Decent Rangefinder for under $125 [preferrably compact]

Discussion in 'Rangefinder Forum' started by BryceEsquerre, Sep 18, 2011.

  1. BryceEsquerre

    BryceEsquerre Member

    Messages:
    74
    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2008
    Location:
    301 | Maryla
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Well the title says it all. I dabbled with 35 mm and medium format 3 or 4 years ago for fun, now i'm in college and i'm taking a b&w 35mm class, and i love my f4 (that i bought for the class), however, i've always been rather interested in rangefinders. i would love a compact one that i can carry around the city with me and barely notice it. I've also hear they are awesome for candid shots and quick focusing. If anyone can make me some reccomendations, i would greatly appreciate it.
     
  2. tomalophicon

    tomalophicon Member

    Messages:
    1,572
    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2010
    Location:
    Canberra, AC
    Shooter:
    Sub 35mm
    FED 2
     
  3. dasBlute

    dasBlute Subscriber

    Messages:
    254
    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2008
    Location:
    San Jose, CA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    $125 rangefinder? maybe, but: Olympus XA might be more for the money
     
  4. anikin

    anikin Subscriber

    Messages:
    891
    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2009
    Location:
    Capital of O
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    My favorite is Kodak IIIc. Excellent optics, very compact and folds down to a pocket size. These are
    pretty old by now, so you need some luck and/or some CLA to get one in excellent working order.
    I love mine.
     
  5. Ralph Javins

    Ralph Javins Member

    Messages:
    832
    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2008
    Location:
    Latte Land,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Good morning;

    Let us start with the observation that it is likely that the camera you can buy in that price range will probably not be an interchangeable lens camera, although there are a couple of exceptions to this, but those exceptions may also have "other considerations" that may preclude their selection as your camera. One obvious camera type in that exception category are those FSU cameras where questions of camera reliability often come up. That leaves us with the "fixed lens" cameras that were very popular back in the 1950s, 1960s, and less so going into the 1970s.

    While there are many who may suggest such things as the Rollei 35 or 35S, that will probably be above your price range. Other cameras like that include the Olympus XA and Epic, some Konica with their Hexanon lenses, the Minolta Hi-Matic 7s II, and a few others that should be less expensive. However, for your class, I would suggest something like the Yashica Lynx 1000, Lynx 5000, or Lynx 14 (I like the Lynx 14), or the Minolta Hi-Matic 7 (the original large one) or the Minolta Hi-Matic 9. All of them have better lenses than their smaller more pocketable counterparts. They also have a greater range of lens apertures and shutter speeds. While my preference is for the Minolta Hi-Matic 9 due to its greater versatility, the next close choice for me would be the Yashica Lynx 14. These larger cameras also have more mass that helps in holding the camera still when releasing the shutter and should give you a sharper negative with less hand shaking.

    One real advantage for these older rangefinder cameras is their very quiet in-the-lens leaf shutters with a very discrete little "snick" when released; much quieter than the mirror movement and shutter of an SLR. The most common lens focal length will probably be about 45mm which can be pre-set easily in a "zone focusing" mode. This also helps with quick shooting, but the rangefinder systems in the viewfinder really are pretty good. For some applications, you may find that you will prefer the rangefinder over the SLR.
     
  6. Ken Nadvornick

    Ken Nadvornick Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,041
    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2005
    Location:
    Monroe, WA, USA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Most of the suggestions you will get in response are from those who own and use the camera they will be recommending. That's a good thing. The key is to look for recurring patterns in the responses. So I'll go ahead and start it off with the...


    Good to very good samples can be had for US$125, or less. My particular sample was purchased from a fellow APUG member for around US$85-90, as I recall. It was - and remains - in excellent user and cosmetic condition. I have a large number of cameras in formats from half-frame 35mm up to 8x10, and it's one of my top favorites.

    Good luck.

    Ken

    [Edit: The above link mentions that the camera requires the now discontinued PX625 1.35-volt mercury battery. You should know that this Canonet can also be adjusted (not modified) to meter correctly when using the easy-to-find 625-form 1.55-volt silver cells. There is a variable resistor under the top cover to accomplish this recalibration. (I have the original adjustment procedure instructions.) Mine was recalibrated before I purchased it and it works very well.]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 19, 2011
  7. guitstik

