Am I Insane?

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by kevin_loughran, Mar 18, 2010.

  1. I used to shoot professionally with Nikon FM2's and FE2's (IOW's SLR's). Now I just want to shoot B&W for myself. I've always wanted to upgrade to Leica and am tempted to go with an M rangefinder. I'm hoping this change will spark some creativity. How hard is it making the change from TTL to rangefinder? Am I asking for trouble? Which camera model should I start with?
  2. Zorki 4; Jupiter-8 5cm; hand held meter. Or a Konica Auto S2 ; tasty waves; a cool Bud; some d76 and tri-x
  3. Zorkis often have a little too much of the Leica glow. The Feds (2 or later) are a lot better. Also consider a nice Kiev 4 (nearly 100% pre-war Contax).
    Or you could just buy a Leica & lenses for a lot more money.
    There are lots of great rangefinder cameras that will allow you to get into this to see if it is what you want.
    Canon Canonet, Konica S2, many others. Check out the Classic Manual Forum here at
    and no, not really insane
  4. Most everybody I know with a rangefinder also has an SLR. They each have their uses.
  5. Insanity can be good. My first RF experience was with a borrowed IIIg that had a mis-aligned rangefinder and gummy slow speeds. This was after several years using a Nikon F. No long lenses, wide open was f/3.5, and no light meter. Within a week the IIIg was my favorite camera. YMMV.
    If I were to get a film rangefinder it would be an M6 or newer because I still like using a built-in light meter.
  6. Kevin, Leicas are a major invetment, even used, so I would consider borrowing or renting one (some used camera stores will allow that) for a week or so to see how you like it before doing anything else. They won't do everything for you, but I think that what they do is great. You may well differ.
    Even if you use film, borrowing and using an Epson RDS-1 or a Leica M8 digital will give you a quicker feedback on how you might like the RF advantage. In film, the M6 is a great camera, although the Voigtlander Bessas and Zeiss- Ikon RFs are very popular as well.
  7. I shoot both. Easy as pie, Kevin. You'll get the hang of it in a roll or two. For an interchangeable lens camera, a clean Canon 7 is a nice one that won't break the bank. Takes most M39 lenses. If you really never tried a rangefinder before, I second the recommend for the Konica Auto S2. Easy to use, full manual or aperture priority exposure. A big bright finder, You can read the meter from the top deck or the viewfinder and a brilliant lens that has a built in hood. I paid $12 for mine and I love it. A good way to get your feet wet. Note: Since you don't view through the lens with a rangefinder camera, don't forget to take the cap off before shooting! Not that I ever made that mistake.
  8. Insane? No -- but it may be the best idea you've ever had, or the worst. Leicas are expensive, but exude the feeling of precision and ruggedness that has made their reputation.
    I'd start with a Leica M6 (or an M3 if you don't need a built-in meter), and a 50mm Summicron. Plan to spend a minumum of $600 for an M3, $1200 for an M6, and another $600 for the lens. Be sure to get a 14 day return, and even better if you get one which has had CLA service within 5 years.
    Another thought about starting with a RF camera would be a high-quality fixed lens camera from 1950s or 60s West Germany, such as a Kodak Retina IIa or Zeiss Contessa. If it agrees with you, you can move up to Leica.
  9. The biggest difference for me was that everything in the viewfinder of a rangefinder camera is "in focus" because you are not looking through the lens. For that reason, I prefer to use an SLR camera, but I do have a Leica MP, and sometimes that is the best tool for the job.
    Michael J Hoffman
  10. Because the viewfinder has everything in focus and the view extends beyond the frame lines of the lens focal length, you have full "feel" as to how your image should be framed. Compositional decisions become an emotional "dynamic process" rather than a step by step building excersise of an SLR. Yes, I own SLRs too, but use them for their strengths. Children, sports, heavy filters, long lenses, etc. I began my rangefinder conversion about a year ago and have not been sorry. An M2 with a 35mm Simmicron has been my recent companion and I find a shockingly high percentage of "keepers" from each roll of BW film.
  11. Yes, you might be insane. See your local shrink for more info. If you are insane, however, it is not because you are shooting film.
  12. Not at all. Trying new things keeps you alive. It's great to have an opportunity to try a different style, and even buy a machine you've always wanted. Leicas are great for making photographs, and if you get a bit of guilty pleasure from the mechanical feel of a precision engineered instrument with 3,000+ parts, good for you!
  13. Am I Insane?
    Maybe just a little crazy. Insane is when you start buying more and more Leica gear and accessories and posting photos of your equipment on forums such as this :)
    How hard is it making the change from TTL to rangefinder?​
    I never found it difficult to shift. I went from SLRs to 6x6s to rangefinders without any major difficulties. You'll adjust. I still own my FM2 and go back and forth between it and my M with no problem. The Leica M's user-interface is simple, graceful, and elegant. You might just get the bug.
    Am I asking for trouble?​
    See answer to Am I Insane? above :)
    Which camera model should I start with?​
    I think Bill's answer above for a nice used M6 is very good. Either a 35mm or 50mm Summicron. A .72 VF M6 Classic and 35mm Summicron is a hard combo to beat. It's the one I started with 25 years ago and still own.
    Good luck whatever you decide.
