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View Full Version : Just purchased my Epson R-D1 rangefinder - First imperssions and pictures.


driggett
01-30-2005, 17:47
Hello,
I have just purchased an Epson R-D1 camera with 3 Leica lenses. I agonized over wether to get the MP or M7 or R-D1. I was impressed with the feel and ergonomics of the Epson. Felt like a very solid camera. The mp I like the look of but I prefer to have the shutter dial of the M7 closer to he front of the camera for front access with my finger. The gentleman at the store said that he had a used M7 barely used only 4 rolls of film bought by some rich kid and would sell it for 500 dollars cheaper. I asked if it still would carry the warranty and he did not know. So I called Leica USA to ask. They looked up the serial number and found out that it was registered in 2000 so it was not covered by warranty. So much for the M7 being just used! I debated between the M7 and the Epson R-D1. Film costs was about 13 dollars all told vs free digital cards. FIlm could be scanned at development time and I would get a cd full of digital images. This would take two days. The R-D1 on the other hand would be immediately available. I also remembered how being able to change the iso of the film from 200 to 1600 in mid-roll was a great advantage so another point to the R-D1. The R-D1 having the 1.0x viewfinder was another point in it's favor. I decided in the end to go for the R-D1 and get three Leica lenses. I am waiting for the battery to fully charge before I use it. One less point for digital, having to wait for the initial charge of the battery.

Well after my first day of shooting with the Epson R-D1 I have come to some conclusions and observations.
I have never shoot a rangefinder before in my life and my first camera was a Konica TC when they first came out. I was a sophomore in H.S. Thus I am a newbie at this. I shot my kids gymnastics class tonight and next time I will bring my D2H next time. Here is a URL for the pictures I shoot. I shoot at 1600 available light and in raw mode.

http://gallery.leica-users.org/Gymnastics

Here are my observations so far:

1) the camera is great for casual, street and artsy shooting.
2) The camera is lousy for action.
3) I have forgot how to focus after using auto focus for the last 15 years.
4) I am use to a large DSLR and the little rangefinder feels funny in my hands. I am a tall guy. My fingers kept getting in the way and I would change the aperture when I meant to focus.
5) Remember to change the frame line selector when switching lenses. I forgot for about 10 pictures from going from a 50 to a 35.
6) The camera is center weighted not 1005 cell color matrix! Meter as such!
7) Move your eye just slightly and you lose the focusing square. I am use to smashing my nose and eye to the viewfinder(SLR) and with this camera I have to back off my eye a little from the viewfinder to see the focusing square.
8) Learn proper technique of keeping the camera steady when taking a shot.

Thanks,
Chris

furcafe
01-30-2005, 19:08
LOL, welcome to the RF world! Remember, if you hadn't dallied w/those SLRs you wouldn't be having nearly as much trouble . . . ;) FWIW, when I got my 1st SLR, I had similar issues in reverse.



Here are my observations so far:

1) the camera is great for casual, street and artsy shooting.
2) The camera is lousy for action.
3) I have forgot how to focus after using auto focus for the last 15 years.
4) I am use to a large DSLR and the little rangefinder feels funny in my hands. I am a tall guy. My fingers kept getting in the way and I would change the aperture when I meant to focus.
5) Remember to change the frame line selector when switching lenses. I forgot for about 10 pictures from going from a 50 to a 35.
6) The camera is center weighted not 1005 cell color matrix! Meter as such!
7) Move your eye just slightly and you lose the focusing square. I am use to smashing my nose and eye to the viewfinder(SLR) and with this camera I have to back off my eye a little from the viewfinder to see the focusing square.
8) Learn proper technique of keeping the camera steady when taking a shot.

Thanks,
Chris

jlw
01-30-2005, 19:25
Here are my observations so far:

1) the camera is great for casual, street and artsy shooting.
2) The camera is lousy for action.
3) I have forgot how to focus after using auto focus for the last 15 years.
4) I am use to a large DSLR and the little rangefinder feels funny in my hands. I am a tall guy. My fingers kept getting in the way and I would change the aperture when I meant to focus.
5) Remember to change the frame line selector when switching lenses. I forgot for about 10 pictures from going from a 50 to a 35.
6) The camera is center weighted not 1005 cell color matrix! Meter as such!
7) Move your eye just slightly and you lose the focusing square. I am use to smashing my nose and eye to the viewfinder(SLR) and with this camera I have to back off my eye a little from the viewfinder to see the focusing square.
8) Learn proper technique of keeping the camera steady when taking a shot.

Thanks,
Chris

Give the R-D1 a chance after you have more experience with it, and you may find some of your problems will go away.

For example, I find the R-D1 to be excellent for action shooting; I much prefer it to an SLR. The main reason is that I can see the subject ALL the time, including the moment of shooting. This is not the case with an SLR, since the reflex mirror is up and the finder is blacked out at the moment of exposure. (As you know, with an SLR, the motto for action shooting is, "If you see it in the finder, you did NOT get it in the picture.") I find it much easier to refine my timing when I can see the subject constantly.