    guitstik Member

    Messages:
    1,098
    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2010
    Location:
    Eads TN.
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Ralph pretty much covered all the bases with his insitefull comments. For the price point you are wanting to stay within, a fixed lens camera is going to be your best bet. The Yashica's are excellent cameras with beautiful lenses, you might want to check out the Electro series of Yashicas as well. I also agree with his assessment of the Minolta's as fine cameras I have several of those as well. If I might add a few more to convolute the list a little more. If size is not of great concern see if you can lay hands on a Konica Auto S2. The Hexanon 45/1,8 lens is a beauty to behold and takes some of the best pics on par with my Nikon S2 with a 50/1,4 lens. If size is a concern and you want to take photos in stealth mode the Canon QL17 GIII is a fun little camera to shot and can be had for a reasonable price. Another oft overlooked camera is the Argus C3 with a Cintar 50/3,5 lens. The "Brick", as it is known, is a fun camera that will take some fantastic contrasty picks, they use no batteries, are easy as heck to repair and are plentiful. If you happen to get a bad one it is nothing to pick up a spare and make one camera out of two. I have several of these cameras and use them to teach basic photography and with your budget you could pick up 4 or 5 and still have money left over for film.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 18, 2011
  8. BryceEsquerre

    BryceEsquerre Member

    Messages:
    74
    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2008
    Location:
    301 | Maryla
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Wow, you guys are awesome. All of this within an hour or 2. I'm definitely going to be frequenting this forum quite a bit more. I will definitely check out what you guys suggested and see what i think. I was actually offered a Rollei 35s (Sonnar lens) that was said to be in great condition for 150. After doing some research i came to believe that they were not rangefinders? Anyone want to give me some insight regarding this camera and whether or not it would be good for me?
     
  9. ColdEye

    ColdEye Member

    Messages:
    879
    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2011
    Location:
    San Diego, C
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Definitely a Canonet. :smile: so compact and easy to use, the lens is really good too.
     
  10. Brian Legge

    Brian Legge Member

    Messages:
    543
    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2010
    Location:
    Bothell, WA
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    Correctly, the Rollei is scale focus - you estimate the distance and set it manually. Fine if you're often shooting either stopped down or far enough way that really accurate focus isn't crucial. I tried one briefly but usually shooting in the wide open - f/4 so I was misfocusing enough that I sold the camera.

    Ralphs post is excellent and covers most of it. Building on that, here are some personal anecdotes about the cameras as I went on a big rangefinder binge over the last year.

    The GIII is solid and a good compromise on size for functionality. If you want smaller and can deal with a slower lens, I'd throw the Olympus 35RC in there. The Yashica rangefinders are also excellent but many are automatic. The Retina IIa/IIIc/etc are wonderful cameras, compact and with great lenses if you can deal with manual only and quirky ergonomics in exchange for a tiny collapsed size. The FSU cameras like the FED 2 are nice but getting a working one in good condition is hit or miss. With increased shipping costs, they aren't the bargain they once were. For the price of buying a few to find a working one, you could almost pick up a Canon Leica thread mount camera and FSU lens like the Jupiter 8. I love the Minolta 7sII but picking up a working one was difficult - it took 4 tries. The Lynx 14 is wonderful but is also an SLR sized camera, as are many of the other larger rangefinders from Yashica.

    There is a good chance the camera will need the light seals replaced. You'll see a lot of posts about a seller on ebay named 'interslice' who sells kits. Unfortunately he doesn't seem to be active anymore though the instructions from his kits are posted here: http://www.kyphoto.com/classics/sealreplacement.html and material is available from micro-tools. If this sounds intimidating, I'd look for a camera which already had the light seals replaced.

    Over all, look for a camera in good condition. Frankly condition trumps almost everything except ergonomics with many of these cameras as most of the better known ones have wonderful lenses.
     
  11. Jerevan

    Jerevan Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,031
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2004
    Location:
    Sweden/Germany
    Shooter:
    35mm
    As the FED cameras have been mentioned in the thread, you could always have a look at the russian rangefinders at www.fedka.com. I don't know if they pass under the monetary limit set, but ever since I bought a Kodak Retina 117 (non-rangefinder) I have been partial to the Retinas, like a Retina II for example.
     
  12. maarten m

    maarten m Member

    Messages:
    227
    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2010
    Location:
    gent belgium
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    canonet G-III QL17
     
