Rangefinder daydreams

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by james_ashby, Oct 29, 2009.

  1. Hello Rangefinder forum!
    I have a canon F-1 that i use a lot, my favorite lens is my 85mm 1.2L, but what i shoot the most with is my 24-35L. At the moment i am enjoying taking urban photos at night (with as much contrast as possible etc), i'm kinda trying to compile a photo essay of my home town at night.
    The more photo books i read, and the more i think about it, the kind of camera i want to invest in is not going to be for this kind of photography, not some large SLR with ridiculous telezooms, but a more subtle camera (my F-1 + 85mm is not subtle) so i can capture people without drawing too much attention to myself, the photos that i currently make are boring and don't really express anything. Salgado and Goldin leave me feeling inspired and painfully inadequate.
    Also very important is for the camera to be a suitable travel camera, some of the most enjoyable photos i have taken where when i was backpacking through South East Asia, the point and shoot that i took with me while capturing some pretty cool images was not fast enough and was fully automated limiting the creative potential of the camera.
    I was thinking that a rangefinder would be the camera for me, and that M glass seems to be the best rangefinder glass, being a student with a fairly limited budget perhaps the Bessa T is the camera for me to begin an M glass collection?
    Any opinions on whether rangefinders are what i'm looking for (or if its just a case of camera lust) and any bodies that would be a good introduction to rangefinder photography would be much appreciated.
  2. M glass seems to be the best rangefinder glass, being a student with a fairly limited budget​
    Don't bother with "the best" unless you have a rich daddy. Rangefinders won't turn you into Salgado or Goldin anyway.
    Get a Nikon FG with 85/2 or 100/2.8 Series E. Small, cheap and fun. Use the change for film and developing. The Bessa T requires auxillary viewfinders (more parallex errors with tele lenses) and will be slower than your point and shoot.
  3. James, the M glass is generally very special. But I would agree there are so many factors that go into making great images and artwork. This thread made me think a bit about recently shooting my old Canon FD camera and lenses. My results were far better than I recall getting some 25 years ago when I traded most of it for a Nikon system, thinking I would get better images.
    What I recently realized is that I had grown as a photographer, and probably wasn't as capable as I am now. So unless you have some spare change to burn, spend time working with the images you take (I mean really working with them). Try processing them in different ways, print them, mat and frame them, look at them. Work with an image you like and see how far you can take it. Once you understand what you are capable of doing for a single image, spend more time on others. Once you fully grasp what you're after, then re-evaluate what your needs are and see if it is still a Leica M.
  4. A rangefinder will bring a new dimension to your photography. They definitely handle differently than SLRs. I too have Canon F-1s and love the 85mm f1.2 L, but it can't replace the rangefinders for many applications.

    Sounds like you are looking for a rangefinder with 25, 28, or 35mm lenses. I would recommend the Bessa R2 with an onboard rangefinder/viewfinder. The Bessa T is more of a special purpose platform and its external viewfinder is not suited to backpacking. You run the risk of losing or breaking the external viewfinder.

    The Bessa series is affordable, but a bit on the light side for backpacking. They are good machines, but if you are going to rough it, you are really best served by a used Leica M2, if you can afford it. They are built like tanks and will take all the punishment you can dish out.
  5. If your photos are boring, changing to a rangefinder will not make them exciting. Before I would think about making a radical change in equipment, I would try to reach a point with my current gear that I didn't think my photos were boring. As someone pointed out above, an RF is not going to make you into Salgado or Golden. The only thing that is going to improve your photography (you already own excellent quality gear) is shooting a LOT of photos. Time and experience. There really is no shortcut.
  6. ". . . i want to invest in is not going to be for this kind of photography, not some large SLR with ridiculous telezooms, but a more subtle camera (my F-1 + 85mm is not subtle) so i can capture people without drawing too much attention to myself, . . ."
