Affordable vintage rangefinder recommendations

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

  1. Bob, I'm not a fan of using zinc oxide cell, which have a short life, once the plastic is peeled off - mainly because there is a battery adapter for the old PX625 cell with a built-in Schottky diode that converts a modern 1.55 V silver oxide cell to near enough to the 1.35 V level. It's called an MR-9 and has been in production for a while, too.

    The one that works is a Kanto MR-9 - see the link below:

    MR-9 Battery Adapter - Japan Camera Hunter

    I've used a these for years on my Olympus 35 RC and Rollei 35S, with no problems. If you keep a lens cap on the camera to cover the metering cell when the camera is not in use - or - with the Rollei 35, keep the camera covered when not in use, one silver oxide cell will last a couple of years, at least.
    Last edited: May 2, 2019
    robert_bowring likes this.
  2. The Canonet QL 17 is a nice semi-pocketable 35mm RF. Go backwards in time by almost 20 years, a Canon VL2 LTM body, which was mentioned above, can sometimes be found for around $100 USD.
    Last edited: May 2, 2019
  3. Here's a semi automatic EV rangefinder of 1960 vintage. I hurriedly researched it before buying and couldn't make heads or tails of how it worked. It was quite simple in the end, just "match" the needle, focus and fire. It's made by Minolta, with a Rokkor lens. It appears to be new old stock and probably a reject from final inspection, I found minor manufacturing faults and blemishes on the outside of the camera. It also had what looked like a film of protection grease still on it, once cleaned off, the viewfinder and selenium meter glass sparkled like new. It came with it's case and box both looking new. Item cost US$46. Everything on it and in it works like a charm.

    Anscoset (2).jpg

    The "zebra" ring is spring loaded and pulls forward and turns to change ASA film speeds (on the side of the lens), once set, it's right to go for EV settings which are indentless where upon the correct exposure can land in between the numbers. The big disadvantage with this camera as far as speeds and aperture settings are concerned is you get what you are given when ever you press the shutter button. But that's no different with my Canon digital 960 compact released some 47 years later, I get what I'm given with that also.
    Dull light, so the meter needle is still near zero. Bright light brings needle to where the red match needle "fork" is. Turning the zebra ring moves the fork
    Last edited: May 2, 2019
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  4. SCL


    Not the sharpest needle in the haystack, compared to a Leica, and often overpriced by sellers in today's market, but a very durable manual camera with which you need to either use Sunny 16 or an external exposure meter, is the Ricoh 500 (not the 500G) which can often be had for around $40. I got my first one in the 1950s and have owned 7-8 of them over the years...very quick to focus, easy to load and advance film, good rangefinder (& easy to adjust if it needs alignment). Sharp enough for most work, although the more expensive and rarer model 519 has a razor sharp lens.
    Model 500 1959 6 Ser 62169 glamour shot.jpg
  5. I owned two Canonet QL17s and both were dogs. People like them but I would say don't buy one unless you can try it first. I had very good luck with a Yashica Electro 35 GSN, a bit bulkier than the Canonet and uses a bigger, longer lasting battery.
    m42dave and gordonbennett like this.
  6. My Olympus OM-1n uses a 1.3v mercury cell. I bought an adapter for it that allows me to use a modern 1.5v cell, as it reduces the voltage to 1.3v and I get a correct meter reading. When the meter stopped working though, I took it to a camera shop about a month ago. In addition to a complete overhaul, I had the diode in the light meter changed so that it can use a 1.5v #625 battery without the need for an adapter, Wein cell, or compensating two stops. (Of course the meter was calibrated as well.)
  7. Yes, a battery adapter is the better solution. Thank you for providing links.
    robert_bowring likes this.
  8. I mostly use alkaline cells in my old cameras.

    Otherwise, the battery often enough costs more than the camera, which doesn't seem right to me.
  9. I'm surprised that the Olympus line of rangefinders has hardly received a mention in this thread. The Canon QL-17 GIII is a nice camera. It was my first exposure to a rangefinder. I saw one pop up on craigslist for $10 about 4 years ago and I snapped it up wanting give rangefinders a try. Did not care for the focusing at first but learned to like it and I appreciate that fact that the lack of a mirror flopping around meant I could hand-hold at slower shutter speeds.

    As much I as I liked it, I ended up selling it because I didn't use it. Why? Because while it was more compact than most SLRs, it wasn't that much smaller than the OM-2 I had and it wasn't as versatile.

    That brings me to the RCs. I was given an RC 35 and while it doesn't have as fast of a lens as the Canon, it was easier to carrier around. I did sell that too, however ;-) I actually I've owned 2 and sold them both, but wouldn't rule out owning another at some point. Great camera.

    Where I've settled for now is an Olympus XA. I'm guessing it's not the sort of classic rangefinder the OP would be interested in. It's quirky but I can EASILY put it in my pocket and right now that's the most important feature.

    In terms of cost, even the XA goes for ridiculous prices now in the usual places. But with patience you find great deals, especially if you're handy. Many old cameras don't work because of fairly easy to fix problems.
    gordonbennett likes this.
  10. I ended up getting a Canon Canonet QL17 GIII. I wasn't in a hurry, but this one was especially nice. Paid too much for it. (No, I'm not saying. It was that much! :p ) I'm also keeping my eyes open for a good Olympus RC35. (tomspielman is right; the XA is a little too modern for my tastes.) I've read good things about the RC35, and they look very nice. I've just bought a Nikon FE though, and I have the QL17 now; so I'll hold off a while.

    I put a 386 cell in my mercury adapter, and put it in the QL17. The battery check light did not come on. I'd used the battery briefly, and then put it back in the blister pack. It's rather old, and it may be dead. I'm in the office today, and don't have any sort of tester. Or the adapter may be faulty. I'll pick up a new 386 cell at lunchtime and try again. I put a 1.5v 625 battery in the camera, and it functions. The film I have at home is ASA 400, so I set the ASA to 200 on the camera to compensate for the higher voltage.

    Thank, you everyone, for your input!
  11. Have fun with the Canon - it's a nice camera !
    gordonbennett likes this.
  12. Last edited: May 7, 2019
    gordonbennett likes this.
  13. I recommend the Olympus Trip 35 if you can find one with the meter still working. It has a fixed 1/200 shutter speed (although it can be hacked). Every shot is razor sharp. Not every one's cup of tea.
  14. My problem with QL 1.7 was that the auto exposure was not accurate enough for color slides, but there was no manual metering, but optically it was very good. Retinas have great lenses but awkward to use compared to cameras made in the 70s, also the sharp eyepiece surround will destroy your glasses if you have to wear them.
  15. Have to agree the Canonet GII 1.7 is a great choice and have enjoyed using the ones I have had over the years. Next choice somewhat more expensive and possibly out of the affordable category the Contax G-series cameras and their associated Zeiss lenses.
  16. I will add to the recommendation for the Canon P. As above, stainless steel shutter, so no burn-through pinholes.

    They tend to stay more reliable without CLA than many others.

    I have a nice Canon IID2 that works well, except for a shutter pinhole. I suppose I should get
    a CLA and curtain replacement for it.

  17. Contax T is the smallest full frame 35mm rangefinder
    Lens Carl Zeiss T* 38mm F2.8
    Electro magnetic shutter 8sec to 1/500 sec, automatic
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2021
  18. [​IMG]
    CONTAX T rangefinder

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