Getting into RFs

Discussion in 'Rangefinder Forum' started by macandal, Oct 28, 2012.

  1. macandal

    macandal Member

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    Hello. I want to get into RFs. My experience is with 35mm (Canon EOS3) and LF (Sinar F2) cameras. I like to do portraits and street photography/documentary style stuff. So what would you recommend that I get? I really don't know what these cameras cost. I know Leicas tend to be expensive. I also know they're not the only ones who make RFs, but they are the most popular. So, let's use three categories to base the recommendations.
    1. Low: something inexpensive to experiment and see if I like the format (under $100).
    2. Medium: now that I am interested, let's try something better (around $100-$200).
    3. High: I'm hooked (have at it ...)!
    Whatever recommendation, for any category, should be a good, durable camera. A good bang for the buck, so to speak.

    Thanks. I look forward to read your recommendations.
     
  2. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    Beware of the addictive potential.

    Low: Japanese fixed-lens rangefinders from the 70s (Yashica Electro, Minolta Hi-Matic, etc.) or Soviet rangefinders (with all the complexities and weirdnesses thereunto appertaining). The Japanese cameras can be *very* good, but they generally aren't optimized for manual control, you have the restriction of a fixed lens, and repairs are generally impractical. I used to do a fair amount of street shooting with a Minolta Hi-Matic 7s.

    Medium: There's not actually much in this range that I can think of. You might find a Voigtlaender Bessa-R (Leica-compatible screw mount) under $200; it's an excellent camera at the price point. Some plastic in the construction, rangefinder base only medium, and no automated bells and whistles. But you have to buy lenses, and your $100-200 will burn up mighty quickly on those.

    High: Leica, obviously, but at a lower price point there are the new/recent Voigtlaender cameras and a whole line of lenses. You could go in for the old Zeiss Contax rangefinders---I think the 50/1.5 Sonnar is my single favorite 35mm lens on the planet. I don't know much about the modern Contax cameras. There are some very good medium-format rangefinders, but your profile says 35mm...

    -NT
     
  3. macandal

    macandal Member

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    Photography in general, don't you think, NT?

    Thanks for your recommendations.

    I recently saw a Kodak 35 selling rather cheaply. Are these good, or are they just "cheap"?

    forgot to say, the ability to change lenses is a requirement too. Thanks.
     
  4. Stephanie Brim

    Stephanie Brim Member

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    A Canon P may be something to look at in the medium range. You could probably find one in user condition with decent shutter curtains and a 50mm f/1.8 for, oh, $300.
     
  5. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    I have a love-hate relationship with the Kodak 35, it's capable but slower to operate than others. It has a two-window rangefinder. You find the range distance with one window then shift to the other window to compose and take.

    If you can get a Canonet QL17 GIII - by all means get that. It's fast to operate, and has parallax-corrected framelines.

    Parallax-corrected framelines will help you avoid "cutting people's heads off" which is a common rangefinder mistake when you get close to the subject.
     
  6. StoneNYC

    StoneNYC Subscriber

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    The irony is that a Used Mamiya 7 MF RF will be cheaper than a Leica M-# but you did say 35mm (the Mamiya does take 35mm but for panoramas only).

    There's no mid grade RF it's cheap fixed lens or super pricey.

    However the used resell price is pretty steady so you could just buy ok ebay and then if you don't like it sell it for the same price (or more). Research prices, check seller's feedback, ask questions and you'll get something good. Sell it later if you don't like it.


    ~Stone

    The Noteworthy Ones - Mamiya: 7 II, RZ67 Pro II / Canon: 1V, AE-1 / Kodak: No 1 Pocket Autographic, No 1A Pocket Autographic

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  7. gdmcclintock

    gdmcclintock Subscriber

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    How about an Agfa Ambi Silette? I have one in very good condition with 3 lenses that I do not use since obtaining a Leica. I think I paid $200 for the kit.
     
  8. gb hill

    gb hill Member

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    Do your research. Don't get too hasty in your decision. Most soviet & fixed lens RF camera's are worn out & not worth the price of a CLA. Find a camera store that can let you hold one. Are you a 50, 35, or wider type of shooter? Knowing what monies you have to spend is a determining factor also. My 2 main Rf cameras are a Bessa R & Canonet QL 17GIII. I love them both.
     
  9. Too old to care

    Too old to care Subscriber

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    For low end, look at Petri cameras too. My first "real camera" was a Petri Racer that gave me years of good service, and was easy to repair yourself. I even removed the blades once and gave it a full cleaning with only basic tools. The camera came to its end when it fell overboard on a canoe trip, I still miss it. Ebay is full of them for well within the low end budget, just try to find one that works.
     
  10. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    Low/medium CanonQL1.7 Glll battery is power for ONLY the meter/auto mode and the camera has a full manual mode.
    Olympus 35RD,35RC(?) tiny, manual mode, battery only for meter/auto mode.
    Prices vary from under $100 to $100.+ No interchangeable lens, but very compact.

    Olympus 35SP/n Just about Leica size, fits my hands better. Full manual, battery for meter/auto mode. Ranges $100-$200+
     
  11. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    I never got too far into the Japanese fixed-lens rangefinder world, but it seemed like if you were willing to forgo the really fast lenses they got a lot cheaper. The Canonet 28 seemed like a good camera that was basically being given away, even when prices of the f/1.7 models were going kind of nuts a few years ago, and the other makers had similar sub-top-of-the-line models. Those might make a decent very cheap intro to the rangefinder gestalt.

