View Full Version : Why a RF?

11-15-2007, 17:30
Hello, all RF fans!

It is obvious that there is a special "I do not know what" that is feeding this Range Finder Rebirth. I must say that in this fast consumption society where everything gets obsolete one month after the release, I have got tech-stressed , and feel certain nostagie of the old times when a camera was something for all your life. My grandfather got his brand new Contax II in 1936, which was used by 3 generations, and it is still working 70 years later. In the meantime I have used a Fiesta, then the Contax II with the 21mm biogon, and a Canon F1, then a Nikon FM, an F3 with a 20mm, an F4 and F5, then got to the digital era with the Nikon D100, and some months ago have got a Bessa M3 with the Heliar 12mm lens. Some people told me that I am going backwards. My reason was simple: I love Architectural pictures, and played with extreme wideangles most of my time, and the Heliar 12 is a unique optical piece, that surprises me all the time. The extremely sharp images, as well as the straight lines that this lens can achieve, together with such a short focal distance cannot be reached with any other lens for a SLR system.

I was wondering which is your reason for choosing a RF camera?

1) It is fashionable.
2) I am tired of high tech.
3) Nostagie for non disposable goods.
4) Better Optical Choise
5) Lighter and more confortable equipment.
6) More discrete.
7) Better mechanical performance.


David Goldfarb
11-15-2007, 17:47
I use a rangefinder when it is impractical to focus on the groundglass.

11-15-2007, 17:56
None of the above. I use RF cameras for two different reasons.

Firstly, and probably more importantly, because I see and compose differently with an RF camera. I see what's outside the frame as well as what's in it, and I see everything in focus and imagine what I'm subtracting from what I see in the viewfinder by my choice of framing and aperture setting. With an SLR I (effectively) see only what's inside the frame and what's in-focus at maximum aperture, then have to imagine what I'm adding by an awareness (that I find far from total) of what I can't see through the viewfinder.

Neither is better nor worse in an absolute sense: I just find I compose differently with one from the way I compose with the other. I'll choose which camera to use partly based on what I think will work best for a particular task (or just as the mood takes me).

The second thing I find is that I get better focus accuracy with an RF camera (at RF-appropriate focal lengths) than I get from either MF or AF SLRs. I think a well-adjusted long-baselength RF has theoretical advantages over an SLR within their focal-length range - but I really think, for me, RF focusing just somehow suits me better.


11-15-2007, 18:36
Sorry guys! I should have added an option: "Others"

Anyway It is very interesting to see the reasons eachone have.
I am specially interested in human relationship with stuff we have, they use to be part of our identity for thousand of years, as we can see in prehistoric graves, which are usually found with lots of tools that belonged to the person.
Today the digital era, is breaking this old relationship, and something new is happening... I do not know where we are going.

It seems that a phisical paper photograph is something that can easily relate to us, but a digital file in a hard drive.... is much more impersonal.
Perhaps all the retro design we can see nowaday has an emotional reason... as a reaction against virtuality. It is true too, that old solutions are much more practical sometimes...

I know that tools are just that! only tools. And the only important thing is what we can do with them, so we shouldn´t worry. But perhaps we can feel the emptiness that was created by technological acceleration.

It is also true that human relationship with tools, helps learning how to use them in a better way everyday. I can recall the relationship between the samurais and their swords.
Can you imagine a samurai chaging his sword for a new model every month? Is is possible to train in the art, chaging the way we should use our tool so often?
In the same way if you feel comfortable with your camera, it will eventually become part of you, and then, it will work as yourself, making more natural the action of taking pictures.

Perhaps crazy stuff to think about...


11-15-2007, 18:42
Not so crazy Ernesto, thanks for the question.

I have a great appreciation for well desinged and engineered tools and mechanical things. Watches, fountain pens, Japanese wood saws, chisels, knives, motorcycles (1970s BMWs), and cameras of the 1950s era (give or take 20 years).

11-15-2007, 18:56
It seems that a phisical paper photograph is something that can easily relate to us, but a digital file in a hard drive.... is much more impersonal.Perhaps. Yet as I sit I'm looking at a letter-size proof print (on Hahnemuehle Photo Rag) of a shot taken on a (shhh...) digital camera that has moved from CF card to hard drive through Photoshop to an ink-jet printer. It makes a nice shot (though after watching it for a few days, I think I'll desaturate the reds slightly before I print the final). It is going to end up framed and on my wall and makes a very nice print.

It will join prints that were scanned from film, then have gone through a similar process.

