Choice for first rangefinder

Discussion in 'Rangefinder Forum' started by MattPharmD, Jun 19, 2014.

  1. MattPharmD

    MattPharmD Member

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    Hey guys,

    I really think I would like a rangefinder and am trying to find one to try out. I am really getting into street photography, but right now my choices are an SLR that feels bulky or a digital P&S that isn't intuitive to use quickly (although it does have most manual functions).

    Here are the choices I seem to have in my price range. First, there is a local guy that is selling a couple of Argus rangefinders (don't know exactly which model) or I have found both a Canonet 28 and a CanonetQL19 in my price range. I will admit that I am a little of a Canon fanboy.

    If I enjoy it I would like to upgrade to something like a Canon 7 (or 7s) then eventually to a Leica. I know it will be a while before I can afford a Leica and I want to make sure it is a system of shooting I am going to enjoy.

    The Argus is the cheapest option, and I kind of like the different look, but the canonets seem to work a little more like the higher end models. I don't have a problem doing a little work to the camera (seals and cleaning). Anyone have any suggestions or comments on what I have been thinking?

    Thanks!
     
  2. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    If you like Canon, stick with it. There are several good models, look up KEH or B&H.

    Jeff
     
  3. darkosaric

    darkosaric Subscriber

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    Canon, and then Leica; canon is nice spare body when you will have a Leica.
     
  4. giannisg2004

    giannisg2004 Member

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    The most basic fact that can make or break the rf experience, is a nice, bright finder with clear framelines and rf patch.

    The vf will be the most used part of the camera, so it has to be good.
    If your first rf has a mediocre or cloudy viewfinder, although it doesn't affect the pictures, it'll ruin the experience.

    You also mentioned quick to use, so I guess a meter + aperture priority would be handy.

    With that in mind, go straight to a Bessa rf (R2A, R3A depending the focals you like most).
    You plan on building an M lens system, so no point wasting money on fixed lens RFs.
    Also, the Bessa being new, with new coatings and not enough time to cause deterioration, the finder will be brighter and contrastier than any vintage RF, let alone consumer ones like the Japanese fixed lens rangefinders.

    Other than that, it has Aperture priority, a light but tough body because of the metal alloy, accurate shutter as it's quartz timed, and of course it takes M lenses.

    In the past, when the only option was the M6 or M7 for several grand, and the fixed lens RFs (or the Soviet clones) cost ~50$, you might be tempted to try one.
    But now that you can find a used Bessa for 400, and the fixed RFs can cost as much as 200$ (because of hipster cred), there's not much point in them.
     
  5. Regular Rod

    Regular Rod Member

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    How about a boost to quality by choosing a medium format camera? The Fuji GSW690 III has a remarkable lens, fool-proof film loading, is easy to hold steady, a brilliant viewfinder and is fast to wind on when needed. The only design fault is the ridiculous routine that you have to go through when making a long exposure, but for your street work it is ideal.

    RR
     
  6. MattPharmD

    MattPharmD Member

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    Thanks for the suggestions. The GSW690 sounds like a great idea as I would love to work in MF on the street. However, both it and the bessa are out of my price range for now. I really dont have more than $100 to spend on a camera that might not get used (and I don't know how often it will be anyway).

    I am also perfectly okay with an all manual camera. I am not even really sure that I need a meter as "sunny-16" works pretty well for most of my street work. Part of the fun of film for me is using all manual with truely mechanical controls, which is part of the reason I like the older rangefinders. I have been able to find several of the less "cool" older rangefinders like the Canonet 28 (the QL17GIII is the "cool" one) for around $50 or so.
     
  7. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    Kids these days. It used to be that the Canonet 28 was *the* default "cool" rangefinder, because of the film _Pecker_. Anyway...

    There are some good articles on the various fixed-lens rangefinders (along with lots of other things) at http://www.cameraquest.com/classics.htm, which might help to get a sense of the landscape of options. Hipsters aside, it should still be possible to find the smaller-aperture or less-manual models at decent prices, I think. The biggest problem with those 70s compacts, in my experience, is that they're totally electronics-dependent, so when they die, they die *dead* and are pretty unrealistic to fix.