    Some of them have no manual controls, though, and they were usually designed to use mercury batteries. My Minolta worked fine with a modern battery of slightly different voltage, so I guess it had some voltage compensation built in, but not all models did. The difference might be livable with print film.

    -NT
     
  12. dsmccrac

    dsmccrac Member

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    Ya the Canonet 28 is great and a lot cheaper than the 17. But it is only automatic. (Frankly I shoot in automatic if it is supported and working. I just don't like buying old cameras with no manual as a backup)
     
  13. Dismayed

    Dismayed Member

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    3. Nikon S2.
     
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  15. blockend

    blockend Member

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    If you can live with a folding front the Kodak Retina is nice and pocketable.
     
  16. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    I have both the Canon Q 1.7 and a Retina IIIC big. The standard lens for the Retina is a 2.0 or 2.8. I think there is was also a 1.9 so the Canon is a little faster. It takes some getting to use the controls on a Retina. The meter, if working, does not meter well in low light, and is not coupled so you need to transfer the setting to the interlocking EV control. The Canon's meter can be adjusted to work with a modern battery, and altough not a TTL the sensor it is set within the filter ring so you dont need to compensate for different filters. I use a polorizer a lot, I just watch the meter and know that the polorizer is at full effect when the exposure drops by 2 stops. The filter size is 48mm, not too hard to find. I use an old Pentex 28mm lens shade as I have not found the matched Canon lens shade. The Retina will take a S V push on filter and lens hood. Both are very quite, the Canon is easier to load than the Retina. The Canon has shutter speed perfered auto exposure so shooting in uneven lighting is a snap if you want to attend to the action without thinking about exposure. The Canon is much better with color than the Retina. There are only a few folks left who know how to work on a Retina Shutter. I take the Retina along when I am shooting 4X5 and MF as it folds and fits into my bag without taking too much room. I have had the Retina for a very long time and I am quite found of it. For the money you might look for a Retina IIIS, non folder, interchangable lens, but many of the quirks as the IIIC.
     
  17. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    Me too.. experienced with both. But I would respectfully submit that there are many, including me, who would dispute these two statements. Every Retina I have used has ALWAYS been better with color than any fixed-lens Canon rangefinder. Yours must be a spectacular example if it is better than the Retina.

    The shutter on the Retina IIIc and C (as well as the IIc and C) is your run-of-the-mill Synchro Compur. Nothing special that any camera repair person can't deal with effectively. What is difficult for many are the interlocks in the body!
     
  18. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    I stand pat on the Canon 1.7 outperforming the Retina 2.0 color performance. I have owned my IIIC for over 40 years, was my first 35mm, sent it off for repairs several times and never found a local repair person outslide of LA in the 60s. Not just in the Phoenix Area but San Franscio in the 70s. Last time I sent to a retired Kodak repair tech who lived in Los Vegas, that was in the 90s. Matter of fact the other day found that the Retina s sticking at 1second and need to think about find someone who is willing to work in on, or maybe not depending on what it will run to clean and adjust.
     
  19. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    $85 to $135
     
  20. kivis

    kivis Subscriber

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    Those fixed lens Oly RF's were very nice in the day. I used one for a 2 week trip in Japan in 1984. Loved the results.
     
  21. Diapositivo

    Diapositivo Subscriber

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    A nice overview of compact fixed-lens range-finders of the seventies is here:

    http://www.cameraquest.com/com35s.htm

    they look all the same at first sight, but further inspection reveal important differences among them.
    Most of them would be good for your inexpensive category.
    Don't overlook the need of a serious cleaning, lubrication and adjustment for a second-hand camera of this age.
    Of this group I personally own a Canon Canonet 50/1.9 and I find the lens pretty good. The "quick load" mechanism is very well made.
     
  22. StoneNYC

    StoneNYC Subscriber

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    Guys it's already been said, he/she does NOT want a fixed lens...

    Anyway check out rangefinderforum.com

    They might have more info, but probably many of the same users as here :wink:


    ~Stone

    The Important Ones - Mamiya: 7 II, RZ67 Pro II / Canon: 1V, AE-1 / Kodak: No 1 Pocket Autographic, No 1A Pocket Autographic

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  23. macandal

    macandal Member

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    Thanks. I was looking at the Canonet QL17, which has been mentioned here. I suppose this is a good camera, right? However, and I don't know if I'm asking too much, I want to be able to use different lenses and I want to be able to use all (or as many as possible in a RF) manual functions. I don't know if the QL17 covers those requirements. If not, which camera does? Thanks.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 19, 2012
  24. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    There are a lot of folks that think the Canonet is a good camera. I do not. I've used several and they all were less than adequate. You can use it manual or auto, but no interchangable lenses.
     
  25. macandal

    macandal Member

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    That's what I thought. Thanks Brian.
     
  26. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    The problem is that in an interchangeable-lens rangefinder, the lenses quickly dominate the budget. I'm trying to think of what the cheapest general-purpose body-and-two-lenses kit might be, apart from the fSU cameras. Used Bessa-R or older Canon body, Culminar 50/2.8, and a 90mm Elmar? You could put that together from Igor's as I write this for US$235+120+100. Going wide instead of long with the second lens would be more expensive.

    A Kiev or Fed/Zorki kit would be cheaper, but with the potential baggage of fSU cameras. Some people have had very good luck with them, but some, er, haven't. And even those aren't as cheap as they used to be; a Fed-2+Industar-26M+Jupiter-12 from Fedka will run US$224 at the moment, and you need a meter or a good eye.

    -NT