    I'd suggest a TLR. Many models are inexpensive, the waist level finder makes it possible to frame and shoot to the side, and the larger film area will have much better tonality than 35mm. One of my favorites is the Minolta Autocord, but there are other excellent choices, too. Look at Rolleicords, too.
  7. Remark about the BessaT. Of course it need an external viewer what means, as allready said, plenty of limitations (no parallax correction, risk of damaging or losing it, "double targeting"...).
    BUT! That's a fantastic camera because:
    a) It have the widest Effective Base Length of approximately 53.7, or more than the Leica M .72 finder. In other words, the T is currently the only Bessa able to accurately focus long or fast lenses.
    b) With small wide lens, it's a small camera, so you can keep it unnoticed under your jacket. And with some pratice it's very fast to drop it in your jacket pocket while removing the finder (before storing it in your shirt pocket).
    c) Finaly, the best characteristic for street/bus/subway shooting is the external 3 LEDS display of the meter. Set the lens on hyperfocus and without been noticed you can see if the light is good or not.
    For sure, it have plenty of limitation but I never travel without mine and the 15, 25 and 90 lenses, my wife using her Bessa R2A with 35 or 50 lenses. OK, I have to admit that I borrow her time to time because the viewfinder is usefull ;-)
    Last remark, the Bessa T 101 Heliar Anniversary model, is stronger due to metalic dials (plastic on normal version).
  8. There's other notable small SLRs. Olympus OM-series. Pentax MX (a jewel).
    If you're willing to deal with an external light meter, consider any screwmount Leica, or the screwmount Canons. Lots cheaper than Leica M, and plenty of very fine lenses.
  9. This is always a difficult question to respond to, as we cannot put ourselves in your shoes. You have some fine equipment already and if you are simply shooting your town at night and not dealing too often with fast-moving people shots under low light, a rangefinder may not help you more than your current system. If you can find a friend with a rangefinder who would allow you to swap systems for a few days, you might be able to answer your question more confidently.
    Having said that, there are a few possibilities of low cost RF cameras that you might consider as a first step into RF photography and with the potential of results similar to a full Leica M system.
    a) I have a T Bessa which does not get much use, but I agree with Jean M.'s remarks about its utility, despite its somewhat more cumbersome operating function under certain conditions (Possessing also a used M camera body, I am seriously thinking about selling mine together with a 50mm viewfinder and V-C Nokton f1.5 aspherical lens with M mount adapter, if I don't retain the lens and VF for my IIIf Leica body-which of course is handicapped slightly by no built-in meter);
    b) The Bessa R RF cameras with M mount may be a reasonable-cost entry into Leica M lens usage, but you probably know that small production Leica optics are very expensive, and especially those with wide apertures. The difference between them and the lesser price Voigtlander-Cosina or Zeiss ikon (-Cosina) lenses is not all that great in my mind, especially given other constraints of the small (24 x 36mm) format for larger size print production (Note that Sebastien Salgado eventually preferred medum format cameras for his work, although I know not what he uses today);
    c) If Leica glass is a fairly far off prospect (given your present student situation), you might think of getting a used Konica Hexar fixed lens (35mm f2 lens, that is said to equal in many ways the classic 1980s Leica M Summicron 35mm f2 interchangeable lens, particularly for smooth out of focus rendition) camera that is also available in a super quiet "stealth" version, making it very suitable for street shooting. These should be available in mint condition for around 1/2 the cost of the older M Summicron 35mm lens, alone.
    Good luck with your project.
  10. They're kind of hard to find, but, I'd look for a used Zeiss Ikon rangefinder (new model), and then get Zeiss ZM glass. You can add Leica glass to the same body at a later date.
  11. Did you ever use a rangefinder?

    I'd try first an inexpensive, fixed-lens Japanese camera, like the Konica S2, Yashica GS or Canonet QL17 G-III. You'll get
    the experience at a lower price, and you'll see if you can live and work with a rangefinder and still be happy.

    RF cameras do change your approach to photography... if that's what you want. Be willing to experiment, photograph
    things and people in different ways, try views never done before.