  14. I don't know if you are insane. I am thinking the same thing at the moment get rid of my DSLRs and pickup an M with Nokton 1.5 or something like that. I would keep my FM2 to put my old 105 2.5 it is the very early version for the F mount. I just don't know if I want an all film workflow though. I have but putting some B&W film through my film SLRs and scanning them with my Epson V500 to see if I would be happy with the quality which seems to be OK for TriX. I am just trying to way up the pros and cons. I also have a couple of Canonets one is the GIII and one is the Canonet 28 and an old Zorki with too much glow. They are OK but I would say the lenses are not as sharp at my 50mm AF 1.8 Nikkor and the rangefinders are not great on them compared to the few Ms I have looked at. I also photograph my kids alot and I am not sure if I would really get the use from the M or would I reach for the FM2 and the 105 2.5.
    Here are some of the photos I have been taking recently. There is a mixture of B&W film and B&W conversions from a D80 and D1h
  15. I love rangefinders! although lately ive been shooting a slr my rangefonder is a great. sometimes a new camera is perfect for inspiration. take a look at the voightlander bessa the're a good value for camera and lenses take a look at I also agree the m6 is a terrific vamera and would definnately be my choice if youve got the money.
  16. My advice is the same for anyone who asks about RF's. Once you start asking, it's inevitable. The mysterious lure of the Leica has you. Buy a Leica M6 and get it out of your system. You may hate it, but no number of words here will make any difference. And forget starting with an FSU or old Canon RF. It's the "Leica" that is calling to you. Just buy the Leica and get it over with. ;)
  17. Oh man, Leica has nothing on an old Canonet QL17.
  18. My old Canonet QL 17 just stopped working. Two days ago it was fine, I just when to finish off the roll and the shutter won't fire not even in manual mode.
  19. Despite its rise to cult status a couple of years ago, the QL17 was the Sureshot of the 1970's, a budget camera for dad to shoot snaps of the kids. They take fine photos (as long as they work), but are in no way a Leica. :)
  20. Consider this. Here I got a used Canonet QL 17 about 22 years ago at TRW ham radio swap meet for about 20 dollars, the meter did not work thus it went lower in price. It has a nice sharp lens that is equal to a Summicron at F2.8 on axis; and at the corners at F5.6 and bellow. Since I am not a collector it really doesnt matter if this kick around camera is not a Leica.
    I own a M3 and Bessa R and a mess of Zorkis and Feds too; but the Canonet is still used. I am a manual exposure person so a dead meter was not an issue.
    My used Leica M3 is user camera; it has scratches dents; a SS number on the bottom. All these cosmetic defects are what I WANT as a user; since it drives down prices/costs.The majority of Leica folks are collectors; a tiny blem; nick has an extreme effect on collectors mind and ego; to them a shovel with as 0.5mm dent makes a shovel WORTHLESS for their display! :). Leica users have often a very deep "looks over function mindset"; minor cosmetic issues drop prices radically. To a Leica user a tiny defect is a disaster.i
  21. You're not insane. The M Leicas are remarkable cameras and are simply a pleasure to use. Leicas are in a class by themselves and that is why they have the reputation. Look for an M in good condition that has not been abused. If you can live with a hand-held meter the M2 with any of the Leitz 50s would be a good place to start. If you find the need for a 35 or 90 you can add them later. I would stick with Leitz (or Leica) lenses, but that is only my opinion - based on 50 years experience with them. Good luck and enjoy your adventure.
  22. it was a IIIa that initially got me hooked on rangefinders. these cameras can be had for about $400, with a 5cm summar to go with! in alot of ways, there things that i like with the older III models over the M series.
  23. Good point, Ty. My IIIf is being more and more prefered to my M4-P or my film SLR (a humble but fun to use Yashica 2000) for its small size and easy use with wide angle lenses and attached VF. A "B" to load, perhaps (film prep) and no light meter, but pocketable and reliable. Another more "automated" RF experience can be had with an M6, Hexar RF or M7, amongst others.
    The compactness of the RF is still a major point. In digital system cameras, there is no comparison between the lack of bulk of an M8 or M9 and the huge footprint of a Nikon D3 or a Canon. The latter may be much more versatile, but much clumsier in my opinion.
  24. I suggest an M2 with any Summicron 50mm is a great place to start. You'll need some kind of meter (the Voigtlander clip on one is a good one). It is different to an SLR, but they do take great shots and a classic Leica M is much nicer than any Canonet, most of whose auto metering systems are no longer accurate enough for slides (if they ever were).
  25. If it's B and W you want to do, consider a medium format rangefinder. You may, depending on your film and development, get better gradation from the significantly larger negative ( 6 x 4.5, 6 x6 or 6 x 7). Among the smallest of these is the Bronica RF 645, with an excellent viewfinder/rangefinder and it's a nice handling camera. The Mamiya 6 is nearly as small. If you want to go for 6 x 7, look at the Mamiya 7. All these have a 28 equivalent wideangle available, the Mamiya 7 offers even wider.
    If it's going to be only 35mm, I recommend the Leica Summicron 40mm. Use this little gem on a Leica CL, any other M body, or the Cosina-Voigtlander R3-A (that model because it has 40mm framelines).
  26. I went through this a few months back, so I can relate my experience, which I am not sure it will apply to you.

