Looking for a film Rangfinder, very confused what to haunt for; help!

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by noorozeki, Oct 16, 2018.

  1. For my walk about, lunch break photography - I eventually migrated from compact fixed-lens Olympus 35mm rangefinders to a Retina II and a IIa.

    On the the plus side, both are no nonsense, pocketable, 35mm cameras with excellent lenses.


    That said, my recommendation is for the OP is to get a feel for 35mm RF shooting with a Canonet QL17 - provided he or she uses a Kanto MR-9 battery adapter.

    SALE Battery Adapter

    My path to Retinas for walkabout 35mm photography was predated by my use and appreciatation of medium format folders.
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2018
    paul ron likes this.
  2. Wise words!
    My somewhat pocketable fixed lens film RF of choice is a Retina II, an elderly knob wound folder with separate shutter cocking mechanism. The RF is on the squintier and dimmer end of the rainbow but at least better than zone focusing the Schneider 50mm f2.
    A FED 2 would provide a comfier winding knob, also cocking it's FP shutter + diopter adjustments.
    I never tried anything RF with built in meter besides some Ricoh with a programmed shutter and probably a 40mm f2.8 lens. In doubt, shop hands on, make up your mind if you'll be able and happy to work with that RF as is. - While camera mechanics might still be working some RFs would benefit from resilvering their beam splitter prisms to work well. - I don't have the smart phone needed to show a view through my VF collection. The kind of recent digital Leicas are brighter and snappier than the early 80s M4-P which is a significant length in front of m< M3 in not that great state. But even that M3 beats my Retina or Super Isolette. I own some Konica S3 and haven't been tempted to use it. - while it seems to sport a mechanical shutter it sets the aperture only automatically or according to flash guide number. ISO settings max out at 800 and I am not overly confident about the focusing. - The lens has lots of throw, but the RF image wanders very little compared to other cameras at hand-

    There are dim early SLRs that sell the idea of RF shooting pretty well, but I am challenged to see a FED / Zorki edge over well made later manual film SLRs at 50mm under street shooting conditions. - Focusing wider SLR lenses is nastier so the RF advantage would grow until your run out of frame lines and need a separate view finder for your lens.

    Voigtländer? - Which ones? Old German? - Try them out. - If they feel right for you, fine, if too odd let them be. Japanese Cosina made Bessas? - IDK what you'll pay for one. Their shutters are reputed to be noisier than film Leicas' and some models seem to have RF base length issues i.e. aren't made to handle fastest glass.

    I don't recommend sinking a huge chunk of money into this quirky film RF idea. Whatever you buy today is old enough to be permitted to fall apart tomorrow. And odds that you'll really settle for a non Leica are pretty low. - I am not sure if Leicas are "good" cameras; but there is repair infra structure for them (besides M5 and CL) and some seem to manage their interchangeable lenses. I can't claim the same about FEDs & Zorkis.
  3. Compact but auto only is the Konica C35. Programmed shutter and aperture ranging from 1/30 at f 2.8 to 1/650 at f 14. Has a nice rangefinder and will run on zinc air cells just fine I do like manual settings, but I keep one of these little cameras handy for quick photos.
  4. I have a thing for compact rangefinders. And I can tell you that each one has a certain charm.

    When you say pocket size--are you talking about pants pocket size or coat pocket? Because the only compact rangefinder I own that truly fits in my pants pocket is the Olympus XA. But it is not shutter priority. It's one of my favorite camers and only cost me $4 (with the flash). But I know that's not the norm.

    Other compact rangefinders I own include the Ricoh 500G, the Vivitar 35ES, the Chinon 35 EE-II, and the Yashica 35CC. They're all good cameras but there are two that really standout to me--the Ricoh 500G and the Olympus XA. And, out of those two, the Ricoh 500G is more affordable and very capable of capturing sharp pics. I've been working on a blog where I use 18 cameras in 18 months and I've mentally been keeping notes on which cameras I can't wait to use again when I have the freedom of using any camera and any time. The Ricoh is up near the top of the list because it's compact and really delivers. I paid $20 for my example of this camera and all I had to do was change out the light seals because they're notorious for turning into a pile of goo after sitting around for years.

    Here's a sample pic from the Ricoh 500G. The film used was expired bulk Kodak Tri-X from the late 1970's. Processed in R5 Monobath Developer and scanned on an Epson V550.


    Good luck with your search!
    m42dave likes this.
  5. The Ricohs are nice too. I once upon a time got into kind of a fugue of Ricohs

    The Hi-Color has a spring motor drive which is good to have.

    Ricoh 500G re-redux
    Andy Collins likes this.
  6. A lot of good suggestions, a lot of more sggestions; now I'm confused even more xD

    None of my friends are really into film cameras, and so I can not really test the RF in person and see how it feels, and like someone suggested, I could probably end up reselling it if I didn't like it.

