Difference between Leica and Nikon (Rangefinder vs SLR)

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by tim_tan|1, Jan 24, 2002.

  1. I have been trying to find the right phrase to distinguish the difference between the two, and I read the interview with Ralph Gibson on the thread and he said :

    <p>

    “I have spent forty years working with the Leica rangefinder. The rangefinder enables one to see what’s outside of the frame as well as what’s inside of the frame. You make a decision predicated on the presence and/or the absence of various aspects of the subject. With a reflex, the camera determines what is seen, and half the time it's out of focus. One could follow a reflex around the world and focus it from time to time until it came across a picture. With a rangefinder you see something, you make the exposure and you continue to look at what you’re seeing. The rangefinder is ideally matched to the perceptive act, the personal act of perception. I only use a reflex for extreme close-ups.”

    <p>

    I like the words ‘ perceptive act”

    <p>

    What is your thoughts on this ?
     
  2. ralph gibson needs to learn how to look at a scene without the camera
    up at his face if he ever wants to use an SLR effectively. He also
    needs to learn to use manual exposure and focusing on SLR's. I can
    see where he is going with his argument, but the way he portrays an
    SLR taking control of the scene is grossly exaggerated.
     
  3. Seeing outside the frame is a much vaunted but, IMHO, highly
    questionable benefit of RF cameras. It depends entirely on the
    frameline in use and on the viewfinder magnification; for instance,
    you don't get much of a view of what's outside the 28mm frame with
    a .72 body or even, for that matter, with a .58 body. I also agree
    with Matthew that Mr. Gibson needs to learn how to use an SLR to
    better advantage, so that his criticisms thereof can be better
    informed.
     
  4. I think he's just putting a lot of fancy words on a personal preference. The idea that SLR's are any less capable of producing excellent photography than M's is absurd.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Can you tell? I can't, and I _know_.
     
  5. Sorry, I should have said that one of those snaps was taken with an
    SLR, the other with a rangefinder.
     
  6. Rob,

    <p>

    Yeah, but you obviously missed the "decisive moment" with the SLR. (lol)

    <p>

    In my view, a rangefinder is just a tool, and like any other tool is
    good for somethings, and unsuitable for others. I'm of the opinion
    that it is counterproductive to argue RF vs. SLR - use what's right
    for the task. Where there are limitations with either, learn where you
    can work around those limitations, and where you can't.
     
  7. Rob,

    <p>

    Two more examples of your work, thanks for sharing! To answer your
    riddle, I think the first was taken with a rangefinder and the second
    was taken with an SLR. My reasons:

    <p>

    The first, very dramatic picture has been carefully composed to
    exclude the face of one of the two murderers, no doubt the
    ringleader, as they hurry from the scene of their crime, leaving
    their pathetic young victim to expire tragically on the sidewalk
    (a.k.a. pavement). We are left wondering just who is this sadistic
    but, no doubt, highly professional assassin? This adds just the right
    amount of mystery to the picture and could only have been achieved by
    being able to see outside the frame (I know this contradicts my
    earlier post).

    <p>

    The second picture has the subject's eyes closed: exactly what can
    happen with the SLR's blackout at the moment of taking the picture. I
    suppose, to be fair, that another possibility is that the subject is
    in a state of rapture, induced by the proximity of the hurtling train
    as it thunders past her head while she inexplicably attempts to wash
    her clothing on the adjacent track. I doubt this is the case, as I
    have never heard of it happening, but there's always a first time.

    <p>

    ;-)
     
  8. Rob, very, very appealing photos! Regarding this argument, it just
    boils down to once again, which is the best SLR or RF? Bringing in
    fluffy language like "perceptive act" continues the myth that somehow
    those of us that use RF's are more worthy!

    <p>

    I agree about the framelines, I like many use a standard .72 finder
    with a 35mm, even with this set-up so little is actually visible
    outside the 35 mask that it makes little difference anyway - the 50
    of course is a different story.