  13. Craig Swensson

    Craig Swensson Member

    Messages:
    388
    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2009
    Location:
    Oceania
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    Ok i`ll chip with my experience of FSU. I have 4, all via E-bay. All work just fine. Zorki 4 is another good option with industar 61 lens. Kiev 4 is a fun quirky camera, a bit big and it takes some getting used to the ergonomics. Fed 4/5 are also quite bulky. Zorki 6 has a hinged back [ the others have fully removable back] and it also has a very wide rangefinder base. Fed 2 has wide base and is considered one of the best from FSU , however perhaps all the good ones are in use.There are so many variables with these cameras, for instance a pre 1964 zorki 4 will have engraved speed settings, post 64 they are embosed and wear. Earlier Jupiter 8 lens[1950`s] are better than later, post 74 Kiev is not well made- and so on.
    All of mine are the complete opposite to what people say are the optimum and i have not had a problem with any...though it is only a matter of time..:smile: They are fun and do what they were made to do well, the lens are overall very good. My pick from this lot? probably Zorki 4 with ID 61.If you want an idea of what the models look like and more info

    http://www.rangefinderforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=36060

    regards
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. BrianL

    BrianL Member

    Messages:
    547
    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Location:
    Toronto ON C
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    You can get an auxillary rangefinder that mounts on the flash shoe or can be handheld and then set the distance scale on a nonrangefinder camera. You also may want to look at some of the older cameras such as Zeiss and Voigtlander that made some excellent folders, some with rangefinders, and fixed body. A Zeiss Ikonta folder with rangefinder can be had for not a lot in user condition, has an excellent lens and even with a cla can be in or near your price range. A benefit of the Zeiss is folded it can easily fit in your pocket and easiely a daily carrier. If willing to go for an aux rangerfinder which can be had for nect to nothing, it opens up the field quite a bit. Voightlanders with Color Skopar lenses are wonderful shooters, I have a Vito II and love it. The glass is top notch in every way.
     
  16. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

    Messages:
    8,003
    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2008
    Location:
    Los Angeles,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    A Canonet QL-17, Yashica Electro 35, Minolta Hi-Matic, or the like is what I would suggest. I also love my Retina IIa, though it is a bit more awkward to use (and you'll need to carry a meter with you or learn to shoot without one).
     
  17. davidmasek

    davidmasek Member

    Messages:
    29
    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2010
    Location:
    Prague
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Kiev 4, FED 3, Yashica Electro 35 and Super Ikonta folders = my favorites in this category.
    As to my experience with FEDs and similar, many lenses needed lubing, some RFs needed readjustment, that was pretty easy to do. Never had any other problem with them.
     
  18. Erik Petersson

    Erik Petersson Subscriber

    Messages:
    683
    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2006
    Location:
    Stockholm, S
    Shooter:
    35mm
    The mentioned cameras are all rather old. I would recommend you to handle it and try it out if possible before buying. These cameras can easily be out of order in one way or another.

    I am using a FED III myself and love it, but some people don't like soviet cameras as they are not always as smooth as other ones. I bought mine from http://okvintagecamera.com/ It was cheap and it worked out well.
     
  19. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    9,448
    Joined:
    May 24, 2005
    Location:
    Washington DC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Another vote for the Kodak Retinas. Look for one with the coupled rangefinder. You should be able to get one for under $100. The Yashica Lynx 14e is a great camera with great optics, but that 50 f1.4 is a hog of a lens and makes the camera a lot bulkier. I don't know if you can find one for under $125 but the Olympus SP is a really nice fixed-lens rangefinder with a spot-metering option. They're not RARE, but they don't show up all that often so they do take a while to find.
     
  20. Thingy

    Thingy Member

    Messages:
    189
    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2008
    Location:
    London, Engl
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    My first rangefinder camera was an FED 4, with interchangable lenses. Cheap and the optics on my model gave sharp images, though not as good as I got from my old Contax G2.
     
  21. BryceEsquerre

    BryceEsquerre Member

    Messages:
    74
    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2008
    Location:
    301 | Maryla
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Minolta Hi-Matic G

    Any thoughts on this guy? I have a big gift card to amazon. Anyone ever used one?


    btw, you guys are so awesome it inspired me to subscribe and support the site.
     
  22. olleorama

    olleorama Member

    Messages:
    526
    Joined:
    May 10, 2009
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I have a canon A35F something that is wickedly sharp, but automatic exposure only, that you can have for postage. Fits in a jacket pocket, or leg pocket on trousers.

    [​IMG]

    (The mamiya is for sale too, but fails at all your requirements)
     
  23. BryceEsquerre

    BryceEsquerre Member

    Messages:
    74
    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2008
    Location:
    301 | Maryla
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Thank you so much for your offer, but i really need something completely manual :/
     
  24. olleorama

    olleorama Member

    Messages:
    526
    Joined:
    May 10, 2009
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    No probs. It'll go back to being a paperweight. :smile:
     
  25. maarten m

    maarten m Member

    Messages:
    227
    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2010
    Location:
    gent belgium
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    o, but I would be interested ...
     
  26. Erik Petersson

    Erik Petersson Subscriber

    Messages:
    683
    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2006
    Location:
    Stockholm, S
    Shooter:
    35mm