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Rangefinder Photography: Out of the Shadows and Into the Sunlight
Old 06-16-2005   #1
Alex Shishin
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Rangefinder Photography: Out of the Shadows and Into the Sunlight

Rangefinder Photography: Out of the Shadows and Into the Sunlight: Part One



If I could collect the essence of rangefinder photography in the 1980s into a single image, it would be this: A cold, bright, windless Sunday morning in a major Japanese city, the sky cloudless and a searing cobalt blue, the sunlight starkly illuminating the tops of skyscrapers whose shadows darken the streets below where seedy men are rummaging through cardboard boxes. The cardboard boxes are in front of camera shops that have opened only a few hours ago. They are filled with odd items that the camera shops have accumulated over the years and are finding hard to sell. The seedy men in their rumpled clothes and with lean and hungry looks on their bestubbled faces go at each box with the rigor of paleontologists. Inside the camera shops other seedy men are peering into glass cases like hungry cats around fishbowls. They are rangefinder photographers. Grubbing through the piles of absolute junk, the Instamatics with frozen shutters, they find the rare and miraculously under-priced prizes: an external viewfinder in a tiny desiccated leather case, a vented Waltz hood, a clip-on meter with fading selenium cells. (The expensive prizes--the Leitz thread mount to M mount adapters at 15,000 yen or around $120s, for example--are easy to find as they are displayed like Tiffany jewels.) One of those seedy men is myself, a newcomer to rangefinder photography but now no less lean and hungry when searching for odd bits of equipment for my Canons and Leicas.

Back in the early 1980s you walked in the sunlight if you were an SLR photographer and skulked in the shadows if you shot with rangefinder cameras.

It was in the 1980s that pros finally decided automatic battery-dependent SLRs were okay, largely thanks to the Nikon F3. Pros were coming to like zoom lenses too and the 80s saw every sort of zoom lens, good and bad, tossed on the market. In 1980 Canon was selling the multifunctional A-1. By 1984 Minolta had created the first auto-focus SLR system. The decade finished with the fabulous Nikon F4. One of the few flashes of sunlight we rangefinder photographers experienced was the Minolta CLE. It appeared in 1980 and was out of production by 1984, an aperture-priority rangefinder camera born before its time. In 1984 Leica finally managed to put a TTL meter into an M camera without bloating it like the M5 and without resorting to the M5’s and CL’s Rube Goldberg light meters. This put the Leica M6 on par, finally, with the mechanical SLRs with TTL metering that had been around since the 1960s. Rangefinder photographers around the world rejoiced.

There were at that time dandy automatic rangefinder cameras made by all the major Japanese camera companies, colloquially misnamed as “bakachon” or “idiot” cameras. But if you wanted a new professional rangefinder camera, by 1984 you could only choose between a Leica M4-P or M6. Those of us who could not afford new Leica cameras and lenses made do with used equipment. One bit of advice I got from one of many dedicated and seedy rangefinder photogs back then was that the best combination for economy and quality was a Canon 7s and Leica thread mount lenses. A Canon 7s had frames approximate to those of a Leica M4, plus it had a built-in meter. And you did not have to spend money on outrageously overpriced out-of-production M adapters for your thread mount lenses.

Japan’s innumerable used camera shops have always stocked every camera, lens and attachment ever made. Yet, whether you shot Leicas, Nikon Ss, Canons, or any number of Barnack Leica knock-offs, something you needed for your system was invariably unavailable, broken or too expensive. By the mid-1980s, two decades had passed since Nikon and Canon had made their last professional 35mm rangefinder cameras: just enough time for good equipment to end up in hands of collectors or to be worn down, traded for new stuff and left to the rest of us in cardboard boxes.

That is was what it was like in Japan, the El Dorado of everything photographic. It must have been worse elsewhere when it came to getting quality rangefinder equipment. You wonder what kept rangefinder photographers going without the present “Rangefinder Renaissance” in sight. I can only speak for myself, though no doubt I am speaking for others.