    <p>

    As has been said both types of camera have their merits but although
    I use an M4-P almost exclusively now I still feel a good AF AE SLR
    with a decent zoom is a far more comprehensive photographic tool.

    <p>

    In the past when using a SLR I have never experienced this "tunnel
    vision" that is often mentioned when comparing the SLR viewing to the
    RF, indeed with a zoom you can keep the view wide, observing all,
    then select your area of importance and "zoom in" to exclude the
    periphary elements.

    <p>

    The vast majority of pro's earn their money with an SLR, if they
    thought that they could earn it better with a RF then that is what
    they would carry!
     
  9. The first one is a street boy trying to catch the attention of a
    couple of Yemeni tourists in downtown Bombay, while the second is a
    Gujarati washerwoman collecting her washing from the railway tracks
    (where she had spread them out to dry), waiting for a train to pass,
    again Bombay.
     
  10. Ray, you definitely have a future as a caption writer ;-).
     
  11. I think the ability to see outside the frame does sometimes aid
    composition because it helps to suggest alternative framings for the
    shot. But I don't think it's a major advantage. Gibson's claim that
    with the SLR, the camera determines what is seen, seems to be a
    peculiar remark. It's not like I don't know what's out there before
    I look through my SLR! When I see something exciting, I shoot, with
    either camera. I don't think my composition is wildly different,
    either way.
     
  12. I think you guys are missing the point somewhat. Obviously the
    same shot can be taken with both types of camera. What the r/f
    does is to tend to lead you into seeing and taking different types
    of pictures. Over a period of time using m6's my pictures have
    changed - the way that they are composed, the way that the
    edges of the frames have become more "central" to the picture
    etc. : more than anything, how much more important
    backgrounds have become in my compositions - when I used
    slrs I tended to either blur them out or crop them out. Now,
    clearly, if I started using slrs again extensively I could take the
    same pictures as I'm taking now. BUT, if I'd stayed with the slrs I
    don't think I'd take these kind of pictures at all.
    Let's face it, it's easy to rubbish these ideas (they are pretty
    subtle, after all), but if you look at Ralph Gibson's colour work, for
    example, you can see what he means - the fact that everything is
    in focus in the v/f of an r/f means he's made more aware of
    colour mass in the background which would be o.o.f. in an slr.
    Similarly, Salgado's more classically composed and structured
    images are more SLR like - they're slower, more thoughtful,
    more like old paintings. BTW, and FWIW, I'd be happy with either
    fellow's portfolio.
    What I mean I think is that a person needs to know what type of
    image they want to create before living their house, then choose
    equipment appropriately - for me the technology certainly steers
    me in one direction or the other - I'd be lying to say it makes no
    difference. (Could be I'm just weak willed)
     
  13. How about Bill Allard's take on it, from "William Albert Allard: The
    Photographic Essay", ISBN 0821217356, p.41:

    <p>"With an SLR, you're looking at your subject through the optic;
    you're literally seeing what the picture is going to look like. You
    have a device that will show you your depth of field, the area that
    will or will not be in critical focus. This is particularly true for
    me, because I'm often shooting at the maximum aperture of the lens,
    the aperture you actually view through. This helps you see how areas
    of color are affected. It can tell you if that blue has a hard edge,
    or if it's somewhat soft and blended into something else.

    <p>"When you're looking through a rangefinder, though, everything is
    sharp. The rangefinder window is by and large a focusing and framing
    device that lets you pick a part of the subject you want to be in
    critical focus. The only real way you can tell how the rest of the
    picture is going to look is by experience, or maybe a quick look at
    the depth-of-field scale on the lens itself. I think the rangefinder
    frees you up in a certain way. You're probably going to work a
    little looser in a structural sense, because everything is clean,
    clear, and sharp. When I look through an SLR, I think I'm a little
    bit more aware of compositional elements, of the structure of the
    image. With a rangefinder camera, I'm seeing certain spatial
    relationships."
     