    They also generally aren't really designed with manual operation in mind; even when they allow full-manual operation, the controls can be kind of fiddly. They were intended to be point-and-shoots, by the standards of their era, and they feel like that in use; on the bright side, many of them work very well indeed in that role.

    If what you really want is a manual camera, and onboard metering isn't important, I think the fSU Leica-mount cameras are still the best deal going. The cheapest ones with lenses at Fedka are in the US$90-100 range, but they should be CLAd and working properly, which an eBay camera may well not be. Definitely not a substitute for a Leica, in terms of fit and finish---they kind of feel like they were made in a tractor factory---but they're workable manual cameras and a good way to get your feet wet with rangefinders.

    -NT
     
  8. Patrick Robert James

    Patrick Robert James Subscriber

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    Typically when people get interested in rangefinders they start out with either a FSU camera like a Zorki 4 or a Fed 2, or they go with a compact rf like a Canonet. If you can find a Canonet QL17 III, that would be a good start and they have better viewfinders than FSU cameras which tend to be a bit squinty. FSU cameras can be a little finicky mechanically and usually require some service. The lenses are pretty dang good though. If you can stretch it, a Canon 7 would be my recommendation. I think it is one of the best rangefinders regardless of price. I had one and stupidly sold it. These days I use a Hexar RF and a Leica M3, but I still miss that Canon 7!
     
  9. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    "hoping to try one out." "first rangefinder" Doesn't in my mind =several hundred bucks. :surprised:]
     
  10. 02Pilot

    02Pilot Subscriber

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    If your aim is to dip a toe into the rangefinder world, get something that is fully functional but cheap. No reason to throw money into an experiment unnecessarily. There are many types of fixed lens RFs out there for next to nothing - decent cameras with good, fast lenses and modern ergonomics that will allow you to make an objective determination. Canonets are nice cameras, and either the 28 or the QL19 will be fine. There are lots of other options, but why spend time deliberating when you could be out shooting with your new rangefinder? Buy the one you like best and go use it.
     
  11. Steve Toner

    Steve Toner Member

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  12. narsuitus

    narsuitus Member

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    I own and use the following rangefinders for street photography:

    1. Argus C3 with 35mm, 50mm, and 100mm interchangeable lenses
    2. Canon Canonet QL17 G-III with fixed 40mm f/1.7 lens
    3. Minolta Hi-Matic 9 with fixed 45mm f/1.7 lens
    4. Fuji GW670 III with fixed 90mm f/3.5 normal lens
    5. Fuji GSW690 III with fixed 65mm f/5.6 wide-angle lens

    All are useable for street photography; however, the Canonet is my personal favorite because of its small size and fast 40mm lens.

    If money were no object, I would also consider the Leica MP, Leica M6, Leica M2, Mamiya 7, Voigtlander, Zeiss, and Contax rangefinders.

    https://flic.kr/p/8XWY9C

    https://flic.kr/p/8XWPLh

    https://flic.kr/p/92o73R

    https://flic.kr/p/agMby4
     

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  13. elekm

    elekm Member

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    Do keep in mind that if you buy any Japanese camera from the mid-1960s and later, you will need to replace the foam seals, unless someone has already done that for you.

    There are some very usable rangefinders. If you are looking for something with a battery-powered meter, the Canon is a good choice. Also, the Olympus 35 RC.

    The Rollei XF 35 is a decent little camera but autoexposure only. Same goes for the Konica C35 Automatic and Vivitar 35CA.

    If you move backward to the 1950s, your choices really open to include the early Konicas (I, II and III, although the II is overpriced).

    Also, a number of German cameras, including Agfa, Zeiss Ikon, Voigtlander, Braun, Balda and others.

    The search is endless. Take a look on my site for a handful of reviews. Good luck. You can buy some very good cameras without breaking the bank.
     
  14. What about the R4A? I've been thinking about a rangefinder for a while as well and these models look interesting.

    Another RF newbie question - how are the Voigtlander lenses?
     
  15. Xmas

    Xmas Member

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    The CV lenses are excellent but only a few on the M mount ones are available single coated. The screw thread ones can be cheaper even allowing you will need an adopter.

