Rangefinder Camera - Any recommendation ?

Discussion in 'Rangefinder Forum' started by sclee, Aug 16, 2008.

  1. sclee

    sclee Member

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    I'm a newbie and I wanna get myself a rangefinder. I can't afford a Leica rangefinder but maybe you all can recommend a few other alternative - something cheaper but with great sharp lens ( or something akin to the sharpness of Leica Minilux's lens ). I have been reading and researching in the internet. Some people have been hailing these rangefinders :-

    1)Canon Canonet QL17 GIII
    2) Yashica Electro 35 GSN
    3) Olympus 35RC
    4) Olympus 35RD

    Which one is the best ? Or did I miss some other rangefinder that worth mentioning? Please help... Thank you all.
     
  2. arigram

    arigram Member

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    I've read good things about the Voigtlander Bessa R2 and R3.
    Or how about a medium format RF like the Mamiya 6 or 7. I am sure you can get them cheaply these days.
    Or if you have more money to spare and want something as good but cheaper than a Leica, the Carl Zeiss Ikon is very nice.
     
  3. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

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    I bought a Canon Canonet QL17 new, in or around 1968. It was a wonderful little camera, did all I could ask and would still be with me today, except it got submerged whilst with me on a motorcycle in a rainstorm in the 70's.

    I don't know what the GIII means, but if it's anything like the straight QL17, then it should be a reasonably good camera.

    I enlarged some negs last year from this camera, they weren't too bad, especially considering the condition they have been kept in, and also the way I processed them back then.

    Mick.
     
  4. nsouto

    nsouto Subscriber

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    IMHO of course, but:

    Get a 2nd hand Bessa and a basic Voigtlander lens kit: some of the best available for a very reasonable entry price.
    Then expand the lens collection, in time. There is some amazing glass out there in both LTM and M mounts.

    Resist the temptation to get a very cheap fixed lens 35mm r/f unless you have a very specific type of photography
    in mind. Here Olympus XA are always good value, so are the Canonets: my first 35mm camera was a QL17 and I still have it somewhere.

    A 6X4.5 Fuji r/f in good condition is also a tremendous proposition. But the vertical default format can be a shock for those used to the usual 35mm "flat".
    Of course flipping the camera around solves that little problem (sounding like captain obvious here...).
     
  5. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    I suspect the OP is buying within a certain price range, and has done a little research. All the cameras were excellent camera of their type around the late 60's early 70's.

    The Yashica 35 GSN is a superb camera, my sister had one for years, very sharp lens,meter was accurate.As Mick says the Canon QL17 would be equally as good, I can't remember the Olympus model numbers now but they were also highly regarded cameras. There were some minor variations of all these cameras with slight differences on the maximum aperture of the lenses. It's worth getting the faster lens version if you can.

    Personally I'd like to try the Canonet QL17, they look nicer than the Yashica.

    BTW welcome to APUG sclee :D

    Ian
     
  6. fschifano

    fschifano Member

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    Voigtlander Bessa R2's and R3's will definitely run you more than a fixed lens rangefinder camera, but you get a whole lot more too. These are cameras that you can stick with for a while, and are still current production - an important consideration if you plan to use it regularly. Canonets, Yashicas, Olympus, et. al., while fine cameras intheir time, are all 30 years old or so. Spare parts are rare and service difficult.
     
  7. Captain Bedworthy

    Captain Bedworthy Member

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    Canonet 1.7 GIII QL

    Can't say enough good about it. Have had three. Some of my best shots were through that 40mm 1.7 lens.
     

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  8. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    Sclee, I think it might be helpful if you said more about what your priorities are -- your price range, what sort of shooting you want to do, whether or not you'd like to change lenses, whether or not you want a built-in meter or auto-exposure, how portable you want your camera to be, etc. You're getting replies that are all over the board because people are reading their own preferences into your post. It's better to be more specific about what you want so you'll get advice that'll lead you to the camera you want rather than the camera the average thread respondent wants.
     
  9. jolefler

    jolefler Member

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    I'll try to give a stab at both ends of he price spectrum based on my experiences:

    Probably the most inexpensive to obtain is the Yashica Electro series. Semi-auto exposure, but usually quite accurate, and a great, fast lens. For what you'll give for these, you can buy another to replace the occasional dud you run across. Plenty of help on the web to help you fix the dud, if you're so inclined. Should be able to get a working model for $10-20 US. I think these to be a great intro to rangefinder shooting.

