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Thread: Rangefinder

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    Rangefinder

    can someone please explain to me the difference between a rangefinder and a DSLR??
    i feel kinda dumb asking this

    thanks

    Ej



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    In a SLR (digital or film) you see the image you are taking through the lens.There is a mirror behind the lens that will reflects the image to the viewfinder. The mirror has to flip up before the exposure and then flips down afterwards.

    In a rangefinder you see the scene through a separate window and there is nothing between the lens and the film/sensor (apart from the shutter of course). Because there is no mirror in a rangefinder, they are more compact than SLR's.

    Usually lenses for rangefinders are also more compact than lenses for SLR's and the brightness of the image you see in the viewfinder does not depend on the maximum aperture of the lens (as you don't see through it).

    I am sure rangefinder users such as Usayit or Iron Flatline will be happy to give more details if required.

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    In an SLR's viewfinder you see the exact image that the sensor will register because you are looking through the lens itself. With a rangefinder camera you're looking through a separate viewfinder that's next to the lens. So the image in the viewfinder will be 'looking' at the subject from a position next to the lens, so the image is visible from a different angle. That angle changes with the distance to subject. It is called the 'parallax'. Some viewfinders have corrections for parallax, but they can never completely solve it.

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    Most of the differences have already been mentioned. Here are a few others, all simplified. Fee free to ask for explanations.

    The viewfinder of a rangefinder camera (I'll shorten that to rangefinder) is always in focus. There is no depth of field preview. A few rangefinders have a very limited use DoF indicator, however.

    The frame lines are not as accurate as an equivalent reflex camera, even if parallax and frame size are corrected to some degree.

    Parallax is not the only thing that can change with focus distance, the frame size needs to change as well. You don't use a rangefinder if you want very precise framing.

    The angle of view does not change when you change lenses (on most rangefinders, but not all). This means that long lenses aren't very practical, and that a separate viewfinder may be required for wide lenses. The separate viewfinder, whether for long or short lenses, will not have the rangefinder window.

    The rangefinder window is in the centre of the viewfinder. This means that you may have to reframe between focusing and taking the picture. This can be a small problem.

    There's little noise and vibration when the shutter fires (Steph has already mentioned the lack of a mirror).

    The lens always operates at the working aperture, so pre-exposure TTL metering always occurs at the working aperture without special arrangements being necessary (An SLR can use TTL metering at the working aperture during the exposure, of course).

    The distance from the lens flange to the sensor/film plane is usually significantly shorter than that of an SLR. This means that wide lenses may not have to be retrofocus. This has advantages and disadvantages, the disadvantages being mainly with digital rangefinders.

    Zoom lenses are more difficult to use, but not impossible.

    It's easier to use leaf shutter lenses with a rangefinder camera, and many medium format ones do. It's not common with interchangeable-lens 35 mm rangefinders, however.

    That's all that comes to mind immediately. I have quite a few rangefinder cameras, from 35 mm to 4x5, and I think that they have advantages in many circumstances.

    Best,
    Helen
    Last edited by Helen B; 06-06-2008 at 05:45 AM.

  5. #5
    Iron Flatline
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    See if you can get your hands around one, you'll immediately understand the points being explained here, and thus the difference between the two types.

    One other issue: a typical 35mm RF is a lot smaller than an SLR, and as such lends itself well for a certain kind of street/candid/journalistic style. That's why they are the preferred tool for some photographers.

    EDIT:

    Me, busting a pose with an R-D1 with a rather big 35mm Voigtlaender Nokton lens.

    Last edited by Iron Flatline; 06-06-2008 at 05:58 AM.

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    Pretty much the major differences have been mentioned. Think of it as the camera for those looking for simplicity.

    Start with a light tight box with a shutter
    Add a lens to collect and focus
    Add a viewfinder to help "frame" the subject
    Add a rangefinder to help tell the distance of the subject

    More advanced rangefinder cameras will couple the rangefinder to the lens for faster focusing and a TTL light meter.



    All technicalities asside... the way you shoot a rangefinder camera is different from an SLR. Kinda hard to explain. The camera becomes more of an extension of the eye without interruption. You essentially "frame" subjects rather than placing them within a viewfinder. A lot of times, I don't even frame... just shoot at the hip.
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    Iron,

    An hour with a dremel taken to a spare GMP grip and my Epson is now sporting a grip:





    Does improve the handling quite a bit....
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    Oh yeah, one more thing: the central leaf shutter in most RF cameras enables flash sync at all shutter speeds!