The other benefit for action shooting is that the 1:1 viewfinder lets you keep both eyes open and the finder shows the area outside the actual framelines,, so it is very easy to anticipate when a subject will move into the frame.

Also, while the metering system seems unsophisticated, I have found it to be very reliable. You have to use your experience to know when a compensation factor is required -- but once you apply it, your exposures generally will be good. That has NOT been my experience using matrix-type metering systems, with which it is difficult to know how much correction to apply because you can never be sure how much correction the camera has applied already!

As to changing the aperture when you meant to focus -- those controls are on the lens, so for that you have to blame Leica rather than Epson!

Have fun, and keep us posted as to your results and experiences!

Sean Reid
01-31-2005, 03:48
One trick for setting rangefinder focus for moving objects is to choose a non-moving object at a similar distance (such as the slats of a wooden floor) and set the rangefinder using that. Then study the action and make adjustments to focus on the lens (using the distance markings) according to how far the subjects have moved ahead of or behind your chosen focus marker. Sound difficult?...it is...but only initially. With practice it becomes second nature. Outdoors, using a 35mm or shorter lens, one can work at F/8 or smaller lens openings and then let the lenses natural DOF cover variations in focus distance.

One exercise I used to give students was for them to walk around with a rangefinder (no film loaded) guess the distance a given subject was from their lens, then bring the rangefinder to their eye and see how accurate their guess was. By the end of a day's practice, most people get very good at estimating distance so that the camera is pre-focused before it ever comes up to their eye. Depth of field at F/8 or smaller covers the variation between the estimated subject distance and the actual subject distance. This is also called "zone focusing". I think of this skill as gradually becoming a kind of body-knowledge much like that used by a dancer or athlete to know where things are in relation to his or her body (without concious thought or calculation). Baseball players know how and where to swing because of this kind of internalized sense of the body's relation to objects in space.

A large challenge for a rangefinder is fast action shot at or near wide-open (say F/2.8). Then there's little DOF to allow for a zone of focus and the technique I described at the top of this post can work well. Fast changing action at F/2.8 with any manual focus camera is a real challenge yet photographers have mastered it for decades. Robert Capa did not have auto-focus when he did his famous war photography (often with short lenses). I didn't use auto-focus at all until the advent of digital cameras and am now getting away from using it at all even though my 1Ds has a state-of-the-art AF system. It's better, I think, to train (or re-train) the eyes and body and require them to comprehend the relationship of the camera to objects in space. That has benefits beyond focus accuracy.

Last thought....has the quality of photography overall improved since AF and AE. I would say no.

What does "arty" mean? Is Arty is a guy that gets photographed a lot?

Cheers,

Sean

Socke
01-31-2005, 05:18
I find a rangefinder pretty good for action shots. I even tried my Contax G2 zone focused at a bicycle race:

http://www.fotoschnack.de/postnuke/html/modules/pnCPG/coppermine/displayimage.php?pos=-60
Contax G2, Sonnar 90, XP2, Six Days in Bremen 2004

http://www.fotoschnack.de/postnuke/html/modules/pnCPG/coppermine/displayimage.php?pos=-373
Contax G2, Sonnar 90, Fujipress 800, Six Days in Bremen 2004

The AF was useless, so I prefcoused the Camera as mentioned by Sean

driggett
01-31-2005, 06:20
Sean,
Thanks for the reply. Your review is one reason I bought the camera in the first place.
I use to do zone focusing when I was in H.S. and shot school sports it is just a matter of relearning the technique. My action shots today is following my kids around to try to get a shot of them. It is very difficult with a manual focus camera in low light with out a flash where your depth of field is nil. The lens I need because of where the parents have to sit is usually a 80-200 or even a 300mm lens. I do not see those being offered for a rangfinder.

My camera bag for general shooting is thus.
Epson R-D1
28, 35, 50
Hopefully soon to be added a 21 and a 90/135 lens.

My camera bag for sports or wildlife photography is
The same above with the additon of:
Nikon D2H
Nikkor 80-400mm VR lens
or
Nikkor 400mm 2.8 lens and tele convertors.

I would say yes for the average consumer and P&S photography especially digital. I look at the pictures of my wifes friends (all moms) and I must say the quality of the focusing and exposure are very good but the composition is still the same meaning no photographic thought to them but a sense of family or moment capture.

What does "arty" mean? Is Arty is a guy that gets photographed a lot?

