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  1. #1
    snegron's Avatar
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    Any Nikon Rangefinder Users?

    I'm curious to know if anyone here uses Nikon rangefinders? It seems that there is much talk about every other brand, but very little (if any) about Nikon rangefinders.

    How do Nikon Rangefinders (particularly the S2) compare in terms of ease of use and reliability to Leica M3's, Canons, Contax's, etc?

    I started another thread on this forum about using a modern film canister in an S2, but I didn't get too many responses. That made me do some research here and I found very little threads about Nikon rangefinders. Any particular reason why Nikons are hardly mentioned? Again, just curious.

  2. #2
    copake_ham's Avatar
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    The S2 was a workhorse Nikon RF. It's early version was "discovered" by a "Life" magazine PJ who suddenly needed to get to Korea (war started there) and had just purchased one of these Nikons in post-war Japan.

    The story is legendary. You should read up on it.

    What was key to the Nikon RF was the quality of its lens - particularly the simple 5.0cm/1.4.

    The "ultimate" Nikon RF was the SP with a built-in 35/50/85 frame VF.

    It "premiered" earlier in the same year (c. 1958) that Nikon "scrunched" a SLR viewfinder onto a S2 body!

    The rest is history.

    The "F" was born.

    BTW, lenses b/w the RF and SLR were incompatible due to focal length etc. After the popularity of the SLR during the 1960 Tokyo Olympics Nikon began phasing out RF production.

    Much more recently, Mr. Kobyashi, who bought the Voightlander name and combined it with Cosina introduced the R2S.

    This was a version of his R2 that mounted the S-lenses.

    BTW: The Nikon S-mount is a variation on the German Contax C-mount. After WWII, the Contax facilities wound up on the East German side and the plants were dismantled and moved to the former Soviet Union.

    In order to "protect" this "system"; the US occupying forces in Japan encouraged Nikon to develop a camera using the C-mount, as the S-mount. Up to 50mm (5.0cm) old Nikon and Contax lenses are compatible and can be mounted on bodies of either manufacturer.

    However, differences in film planes prevent such compatibilty at 85mm and higher focal lengths.

    Oh, and just as the US encouraged the Nikon to make C-mount; they did a similar thing with Canon; which produced camera/lens kits in the early post-war era using the Leica screw-mount system.

    Was all of this outright patent violations? Without a doubt. And much more has been written about it elsewhere than I could ever write here.

    Anyway, enjoy your Nikon S2. The fact that they keep working after all these years is a testament to what great gear Nikon once made.

  3. #3
    snegron's Avatar
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    Thanks George! I was doing a bit of research last night and you are right about the history of the Nikon rangefinders. I'm assuming that the lack of Nikon rangefinder threads can be due to scarce availability of bodies and lenses, not because of performance issues (I hope).

    Something else that I noticed during my brief research was that there are small handheld light meters that can be placed in the accessory shoe of the rangefinder. I think Voigtlander makes them in silver and in black. I also saw a Nikon rangefinder with a Digisix meter attatched to it. I think that is a pretty cool idea, especially since the idea of using the rangefinder will be for low light shooting.

    Also, I discovered another film forum yesterday during my search, www.rangefinderforum.com . It is comforting to know that there are more people out there like us who enjoy using film and old film cameras!

  4. #4

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    Also take a look at the Nikon Historical Society's website: http://www.nikonhs.org/index.html

    I have an old Nikon M I picked at a antique show for a pittance. Great old camera.

    Jim B.

  5. #5
    Lee L's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by snegron View Post
    I also saw a Nikon rangefinder with a Digisix meter attatched to it. I think that is a pretty cool idea, especially since the idea of using the rangefinder will be for low light shooting.
    That would be this item http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...r_Digisix.html or something home-made that's similar. The Digisix/Digiflash meters cover about the same angle as a 95mm lens, so you could estimate what you're reading by bringing up appropriate framelines. IIRC, the Voigtlander VC meters and Leica M meters cover about the same angle as the Digisix/Digiflash on reflective readings.

    Some people report that this hot shoe adapter positions the meter too far back over the shoe so that it pokes them in the forehead. A DIY version could overcome that problem.

    Lee

  6. #6
    snegron's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lee L View Post
    That would be this item http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...r_Digisix.html or something home-made that's similar. The Digisix/Digiflash meters cover about the same angle as a 95mm lens, so you could estimate what you're reading by bringing up appropriate framelines. IIRC, the Voigtlander VC meters and Leica M meters cover about the same angle as the Digisix/Digiflash on reflective readings.