I was an SLR and zoom lens man in the early 1980s when I decided I wanted a rangefinder camera for shooting speakers at conferences. I wanted a camera with a quiet shutter that I could hand hold at slow speeds with the fastest film available, which was rated at ASA 400. Then, somehow, I became a rangefinder freak. It was absolutely not because I had decided to dedicate my photographic life to street photography at that point and to use the traditional street photographers’ tools. Yes, I found rangefinder cameras to be marginally less obtrusive because of their relatively quiet shutters. That, however, wasn’t all. I loved their simplicity and compactness. But there were compact SLRs as well, while simplicity has more to do with your state of mind than the camera. In the end I loved the feel of rangefinder cameras. They somehow felt right for the shooting I was doing while everything felt somehow awkward. This is vague and totally subjective; its not the stuff that sells rangefinder cameras. Yet, it must be the way other rangefinder photographers feel. How else can you explain the rangefinder renaissance happening at this moment against all odds: I mean at a time when SLRs are not only auto-everything but digital as well? Leica photographers are forever teasing each other about being “fondlers.” That speaks volumes about the ergonomics of not only Leica rangefinders but rangefinder cameras in general.

If there has to be a designated inaugural year for the rangefinder renaissance it probably should be 1999. In that year Cosina, under the leadership of Mr. Kobayashi, introduced the Bessa L and the 15/4.5 and 25/4 lenses. To be sure the rangefinder renaissance had been brewing for a while. Tom Abrahamsson had been producing Rapidwinders for Leica M cameras since 1988. The autofocus G1 and G2 Contaxes, while technically not rangefinder cameras, followed the professional rangefinder concept and introduce reasonably priced rangefinder-style lenses in the 1990s. The Mamiya New 6, a CLE derivation, made a brief appearance in the 90s and was replaced by the Mamiya 7. The brilliant Fuji TX-1 (a.k.a. Hassselblat XPAN-1) also hit the scene. Various commemorative and expensive rangefinder lenses were appearing from the likes of Riccoh and Minolta. But it was Cosina, under the Voigtlander name, that really put the possibility of a modern rangefinder system into the hands of the ordinary photographer. Cosina was aiming at the Japanese market before any other, which included the cardboard box scroungers.

A few words must be said about Cosina’s president, Hirofumi Kobayashi, the Leonardo da Vinci of the rangefinder renaissance. When you meet him, you’ll find Mr. Kobayashi to be a quiet, somewhat shy man and unassuming. But one characteristic about him will stand out: he listens to you; he takes your ideas about photographic equipment seriously. When I met him briefly in Tokyo in late March, 2005 I sketched out a few quick designs I had for clip-on light meters. Though he had to divide his attention between luminaries like Tom and Tuulikki Abramhamsson, Stephen Gandy and Robert White in the limited time he could spend with us, Mr. Kobayashi paid attention to my ideas and asked questions about how these meters might work. He asked if he could keep my drawings and gave me his card. It is most likely that nothing will come of my designs. But the important thing is that Mr. Kobayashi, the president of the most important rangefinder producing company in the world along with Leica, took the time to listen to me, a relative nobody in the camera world. This man, a rangefinder enthusiast himself, listens to photographers, takes them seriously and has been willing to take risks to satisfy them.

Thanks to Mr. Kobayashi (with the help of his many friends) Cosina has produced cameras in Leica thread and M mount and classic Contax and Nikon S mount within the span of a few short years. More than that, Cosina produced improved versions of rangefinder accessories that one only found by shifting through the stocks of the used cameras stores: a compact clip-on meter, external finders, inexpensive Leica thread mount to M mount adapters, and, above all, optically excellent and reasonably priced Leica thread mount lenses to replace the ancient stuff that was either optically so-so by modern standards, too expensive, or disintegrating. And Cosina put a TTL meter into the Bessa L as it did subsequently into the Bessa R, a design reminiscent of the Canon 7 and 7s. Cosina was not the first to put a TTL meter into a non-Leitz rangefinder camera. The one-man Yasuhara Camera Company did that. Cosina was the most successful in the mass market. (After making cameras for China, Yasuhara folded in 2004.) Cosina Voigtlander did more, indirectly, than put new lenses and accessories into the hands rangefinder photographers. The bonus for us was that the new Voigtlander equipment brought down the prices of a lot of good used equipment. Today Leitz M adapters for Leica thread mount lenses cost about two-thirds of what they were in the 1980s.

