rangefinder question

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by Sqiud, Dec 10, 2009.

  1. Sqiud

    Sqiud TPF Noob!

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    I'm looking to put together some candid gear for the city, and don't know exactly what to get.

    I've read up on some cheap film rangefinders and such, and a few other alternatives. I have some ideas.

    But I wanted to ask you all, what do you prefer? what have you used? What's good? Where's the good value?

    Thanks much. :)
     
  2. Dwig

    Dwig TPF Noob!

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    The list of older RF cameras that would be good for street shooting is massive. Even the list of those that I have personal experience is rather large.

    Personally, I've used the following for a significant period (many many others for short periods):

    Leica M3 w/ 50mm f/1.5 Summarit
    Leica IIIa w/ 50mm f/2.0 Summar
    Nikon S2 w/ 50mm f/1.4 Nikkor
    Nikon SP w/ 50mm f/1.4 Nikkor
    Canonnet QL-17 "new" (40mm f/1.8) (often mistaken for a "G-III")
    Canonnet QL-17 G-III (40mm f/1.8)
    Zorki-4 w/ 50mm f/2.0

    The M3 and Nikons are rather expensive, even in rough user condition. The IIIa (circa 1936) is rather old and the lens I have is somewhat marginal by many peoples standards; newer models from the 3arly '50s can be affordable with slower lenses but f/2 and faster get expensive. The Zorki, like other FSU (Former Soviet Union) cameras, is a bit of a variable beast. Mine is very good and performs perfectly even though its a quarter of a century old. Many out there are in rather marginal condition internally even though the look good.

    The more mainstream "amateur" or "tyro" RFs from the mid-50s through the later '70s are generally the ones that fit the "inexpensive" label. Early in that period German models dominate and Japanese models begin to dominate after the mid-60s.

    I suggest that you research the classic camera profiles at CameraQuest:
    Classic Camera Profiles

    and lurk on the Rangefinder Forum at:
    Rangefinderforum.com Portal - Rangefinderforum

    There is a lot of excellent information and opinion on both sites.

    For my use, the best inexpensive model with a fast lens are the Canon models I list (both are nearly identical and much smaller than the earlier Canonet 17 and QL-17) with the Olympus RD coming in a close second. The Olympus RC is also a good choice being more compact but has a slower lens (f/2.8).

    If you only need an f/2.8 lens, there is a nearly infinite list of German models from the '50s and early '60s. Many (read: almost all) have excellent lenses and if in good condition will deliver excellent images.

    Most early cameras won't have meters as a rule so you will want to get a separate meter. Most of the later models do have meters but use batteries that are no longer available. There are substitute batteries but using them may require that either the meter be recalibrated or that your learn how much to lie to the camera when setting the ISO.
     
  3. Sw1tchFX

    Sw1tchFX TPF Noob!

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    If you want to keep things digital, take a serious look into the Olympus EP1 and Panasonic GF1.

    I recently got a GF1, 20mm, and 14-45 and love it to death because it's small, sharp, and with the 20mm, can go anywhere. And with either lens what's great is that everything is small enough that it doesn't look like you're on a mission every time you take it out.
     
  4. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    I've had two of the Canonets, both the QL-17 and the G-III model, both years ago. They were small,light, and very quiet in operation. At that time, pre-digital, they looked like many other cameras,more or less; now they've become retro-chic; not long ago I saw a high fashion model with one in a high-end magazine. The light seals on most of them probably need replacing, and the battery issue will be a slight inconvenience.

    My current rangefinder stuff is the Bessa-R2, 35mm 1.7 Asph, 50mm 1.5 Nokton Asph, nad the 75mm f/2.5 Color Heliar. I am not a big fan of 28mm on 35mm rfdr, but some people are. The Camwraquest.com website Dwig pointed you to above is a good source to read up on all the various rangefinder models
    available both new and used.

    The "value" usually found in used or discontinued models,both in bodies and lenses. I dunno...if it were me, I'd go high quality digital...just for the speed and expedience and the tremendous depth of field.
     