    and take care!
  12. As others have said, a rangefinder won't necessarily be suited for you, and it would be an expensive proposition for you if you decide that you can't work with one. There's no question that a Leica M, Zeiss Ikon, and Bessa rangefinders can be special when doing street candids. Possible, less expensive alternatives: a Contax G2 with Zeiss 45/2 is a superb kit but not a rangefinder feel with it's AF. The other, a Nikon FM2n with a 50/1.4 will be small, unobtrusive, and will give you quality results while still using a SLR. Good luck.
  13. James, before making a big investment you may want to try out rangefinder photography with a less expensive, but just as capable, fixed lens rangefinder camera like the Konica Auto S2. See my post here:
    Clean, working examples can be found for under $50 often less (I paid $11 for the one in my post) Great lens and it should give you a sense if you like that type of camera or not. There are many other fixed lens rangefinders around for low cost that are good from Minolta, Canon, Olympus and others. Good luck in your search.
  14. Oops, I just saw Francisco gave you the same advice, sorry for the duplicate suggestion.
  15. The 85/1.2 is honkin'. How about moving down to an 85/2 of some kind...?
    I agree that a cheaper foray into RF might be a good idea. The Auto S2 can be found for a few clams, and is a wonderful camera- flash syncs up to 1/500s, e.g. In the meantime, wouldn't a Canon AE-1 have a smaller "footprint?" And rather than a Bessa T, I'd much recommend something with a real VF and focus coupling.
    Secondly, and more importantly, using a RF is no WYSIWYG, which is what you have with an SLR. Most RFs have a VF that's about .58x to .72x magnification: it's like looking through an SLR with a 28mm or 35mm lens on it. This means that you're always looking at your subject from a remove. Framelines will give you the cropping of different focal lengths- so a telephoto like a 90mm will have small framelines in the center of the VF. The only RF-like camera that doesn't do this is the Contax Gs- I believe when you change the focal length, there is automatic magnification in the VF, and so your view is much as an SLR's is. P&Ss of course magnify your view when you zoom.
    So what does this mean? For me, I've often found shooting with a portrait lens on a SLR to be much more satisfying: I have a close view of my subject's face, I can very easily pre-visualize what the image will be, and often they're more successful- they're what I want. Shooting with a 90mm on a Leica M isn't for me nearly as satisfying. I'm at a remove, I can't see as clearly my subject, and I have to use other cues to know when the decisive moment will be. If it's a 50mm or 35mm situation, it's not as much of a problem.
    That said, I haven't shot film in my old Pentax K for about 10 yrs now! I use an early DSLR with my Pentax lenses, but 95% of my stuff is on an M6. Which I used exclusively in SE Asia and was glad of the small package it made. The thing however, is that I had fewer intimate portraits. In thinking back on what I brought with me to shoot traveling in China in 1998, I think I had a lot more of these close up people shots than I've had with my rangefinder.

    My 2c.
  16. Keeping a real tight reign on the budget Id consider a Konica Hexar AF with the built in 35mm f/2. <$500.
  17. jtk


    Hexar AF is a great answer, but a traveler will want to bring several of the unique batteries (they last forever, but just in case). Its 35/2 lens is absolute top tier. Mine has an Upstrap.com strap, something to consider unless somehow you find one with an original strap (they're a wierd skinny width).
    On the other hand...I'm looking at the moment at a someone else's gorgeous B&W print, shot with Olympus E P1 with M adapter, Summarit M 50/1.4 and a Voigtlander accessory viewfinder... I'm tempted...the standard 17mm pancake would work better for me, as might my Pentax primes with m4/3 adapters with Voigtlander finders :
  18. My FTb is my favorite 35mm SLR but I love my LTM rangefinders. I've got a Canon IV SB, Canon VL and Bessa R with an assortment of Canon and Soviet lenses. Check out KEH and search under "canon rangefinder" and "leica screwmount." They usually have a good selection and are the most reputable used camera dealers in the U.S. Also check out fedka.com. You could buy an entire Soviet rangefinder system for a fraction of the cost of one M-series lens.