The crown jewel of the Voigtlander entourage remains the 15/4.5 in it old LTM and SL versions (Nikon F mount but adaptable to Leica and Contax/Nikon mounts). Once the only 15 mm rangefinder lens on the market was the Zeiss Hologon 15/8 in Leica thread mount. It went for something like $10,000. The Kyocera Contax 16/8, introduced in the 90s, cost about a tenth of the Hologon and could be adapted to Leica threading mount for a stiff price. The Voigtlander 15/4.5 came with its own external finder and listed for around $600. Even Leica saluted this lens in an issue of “Leica Photography.” If there ever was a grand symbolic gesture that rangefinder photography was moving into the sunlight of mainstream photography after an eclipse of some forty years, it was the manufacturing of the Voigtlander 15/4.5.

An important factor in launching the rangefinder renaissance was the Leica M design going into the public domain. The brilliant Leica M mount blew away the rangefinder systems of Nikon and Canon (who, as we know, came to dominate the SLR market, and, hence, the camera market as well). As long as the M mount patent remained the exclusive property of Leica, Leica held the reins of any rangefinder renaissance. As soon as it could not, and the M mount became universal, it was a gold rush. The automatic aperture priority Hexar rangefinder and Bessa R2 followed. And the rest is well-known history.

That history is an absolutely remarkable example of parallel evolution. In 2000, just five years ago, when professionals were already using digital SLRs, a mechanical Leica thread mount rangefinder camera with muli-frames and TTL metering was a supreme novelty. Today in 2005, as has been pointed on in this Forum, there is only one current production rangefinder camera, the Leica MP, that is fully mechanical. All other rangefinder cameras on the market, the Leica M7, the Bessa R2A and R3A, the Fuji TX-2 (Hasselblat XPAN-2) and the upcoming Zeiss Ikon, are automatic. And there is now even a digital rangefinder camera, the Epson RD-1 (developed in conjunction with Cosina) that is no doubt the harbinger of things to come, like a Leica M digital camera and / or (let’s hope) a digital back for M cameras. Orangutans suddenly evolving to rival humans in intelligence and industry would be no more remarkable than the sudden evolution of the rangefinder camera.

The dominance of the automatic rangefinder camera is a sure sign that rangefinder photography has stepped out of the shadows and into the sunlight. Today, a rangefinder photographer can count him and herself as someone normal. We have seen it happen. The wonder remains: Why?

In a desultory sort of way I have touched on the practical reasons why photographers use rangefinder cameras and even prefer them over SLRs. Rangefinders are supposed to be quieter, lighter and less obtrusive than SLRs. Well yes, but... Rangefinders are quieter but not silent. They are lighter, but they are not that light. And the idea that they are not obtrusive, or less obtrusive than SLRs, is highly questionable. More on that later. For now, I would like to talk about two factors drawing people to rangefinder cameras that is peripherally connected to utility and more to how the human psyche (or soul, if you will) functions.
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Old 06-16-2005   #2
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Rangefinder Photography: Out of the Shadows and Into the Sunlight: Part Two



Technical evolution is never altogether good. While we swap snake oil for penicillin, on one hand, useful and pleasant things are pushed aside and destroyed. After a technological evolutionary jump there invariably occurs a return , a rebirth. The public garden and park as urban phenomena (dating back least to the Babylonian Empire) is a case in point. Before we humans conquered nature with the walled city we did not need to recreate nature around us. After we became urbanites we did. How badly we urbanites need to have natural settings nearby can be seen by the existence of Central Park in Manhattan. The biggest urban park in the US, it sits on some of the most expensive real estate on Earth. Yet the greediest and most unscrupulous capitalist alive would never consider tearing up Central Park to build office buildings. The need for Central Park goes beyond the requirements of mere utility; and I believe the same is true of the rangefinder camera.

The rangefinder renaissance, not incidentally, has coincided with a number of other revivals: the bicycle in the age of the automobile, the fountain pen in the age of the computer and the disposable ball point, “slow food” in the age of fast food. Bicycling to work and eating in slow food restaurants, where the fare is free of chemicals, makes good health and ecological sense. But the fountain pen revival is another story. It has everything to do with the pleasure of recovering a lost art and appreciation for beautiful workmanship. The rangefinder renaissance rests somewhere in between the bicycle and the fountain pen revivals—a combination of practicality and the necessary human psychic drive to recover beautiful lost things.

