RF Pains and Impressions

Discussion in 'Rangefinder Forum' started by lilmsmaggie, Nov 5, 2010.

  1. lilmsmaggie

    lilmsmaggie Member

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    After acquiring a used 250th Anniversary Bessa R3M with Heliar 50mm f2 lens, and shooting with it a bit (almost two rolls), I'm a bit frustrated. Maybe its just getting used to this cameras metering and RF patch. I've realized that the feeling I'm having shooting with this camera is a bit like I felt shooting with my first SLR - a Minolta SRT101.

    The 50mm framelines depending on the light can be a bit difficult to see at times but by far, the most troublesome part is the focusing patch and the metering. :sad:

    My approach was to shoot in Aperture Mode. This requires fussing with the shutted speed dial if the meter indicates over/under exposure.

    The first day, with a Roll of FP4+ loaded, I parked myself on a bench and chose a subject area framed on either side by trees and a bit of branch overhang. This created a nice open area perfect for 50mm framelines to setup a shot. Overhead clouds would cause meter reading fluctuations of about plus or minus 1-2 stops. A few times I could get the meter to zero out or not flash but more of the time it was fiddling with the shutter speed dial.

    The second day was out in the open with Delta 400 loaded, walking about then stopping here and there to attempt to get a shot.

    Sometimes I saw the Focusing patch sometimes I couldn't. Depending on the light, the subject and where I happened to be pointing the camera, it was difficult to see if focus was in or out. :confused:

    I figure I missed about a half dozen possible shots due to fiddling and trying to get a meter reading that was not too over/under exposed, and aligning the focus patch. Stationary subjects obviously are easy to shoot because I have the time to make the requisite adjustments but subjects that are of a more transient nature have proven to be quite challenging.

    Is it just me, or is this a RF shooter's right of passage :laugh:
     
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  2. MaximusM3

    MaximusM3 Member

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    Don't have experience with your camera but, it is a bit of a cross to bear with RF and that's why I shoot with an M3. To this day, and 50+ years after that camera hit the market, still have to find a RF with a better, brighter, larger, and flare-free (or extremely close to it) finder, and that includes every other incarnation of the M line. The 50mm frame line on the M3 are unbeatable and so are the 90 and 135 (assuming the camera is in decent shape).

    Good luck!

    Max
     
  3. d.sge

    d.sge Member

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    You may want to make sure your eye is centered over the rf patch when focusing. Just move the position of your eye around until you find the sweet spot. The Bessas aren't particularly forgiving in this regard, but they are nice and contrasty.

    As for metering issues, it's really just a matter of knowing your exposure. It takes time. If it helps, here's the Bessa's apparent metering pattern courtesy of Camera Quest: http://www.cameraquest.com/jpg6/Bessa-R meter.jpg If you're framing a scene that has the sun in say, "-4 and -5 LV," then you recompose to where the sun is now in "-2 and -3 LV," then yeah, you're going to have a different meter reading, even though the shadows probably remain the same. That has nothing to do with rangefinders though. It's the center-weighted metering pattern. Having been an owner of the SR-T 102 myself, there isn't much of a difference between the two.

    If you stick with the R3M, have fun tinkering, and "waste" a few rolls of film learning how the meter works, you'll probably catch on pretty fast. If you're more comfortable with aperture priority and want to stick with rangefinders, an R3A (or similar aperture priority camera) might be a more complementary option for you.
     
  4. elekm

    elekm Member

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    I always say that not everyone will enjoy using a rangefinder. It's a different approach, for sure, and moving from an SLR to a rangefinder in many ways is more difficult than the other way around.
     
  5. lns

    lns Member

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    I've never used this camera, but I second this advice because with any rangefinder if you move your eye around you can blank out the patch. Also, be careful how you hold the camera. I find a stray finger around the front can rest on the little window (not the viewfinder) that lets in the light for the framelines. When that happens, you can't see the patch or the framelines properly.

    Yes, it takes time to learn how to focus on moving objects -- you have to pre-focus and anticipate, or use a large depth of field and zone focus. Just generally, it may help to practice focusing and shooting with no film loaded. But it's not a camera for every situation, and you may find it's not a camera for you. At least you tried something different, which keeps things interesting.