  5. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    By a rangefinder because that's what you want to shoot with..... its one of those things that you should try first before jumping in with a bank account,

    There is no reason you can't shoot street with an SLR.

    M3 -> one of my favorites but doesn't have framelines for wide side. Still one of my favs

    M2 -> Feels like an M3 but has a slightly wider frameline set.

    Canonet GIII QL-17-> Fun camera, stylish, handles well. Not completely mechanical. 100% of the canonets in my possession required new foam seals. It is an easy DIY job but you need to find a source for the foam seals.

    Canonet 28 -> A bit less featured and not as high quality optics as the more expensive QL-17. They are easy and cheap. A good way to get introduced.

    Russians -> Feds,Zorki, etc... Quality is a bit of a crap shoot. There are certainly good examples but the quality and build is not consistent.

    Leica III -> more of a collector's item... a bit expensive. Completely usable if in good operation.

    Canon screwmount -> Also a collector's item and also expensive. Most will require a CLA by now. Viewfinder is a bit squinty. I actually like mine, IVSB2, more than the Leica III.


    As mentioned, Cameraquest.com has a load full of information sprinkled well with opinionated comments from the owner. Always had good business with them. The Voigtlander lenses are good quality for a decent prince... but a system of VC bessa + lenses is still going to be expensive for someone who isn't sure about rangefinders.


    Again, I think it is important to rationalize why you want to go rangefinder. Its not for everyone. With that said... my primary is a Leica rangefinder... sure... others have more features and more advanced technology... but I wouldn't trade it in for anything.
     
  6. Sqiud

    Sqiud TPF Noob!

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    Yea I spend most of my time shooting on the streets already. It's kind of annoying having the big, expensive, intimidating DSLR around your neck or in front of your eyes. mleh.

    By the links, RF forum, and this post, I think I'm getting a canonet G-III. Found a couple on craigslist :]

    and a source for replacement light seals.

    Just gotta solve the battery problem, then I'm good.

    Assuming I can actually get one of those G-IIIs! We'll see. :)
     
  7. Dwig

    Dwig TPF Noob!

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    The QL-17 G-III is completely mechanical and has a full manual exposure mode. It will work perfectly, with the exception of the light meter, without a battery. One solution is a more modern, separate light meter.

    Starting out with something reasonably inexpensive, like the QL-17, is a great way to get the feel of working with a RF. If you get hooked, then consider moving up to an interchangeable lens model such as one of the modern Bessas or Leicas or even an older classic (Leica, Canon, ...).
     
  8. wescobts

    wescobts TPF Noob!

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    I have always wondered myself about an RF, I would listen to others, but I was pretty keen on the Leicas M6, M7 or an MP.
     
  9. Sqiud

    Sqiud TPF Noob!

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    I'm picking the new-for-me camera up tomorrow probably.
    Awesome discussion, you guys helped a lot. :)

    Yea Dwig, the price is attractive!

    If it gets broken or stolen I won't cry quite as much. I do plan on lurking around the bad parts of town too.


    Would jogging with an RF (cradled properly) mess up the calibrations? Basically the camera would hardly be jossled up and down, just a tiny bit. I know there is not a mirror, but are there other highly sensitive bits that would get jarred?
     
  10. Mitica100

    Mitica100 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    No, unless you plan to fall with it to the ground. :lol: RFs are pretty solidly built.

    Also, some of the Voigtlander Vitomatics are great little picture takers. Lens is a Skopar, very good overall.
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2009
  11. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Darn... Cameraseals.com is no longer online. That's where I used to get material to make seals. If you find another source, please do share. I found this site camera seal kits but I don't know anything about them.

    Also, if you want to have a bit of DIY fun with the camera, cameraleather does support the canonet:

    Cameraleather - leather kits for the Canonet
     
  12. Sjixxxy

    Sjixxxy TPF Noob!

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    Light Baffle, .03125" - 1/32" - Part #: LB132

    I bought two of these 10x10 inch squares of self adhesive baffle about seven years ago. I still have about 75% of the material remaining after fixing several cameras and other odd photographic projects. Got one in the thin thickness, and another which was a bit thicker. Not bad for $5 a pop.
     

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