    I have been in love with Leicas, ever since I saw an M5 resting inside a glass display in Frankfurt airport, back in ... God I do not remember when, around the time the M5 was introduced. I almost left my credit card at the shot there, to get it, but eventually the risk of an imminent divorce upon my return home, stopped me.

    In the years following that, I went from an avid amateur photographer to a "Japanese tourist" (no offense for our Japanese friends here), I sold me Nikon F3 and the Nikkors, got myself a Sony P&S and took only family pictures, nothing to write home about. Even when I got a Nikon D80 for the needs of my work, I still had no interest in taking "real" pictures.

    Fast forward to last summer, when some friends re-ignited the old passion in me. Soon, I've acquired my first love again (a pristine, Nikon F2A) and several Nikkor prime lenses etc. At that time, I thought I should also invest in my unfulfilled love, a Leica. A mint Leica M6 fall in my hands, together with 3 lenses. I was so happy that my dream finally became a reality, I spend hours looking at the beautiful M6 and playing with it. I wanted to love that camera, I wanted to get fine pictures with it, I wanted to use it as much as possible. I was finally able to shoot the dream of my youth. I loaded it with Tri-X and waited for the opportunity to take the first pictures. Like so many other dreams though, this wasn't meant to be.

    Being used to the Nikkors, I found that the position of the controls on Leica lenses to be totally non-intuitive. It took me for ever to adjust the camera to shoot a picture. I wanted to focus the lens and I was changing the aperture, I wanted to change the aperture and I was changing the focus. The rangefinder proved to be a pain to use too. The M6 shows two frame lines inside the viewfinder. I had to remember what lens I had on the camera and to remember which set of frame lines corresponded to the lens I had installed, before I could decide which frame lines to use. All these problems made my shooting less intuitive, less spontaneous, too slow. My 7 years old sons didn't had the patience to wait for me to adjust the camera to take their pictures. After fighting for a couple of months between my wish to love (and get used to) the Leica and my probelms with the adjustments, I decided that I had enough.

    There was no reason for me to have a couple of thousand Euros invested in something that I couldn't use effectively. There was no reason to fight the camera. I ended up selling the M6 and buying a Nikon F5, which I could use with my eyes closed.

    I didn't regret selling the Leica, it just was not the right camera for me. I suppose that if I was to select today between a Leica M6 and a Nikon FE or FE2, I would go with the later, and save myself a few €€€€€€. I already have the lenses for it, so why bother switching to a different system?

