Newbie! - Rangefinder question

Discussion in 'Rangefinder Forum' started by niclester, Mar 17, 2006.

  1. niclester

    niclester Member

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    Hi!

    I would really like to get hold of a rangefinder, but being new to this I only know of Leica and anything even second hand is well out of my budget.

    Can anyone reccomend and lo-cost alternatives / copies?

    Thanks a lot :smile:
     
  2. Stephanie Brim

    Stephanie Brim Member

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    Kiev-4, Zorki-4, Fed2. The Kiev is a Contax-mount rangefinder and the Zorki and Feds are Leica screwmount rangefinders. You can use these bodies in conjunction with the incredibly large number of FSU lenses there are about.
     
  3. niclester

    niclester Member

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    Thanks Stephanie! WHats the quality like?
     
  4. Soeren

    Soeren Member

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  5. Stephanie Brim

    Stephanie Brim Member

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    If you've never tried a rangefinder before, I suggest something simple. I have a Canonet 28 that works well. Takes mercury batteries, though, but you can get Wein replacements. The battery in the camera is still going now. I'd send it to you for $20 plus shipping. The camera is small and light...shipping wouldn't be too bad.
     
  6. Soeren

    Soeren Member

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    A sort of where are you coming from... photografically question,
    What kind of subjects do you like to shoot ? What focallenghts are you using now ?
    What subjects would you like to shoot ?
    What do you imagine the Rangefinder will do for your photography ?
    I too am thrilled by the rangefinder idea but it is not much I will benefit from it in my photography at this moment.
     
  7. Gerald Koch

    Gerald Koch Member

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    The design and quality control of the Kiev 4 is much better than that of the Zorki's or the FED's. The only drawback to the Kiev is the small selection of lenses.
     
  8. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    Kiev 4 or 4a? Is there any difference between them other than the inclusion of the light meter?
     
  9. Troy Ammons

    Troy Ammons Member

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    I just bought a Yashica T4 for $150. Zeiss lens
     
  10. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    The are a lot of options for entry level 35mm range finds. Fixed lens units from the 70s and 80s can often time be had for song, many like the Cannon QL have fast lens, auto exposure with override.Yashica made one or two models with fixed 35mm lens. On the collectalbe side Cannon screw mount range finders can still found for at a reasonable price. Kodak Retinas may take some time to get use to, but they are good picture takes, I have a Big C, with the 80mm 50mm and 35mm lens, had it for over 40 years and still a blast. As mentioned by others the Russian and Chinese cameras can be had for little money.
     
  11. Wally H

    Wally H Member

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    I have been working with a Mamiya 7 and and now 7ii for several years, check them out as they have their place in the rangefinder world too.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 17, 2006
  12. Gerald Koch

    Gerald Koch Member

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    No, they are the same except for the light meter. Many including myself find the 4A to be better since the selenium meter is often dead.
     
  13. narsuitus

    narsuitus Member

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    In addition to 35mm rangefinders, keep in mind that there are also medium format rangefinders. In addition to the Mamiya 7 and 7ii mentioned in an earlier post by Wally Hampton, Fuji and Bronica also made medium format rangefinders.
     
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  15. joeyk49

    joeyk49 Member

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    Yashica Electro GS here...althought I'm still tinkering with trying to get my replacement battery work. Fun cameras to keep around. Good for street photography; fairly unobtrusive...
     
  16. Earl Dunbar

    Earl Dunbar Member

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    There are several questions to answer first. 35mm or larger format? Fixed lens or interchangeable?

    FWIW, a good place to start is with a fixed lens RF as it "forces" you to concentrate on making photos with what you have and really learning one piece of equipment and exercising a lens to its max.

    After that, you may have a better idea of what you want/need, without having spent a pile of money on something that didn't do it for you.

    For 35mm, I like the Olympus 35 SP for a variety of reasons. For 120, I can't comment since I haven't owned one, but if I were to get a fixed-lens MF rangefinder, I'd probably seek out an Iskra or maybe an Agfa.
     
  17. AndrewMc

    AndrewMc Member

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    And don't discount the Voigtlander Bessa R cameras or the Zeiss Ikon or the contax G series.
    The medium format ones look good too and aren't that costly.
    I've seen the Mamiya 6 go for good prices. and from reputable dealers too.
    The Bronica is recently discontinued and hey! even I could afford that with a wee bit of saving, though Leicas are kind of out of my reach and probably most folks too.

    I don't know what your budget is. if it's like mine you'll end up going the russian route.
    If you do be careful of some things.
    If you buy on evilbay makes sure you have lots of photos, especially of the insides and shutter curtains. If there is a problem they will look odd or out of place.
    And beware of changing the shutter speeds without chocking the shutter first.
    *the golden rule for FSU cameras*

    here's a good source of rangefindery information
    http://www.rangefinderforum.com/

    I could give you FED Zorki and other FSU links too but you may as well just google it.
     