    -Laura
     
  6. lilmsmaggie

    lilmsmaggie Member

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    Yep - I noticed that. At times I was expecting the patch to be dead center and it would be at 12 o'clock. And I'd find myself saying "how the heck did that get up there?" :laugh: Have been toying with the idea of going with a used R3A or ZI but I figure I need to tame the beast.

    Don't count me out just yet. I don't quit that easy :smile: Although I have to admit, I can squeeze off several frames with my Minolta X-700, or Canon ELAN 7E set to AE mode in the time it takes me to shoot one frame with the Bessa. And when I first went from 35mm to 4x5, I didn't have near as much trouble as I thought I would with the exception of forgetting to do silly things like cocking the shutter, or removing the dark slide :laugh:
     
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  7. elekm

    elekm Member

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    I had a simple rangefinder years ago -- a little Konica C35 Automatic. Because it was an inexpensive fixed-lens camera, I think that it didn't felt intimidating. Plus, I didn't know that much about photography, and at that time there wasn't this aura that surrounds rangefinders today.

    Anyway, before I loaded any film, I spent a lot of time just getting comfortable with it. I then loaded it with some color print film and shot with it a lot over the next few weeks.

    After selling it in 1979, I didn't touch a rangefinder until 2000 when I bought the Cosina Voigtlander Bessa-R. It took me only a few days to reacquaint myself with shooting with a rangefinder.

    And like the others said, eye placement is important. Shoot some more film, and see how it works.

    If you're coming over from autofocus, a rangefinder is a much different experience. It forces you to slow down. On the other hand, it's not the best tool for fast-moving subjects and shooting wide open. Nor is it the best tool for macro.
     
  8. lilmsmaggie

    lilmsmaggie Member

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    While the Canon ELAN 7E is capable of using auto focus, I don't use it. The Minolta X-700 is strictly manual focus. The only time I use auto focus is with my Canon S90 but when shooting film I prefer to dial in the focus manually.
     
  9. David William White

    David William White Member

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    Let's back up a bit, maybe this will help:

    There are three distinct steps involved in taking a picture (RF, SLF, whatever):

    1) Find an exposure -- this means pointing your center-weighted meter at something middle grey in the scene, or even the grass at your feet. Dial in your aperture & shutter speed to match. You may not be pointing at your subject.

    2) Find your range -- recomposing to put the patch on the item of interest. Can be skipped if you are hyperfocal ranging or scale focusing, but I'm assuming you're 'on the patch'.

    3) Final scene recomposition -- for spatials.

    In general, you've pointed your camera three times. You may think I'm nuts, but think about the three separate steps.

    It is kind of busy doing all three at the same time, but that's regardless of camera.

    RF's seem to excel at quick street action shooting, where you are probably set for sunny 16 (or whatever is appropriate), and with wider lenses you're probably doing hyperfocal. What gives them the edge over TLR's or SLR's for street is quick composition with right eye while left eye is kept open. This is especially true of the R3m which has the wonderful 1:1 viewfinder. I've got the R3a, but mostly use it on manual, and dearly enjoy it.

    Hope that helps!
     
  10. jon koss

    jon koss Subscriber

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    Building on the good doctor's commentary, the 'all three at the same time' is a key concept. Basically it is hard to do even two of anything at one time, so it makes sense to preset the most controllable variables and then adjust for the least controllable at the time you are releasing the shutter.

    Unless you are shooting a landscape, the least controllable variable is the scene composition. So anything you can do to preset exposure and range will be key to success. For instance, if the day is predominantly 'weak/hazy sun' with occasional moments when a passing cloud creates a 'cloudy bright' situation, then you could just set the aperture and shutter for hazy sun and your exposure would be all set for most exposures. If you observe that the conditions have changed to cloudy bright just as you see a picture, then just click open one stop and fire away, regardless of what the meter arrows are telling you.

