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Kodak Retina RF This forum is for the 35mm Kodak Retinas, known for their German engineering, relatively modest price and superb lenses.

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Retina vs Barnack?
Old 09-02-2009   #1
mh2000
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Retina vs Barnack?

I just can't ever seem to bring myself to shoot my Leica IIIc and always seem to grab my Retina IIa... wonder how others who use both feel and which you prefer actually shooting photos with.

thanks



(This is just for fun, I love both cameras)

Last edited by mh2000 : 09-07-2009 at 11:09.
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Old 09-02-2009   #2
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Since I use both on a fairly equal basis I chose not to vote for either. Most times both are loaded and used together..
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Old 09-02-2009   #3
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My Retina II has taken a back seat when it comes to picking cameras since I've acquired my Leica cameras.

The retina is a very nice and compact system though. Definitely no complaints about the Xenon lens.
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Old 09-03-2009   #4
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More used to the IIIf/IIIc (and the other Barnack copies) than the Retina IIa. Whilst these Kodaks are superb and capable machines, they never seem to be as sprightly or 'ready' all the time for me, compared to the Barnacks. I tend to miss more shots with the Retina than the Leica.
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Old 09-03-2009   #5
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While I no longer have a IIa, my Ia works fine,
but it's an even 'squintier' view than any of my Leica or Leicalikes.
(maybe cause my nose gets in the way?)
The lever wind is a definite plus though.
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Old 09-03-2009   #6
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Well, my Retina IIa is broken & I have a working IIIf with Summicron. Not really much of a choice there...

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Old 09-06-2009   #7
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Love the one you are with.

Retina IIa, I have, Leica IIIc, I sold.
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Old 09-07-2009   #8
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don't know about the Retina Ia Rick, but my IIa has a much larger and brighter VF than my IIIc... not as large as a M-series of course.

Before shooting mine, I never understood my friends with Retina love... seemed like a sorry substitute for a Leica. After shooting one I am getting more and more attached.

Other than the VF/RF, I like the normal film loading, no trimming, lever wind and the smaller size (IIIc is much bigger with any available 50 f2 or faster lens).
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Old 09-22-2009   #9
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The folding Retinas are wonderful cameras. You can load film quickly. They're compact -- even the later b/B and c/C models. The rangefinder cameras have a unified rangefinder/viewfinder. They're easy to service. They don't cost that much. The Xenon lenses are excellent.

A poor man's Leica? Perhaps. But certainly not a poor-quality alternative. Judge them on their own, and you'll see that they're incredible value and just as incredible photographic devices.
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Old 09-22-2009   #10
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I think they're like comparing apples and oranges...

Both are quality pieces of machinery, and do their intended job well: take pictures.

My first "real camera", was a Retina IIIc outfit, which I acquired from a high-school friend's father = he bought the camera new around 1956, I received it in 1985.

It came with the 2.8 /50 Xenar, and 85 mm lenses, accy finder, close-up lens kit and finder, and a few other goodies.

It was my only 35mm camera for nearly 15 years.

I got my first Barnack several years ago, and although these are now my "favorite" shooters, they are a generation behind the Retina IIIc in many respects.

Here's my pro's /con's of each, as users based on my experiences:

Retina IIIc

Pros: single VF eyepiece w/ RF.
great lenses
built-in meter
compact, folding design
lever-wind
Flash sync, for both bulb and electronic
no film trimming

Cons: fixed rear lens element
"linked" shutter / aperture system - inconvenient when bracketting
"fragile" lever advance


Leica Barnacks (say IIIc)

Pros: focal-plane shutter, speeds to 1/1000
excellent glass, but fragile
fully interchangeable lenses
more versatile, given the range of special accessories
easier to get serviced

Cons: have to trim the film
no flash sync
knob-wind
divorced VF / RF - both pretty "squinty"
everything "Leica" is more pricey

Based on my experience, I would probably take the Retina for "Casual" shooting, and the Leica when doing "technical" / documentary photography.

Both will take excellent or lousy pictures, depending on the operator... I think the Retina is more convenient to manipulate, but the Leica offers more options.
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Old 09-22-2009   #11
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Both are great picture takers... I'm more comfortable handling the Leica than the Retina. For more than thirty-five years my Dad used his Retina IIIC more than any other camera he owned, bought it new and only recently gave it up for digital (thanks Dad ).

Contax wasn't an option but for the last four or five years my first choice when shooting film has been my Contax I (1935 version 5). Believe it or not, even with its idiosyncrasies, it has become an everyday user and the camera I am most comfortable with. Second choice, and a camera I usually carry with the Contax I, is a Contax IIa.