I think I'm agreeing with you that "if it isn't printed, it isn't a photograph". (Alhough perhaps I mean "if it isn't good enough to be worth printing, it isn't a photograph". I've seen plenty of great photos on the web that I'll never see a print of.) I make a point of printing all my photos I think worthwhile enough to, say, post to flickr. About a third of those end up in albums. A much smaller number end up on the wall (and only a few of those end up staying there permanently).

But I don't think that something that started life as a digital file isn't a photograph (I doubt that you were saying that, though).


11-15-2007, 21:16
The big plus of an RF for me is the way the viewfinder shows the world. On an SLR, the viewfinder is a scanning device; you move the camera around to optimise the composition. An RF finder shows all the possible compositions at once, and you get to put the framelines exactly there where it's best.

Another advantage of a viewfinder that shows more than the actual crop, is that you've got a notion of what's going on outside the frame. Being able to anticipate when and where something enters the frame is a great plus for timing the shot.

11-15-2007, 21:37
It makes me happy, I'm comfortable with it, I like the results I get with it and It's a system that works for me.
What more could I ask for? It certaintly doesn't do everything, but what it does it does well for me.

11-16-2007, 09:45
A couple of reasons I shoot MF rangefinders:

1) for the image quality. The wide-angle lenses are much better, because they don't have to be retrofocus designs to clear the mirror box of an SLR. Less flare, less distortion, and to my eye, higher contrast, though that's probably unrelated.

2) for the challenge of "seeing" the image in my mind, rather than on a ground glass. Precise composition is great when it's called for, but I'm learning to loosen up a bit.

3) 'cause they're cool, and retro, and always start a conversation. In a room full of Nikon and Canon dSLRs, the guy with the Bronica or Plaubel RF stands out. ;^)

4) did I mention image quality? Seems like these posts always revert to the film-vs-digital war, which isn't my intent... take this only as my personal opinion, but for me, MF film still has everything over digital. I just scanned some 6x7 slides (RVP) from my Plaubel to around 120 megapixels, and they look fantastic. That might be pushing it a bit, but hey, I still have space left on my hard drive. Anyway, it's also more than just counting pixels, it's a look.

5) 'cause they're quiet and light and unobtrusive. I've shot a few weddings on film, and gotten complements for not disrupting the ceremony with mirror and shutter noises. (not so the ETRS, that would wake the deaf from a sound sleep)

I don't have a 35mm RF, only MF. The only reason I lust for the 35s is for the fast glass, my RFs are f/2.8 at best, and the Bronicas are f/4 max aperture.

Free internet opinion. Your mileage may vary. Don't smoke in bed. Refrigerate after opening.


11-16-2007, 12:11
I think the question should be: Why Not?


11-16-2007, 13:25
Of the options given, “6) More discrete” was the one for which I voted.

I use the quiet 35mm rangefinder and the relatively quiet 6x7 medium format rangefinder when the noisy SLR would draw too much attention.

I just wish Leica, Canon, or Nikon would produce a manual-focus digital rangefinder based on their old film rangefinder cameras (Leica M6, Canon 7, Nikon SP).

11-16-2007, 13:31
Yeah, one of those kind of guys.
Why a classic car?
Why a bamboo fly fishing pole?
Why a first edition print of Robert Frost poem?

If you have to ask that question, I would not want to have lived your existence.

Because the answer is the proverbial and constant:

"Because the one who dies with the most toys wins!!!!"

11-16-2007, 13:38
I don't have a fancy high price RF but a fixed lens Olympus 35-s with a 42mm G. Zuiko 1.8 lens...I know what this lens will produce when using this camera...
(If I could find this lens in a Nikon SLR mount I would use it instead...)
When I want this look in the final print I use this camera...The End...

11-16-2007, 16:11
The quiet shutter release and the faster manual focusing makes the RF the classical instrument for street shooting.


11-16-2007, 16:53

I chose #6 after thinking about it. I am in the process of moving to digital for my main stuff (keeping a few choice film cameras) and when I think about it, a lot of my direction is because the camera feels comfortable and is reasonably discrete. When I think about it though, it’s no where near my S3-2000 or M4-P, problem is they are not digital.

When I look at the DSLRs most folks are using they have HUGE lenses even for wide angles, every single one is bigger than my 135/2.8 Komura. I have a hard time thinking I could ever blend in to a crowd with that much lens. Bodies are getting smaller but that glass is way over the top (IMHO).

Sadly I do think that my wonderful RF glass will find its way to a digital body that can keep up with it. On the positive side, we still have film and still have a wonderful time with two different but wonderful systems.

It’s interesting that some folks say it slows them down, for me it speeds me up. I do not have to think about the picture as much because I can see around the frame lines.

#6, more discrete.