    If you could tolerate a screw thread system camera each of the Canon VI, CanonP and Canon 7 series are fast handling system cameras with easy maintenance.

    You then have the option of Canon or CV or other third party lenses which will couple to the rangefinder eg Leica.

    As late as 20 years ago these cameras used to be cheap but not any more, they are still cheaper than Leica M's from same epoc.

    My normal kit

    CanonP user 150 GBP
    CV 35mm /2.5 as new 160 GBP

    note no foam in a P or VI

    http://www.cameraquest.com/crflen.htm
    http://www.cameraquest.com/canonp.htm
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 25, 2014
  16. kaantuncel

    kaantuncel Member

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    I'm going to throw the oddball choice out there in the form of a Leica III series. I don't know how much experience you have with RF's (or film in general) but a III is probably at one end of the extreme in terms of hard to use.

    The biggest challenge you would have with it, as a newbie to RF, would be its separate RF and VF windows. Basically you have two little windows next to each other, one to focus and the other to compose. This is challenging because it slows you down (or rather requires you to be quicker), as you have to swap windows when shooting. In addition to this other specs of the III series slow you down more, from its separate slow and fast shutter dials, to winding on film (with a little knob that makes it hard to wind-on with it to your eye) instead of the more modern crank wind.

    So why am I recommending it?

    Well for one thing, the separate RF window means it can be a 1.5x mag RF which makes it easier to focus with, especially when starting out.

    But mainly I am recommending these cameras are absolute characters. I, and many other owners, instantly fall in love with the nice looks and simple use of these cameras. You mentioned you wanted to do street photography? Well this is the camera Bresson used and excelled with. I think that is mainly because these cameras are absolutely tiny! Coming from a DSLR you will be shocked something so small can make a picture, and in street photography this is invaluable. With a collapsible 3.5 50mm, you can easily fit this into your front pocket, and this not only makes it inconspicuous but also means you could take this camera anywhere with you (don't underestimate the power of convenience). It is literally like taking a slightly larger phone with you everywhere you go, instead of a full-fledged camera.

    In terms of cost, if you go to an auction you will find there are tons of these series popping up all over the place and they are quite cheap, sometimes as little as £100 for a set with a lens. Screw mount lenses, by the way, are gorgeous and you can definitely count them as investing in the Leica system as they are useable in their own right on the M system (or any system for that matter) with an adapter.
     
  17. Ko.Fe.

    Ko.Fe. Member

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    If you want to try the street with RF - Olympus XA.
    35mm 2.8 OM.Zuiko lens is sharp and good at b/w and very pleasing with color.
    AV priority is big advantage. Normal batteries available everywhere and cheap in price, and they last for one year or more.
    Compact size, next to miniature, closing shelf makes it true camera for the pocket. Camera body is metal.
    RF patch isn't brightest one, or should I say, visible one, but for the street with 35mm lens it isn't necessary, yet, RF is still usable for precise focusing.
    With wrist strap it is one hand camera.
     
  18. Tony-S

    Tony-S Member

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    The very best rangefinder I've ever used is the Bronica RF645. A modern, electronically-controlled shutter with a fabulous viewfinder, spot-accurate focus and easy to use manual exposure, plus aperture-priority autoexposure. It's about the same size as my EOS 3 35mm camera but a bit lighter. The only downside is limited lens selection - 45mm, 65mm and 100mm (and the vary rare 135mm), and they are a bit pricy (~$800 with 65mm lens).
     
  19. zanxion72

    zanxion72 Member

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    A few medium to low price recommendations:

    Canon 19QL (relatively large one) and GIII 19QL (smaller, but more expensive).
    Olympus 35RC (small, reasonably priced)
    Canon 17QL GIII (higher priced, fast lens)
    Minolta HiMatic 7sii (even higher priced, fast lens)

    All priced from $20 to $160 depending on their condition.
     
  20. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Another bit of food for thought - a Kodak Retina. They came in a variety of versions, but probably the best overall combination of size and features is a IIa. They're a little quirky, but you get an all-manual camera with a decent enough sized rangefinder/viewfinder window, a nice Schneider or Rodenstock f2 lens and a leaf shutter with speeds up to 1/500th.