Lefty Soviet Rangefinders?

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by bradrothbart, Sep 6, 2020.

  1. Hi all!

    I'm utterly new here. I've never shot film before, and I'm interested in the old Soviet Rangefinders, as they are fascinating as well as being in my limited budget. However, I am extremely left-handed. I have Cerebral Palsy and the right hand is an utter free agent, doing whatever it wants whenever it wants to. When I go out I get from point A to B with the help of Earlene, my trusty hot-pink electric wheelchair, so my situation is less than ideal for giant tripod use. Stupid question: can you flip a Zorki ( Fed, Kev, etc...) upside down and shoot that way? Does anyone have any favorites that are also affordable (under $100 USA)? Thanks for reading. Hope to be deluged by your combined wisdom soon.

  2. Brad, welcome to photo.net. Well, there's no reason I can think of why you can't use a USSR rangefinder upside down. Or any other camera for that matter.

    I one described the East German Exakta as a left handed camera:

    (LINK) - The Exacta VX100 - a Bit of an Oddity

    By the way in the UK there's the Disabled Photographers Society, perhaps worth a look:

    (LINK) - Home-DPS
    ] likes this.
  3. Another vote for the Exakta, or its more limited, and less expensive, alternative, the EXA.
  4. I've just tried with the Kiev 4A and Zorki 3m I have here on my shelf.

    You can, after a fashion, but they're fairly heavy cameras and really intended to be used with a two-handed grip.

    I found the focus lever on the Zorki lens to be badly placed. The Kiev, with it's focus wheel was better, but I'd certainly want a good wrist strap.

    Both cameras want two hands to wind film, adjust aperture and change shutter speed.

    The winding mechanism is fairly stiff, you're not going to do it with one finger like on some compacts. Holding it against your body might work.

    Would it be possible to fix a tripod mount to your wheelchair? A variety of articulated arms are available on eBay or a local machinist could make you something (I'd do it, but I assume you don't live in the Correze).

    If you can fix the camera to your wheelchair in such a way that it can be brought to eye level for shooting, then you should be able to operate it with one hand. They work just fine upsidedown.

    If you can't get it up to eye level, then you can still shoot using scale focus techniques. A large, bright viewfinder would be a priority here, or maybe even a home made wire frame finder. Plenty of cameras to choose from if you don't need/can't use the rangefinder.

    Or a TLR (medium format) might work? I tried with mine and found them much easier to operate left handed. I think the square, boxy shape and controls being on the front and sides made things easier than the smaller 35mm cameras.

    Film loading is going to be a two handed job on any of these old cameras, but I assume you already have a solution for that.

    Anyway, I hope I've given you some ideas to think about and some googling to do.

    Good luck and let us know how you get on!
  5. m42dave

    m42dave Dave E.

    Konica also made a left-hand release switch for use with the FS-1, FP-1, and FT-1 35mm SLRs.

    Another possibility might be to use a pistol grip bracket with your camera and connect a long cable release to it that could be used left-handed.
    Tony Parsons likes this.
  6. m42dave

    m42dave Dave E.

    Just to give you an idea, here is my FED-5V mounted on a bracket with grip, and a cable release attached with some Velcro strap.

    FED 5V.JPG

    The older FEDs and Zorkis are good shooters, but do not have the best ergonomics. With these rangefinders, you have to lift and drop the shutter speed dial to change speeds, which is a bit awkward. I also wouldn't recommend the FED-4, which uses a stiff and uncomfortable wheel to rewind the film.
    NHSN and James Bryant like this.
  7. I had another play with my cameras last night.

    With the Zorki, I was able to wind the camera, adjust shutter speed and aperture, all by wedging the camera in my lap whilst sitting.

    I could raise it to my eye, focus (a stick on focus tab would help here) and shoot, all left handed...

    But, between focussing and shooting, I needed to alter my grip on the camera, returning it to my lap, which was slow and risked moving the lens (if it's light enough to focus one handed...). Shooting one handed never felt steady, very shaky.

