Choice for first rangefinder
I really think I would like a rangefinder and am trying to find one to try out. I am really getting into street photography, but right now my choices are an SLR that feels bulky or a digital P&S that isn't intuitive to use quickly (although it does have most manual functions).
Here are the choices I seem to have in my price range. First, there is a local guy that is selling a couple of Argus rangefinders (don't know exactly which model) or I have found both a Canonet 28 and a CanonetQL19 in my price range. I will admit that I am a little of a Canon fanboy.
If I enjoy it I would like to upgrade to something like a Canon 7 (or 7s) then eventually to a Leica. I know it will be a while before I can afford a Leica and I want to make sure it is a system of shooting I am going to enjoy.
The Argus is the cheapest option, and I kind of like the different look, but the canonets seem to work a little more like the higher end models. I don't have a problem doing a little work to the camera (seals and cleaning). Anyone have any suggestions or comments on what I have been thinking?
If you like Canon, stick with it. There are several good models, look up KEH or B&H.
Canon, and then Leica; canon is nice spare body when you will have a Leica.
The most basic fact that can make or break the rf experience, is a nice, bright finder with clear framelines and rf patch.
The vf will be the most used part of the camera, so it has to be good.
If your first rf has a mediocre or cloudy viewfinder, although it doesn't affect the pictures, it'll ruin the experience.
You also mentioned quick to use, so I guess a meter + aperture priority would be handy.
With that in mind, go straight to a Bessa rf (R2A, R3A depending the focals you like most).
You plan on building an M lens system, so no point wasting money on fixed lens RFs.
Also, the Bessa being new, with new coatings and not enough time to cause deterioration, the finder will be brighter and contrastier than any vintage RF, let alone consumer ones like the Japanese fixed lens rangefinders.
Other than that, it has Aperture priority, a light but tough body because of the metal alloy, accurate shutter as it's quartz timed, and of course it takes M lenses.
In the past, when the only option was the M6 or M7 for several grand, and the fixed lens RFs (or the Soviet clones) cost ~50$, you might be tempted to try one.
But now that you can find a used Bessa for 400, and the fixed RFs can cost as much as 200$ (because of hipster cred), there's not much point in them.
How about a boost to quality by choosing a medium format camera? The Fuji GSW690 III has a remarkable lens, fool-proof film loading, is easy to hold steady, a brilliant viewfinder and is fast to wind on when needed. The only design fault is the ridiculous routine that you have to go through when making a long exposure, but for your street work it is ideal.
Originally Posted by MattPharmD
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Thanks for the suggestions. The GSW690 sounds like a great idea as I would love to work in MF on the street. However, both it and the bessa are out of my price range for now. I really dont have more than $100 to spend on a camera that might not get used (and I don't know how often it will be anyway).
I am also perfectly okay with an all manual camera. I am not even really sure that I need a meter as "sunny-16" works pretty well for most of my street work. Part of the fun of film for me is using all manual with truely mechanical controls, which is part of the reason I like the older rangefinders. I have been able to find several of the less "cool" older rangefinders like the Canonet 28 (the QL17GIII is the "cool" one) for around $50 or so.
Kids these days. It used to be that the Canonet 28 was *the* default "cool" rangefinder, because of the film _Pecker_. Anyway...
There are some good articles on the various fixed-lens rangefinders (along with lots of other things) at http://www.cameraquest.com/classics.htm, which might help to get a sense of the landscape of options. Hipsters aside, it should still be possible to find the smaller-aperture or less-manual models at decent prices, I think. The biggest problem with those 70s compacts, in my experience, is that they're totally electronics-dependent, so when they die, they die *dead* and are pretty unrealistic to fix.
They also generally aren't really designed with manual operation in mind; even when they allow full-manual operation, the controls can be kind of fiddly. They were intended to be point-and-shoots, by the standards of their era, and they feel like that in use; on the bright side, many of them work very well indeed in that role.
If what you really want is a manual camera, and onboard metering isn't important, I think the fSU Leica-mount cameras are still the best deal going. The cheapest ones with lenses at Fedka are in the US$90-100 range, but they should be CLAd and working properly, which an eBay camera may well not be. Definitely not a substitute for a Leica, in terms of fit and finish---they kind of feel like they were made in a tractor factory---but they're workable manual cameras and a good way to get your feet wet with rangefinders.
San Diego, CA, USA
The lady of the house has to be a pretty swell sort of person to put up with the annoyance of a photographer.
-The Little Technical Library, _Developing, Printing, And Enlarging_
Typically when people get interested in rangefinders they start out with either a FSU camera like a Zorki 4 or a Fed 2, or they go with a compact rf like a Canonet. If you can find a Canonet QL17 III, that would be a good start and they have better viewfinders than FSU cameras which tend to be a bit squinty. FSU cameras can be a little finicky mechanically and usually require some service. The lenses are pretty dang good though. If you can stretch it, a Canon 7 would be my recommendation. I think it is one of the best rangefinders regardless of price. I had one and stupidly sold it. These days I use a Hexar RF and a Leica M3, but I still miss that Canon 7!
"hoping to try one out." "first rangefinder" Doesn't in my mind =several hundred bucks. :o]
Originally Posted by Regular Rod
If your aim is to dip a toe into the rangefinder world, get something that is fully functional but cheap. No reason to throw money into an experiment unnecessarily. There are many types of fixed lens RFs out there for next to nothing - decent cameras with good, fast lenses and modern ergonomics that will allow you to make an objective determination. Canonets are nice cameras, and either the 28 or the QL19 will be fine. There are lots of other options, but why spend time deliberating when you could be out shooting with your new rangefinder? Buy the one you like best and go use it.
Any man who can see what he wants to get on film will usually find some way to get it;
and a man who thinks his equipment is going to see for him is not going to get much of anything.
-Hunter S. Thompson