    Some people report that this hot shoe adapter positions the meter too far back over the shoe so that it pokes them in the forehead. A DIY version could overcome that problem.

    Lee

    I just checked the specs of the Voigtlander and the Digisix on B&H. It looks like the Digisix's EV range starts at 0 but the Voigtlander starts at EV1. I like the convenience of attatching a meter to the hotshoe, but I wonder if it would be more practical to use the Digisix handheld (strapped around the neck)? I like the idea of using a compact rangefinder, so adding a meter on the top plate accessory shoe makes it appear bulkier. Not sure on which one yet.

  7. #7
    Lee L's Avatar
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    I like keeping my rangefinders compact as well, so I don't have or use a shoe mount. It would help if you're trying to align the meter with the 90mm frames in a finder.

    With the Digiflash I take a reading and set the dial to match the metered EV. Then I set my camera to my preferred f-stop / shutter speed combination. The metered EV stays on the Digiflash display indefinitely. If lighting changes, I look at the EV readout, take a quick new reading and then add/subtract EV to see how many stops to adjust, and then make that adjustment on the camera. Your new EV reading stays on the meter display and you can make further adjustments to your camera settings from that. Once I've made my initial reading, I only reset the Digiflash dial occasionally, working mainly with the EV reading changes and camera settings.

    I really like taking a quick incident reading over my head or shoulder, facing the subject. It's also less obvious to take a reading with a handheld meter, transfer that to the camera at waist level, prefocus a bit, then lift the camera, fine tune focus, frame and shoot. This is great for street shooting... incident if I'm in the same light as my subject, reflected with correct mental adjustments if I'm not.

    In difficult situations, like a dark-skinned soccer player backlit in bright sunlight, I turn to match the position of the player relative to the sun, meter incident in the shadow at the center of my chest, then use that to make the shot. The meter is as good as the user.

    I was making the same decision between the CV meter and the Gossen Digiflash a couple of years ago, and the Gossen met my varied needs better. Of course it's gone from $169 up to $225 the last time I looked, so it's a harder choice now.

    Lee

  8. #8

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    I use quite a few Nikon RF's, mosty shoot with the S2, S3, and SP. I've also done simple repairs and adjustments on them, including Shimming Sonnar's and FSU lenses to the Nikon standard.

    The S2 is a simpler mechanism than the M2 and M3. It will not require as many CLA's as a Leica. My analogy is that Leica shutter's are like dual-point distributers on fast cars. Need a lot more tune-ups, but get a few more horses out.

  9. #9
    snegron's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lee L View Post
    I like keeping my rangefinders compact as well, so I don't have or use a shoe mount. It would help if you're trying to align the meter with the 90mm frames in a finder.

    With the Digiflash I take a reading and set the dial to match the metered EV. Then I set my camera to my preferred f-stop / shutter speed combination. The metered EV stays on the Digiflash display indefinitely. If lighting changes, I look at the EV readout, take a quick new reading and then add/subtract EV to see how many stops to adjust, and then make that adjustment on the camera. Your new EV reading stays on the meter display and you can make further adjustments to your camera settings from that. Once I've made my initial reading, I only reset the Digiflash dial occasionally, working mainly with the EV reading changes and camera settings.

    I really like taking a quick incident reading over my head or shoulder, facing the subject. It's also less obvious to take a reading with a handheld meter, transfer that to the camera at waist level, prefocus a bit, then lift the camera, fine tune focus, frame and shoot. This is great for street shooting... incident if I'm in the same light as my subject, reflected with correct mental adjustments if I'm not.

    In difficult situations, like a dark-skinned soccer player backlit in bright sunlight, I turn to match the position of the player relative to the sun, meter incident in the shadow at the center of my chest, then use that to make the shot. The meter is as good as the user.

    I was making the same decision between the CV meter and the Gossen Digiflash a couple of years ago, and the Gossen met my varied needs better. Of course it's gone from $169 up to $225 the last time I looked, so it's a harder choice now.

    Lee

    Thanks for sharing your metering technique! The idea of metering at waist level is actually a very good idea.

  10. #10

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    Yup, the Nikons were modeled after the Contax. I've never gotten used to the wheel focus on 'em & much preferred the traditional focus of the Leicas. Other than that, the layout of controls is much the same. I guess you can't argue with success.
    Heavily sedated for your protection.

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