Decent Rangefinder for under $125 [preferrably compact]
Well the title says it all. I dabbled with 35 mm and medium format 3 or 4 years ago for fun, now i'm in college and i'm taking a b&w 35mm class, and i love my f4 (that i bought for the class), however, i've always been rather interested in rangefinders. i would love a compact one that i can carry around the city with me and barely notice it. I've also hear they are awesome for candid shots and quick focusing. If anyone can make me some reccomendations, i would greatly appreciate it.
$125 rangefinder? maybe, but: Olympus XA might be more for the money
My favorite is Kodak IIIc. Excellent optics, very compact and folds down to a pocket size. These are
pretty old by now, so you need some luck and/or some CLA to get one in excellent working order.
I love mine.
Let us start with the observation that it is likely that the camera you can buy in that price range will probably not be an interchangeable lens camera, although there are a couple of exceptions to this, but those exceptions may also have "other considerations" that may preclude their selection as your camera. One obvious camera type in that exception category are those FSU cameras where questions of camera reliability often come up. That leaves us with the "fixed lens" cameras that were very popular back in the 1950s, 1960s, and less so going into the 1970s.
While there are many who may suggest such things as the Rollei 35 or 35S, that will probably be above your price range. Other cameras like that include the Olympus XA and Epic, some Konica with their Hexanon lenses, the Minolta Hi-Matic 7s II, and a few others that should be less expensive. However, for your class, I would suggest something like the Yashica Lynx 1000, Lynx 5000, or Lynx 14 (I like the Lynx 14), or the Minolta Hi-Matic 7 (the original large one) or the Minolta Hi-Matic 9. All of them have better lenses than their smaller more pocketable counterparts. They also have a greater range of lens apertures and shutter speeds. While my preference is for the Minolta Hi-Matic 9 due to its greater versatility, the next close choice for me would be the Yashica Lynx 14. These larger cameras also have more mass that helps in holding the camera still when releasing the shutter and should give you a sharper negative with less hand shaking.
One real advantage for these older rangefinder cameras is their very quiet in-the-lens leaf shutters with a very discrete little "snick" when released; much quieter than the mirror movement and shutter of an SLR. The most common lens focal length will probably be about 45mm which can be pre-set easily in a "zone focusing" mode. This also helps with quick shooting, but the rangefinder systems in the viewfinder really are pretty good. For some applications, you may find that you will prefer the rangefinder over the SLR.
Ralph Javins, Latte Land, Washington
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Most of the suggestions you will get in response are from those who own and use the camera they will be recommending. That's a good thing. The key is to look for recurring patterns in the responses. So I'll go ahead and start it off with the...
Good to very good samples can be had for US$125, or less. My particular sample was purchased from a fellow APUG member for around US$85-90, as I recall. It was - and remains - in excellent user and cosmetic condition. I have a large number of cameras in formats from half-frame 35mm up to 8x10, and it's one of my top favorites.
[Edit: The above link mentions that the camera requires the now discontinued PX625 1.35-volt mercury battery. You should know that this Canonet can also be adjusted (not modified) to meter correctly when using the easy-to-find 625-form 1.55-volt silver cells. There is a variable resistor under the top cover to accomplish this recalibration. (I have the original adjustment procedure instructions.) Mine was recalibrated before I purchased it and it works very well.]
Last edited by Ken Nadvornick; 09-19-2011 at 02:08 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Reason: Added [Edit]...
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Ralph pretty much covered all the bases with his insitefull comments. For the price point you are wanting to stay within, a fixed lens camera is going to be your best bet. The Yashica's are excellent cameras with beautiful lenses, you might want to check out the Electro series of Yashicas as well. I also agree with his assessment of the Minolta's as fine cameras I have several of those as well. If I might add a few more to convolute the list a little more. If size is not of great concern see if you can lay hands on a Konica Auto S2. The Hexanon 45/1,8 lens is a beauty to behold and takes some of the best pics on par with my Nikon S2 with a 50/1,4 lens. If size is a concern and you want to take photos in stealth mode the Canon QL17 GIII is a fun little camera to shot and can be had for a reasonable price. Another oft overlooked camera is the Argus C3 with a Cintar 50/3,5 lens. The "Brick", as it is known, is a fun camera that will take some fantastic contrasty picks, they use no batteries, are easy as heck to repair and are plentiful. If you happen to get a bad one it is nothing to pick up a spare and make one camera out of two. I have several of these cameras and use them to teach basic photography and with your budget you could pick up 4 or 5 and still have money left over for film.
Last edited by guitstik; 09-18-2011 at 10:47 PM. Click to view previous post history.
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Wow, you guys are awesome. All of this within an hour or 2. I'm definitely going to be frequenting this forum quite a bit more. I will definitely check out what you guys suggested and see what i think. I was actually offered a Rollei 35s (Sonnar lens) that was said to be in great condition for 150. After doing some research i came to believe that they were not rangefinders? Anyone want to give me some insight regarding this camera and whether or not it would be good for me?
Definitely a Canonet. so compact and easy to use, the lens is really good too.
Correctly, the Rollei is scale focus - you estimate the distance and set it manually. Fine if you're often shooting either stopped down or far enough way that really accurate focus isn't crucial. I tried one briefly but usually shooting in the wide open - f/4 so I was misfocusing enough that I sold the camera.
Ralphs post is excellent and covers most of it. Building on that, here are some personal anecdotes about the cameras as I went on a big rangefinder binge over the last year.
The GIII is solid and a good compromise on size for functionality. If you want smaller and can deal with a slower lens, I'd throw the Olympus 35RC in there. The Yashica rangefinders are also excellent but many are automatic. The Retina IIa/IIIc/etc are wonderful cameras, compact and with great lenses if you can deal with manual only and quirky ergonomics in exchange for a tiny collapsed size. The FSU cameras like the FED 2 are nice but getting a working one in good condition is hit or miss. With increased shipping costs, they aren't the bargain they once were. For the price of buying a few to find a working one, you could almost pick up a Canon Leica thread mount camera and FSU lens like the Jupiter 8. I love the Minolta 7sII but picking up a working one was difficult - it took 4 tries. The Lynx 14 is wonderful but is also an SLR sized camera, as are many of the other larger rangefinders from Yashica.
There is a good chance the camera will need the light seals replaced. You'll see a lot of posts about a seller on ebay named 'interslice' who sells kits. Unfortunately he doesn't seem to be active anymore though the instructions from his kits are posted here: http://www.kyphoto.com/classics/sealreplacement.html and material is available from micro-tools. If this sounds intimidating, I'd look for a camera which already had the light seals replaced.
Over all, look for a camera in good condition. Frankly condition trumps almost everything except ergonomics with many of these cameras as most of the better known ones have wonderful lenses.