B2 (;->

11-16-2007, 16:59
Rfs are fashionably unhip.

Ken Ford
11-16-2007, 17:23
8) Because I like 'em.

11-16-2007, 18:00
Ken, why do you like them? What is it about RFs?

11-16-2007, 18:22
After using my Leica M2 for many years, one day I put it down and bought a pair of Nikon FE2s. I shot a lot of good shots with the Nikons, much of it in Colorado. One day I put down the Nikons, bought an M6, and shot with it and my M2. Then I bought a second M6, and a third, and an MP and M3. My faithful Nikons are now waiting on the shelf for their turn to come around again; just as my faithful M2 once waited. The Nikons occasionally get their turn, but I've been shooting mainly with my Leicas for about 10 years now.

Why? The lenses, yes, but the Nikkors are pretty good too. It's not just that. I think the direct visual connection with the subject is part of it--even though I mostly shoot things, not people. I like the solid feel of the Leica in my hand, the smooth feel of the shutter. I have the utmost confidence with the Leica. I know I've got the picture.

Ken Ford
11-16-2007, 19:58
Ken, why do you like them? What is it about RFs?

In no particular order...

1) Great glass
2) Compact
3) Well made, "fondleability" (yes, it's a reason - pride in my gear and all that)
4) The whole DV experience, being able to see outside the frame
5) Handholds well
6) Fully mechanical, repairability (longevity)

11-17-2007, 12:50
Thank you all who have participated!
This was very interesting, however it is not closed, and in case you want to vote or write your point, you are still on time.
The results are surprising to me, specially points 3 and 2.
Thanks again!!!


Mike Ip
11-17-2007, 13:03
I think the only reason I have a rangefinder was that I was curious on how well a rangefinder worked. Why not?

11-17-2007, 14:25
Because they match my shoes.

11-17-2007, 14:50
That's a good question! I like the feel of the cameras, and they are better for posing with than a big, ugly SLR. The lenses are sharp, but so are my Nikon zooms (boo). But I went out the other day w/ my Nikon 8008s w/ its old, heavy 35 70 2.8 zoom, and was amazed at the difference in the viewfinder. Boy, it was bright and big. I was impressed w/ how quickly I could focus and compose shots, and it was effortless and lightning quick to lock the focus and exposure, so I am wondering if I shouldn't just go back to it. Heavy, crappy looking and all, it gets the shots, and the meter is to die for. Photographers sometimes comment that when shooting candids their subjects don't react the same to a RF, but I find that they react the same to any camera, unless you are pointing a huge zoom at them. When someone points a camera at me I seldom look to see what type it is. Generally, I don't like it. So I am wondering the same thing.

11-17-2007, 15:28
My rangefinders are a Zorki IV and a Retina IIIC, rather than a Leica. I do have a Minolta X-370 SLR with a few good lenses, and haven't picked it up in several years; although I may try taking it out, minus the motor drive and lens kit, with just the 50mm Rokkor and see how it compares with my recent fascination with RF's.

In spite of the fact that the metering on the X-370 is lots easier (the Zorki has no meter, and the selenium cell on the Retina is dead; I use a handheld usually), I have taken to the viewfinder of both my RF's, primarily because it doesn't look the same as viewing a magnified image on a ground glass screen. which is what an SLR viewfinder is like (think mini LF ground glass). The only exception I make to this rule is with my TLR, where looking down into that well-shielded finder at the nice, bright square image is a real treat.

I guess I like the image quality through so-called 'rangefinder' viewfinders (even including point-and-shoot viewfinders, which technically aren't rangefinders.) The image somehow looks more "3-dimensional" to me (that doesn't make sense optically, of course, but that's what it feels like.) It's the direct optical view of the scene, even if it isn't exactly parallax corrected, that I like.

I think where I tend to do more precise compositions on a ground glass are medium and large formats, with which I tend to compose in a more formal style.

Ultimately, I think uninterrupted optical viewfinders are about temporal accuracy: the timing of a shot (important for street photography), whereas viewscreen/prism finders of SLR's are more about compositional accuracy. Time vs space.


11-17-2007, 19:51
I use an RF because they are small and simple. They also produce kick a$$ B&W's unmatched by any DSLR made. I own two DSLRs but use the RF for all of my B&W.