  18. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    Bessa is a great choice. Excellent glass, outstanding viewfinders great quality at a fraction of the cost of a Leica. And if you really like Lieca glass the Bessas come with the M-mount.

    I got an R2a when they came out and it is a great camera. You can get an R2a for about $600 and an Nokton 40mm 1.4 for about another $400. I think the R3a is about $700. The newest issue of Black and White Photography has a review of the R3a. This site has all kinds of info on Bessa/Voightlander cameras and lenses.http://www.cameraquest.com/inventor.htm
     
  19. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    Like with any of the "what camera should I get" posts (no offence inteded, please don't take it that way!), my suggestion is a little "soul searching". Start with a budget - that's most likely a rather fixed figure for most people. Then make a list of things you will do with the camera and what you think you will need to achieve those goals, making note of size, wieght, battery availability and how those things fit in with your needs. With that list in hand, look around at the various websites to see if anything grabs you (camera stores, manufacturer sites, eBay, "fan" pages, etc.). This should give you a rough idea of what's out there, and with that "research" in hand, you will be able to get a better bit of advice here. Photographers are pretty passionate about their gear, or often very set in their ways (often for good reasons), loyal to brands, formats, etc - you may get (in a few days) a forum thread that lists just about every rf ever made, all with a pretty good argument to get one:smile: If you narrow your list of options a touch, or provide more criteria, you will get more to the point answers.

    And then you should go and buy a Canonet QL17. :D Just kidding! Although its not a bad option, hehehehe.

    Peter.
     
  20. Stephanie Brim

    Stephanie Brim Member

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    The T4 is not a rangefinder. It's a point and shoot with autofocus.
     
  21. T42

    T42 Member

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    K4a and M3

    Hello Stephanie and APUG Forum.

    I will add a few thoughts. I bought a Kiev 4a in 2001, after having bought an M3 in 1999. I was just curious, and wanted to know more about Soviet era cameras, never having owned one before.

    I must tell you, I am very pleased with the K4a. Its 50mm f/2 Jupiter 8 (copy of a Carl Zeiss Sonnar) is a fine optic. Its images are crisp, and display excellent contrast. The focusing is easy and accurate. The rangefinder's base is very long.

    Comparing the images of my 1969 K4a's Jupiter 8 with those from my 1954 f/2 Summicron, it would be difficult to characterize either as plainly superior or plainly inferior to the other. I often use the Kiev when shooting someplace where I don't want to use my M3.

    The images between the two do have a different "feel," somehow. Images from the J8 seem crisp to my eye, and one might think that they are actually sharper. Maybe this is because of newer, superior lens coatings. On close inspection, however, the Summicron's images are also very sharp, and display plenty of contrast. To my eye, the Summicron seems to give a somewhat more pleasing result when doing people photography. I can see it, but I don't know why it is so.

    There is a special way one needs to learn to hold a Kiev (or a Zeiss Contax II, of which it is a copy). In this special "Kiev Hold," the fingers are positioned so that none will block the rangefinder's window.

    I found that my K4a had irregular frame spacing, wasting just a little film. I get 22 or 23 frames out of a roll of 24, but not 24 or 25 as might be expected with most Japanese cameras. Since the frames are widely spaced and not overlapping, I have not bothered with correcting it.

    If one wears glasses, she/he might find the K4a's wee little peephole excuse for a viewfinder a big disappointment. It is impossible to see the entire frame with glasses. One must pan the eye back and forth to construct a mental picture of the entire frame. I wear glasses, so this puts me in the market for an auxilary finder that shows the whole frame. Such a finder from Leica or Voigtlander could cost as much as the K4a, or more.

    If someone knows an economical solution to this fractional viewing issue, I am very interested to learn about it.

    I created a "washer" of plastic electrical tape, and attached it to the viewfinder trim, to keep the knurled metal from scratching my glasses. Now the glasses can be pressed tightly up against the camera, improving the view a little, while not damaging the glasses' coatings.

    From what I have read, one likely point of failure for a K4a is a shutter ribbon letting go. I was winding mine way too hard (snappily) one day and a ribbon let go. I ordered some new Arsenal silk ribbon from Oleg Khalyavin in Moscow (okvintagecamera.com), and replaced the ribbon. I am no technician, so it was tedious for me to do it, but instructions on how to do it are available at Rick Oleson's website and at others. The K4a has worked flawlessly since. There is a Russian Camera interest group at Beststuff.com. Those guys are very helpful, and they know who the reputable dealers are ... and some of those who are not.

    Needless to say, I wind the K4a more gently now, never snappily. I have read that in normal use the ribbons can last ten to thirty years without needing replacement. I think one should order one which has had a clean, lube, adjust (CLA), where the ribbons have either been replaced or verified to be in great shape. The CLA will be much cheaper at purchase than later.