    For focus, unless you are shooting in a club at night, you are probably shooting at f/8 to f/16. At f/8 you will have something like sharp focus from 1.7 to 2.5 meters at a focus point of 2 meters with a 50mm lens. That is something like a yard of DOF to play with. Even with moving kids you will be able to keep them in the zone of focus most of the time. If you sense that they are towards the front or the back of the zone then you can tweak the focus lever a few degrees. Before being faced with the photo opportunity, take a minute to see how many degrees of lens rotation will move the point of focus from say, 2 meters to 2.5. Train your fingers to move the focus lever just that far. If you are trying to get the rangefinder patch perfectly lined up on a kid's eye while he is swinging from the jungle gym, then failure is assured. Better to pick the zone of focus and work within it.

    All of the above requires preplanning and anticipation. Success comes when the focus and exposure variables are minimized or eliminated, and you are left only with the matter of reacting to the composition within the viewfinder. And here, in the opinion of your humble narrator, is where rangefinder magic comes into play. To me, the crystal clear view of the world through the RF window, with framelines hanging in the middle of it, allows much more confident reaction to and/or planning of composition than the tunnel vision effect that you get with an SLR. Once you get to this point, then the wonky RF patch and the alarming exposure diodes will not distract you, and you will be that much closer to achieving RF nirvana.

    (PS: Narrow technical point - you mention that
    I am not a Bessaphile, but usually if you are in Aperture Mode, then you pick the aperture setting and the camera takes care of fussing with the shutter speeds! If you are fussing too, then it may be compounding your problems. Only in Manual mode would you leave the aperture at a certain setting and then saw away at the shutter speed dial until the meter arrows behave themselves. Are you with me here?)

    Well, these are just the ravings of a madman with a Fed and a 50mm brightline finder. Don't take me too seriously!

    Best,
    Jon


     
  11. Cromlech

    Cromlech Member

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    I would never use a TTL metering anyways... No matter what camera.

    But that's me.
     
  12. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

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    I just wanted to pick up on this and say that less than two rolls of film (only one roll has developed/printed) is a little less than 'shooting with it a bit'. A new system takes a while to master and I think early frustrations are part of any new thing. It took me a lot more than two lessons to learn to drive.
     
  13. lilmsmaggie

    lilmsmaggie Member

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    Oh yeah, I'm with you. Unfortunately, the Bessa R3M is all manual ergo the fussing with the shutter speed dial. The Bessa selects nothing. And I agree, pre-planning would make shooting with the R3M much more manageable. With my Minolta X-700 and Canon ELAN 7E, I can concentrate on composition while in AE mode. Not so with the Bessa.

    Touche! I agree.

    It will be interesting to see how these first two rolls turn out.
     
  14. Colin Corneau

    Colin Corneau Subscriber

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    This is all great advice.

    I'm in the same boat you are. I've used SLRs since I picked up a camera for the first time some 25 years ago. I got an M6 since it seemed a direction I wanted to go in.

    It was tough at first, with the same basic issues you've mentioned. The focusing does get easier, but it's different. Hyperfocussing or whatever it's called is the key. And it does get easier to do with time...I usually focus at a distance I use most often and then can quickly adjust closer or farther (assuming my DOF doesn't do that for me)

    The metering, well...that's not a rangefinder-specific issue. I use the meter in my camera but use it specifically...I focus on something I know is roughly 18% grey in tone; in a pinch I meter off my palm and open up a stop. Many people use an external meter and I will do that too, soon as I can afford a good one.
     
  15. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    Sounds like you need to do what I do with every in-camera meter, and that is to ignore it. Why would you let a possible shot be missed because you were fiddling with the meter? The meter doesn't know anything about photographs. Take the photographs. Ignore the meter. Be happy.

    Why are you fussing with it? Can't you decide what shutter speed you want to use? This doesn't sound like a camera problem. You should already have decided what shutter speed you want to use before the picture needs taken, and it should already be set. It sounds like you are fiddling with the shutter speed dial because you are afraid to take the picture unless the meter tells you it's OK. Here's a hint: you can use whatever shutter speed you want. That's the point of a manual camera. If you are only going to set the camera to match what the meter says, then you might as well shoot in Program mode. The point of manual is that you use whatever settings you decide you need to use, not that the camera decides to use.
     
