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Roger Hicks -- Author of The Rangefinder Book

Roger Hicks is a well known photographic writer, author of The Rangefinder Book, over three dozen other photographic books, and a frequent contributor to Shutterbug and Amateur Photographer. Unusually in today's photographic world, most of his camera reviews are film cameras, especially rangefinders. See www.rogerandfrances.com for further background (Frances is his wife Frances Schultz, acknowledged darkroom addict and fellow Shutterbug contributor) .


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Budget Rangefinders ?
Old 02-17-2010   #1
dee
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Budget Rangefinders ?

Following on from the value for money thread , what on earth is a ' budget ' Rangefinder ? !
I would hate to advise upon this most frequently asked question .

Obviously , it means cheap to those seeking an entry level camera , but if it is likely not to work , then it is not ' cheap ' .

If it does work , but feels tight and dry , such as my lovely 60 1952 KNeB II - is that a joy to use ?
Would an immaculate 60 rebuilt Zorki S which works exquisitely , be better value ?
Intially , yes , CLA that Kiev II and it will be worth the total outlay , and be a much better , easier camera to use and is more likely to retain it's value ... but at 60 , the Zorki is a great buy .

Unfortunately ' cheap ' [ under 40 ? ] usually means never been serviced in decades , which may , for those of us of the dee'spraxia persuasion , easily mean a waste of money ... or , a camera escalating by 80 or so , albeit with a limited warranty . Of course this is likely to result in a useable favourite with the prior opportunity to try it and see .

I am not going into the ex-USSR V Japanese marvels debate - each to per own , and most will find advise on either . But the variabilty of some really inexpensive wholly mechanical cameras can be ameliorated by a thorough service ... not so sure about electronics .

I am beginning to wonder if the cheap Rangefinder is something of a myth - yes , we may get lucky , with amazing finds , from charity shops , even evil bay etc , but these are opportunist - not a dee'liberate choice of camera .

I am begining to ponder if a reasonable quality Rangefinder , bought at a premium with CLA and 3 months warranty is the average entry level ' Budget ' rangefinder .

So , we may be talking 100 / 120 [ my KNeB II 1951 ] or so here , given the discrepancies twix UK and USA - ' even ' for one of those Zorki things LOL .[ My 60 camera now seems something of a bargain ! ]
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Old 02-17-2010   #2
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Well first, are you talking about FF lens or interchangable lens?
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Old 02-17-2010   #3
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If you buy a 30 or 40 year old camera, it should get a CLA. Many cameras get bad mouthed because people pick 'em up for a few bucks and then are mad because they don't work like new.

Sometimes you get lucky. Many times a bargain camera isn't.
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Old 02-17-2010   #4
JohnTF
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I have enough "rescue" FL RF's, and well, more than a few of the FSU ilk that need adjustment-- some sitting around waiting for the flash of inspiration to get them working, unfortunately, more cameras than flashes. ;-)

I also picked up some from a lot that were "serviced", and the service part meant they worked for a few months.

The guy working on a $50 camera generally gets paid the same hourly rate as the guy working on the $2000 camera.

That said, a quality brand, (Nikon, Canon, Leica....) if the price is right you can get it CLA'd and in to it for $250 which I would consider cheap?

I would consider the nice IIIf with a CLA by Al Banones at a show for $200 cheap (50mm lens, books, tongue cutting guide). Saw two IIIf bodies last year from a dealer for the same price, both cla'd and with a warranty. How cheap is cheap?

Ultimately your time is the most valuable, so nothing is cheap unless it is reliable as well.



Regards, John
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Old 02-17-2010   #5
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When speaking of ' budget ' cameras it would include both fixed and interchangeable lens models , but factor in CLA for a more modern FF lens camera and it's quite an expensive proposition over a good 70s SLR .

John , I would consider that IIIc at $200 cla , as pretty much ' entry level ' Leica ... and $250 to be reasonable for any working classic ... or any of the top brand SLRs .

I just question the possiblity of really finding a good user of any kind at less than $50 or so - other than those chance finds mju 1 @ 5 for example - but not RF .

Initially seemingly inexpensive , FSU cameras seem less ' value ' when making them work is taken into account - unless that new Fed 5 really does do what it says on the box LOL
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Amedeo Contaxed Leica M8 + Brian Sweeney J3 + Helios .CV 35mm f2.5 Fed 50 collapsible
Classic Leica Dig3 / Panasonic L1 Olympus zooms
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Fuji X-Pro 1 and X-M1 joined by neat X-T1

Contax/Kiev hybrids - Contax II silver /tan , Contax III + Kiev IV meter etc , Contax II , Kiev shutter from parts camera .
Minolta SR1s/SR7v/SRTs various !

Puns,Cameras and snapshots keeping ASD and dees'ruptive Girl/Boy/Me?' dee'structive dee'sorientation contained.
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Old 02-18-2010   #6
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When I first started looking into rangefinders I did a bit of reading up and decided I would like either a Canon Canonet or a Yashica Electro. I'm quite impatient and bought a Canonet on eBay for about 10 (it's the little Canonet 28 version). That was a conscious decision, based on various reviews and looking at what I could get for less than around 20. It hasn't had a CLA or any type of servicing, I just put in some donated XP2 and tried it out. One of the shots from the first roll was used by Ilford on an entry form for a competition, earning me what probably worked out as nearly 100 worth of film & processing! The only problems I've had with it were caused by my inexperience rather than the camera.