    I live in Germany, german brands are more common here, so for example the Agfa is more common to find. Maybe you guys also have suggestions for German cameras?

    Honestly it's just confusing, I used to do only digital with an SLR, but got bored of having to lag around bunch of lenses and such, so I started shooting with my phone instead since it's always with me but I miss shooting with a camera and I do feel like I'd really enjoy an RF from all the other film cameras, but then again, I could also end up being happy with a fully automatic thing (point and shoot thing). The appeal of film is knowing I won't know what kind of photo I took until I develope it, and then I can also make a collection while with digital it's more tempting to take a lot and then end up forgetting about them in the cloud instead of on my wall.

    Adding some phone shots, maybe helps to get an idea of what I do.






    lance_blakeslee and stuart_pratt like this.
  7. I understand your dilemma. There are times when I research cameras on the computer all day long and cannot make up my mind. You will find a positive and negative comment on every single camera ever made! Sometimes I just have to step away from the computer and take a leap of faith based on instinct. (I recently ran into this same issue when trying to do a self-repair of a chip in my windshield. I finally decided that I read too much and just went to the auto parts store and settled on one that I thought I could figure out. In the end, this was the best decision.)

    So you should just pick one--any one--and START there. If you're like most of us, you will find yourself wanting to buy another camera within a couple of months. It happens. The good news is that you can get a few cameras and still be under your proposed budget. But I would start with just one and see if it scratches the itch.
  8. m42dave

    m42dave Dave E.

    I feel the same thing sometimes, too. No one camera is perfect for every situation, and there is always some trade-off. If you want a truly pocketable camera, it will be hard to find one with a lens much faster that f/2.8, for example. Rangefinder cameras by design have their limitations. I wouldn't get too hung up on the model or brand of camera, either. Any of the different cameras mentioned here have their pros and cons, but all are capable of taking fine pictures.
    Bobby Horton likes this.
  9. I like your images very much, Noorozeki! In view of your comment:

    I really think I'd look hard at the delightful Agfa Optima Sensors, in particular the 1535 model with the coupled rangefinder. There's an informative article here: ACP - Optima 1535

    Here's a CMC thread on the breed: AGFA Optima 535 Sensor - pocket snap shooter
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2018
  10. Good luck getting that kind of control over colour from film!

    Not without carrying a bunch of filters around with you, or manipulating the images after scanning. But then if you're just going to end up working on a digital file.....
  11. Hello neighbor.
    20 years ago the world was full of camera stores with used departments. - Now my hometown seems empty besides electronics malls selling new digital stuff. - Maybe it makes sense to travel to a flea market like "Fotobörse" (camera show in English)? Or look around ordinary flea markets? - That is where I scooped up my Soviet made RFs, a while ago. You could also study ebay Kleinanzeigen and check local offers hands on.

    Read reviews and stuff online and figure out how the specimen on sale feels in your hand and in front of your eye, if the RF patch seems vertically and horizontally aligned, when you point it at a distant antenna or tree hitting the lens' infinity hard stop and if a mechanical shutter and self timer seem working or not. Love it or leave, that's all.
  12. Given the season such posts do haunt us here. Plenty to choose from, whichever spooks you most. You mentioned looking for models that might be plentiful in Germany and though this isn't shutter priority a nice little automatic when it works is the Zeiss Ikon Contessa 310/312. The RF model is the S312, both sport the 2.8 Tessar. The sister model to this is the Voigtländer VF 101; same camera, different dress. Upon reading the OP my thoughts went to the Caononet models already mentioned

    I own the Contessa 310 this is the cheaper model without RF but otherwise the same. The RF models definitely go for more but well within your budeget.

    Here's one on ebay

    alter Fotoapperat " Zeiss IKON S 312 " mit Tasche | eBay
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2018
  13. I happen to love the Canon GIII QL17, and have had outstanding results with it. If I were to pick just one RF, it would be my first choice, based on my previous experience with the ones I've owned in the past. The Olympus 35RD is a beautiful camera but it's not uncommon to find that oil has leaked onto the blades over time. Unfortunately that can be costly to repair unless you know how to yourself. The Oly 35DC is basically an auto-version of the RD with the same wonderful lens. You mentioned the Vivitar 35ES; it's a camera that is basically the same camera as the Minolta Hi-Matic 7sII and the German brand Revue 400SE. Cosina had a major part in the construction of all 3. If you can find one in working order, they're pretty cool cameras. Being in Germany, you may be able to find the Revue 400SE fairly easily. Mike G's suggestion of the Konica Auto S2 is an excellent one. If you can allow yourself to go a little bigger in size, this camera is really impressive and has an amazingly sharp lens. I'm always amazed that it doesn't sell for much more than it does compared to some cameras that are a lot more expensive but don't perform any better or as well. The Olympus XA was also mentioned earlier, and it is a superb choice as well. Its lens is very sharp and has very nice color rendition but aside from that, it's just impressively engineered. Lots for you to think about!
  14. Noorozeki: I second Rodeo_Joe/1's comment above. You seems to have a penchant for shots in difficult light and colour conditions, and are able to obtain very good results. But you would be severely challenged to get comparable results from any vintage film camera (RF or otherwise), unless you are really expert at selecting the aperture setting on your own (no partial or complete automatic functions would do). Furthermore, even if the shots are exposed correctly, it is nowadays virtually impossible or anyway atrociously expensive to find a lab that would custom-process your film by hand according to your requirements, and the automatic machines they use would turn your carefully studied light effects into an incomprehensible blur. You will have to set up your own dark room to develop and print film yourself (and become skilled at this), or work exclusively with slides (this is what I do).