  14. I happen to agree totally with what Gibson says. I do shoot
    differently when I use a rangefinder as opposed to an SLR, and the
    main difference I find is that with the rangefinder, exactly as he
    says, I tend to leave the camera at my eye and look around me through
    it and expose when I see what I want. With the SLR I watch, see
    something, bring the camera up to my face and freeze it with the
    camera. Does either make a better photo. I don't think so and I
    don't think that is what Gibson is saying. My take on what he has
    said is that for his personality the rangefinder way works better.
    Hate to say it, but with what - 15 or so major books behind him,
    countless gallery exhibitions, prints that most of us can't afford -
    I think he probably has the right to state his opinion.
     
  15. T add fuel to the debate, I notice differences in my photographs when
    I switch from my auto focus Nikon to my manual focus Nikon! Not
    better or worse, just different.
     
  16. Bob, as people we all have a right to state our opinions. I'm sure
    there's a difference for the individual snapper whether he prefers
    the one or the other, but I don't think it's something you can see in
    a picture. My personal style hasn't changed in any way due to the
    switch.
     
  17. Rob,

    <p>

    Why, in your estimation, are these two examples you've offered,
    excellant?
     
  18. I like them, but my reference was to the potential of two types of
    camera, not to my own pictures.
     
  19. Rob: I know we all have our own opinions. I was taking to task
    specifically Mathews statement "ralph gibson needs to learn how to
    look at a scene without the camera up at his face if he ever wants to
    use an SLR effectively." Looking at Gibsons success (if you read his
    article he has made his living for quite some time soley off of his
    fine-art photography, and a good living at that), I just think this
    is a somewhat inane statement. I'm sure Gibson can use an SLR just
    as effectively as any one of us.
     
  20. Fair enough. I always tend to react badly to appeals to authority,
    but I appreciate your point.
     
  21. Funnily enough, I think Gibson's work is almost antithetical to the
    typical use of a rangefinder: his pictures are so formal and
    precisely composed that I would have thought he would prefer an SLR,
    given the poor accuracy of the M viewfinder. Which just goes to show
    something, I suppose.

    <p>

    BTW, the first of my two snaps was SLR, the second M. Both 24 mm
    lenses.
     
  22. Some other quotes that may apply:

    <p>

    Bill Pierce on reviewing the first Canon F1 (c. 1970): "Looking through
    an SLR viewfinder is like watching a slide show. The picture is the
    only thing you see, surrounded by quiet black space."

    <p>

    Friedlander or Winogrand (attributions vary, but both RF
    photographers): "I photograph things to see what they looked like
    photographed." (If he/they used SLRs, they'd already KNOW what
    something would "look like" photographed, on the focusing screen).

    <p>

    RE: Gibson, composition, SLRs and RFs. RG uses a 50 almost exclusively,
    which means he DOES see a lot outside the framelines - and in the Leica
    viewfinder the 50 is almost a telephoto with a smallish frame area
    relative to the eye's field of view, which makes it easier to do "SLR"
    type graphic framing than with almost any other focal length - the
    wides require peripheral vision or accessory finders and the real
    tele's frames get pretty tiny. That being said, I think his comments
    went a little over the top - I don't think Jay Maisel (e.g.) just
    "follows his reflex around the world...until it comes across a
    picture."

    <p>

    From a technical standpoint, the lens and film don't know what kind of
    camera they're mounted on - they just project and receive an image. The
    difference, if any, between RF and SLR, IS perceptual - how (if at all)
    they influence what/how we see.

    <p>

    I like Bill Allard's comparison - it's a fair stab at a very slippery
    psychological difference. For me the difference boils down to
    composition in space (SLR) vs. composition in time (RF).