    So my suggestion is still to look at TLR cameras. When I tried my TLRs, I found them fairly easy to operate left handed by comparison to the rangefinder. Not having to raise it to eye level kept the camera steady.
  8. Another idea (in case you haven't guessed, I find this a fascinating question and challenge).

    Have you looked at the Instax Wide 300 from Fuji? I know it's not 'classic', but it is rather retro and the instant prints have an appeal of their own.

    I had a try with mine, while it's large, it's not heavy and I was able to hold it upside down with my left hand easily enough. I found it easiest to depress the shutter button with the knuckle of my smallest finger.

    While pulling the exposed print from the camera with your mouth is not exactly recomended, it's certainly possible.

    The reason I thought of Instax is that, unlike 35mm, you should be able to load the film packs yourself, they just drop in.
  9. There's the Leningrad. A clockwork motordrive RF camera. Prices fluctuate, and at one time they were sky-high, but I think they're more reasonable these days. A pistol grip with cable-release trigger would allow left handed shooting.

    Quite honestly, 35mm film is going to be a complete PITA to use for you (or anyone else for that matter), and won't show any quality improvement over a fairly basic digital camera of 12 megapixels or more.

    If you want a quite expensive and frustrating hobby with a chancy outcome, fine; shoot film. If you just want to make great pictures with a minimum of fuss; shoot digital.
  10. Hello everyone. I find Brad's posting a good challenge, and owning a small stable of FSU RF cameras, can only concur with all of the above postings. Plus, no one has mentioned the Royal PITA bit, 2k20-016-DSCF6352 ces5 bm bc-horz.jpg that almost all of the Fed's, Zorki's and Kiev's are bottom loaders ! I was totally foxed trying to load my Fed's using only my left hand.
    I will put in a final Yes for Joe's get a digital camera. Since first picking up the FSU RF's around 2015, I always carry a Fuji JX series as a "spare". Even with several X-E1's in kits, the JX is along for the ride. On several occasions I have defaulted to the JX files for very good prints. This little camera is fitted with a decent zoom capability and can be operated one handed with EZ. The current JX-500 was off Ebay and cost less than $25 delivered. There are other brands of similar cameras, and the pricing does not appear to violate your budget specs.
    One point and then I am done. Monochrome (B/W) capability is in the camera.
    Aloha, Bill
  11. Another point to consider with the film camera vrs a digital camera. Somehow you will need to have the film developed & printed. These days your options for a "decent" lab are slim. Going digital, and assuming you have access to a PC, you might be able to scan and edit / print your files. I use Costco here in Hawaii to "proof" all my work (budget kindly), both scanned B/W & digital, and off Island labs for prints I sell locally.
    Aloha, Bill
  12. Tony Parsons

    Tony Parsons Norfolk and Good

    Some 'flash' brackets actually have an aperture for a cable release, which can (IIRC) be used from either side.

    The digital vs film suggestions may be helpful, but if the OP has marked mobility issues, he may find the PP more difficult than the actual shooting.
  13. m42dave

    m42dave Dave E.

    That would work a bit better than what I have. :) I got the bracket for free, and use it mainly with a TLR.

    If the OP really wants to try film, the later Konica models noted above are worth considering as they have good handling (easy loading, with either built-in motorized film advance or optional accessory winder, plus the left-hand release option) and shutter-priority auto exposure (limited program exposure with the FP-1). They are generally reasonably priced, and their optics are first-rate. The Soviet rangefinders and Exaktas are interesting cameras, but not particularly easy to use.
  14. As difficult as loading a developing tank in a changing bag one handed? I don't think so!
    I was thinking more along the lines of a Nikon Coolpix P6000 to get closer to a rangefinder experience, and with full manual mode. Or maybe a Canon G8 or G9.
  15. Hello, Brad

    It is absolutely, 100% untrue that you cannot find a "decent" lab to develop your film. No matter where you are in the world today, there are numerous labs doing a fine job of developing film. Almost all of them, at this point will send you photographic scans too- which makes for easy sharing and viewing. A quick internet search will indeed reveal photo labs in your country, and probably near your city, county, etc. I live in the U.S. and have used maybe a half dozen or so labs over the past few years. I hear of a new one every few days! There are certainly photo labs all over every continent right now. Wherever you live, I am certain it's possible to find a lab you can use.