    Again, that may or may not happen with you, but I thought it would be worthwhile to narrate my experience.
  27. rowlett

    rowlett Moderator

    I agree with Robin, although you might not even have to get a meter if you shoot enough and process quickly enough to remember your lighting conditions. But no, you're definitely not insane. Go for it. I think you'll like a Leica.
  28. Kevin,
    I find myself in the same camp as you...tempted by the Leica. I currently own the FM3A and the Bessa R2A, but I am
    thinking of selling the latter to finance (part of) an M7. The Bessa is nice and compact, but as several of the other
    commenters have noted, you may as well go for the Leica, because you'll be eyeing it until you're holding it! I am also
    intrigued by the Zeiss Ikon, and its viewfinder is supposedly as good if not better than any of the M's. One thing which,
    depending on what you shoot, might shift your sights to an M7 over an M6 is the aperture priority of the M7. I do a lot of
    street shooting and for me that feature might be the difference between getting the shot or fiddling with the controls and
    missing it by a second. Maybe I just need to work on my technique :)

    Good luck, and if you are insane, then I confess I am right there with you. And happy about it.
  29. Unless you want to spend a great deal of money and go back to manual everything, I'd get a Contax G2. Years ago I needed to go smaller and lighter than a set of Nikon F3HPs and went to buy an M6. By the time I priced everything, held cameras in hand and thought about my uses, the Leica desire was gone and I bought the G2s. Until film became too expensive for me (Kodachrome 25 and later Velvia addict), I never picked up the F3s for anything except macro work. The Zeiss lenses rival Leica at a fraction of the cost. The big downside is that with the Leica you can later get a digital body for all the expensive lenses. with the Contax you're with film forever.
  30. Hi Kevin:
    The m7 is a good camera that automatically sets exposure. All Leica lenses are superb - the 35mm Summicron is very useful.
    The camera is a joy to use.
    Joe Faust
  31. The difference between a viewfinder and through the lens view is overrated. The only practical difference is accuracy in framing and assessing DOF, which is something you soon get used to. I find myself switching between different formats (120/135), frame sizes (6x6/6x7/3x2) and viewfinder types (WLF, SLR, RF) all the time, often in the course of the same shoot. It's not difficult, so I really don't think you're 'asking for trouble'. Anyway, the image you want to worry about is the one in your head, not the one in the lens. You may find that how you see it through the camera isn't significant.
    An M6 is a good starting point. New enough to be in good condition; old enough for good prices; built in meter so you can concentrate on the rangefinder experience rather than the handheld lightmeter.
    I wouldn't say getting a film Leica is insane. It's something every photographer should try at least once, in my opinion. And if you change your mind later you can sell it for the same price you bought it, which isn't always true of other cameras.
  32. Are you insane?
    Yes, you are (of course that's just my opinion). You can try out many great rangefinders with a very small cost. Following is just a short list of great rangefinders that you should try. I list them just so you can easily find a couple of them in your local thrift shop, goodwill, craigslists...:
    Kodak Signet
    Kodak Retina IIa (Prewar version)
    Yashica Lynx 5000 (5000E)
    Yashica Lynx 14 (14E)
    Yashica Electro 35 (GT, GSN)
    Petri 7s (with 1:1.8 lens)
    Konica C35
    Olympus XA
    Minolta AL-F
    and old faithful Argus C3 (known as the brick). The good thing about this camera is that it is so simple and easy to take a part and to put back together so you can see what a rangefinder is, how it works and how to adjust it. This camera also has interchangable lenses
    Most of these cameras already have a meter which saves you the cost of a hand-held meter. I have had and tried out all the above cameras. They all gave amazing pictures compared to my Nikon F3, F4, Canon New F1, and Minolta XK (of course also my opinion). My argus C3 was made in 1939 (according to some research on line) with 10 shutter speeds dial.
    Hope you'll find some of these soon
  33. Jim Powers wrote:
    My advice is the same for anyone who asks about RF's. Once you start asking, it's inevitable. The mysterious lure of the Leica has you. Buy a Leica M6 and get it out of your system. You may hate it, but no number of words here will make any difference. And forget starting with an FSU or old Canon RF. It's the "Leica" that is calling to you. Just buy the Leica and get it over with. ;)