That is one thing. The other is that the rangefinder has created a kind of cult of photographers around itself. The truth is that people like secret and exclusive clubs, however democratically minded they might be: “We few, we lucky few,” as Shakespeare wrote in Henry V. To be a true member of a truly worthwhile exclusive club you have to do something difficult, something other people cannot do or will not do. And the rangefinder, even an automatic one, engenders more difficulties than the modern SLR. You are limited in the number of lenses you can use and invariably you need external viewfinders. You eschew autofocus, sometimes TTL metering, sometimes any metering. You have advantages in shooting in low light at slow speeds over an SLR but give up many more advantages in terms of sheer convenience and versatility. But hardships are necessary to be a member of The Club. I am writing this for Rangefinderforum (RFF). Can you imagine an analogous SLR forum? I cannot for the simple reason that there is nothing unusual or romantic about ninety-nine percent of all SLRs. In this regard, do you know which SLR has obtained the highest cult status? Yup, the Nikon F. Not just any Nikon F but the Nikon F with its simple pentaprism sans meter. In top condition, a Nikon F with simple pentaprism commands prices rivaling those of many a well-kept vintage Leica . The other cult SLR that comes to mind is the Exacta, another primitive camera that has its functions exactly cockeyed. If you have mastered the craft of rangefinder shooting you might consider yourself something of a photographic Eagle Scout, though that title might be more befitting the large format aficionado. Anyway, you are at least equal to a pipe smoker as opposed to a mere cigarette smoker.

Like a member of any club, you are inexorably drawn to extolling the advantages of your membership even to the point of exaggeration. I spoke of the virtues of the rangefinder camera we lucky few regularly extol. That you can handhold a rangefinder camera in low light at lower speeds than you can an SLR and get a sharp picture is a cosmological constant. Let’s consider some virtues that we love to stretch.

The rangefinder might be lighter than the average SLR but by the time you have assembled a couple of bodies and an array of lenses you are carrying a lot more metal and glass than a simple SLR plus a wide to medium telephoto zoom lens. The rangefinder camera is much quieter than an SLR but still noisy and noisier than many a modern digital camera. And just how “unobtrusive” is it really? I’ve found that when you put a camera to your eye you call attention to yourself, even if the camera is a tiny Minox. Besides that, anyone who knows cameras will spot you out. (“Hey, dude, that’s a Nikon SP; I’ve got a Leica M3!”) You might as well be wearing a Lion’s mane as a headdress. (Of course, that special identification as a member of The Club might, in the viewer’s eyes, give you the authority to carry out certain rituals, like photographing complete strangers for the sake of the decisive moment.) Then there is the inescapable practical factor of rangefinder cameras being considerably more delicate than SLRs. I’ve knocked rangefinder mechanisms out of alignment by taking Leicas Ms on my bicycles before I knew better. Rangefinder cameras have, for sure, survived wars and other extreme conditions to take prize-winning photographs. But that was because their owners took special care to protect them. These days if you are parachuting out of an airplane, riding a mountain bike over bumpy terrain, canoeing or doing something else that is rough and tumble, the chances are you’ll take an SLR and leave your M6 at home.

There is the other practical problem: Rangefinder cameras systems are on the whole more expensive than SLR systems. Well, this is another hardship that earmarks a cult, though there are definitely ways of getting around the expenses. The old Canon Ps and Kievs are still there for the economy-minded. A relatively small amount of money will buy you a fine vintage 1950s-60s Kiev, which is essentially a prewar Contax and pretty rugged as rangefinder cameras go. Thus, for the price of new Leitz filter you can indeed join the rangefinder cabal.

This leads to the ultimate question: Technical advantages and disadvantages aside, will using a rangefinder camera make you a better photographer? The common wisdom is that it is your unique worldview that ultimately determines what sort of photographer you are. To the dumb question of “What camera and lens did you use to create your masterpiece,” the master photographer often gives the stock dumb answer along the lines of “My blood, sweat and tears, you bloody fool.” Well, yeah, in the main its true: Blood, sweat and tears are more important than equipment. Yet, that said, the true master only uses equipment that he or she is at home with. So if the rangefinder camera is the camera you feel good with, the chances are that you will take better and more meaningful photographs than if you are working with equipment you do not like but feel obliged to use. Now feeling good about equipment is a mysterious thing, one that surpasses mere utility. You may well get a spiritual boost by being a member of the cabal of rangefinder camera users. However ridiculous this might seem under rational scrutiny, if it helps you take better pictures it is perfectly fine. There is one other thing that might help you take better pictures that is a happy byproduct of being a rangefinder camera shooter.