    <p>

    Rob's 'quiz' - guessing, I'd say top-RF, bottom-SLR. But for my first
    30 years in photography I shot SLRs and yet emulated/favored the work
    of RF photographers (Manos, Mark, Fusco, Freedman, early Gene Smith ).
    You can produce pictures in any style with any camera - some cameras
    just lend themselves to certain kinds of perception more readily than
    others.
     
  23. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I find rangefinders far easier to shoot with when not looking
    through the viewfinder.

    <p>

    Otherwise, I think, like Rob, it's personal preference, and the
    results are not indicative of the tool. I think experience teaches
    one to see the scene without looking through the viewfinder, even if
    composition is done through the viewfinder. In this case, it hardly
    matters, except for what is comfortable for someone to shoot.
     
  24. Everyone seems to be reading into RG's quote what they want it to
    say, and not what he's actually saying. Personally, I only use an M6
    and an Elmar-M, 50mm, f2.8. For me, this is the only combination that
    makes sense. The 50mm frameline is approximately half of the
    viewfinder area. I like being able to see twice the area that I'm
    photographing. Without moving the camera, I can easily see what's
    included and excluded, and reframe quickly. With an slr, this is not
    possible without moving the camera around, and then you don't
    remember anyway. The other thing is that there is no out of focus
    with the RF. This has its good points and bad points. With an slr,
    almost always, part of the viewfinder is out of focus, because, of
    course, the lens is set at its widest opening. Obviously, both types
    of cameras have taken classic shots that live a life of their own. As
    for guessing which type took which picture, how about this: I could
    care less. What does that have to do with my photography, my vision,
    or my quest? But I'll say this, if I see one more boring, (everybody
    and their relatives are doing it,) "the masses and cows are starving
    in India," photo, I'm going to puke.
     
  25. Glenn, I agree with you 100%. Western (and even Indian) photographers tend to portray India as a vast refugee camp, which is a bit one- sided to say the least. Which is why I don't photograph people starving. I photograph them playing, working, doing all sorts of things. They are all pictures of people I would count as acquaintances and friends, and who enjoyed being photographed, often over a long period of time. If you find my pictures boring, that's my failure as a photographer, but if you see them as pictures of people starving, then I suggest you're bringing your own (Western, I should think) preconceptions to the slide show.
    [​IMG]
     
  26. I agree entirely with RG, especially this comment: "With a rangefinder
    you see something, you make the exposure and you continue to look at
    what you’re seeing. The rangefinder is ideally matched to the
    perceptive act, the personal act of perception."
    <p>
    With a rangefinder camera, the photograph is already composed before
    you bring the camera to your eye. The only reason the camera comes to
    your eye, really, is to accomplish two things: 1) establish viewpoint;
    2) to finalize image boundries with fast positioning of the
    framelines. Focus, exposure, and composition have already been taken
    care of. A long time ago. That is the way to use a Leica
    rangefinder. And that is why the RF is labeled with terms like
    spontaneous, intimate, unobtrusive, responsive, and, most importantly:
    unhesitating and absolutely compliant with your terms.
    <p>
    An SLR modifies your view of the subject by showing how the scene will
    look at a given f-stop, most of the time wide open with very little
    depth of field. It is necessary for the photographer to "get past
    this," and "fix the problem" of focus before a photograph can be
    taken. This is all during the time the photographer is looking into
    the viewfinder. With an RF, focus is immaterial - a
    totally nonexistent issue. The photographer already knows the f-stop
    and focus settings. The shot happens in a blink. Spontaneously, and
    without another thought.
    <p>
    Carl Weese said it best in his famous article: (paraphrase) "You look
    into an SLR; you look through a rangefinder.
     
  27. Tony, I wish I had your skills! I'm afraid the camera spends a good
    deal of time up to my eye and I often walk around with it up there
    focusing and adjusting exposure until I see what I want to see.

    <p>

    But I like the idea that you look _through_ the rangefinder, that
    appeals to me.
     
  28. Rob,

    <p>

    I may be an old softy, but this is a beautiful photograph (the happy
    child, the proud mother).
     

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