  19. Best combo in film IMHO is the M6 classic with a 35mm f2.0 and either a 75mm Summarit f2.5 or a 90mm f2.8 tele-elmarit or the 90mm elmarit f2.8. But, since you have never used a rangefinder I would recommend practicing on a fixed lens rangefinder. The closest to the M6 is the Yashica GSN (First choice as is it closest in size.) or the Canonet G-III QL-17. Shoot a lot of film and see if it works for you. There is a big difference photographing with a rangefinder and an (D)SLR with a zoom lens and motor drive. For some reason people seem more amenable to having there photo taken with a small camera. Are they less intimidated? I do not know. When asked I say, "It's just an old film camera." A digital small or otherwise will be more intimidating as those photographed feel that you will be putting their photo on the internet.
  20. Thanks for the responses!!
    I was under no illusion that a rangefinder would turn me into a legend but looking at their photographs makes taking 5 minute exposures of council flats seem a little bland...
    Maybe its because i want to try and capture New Zealands binge drinking culture, sometimes i take my 50mm f/1.4 out but there is still a bit of blur with iso1600 wide open.
    I have seen M2's and M3's sell for less than $1000NZD, and even an M3 with a Summilux 1.4 for $1400, not a considerable expense, would a rangefinder with a 1.4 give an extra useable stop compared with my SLR?.
    The Bessa T wouldn't be a good travel camera, just a place to start.
    I have shot with a Pentax 6x7 and Bronica SQA in the past and enjoyed the quality of the images but the format wasn't as versitile as 35mm, and the lenses probably weren't fast enough for challenging lighting situations.
    The micro 4/3 are appealing but i prefer wide angle lenses (a 170mm 1.2 would be pretty cool though) and the cost of a 4/3 system would be around the same as a RF system.
    I lept into FD gear head first, and have had no regrets at all, do you think that leaping in and buying a Hexar/G2/M2 would leave me with any regrets? But perhaps it would make sense to try out a cheaper built in lens...
  21. jtk


    For ultra-low light I think you'd be happiest with digital, particularly due to stabalization's ability in very low light. For m4/3 there's a 9mm and a pancake 17mm...they may work with both the Panasonic and the Oly.
  22. Hi James,
    I'd suggest that you take your F1 to a camera store that sells Leica Ms or, better yet, identify someone who owns a Leica and will let you try it. Put a lens of similar focal length, preferably a focal length or lengths that you are likely to use, on each camera, and spend twenty minutes to half an hour playing around with the two cameras while thinking about three questions:
    1. which camera do you feel most comfortable with in your hands;
    2. which camera do you feel most comfortable with while focusing; and
    3. are you comfortable with using prime lenses and foregoing zooms?
    IF you decide that you prefer the Leica, there are two other questions:
    4. how many Leica or other M mount lenses can you afford to buy right now, and will it or they be enough until you have more experience with the camera and can afford more;
    5. do you want in-camera metering or would you be just as happy, maybe even happier, using a handheld meter that measures both incident and reflected light?
    The answer to question 5 will detemine whether you can consider a fully mechanical M such as an M3. This will have a bearing on what you have to pay for an M camera, but realize that a new, handheld, quality light meter is not inexpensive, although you can buy a second-hand one fairly cheaply.
    One of the oddities of this world is that a lot of people who own Leicas seem to spend a good deal of time dissuading other people from buying them. Perhaps there is just a tiny bit of elitist psychology at work here :) My own view is that if you try a Leica, and like it, go ahead and buy one. From what you said in one of your posts, you are prepared to spend enough that you can get one if you want one.
    Having expressed an opinion, perhaps I should tell you what I do myself. I have a double stroke M3 and an M6 that some people consider to be a collector's item. I use the M3, with a handheld meter, because it works for me, while the M6 sits in a drawer. As for lenses, I have several, but mostly use two. I won't say which ones, because that really is a question of personal choice; only that I believe that a couple of lenses are plenty, and that one is just fine to start.