    For what you'll pay for a new Bessa & glass you can buy a used M series Leica, or at least a late Barnack Leica.....stay away from eBay & go with a reputable dealer like KEH if you're taking the big buck road, it'll probably save some grief in the long run. If you're going to compare lens sharpness to a Leica, the little man in your head will never let you rest until you are squeezing off shots on a Leica.

    Try the Yashica to see if rangefinders are for you, then sink in the big money if you like the experience. Worst case scenario: wasted $20. Best case scenario: you've got a back up for your Leica M.

    Jo
     
  10. Rolleiflexible

    Rolleiflexible Member

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    There are affordable Leicas out there. The older
    "screwmount" Leicas can be purchased with a
    good Elmar lens for about $300. They are
    awesome cameras -- small, jewellike, with
    impeccable mechanics and optics. They will
    allow you to mount and shoot some of the best
    lenses ever made for a rangefinder -- yet the
    basic Elmar is capable of amazing images.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/sandersnyc/727349174/

    It's a bit more expensive than the cameras you
    mention, but well worth the added investment.
    See these links for a discussion of the different
    types of screwmount Leicas and lenses:

    http://www.cameraquest.com/ltmcam.htm
    http://www.cameraquest.com/ltmlens.htm

    Cameraquest is a good source of information for
    all sorts of rangefinder cameras as well.
     
  11. elekm

    elekm Member

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    The Olympus RC is a very nice camera. Keep in mind that any Japanese rangefinder from the 1970s will need to have the foam light-blocking seals replaced in the back, unless someone already has done the job.

    Also, most of these cameras used a PX13/625 1.35-volt mercury cell, which is no longer available. Most can now use a zinc-air hearing-aid battery.

    Of the cameras that you mention, I have the Olympus RC and also a Konica C35, another inexpensive 35mm rangefinder.
     
  12. sclee

    sclee Member

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    Hi. Thanks for pointing out. I am not even a newbie in APUG but also a newbie in film photography - still on baby learning steps. I am looking for a rangefinder below USD150 with superb quality lens. I am grateful that all of you have been contributing your suggestions and they have been very 'educating' to me. Keep those suggestions coming and please do open my eyes to world of ( the poor's man) rangefinder.
     
  13. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    sclee
    The Canon should be relatively easy to find for less than $100 I've found some in the $20-$30 range. Replacing the foam is not difficult if you're patient.
    The battery is for the light meter and automatic exposure. If you're going to use the camera totally manually you don't need it but you might want to have an inexpensive light meter.
    I don't remember the difference between th RC & RD but seem to recall that the RC had a slower lens and it was slightly more compact and the RD was a more direct equivalent to the Canon.
    I wasn't excited by the Yashica by the because of the total dependency on the battery
     
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  15. raizans

    raizans Member

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    i've used the olympus rc, rd, and xa, konica auto s3, and canonet ql17 giii. i liked the olympus rd the most, though i've heard good things about the yashicas.
     
  16. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    The sort of small fixed-lens rangefinders that are dominating this discussion (Canonet, etc.) are likely to go for well under $150, and they can take excellent photos. The Canonet series has a reputation for having very good lenses, although I'm not sure I'd apply the word "superb" to those lenses. ("Superb" is a very strong word, so I'm reluctant to use it.) Of these cameras, I'm most familiar with the Canonet, since my mother used one in the 1970s and I own one, although I don't use it a lot.

    As a learning camera, I'm not sure this type is the best tool, since the auto-exposure features can make it too easy to turn off your brain and let the camera make the decisions -- or at least those related to exposure. OTOH, compared to an auto-everything modern camera, a Canonet or similar 1960s/1970s rangefinder is pretty manual. You can also disable the auto-exposure features on the Canonet, and presumably on many similar rangefinders. A limitation of this class that's been alluded to is that they have fixed lenses, so you can't change them for wide-angle or telephoto lenses. This can be limiting, although if you're just starting out, that limitation may not be very important at first -- you'll be learning so much else that adding the variable of lens focal length could just get in the way.

    Most Leicas have interchangeable lenses. So do some other rangefinders, such as Leica clones (Soviet-made FEDs and Zorkis, for instance), Contaxes, and others. These cameras run the gamut from all-manual models without so much as a built-in exposure meter to quite modern designs with lots of amenities. The lower-end models can sell for $150 or less (unless they're rare collectors' editions), but the higher-end models sell for much more than your budget. Leica glass is very well regarded, but you typically pay a lot for that high regard. I'm not sure if an actual Leica in good condition could be had for your budget, but you could certainly get a Leica clone. This would enable you to add Leica lenses in the future if you so desire. In the short term, I think a Canonet or similar 1960s/1970s Japanese fixed-lens rangefinder would probably be easier to use than the sort of interchangeable-lens rangefinder that you can get for under $150, but the interchangeable-lens camera will be more flexible in the long term. Some Leica clones (like the Soviet-made cameras) are likely to be unreliable, although they can take fine photos if you get one that works.

