Affordable vintage rangefinder recommendations

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by gordonbennett, Apr 30, 2019.

  1. I have a bunch of 35mm SLRs but, aside from an old Argus C4, a Nikonos IV, and a Nikonos V, I don't have any rangefinders. I'd like to get one that is more modern than an Argus, not as specialised as Nikonos, and affordable. Since I know nothing about them, what do you like? Canon QL17? Fujica Compact 35? Something else?

    I'm not in any hurry, but I appreciate your input.
  2. You can often find a way to afford what you really want.
  3. I don't really want a Leica or anything. ;)

    I'll look at the P. Who knows? Maybe I'll even take a P? I do find the Canon P I just googled, and the QL17, to be more attractive than the Fujica I looked at -- not that I'd rule out a Fujica.
    Sanford likes this.
  4. In addition to the Canon P, others of the Canon RF series in Leica Thread Mount are reasonably priced VL2 et a;.
    For much less money, the Canonet QL17 and the like are even cheaper, but do not have interchangeable lenses..
  5. A Retina IIIc perhaps? Prices vary all over the place, but a "small c" shouldn't break the bank.
  6. And the Soviet cameras: Zorky and Kiev. Although the former might lead you down the slippery slope towards Leica (as might Canon) and the latter to Contax.
    ken_kuzenski likes this.
  7. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Roberts Camera / Used Photo Pro (one of my favorite vendors) has a nice Nikon body and several different lenses to match - worth a look. They also have a very rare!
  8. Around 6 years ago I got "hooked" into RF cameras after using a friends M-3 for less than 10 minutes. Not wishing to blow my retirement nest egg on a Leica, I have 2k19-054-011 ces10 ce bc bm.jpg "eased" into the world of FSU Fed-2s, Zorki-4s, and now Kiev 4s (Contac clones). No regrets at all. Only problem is a bad case of G.A.S. Picture here is what can be obtained for less than $150, complete kit. Private mail me if you "wish" to obtain my "dealers" address on Ebay. I have only purchased from him. Aloha, Bill Kiev 4A / Jupiter-8, UFX400, Pyrocat HDC & V600 scan.
  9. I might add that ALL the cameras purchased where with complete CLA's. Only one (of 8) is not working. . .I smashed that Fed while doing some stupid moving over construction rubble.
  10. Konica Auto S2? Though finding an alternative for the battery for the meter is a small adventure.
  11. The difficulty of migrating from the 35mm SLR world, is that the market is saturated with used SLR gear - which is cheap. With the exception of Soviet gear, this isn't true for 35mm RF cameras that are capable of using interchangeable lenses.

    With regards to Soviet gear, from my own experience, I was only happy with the reliability of their older Leica II clones - none of which have built-in light meters.

    If you opt for a fixed-lens compact 35mm RF from the seventies - be sure to use a Kanto MR-9 battery adapter - -

    If you need TTL metering and the option of interchangeable lenses, the bottom rung is a Voigtlander Bessa R body, which sells for about $300 USD.
    Jochen likes this.
  12. I just want to add that Cosina-built, Voigtlander Bessa R does not have the build quality of the Canon P, that was mentioned above. The Bessa's rear film door, plus the top and bottom covers are plastic. The plastic covers and rear film door were replaced with metal on the Bessa R2 and onwards - but the on the Bessa is was more late seventies-like in comparison to the Canon. That said, to my eyes at least, the frame lines and rangefinder patch are brighter - hence easier to use - than on the 60 year old Canon.
  13. After checking out a few cameras online, the Canon 17QL is in the lead. I don't need an interchangeable lens, an image of the viewfinder looks great, and I like the AE capability. Considering that reviews I've read say they're cheap (one guy said he'd never paid over $40 for the five of them he's had), the ones I see on eBay are a bit expensive. Just looking at CLA'd ones, I see one for $170 that has a bit of fungus on the lens, and I see a couple for $300. Of course ones that are not CLA'd are cheaper, but I like things like not-cloudy viewfinders, no fungus on the lens, and that sort of thing. It looks like seals are easy to replace, so that's not a deal-breaker; but I really do want clean optics.

    Dumb question: Will the QL17 function without a battery? i.e., is the battery just there for the meter and AE mode?
  14. SCL


    If lens interchangeability isn't an issue with you, the Yashica Electro, if the electronics are OK, is a good choice, as the optics are really good, focusing as quite easy and it has a large and clear rangefinder/viewfinder. I used mine alongside my Leicas for a couple of years and was quite satisfied with the results. They can often be found relatively cheap on the big auction site, but again the electronics must be in tip top shape to make the purchase worthwhile. Also a comment on the Canon P - I think of mine as a Leica M3 substitute, as the viewfinder gives the equivalent view as what the human eye sees. I had mine CLA'd and it came back as smooth and quiet as my Leica M bodies, although it is slightly larger.
    ken_kuzenski and gordonbennett like this.
  15. The QL17 G111 has manual override but the meter doesn't function in that mode. The QL17 automatic aperture won't operate automatically without a battery (remember the camera is shutter speed priority). Without a battery, you might get all the speeds you want, but you may only get one aperture setting or none at all.