    I noticed your comment about shooting at night in bars. I've done a fair bit of that myself. Just push to 3200. It has a look all its own. You could also consider a Nikon digital camera, although I think that the ones that are blazing trails at high ISOs probably cost more than you want to spend.

  23. The problem with buying a 70's RF is that the experience, with its dim VF and low contrast RF patches, sours the first time user from the RF experience. OTOH getting a new RF, like a ZI, can be an expensive experiment.
    The ideal scenario would be to try to borrow or rent a ZI/M6/M7/MP; otherwise, try to figure out how much "gambling" money you can afford and go for it.
  24. Interesting, one of the principal virtues of an M3, my own having been made in 1955, is the generous, bright viewfinder. Works just as well as the viewfinder on the medium format Mamiiya 7 II that I use.
  25. I have an old Leica M2, and the only Leica lens that I have is the 50mm Summicron. I also have a Bessa R with the LTM lenses made by Cosina. The M2 is, as already mentioned, solid as a tank, so you can fight off those drunken Kiwis with it.
    Cosina make screw mount to M adaptors, which I use to put them on the M2. I have the following Voigtlander lenses: 15mm, 25mm, 35mm, 50mm Nokton and 90mm Apo-Lanthar. All of these ( some second hand) cost about the same as a 50mm Summilux.
    If you can afford an old Leica body ( I prefer the M2 to the M3 because the 2 has 35mm viewfinder frames) I would go for it, and just fit some new Voigtlander lenses to it. The Bessas are really nice as well, but do feel plasticky compared to a Leica.
    Having said all that, there is nothing quite like a Leica Summilux for poor light work, but the cost...eek! Maybe you could take up bank robbery, then you could afford the Noctilux....now there is a low light lens!
  26. I shot with F3hp for years and needed a smaller camera for a business trip to Italy in the mid-90s. I wanted a M-6, but preferred the autoexposure and faster handling of the Contax G2, not to mention the cheaper price. I subsequently bought additional lenses and bodies.
    What did surprise me was that my shooting was substantially different with the rangefinder. I didn't expect that to change, just the size of my cameras and lenses. But as a naturally shy person with an SLR, I felt removed from the scene, an observer. With a rangefinder I felt more part of things, more able to stick an unobtrusive camera in someone's face. My shooting spontaneity increased immensely. I'm not sure the pictures were better, but I had more fun creating them. Now I'm back with a DSLR, but truly covet a digital Contax G2 or with big money, an M-9.
    I'd recommend you try it. From my experience, I doubt Salgado would have gotten the same photos with an SLR.
  27. 1)The rangefinders teach you to see things differently, and take photos differently, you might benefit from this idea:
    2) For street photography, lenses in the 28-50 mm range work best. For what you want to do, in my opinion the best buys are:
    - one of the 28mm CV Ultrons
    28/2 Ultron, 1/15th f 2.0 Tri X EI 400:
    - the 35/1.2 CV Nokton
    35/1.2 Nokton, 1/30tj f 1.2 Tri X EI 1000:
    - the 50/1.1 Nokton
    50/1.1 Nokton, 1/60th f 1.4 Tri X EI 1000:
    For the low light rig nothing beats the Zeiss Ikon ZM with the 35/1.2 Nokton, but other cameras and lenses can work well too, The Bessas R2/3/4A are best value for money for street shooting.
  28. This recent piece by Josh Root strikes me as a fairly thorough overview of the Leica, Voigtlander Bessa and Zeiss Ikon options: http://www.photo.net/equipment/leica/m7-bessa-ikon.published.adp
  29. For fast shooting on a limited budget, I would go for an inexpensive Nikon digital SLR. I love my Leica cameras but carrying and dealing with film while traveling is a major PITA. I use my rangefinder Leicas for fun and nostalgic reasons.
