View Full Version : R-D1 questions ??

Chuck A
06-15-2005, 19:35
I have been re-bitten by the rangefinder bug and am finding that I am longing for a digital rangefinder. A baaad longing. I really do like digital photography and have been experimenting with it for a few years now. Well, it seems that there is only one option in that camp.

My question is:
If you were going to buy a digital rangefinder would you buy the R-D1 now or wait to see what comes next? I have to preface this with the statement that the R-D1 would stretch my budget to its limits. I would have to sell some of my current camera equipment (see my sig below) to even come close to reaching the money to get the camera and a decent lens or 2. I am concerned that the Leica digital M and the Zeiss models that are being talked about will be waaaay beyond the price of the R-D1. Will there be an R-D2?

Those of you that have the R-D1, do you find that it is worth the money ($3500)? Does it satisfy that digital rangefinder longing? I have been trying different digital cameras that past few years and have not been satisfied by the ergonomics, feel and performance of the majority of them. They haven't become part of me the way my old M2 used to. I was hoping the R-D1 would meet that need. It doesn't seem to get great reviews, mostly mediocre ones as I recall. That does not fill me with much confidence.

I guess that there is another option. Buy a film rangefinder and a good film scanner. Who votes for this one? It is more expensive to use than digital with the cost of film and processing in there. Plus all of the extra work of scanning negatives. Now, if I did this I probably could get by with an inexpensive Bessa R and a decent scanner ($1000) and not have to sell to much other equipment. I could go whole hog and sell everything, add some cash and buy a used Leica and good film scanner. I guess that there are a few options here.

This certainly is not a life changing issue and of course I am exagerrating (a bit) but, I am interested in your learned opinions. I use a rangefinder for mainly B&W work and the R-D1 would fit into that niche.

06-15-2005, 20:57

I came into my photography bug with the Digital SLR revolution. The Canon D60, 10D, 20D, etc... Once I learned the basic mecanics of photography, I began to experiment with film. That brought me to various rangefinders, including the Mamiya 6, which I truly cut my teeth on.

I've owned the R-D1 since December. It's a take-everywhere camera for me--feels very organic to my shooting style, and for my image sizes (8x10, 8.5x11, etc) it makes great quality prints. I don't know about anything > 11x14--for critical art the resolution will not be enough, but for a wall print at home, you could probably get up to 16x20". Just.

The film rangefinder and scanner will be the cheaper option, but will take a lot of time to shoot with, develop, scan, etc.... I have a Leica CL that comes along sometimes, but only when I think I'll get a chance to develop the roll of B&W film later that week, or if I put XP2 super in it, and then get a scanned cd from the photo lab. The good news is that the R-D1 and the Leica CL use the same lenses, so it's the best of both worlds.

Scanning film isn't for the faint of heart--especially black and white, as you can't use digital ice or FARE to remove scratches, due to the silver halide in the negatives. If you shoot 35mm I'd suggest a dedicated film scanner, not a flatbed--although I own an Epson 4870, it's not good enough for high-quality 35mm scans and will be blown out of the water for that.

If you want very high quality with a minimum of fuss and still want to shoot film, get yourself a Mamiya 6 or 7, the normal and wide lenses, and a flatbed scanner. I've done very high quality scans with a flatbed and that large negative format. Gives you plenty of tonality, even with Ilford Delta 3200.

I probably didn't give you any good directions there, just my impressions. I'm very satisfied with the R-D1. Unless they come out with a 8+ megapixel replacement, I'm not budging. My EOS 20D is gathering dust (except for the recent kid sports/Baseball pictures I shot, and I'm sure it'll get quite a workout during soccer this year).

If you want to see my R-D1 images, go to http://www.rimple.com/gallery and click around. Or visit my pbase galleries, especially the R-D1 and POTD one (that I've lost interest in, but it has a fair # of R-D1 photos). http://www.pbase.com/krimple


06-15-2005, 21:55
As an enthusiastic but (I hope) rational R-D 1 user, here's my take: [warning: long post ahead!]

First, if buying the R-D 1 would be a real financial burden for you, don't do it! No camera is worth the anxiety of being close to the financial brink. And you've got a lot of versatility with the cameras you own now -- if you had to give up all of those to afford the R-D 1, you'd probably resent it.

