Yes, and I am one of them! I also am a happy Leica M3 owner (a single stroke M3 and a dual stroke M3). I also own a Zeiss ZM.
Originally Posted by Biogon Bill
My first Cosina/Voightlander was a T model. It is a delightful little camera that I carry in a pocket of my jacket. I have put many dozens of rolls of film through it without a single problem.
I now have a CV 3a and a 3M as well and I like them too.
Buy a CV and shoot some pictures. In the process you will learn how to use a rangefinder. If you find that you don't like it, sell it and buy something else.
Everything is analog - even digital :D
I have a Bessa R2 and two L's and have never had any problems with them. They are easy to use and the metering is very consistant. Really like them. As you get older it becomes harder and harder to focus SLR's. The microprism part of the finder becomes difficult to see and a split prism finder only works well near the normal lens focal length.
Thanks for all the responses! I guess I should have elaborated a bit more about my intended use. I will be working on an experimental project soon in which I will be interviewing several families and recording their everyday life. I currently own Nikon SLR's (a trusty and beautiful F with FTN finder, F2A, F3HP, FM2, and several prime and zoom lenses). The only reason I was thinking about a rangefinde is because I would like an unoticeable/unobtrussive camera, a camera that won't stand out or draw too much attention. The shots will be taken in settings where these people work, eat, worship, etc. They will be aware of the camera, but I don't want to draw attention from people surrounding them (somewhat candid). I feel that if I use any of my smaller SLR's, like the FM2 or the F2A, they will stand out. I want to look like someone taking a picture, not a photographer (stereotype photographer with bulky SLR, big lenses, visible from several hundred feet away).
I thought also of a rangefinder because I want high quality optics as well. Most of the shots I have in mind will require a 35mm and maybe 85mm focal length lenses. I have thoght abot a used M3 or such, but I am really afraid of getting a used Leica for several reasons.
First, I have never owned one so I don't know what to look for (I know what a good Nikon F is supposed to look like and perform like, so if I got a lemon Nikon F, I would know).
Second, I have noticed that Leica users tend to hold on to their gear longer and put their cameras through several thousand rolls. Although a highly used camera is a risk whether it's a rangefinder or an SLR, it hurts less to have a $300.00 Nikon F die than a $1,200.00 M4 die on me.
Third, how will I know hich used Leica to get? Which will be a reliable picture taker at a relatively decent price?
I've always felt that Cosina improved each model of the Voigtlander Bessa cameras, sort of like how digital camera makers offer incremental improvements or advancements.
The L was the first and has a lot of plastic in it. The one I have hasn't given me any problems, although it feels a bit flimsy.
The R was the first Cosina Bessa rangefinder and really helped to establish itself as a serious player in this market segment.
The R2 was an improvement, bringing in the M mount and more metal in its construction. The T followed and then the all-electronic R2A and R3A and more recently the R3M with a couple of specialty models in between (old Contax RF and Nikon RF mount).
In general, the R is a very solid performer. It has a bit more plastic than I would like, but I found it to be very usable and very friendly, if you can say that about a camera. I also have the Rollei 35 RF (a rebadged R2). It's really the same camera as the R except it uses the Leica M mount.
Either is a fine camera and would serve the purpose of shooting a bit more unobtrusively. The Copal metal shutter is louder than a Leica but it's tolerable. And as Biogon Bill points out, it's the same shutter that has served SLR cameras for a couple of decades.
The suggestion to use a case is a good one. It does help to muffle the sound of the shutter.
For the price of the Leica M7 body, for example, you can buy the R (from Stephen Gandy), about six lenses and probably about 100 rolls of film and still have change.
The Leica is a sweet camera and a testament to excellence in engineering and that high-quality hand-built goods still matters in the era of mass-produced goods that roll of an assembly line in a an unknown shop in an Asian country (these days, it's China).
Make no mistake, the Leica is an excellent camera, and anyone who has owned or used one can appreciate that.
However, in the end, it's still just a camera. It won't make you a better photographer or a better human being.
Try to find a place where you can handle both cameras and select the one that feels right. You are the one who will be using it, and that's most important of all.
My write up of the Bessa-R
Thanks for the feedback! I wish there were a place her in Florida where I could see and compare both cameras.
As far as size and noise factor, how does a Voigtlander or M6 compare to an SLR like a Nikon FM2?
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For the ultimate in quiet, something with a leaf shutter and no moving mirror is ideal. That encompasses a great many fixed lens rangefinders in 35mm, all TLRs, and some larger rangefinders. Compared to my FE2, the Bessa R produces about the same amount of noise, but is higher pitched. The higher end Bessas should be a bit quieter, as the bodies are heavier. I don't have a working Leica here to use for a side by side comparison. The quietest non-leaf shutters I have heard are on the Kievs and Contaxes.
If it were my assignment I would use a TLR.
If I were you, I would get a Leica M3 with a 50mm F2 lens and also use a Nikon F with a compact Nikkor Auto 35mm F2.8 lens for the project. If you already have a 50mm for Nikon, that will work as a backup.
Switching to a new camera that you have no experienece of using, would probably make things more difficult for you. Why not choose one particular Nikon camera from your current collection and start looking for one that would match in terms of the usefulness? If you really want to go with your FM2, well, you can pretty much go with any 35mm RF cameras.
I have a Nikon FM, and I've used it in some places that ideally required a quieter camera, but I've always had good results. It has more to do with how well I communicate with my subjects, I think. Using a trusty and comfortable camera enables me to do things I want to do.
Don't be afraid to buy a second hand Leica M6 for example, from a reputable dealer. I am happy with that and the Summicron 50. I actually almost never use any other lens.
That said, the Voightländers can be great cameras. I had an R2 and it was a really well built camera. I never had any trouble with it until I crushed it under a tree...
Since I tend to run out of batteries at inconvenient times, I like mechanical shutters. In the current lineup of Voightländer cameras I am sure the R2M is great.
I had a Color Skopar 35 mm lens that was compact and contrasty. Maybe a little slow.
I generally find the Leica and Voightländer quicker to focus with than my two SLR cameras (Nikon FM2 and Mamiya 645). It can take some rolls to get it. I chased my kids around with the rangefinders to get fast at it.
I have a CV R2a and an FM2. Size wise there isn't a lot in it, the R2a is a bit taller, and weight wise they are about the same. Shutter noise sounds to me to be around the same kind of volume, but the R2a has more of a high pitched metalic "ping" to the FM2's click.
Originally Posted by snegron