  30. I have both a Canon F-1 and Leica M2. The Leica is nearly the same weight, and almost as large. The Canon is easier and faster by a mile to operate for me. This sounds like a case of "the grass is greener" to me. And BTW--I consider my F-1 easily the equal in quality as the Leica, although I'd admit there is something magic about my 90 Summicron.
    Don't get suckered into believing that trading an F-1 for an RF will suddenly make you stealthy.
  31. For photographing binge drinking the Nikonos IV-a is the ticket! It is waterproof.
  32. I have quite a few cameras (as most people here do), and I know what you mean about the F1. It's big, heavy, and the shutter is quite loud. Those drawbacks are a small price to pay in exchange for the reliability and solid performance of the F1. I use my F1 from time to time, but generally for landscapes and citiyscapes, as my collection of FD glass is heavy on the wider angles.
    Rangefinders are interesting cameras, and the one I usually carry now is an old Leica III with a Summitar lens. It's small, not particularly heavy, and nearly silent in operation. It takes quite good pictures, so long as I have it properly focused and adjusted. I typically set up my camera in expectation of the conditions I will encounter, pre-focusing the lens to the distance which I prefer to shoot my subject. Sometimes though, conditions sometimes change, and things don't always turn out as you expect.
    The best fast-action rangefinder would be the auto-focus Contax G1 or G2. The prices on these cameras are coming down quite a bit recently. Here in Japan you can now find G1 kits with 2 lenses for around $400, and similar G2 kits for around $600. I tried out a G2 last week, and I'm sorely tempted to pick one up. Considering their quality, and the high price they demanded when they were introduced, they are an incredible bargain right now.
    I've found that some SLR cameras lend themselves very well to candid and street photography. My favorite cameras in this line are the Olympus OM cameras, and the Pentax ME/MX. These cameras are as small (or smaller) than some of the popular rangefinders, offer built-in metering, and fast focusing. The camera I never leave home without is my Olympus OM4Ti. It's dimensions and weight are comparable to the early Leica rangefinders, and somewhat lighter than the M series rangefinders. I find the inexpensive Zuiko 50/1.8 as good or better than any 50mm Leica lens I have used (and I have a few in my collection). Leica does not make a camera which has as good a viewfinder as the OM4, and there are few cameras available at any price, old or new, which come with as good a meter as the OM4. The OM cameras are not as whisper-quiet as Leicas, but they are much quieter than an F1.
    That said, I still love Leicas, and plan to get myself an(nother) M6 for Christmas.
  33. Thanks again team!
    Marek your photos are wicked, and i especially liked the leica year link (pretty much telling me what i want to hear! haha). Maybe its that magic that people talk about, the "glow" or whatever that makes me want to try one out (grass is greener etc), but, if i brought an M2, not likely to depreciate a whole lot...
    Perhaps i will just save for my roll or two of Tri-X a week (2010 will be the year of the photo) and if the opportunity to use a Leica comes up, or a cheap good rangefinder slaps me in the face i'll pounce.
    Opinions much appreciated, but feel free to keep trying to swing me either way!!
  34. Shooting with a Leica M-series or other traditional rangefinder film camera is a different experience than shooting with an SLR, DSLR or compact digital camera. For those willing to make the effort to learn how to use the equipment properly, RF photography can be direct and enjoyable, particularly for taking environmental portraits and candid photos under available light conditions.
    While RFs and SLRs are both cameras, and I have nothing against SLRs, I agree with other comments that using an RF can lead one to take a somewhat different approach than using an SLR. RFs tend to be smaller and slightly less noticeable and obtrusive than SLRs. RF shutters tend to be somewhat quieter than SLRs, and one continues to see the subject without the momentary blackout caused by the SLR mirror moving out of the way. Due to the absence of mirror slap, one can often get usable hand-held photos with a RF camera at 1/30 sec., compared with say 1/60 sec. for SLRs.
