A rectilinear lens will have been corrected for inherent optical distortion, but it will have perspective distortion when raised or lowered from level. darinwc is quite correct to state that brand-name wide-to ultra-wide primes are pretty darn good — much, much better than what was available in the 1980s and 1990s. But it's important to understand and differentiate the types of distortion. Not even Zeiss is immune from the silly twists and turns at the edges that come about from odd shooting angles.
There are a few lenses to stay away from..
The Nikon series E 28mm f2.8 is one of them.
I love my 24mm and also 17mm. The 17 does have some distortion but I like it.
My go to wides are the 24mm and 28mm primes, the range is very nice and easy to use and nice and fast f2/f2.8. I also have had a lot of use out of a 19-35mm tokina, its a very nice range though not as fast F3.5-4.5. And recently I picked up a sigma 14mm f3.5, its ridiculously wide for a rectilinear.
Much easier to use something that is very wide on a SLR than a rangefinder too.
Give Contax G a try before going SLR
That is a good suggestion as well.
Originally Posted by John R.
I would also like to question what you like/dont like about the rangefinders. that may help narrow down your search for an SLR.
The truth is, I started shooting a few months ago; mostly with 35mm fixed-lens rangefinders and 120 folders.
I like rangefinders because of the framing, quietness, focusing, compactness, and lack of a mirror. Just about everything but most of these things aren't really that big of a deal to me. I find that many SLR's are quiet and compact enough, the mirror kick isn't that big of a deal, and the split-image focusing screens work pretty well. The blackout can't be avoided, but I can probably get used to it. I'm not really trying to be stealthy so I can live with the "limitations". I've never owned one but I've only handled them at my photography store, so I think I can be OK with one.
As for alternatives: I'm not so interested in the Canon's because the patches are dim, the Bessas I fear feel too cheap, and the Contax's and high-end point and shoots auto-focus is a turn-off . I figured that for less, i can get a pretty good SLR and an array of lenses.
In an SLR: I don't care for auto-focus, auto-exposure is a plus but not a necessity, size might matter but it might not. I'd prefer something that is rugged, mechanical, not-so-expensive, and reliable. I don't plan on using it on a tripod so mirror-lockup isn't important if the mirror is well-damped. I'd much rather use a MF camera on a tripod.
Lens makers have known how to make good lenses in the OP's 28-35mm range for many years now, especially at the 35mm length. If you pick any of the "good name" 35s from about 1960 or newer (maybe even earlier), or a 28 from maybe 1980 or newer, you're probably going to get a fine lens.
I think SLR wides made some real optical progress in the 1980s. 35mm isn't that wide.
As you move toward a lens that was marketed more for cheap price, your chances of a less than fine lens increase.
I use rangefinders and SLRs. Either works well with 28 and 35mm lenses.
I use 28mm and 35mm Nikon wide-angle lenses. With these lenses, I have never had problems with barreling.
I have used Olympus cameras and lenses but I have never used the Olympus OM. The Olympus is capable of producing images that are equal in quality to those produced by Nikon.
I have also used M42 screw-mount wide-angle lenses made by Pentax, Fuji, and Vivitar. They also produce images of high quality.
Bottom line: barrel distortion is not a “huge deal” with these lenses. I have, however, had problems with barrel distortion from some bargain-priced wide-angle zoom lenses.
Don't overlook that the Contax G2 has a easy to use manual focus dial on the face of the body. The G1 has a manual override but it is awkward in my opinion, I never use it on my G1. I might add that the G1 and G2 autofocus works extremely well and I think after some experience with it you may learn to like it a lot.
If you are looking for a simple, reliable manual SLR like that in your description I would look at some nice older bodies along the lines of the F2, F3, RTS, F1, OM-T. All of those cameras are terrific and there are others as well.