Frank Dernie
11-18-2007, 06:08
SLRs are more versatile and if one is wedded to the convenience of zooms or do a lot of close focus stuff they are mandatory.
Rangefinders are smaller and in much easier to focus than a manual focus reflex. The focus is more accurate too. This advantage is less compelling since autofocus has got fairly good but it used to be the main reason in the old days. I still find autofocus no better than manual when using fast lenses. When manually focussing I know exactly what will be in focus, using autofocus by the time I have dicked around getting the focus where I want it, either by focus lock or moving the focus spot around, I would have got the shot and moved on doing it manually.
Initially Leica actually did not expect SLRs to catch on for everyday use seeing them as inferior if versatile (rightly IMHO). History shows that hey were wrong, of course since with the instant return mirror and auto stop down they are not so crap to use as they were initially.
For me personally the main benefits of rangefinders nowadays are the size and lens quality. I went mainly digital years ago and the arrival of digital rangefinder cameras is a great delight.

Gabriel M.A.
11-18-2007, 07:55
Not so crazy Ernesto, thanks for the question.

I have a great appreciation for well desinged and engineered tools and mechanical things. Watches, fountain pens, Japanese wood saws, chisels, knives, motorcycles (1970s BMWs), and cameras of the 1950s era (give or take 20 years).
You missed toasters. A well-designed toaster is hard to come by these days. If you find one, keep it! And remember: lead at home is not nice (unless you're Superman's enemy), so watch for the "made in" label :)

11-18-2007, 08:02
I don't know about toasters, Gabriel. The modern ones that do both sides of the bread at once are much more convenient than those old ones with the flip out sides that only toast one side of the bread at a time. :) A well designed coffeemaker however...

12-31-2007, 11:11
Fixed lens RFs are better tools for ambient light photography because there is no "shutter slap" to vibrate the camera. With my SLR with a 50mm lens, I'm pretty much constrained to shutter speeds 1/60 and above (1/focal lenghth rule of thumb). With a RF I can shoot at 1/30 - often do, and that one stop means a lot. I can shoot a 50mm at f4:1/30 with a RF, for example, and get better/sharper/contrastier images than the f2.8:1/60 I would need to use if using the same 50 on my SLR.

Fixed lens RF (which I prefer) also allow fill flash at all speeds. Leaf shutters (which I prefer) are a good deal quiter than my SLR and better tools for candid ambient light photography.

Many will vehemently disagree here, but I think SLRs are actually better tools for interchangable lenses. With a portrait lens, I prefer to see through the lens, for example.

They also can represent great photographic value. A Lynx 14, for example, is a 100% manual parallax corrected RF with a coupled meter and a 45mm (in the "normal" range) f 1.4 lens. It's a "pure" photographic tool, and all the camera you could ever want in 35mm.

Other rangefinders are nice and compact tools for "street photography" - Canon QL 17 III, Yashica CC, Konica Auto S3, Minolta Himatic 7SII - all great cameras with high quality glass. A good sample of any one of these will cost 100-ish less than a digital POS - er, PnS.

jack palmer
12-31-2007, 11:47
I like the feel of my Leica in my hand. I like the view through the viewfinder better than an SLR, and I like film. Tools are very personal things and anyone is going to do their best work using a quality tool that they feel comfortable with. I've been a cabinet/furniture maker for 35 years and tools become an extension of your thoughts and actions. I feel trhe same about my camera. Oh, and Dualit toasters are the Leica of toasters. I have three, a two, three and four slice..

12-31-2007, 11:49
Well, I'm confused because I only see seven checkboxes and no text. But...

Size, weight, simplicity, relative focusing ease, faster lenses, the snob appeal of using something different.

12-31-2007, 13:48
That's to test whether you read the thread.

12-31-2007, 14:09
I like my M2 and M4-P for available light with wide angle lenses. I find them easier to focus than my Nikon SLRs in low light.

I'd not be opposed to using my Canonet QL19 either as it's low light focusing is better then My Leicas.

01-01-2008, 08:46
I use a Leica MP and 35/75mm lenses on the street. Rangefinders are a good tool for such photography and they're also light in weight and quiet in operation.

01-01-2008, 09:17
The main reason is getting the shot, the second reason is the resulting image quality, the third reason is portability.

01-01-2008, 09:21
I find using and RF allow me to take more discrete pictures without compromising on the quality of the picture. It's lighter as well, so I'm more likely to carry my camera.55

01-01-2008, 12:48
I'm not sure my reasons fit any of the options.
I started using older equipment in college, mostly for financial reasons.
Then I started to like the solid heft of older cameras, even on my Vito B.

Many of my cameras are not light, or comfortable, or even quiet and discrete.
Most of the lenses would be blown away by modern glass, and several require(d) lots of work to, well, work.
(my speed graphic for example, tops all six of these categories)

However, I find a real joy in using all of my cameras. Even though I started out buying cheaper equipment, and I've now spent enough to pay for a modern M+lens or even a high end DSLR, I wouldn't trade any of my cameras for one.