    While Leicas, especially new ones, can be on the expensive side, it is not necessary to spend a lot of money to find out whether RF photography is appealing. One low-budget approach, suggested above, might be to buy a 1970s rangefinder camera such as an Olympus 35SP or a Canonet QL17 and try shooting a few rolls of film with it. Granted, the equipment won't be up to Leica standards, but this would at least give one a general sense of whether RF photography in general is to one's taste without breaking the bank.
    A somewhat more expensive approach, but still more affordable than current-production Leica equipment, would be to buy an older used Leica, such as an M2, one or two used lenses, and a handheld light meter, from a reputable outfit such as KEH, and try shooting a few rolls of film with this setup. There are many lens choices available for Leica M bodies, including not only Leitz (Leica) M-mount lenses but older Leitz, Canon and Nikkor LTM (Leica thread mount) lenses and Voigtlander LTM lenses using bayonet adapters. The Leitz Summicron 35mm f/2 (which has been made in at least five different versions over the years), Leitz Summicron 50mm f/2, Canon 35mm f/2 LTM, Canon 50mm f/1.4 LTM, and Nikkor 85mm f/2 LTM lenses all have good reputations for optical and mechanical quality. Such equipment could be traded in for newer and more expensive Leica equipment when one's personal budget allows; or would be readily sellable if RF photography turned out not to be to your personal taste.
  35. I'm not sure what's wrong with an F-1 with an 85 f1.2 L, other than the noisy shutter and mirror-flip. The F-1 is a relatively small SLR body, and the 85 is a very, very fine lens, especially useful if you're doing street shots at night. Some shooters find the old-time basic SLRs to be easier to use on the street than rangefinders -- the M3's bright and open viewfinder, probably the best of the M series, doesn't stand up that of the Nikon F or the Leicaflex SL. Canon L lenses are first class. Leica's might be better, but not at all apertures or for all uses.
    If you're looking for something really small and unintrusive, really light, you could get a nice IIIf with a collapsible Summicron or Elmar for less than $1,000. They look like a toy throwaway camera to many people, very friendly. They take nice pictures, too.
  36. I would suggest that you try the Graflex or Crown Graphic.
    It is large format, using 4"X5" negatives.
    Use it for about 3 to 6 months, and you'll be set up for life, because you have to do everything manually, you even have to insert the film manually (unless you use an expensive quick-loader). It will make you understand every step of the process and when you come back, you'll be able to handle any camera, range finder or whatever.
    Some Graphic models have range finders, try not to use it but focus on the ground glass, or better still, try to guess the distance, or use a rope with knots at one foot intervals, and use that to measure distance.
    There is a huge database of resources on the Large Format Forum.
  37. Hi, I think Nee's suggestion is outstanding. I would have suggested a Rolleiflex, basically for the same reasons: it forces a slow, systematic approach. You only get 12 shots a film, you focus on a big screen from a distance, setting shutter and diaphragm is a deliberate process. And you never get to worry about which lens to use. And that's a big plus, if only for budgetary considerations...
    But an old Leica, by all means. The screwmount Leicas don't have coupled RFs (not such a big deal I think), and are incredibly small. And the lenses are terrific. I have a IIc really, really small, and black), a IIIf and an M2. Apart from practical considerations (like film loading), I tend to consider them all as in the same class.
    Good luck!
  38. Hi, I think Nee's suggestion is outstanding. I would have suggested a Rolleiflex, basically for the same reasons: it forces a slow, systematic approach. You only get 12 shots a film, you focus on a big screen from a distance, setting shutter and diaphragm is a deliberate process. And you never get to worry about which lens to use. And that's a big plus, if only for budgetary considerations...
    But an old Leica, by all means. The screwmount Leicas don't have coupled RFs (not such a big deal I think), and are incredibly small. And the lenses are terrific. I have a IIc really, really small, and black), a IIIf and an M2. Apart from practical considerations (like film loading), I tend to consider them all as in the same class.
    Good luck!
