I would agree with Frank as well. The Bessa R2 with either the CV 35mm (my personal choice) or the 50mm is an excellent combination to get started and very cost effective.
Fed 5 or Kiev have built in meters and are manual.
Make sure they work of before risking your holiday shots lots are sold as mint ignoring the owner knows they dont work. The F2 lenses are pretty good at 2.8 even if you are picky picky. They are pretty cheap as well.
There's no reason to risk your hard-earned money on Soviet gear that might or might not work or on something older that might or might not need to be serviced.
That would really sour your first experience. Go ahead and buy new and then if there's a problem, you always have the warranty or Steven Gandy.
Then if you get hooked, you can start investigating some of the classic gear.
You can't place any faith in an eBay purchase.
"Mint" is now a deceptive term that is inaccurately used. Excellent could mean truly excellent or it could mean that they don't see too much rust or it could mean that it's a piece of junk but they don't really care because they just want your money.
Thanks for the tips everyone, I figured the Bessa would be my best shot but I was just wondering if there were any hidden gems. I will look at the Fed 5 and Kiev as backups too.
I already have an old Leica screwmount but it has sentimental value so I don't use it.
Thanks for the advice everyone. Coming from an astrophotography background, looking for rangefinders is a whole different ball game!
If you have a Leica, you should use it. Leicas were really produced to take photos and not to be locked in a cabinet.
As with most of the older cameras, the more you use them, the better it is for the camera.
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The FED 5 is a clunky thing, try the 2, 3, or 4, or the Zorki 4 or 6. I wouldn't bet on getting an accurate meter on either a FED or Kiev.
Originally Posted by redvis
The worst thing you can do for that Leica (or any camera) is not use it. I have an M3 sitting on my desk at home that belongs to a friend of my mother. It is beyond economic repair from having sat too long.
Originally Posted by redvis
Let me throw something very different into the mix, namely the fuji medium format rangefinders. I had a fuji ga645zi (that is a zooming one, quite unique) and also a ga645w, w=wide, and that is great for landscape and general wide stuff. When I saw my first 645 chromes that was the beginning of the end for me, they are about 2x as large as 35mm frames, truly glorious. Now I use a 6x6cm rangefinder and I adore it.
The fujis are really great travel cameras, truly zero fuss and quite compact. I see many of them going around $500-600, though the price has been rising recently especially for the superwide 6x9 cm one, the fuji gsw690. That is a no-frills gem with a great lens.
If these or similar medium format RF options interest you, you might look around, especially at dantestella's site. These are the "forgotten option" - kind of like medium format point and shoot cameras. There are many of these and also some non-fuji ones.
Drawbacks of the medium format RFs: the fujis are manually focusable but only in a weird electronic way, and the lenses are not terribly fast, maybe f/4 typically. they are not appropriate for available light work unless you are willign to work with fast films. And you have fixed lenses. But all told, dollar for dollar, it's a good deal.
Composition with an MF RF is quite fun and easy (big bright VF) and the big reward at the end of the day is the size of the chromes or negs, which enlarge beautifully.
I would recommend the Cosina-Voigtlander as your best option. I have a Kiev and while it is fun to use, it is much rougher and less smooth than the Zeiss Ikon I eventually got. And the glass on the FSU cameras is a real crapshoot - you can get awful quality to great quality and there is no way to tell form the outset. I managed to get a great lens for the Kiev, though there is a HAIR in it (!). SInce the hair is not at eh focal plane or anything it is harmless to picture quality, but this is atypical of what you would expect. And everything works OK except the timer. The slow speeds may be a bit too slow. And I have to externally meter the thing. It feels like it is about the break in my hands (though it seems built like a brick from a weight point of view), and it takes decent pictures, I think a CV would be a better bet, even if you buy it used!
Originally Posted by redvis
If it isn't you ONLY camera, a FSU camera can be cheap and fun. If you were really serious about it, you are best served by getting something new with modern quality control.
Especially if you are buying it sight unseen!
B & D
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What about a Canonet? It's portable, its A priority or manual. Has meter. It's small.
The Canonet and the other 1970s rangefinders are great.
I'm a big fan of the little 1970s rangefinders, because they're very light weight, generally reliable and have nice sharp lenses.
However, by now, they most certainly will need new foam seals. Not everyone wants to tackle that task.
As well, then there is the battery issue. The original 1.35 volt mercury cells are no longer available. Your options: 1) use hearing aid batteries, which are the correct voltage but last just six months, 2) buy a $20 adapter that will allow you to use silver oxide batteries, or 3) use a handheld meter, which might be an option with some but not all cameras.
Between the foam seals and the batteries, some people would just rather not have to contend with that and will take a different route. But I agree that these can be great all-around cameras.