Dektol Dan
01-01-2008, 13:39
They are the fastest way to go if you one is skilled and one with the instrument.

I can compose, make light adjustments and focus on the fly faster than any whizz bang fully auto camera just like a gun slinger with a single shot revolver can out shoot a feller with a semi automatic pistol. Sure, it's a knife throwing or a Annie Oakely circus act, but that's why the challenge never ends. I used to think 4 good shots in a roll was good, now I expect 20 out of 36. There is simply no challenge in shooting a DSLR loaded with a 2 or 4 GB memory card and shooting 5 frames a second. That's just showing up and waiting to get lucky. Rangerfinders are like shooting a gun, DSLRs are like holding onto a hose.

The discreet and small package option are actually one and the same.

le vrai rdu
01-01-2008, 16:39
It is small, quiet and funny
Sometimes not as easy as a SLR (my kiev has a very small viewfinder ) but always funny to use
Focusing often is easier with a RF when there is no light :)

01-02-2008, 01:21
I started shooting rangefinders because I was completely fed up with the results I was getting from point & shoot digital cameras, and also because I wanted to actually learn something about photography. I thought that maybe by buying a used Leica I'd be able to get better, sharper, more controllable quality in my photos. [OT: If you've never been to one of the dozen or so major used camera shops in Tokyo, make a pilgrimage. Literally scores of Leicas lined up in the cases, all the major Japanese names, even those now extinct...] Since buying a used, 'mint' M6TTL, and having more fun than I ever expected and learning more and more easily than expected, I've added a refurbished Nikkormat FTn, and now two (!) Mamiya C330 (early model) bodies & a few lenses for each. 80% of my shooting is with the Leica, 100% of my shooting is film. The other thing I discovered is the way these cameras have become so *cheap* in real dollars (okay, the Leica kit is still relatively expensive, except for a few of the out-of-favour lenses), while taking better pictures than they ever did because of advances in film technology. I love playing with the different looks of Velvia 50, Tmax 3200, the newest Fuji professional print films, etc... and I am blessed with a pro lab a 15 minute walk from home. So a rangefinder, in what I suppose was its traditional role, was my intro to what photography really is. And it's the most fun way to take photos. Period.

01-02-2008, 03:45
I really never asked it of myself.

Since I'm older, I can remember the advent of the Nikon F. Those are the cameras for which I wanted in high school. Who wanted those old fashioned Rf's when the "new" system gave so many more capabilities: long telephotos, accurate framing, TTL metering, etc.?

At the same time I watched my Dad do weddings with a Speed Graphic. An into to large format. (most memorable instances were seeing how sharp the entire print was, and how one of those BIG press bulbs lit up an entire cathedral interior so well.....bouncing massive light around that even filled the shadows, wow!)

On to a lowly darkroom tech, then assistant photog, then PJ, then freelancer/stock shooter using everything but RF's. Then retirement....out the door go all the LF gear, three Nikon mechanical bodies and a hoard of lenses & gear.

Feeling pretty naked not having a camera with me daily ushered in a new era. Hey, I can throw a Barnack in my pocket to keep my analogue roots in practice, to stay in touch with ancient times when a drop on pavement wouldn't mean total replacement, to say I'm proud to know how to shoot/develope/print film, and lastly because a Barnack around my neck is my only form of jewelry. No rings, watches, bracelets or chains....but my 1937 Leica goes well with Levis or a tuxedo. :cool:

01-02-2008, 04:11
Fun. Just plain fun. Especially when I swtich from one old Rf (or VF) to another, and have to slow down a bit and make sure I'm setting the right dials.

And, they are fun.

01-02-2008, 04:11
The viewfinder and the haptics.

The VF is the determining difference between SLR and RF cameras after all; I like to have everything visible sharply in focus when I compose.

How my hands feel the camera is just as important, I find it adds to the process. There is no sweeter experience in camera world than wind lever action of Leica M: smooth, ratcheted, just enough resistance, with confident clicky "fullstop" in the end. So far I haven't been able to find anything comparable with mechanical SLR cameras. Many of them wind like Zenit-E: does the job but makes you want a motor drive. I would not mention names since some of them have strong following here :) Then certain electronic SLRs are very smooth but winding doesn't feel so "informative" somehow; good example is F3. Held hopes high for Leicaflex SL, but it turned out a big disappointment. I think I played through dozens of SLRs in the shop, trying to find a good match to Leica body, no luck so far.

01-05-2008, 01:41
None of the responses actually match my reasons (because for most photography I much prefer the handling and flexibility of an 35mm or medium format SLR) which is that I shoot occasionally with a RF because it makes an interesting change and I enjoy it.