  39. Hi, I think Nee's suggestion is outstanding. I would have suggested a Rolleiflex, basically for the same reasons: it forces a slow, systematic approach. You only get 12 shots a film, you focus on a big screen from a distance, setting shutter and diaphragm is a deliberate process. And you never get to worry about which lens to use. And that's a big plus, if only for budgetary considerations...
    But an old Leica, by all means. The screwmount Leicas don't have coupled RFs (not such a big deal I think), and are incredibly small. And the lenses are terrific. I have a IIc really, really small, and black), a IIIf and an M2. Apart from practical considerations (like film loading), I tend to consider them all as in the same class.
    Good luck!
  40. I'm currently having a lot of fun with my Fuji GSW690iii, the "Texas Leica" r/f. With Mamiya 6's [not the postwar folders] starting at $1100, I rethought my position and found a good one on ebay.
    I've shot with other 35 r/fs: Yashica Lynx 14, Leica CL, Olympus 35RC which are fun, fun, fun, and in different contexts.
  41. Hi James,
    I've been in love with the Leica system since I first touched one in college. Last summer I managed to get my hands on an M2 with the MR4 light meter in an online auction site (not eBay FYI). And it is a beauty. I come from a line of Yashicas (FX-3) Nikons (FM2/D90) and even a Leica SLR (R6), all of which have seen at least 2 rolls a week for the past 4 years or so. Hands down, my fave to use is the M2.
    However, that being said, it is VERY expensive. Especially the lenses. I got a deal on a 35mm f/2.0 4V for 1000USD online. Second hand, but in impeccable shape.
    A rangefinder WILL change the way you see photographs. The fact that you can see everything that is coming and going out of your frame, and you can SEE the EXACT moment the picture is taken because there is no black-out, changes the game completely.
    There are other alternatives however. The reason I use a Leica is because I love the authentic feel of the brass and the weight of the body. Its the PERFECT mechanical companion to ANYONE. The body balances out when you have it around your neck in a way you'd think it would float. But that never lets me forget the first rangefinder I used, the Yashica Electro GSN. The beauty of this camera is that its aperture priority. All you have to do is set the aperture, and the camera figures out exposures for you. It has a CdS chip that is pretty accurate, even when shooting in front of the sun or back lit and such. The glass quality is pretty decent, and when you stop it down, its gorgeous. And because its electronic, its actually quieter than my M2. Sometimes its so quiet I don't think it took the picture because I don't hear the click the shutter, which, btw, is a leaf shutter in the lens, as opposed to a curtain in the camera body.
    The only down side is that this camera won't work with anything higher than 1000 ISO because of the electronics. I can get around that by setting it to flash mode. At flash mode it shoots at 1/60, and I just adjust my film and aperture to that. In theory, you can get a full 4 stop range with the aperture only, so you can really use any film you like. And I got mine for dirt cheap, only 12USD.
    The GSN needs a 5.6V mercury battery that isn't made anymore, but you can get around because the camera can take up to 6V. What I did was get 4 1.5V button battery, tape them together and pop them in with lots of foil so the contact is made. And it works fantastically. I even bought my girlfriend one of them because they are such a fun camera to use.
    Stay within budget. I know what budget means for a student, and spending it on film and development/scanning is worth much more than the camera. Especially if you have a deadline.
  42. Although a lot of street photography is done with rangefinders, not all photographers use them. One photographer that comes to mind is Don McCullin, an English war/street photographer. He would wander around with SLRs clanking from both shoulders making no effort to hide what he was doing. His approach is much more interactive, talking to the people he photographs. It's a different approach, but in many ways more honest than the rangefinder way.
  43. Hi James
    The market will soon be floated with inexpensive M8 cameras, because many Leica users will buy the new M9 and sell their old M8. I am M8 user, and I am very happy with that. You can buy second hand lenses of very high quality and about 1/3 of the price. The second hand market is very big. So just wait some months.
    I use my M8 at night with a 50 mm f 1,4 at night or even a 28 mm f 2. That does not make me a good photografer. But it works, and it gives me a lot of fun.

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