An important aspect of cabals and exclusive clubs is bonding. Members help each other. This has been true in my case since going on-line. Almost everything I’ve learned about the digital darkroom and uploading my rangefinder camera photographs I’ve gotten from various rangefinder-oriented forums. I’ve also, of course, gotten innumerable tips on photographic technique. In the process, I have formed many fast friendships which are spiritually rewarding in themselves but also a boost to the creative spirit.

If more people become rangefinder cameras aficionados there will no doubt be more rangefinder camera equipment produced. It will likely hasten the arrival of a professional digital rangefinder camera, which the Epson RD-1, alas, is not. But will rangefinder photography become as ordinary as SLR autofocus photography? Will a forum like RRF become unnecessary? I do not believe so. The rangefinder camera will probably always be to photography what the fountain pen is to writing: beautiful, useful but the joy of a discerning few, relatively speaking. But if the ranks of the discerning few swell to become the discerning many that will be just fine too.

Having said all of this, I have a confession to make. At times I wonder if I am crazy going out with a Leica M6, M2 or a SP to shoot scenes that could be more easily captured with digital SLRs. Every time I miss a shot because I’m fiddling with f-stops, speeds and manual focusing a thought passes through my brain telling me that I am a total idiot to be using this primitive equipment. But it is only a passing thought. I am soon in tune with the rhythm I’ve become accustomed to in using a rangefinder camera and appreciating my confident control over it. I love my old Pentax LX and Pentax ist D, as well as my Nikon Fs and F2. But it is in the universe of rangefinder photography where my creative soul dwells. I cannot tell you why. In the end I cannot even tell the curious and uninitiated why they should join us.

Rangefinder photography is not for everyone. But if you choose to joint us few, us luck few, the chances are that you’ll have fun and just possibly create photographs of startling beauty that will amaze you.
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Old 06-16-2005   #3
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Wow! Alex, thank you for this.
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Old 06-16-2005   #4
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Yeah, good read!!
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Old 06-16-2005   #5
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bravo!

well thought out and interesting to read.

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Old 06-16-2005   #6
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Ichi Ban!

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Old 06-16-2005   #7
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Excellent piece of writing. Thanks.
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Old 06-16-2005   #8
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Hate to break the romance of the "discerning few" here, but a little Nietzsche on the human psyche and how it functions...

"What if truth were a woman? Well, now, is there not some foundation for suspecting that all philosophers, insofar as they were dogmatists, have not known how to handle women? That the gruesome earnestness, the left handed obtrusiveness, with which they have usually approached truth have been unskilled and unseemly methods for prejudicing a woman in their favor?"

back to the shadows...where light is given a context to take shape.
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Old 06-16-2005   #9
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Thank you, Mr. Shishin.
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Old 06-16-2005   #10
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And A.G. I am humbled by you both.
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RF Photography: Die Fröhlichen Wissenschaft?
Old 06-17-2005   #11
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RF Photography: Die Fröhlichen Wissenschaft?

Thank you one and all for your comments. And, of course, the quote from Nietzsche.

My favorite Nietzsche aphorism (from Beyond Good and Evil, I think) is: "To recover the seriousness of a child at play."

Nietzsche understood children better than women. It is doubtful that he handled any. It is also a pity that he died at a comparatively young age before the invention of the Leica rangefiner camera. You know how people like to imagine what Ansel Adams would do with digital photography, or whether HCB would have done such a great job with the puddle hopper in the back of Gare St. Lazare if he were using an SLR instead of a Leica RF? Well, how about imagining what Nietzsche would have done with an RF camera. Would he have considered street photography to be beyond good and evil for instance?

Anyway, my fellow We Few, We Happy Few, it is late at night here in camera crazy Japan and I'm going to turn in and sleep on it.