I have my Grandfather's Leica IIIa now and it has much the same feel as the Contax. I usually don't complain about camera ergonomics because I adapt fast to different control layouts (Alpa with front release, Rollei SL66, Super Ikonta, etc.). However, the shutter release on the Leica seems a little awkward to me -- next to the tall wind knob and towards the back of the body. It's not intuitive yet but as I use it more this should not be a problem... I'm already developing a "feel" for using the wind knob as a finger rest which I will likely come to appreciate.
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Old 09-22-2009   #12
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Something about the Barnacks that I just love. I have a IIIa, IIIc, and IIIf. They are the ones I use for my fun shooting. I love how they feel and sound and so I wind up loving their shortcomings as well. And, when I use the cv Nokton 1.5 with any of them, the results are as good as you can get on a 35mm film format.
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Old 09-22-2009   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Honu-Hugger View Post
However, the shutter release on the Leica seems a little awkward to me -- next to the tall wind knob and towards the back of the body. It's not intuitive yet ... .
That was my feeling, as well. If you're not a frequent user of the Leica LTM cameras, you tend to hunt for the shutter release when the camera is at your eye.

As well, when wearing gloves in the winter, occasionally, you'll get too close to the shutter speed dial and it will drag on your gloves.

Leica didn't do enough to advance the design through the years. (It's also too bad that Zeiss Ikon never advanced the design of the Contax IIa.)

Great little camera, nonetheless.
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Old 09-24-2009   #14
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Agree about the glove/finger-drag issue with the shutter-speed dial in cold weather... that's a pain.

Having mostly been a Nikon S / Barnack user, I find the shutter-release position on my Contax IIIa "unusual" - I really have to curl my index finger to find the release...

But, I think that's simply a matter of getting used to the camera; I haven't shot the Contax very much.

I also agree with the comment about Leica's slow, grudging improvements; but the beast was pretty good from the start.

A comment about pre-War vs Post-War Retinas - I have a lovely Retina I, circa 1940, that is a delight for compactness and straight forward operation; my biggect issue with the knob-wind Retina is that one has to remember to also cock the shutter; I've missed a few shots because I didn't wind the shutter after advancing the film... I have similar issues with my Zeiss & Voigtlander folders...

They're all really good cameras, in spite of their individual quirks / shortcomings.

I need to find someone to do a CLA on my Retina IIIc - the shutter has gotten gluey...
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Old 10-25-2009   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr_Flibble View Post
My Retina II has taken a back seat when it comes to picking cameras since I've acquired my Leica cameras.

The retina is a very nice and compact system though. Definitely no complaints about the Xenon lens.
I must agree with our Belgian colleague. I just acquired a Retina IIIc. The Xenon lens has lots of character (and I mean that in a good way). Overall I like the camera, but the shutter mechanism is a pain.

I still favor my Leica IIIf RD ST.
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Old 10-28-2009   #16
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Not quite Belgian, Dan, though sometimes I wish I was. (The Belgian-Dutch border is only 20 minutes away)

Frank, forgetting to cock the shutter on an early Retina does not mean the frame is lost though, the release-button will be locked after the press, but you can still set the shutter and fire it by working the release lever on the shutter itself. And yes, I've lost a few moments too because I forgot to set the shutter.

I think it's time to run another roll of film through the Retina in the next couple of weeks.
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Old 03-26-2010   #17
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My IIc/IIC and Retina IIIc's RF patch are much better that my Leica IIIc's...so yes it's easier to use the Retinas.
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Old 03-26-2010   #18
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I like them all, Retina II, IIa, Leica IIIc, even the FED 1. Although I tend to frame while shooting, I don't use transparencies any more, so I can crop if I include enough in the shot. Just picked up a Tewe variable focal length viewer and it makes a world of difference. Just have to remember parallax.
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Old 03-26-2010   #19
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I can wax eloquently for hours over the Leica yet it was always the IIa that I grabbed for shooting. I gave away the Leica and have never missed it.
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Old 03-26-2010   #20
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I've had two Retinas (I and II) for a while but I just can't seem to warm up to them. Awful ergonomics.

I - Squintiest VF ever, DOF scale on the bottom, shutter speed on the front

II - Door hard to open, aperture scale on the front

Both - Too many knobs and sharp edges to catch on your clothing, so not really pocketable despite the small size. And then there's that gawd-awful return to infinity before folding up routine.

