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  1. #1

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    Does "no mirror" really = sharper negs?

    Considering how long I've been into the hobby, I have never really gotten into rangefinders - pretty much because I just could never understand the concept, I think. I played around with a Fuji 645 AF rangefinder for a while two years ago, but sold it to get a 35mm SLR system again...

    I have a very basic question on the premise of the rangefinder itself. Since there is no mirror to vibrate and cause "slap", does that lend itself to a sharper image simply because of the design? Or is it not that simple? I mean are there other things in the design that are inherently good or bad for vibration, or other things that might rob or create a sharp negative?

    I've been down a very crazy road this last year personally, going from making it to having to sell every last bit of hobby gear I owned just to stay alive (I don't even own a single camera right now, I'm borrowing my Dad's DSLR at the moment)...but now things are looking a little better, and I am in the process of creating a darkroom again (this time in an extra "storage room" at my office) and will be getting a film camera again.

    I have most experience with Minolta manual gear (XD-11, X-700) and AF gear (Maxxum 7, 9), and was just going to get back into that. However, I have always had this strange desire for a Contax G2 every time I see one!
    So that's where my rangefinder question is coming from. I mostly shoot landscapes and occasional street - type work. I now live in Ventura, California if that matters for the shooting style.
    Thanks for any tips on these, I really appreciate you all letting me ramble, and it feels really good to be back on a photography forum with hopes of hitting Freestyle for some chemicals within the month... Good to be back!
    Jed

  2. #2
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    Not having a mirror does reduce vibration, but even more important, not having a mirror makes it possible to use non-retrofocus normal and wide lenses, because the lens can be closer to the film, so it's easier to design a better lens for a rangefinder camera (at least wide and normal lenses--that's why there are so many excellent lenses in the 85-100mm range for 35mm SLRs) than for an SLR.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
    Photography (not as up to date as the flickr site)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo
    Academic (Slavic and Comparative Literature)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com

  3. #3

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    OK, that makes sense. So that's why a rangefinder makes such a great street rig, then, where the usual FOV is 35mm or so?
    I guess when I used that one rangefinder, what I missed was seeing exactly what the lens sess (like in an SLR). Hmmm...maybe I should revisit this? Ah...decisions!

    Jed

  4. #4

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    I doubt that not having a mirror reduces vibration to the extent that it's visible in a negative.
    Sharper negs because of better lens design-yes. especially in wide angles.
    With RF cameras there is less shutter lag between when you press the release and when the shutter begins to move. In Leica it's in terms of ~10ms VS ~25ms in a SLR. The Contax doesn't have a mirror but does have AF that will incur some lag.
    Regarding the ttl viewing, if you're not doing close-up, the minimal parallax error can be discarded as a concern although I've read threads where people are concerned about error with 21mm lenses & auxiliary finders! Oh, Please!
    The nicest thing about SLR's is the isolation of the image through the finder. You have the composition surrounded by that nice black frame.
    Heavily sedated for your protection.

  5. #5

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    I think that each photographer should use the camera that is best for him or her. I really love shooting with an SLR. Bu I also really enjoy shooting with a rangefinder. These days, I've been shooting with neither -- a little zone-focus camera.

    Luckily, film camera prices are very reasonable, so you can build up great SLR and rangefinder kits without going broke.

  6. #6

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    There have been many, many published demonstrations of the effect of the reflex mirror. They confirm my own tests, which show that it does indeed cause vibration that is visible in the image... in certain circumstances. Like most things, sometimes it matters and sometimes it doesn't. Also, putting the camera on a tripod doesn't necessarily help. A light tripod will often damp the vibration less than just holding the camera in your hand.

    That said, I'm back to shooting with an SLR about 80% of the time after a few years of being rangefinder-oriented, because of other advantages.

  7. #7
    JBrunner's Avatar
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    Q:Does "no mirror" really = sharper negs?

    A: Sometimes.


  8. #8
    Michel Hardy-Vallée's Avatar
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    Like Jason said: a very strong "sometimes."

    Rangefinder wide angle lenses can be fantastic with much less work than SLR wide angles. That said, the latest wideangle offerings from Nikon/Canon etc. are far from bad, but if you go vintage, I would take my 1950s 35mm f/2.5 Nikkor over any Ai or Ai-s equivalent.
    Using film since before it was hip.


    "One of the most singular characters of the hyposulphites, is the property their solutions possess of dissolving muriate of silver and retaining it in considerable quantity in permanent solution" — Sir John Frederick William Herschel, "On the Hyposulphurous Acid and its Compounds." The Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, Vol. 1 (8 Jan. 1819): 8-29. p. 11

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  9. #9
    Sirius Glass's Avatar
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    Mirror slap is an over exaggerated effect that has become lone battle cry urban myth propagated by RF users who have not figured out how to overcome their parallax problems and how to use a polarizer correctly on an RF camera. :o

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkKcbyh2CrA

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  10. #10
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    Well... cameras without mirror boxes are smaller and often substantially quieter and therefore more suited to low-profile photography. Those are probably the biggest reasons why RFs and TLRs have been favoured for street and concert etc. Not because of mirror slap itself.

    Anyway, whether mirror slap matters or not depends on many factors. There is no clear answer yes or no. If you go looking for indications that it matters then you will find them. If you start with the assumption that street shooters are all a bunch of irrational leicaphiles or rolleiphiles then you will probably come to a different conclusion! As an SLR and RF user I'd say it depends. Plenty of things I can do with one kind of camera but not the other.

    As with many, many things in photography, it is up to the individual to determine the optimal gear for their work.... through testing and experiment.
    "Only dead fish follow the stream"

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