01-05-2008, 01:43
The viewfinder and the haptics.

The VF is the determining difference between SLR and RF cameras after all; I like to have everything visible sharply in focus when I compose.

I'm the opposite - I like to be able to see what the DOF will be, especially when shooting with a near subject.

01-09-2008, 01:04
But you can't: as soon as you stop down and preview, the SLR viewfinder goes dark.

01-09-2008, 07:34
Other reasons:

- stumbled over a website, became a victim of long distance peer pressure
- already using flintlock muzzleoaders for hunting so an RF is natural

may sound a bit satiric but contains more than just a grain of truth.
With me there was the curiosity to use the kind of cameras "They" (Capa, HBC etc.) used to learn with what they had to make do before the age of the instant return mirror and everpresent Nikon SLR.
When I got other RF's I noticed their advantages be it a 35 RC it's compactness or a Bessa R with it's great viewfinder and chice of lenses or a Retina IIIS wich gave me the Leica feel on a low budget (though it was quite expensive in its time!)

01-09-2008, 11:08
Lighter. *Much* lighter than the 350D setup. :)

01-09-2008, 11:31
Because they were all that was available for me when I was a youth. RFs were cheap, SLRs were expensive. 30 or so years ago I would have killed for a SLR. Now I am too set in the way of the RF to change.

01-09-2008, 13:50
This has just occurred to me: I wear eyeglasses (nearsightedness and astigmatism). It's a rare camera that allows me to see everything in the viewfinder without moving my eye. While that means I might have trouble seeing framelines on the edges of the viewfinder, it also means that every other, smaller, frameline is a piece of cake.

Example: On my R4M, the 21mm framelines are problematic for me. The others aren't.

Meanwhile, on an SLR, I'd have trouble seeing to the edge of the viwwfinder regardless of the lens

02-17-2008, 15:32
I collect and so I have a choice of a medium format SLR, several 35mm SLRs, rangefinders in medium and small format, large format view cameras (field and monorail), 5 TLRs, scale focusing cameras in medium and small format, box cameras and so on, but for my favorite subject, studio nudes, a rangefinder's strong points just seem to suit my needs better than any other kind of camera. If I were doing mostly landscapes, I might prefer the field view cameras. If I were doing nature photography, I might prefer the SLRs, but with most of what I am doing, the rangefinders are simply the best choice, so I guess it is situational with me.

02-17-2008, 15:33
Because it the closest I can get to living in the 40's, and the photographers I most admire used them.

02-17-2008, 18:24
I bought an M3 mit 50/2 Summicron in 1985, after 20 years of Pentax Spotmatic SLR's(very, very good cameras, by the way). I was fascinated by the small body and lens. I could stick it in pockets a Spottie would never fit into. After my fifth roll I realized I had purchased something akin to a fine Rolex; I had never before thought of a camera as a work of art. I remember the first roll when I kept thinking the shutter hadn't released because it was too, too, quiet.

But alas, I was so conditioned to an SLR with all of its interchangeable lenses that I found my M3 limited (and hard to load, though I never made much of an effort to learn it proper). And so I made the worst mistake of my camera-owning career and sold it.

A few years ago I happened accidentally onto Stephen Gandy's website and read about the Bessa R. The price was certainly reasonable, so I bought one and then the Color Skopar 35/2.5.

I was astonished by the bright, crystal clear viewfinder and the ease of focusing, and for me that's what it was all about - the visual experience. I didn't have to worry about fine focusing an SLR lens anymore - all I had to do was align the two heads and release the shutter. The kit was quick, light, easy to use, and since then I've added a 21/4 and a Canon 50/1.4 and sure, the Bessa's no M3, no silky advance, no religious experience - but it works just fine.

Will I ever get another M-series Leica? You bet, but it will take time as I'm retired and living on what they call a "fixed" income.

But someday my prince will come...

I use an RF because it's discrete, quiet, unobtrusive, not at all threatening, and ideally suited to street photography.

When I want to do portraits, I open up my other kit bag and take out the Rolleiflex.

02-18-2008, 13:00
The Zen of it.

A couple of people have said they use RFs because it slows them down. I suspect my response is similar. I am sinistral. I use a fountain pen because it slows me down and renders my writing more legible, and easier on the eye. Using an RF, particularly a Barnack, has the same effect of slowing me down, making me think about what I am doing and pre-visualising.



02-19-2008, 15:32
RFs make me think about what I'm doing and what the photograph is going to look like. I can't 'chimp' and I need to get exposure, composition and focus right.