    Getting photos printed is another matter and as far as that goes, you can go in any one of many directions, depending on your budget, aspirations, dreams, and desires. Most labs that will provers film will probably also print photos for you, however.

    I think it is fantastic that you want to shoot film. I'd say simply get a cable release. IF, as somebody (I forget who) suggested, you can affix the camera to your chair, you can pre aim and focus, then activate the shutter release with the cable release! That would surely allow one handed operations for most everything, with the probable exception of loading the film.

    Since you can't really use a tripod, look into getting a monopod. Find one with a ball head on it that can swivel and tilt in any direction. You can affix it to your chair and take off, man! Maybe you could figure out a way to affix a tripod ball head onto some sort of articulated arm (old desk lamp comes to mind here) that you can have permanently mounted to your chair, but would swivel out of your way if not shooting. Or maybe swing into position over your shoulder to facilitate use of the viewfinder or other controls. Got any friends with good imaginations, who are engineers or metalworkers, or just plain handy?

    I just entered the phrase "articulated camera mount for wheelchair" into my search engine and all kinds of stuff came up! If noting else, maybe just looking at some of the (no doubt costly) devices can inspire you to find a less expensive or home-spun way.

    Don't let these guys kill your dream of shooting film. Of course they mean well and stuff, this site is filled with really nice people- as you can see here. BUT if you have your heart set on shooting an old film camera, GO FOR IT!

    I salute you and endorse your desires and efforts to shoot old film cameras! I wish you the very best of luck in your endeavors, and look forward to seeing some of your photos eventually!
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2020
  16. Strange. There were almost none back in the last century when film was at the height of its use!
    There's a fine line between a dream and a nightmare.

    Is the aim great pictures? Or just the challenge of using an outmoded and ecologically questionable technology that hinders the learning process?
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2020
  17. Dude maybe you need to get out more often ;-)
    In the current film boom, there are new labs opening all the time. In the past year I've used Richard Photo Lab (CA)- B&W, C41, E6; Blue Moon Camera & Machine (OR)- C-41, B&W; Old School Photo Lab (NH)- E6, C-41, B&W; Boutique Photo Lab (TN)- ECN-2; and Hidden Light LLC (AZ)- silver gelatin lab print.

    Currently I am considering sending some film out to Iowa to have a couple rolls of B&W reversal processed by a guy who cooked up his own chemistry for such- the DR5 process. He has been in continuous operation for something like 20 years, moving from L.A. to NYC to Denver, to Iowa. To suggest there aren't any labs processing film right now is simply out of touch. ( I know it wasn't you who said this)

    A quick internet search turned up a handful of labs in the UK. A German outfit recently began a magazine dedicated only to film, film cameras, and movie films & cameras. There are film labs and master printers all over the world.
    Moreover, it's no doubt easy enough to develop film at home and do one's own scans too.

    That would be a Brad question, Joe. This is his thread, and his vision. Believe it or not, as much as you seem to advise everyone, to a person, to forgo film and shoot digital, some of us actually enjoy film....the process of shooting it, waiting for scans, holding slides, having prints made. It's a joy, brother.

    Learning process? It really wasn't until I BEGAN shooting film that I took it upon myself to learn how to manually operate a camera! I bought a Hasselblad 500cm and started guessing at what I was doing. I downloaded a "sunny 16" chart and took the heck off. I'd never shot ANYthing using manual camera settings prior to that. No classes, no school, just shooting roll after roll. I personally found it (and still find it) extremely rewarding. Currently, of all my cameras, only one- a more "modern" rangefinder, has any sort of metering. I use a phone app to meter my shots and for the most part it works plenty well. Any unsatisfactory results, I'm sure, come more from my old cameras than from the app!