    I agree with this. I'd add that while the amount of money you have tied up in a Leica will be higher than if you buy a cheap fixed-lens rangefinder, you certainly won't lose any more money if you decide it's not for you and sell it-- and you won't really know if RF is for you until (as Jim wrote) you try a Leica. Get the M6.
  34. Best buy in photography right now is a used M6. Can't figure it out, why they are going for 950 to 1200. Buy from Keh or other reputable dealer. After shooting Nikons for 8 years I bought a M6 new in 1990. 2 cla's in 20 years and the camera is the best I have ever used. Best photography decision I ever made. However, I had to commit to the switch. I didn't touch the Nikons for a year which is the amount of time it took me to get as fast with the leica as I was with the Nikon. Now, shooting the Leica M is much faster than a NiKon slr. I shoot 95% street with 35mm cameras.
  35. Well, if you want to go film, and your budget can afford it, go with a M6 or M7 with a 50/2 Summicron (which in comparison to most Leica lenses is reasonably priced). If it can't go with a M2 and a 50's 50/2. Really anything different will spark creativity, but the M's are not only different, they're great cameras so you'll keep your quality up (unlike using something like a Holga).
  36. You're not insane. If I were you I'd get an M3 or an M2. But you need to be careful. You want a good one. Best to ask someone you can trust for guidance here. Personally I'd suggest a double stroke M3 with a summicron, preferably not the collapsible one.
  37. Difficult to know whether you are insane or not. I know I am. With my Leica M2, it was love at first sight. It doesn't look snuggly, but it is.
  38. I too shot professionally with Nikons for years. I also have Leica's, an M3 and M5 with Leitz lenses. I would not consider moving to Leica an "upgrade" but rather just different.
  39. I've been using SLR cameras for 25 years or so (yikes!), but for most pictures I take now, I use a rangefinder. I carry either a Leica M4, or a Yashica CCN. I shoot both color and black and white, and both cameras perform very well.
    For simplicity of use, the Yashica is superior to the M4, as it is an aperture priority automatic. What I like most about the Yashica is it's relatively fast 35/1.8 lens. It's a good all-around lens, but it really shines in low light. Another benefit is it's light weight and nearly silent shutter (half as loud as a Leica).
    The M4 is the one I prefer for bright colors (cherry blossom season is around the corner here in Japan), and the DR Summicron I usually have attached to the M4 is a wonderful lens for such things. My favorite black and white lens is an old Summitar. It gives a wonderful "glow", and is probably among the least expensive of the Leica lenses. You'll need an adapter to use it on an M camera.
    I'll buy a Leica in any condition (rough looking or inoperable cameras are sometimes very cheap), and then send it off to get a CLA/repair. I figure any old camera which I am not familiar with could probably benefit from being serviced. I care less about the outward appearance of a camera than I do about how it works.
  40. The big downside is that with the Leica you can later get a digital body for all the expensive lenses. with the Contax you're with film forever.​
    Not so, Ted. You can now get an adapter to fit your fantastic Contax/Zeiss lenses to m4/3s cameras. From what I see they work great on these new, little cameras.
  41. Hi everyone, quick question for all the Leica RF aficionados out there. I'm in the market for a mint condition .72VF M6TTL and I've recently spotted one online advertised at a brick and mortar store for $1799. This seems a bit high to me. What are the thoughts of the crowd?

    Also, are there any specific questions I should be asking both individuals and dealers about any perspective cameras? Should I be concerned with the number of rolls of film shot thought it and the number of shutter actuations? Whatever advice the community has is most sincerely appreciated. I'm looking so forward to acquiring my camera and I'm sure your thoughts will prove invaluable.

    Thanks much. I'm always at Speak soon.
  42. I used a Canonet QL when it was brand new, its images were no match to that of a Leica. My friend had a Minolta fixed lens camera at the same time, and its images were far better, although still no match to that of a Leica.
  43. I'm in the market for a mint condition .72VF M6TTL and I've recently spotted one online advertised at a brick and mortar store for $1799. This seems a bit high to me. What are the thoughts of the crowd?​
    You can check for yourself by doing a Completed Auctions search at eBay to see what they're going for on the auction site these days. The price you cite seems a bit high, but local stores naturally charge a little more than eBay and give you the advantage of being able to check in person whether it is "mint."
  44. re Contax: Jim, I don't think they focus to infinity with the adapter for 4/3.

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