    Link .... Canon QL17 GIII

    A rangefinder with separate manual and automatic modes plus metering for both modes is the Minolta 7s, just the 7s, not any of it's variants. It also has exposure lock by pushing the shutter button half way, and it has parallax correction. The downside though is it's heavier than the QL17 and you need to find one in mint to excellent working order, but they are generally cheap to buy
    gordonbennett likes this.
  16. For a camera without interchangeable lenses, I've really been enjoying the Yashica Lynx 14 lately. These aren't the easiest in the world to find, but are usually inexpensive when they show up(I think I paid ~$60 for mine). The biggest downside is that they're big, but you get a wonderful f/1.4 lens to go along with them.

    For interchangeable lenses, I think it's hard to go wrong with screw mount(LTM) bodies. Something like a Leica IIIc is affordable if not the most comfortable in the world to use. I've had a few Canons that are basically clones of the Leica III, but are excellent. I'm now down to a IIIc and a Canon 7-the latter is a monster(as big as an SLR) but has some nice features including a combined viewfinder/rangefinder, selectable frame lines, and metal shutter curtains(so you don't have to worry about pinholes in the shutter). I use mine with Leica/Leitz lenses, but Canon also made a lot of really great lenses(as have many other companies). The various Canon 50mm f/1.8s are really nice, and won't cost you anywhere near as much as a Leica of similar speed.
  17. You may be thinking of the entry-level Canonet 28 models (f/2.8 lens), which were pretty much full-auto or nothing in operation. The Canonets with f/1.7 or f/1.9 lenses have full manual override over the complete range of shutter speeds and apertures (tho as you noted, the meter function is lost in manual mode).

    Regarding eBay gouging: we gotta understand that film cameras today revolve in unpredictable, sometimes bizarre market cycles that make women's shoes seem sedate by comparison. Entire categories of camera that have languished for years in the "dead-in-the-water, can't-give-them-away" class sometimes flip literally overnight into "every hipster in the world, including those in utero, MUST have one immediately or will lose their minds in frustration". Or vice-versa.

    Unfortunately for those enamored of cheap rangefinders, this happened to them over the past couple years. Out of the blue, compact non-ILC film rangefinders like the Canonets went from sleepy backwater to feverishly trading at prices higher than most classic SLRs. I don't get it, because I never see them in Brooklyn (ground zero for vapid hipsters with too much money and a camera-jewelry fetish). All I still see are ostentatiously displayed Leicas by the truckload, but perhaps their Japanese compacts are used for travel. Who knows.

    Bargains will be hard to find unless you get lucky on an estate seller or some other who doesn't bother to research the trends of what they're selling. Given the labor cost of servicing a leaf shutter RF compact today isn't any cheaper than overhauling a Nikon F, the current asking prices for verified-serviced QL17s are fair, I suppose. But its a shame for anyone who remembers they sold for $50 five years ago, and regrets not buying one then.

    The Yashica equivalents are every bit as good (if not better) optically, but the metering is a matter of taste. The Yashicas are aperture priority instead of shutter priority, so completely battery dependent, and have minimal manual override ability. On the plus side for bargain hunters, the electronics have a few typical common failure modes, so "dead" Yashicas are abundant and sometimes cheap. They can often be revived to full working order with a little effort (a couple websites are devoted to the task).

    Most Minoltas were similar to the Yashica (all electronic, mostly auto). The various Konicas are most like the Canonets, and usually have very fine lenses. Ricoh had some nice Konica knockoffs, tho the popular 500G is a bit overpriced now. Nikon unfortunately turned its nose up and couldn't be bothered with this category (with their usual crack timing, they instead chose to wait until the cut-throat, profitless explosion of plastic AF compacts to jump into the fray).
    Last edited: May 1, 2019
    gordonbennett likes this.
  18. Yes, without the battery the QL-17 will work as a fully manual camera. It's how I use mine, it has a broken meter.
  19. Stephen Gandy wrote a lot of useful articles on rangefinders. just be aware that many older ones that had meters required mercury batteries that are no longer available. But hearing aid batteries will work in them, and will provide the correct voltage.

    Classic Camera Profiles

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