Thank you once again for all your comments.
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Old 06-17-2005   #12
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Ooh, a Henry V quote - from King Henry V, Act 4, Scene III:

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers [and sisters];
For he to-day that [burns his or her film] with me
Shall be my brother [or sister]; be he ne‘er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in [Popular Photography Magazine] now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their [digicams] cheap whiles any speaks
That [photographed] with us upon Saint Crispin‘s day.

Or something like that.

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Old 06-17-2005   #13
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I've been through four waves fo the next big thing. All have seem to attract a wider audiende than the previous wave. Auto modes work great in easy lighting and push button menus extend the range of the camera, but there times when the added features work against the photographer. Hence, the return to a more elemental design by a few of us.

With regards to Mr. Kobayashi, he's a truly an extraordinary individual.
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Old 06-17-2005   #14
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....and to all, amen.
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Old 06-17-2005   #15
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Great and sincere essay Alex. You should've participated in the contest.
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Old 06-17-2005   #16
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thanks, alex. you created a very succinct picture of the RF world in the digital age. as the world pushes forward, we look to the logic and successes of the past to remind ourselves that the grass is not always greener...
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Old 06-17-2005   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by varjag
Great and sincere essay Alex. You should've participated in the contest.
Thanks. I did.
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Thanks to one and all
Old 06-17-2005   #18
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Thanks to one and all

This response is quite overwhelming. I am honored and humbled.
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Old 06-20-2005   #19
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Dear friends,

Would anyone care to write an essay about what if Nietzsche was an RF photographer?
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Old 06-20-2005   #20
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Sounds typically academic. But, hey, what the hell - his sister was interested in the question "what if Nietzsche was a Nazi" so I guess we could bend it whichever way we wished. Do you really think N. would care so much about what kind of camera he used? Check out the variations in his writing style...
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Old 06-20-2005   #21
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N. died in 1900 at age 56 and mentally incapacitated. He could have possibly have lived long enough to have used an early Leica.


Here is another thought: What if Jack London had lived long enough to own a Leica? London was a rangefinder. He used folding cameras.

London was only 40 when he died in 1916.

Academic? More like creative flight of fancy. Academia isn't that fancy-free.
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Old 06-20-2005   #22
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N. died in 1900 at age 56 and mentally incapacitated.

There's but a fuzzy fine line between genius and insanity.
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Old 10-27-2005   #23
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A lot was said already that resonate fully with my feelings. It is comforting to know that I am not alone on the way.
I will be 48 soon and I write software for living, photography is my hobby.
Recently I bought Contax G1 and very glad I did.
I had and still have film and digital P&S and (D)SLR. I am not an artist and would not call myself creative, I like
technical side of things. I am interested not so much in the final image but of how it was done and why.
Technology makes wonders (when it works). But sometimes it does, whatever it does, on its own will without our
knowledge or consent, imposing on us its rules and forcing us to obey. Instead of masters we are becoming slaves.
Yes, with digital wonders we still decide when to pull the trigger but the result is often out of our control.
More precisely - we think we have control when in fact we have just an illusion of control.
Today's digital cameras are designed for snaps and we are allowed to shoot as much of them as we want,
hundreds, thousands of pictures.. but they all come out the same. Less or more pretty, but
it is the same picture all over again. Try to make something different, unique,- and you are in the deep trouble.
Technology gets on your way and fights you to make its pretty snap (or nothing) by all means.
Of course you can shoot RAW but then you have to spend hours with obscure, slow software (manipulating 64MB image
is heavy, plus PS layers etc..) full of cryptic options, million parameters, features that can take lifetime to master.. And all this
is just to make YOUR vision prevail. It is a bitter fight and most people just settle for the standard out of the box
pretty snaps. Reminds me of Pete Seager song - little boxes full of ticky-tacky and they all come out the same
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Old 10-27-2005   #24
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Couldn't the same arguement be made by a painter against photography?
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Old 10-27-2005   #25
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Yes, I think you have valid point here. But I am not gifted to be a painter so probably taking pictures with RF is as close as I can get to the image-making.. Anyway, I enjoy the process of taking pictures - magic to record light on film. Digital just dont do it for me.
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Old 10-27-2005   #26
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Hey, gang, how long has it been since you saw writing of this caliber in a periodical?
HAVE you ever seen anything such as this?

Alex, this is what I cherish about this site--people you'd never have a chance to meet sharing knowledge and observations so illuminating that I'm humbled and enlightened all at once.