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    Also notice that all the disadvantages (and advantages) brought up by Helen compliment the adv/disadv of SLRs. It is quite interesting how current technologies influence upcoming...
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    wow thanks for your help everybody!!! i tottaly understand all the differences now. thanks everyone i really appreciate it


    EJ

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    I have a question about focusing. Please correct anything that I say that is incorrect as I do not really know what I am talking about. So, the rangefinder tells you how far away the central point with respect to the lens is from the camera. Then you have to adjust the focus to match that number or compensate to whatever it is you want to focus on? This would make fine focus adjustments almost of a guess work then? Does the range show up in the viewfinder then, or is it on a separate display, or is it a mechanical thing?

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    On some rangefinder cameras the focus mechanism of the lens is connected to the rangefinder so you don't have to transfer readings from the range finder to the lens. A popuklar accessory in the days before SLRs were common was to have a separate rangefinder that could be used hand held or clipped into the flash bracket of a camera that did not have a built-in rangefinder.

    Note that while it is possible to use a rangefinder for macro photography most people would probably decide that life is too short to go through all the setting up, measuring of focal plane to subject, calculation of exposure etc that would be required for success - macro photography is one of the things that SLRs can excel at but it is extremely difficult and time consuming with a rangefinder.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jvgig View Post
    So, the rangefinder tells you how far away the central point with respect to the lens is from the camera. Then you have to adjust the focus to match that number or compensate to whatever it is you want to focus on? This would make fine focus adjustments almost of a guess work then? Does the range show up in the viewfinder then, or is it on a separate display, or is it a mechanical thing?
    So a camera is basically a lightsealed box + shutter + lens. Later they added a viewfinder to assist with the framing of a shot. Focus set via a guess, zone focusing. To increase the accuracy of focus on these cameras, many allowed for an accessory to mount to the shoe. This accessory was a rangefinder. These older cameras operated just as you suspect:

    1) Determine the distance of subject via the rangefinder
    2) Set the lens to focus at that distance
    3) Frame your shot via the viewfinder
    4) Take the shot.

    See example: http://www.pacificrimcamera.com/pp/leica/sm/a.htm
    (note: the rangefinder cold shoe attachment at the bottom)

    Later, the rangefinder was incorporated into the body and couple to the lens. These are the cameras that are known as "rangefinder cameras". Leica III series for example had two holes to look through. One had the rangefinder and the other had the viewfinder.

    See example: http://www.pacificrimcamera.com/pp/leica/sm/iiib.htm
    (note: the photo showing the rear viewfinder and rangefinder)

    The way the rangefinder operated was that you would look through the rangefinder. What you are presented is a double image of the object you want to focus. Turning the dial will move the overlapping image. Once you turn the dial so that the two images overlap completely (as if it were a single image again) the lens is focused. It is much much faster than it sounds. If the a rangefinder camera is "coupled" this means that the lens and the rangefinder are mechanically tied together thus aligning the rangefinder patch is done by turning the focusing dial of the lens... thus making focusing a one step process. Therefore taking a photo is now just:

    1) Align the rangefinder patch with the object (thus establishing focus)
    2) Compose the photo in the viewfinder (switching to the other viewing hole)
    3) Snapping the photo.

    Later rangefinders took it even a step farther and incorporated the viewfinder and rangefinder into a single unit. This allowed for focusing (aligning the rangefinder patch) and composing fast and easy. My Canon IVSB has this feature and a little later the Leica M3.

    http://www.pacificrimcamera.com/pp/leica/m/m3.htm

    To the trained individual, a rangefinder camera can actually be faster (and accurate) to focus, compose, and trigger than even the most advanced AF SLRs today. At this point, you simply align patch, compose, and trigger all without moving your eye.

    Up to this point, you still had to determine exposure. Even more advances incorporated TTL metering like the Leica M5 (and on to the M6).
    Last edited by usayit; 06-06-2008 at 11:44 AM.
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    oh yeh..

    A good way to get a feel is to read the manual of one of the most advanced rangefinders today; Leica M7. The instruction manual is here:

    http://us.leica-camera.com/photography/m_system/m7/

    (second section is in english).
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    And the best way to get a real feel is to buy an old copy, FED, Zorki etc.. cheap as chips.. i got my FED-4 for 8 UKP. I think it's worth buying one, even just to use once and get the joy out of using it and know first hand how a rangefinder works.

 

 
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