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  16. lilmsmaggie

    lilmsmaggie Member

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    I know the difference between aperture and shutter priority and manual modes and fully automatic. I didn't realize RF's had Program Mode. And even if it did, I wouldn't use it.

    Every camera is different. Whether it means using hyper-focal distance focusing, or setting aperture and shutter speed and ignoring the meter; some process of adaption to a different camera is gonna take place. I'm simply attempting to learn how this particular camera and its optics performs and/or responds and make the necessary adjustments to get the best from it.

    Maybe it would help if you had a CV Bessa R3M in your hands and could look into its viewfinder. Then you might get a better sense of what I'm trying to convey.

    This is my first RF -- I'm learning how to use it O.K. :smile:
     
  17. David William White

    David William White Member

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    BTW, I touched on this earlier, but are you enjoying all of your peripheral vision with both eyes open? Do you notice how much easier it is to track your surroundings and 'anticipate' the shot?
     
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  18. lilmsmaggie

    lilmsmaggie Member

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    Old habits have a way of lingering. Still doing the one-eyed pirate thing :laugh: I'll have to work on keeping both eyes open.
     
  19. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    You get used to this, I think. In situations where the lighting is fairly consistent, I find it takes very little time and even less attention---meter and preset to the "typical" lighting, whatever that is, nudge one of the controls up a half-stop or a stop if the particular subject is darker, down if it's brighter, and occasionally glance at the meter for confirmation. It sounds like a lot of steps, but in my experience the Bessae have good ergonomics for this style of shooting and it becomes automatic quickly.

    Unlike some posters, I don't have a principled objection to TTL metering; of course you have to know what it's doing and when to trust it and when to ignore it, which is kind of a general truth about automated tools anyway.

    -NT
     
  20. premo

    premo Member

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    I arrived at RF35's from speed graphics, so, it was easy to adopt. With hi-speed film (asa200) I set my focus at 25 feet, f8 and set the shutter according to the light. Usually off the reccomendations on the paperwork accompaming the film. Then I just followed the target until it was within range on the rangefinder, went to the viewfinder window to compose the shot, and took it. Color slide film really needed accurate metering. B/W didn't/doesn't.
     
  21. stevebrot

    stevebrot Member

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    @lilmsmaggie...I feel your pain. The process of framing, focus, and shooting is a bit different than an SLR. I guess I am fortunate that I learned on a rangefinder (Yashica Lynx 1000) and only got an SLR after the Lynx was stolen. From that perspective and from recent experience shooting with meter-less cameras, I can offer a few sanity points:
    • Compose "wide". Even the best viewfinder frames are an approximation of the actual framing.
    • Practice with the rangefinder focusing. With time you will gain greater skill in detecting the patch and will realize how fast the process can actually be.
    • In crummy light learn to zone focus. This is where the use of high ISO films come in.
    • Don't sweat the exposure
    To elaborate a little on the last point; meter your scene or subject for the first shot and ignore the meter until either you change subjects or the light changes. The importance of instantaneous exposure adjustment is grossly overstated. Remember that even a center-weighted meter is averaging the tones in the frame and giving you a "best guess" that can change dramatically by changing the composition despite the fact that the subject is still reflecting the same values.

    This summer I spent several hours shooting a street celebration near my home using a vintage Pentax SV SLR. The SV has no built-in meter so I was using a very old selenium-cell Sekonic. I think I took maybe five meter reading all morning and got decent result from almost all the photos. The light was not changing, so why change the settings!?


    Steve
     
  22. lilmsmaggie

    lilmsmaggie Member

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    Thanks Steve! Much appreciated.
     
  23. Ralph Javins

    Ralph Javins Member

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    Good morning, LilmsMaggie;

    Yes, even lowly RF (Range Finder) cameras have or had "Program" modes. It is interesting that the first commonly available camera with a "Program" mode just called it an "Automatic" mode, and it was selected by setting both the speed selector ring and the aperture selector ring to the "A" mark for "Automatic." You could choose just one of the rings, and it would give you either Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority. Both of them selected and set to "A" produced the "Automatic" mode. This was on the Minolta Hi-Matic 9 Range Finder 35mm camera from the 1960s.