Sorry I meant artsy;-)

Thanks,
Chris



One trick for setting rangefinder focus for moving objects is to choose a non-moving object at a similar distance (such as the slats of a wooden floor) and set the rangefinder using that. Then study the action and make adjustments to focus on the lens (using the distance markings) according to how far the subjects have moved ahead of or behind your chosen focus marker. Sound difficult?...it is...but only initially. With practice it becomes second nature. Outdoors, using a 35mm or shorter lens, one can work at F/8 or smaller lens openings and then let the lenses natural DOF cover variations in focus distance.

Last thought....has the quality of photography overall improved since AF and AE. I would say no.


Cheers,

Sean

Sean Reid
01-31-2005, 06:51
Hi Cris,

I'm glad that the review was helpful.

My personal feeling is that a rangefinder is a wonderful camera up to about a mild telephoto FOV. The 80mm FOV of a 50mm lens on the R-D1 is right about that limit for me. For longer lenses I, like you, use a DSLR. SLRs are my tool of choice when the subject is either very close (macro and near-macro) or very far away (telephoto, etc.). So I agree that for the those long focal-length pictures of kids in a gym, the DSLR is definately the way to go. It's the right tool for the job.

I agree that auto-focus, auto-exposure, etc. has made it easier for many people to take properly-focused, well-exposed pictures but its done nothing to improve the quality of the pictures themselves. That is to say, the work made with these cameras isn't any more interesting or engaging (to my eyes) than it was before. Making strong pictures is still hard work and of course focus and exposure are just the tip of the iceberg.

My comment about "arty" or "artsy" was partly meant as a joke. I hear that term used widely but have never really understood what it's supposed to mean. It gets used sometimes to describe work that's thought to be good, thought to be bad, thought to be pretentious, etc.. In the end it doesn't seem to have a meaning.

Cheers,

Sean

driggett
01-31-2005, 07:04
Sean,
I was playing on the word also. The kind of photgraphs that I liked tell a story or gave wow factor to the viewer. That is way I like news, sports and wildlife photography. I just never got fine art photography, either I didnt get it or it was just plain boring to me. But that is what is good about this world, something for everybody.
Cheers,
Chris

Sean Reid
01-31-2005, 07:26
Hi Chris,

I don't like the term "fine art photography" either but I end up using it only because there aren't good alternatives. It sounds too pretentious but until a better option comes along...

Keep us posted on how you like the R-D1 as you get more time in with it.

Cheers,

Sean

jlw
01-31-2005, 09:24
The lens I need because of where the parents have to sit is usually a 80-200 or even a 300mm lens. I do not see those being offered for a rangfinder.

My camera bag for general shooting is thus.
Epson R-D1
28, 35, 50
Hopefully soon to be added a 21 and a 90/135 lens.

Remember you'll need an aux viewfinder for any other lenses than those you already have. You can get a special Voigtlander "D-finder" that shows the coverage of a 21mm lens on the R-D1's format (or at least you can get one until Cosina runs out of them; the 25mm D-finder is already sold out!) but for a long lens you'll be on your own.

Elsewhere in the R-D1 area should be some photos showing my first experiences using some longer lenses and a '50s-vintage Tewe Polyskop auxiliary viewfinder. This would be a lot less convenient than using your Nikon DSLR gear -- for example, you can't follow-focus while looking through the aux finder, so you have to look through the aux, visualize the picture area, then switch your eye back to the camera eyepiece for tracking the subject.

I'd also be cautious about trying to use a lens longer than about 105mm on the R-D1 simply because even a slight mismatch between the aim of the aux viewfinder and of the camera/lens would cause drastic framing errors. I've already learned that it's best to set my Polyskop to about 120% of the lens' marked focal length to provide some extra safety margin in framing (this gives the roughly same coverage as the R-D1's finder frames, which show about 85% of the actual image area.)

On the good side, these lenses don't take up much bag space compared to your AF Nikkors, and as long as you're using an aux finder anyway you can pick pretty much any one that looks interesting. My 85/1.5 and 100/2 Canon screwmounts work nicely on the R-D1 with an M mount adapter, and they're much lighter and skinnier than similar SLR lenses would be.

Nikon Bob
01-31-2005, 09:54
Chris

I just had one question and that is what ISO setting did you use in the gym photos?

Bob

driggett
01-31-2005, 10:10
Bob,
1600 no flash.
Cheers,
Chris

Nikon Bob
01-31-2005, 15:35
Chris

Thanks, now I think I see what people mean when they say digital noise is like film grain. They sort of looked to me to be taken with fast film if I had not known otherwise.

Bob

DaShiv
02-01-2005, 11:54
I just want to add that even though my Canon 20D has lower measured noise in synthetic tests, the Epson R-D1's noise (and its "grain pattern") handles "pushing" (i.e. deliberate underexposure with post-processing correction) much better than the Canon's.

Sean Reid
02-01-2005, 15:29
I noticed the same thing and I think I remembered to mention it in the second LL article. In B&W in particular, the R-D1 can be pushed nearly a stop (to ISO 3200) with acceptable results.

Cheers,

Sean