Affordable, quality rangefinder

Discussion in 'Film Discussion and Q & A' started by Sam6644, Dec 4, 2009.

  1. Sam6644

    Sam6644 TPF Noob!

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    I've always had a fascination with rangefinder cameras. I wish I could afford a Leica, but being so invested in digital stuff, I cant justify the cost right now.

    I'd like to get something fully mechanical, no electronics and whatnot.

    I dont really know what to look for... I was checking out some of Zorki's and they're super affordable.


    What can you guys tell me about some old Rangefinders I can get for ~$150 or less?
     
  2. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    I would head over to www.cameraquest.com and check webmaster/importer/retailer Stephen Gandy's articles and get an idea of some of the good, reliable,new modern options, like the Bessa series of Voigtlander cameras manufactured in Japan by Cosina. I think you could probably find a Bessa R, the first generation model from Cosina, for $150 used someplace, and it would be 30-40 years newer than a Russian-made Zorki,and of higher quality in all respects as well.

    I have a Bessa R from 2001, and it's well-made, smooth in operation,and has a good rangefinder. Some of the lenses from Cosina are actually quite good.
     
  3. PhotoXopher

    PhotoXopher TPF Noob!

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  4. Sam6644

    Sam6644 TPF Noob!

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    Well, this will be more of a toy/hobby camera, so older stuff is more of what I'm looking for.

    Awesome quality isn't quite as important as something with a little history, I guess.

    So I suppose I should specify that I'm looking for something a little vintage, on top of being decent quality and affordable.
     
  5. compur

    compur No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    You didn't mention if you want interchangeable lenses.

    I would suggest the later Kodak Retina models. The II-series and III-series.
    Some have interchangeable lenses. German build quality and lenses are
    excellent. A very historic camera series as well. The 35mm film format that
    we still use today was introduced with the Retina cameras. Retinas are
    plentiful and good prices are not too hard to find.

    Also, I suggest the Agfa Ambi-Silette as I posted here:
    http://www.thephotoforum.com/forum/collectors-corner/149858-dandy-ambi.html#post1480367

    It is German, has a history and is all-mechanical. Lenses are also excellent.
    Prices are within the range you mentioned.

    More info about it here:
    Agfa Ambi Silette

    Other bargain RFs with interchangeable lenses are the Russian Zorki, Kiev and
    FED cameras, some Argus models (e.g., C3 and C44) and the Kodak Signet 80.

    If you don't need interchangeable lenses there are many, many fine
    choices in RF cameras that are well within your price range.

    As with any vintage camera, be sure it is working properly with clean
    lenses before purchasing. ;)
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2009
  6. Dwig

    Dwig TPF Noob!

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    I would second Derrel's recommendations of CameraQuest and the Bessas. If your are looking for new cameras then its the Bessa R2M and R3M that you'd be looking for. The "A" versions have an electronic shuitter with manual and aperture priority automatic. The "M" versions are manual only with mechanical shutters. The difference between the "2" and "3" models is the viewfinder magnification and which lens focal lengths they provide frame line for.

    If you are considering used fixed lens cameras, there are so many that it would be impossible to give a comprehensive list. My pet for a somewhat modern camera is the Canon QL-17 G-III, although you have to deal with substitute batteries if you want the meter to work. Most of the good models are from the heyday of the RF (1950's through mid '60s). Most are German though a few Japanese. After the mid-60's there were few really good fixed lens RFs, particularily purely mechanical manual exposure models.

    The FSU cameras (Former Soviet Union) are all either a bit crude or very old, most are both. The best choice may well be a Zorki 4K. My 4K is now about 30 years old and functions flawlessly. My QL-17 G-III's (I've had 3) have all failed after a time, but they saw a lot of use and the Zorki has had very little since I prefered the Canons, the Leica IIIa, & the Nikon SP that were in my kit over the same period.
     
  7. Battou

    Battou No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    For an old rangefinders.... other than the Leica, I really like the size feel the Kodak Signet 40.
     
  8. Sjixxxy

    Sjixxxy TPF Noob!

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    For $150, I wonder if you can't get a nice medium format folding range finder? May want to poke around Vintage Folding Cameras and see what he has available.
     
  9. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Yes.... Voigtlander are great options for the rangefinder enthusiast BUT there are cheaper options if you just want a taste. Even Bessas + lenses can get pricey for someone who isn't even sure they'll like rangefinder.

    I'd start looking at Canonets for example....
     
  10. bhop

    bhop No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Canonet or Yashica Electro GS/GSN.. you can't really go wrong with either of those, and they're cheap.
     
  11. Dwig

    Dwig TPF Noob!

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    I've never been a fan of the Yashica Electro 35 series. There primary failings for me are that they are 100% battery dependent (no battery = no pictures) and auto exposure only (aperture priority, no manual) whereas the QL-17 is mechanical, has a full manual mode, and works fine in manual (no meter) without a battery.

    In addition, they are bigger and heavier than the Cannonet QL-17 G-III and their viewfind lacks the parallax correction present in the QL-17.
     
  12. Torus34

    Torus34 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    My 'collection' includes a Zorki 3C(S), a Kiev 4AM and a Fed 3 among the 'Russkies'. All are used by me from tikme to time. All were purchased on eBay from overseas. I've noted in the past that prowling streets with one of these heavyweight rigs provides a sense of 'one-ness' with some of the great rangefinder-equipped photographers of the past. The Russkies in particular have the advantage that if they stop working you can use them as replacement heads for sledge hammers.

    I also enjoy using my Argus C4. They pop up from time to time on eBay. Though limited in upper shutter speed they're certainly stylish in appearance. The Argus C4 rangefinder is bright and easy to use [the Russkies less so.]

    If you want something that looks like a rangefinder camera that was captured by the Borg ["Resistance is futile!"] check out a Kodak 35.
     

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