I think mcgrattan summarized the focussing concerns pretty well. I can't speak to the Nikon system specifically, but in general I think it's true that the advantages of RF focussing are greatest in low light and/or for aging eyes (that would be me).
One thing to think about might be a Bessa-R, which should be much cheaper used than the later M-mount versions; it doesn't get you into M lenses, of course, but if cost is a concern you'd probably mainly want screwmount lenses anyway. That might be a way to get a toe into the Bessa ecosystem without having to sell a huge amount of equipment to finance it.
If I remember aright, the Bessa-R and the R*M bodies will still work without a battery---you don't get metering that way, of course, but the shutter works. I get pretty clear warnings when the battery is fading on my -R; the meter LED gets more and more reluctant to go on (but seems still to be accurate when it is on).
I've considered the older R and even the T but heard that the R2's and R3's were better built?
Even latest , most expensive Nikon is faraway worse than even 1924 Leica. Learn something from here.
i just got myself a bessa r2 (olive) and a color skopar 50mm 2.5 . Already, i am falling in love with the idea of rangefinders (this is my first one). it is so magestic in use and the patch is so nice to use that i probably won't be using my 35mm slr's much anymore. get one! you won't regret it. i got an incredible deal off craigslist. everything in the og boxes used with only 1 roll of film, so it's immaculate. the manuals and whatnot are still in the packaging. he also included the nice cameraquest lsm to m adapter. i got it for 450 (which i understand is a kickass deal). go with an r2! it's awesome.
As a straight-out replacement, I'd go to a Bessa instead of a Leica RF...but not instead of an SLR. SLRs have too much on RFs IMO. I like to have both, but I'd never give up having an SLR to have only a RF.
Rangefinders and SLRs do their own particular things very well.
For me it's not a question of "either or" but I'm happy to have both to use as needed... :)
You'll also find excellent lenses in both worlds, though it's usually easier to find good SLR lenses at bargain prices.
Unsuprisingly, rangefinders often have an edge when focusing wide angles in gloomy light, while SLRs with good viewfinders let you see a longer lens "snap" into focus better.
In the SLR world, if you want the best and snappiest manual focusing there is (like an H screen, but *far* better in all respects), hava a look through a Leicaflex SL viewfinder. The camera even has a spot meter and better dampened shutter and mirror than the F3...
I used Leicaflex with Summicron 50 and yes , it is the best SLR and most artistic rendition lens. I dont buy cameras and lenses with others suggestions but selecting from my library covering 80 years of photography.
I have a Leicaflex SL and, while its finder is big it's also so yellow it's almost unusable. It's too bad they used whatever they used to make that prism, because the lenses I have are very nice (60/2.8 Macro Elmarit, Angenieux 45-90/2.8).
As for the Bessa, my intention was to get one but Hexar AF solved that problem in one quick blow. Nikon F3 and Hexar AF are a killer combo.
Yes, the SL prisms are subject to desilvering... :(
Originally Posted by OldBodyOldSoul
Not all of them have problems, and even when, it's often not too bad (mine has a couple of spots visible if you actually look for them, but when looking *through* it's not noticeable and it's still the best SLR VF I've ever used, including some Olympuses).
There are several people around who can replace or resilver SL prisms, it's not even that expensive...
The Leicaflex SL2, though I don't like it's focusing screen quite as much as the SL's, seems to not be (or at least far less) affected by desilvering.