When I want the most capable tool, I'll deal with the Leica's slightly bulkier size. When I want something truly pocketable, it's a Vito II every time. Brooke Shields in 1980 could have slipped one of those into the back pocket of her Calvin Kleins.
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Old 03-26-2010   #21
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It is interesting seeing how people think.
My Retina lives in the back pocket of my Levis quite comfortably. My shooting sequence for a single shot is: Open camera, advance film focus, (cock shutter if using my duo six-20) shoot, return focus to infinity, close camera and meander on down the way. These steps are so automatic I never think of them. Also if it got caught in a sandstorm at Burning Man or drenched by kids playing with a water hose I can CLA it myself. As for a squinty finder, I always shoot with both eyes open so it is a bit of a none issue for me.

With my Leica it was always bumping at my side and getting in my way when trying to do something or I had to where clothing with Big pockets to accommodate it, I had to worry about losing the lens cap (or leaving it on) and the first and only time I took it to Blackrock city it cost me a bill and then some to get it out of the shop it had been in for better than two weeks.

Have to admit though that if someone asked me for a rock solid precision machine that would take care of anything from microscopy to astronomy and take a lot of physical abuse I would recommend a Leica.


Quote:
Originally Posted by batterytypehah! View Post
I've had two Retinas (I and II) for a while but I just can't seem to warm up to them. Awful ergonomics.

I - Squintiest VF ever, DOF scale on the bottom, shutter speed on the front

II - Door hard to open, aperture scale on the front

Both - Too many knobs and sharp edges to catch on your clothing, so not really pocketable despite the small size. And then there's that gawd-awful return to infinity before folding up routine.

When I want the most capable tool, I'll deal with the Leica's slightly bulkier size. When I want something truly pocketable, it's a Vito II every time. Brooke Shields in 1980 could have slipped one of those into the back pocket of her Calvin Kleins.
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Old 03-26-2010   #22
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So you shoot without setting speed and aperture?

Try a Vito II some day. A Retina I is crude by comparison.

I don't know if this is what happened, but I wouldn't be surprised if Voigtländer set out to beat Kodak/Nagel and designed the camera to be better in every regard:

Sleeker wind buttons that are easy on fingers and pockets alike. A back clasp that stays closed reliably and won't catch. A glass- covered frame counter that's easy to set and read. Quick to open and close. All settings visible at a glance (albeit an oblique glance from top left). Shutter release without that sharp edge, and it retracts as you fold the door. Tripod mount near center. Folds at any distance setting. Pivoting cover for the counter setting wheel, doubles as rewind clutch. Deeply recessed lens that doesn't need a hood. Rounded, comfortable shape.

Highly subjective: The Vito II is a darn fine piece of sculpture, too.

Granted, the VF is only marginally better, but at least I can make out the margins (I wear glasses) -- I can't on the Retina.

The only advantage that the Retina has, IMO, is that the lens is unit focusing.

All of the above is strictly early, scale focus Retinas, of course.
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Old 03-26-2010   #23
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Was this a debate comparing a fixed-lens folding Retina with an interchangeable-lens Leica? Seems like apples to oranges.
They're too different to compare.Nobody mentioned the Retina IIIS-the UberRetina. Fully interchangeable lenses from 28mm to 135mm. Big, bright RF/VF with auto-parallax and auto-frame lines for 35 to 135 lenses. Reliable, quiet Compur-Rapid that flash synchs at all speeds. You can do close-ups to 6 inches with attachments, and there were fittings for microscopes and astronomy as well. You can even use a 200mm lens, though it isn't RF coupled. All for about 1/10th the cost of comparable Leica equipment. You can add another great accessory-a Retina SLR that uses all the same lenses.
If you're mechanical, a tiny mod to the lens mount makes all Retina-S RF lenses work on the Voightlander Bessamatic SLR. Likewise, a small mod to Voightlander lenses will put any Bessamatic SLR lens on a Retina IIIS or Reflex. 'Deckel S' bayonet mount used on Bessamatics is often found with Retina's RF coupling cam. I have 2 Bessamatics, both came with Voightlander lenses (50mm f:2 and 35mm f:3.4) that have Retina RF coupling cam.
Using Voightlander lenses and reliable Bessamatic bodies with a RF IIIS is, to me, the ultimate flexible do-anything system. Between the Bessamatics and the Retina IIIS, I have 9 lenses, plus a Vivitar 2x tele-converter. This covers all focal lengths between 28mm and 400mm!!
Seven of the lenses work on the RF camera (the Retina 200mm, the Voightlander Zoomar, and the tele-converter don't couple to the RF). It's all a fraction of the cost of Leica equipment. The photos are just as sharp, colors just as beautiful, images just as 'round' as my Leicas used to make-before their focal-plane shutters wore out.
I haven't experienced any mechanical problems with my IIIS. Maybe it's because the camera has had only 2 owners and was used by photographers who actually read and followed the directions instead of forcing things. True, I wouldn't take a IIIS to a war-zone. For that I'd use my Retina II Type 011-or my Nikon F.