    As to the point of lenses, while it may be true that there are fewer of them available for the Kiev than for the Soviet Leica copies, there are nevertheless more than anyone could ever need. There is no shortage, and they are affordable. Any rangefinder will not need a lens wider than 20 something mm, or much longer than about 90 or so mm. You doubtlessly know that RFs are not particularly well suited for telephoto work and for anything where parallax could be an issue, as with things closer than about a meter. Those domains are more suited to SLRs.

    The Ukrainians made a lot of Kievs, maybe even millions, I think. I am told that in the sixties a Kiev cost about 100 rubles, more or less, and which was about what a Russian engineer made in a month at that time, not counting buried perks like subsidized rent. It was regarded as being a level above many of the Leica copy Soviet era cameras, many of which cost about half as much as a Kiev did back then.

    I would not buy one of these cameras from anyone who does not already possess a very good reputation. The Kiev 4a is a rock solid design, and can last forever. But sometimes manufacturing QA was a problem. Getting a good working sample is the key. And that is best achieved by buying from a reputable source.

    My K4a came without a takeup spool. Most Kievs do not have the built in take up spool, as the camera supported the option of winding the film into a second cartridge. I made a take up spool that may be of interest to some who have a Kiev RF. I shared the idea with Rick Oleson, and it is on his website:
    http://rick_oleson.tripod.com/kievspool.jpg
    Be sure to hit the expand button in the window. The print is not easily read otherwise. The captured free-spinning cassette end keeps the spool from wobbling, keeping the spool 90 degrees from the axis of film motion, same as it would be if there were a proper Kiev/Contax take-up cassette in its place.

    In summation, this is what I think: The K4a is not a Leica in terms of features, fit, and finish, but it is a very capable and durable RF. It makes beautiful images in the hands of anyone who understands how to use it. It is a tremendous value. One can have a very good classic rangefinder learning and shooting experience with it. And one can build a good "kit," without breaking the bank.

    I have no regrets in buying one. I just wish I didn't need to wear glasses.

    Good luck with your decision, Stephanie.

    Henry
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 18, 2006
  22. narsuitus

    narsuitus Member

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    Since you are looking for a low-cost rangefinder, take a look at the 35mm Argus C3. It is possible to find a C3 in excellent condition for between $10 and $50.

    The C3 does not require batteries, it does not have a built-in exposure meter, you must manually focus, you must manually advance the film, and you must manually cock the shutter.

    It was built in the 1940s and 1950s in Detroit Michigan. It is a rugged and reliable rangefinder that accepts interchangeable lenses. Four lenses that are available are the 35mm wide angle, 50mm normal, 100mm telephoto, and 135mm telephoto.
     
  23. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    I can't recommend the Argus C3. Low price, yes. Erratic quality, yes. The three element lens is much better than the Holga, though. The interchangable lenses are rare, compared with the cameras. The rangefinder is a big step below the great rangefinder cameras when it is in adjustment, and is a bear to adjust when out. The film advance is primative. A couple of generations of Americans praised the C3. Most of them neither used nor needed anything better. Some day I intend to test mine to see just how good or bad it is. Until then, it is stored with some other junk.
     
  24. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    You could look into a used Soviet auxiliary viewfinder. I've got one that uses a rotating turret to bring different optics into view to handle any of several common focal lengths (five, IIRC). I don't have a Kiev 4a, so I can't comment on how this works compared to its built-in viewfinder, but mine's definitely easier to use than the viewfinder on my FEDs (2 and 5), except of course that I've got to use the camera's viewfinder to focus. They typically cost $50, give or take $20, plus shipping. Try searching on eBay for "viewfinder (fed,zorki)" to find them.

    There's also a Zenit Camera Group on the Yahoo forums. Despite the name, all Soviet, Russian, and Ukrainian cameras are on-topic there, not just Zenits.
     
  25. T42

    T42 Member

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    Hello Rod.

    Thanks for the guidance with respect to the Russian turret finder. I have wondered about seeing the full frame with one of those. Now I am more encouraged, since I see on your website that you are wearing glasses. BTW, I was pleased to see all the stuff about Linux. I cut my teeth on UNIX, and am now wanting to get up to date with the new stuff.
     
  26. celluloidpropaganda

    celluloidpropaganda Subscriber

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    If you buy Soviet, I'd look at Fedka (www.fedka.com) and pay his slight premium over Ebay sales. Better to have someone reputedly trustworthy, IMO.

    My first recommendation would be a Canonet - check the rangefinderforum.com classifieds and there are usually one or two for sale with a recent going over or CLA. Buying off Ebay could be a crapshoot. Even the best, with a recent CLA, will probably run less than $75 at RFF.

    For a step above that, my recommendation would be a Bessa R and one of the Cosina lenses - the R2A and R3A are nicer and more automated, but a good 3x the cost. At Cameraquest you can get a Bessa R and 35mm lens for $400 w/ one-year warranty. That's about as cheap as you'll a new rangefinder with warranty.