I can recommend the Yashica Lynx 14 or 14E. These camera's are heavy and pretty big, but very neat with such a fast lens. I got mine on an auction site for $80 and it was stated in almost mint condition and all working (meter and shutter) w/o haze/dust/mold.
It came with a 7 day return policy, so the day I got it, I ran some film, processed it and verified exposure and shutter were all great and I have been thrilled since. Just be careful buying such an old camera, your budget does not offer much room for a lemon - as mine did too - so be sure to check it out or get a return policy or buy it so cheaply ($10 at a flea market that you can afford to get a few lemons).
The Linx 14, being so fast f1.4, gives you that extra stop that can sometimes be very important. Below is one of my images shot in I would say in a tough place - indoors with a slow film (used PanF Plus at box ISO 50). The bokeh on this lens is just so special (although I am sure the Oly and others are just as great - I mean no offense to the other brands, in fact, if I had the money, I would own evey one on the list the OP listed - I love RFs!!!).
The one great thing re the Linx 14 is its ability to shoot w/o a battery it is more like a Leica MP with a nice Sumilux 1.4 on it. (At least I pretend it is and only for a mere $80).
At the end of the day, all those models mentioned here are great cameras!! I would own all of them, but for me, the one I own was going to be the one I invest in, I am sure I would be happy with others too...RFs are so special. Just make sure it works and if you are getting a deal or a "I dont know if it works auction without return", be prepared to have possible issues.
Sample image from Yashica Linx 14E
A good comparison for this family of range-finders cameras is to be found here:
Their characteristics are pretty similar, but there are differences between models, which this writing highlights.
I suggest you select two or three according to your requirements, and then buy the one for which you find a good bargain, a good copy etc. without fixating too much on a single model.
Personally I have a Canon Canonet 19 QL III the viewfinder is not really easy to focus and generally speaking focusing, in my case, is slower than with my SLR although I concede that in low light focusing might be easier.
The "quick loading" of film is a nice thing to have and I find that it should be present on all cameras. Sometimes also those saved 10 seconds count.
Do factor in the cost around $40 for viewfinder cleaning, range-finder collimation, and foam replacement. You'll have to do this works most likely in any case, so it is better to go for a cheap camera "in need of servicing" than for a camera supposedly good to be used, as it'll be "in need of servicing" anyway, those cameras are 40 years old.
I have a Konica Auto S2 which is near the top of the list of my favorite cameras out of the 25 or so that I own. Easy to use and the lens is scalpel sharp.
Also got a Yashica Minister D which is nice, and a voigtlaender Vito CLR which is a lovely vintage rangefinder but not particularly fast.
It is interesting that there are here in stock four out of the six models you listed.
Noting your specification for a fast lens, others have already suggested the addition to the list of the Yashica Lynx-14 in one of its four variants. I tend to agree, although there is also the poiint that it might have difficulty fitting into that "small" category, but it certainly does meet that "fast lens" requirement, and it does have a full range of shutter speeds. I do agree that it is one fine camera that will certainly do the job for you.
The other Yashica 35 Series of cameras are less serious contenders, although they do fit well into that "small" category. I admit that other than the test roll through mine when I got them, other than the Yashica Electro-35, I have not used them much, having the Yashica Lynx-14, Lynx-1000, and Lynx-5000 that I enjoy using more.
The Minolta Hi-Matic 7s II has been a disappointment for me, in spite of so many other people having a cult like adoration for them. To me the 7s II is a smaller stripped down model that is lighter in weight and more difficult to hold still for taking a photograph. One thing that some weight does give to you is inertia, and a easier time holding the camera still. Yes, I know that the 7s II shutter only goes from 1/8 to 1/500 second, and those are the settings that most people will hand hold, but I do have several tripods, so I can use a camera with a full range of shutter speeds. In the Minolta Hi-Matic Number Series, my preference is still for the Minolta Hi-Matic 9, with its full range of shutter speeds from 1 second to 1/500 second, and the choice of Shutter Priority or Aperture Priority, plus a full "Automatic" Mode or what we now call a "Program Mode." Just for reference, yes, I do have working samples of the entire Minolta Hi-Matic Number Series of rangefinder cameras here.