    Sorry if this sounds discouraging - it was not meant to be. BTW, in which part of Germany do you live? If in the Cologne/Bonn area, I could show you a couple dozen RF cameras, just to get the feeling.
  15. I would definitely 2nd all those who have mentioned the Olympus 35 RC & the Olympus XA, (both very small and pocket-able with great lenses). The Konica S3 Auto is slightly larger but with a fantastic lens. The Konica C35 rangefinder is also worth mentioning, if you learn to recognise them from slightly different (C35 Auto etc.) models, you might get a bargain on eBay, it's small with a very nice lens - but be careful, there are many different versions of the Konica C35.
  16. Konica C35
  17. This subject invariably results in a host of very capable rangefinders being suggested. Of those mentioned, I can concur with the Oly XA, the Minolta 7Sii, and especially the Canon QL17 GIII, my favorite of the three. But there's another camera that I feel should be mentioned. It doesn't have the flexibility of the others (range focusing only and a limited sort of aperture-priority mode, but usually it's program only), but it is a great picture-taker and is very easy to use. Plus, it doesn't need batteries! I'm talking about the Oly Trip 35, which can often be obtained for a very cheap price. I own one (along with an XA and a QL17 and a few others), and I'm really quite fond of mine.

    Olympus Trip 35 with some very expired Plus-X Pan

    Last edited: Nov 1, 2018
    Mike Gammill likes this.
  18. In all honesty, a rangefinder isn't necessarily the solution to that. Some of them can have multiple lenses too, and shooting B&W film, you probably end up carring a couple of colour filters too. So, while I can understand that a DSLR stays home because of weight/size, it is a bit an unfair comparison (your DSLR will have multiple focal lenghts, the fixed-lens RF will not), and hence not said that a film rangefinder is the solution. A small DSLR or mirrorless, with a small prime lens, can be as small as some of the rangefinders.
    Another thing is that rangefinder focussing really is quite different. Not better or worse, but different. Whether you like it or not - no way to know until you do it. Personally, coming originally from a DSLR..... let's say I am glad I have a bunch of SLRs and DSLRs alongside the rangefinders I have. Because they could never be my only camera. Main thing: I don't like them in low light, the patch becomes less visible and it kind of leaves me clueless. With SLRs I don't have that problem, and I happen to like low light shooting.
    As said above, low light and film aren't the ideal match. I don't mind very visible grain from heavily pushed B&W films, but it is an aesthetic choice that works for some scenes, but certainly not all. Digital offers more choice in that respect. But for those times where I shoot low light with film, I use a SLR, or a really simple zone-focussing (guessing distance) camera, not a rangefinder. Maybe it's me, but it just doesn't work for me.

    Last but not least: some old all-manual SLRs are pretty light and small too. You do not necessarily need to go to a RF to go small and light. My most used film cameras are Leica R6's, which aren't much larger than a Leica M, nor heavier. So if RF focussing isn't your thing, there are still plenty options.
    But given your (very nice) example photos: I'd look at a m4/3rd or APS-C mirrorless, with a pancake prime.
  19. ME Super.jpg Small and light?
    Pentax ME Super and a 40 mm pancake is smaller and lighter than my Nikon S3.
    Definitely more cost effective with comparable results.
    If you are looking for more of a mechanical operation, slide back to earlier ME or MX.
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2018
  20. If you buy an older fixed lens rangefinder, you should probably budget in a service to get the camera into good shape. I’ve had some bad experiences with some of these cameras which were never intended to last forever (unlike say Leicas which will be around when the sun burns out). Or buy it from a reputable dealer who has checked it out.

    To some extent, maybe this is a little like tripod buying. You can either buy a bunch of them only to find out they are all wanting, or you can buy a good one and it will last you forever. In the old days, for my OWN pocketable rangefinder I eventually settled on a Leica CL with a 40/2 lens. More expensive than I wanted to pay but it really performed well. Now the meter’s out and it’s in for repair (the CL is really a Minolta camera so not quite as ruggedly built as my Leica M2s). AND it uses old batteries that are no longer available. Lots of old cameras use that PX625 mercury battery, there are substitutes but not always satisfactory ones. Watch that when you buy.
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