Rangefinder Dilemma

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by elemental, Jul 2, 2008.

  1. elemental

    elemental TPF Noob!

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    I've been reading up some on old(ish) film cameras lately after falling in love with the mechanical action of the Ricoh KR-5 Super II that came a few weeks ago attached to the Asahi Pentax SMC M 50mm f/2 that I really wanted. To make a long story short, after reading up some on 35mm cameras, I though it would be fun to get an old rangefinder for street photography. My DSLR is great, but it's definitely not inconspicuous, and is certainly not designed for hip shooting. The Ricoh is closer (the lens is marked to give an idea of in-focus area at different apertures), but still requires looking through the viewfinder for metering. A rangefinder with top-mount meter display and all the information in the world on the lens seemed like the perfect choice, and sure enough, they go cheap on eBay.

    After a little research, I decided a Yashica Minister D would be perfect. They look cool, they're worthless, and they're easy to find. I paid a premium for a "Buy It Now" model described as "guaranteed to be in good working order," and apparently checked out by a camera shop. It arrived today. "Good condition" is a stretch, as the camera is scratched , dirty, and has a name engraved in it (which was obscured by bad pictures in the listing). The film advance works and the shutter physically fires, but the timer is so off that one second exposures tend to sputter and die and not close until around four seconds, and the shorter exposures that are still long enough to be verified with a stopwatch are about twice as long as they should be. The viewfinder is dim and dirty. What was left of the light seals disintegrated when I opened the camera (probably adding more dust to the inside).

    As frustrated as I am, I love this camera. The shape and weight, the smell of old leather and metal, the beat up case- it's exactly what I wanted. The seller claims to know nothing about cameras and has been extremely agreeable to this point, so part of me says to just send it back and demand a refund for return shipping. It is not in good working condition, and the only camera store that would sign off on something like this is Wal Mart's photo department. The other part says to load up some 400CN and see what happens. If it comes out overexposed and dirty (and light-leaky), I can just demand my money back then, right? Is it a waste to even put film in the thing? I feel like I got ripped off, but I really want a decent vintage rangefinder to play with!

    What would you do?
     
  2. Moglex

    Moglex TPF Noob!

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    If you can try it quickly and feel like doing so, why not?

    But you should really receive something in a little better condition that you describe given the auction description.

    BTW, is this a rangefinder camera?

    I thought it was a basic model where the only way to focus was to guess (or measure) the distance and then set it?
     
  3. elemental

    elemental TPF Noob!

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    The Minister D (essentially Minister IV) is a rangefinder camera.

    I would love to put a roll of film through it, I am just not sure if it's worth the expense. I guess $8 all told really isn't that bad.

    I am thinking pretty seriously of sending it back and picking up a Lynx 5000 instead. Supposedly the optics are better (and, if nothing else, faster).
     
  4. Moglex

    Moglex TPF Noob!

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    Looking on (F)leabay they have currently a couple of really nice looking examples (in one auction) for £40 available. Unfortunately one is working and the other isn't!
     
  5. elemental

    elemental TPF Noob!

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    It seems to me that the problem with these is the definition of "working." Most of these cameras are either from attics or estate sales, and are almost never being handled by the original photographer. Since almost no one knows anything about fully manual 35mm cameras anymore, my Yashica is "working" because the film advance works and the shutter fires, but I honestly believe that the seller (who has been great thus far, about to see what happens when I say it doesn't work as guaranteed in the description) doesn't have any idea what a sputtering shutter timer, clouded rangefinder, or light seals that have literally disintegrated into dust even are. If most of the people selling these were photographers who used them, we could get more accurate assessments and the fully functional examples would command their rightful premium over somewhat- or non-functional models. Unfortunately, the way the market is now almost every camera is "as is" because the seller has no idea as to anything beyond cosmetics, and the "guaranteed" models like mine are often no better.

    I guess the crapshoot is part of the appeal?
     
  6. compur

    compur No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    As an eBay seller of cameras myself, I would recommend this:

    - If the camera you received was substantially different than described,
    return it for a refund. Hint: having a name engraved on the camera
    with no mention of this in the description = instant return/refund. It's
    just unacceptable in my opinion. Not to mention the other "surprises."

    - In the future only buy cameras from sellers who specialize in photo
    equipment (unless you want to take a chance on something). Many, many
    sellers try to sell cameras without knowing anything about them and it often
    leads to an unhappy buyer. If you see a camera you like on eBay click
    on "View sellers other items" to see what else they sell. If they don't sell
    cameras as a regular thing, pass on it. And, if you have any questions
    about a camera, ask first and get an answer before bidding.

    - if you want some recommendations on very good, fixed lens rangefinder
    camera models, take a look at this page.

    - if those cameras are too pricey and you'd just like an inexpensive RF
    camera (but one that gives good results), I'd recommend a Ricoh 500 G or
    GX. It doesn't have full manual controls but it is a rangefinder camera that
    can give good results, has a decently bright viewfinder and is fun to use.
    It is also small and inconspicuous and you should be able to find one for
    about $20 or maybe less.

    [​IMG]

    Another similar inexpensive choice is the Canonet 28:
    [​IMG]

    - As with any vintage camera, do your best to ensure that all functions are
    working, the lens is reasonably clean and the camera's light seals are in
    reasonably good shape before buying. :wink:
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2008
  7. elemental

    elemental TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the advice. The Yashica just isn't as much fun as my Ricoh (which, after viewing my first roll, is an incredible photographic tool- it's amazing how less is more), is not as described, and is not in good shape, so back it goes. I used the money for a Vivitar 28-135 K-mount macro for my Ricoh (for the rare situation where 50mm isn't the best focal length).
     

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