I'm old enough to have seen the changes of which you speak, and having been in photo retail from 1976 through 2003 I saw some of it from the inside. Even so, your account clarifies the period for me and presents it in a more coherent fashion than my own memory can.

This is an example of not only superb writing, but of acute observation, distilling decades of change into a couple of pages.

Remarkable.

Thank you,

Fred Morrison
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Old 10-27-2005   #27
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I am happy I noticed this thread being bumped onto the new posts lists for me, as I didn't read Alex's posts initially.

Wow, Alex, that was wonderful, and captures the essence of various truths, IMO. It is really hard for me to convey to others how the feel and image-capture process of a certain camera makes me feel. It IS about the image, but, as you have noted, the tool-aided process can enhance the possibility of that image being realized.

So, I feel it with an Olympus SP, and also with an OM and a good prime. Others connect with other models, and that's great.

Part of the glory of life's journey is the journey itself.

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Old 10-27-2005   #28
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Geez...and the only reason why I got me a RF camera was to try somthing different together with my SLR and DSLR gear!

Now I find I'm part of a "movement"!

Not sure about that but BTW: there is something I have yet to comprehend:

Why would anyone want to have an AF rangefinder? I'll grant you the digital stuff if that's your wont. After all, digital or film are just the "medium" (although I prefer film for RF work to "keep it in period").

But isn't the "talent of focusing" part of the RF "art"? Am I missing something?

If all one aspires to is to possess an AF digital RF I would humbly suggest that you "focus" on one of the (increasing) many P&S cameras - some of which are now almost as thin as a dime.....
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Old 10-27-2005   #29
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First let me say that I really enjoyed your writing Alex, well thought out and well said. I'm glad to see it got a bump to the front page.

Every time I lust after newer, better gear, I just remind myself that my best and most sought-after photos (by my friends anyway) were taken with my simplest (and my favorite) camera: a humble Olympus Trip 35. No bells, no whistles, just scale focus, compose, and shoot. It feels like no other camera in my hand.
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Old 10-27-2005   #30
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Wow, Alex this is excellent! I don't know how I missed this when it was first posted.

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Old 10-27-2005   #31
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Old 10-27-2005   #32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alex Shishin
In the end I cannot even tell the curious and uninitiated why they should join us.

Rangefinder photography is not for everyone. But if you choose to joint us few, us luck few, the chances are that you’ll have fun and just possibly create photographs of startling beauty that will amaze you.
Alex,
I would not say it wasn't interesting to read your contribution but for me there remans one decisive question at the end :
Shall this all tell the "uninitiated" that using a rangerfinder is inspiring per se and gives each ofthem a chance to improve their artistic competence ?
If so I'd keep this as a startling promise. A promise which you could not explain if you were asked, as you admit.
A bit too religious, wouldn't you agree?
Like chosing the right goddess guarantees the final enlightnig experience ?
Hmm, isn't that the stoneold hope of those photogs who are too lazy to learn their lessons, one after the other, year for year ?
My experience is that a RF can't make a blind one see, and those who can see chose their brush depending on the task. Their inspiration is inside of them and it isn't triggered by a stupid gadget either.

As Claxton said: The most annoying thing in photography for him is the stupid camera between him and the object of desire.

Sounds as it would be him who belongs to the initiated !?

Bertram
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Old 11-21-2011   #33
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Yes, it's interesting, stretched through the heart of the story-philosophy. Useful advice and a guide who have taken the path of range finder.
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Old 12-03-2011   #34
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New, not always better for some.

Thanks Alex, Reading your post certainly struck a cord with me. Thank you.
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Old 06-06-2012   #35
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Bump.

Just stumbled across this great thread. Worth revisiting for sure.
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Old 06-06-2012   #36
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The starter is a remarkable piece of writing. Thanks! And, thanks to semilog for the "bump."
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Old 06-06-2012   #37
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How did this only have a handful of replies when it was written?
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Old 06-06-2012   #38
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Didn't know the thread even existed (excellent search function and musical forum chairs notwithstanding). That's a blast from the past.

Very nice read indeed. I remember having read that elsewhere in the forum.
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Old 06-06-2012   #39
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Very good read, thanks for posting.
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Old 06-06-2012   #40
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Most certainly bump worthy.
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