    I have an older Olympus OMD EM-1 (1st gen) (WAY too complicated) and some great lenses. It rarely leaves the house. And honestly, looking at processed digital images- as seen on this forum's home page (outside the forum section)... leaves me non plussed. Of course I'd be obtuse to say these aren't great shots that are nicely processed- tho they are all the rage, it's just not anything that appeals to me.

    Now I do not mean to denigrate you in any way, shape, or form. I sincerely hope I don't come off so. You've come out with plenty of great advice in many posts in the year or whatever that I've been here on the forum. You clearly know your photography, inside and out, and I respect that.

    But honestly- some people want to shoot film!
    It's 100% do-able. It's part of the analog revolution, that's always been going on. Folks are now and have been, attracted to things (in the creative processes, I mean) as they were in their original forms. Analog never left. It's simply been obscured by digital stuff over and over again- yet it keeps on keeping on, Joe. Digital processes come, go, shift, & change rapidly- while analog does so at much lower rate. Film has evolved, hence new and "experimental films like the stuff Lomography is constantly coming out with, like P30 the Italian film that's all-new from Film Ferrania. Film development has evolved- hence dude up here with his DR5 reversal process.

    Scans have evolved, and evolved again. Printing processes have evolved, and certainly, while old school processes still persist, there has been a bit of a revolution in digital printing. There's a guy in Spain who makes amazing Carbon color prints by meticulously layering digital (or drum?) scans atop one another. Cone Editions up in Vermont invented their own inks for digital photo printing- ahead of all other major players in the field- and invented an 11 shade ink gradient for B&W printing in Pieziography. Cone will also make you a Platinum Paladium print.

    IS some of this stuff "ecologically questionable"? It certainly can be. I've got nothing there, man. BUT there are responsible ways of dealing with chemicals of any sort. Does it cost money, can it add to the cost of film development? I bet it does and I bet it can. Is there some oversight? You think California, the UK (the Island Of Health & Safety) or the EU is letting labs dump used or expired chemistry in creeks and rivers? Or out behind the lab on the ground? Not likely.

    There is absolutely plenty of room for digital processes in photography- I'm NOT arguing against it at all.
    However, WE find shooting film gratifying for a variety of reasons.
    OK, you don't. WE GET IT.

    But WE DO. :)

    Brad, here, wants to shoot film. I say YAY! I'm not going to talk somebody OUT of their dream. I'm going to encourage them to go for it!
    I'll probably dream right along with them.
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2020
    ] and Bettendorf like this.
  18. The point is that using a digital camera can teach you more in 15 minutes than wasting 15 or more rolls of film can teach you in six weeks.... and cheaper. With no chemicals, plastic, surplus packaging, transport to and from labs or other noticeable environmental impact involved.

    All that's needed is to turn the dial off P and onto A, S or M.
    It's called experiential learning, and the quicker you can make a link between cause and effect, the quicker and easier you can learn. Simple as that. No expensive 500 C/M needed, nor roll after roll of film at 7 quid a pop.

    Maybe Brad has served an apprenticeship using digital; maybe he's a complete novice at photography altogether. We don't know. Which is why I'm asking where his priorities lie.
    Actually just making pictures, or posing with a film camera?

    And I wasn't questioning the quantity of film labs available. Only their quality.
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2020
    Bettendorf likes this.
  19. I gotcha Joe. And can't disagree about the speed and effectiveness of learning in the here & now. Sorry for getting so wound up man. I should wait to do anything until the coffee eases off. LOL

    For the record, all the labs I've used (listed above) have been great. I WAS taking my film to the local camera shop tho- just to support that guy. BUT whatever lab he was using for film processing was LAME. No idea who or where that was but I'll not use him again.
    Bettendorf likes this.
  20. I think US labs might always have been a bit more conscientious than here in the UK. Even using so-called pro labs, I've had the occasional poorly processed C-41 film; and as for their proof print quality? Appalling! Otherwise I'd never have bothered to invest a load of cash in rotary processor machines to do the job myself.
    Ricochetrider likes this.

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