rangefinder.htm)
I'm trying to think of other interchangeable lens rangefinders - there were a bunch, but I can't recall them all right now...
* Braun Paxette series. 39mm screw mount, but not Leica.
* Diax Ia, IIa, IIb. Sort of a weird outer-rim screw mount.
* Voigtlander Prominent.
* Kodak Retina (not fully interchangeable, lens fronts only), except for Retina IIIS, which was a complete interchangeable lens, leaf-shuttered camera.
* Lord Lordomat and perhaps a few others.
* Regula King Regula and perhaps a few others.
* Minolta Super-A. Never seen one, just heard of them.
* DeJur III (could be wrong on the model number).
* Wittnauer Professional. Used the Compur lens mount - this was interesting because Kodak used a similar but slightly modified lens mount for the Retina IIIS and leaf-shuttered SLRs, and Voigtlander used it also for the Vitessa T (same as the Vitessa "barndoor" cameras, but with interchangeable lenses and no barn doors).
* As above, the Voigtlander Vitessa T.
These are just the ones I can remember off the top of my head. I love collecting these types of cameras. One problem with all of them is that with an exposed leaf-shutter lens, there is more potential of time-induced damage due to exposure to the elements than perhaps there is with fixed-lens leaf-shutter rangefinders.
One of the Aires models was interchangeable lens leaf-shutter as was the Werra III and the Bessamatic/Ultramatic series by Voigtlander.
Sorry, I should have remembered the Aires - after all, I'm an Aires fan (although I don't have the V, which is the interchangeable lens model). I also forgot about the Werra, although I just read a fine article about them in last week's Amatuer Photographer, a British weekly I subscribe to (Ivor Mantanle write the articles on classic cameras, love it).
But wasn't the Bessamatic/Ultramatic series SLRs? Yes, leaf-shutters, but not rangefinders as I recall.
Yes, you are right about the Voigtlander's. They were the Voigtlander analog to the Retina Reflex (almost identical mount). The rangefinder member of that lesn mount family is the Retina IIIS. Don't know what I was thinking...
I cannot recall a 35mm leaf-shutter, interchangeable lens, rangefinder from the 1980's. This was the hey-day of the Copal square FP shutter and every new cameras seems to have had it.
It must have been a still-born project.
How 'bout the best/worst leaf shuttered' rangefinder... The Voigtlander Prominent?
It's expensive right now (sadly, for such a ergonomic monster) but it wins the reputation of the "best standard lens" contest form the 50's.
Or so I hear...
Of course, that was the 50's.
What specifically was so bad about the Prominent? I've never used one.
One more!, the Argus C33.
Originally posted by pshinkaw
One more!, the Argus C33.
Oh, absolutely! And I should have remembered ('cause I have four of them), the Argus C-4 Geiss modification. The C-44 was also an interchangeable lens rangefinder.
And you 'could' include the awful US Camera Corporation thingy. I have one, and can't actually recall what it was named. Hideous workmanship. I believe the model might have been MS-35.
A rather well timed eBay listing
Collection 5 Old Cameras Argus, Falcon, Aries, Zeiss (http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=67376&item=3813000532&rd=1&ssPageName=WDVW)
My Argus C-3 is clearly my best worst camera. It is just remarkably crude. Stiff focusing, 4 shutter speeds, topping out at a blazing 1/300 sec, and a shutter that goes ...Ping! Not only is it shaped like a brick, it is about as elegant as one.
Yet despite all that, the lens is pretty good, and it takes good pictures if you do your part. It was my first "classic" camera, the one that got me started. I overpaid for it ($35), but it was in perfect condition, and had the flash gun and a dozen bulbs. I loved using them, especially people's reaction from the heat flash across the room when I took flash pictures of a family group. Then I bought a couple of Retinas and a Contaflex, and the Argus went tinto retirement :(
Doesn't everybody have a dusty C-3 in their closet? :-) Back in the mid-1960's a sergeant in my military unit told me that a few years earlier he'd been posted to duty in Honolulu, and when off-duty he'd hang around Waikiki Beach with his Argus C-3 taking post-card shots with Kodachrome (ASA 10), many of which he sold and were actually published as post-cards.
Years later I got one myself for $10, mostly for an experiment with color separation filters because it so easily allowed multiple exposures. Still have it!
Looking at the Argus C3, and at pictures of the Contax I, my "theory" is that it was "styled" on the Contax. Take a look at the two. Any thoughts?
The Argus C3 is sort of quaint in that most of the controls have labels. A bit like today's digital cameras.
My two offerings for bizarre cameras:
• The Kodak 35 with that serrated wheel attached to the side of the lens and the bakelite body.
• The Graflex 35 (also with bakelite body) with separate focusing and viewing windows, push-button focusing and a shutter release lever that 1) you have to pull sideways and 2) is on the lower part of the camera front.
One of the best interchangeable lens leaf-shutter cameras ever built (IMHO) was the Agfa Ambi Silette from 1957 to 1961. It has been referred to by Steve Gandy in his website as the "Poor Man's Leica".
The camera is solidly built with good ergonomics. It has a decently large viewfinder/rangefinder window with selectable frames sizes for 35, 50, and 90 mm lenses.
The lenses are very high quality (4 element Tessar type): very high resolution but slightly softer contrast than some of my newer lenses.
I get much enjoyment from using this classic rangefinder and find that the quality of prints made with it are very pleasing.
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