I've also bought a Yashica MG-1 for 1 at a car boot sale which has taken some nice images. And I've finally picked up an Electro 35 GSN from a work colleague for 30 which, going by the 1 roll I've put through it, seems great. I'm not so unrealistic as to expect Leica-quality from something so cheap but I am more than happy with what they do.

So yep, I think it's possible to get a cheap/budget RF

Using a car analogy, it's perfectly possible to pick up an cheap car that runs, has an MOT and will be perfectly useable for a reasonable length of time. Ideally it would benefit from a full service and some jobs doing but that doesn't mean it isn't useable as it is.
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Old 02-18-2010   #7
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Japanese fixed rangefinder are the way to go if you want to enter the world of RF without spending too much money, sure viewfinder are not that great but using them will teach you if RF is the way you want to take. I used to collec Hi-Matic and every piece of them I bought was ok for going out and shot... then I spent more on a M6.
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Old 02-18-2010   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by reuno View Post
Japanese fixed rangefinder are the way to go if you want to enter the world of RF without spending too much money, sure viewfinder are not that great but using them will teach you if RF is the way you want to take. I used to collec Hi-Matic and every piece of them I bought was ok for going out and shot... then I spent more on a M6.
I'm inclinded to agree. I have bought some Japanese FF (or FL if you prefer) that worked perfectly. I have a Petri Computer Color 35 that works perfectly. A nice, compact and sharp camer BTW. I don't recall for sure what I paid, but I got in on ebay for prbably something like $10.00. I got a Canonet QL 1.7 III from a thrift store, with case and dedicated flash for $15.00. It seems to work better than the one CLA'd by our used to be member and Canonet guru, greyhoundman. Like probably anyone who has bought more than a few times from ebay, I have also gotten things cheap, that didn't work well, or at all. But the bargains are out there.
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Old 02-18-2010   #9
Roger Hicks
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Essentially, any second hand camera is a gamble unless it comes with a guarantee. But many are so cheap it's a gamble worth taking. 'Budget' is normally a euphemism for 'silly cheap', but it can also be code for 'not a Leica' or even 'not a new Leica'. I don't think it's a word that means very much.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 02-18-2010   #10
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Budget means priced lower than average comparable offer, I think. So much depends on what one calls his baseline price - one will call $10 camera a budget RF and some will call latest Bessa R% a budget....and both are right.
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Old 02-18-2010   #11
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IIICs going for 200 and the less desirable Ms (M3s and M4-2s) 500 suggest to me that, while these Leicas are hardly 'budget' items, they are a bit closer to being such.

I was lucky enough to be given a IIIC fitted with Summitar in the early 70s. Having come with a suitcase full of accessories and lenses two of which were sold on to a collector for the price of the whole kit this camera effectively cost nothing, until I had it refurbished last year.

More to the point, the outfit I am using at the moment comprises this camera plus 25/4 Voigtlander with viewfinder and a 90mm Elmar I just bought from Ffordes. The 25mm lens and finder set me back 125 and the Elmar a mid-1950s, coated example with clear optics 75. It is nice that you can find such such good lenses for that kind of money.
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Old 02-18-2010   #12
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I'd agree with Japanese fixed-lens RF as a cheap, low-risk, option. I got a Ricoh 500ME for 10 and, once I'd fixed the loose lens (a ten minute job, thanks to RFF), it takes very good photos.

It's a qustion of how much you want to risk, really. I can justify blowing 10 on something that might not work, maybe you can justify blowig 100 or even 1000. The only real meaning of budget in my opinion (as H to that as you see fit) is how the cost fits with your personal budget.

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Old 02-18-2010   #13
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i gambled on a minolta A5 for $28 plus shipping on ebay. it is an excellent, beautiful camera. its only drawback is a low contrast rangefinder. i suspect 30-year-old eyes would find it even more of a joy to use than my almost 59-year-old ones. this camera did not need a CLA; is very close to mint. as far as i can tell there is not even a cleaning mark on the rokkor 45/28 lens. i would say this A5 is, indeed, a bargain for anyone who does not mind using a handheld meter, or going sunny16 ...
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Old 02-20-2010   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dee View Post
When speaking of ' budget ' cameras it would include both fixed and interchangeable lens models , but factor in CLA for a more modern FF lens camera and it's quite an expensive proposition over a good 70s SLR .

John , I would consider that IIIc at $200 cla , as pretty much ' entry level ' Leica ... and $250 to be reasonable for any working classic ... or any of the top brand SLRs .

I just question the possiblity of really finding a good user of any kind at less than $50 or so - other than those chance finds mju 1 @ 5 for example - but not RF .

Initially seemingly inexpensive , FSU cameras seem less ' value ' when making them work is taken into account - unless that new Fed 5 really does do what it says on the box LOL

I think you are right, but for every really good one I found, (mostly by luck, or at a real collectors' show), I have two others that are sitting around with something significant wrong with them.

I used to be able to get the fixed on the cheap in Prague, with some repairs holding up, and then the others. Am not so sure I can get this any more, A CLA on say a Werra, or other camera in its range used to be $30 or less. Then it is easier to justify.

I used to take them apart and fiddle with them, plus use, in Roger's parlance "Trike", but I am always not too good, the first time I take one apart. ;-)

I had some real projects with Pentacon Sixes, until I had one fixed three times and figured it was cheaper to mount the lenses on a Mamiya 645 with an adapter.

John
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