    Others have mentioned the probable need to replace foam light seals in cameras of a certain age. The eBay seller interslice sells a kit with replacement foam, a few simple tools, and instructions for a reasonable price. This isn't exotic stuff, but this seller bundles it together in a convenient package, and the instructions help anybody replace aging foam.
     
  17. takef586

    takef586 Member

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    A good camera for a start would also be a Minolta CLE with the 40mm Rokkor or Summicron lens - it has a great viewfinder and you can add a 28mm lens later on. As a bonus, it is so tiny, you can carry it with you all the time.
     
  18. Kvistgaard

    Kvistgaard Member

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    what about the little Rolleis? SUpposed to have really good optics.
     
  19. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    You're upping the ante. A CLE would be great camera, just like a Leica or a Bessa.

    But a Canonet, GSN or GTN, etc will be a tenth of the price, and the negatives will be equally as good.

    Ian
     
  20. elekm

    elekm Member

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    Any rangefinder camera with the name Leica on it will generally start at about $250 and then continue to rise. If you get lucky, you'll find one for less, but in general you will pay a more and often a lot more.

    The Rollei 35 cameras can sometimes be found for about $150, and because it's a German camera (made in Germany and later in Singapore), there are no foam seals to replace. The version with the Sonnar seems to be the most collectible, but the Tessar-equipped camera is excellent.

    There will always be stories of people finding a Leica or a Rollei for $10 at a yard sale, but those are the exceptions and not the rule.
     
  21. Pinholemaster

    Pinholemaster Member

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  22. leicarfcam

    leicarfcam Member

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    A Russian Kiev 4a with 50mm f/2 and 35mm f/2.8 Jupiter lens would make a fine rangefinder outfit.
     
  23. nemo999

    nemo999 Member

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    My vote for maximum value for money - a 1950s/1960s German camera like the Agfa Silette, Voigtländer Vito or Kodak Retina/Retinette. Lots of different models, with a little effort you can find one with a 4-element lens and coupled rangefinder for around £30 to 40 (GB market, Retinas more expensive) - only drawback could be that models with meters are rare; if present, a meter will be selenium match-needle type (no auto-exposure) and may not work accurately or at all. Optical quality, on the hand hand, is generally superb, much better than cameras like the Ollympus Trip, etc, which tend to have 3-element lenses (edge definition poor).
     
  24. Nick Merritt

    Nick Merritt Member

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    Stick your toe into the "pool" with a fixed lens rangefinder camera. If you like the experience, you can move up to an interchangeable lens camera and all the fun with trying out different lenses. Plenty of time for that!

    You identified several excellent cameras indeed. You wouldn't go wrong with any of them. I'd mention a couple of others for your consideration, the Konica S2 (about the same size as the Yashica Electro, but will work without a battery) and the Konica S3 (a compact RF like the Canonet). My recommendation is to get yourself an Electro GSN, and either a battery adaptor (available from the Yashica Guy or on eBay) or using a PX28 battery and a small wad of aluminum foil. An automatic camera -- you override exposure by changing the film speed -- but you will be amazed at the quality of the lens and the accuracy of the meter.
     
  25. fschifano

    fschifano Member

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    The fact that it has no rangefinder and focusing is strictly by guesstimate. That can be a bit of a pain sometimes, with results that aren't very encouraging for a new user. There is absolutely no automation whatsoever should you want it. Loading the camera means removing the back, making the operation a real pain in the ass. The hot shoe is attached to the bottom of the camera. Mount a small flash to it and you'll be using the camera upside down and backwards unless you like old school monster movie lighting effects.

    On the plus side, the camera is incredibly tiny and has a very good lens. Of course, that's irelevant if you can't hit focus with the thing. Metering is pretty good, and better than I'd expected. It is well made with quality parts and workmanship, and irresistably cute.

    As an example of camera jewelry, it's beautiful. As a quick shooter, not so much because it lacks the rangefinder.
     
  26. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    the OP started with four cameras.
    He's done some basic research, narrowed it down & wants recomendations on ONE of the four.
    We're all over the map with Leica/Voigtlander/Rollei/Bessa etc.etc.
    It would be nice to stick with the original question.