The Canon QL-17 G-III is another camera that is a little bigger and heavier than the Minolta Hi-Matic 7s II, but it also is a little more convenient and stable, and it does have the Canon Quick-Load feature.
All of these cameras do have that nice discreet "snick" of an in-the-lens leaf shutter.
I know that I do not have an Olympus RD, and the Konica S3 sample I have needs repair, so I cannot comment on that one either.
Last edited by Ralph Javins; 07-27-2011 at 08:41 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Reason: Forgot to add one comment.
Ralph Javins, Latte Land, Washington
When they ask you; "How many Mega Pixels you got in your camera?"
just tell them; "I use activated silver bromide crystals tor my image storage media."
I use a Konica S3 Auto and there's a reason why it's dubbed the "Leica killer". I bet on a digital screen, most people wouldn't be able to tell the difference between it and a Leica 35mm summicron on a Leica body. I haven't made any prints with it yet, but the negatives look very sharp and the scans I get from it are amazing. I just like being able to set my own aperture as it does it automatically. Also, I had to set the meter down to 160 when I'm shooting 400 as the meter is a 1 stop too dark. Here's a few examples:
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I have a Yashica GSN that I like. While I don't claim to be a talented photographer, i'm inclined to think that the F1.7 lens on it delivers a depth of too shallow to be very useful wide open unless I have time to carefully set up the shot. Which often defeats the purpose of the fast lens....
It's an easy camera to use, apeture priority +/- exposures using the film speed setting of course.
A limitation is that I have to use the film speed setting to compensate for filters, making it more difficult to use slower films with orange & red filters.
Another limitation (which all rangefinders share to an extent) is the difficulty with lens hoods shading the rangefinder, lightmeter or cutting off some of the framing. I use a slip on rectangular hood that does not interfere with the rangefinder or light meter but cuts into the view finder a little.
The best thing about a GSN is it's cheap with excellent glass. Other really cheap & reliable options are SLR's such a Pentax P30n with a F2 50mm lens for $50 or so. Also very very good 35mm camera for the cost. And you can buy a wider lens for cheap if you want to try it out.
Bear in mind that any of these old 35mm cameras are highly likley to need a CLA, around $160 for my last one. The newer your purchase is, the more likley it is to work.
And, lastly, budget for some film developing gear, a Jobo tank or similar. It's easy, cheap and very rewarding to process your own film.
That $160 probably includes complete CLA of the shutter mechanism (disassembly, cleaning, lubrication, reassembly).
Originally Posted by MattPC
Normally though leaf shutters, unless somebody tried to lubricate them improperly, remain precise without need to disassemble them. The usual CLA work for those cameras is viewfinder cleaning, rangefinder alignment, and foam replacing. That would cost only around $40 and is highly recommendable.
Frankly, jordanstarr, the resolution of a monitor screen is so reduced that everybody would have difficulty in seeing the difference between a Leica and any other "non-lomographic" camera.
Originally Posted by jordanstarr
The only thing that can be evaluated in a small jpeg is composition, the photographer's work. If we exclude flare and maybe "bokeh", the rest of the lens quality is absolutely not visible on screen at resolution below 100% (pixel-for-pixel).
As a side note, the same goes for colour evaluation.
Posting small jpegs to show the colours obtained with a certain film or process doesn't work. If everybody had colour-managed good-quality monitors, colours could be evaluated but, again, most people just scan and post their jpegs and it's impossible to evaluate colours that way. Try to put two non-calibrated monitors near each other and show the same picture, you'll be surprised at how far chromatically they are. If one does that once, he'll buy a monitor calibration kit as soon as possible and use it for the rest of his life.
At night all cows are black.