I don't regret my R-D 1 purchase at all, but it WAS a bit of a financial stretch. It wasn't so much that I had to sell other equipment, but it did mean postponing ALL other discretionary spending until I paid off the Visa balance, which I'm still working on.

(Also, speaking of money, your bag doesn't seem to contain any L- or M-mount lenses, so don't forget to budget for some of those as well. I was able to dodge that particular bullet since I already had several nice screwmount lenses for my Canon RF cameras.)

With that out of the way, let's talk about the R-D 1 vs. "whatever comes next." Here, don't forget that the big advantage of the R-D 1 is that you can actually BUY one, right now, and take pictures with it, right now. All other digital RFs at this point are nothing more than speculation.

Zeiss has done no more than hint that they might consider a digital complement to their new Zeiss Ikon film camera, which still isn't in real photographers' hands yet. And while we all know Leica is working on a digital M camera (which I fully expect to be unveiled in time to photograph the aerial action at the next Solms Fliegenschwein Festival) who knows if the company itself will stagger on long enough to get it out the door?

Also, assuming that any of these putative cameras (or another unforeseen dark horse -- Nikon SP-d, anyone?) DO appear, I prognosticate that they will be a lot more expensive than the R-D 1. Another manufacturer could hardly differentiate itself in the marketplace without improving on the R-D 1 traits about which people complain the most: give it a longer-base viewfinder, for example, and/or a full-35mm-area sensor, and/or much higher build quality and luxury "feel." But all these things would add a lot of cost, probably pushing the camera well past Canon EOS 1DS/Nikon D2x territory.

(Another way of looking at this: If one of these uprated digital RFs does eventually appear, a lot of the deep-pockets types who bought R-D 1s will switch to it -- meaning used R-D 1s will be available at much friendlier prices.)

But about the R-D 1 itself: Does it meet that "rangefinder need"? Yes, definitely yes. It may not have the feel of an M2, but it does feel good, and it works really well. I was in a slightly different fix than you are: I was always a rangefinder kind of guy, but I had been forced to use digital SLRs because I needed to shoot digital images (I do a lot of volunteer photography for nonprofit organizations, for whom the costs of film and processing are significant burdens.) With the DSLR, I was photographing more but enjoying it a lot less. The R-D 1 gave me back the enjoyment of photography. Since I bought it about six months ago, I think my Nikon D100 has been out of the bag all of twice -- and both times my reaction to using it was "Bleah!" (In both cases I got much better pictures with the R-D 1, too.)

Is a film RF and film scanner a viable alternative? Certainly, as long as you don't shoot in large volume. Making good scans, especially of conventional b&w films, takes a significant investment of time, so I feel that approach is better suited to the kind of person whose photographic goal is to make one or two great images in a session, rather than getting dozens of good ones.

Having said that, I must admit that recently I've been rediscovering the joys of shooting film and scanning it, if only as an occasional treat. My kick with scanning conventional b&w films (which I prefer over chromogenics and color films) has always been that the scans fall short in two quality areas: tonal range, which often didn't satisfy me, and grain aliasing, an annoying interaction between the film's grain pattern and the scanner CCD which causes the grain to look more exaggerated than it would in a print. (To read a very well-researched treatise on grain aliasing, click here. (http://www.photoscientia.co.uk/Grain.htm)

What changed that for me is that I finally sat down and mastered the technique of scanning a negative two or more times -- once for the highlights, once for the shadows, and possibly once more for really out-of-range areas. I bring the scans into Photoshop as separate layers, and use the layer controls to combine them for the look I want. This has two big advantages: tonal range is much better than a single scan, and the fact that the scans never match EXACTLY pixel-for-pixel (because of mechanical imprecision in the scanner) helps neutralize the grain aliasing better than anything else I've tried.

What I'm enjoying most about this process is that it's still possible with film to get a much wider tonal range than with the R-D 1, or any other digital camera I've tried. I'm attaching an example picture that I hope will show what I mean; note that the sunlit window areas outside the room still have detail in them, while shadow areas inside the room also have detail. I'm sure there's no way I could have retained all this detail in a single digital-camera exposure, even using raw mode.