Last edited by dave61 : 03-26-2010 at 13:35.
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Old 03-26-2010   #24
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Quote:
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So you shoot without setting speed and aperture?

Would you believe auto exposure? (Neither would I)

A couple of people have mentioned the Vito to me and I might just give it a try. It will have to be one hell of a camera to overcome my 40 year friendship with the IIa though.
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Old 03-26-2010   #25
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Ah, a IIa. That's something else, of course. The Vito is 50/3.5 and scale focus. You need a Vitessa Anyway, we're really OT here.
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Old 04-26-2010   #26
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In my opinion if the Barnack is to be used with only a 50mm lens, then the Retina wins based upon the better VF and film loading alone.

Once you get into changing lenses on the Barnack, then it's a bit unfair as the tele/wide lenses for the Retinas (if available) were ungainly at best.

I always loved my two Retinas. Wish I still had the IIa.
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Old 04-26-2010   #27
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Quote:
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Since I use both on a fairly equal basis I chose not to vote for either. Most times both are loaded and used together..
Ditto. I use my Leica IIIf for 35mm, my Retina IIc for 50mm.
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Old 05-01-2010   #28
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Most Retinas over here are expensive ($300+) if in working condition. The remaining ones are broken Since I can't afford one, I chose Barnack.

I like both cameras.
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Old 01-14-2011   #29
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Something bad happened this week... I bought two more Retinas... a IIa and IIc. Oops. I think that makes 6 now.
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Old 01-26-2011   #30
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Old 01-26-2011   #31
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So as someone with a bunch of Retinas... any favorites of the series? What are the biggest differences to you?

I have a IIIc (little c). I love it but it makes me curious about the others, particularly the IIa which people seem to love.
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Old 01-26-2011   #32
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Could someone advise about Retina CLA's?
Prices and places?
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Old 01-26-2011   #33
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Getta grip!
Old 01-26-2011   #34
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Getta grip!

I really like my little Retina IIIc. It folds up to the size of a portable CD player, nicely heavy, great lens, quirky EV-type setting of aperture and shutter speed (I like 'quirky'), bright vf and sharp rangefinder, and an incredibly quiet shutter. HOWEVER... did people back in the 40's/50's have tiny hands? For a right-handed person, the Retina is pretty uncomfortable to hand-carry for any length of time. There's just not much to hold onto on the right side of the camera. I guess it's designers assumed you'd carry it around your neck on a strap.

Has anyone figured out an ingenious way of adding a grip device to the Retina's?
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Old 01-26-2011   #35
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Of all Retinas I've had or handled the simple 1b feels like a little gem in my hands.
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Old 01-27-2011   #36
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I have a IIa which I really like, a Retinette !A and a Retina Reflex III which is not working. I have used the IIa to take photos in the U.K. a few years back. I'll dig them out one of these days and post some of them.
Tom
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Old 02-02-2011   #37
althatomisi
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The folding Retinas are wonderful cameras. You can load film quickly. They're compact.

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Last edited by althatomisi : 02-16-2011 at 20:04.
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Old 03-04-2011   #38
Spider67
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Legge View Post
So as someone with a bunch of Retinas... any favorites of the series? What are the biggest differences to you?

I have a IIIc (little c). I love it but it makes me curious about the others, particularly the IIa which people seem to love.
My all time favourite is the IIC a nice big VF with parallax correction (Although the VF is a bit cluttered by framelines). It's a bit easier to hold than the IIa. I have both additional lenses the 35mm and the 80mm + the external VF for both...Forget them it's not worth the hassle as focussing becomes very tiresome

The IIIS is a great Camera with a good choice of lenses It lacks a littlebit the charm of the folders as it´s bigger but it feels good in your hands. Some say that it was nicknamed the "Stuttgarter Leica" Great camera for 50mm an 35mm lenses

The IIa very nice look, very compact folder. Squinty VF without framelines which puts it close to the Barnack experience
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Old 03-04-2011   #39
JPD
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spider67 View Post
My all time favourite is the IIC a nice big VF with parallax correction (Although the VF is a bit cluttered by framelines). It's a bit easier to hold than the IIa. I have both additional lenses the 35mm and the 80mm + the external VF for both...Forget them it's not worth the hassle as focussing becomes very tiresome
With a IIC/IIIC (big C) and the 35mm it can't be that difficult to zone focus (by using the scale on the bottom of the focus ring) and you have the framelines in the viewfinder?
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Old 03-05-2011   #40
Spider67
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Yes zone focussing is definitely an option as the two 35mm lenses have f4 and f5.6 minimum aperture.
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