Plus, they're small and very, very sexy. :D

02-19-2008, 16:24
Using an RF, particularly a Barnack, has the same effect of slowing me down, making me think about what I am doing and pre-visualising. RFs make me think about what I'm doing and what the photograph is going to look like. I can't 'chimp' and I need to get exposure, composition and focus right.
Plus, they're small and very, very sexy. :DIsn't it the elimination of all the motors and automation that helps slow one down, whether SLR or RF? It's seemed to me that the RF is the quicker-acting of the two, though, giving up precise framing and correct parallax and DoF-viewing in exchange for a clear bright VF, smaller size, and quick usage. A medium format SLR will generally be slower working and if you really want slow and thoughtful, plop a view camera on your tripod and click it! :)

04-02-2008, 07:40
I like things that were made to last, the fine craftmanship of those cameras and the fine optics designed by hand, not with with computers.
I prefer full manual control of my mistakes instead of leaving them to full automation.



05-15-2008, 16:29
In 35mm I prefer my Pentax SLRs. But when I need something that will fit in my pocket,
a scale-focus or RF folder is the way to go.

Medium format SLRs are all big and noisy. My Bronica RF645 handles like a 35 and is a joy to use.


05-18-2008, 05:30
Meanwhile, on an SLR, I'd have trouble seeing to the edge of the viwwfinder regardless of the lens
Bill, not to go too far off topic, but have you ever tried a Nikon F3HP? Many photographers who wear glasses say they can see the entire frame without difficulty with this model. It's also a fine SLR.

Now, back to RF.


06-01-2008, 17:29
- Close focus
- Interchangeable lenses (better system than RF imo)
- Portrait and tele focal lengths
- Zoom lenses

- Ambient light photography (1/30 hand-held w/ all focal lengths - a key. SLR = shutter speed = 1/focal length. So, a 50mm = 1/60th, and in many instances that extra stop really matters.)
- quieter shutter
- still see w/ dark filters
- fill flash (w/leaf shutter) synch at all speeds
- can be smaller
- no black out when shutter fires due to mirror (not a big deal to me).
- better wa lens design for interchangeable systems
- many models of classic FLRF and FSUs, can be real bargains
- Fun to use, collect

06-01-2008, 17:33
Mainly because they are quite small compared to most SLRs. and most people, because of they are not familiar with the older RFs, and don't think the camera can do good job over Digital...HA !!!

Plus, they are just as quite as a modern DSLR. Which are very quite compared to the SLRs of the 80s-90s.

06-11-2008, 09:21
On a recent visit to a very crowded Dubrovnik, Croatia I was always surrounded by people holding their didital P&S's at arms' length trying to see an image in the back of their cameras in bright sunlight. I could quickly look in my RF viewfinder, focus and shoot-a tremendous advantage. I could have had the same advantage with a DSLR but at up to twice the weight and size.

08-04-2008, 13:27
It's just 'me'.

08-04-2008, 13:45
I selected "I am tired of high tech" because I have a Canon 1D (original 4.1 MP version) that cost (not me) $8000 Canadian 7 years ago... It still takes the same quality of pictures it did in 2001, probably double-trucked Sports Illustrated spreads and used in newspapers around the world. Today I can't submit a 4.1 MP image without getting laughed at, even if it will only end up on the web and 10-20 MP is overkill.

The rangefinder is my "play" camera. It's for me. I like not worrying about wether I am set to JPG or RAW, white balance (filters excluded), where my camera decides it's going to auto-focus, etc etc etc. I just want to worry about my composition and the exposure that I want. That's it.

I shot a football game this last weekend. I couldn't help but think how I would have shot with a RF. Forget about the action on the field and shoot the emotion on the bench and in the crowd.

Sonny Boy Havidson
08-04-2008, 14:26
To give a quick sum-up of my own approach:
- SLR/TLR: Composition, play with expressivity of the wide angles.
- RF: Catching what I see quickly or a decisive moment, being able to focus correctly in low light conditons (I am regulary out of focus for indoor shoting).

So on one side the graphic work, on the other the human aspect.

08-04-2008, 14:33
Sorry, the point of mentioning the original $8000 price of that 1D camera is that they now go for about $500 used, despite being able to make the same images as 7 years ago. Investing in a new digital camera bodies just didn't make sense for me for my "play" camera.

08-05-2008, 03:28
although I haven't any RF, actually, I'd like to have one and all the reasons are the "classic" and practical ones: light, discreet, excellent optically, quiet shutter, and above all its way to compose pictures etc. while the "old fashionable" doesn't add anything to me.