The downside is that the process is VERY time-consuming, especially with the rather slow Canon FS-4000 film scanner I use. (Much faster scanners are available now.) Of course, you can save back some of that time by jobbing out the "donkey work": there's an excellent professional photo lab two blocks from my house, and it's really very pleasant to drop off a roll of Tri-X there, stop by a couple of days later, and pick up a perfectly processed roll and contact sheet, with NO effort at all on my part.

Still, as I said, I think the film-to-scanner workflow is best suited to the kind of slow, careful worker who likes to shoot one or more rolls of film, go through the contacts, pick the ONE best shot, and then spend a lot of time bringing out the best in it. If you shoot a lot, it's just too time-intensive compared to using a digital camera. (Trust me, I learned this the hard way!)

I'm sorry -- I just realized that NONE of this probably will help you answer the question, "Should I buy an R-D 1?" All I can say is that I'm really glad I bought mine (and that you should ignore the mainstream reviews -- the people who write most of them aren't rangefinder people, so they don't "get it." Read Sean's review on Luminous Landscape instead.)

But will it make you happy in your photography? THAT I can't answer... only you can!

Chuck A
06-15-2005, 22:57
Thanks to you folks for your well thought out comments. I have been a serious photographer for 29 years ( with a bit of a break in there) and began with all manual cameras. I developed my own stuff and became a pretty good B&W printer as well.

I started with SLRs but soon discovered rangefinders. I bought a Leica IIIf and 50mm and went to town. I found that I enjoyed the feel of photographing with a rangefinder. It just felt RIGHT in my hand. I saved my cash, sold the IIIf and bought an M2 and a collapsable summicron. Which I used until about 1992 or so when I sold it. I had gotten less interested in photography and sold the camera to pursue other interests. What a big mistake. Sometimes you do things that you think are what you want and discover that they were mistakes.

I only photographed occasionally until I discovered digital with a D30. Digital has reawakened my interest in photography and I am now back shooting film as well. I really love the power of photoshop. I can make adjustments to my photos that I wouldn't have dreamed of in a wet darkroom.

You are right, B&W film has much more latitiude than digital and still gives superior quality. That is one reason I am unsure about the R-D1. I am asking myself, will I be happy with the B&W prints I get from it? Under the correct lighting I have some digital B&W prints from various cameras that I am happy with. For others I much prefer film. If the R-D1 wasn't quite as expensive I would just get one and try it the way I have with about 6 digital cameras so far. I am sure this will all work itself out in time as there is no rush here.

Thanks for your comments.

06-16-2005, 00:44
Just my 2 cents.

I got me an R-D1 just last week and I'm already very happy with it.
It's almost exactly like shooting with my Bessa R except I no longer have to pay for film and development and waste loads of time scanning. I shot mainly (I mean 99.999%) colour and was spending 2000-2200 euros per year on film and development. That's almost the amount of money I now spent on the R-D1, buying it from Dr Yao in Hong Kong.

So, IMO things depend on how much you shoot. If you shoot a lot of colour, the R-D1 could save you money and time. If you don't shoot much (either colour or B&W) the scanner option might be your ticket. If you shoot a lot of B&W than I'm a bit at a loss what to recommend, realising the R-D1 might not give the B&W results you want and the scanner option also not being quite as convenient.

Anyway, JLW's reviews and hands-on experiences enabled me to make a solid decision.

06-16-2005, 00:55
I have an Olympus E-1 for digital & 2 Leica M7's which i scan the negs on a Nikon iv... I gave the Olympus to the wife. She loves the the ability to see the shot straight away. I still enjoy the long route & the quality. Nuff said.

Chuck A
06-16-2005, 12:42
Just my 2 cents.

If you shoot a lot of B&W than I'm a bit at a loss what to recommend, realising the R-D1 might not give the B&W results you want and the scanner option also not being quite as convenient.

Anyway, JLW's reviews and hands-on experiences enabled me to make a solid decision.

I enjoyed JLW's post. I do shoot mostly B&W with a rangefinder and I understand what you are saying. Does anybody have some R-D1 RAW B&W files that I can print and use to do some testing? :confused: Maybe that will help me decide which route to take.