08-05-2008, 04:58
My Voigtlander with 35mm f2.8 Color Scopar is small, light, pretty, has a huge bright viewfinder, and fantastic image quality. My favorite slr, the Minolta XG-9 with the 45mm Rokkor pancake and Grip-tac cover is just as nice, but brings less street cred with people who see me taking pictures.

That is changing now. People in thier 20's and younger have no idea. They ask me if my Minolta XG's are digital. (Yeah, I have a small digicam slr with chrome over brass construction).

08-05-2008, 05:19
A fully manual rangefinder forces me to focus on what im trying to do and think. While it can sometimes be frustrating i find greater satisfaction then when i use my DSLR.

Its the nostalgia associated with going fully manual. Its like camping in the woods when you have a nice soft bed at home.

08-05-2008, 12:19
I like the fact that I can get as high quality of photos as a huge Nikon D80, yet have something is a lot smaller.

I think as everyone rushes to get digital and automatic, they are leaving behind a wealth of possibilities. Sometimes I browse on Yahoo Answers. /the problems that they have could easily be solved with a nice rangefinder (or older film SLR).

I appreciate the workmanship more with a manual camera.

I like the aspect of doing something that not everyone else is doing. I also think it's kinda cool to use the same camera (or type of camera) my grandfather used decades ago.

Film in general makes me think about my photos more.

08-22-2008, 02:13
it's the form factor for me...it's small and comfortable in my hands and my bag. I also enjoy a viewfinder with no "tunneling" that slrs have. That's pretty much it...it's just more enjoyable to use for me.

08-22-2008, 05:54
"Better Way of Seeing My Shot." Surly that statement must mean compared to a compact rather than an SLR?

08-30-2008, 06:18
I decided to get off the digital roller coaster.Have owned two dslr in the last few year.You spend $1600-$2000 within 6-8 months the newest and greatest camera you just spent your hard earned money on is now out of dated and obselete.I went back to film and always wanted a rangefinder camera so took the plunge.There is just something about shooting film again with a solid built camera,not a minature hand held computer.I still use my dslrs mostly for wildlife photography where the digital really excells.

09-09-2008, 04:50
"Better Way of Seeing My Shot." Surly that statement must mean compared to a compact rather than an SLR?

Although the original statement this responds to wasn't mine, I could have easily made it as well. And yes, I would say "better" than an SLR. But "better" is one of those words. Lifting an SLR to my eye, I find what Im looking at changes into a well framed segment of what I was originally seeing. I find a rangefinder much more fluid in moving from seeing to shooting. It allows me to maintain the same visual relationship with the subject. Im also sure this differs depending on what you shoot but with people in candid and dynamic environments maintaining continuity as I move to the viewfinder is important - albeit as a trade off for all that auto stuff :D

09-09-2008, 06:12
The hardest thing I find about rangefinders is the parrallax error. It affects how I frame thing in unexpected ways. When I am using an object to frame my subject (i.e. something large and close in the foreground), the difference between what I see in the view finder and what the lens sees can be dramatic.

09-16-2008, 15:49
I shoot both RF and SLR but, for me, SLRs only add convenience
when I'm using a zoom lens or a lens outside the 28-135mm
range or a macro.

Most "street" shooting is done with 35-90mm lenses and I
find an RF to be just fine. Also, I think an RF camera is dismissed
by most people which can help the stealth and candidness of street

One other advantage to an RF: I sometimes like to shoot
hand-held, long exposures on slow film in low light while following
a moving subject. I can't really do that with an SLR and its mirror

11-09-2008, 05:54
I enjoy the form and size factor very much. Can also idetify myself with those liking it for immediacy but there are two things I don't understand in this thread.. how can accurate manual focusing be faster (in most lighting situation) that modern autofocus? and is better image quality a mater of objective or subjective judgement? after all, image quality is a result of optics and build quality - assuming optic and mechanics of a camera are at the same level how can one camera produce better images than other?

12-14-2008, 13:10
I can't focus as fast as my dslrs, and I've yet to find a film that can match for overall image quality interms of making big, sharp and detailed prints. There is a different aspect ofquality - i.e. the nature of the image, that is different with (35mm) film and I enjoy hvaing it in the toolbox. Also enjoy the small size and different approach to shooting with the rf.


12-14-2008, 14:03
It just feels right.

12-14-2008, 14:49
I just think they just taste better than a film SLR or a a digital. The Konica Auto S3, for example...

Very clean medium bitter glass on the tip of the tongue which was followed in the swish with some nutty and biscuity flavors that I attribute to its leaf shutter. The aftertaste was a little bitter but also much drier then I would have expected from a Konica leaving me sucking at my cheeks. There were also very apparent notes of some fruitiness, a little grassiness, and that typical "Konica funk".