small SLR to accompany my RF

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by tomasz_widlak|1, Jul 2, 2007.

  1. Hello,
    I would like to ask fellow RF users a question about SLR camera :) I'm
    longtime Bessa R3A/40mm 1.4 Nokton user and I'm really happy with the camera
    however I need/want to use some longer lenses, mostly for portraiture. I
    decided to compliment my RF camera with SLR and some 85mm-135mm lenses but
    coming from RF world I want the body of the camera be as small as possible.
    Another very important features are AE exposure and high quality/fast glass
    available for it. After extensive research I came up with four cameras that I'm
    interested the most:

    Contax Aria
    Contax 139Q
    Pentax LX
    Olympus OM

    What I'm looking for is user opinions, problems with the cameras, opinions
    about glass and meter quality...............anything really. I'm leaning toward
    Contax because of great 85mm and 135mm lenses, but I've heard a lot of praise
    about Pentax lenses as well so I'm a bit confused. It's not life and death
    issue but I would gladly accept some helpful opinions in this matter :) Thanks.

    Tom Widlak
  2. I apologize for not answering your question, but suggest that you can get excellent 75 and 90mm lenses for your Bessa. A portrait at 6 feet at an aperture of 4 or smaller will focus properly. The rangefinder would be better for portraits (IMHO) of the environmental and studio kind than those SLR's you mention (mirror black out, noise, intimidation, etc.). I''m learning less gear is better.
    Now, if you want to get into flash and multiple light studio staged portraiture, I'd recommend any Nikon (preferably one that can drive SB600) and their creative lighting system of flashes.
  3. Well, I forgot to mention that I really like bokeh and I use my Nokton @ f1.4 95% of the time and I intend to shoot portraits @ f2.8 or less so I'm worried that short base of Bessa will cause problems with focusing, plus with 135mm it's going to be even harder to use. I agree that less equipment is always better but I think I'll be better off with SLR, but I want it to be as small as possible :)
  4. Leica R6, 6.2, 7 are the same size as an M camera. Leica made many lenses in the range requested. 80 1.4 90 2.0 90 2.0 APO 90 2.8 ( two versions ) 100 2.8 APO 135 2.8
  5. In my experience it's probably as hard to focus accurately with a SLR at f1.4 as it is with a rangefinder. I have a Canon AE-1 and even with its large viewfinder it's still a struggle to find pin sharp focus when shooting wide open - in some ways I find a RF is easier. But it's your choice... which case from your list I'd take the Olympus OM. I wouldn't even think twice. Superb lenses, small form factor, reasonable used prices and the tool of choice for renowned portraitists like David Bailey.
  6. Another suggestion:

    Nikon FM2/FE2/FM3A, coupled with the Nikkor 105mm f/2.5 lens, a very good and reasonably priced portrait lens.

    Either of the first two bodies can be purchased inexpensively. The FM3A cannot. FE2 offers ttl flash, aperture priority autoexposure, and sync at 1/250, but runs on battery (modern battery). FM2 is all mechanical; the battery only powers the meter. All these bodies are pretty ruggedly built.
  7. Ronald,
    Thank you for the Leica R6 hint, I've seen R9 and based on this I assumed that all Leica SLR are rather large. I will look into it.

    I've never used manual focusing SLR so my experience is nonexistent. I guess I would like to try it and see, I'll be buying used equipment so the worst case scenario is selling it on Ebay and getting longer glass for my Bessa, but framing with 135mm will be an issue. Also I've used Noctilux on my Bessa for short period of time and results were less than perfect, that's why I have reservations about Bessa and longer fast lenses. Another issue is the cost. For a 1/3 of the price of used Leica 75mm f1.4 I can have Contax 139Q with 85mm f1.4 witch is superb lens from what I hear. Thank you for your view and advice, Olympus is actually on top of my list.
  8. SCL


    Nobody's mentioned it yet, but it may be possible to use a Leitz Visoflex reflex housing along with the proper focus mechanism and Leica 90 or 135mm lenses on your current Bessa...which would give you SLR functionality without having to purchase a second body. You might ask around if anybody's tried this and if they were satisfied.
  9. Contax 139 with Zeiss 85 mm f/ 1,4 - Pentax LX or ME Super with Pentax 85 mm f/ 1,4.
  10. I second the Nikon and 105 option. The 105 is a stellar lens and the bodies are rock solid and small. Also the 85mm 1.8 AF used manyually is a tack sharp piece of glass.

    The visoflex is to be avoided unless you are into torturing yourself. Yes the heads of the old versions of the 90 f2 and the 90 2.8 elmarit can be used with the proper adapters and so can the 135 heads inclusing the 135 2.8 but not the tele elmar. Don't know about the new 135 apo and know the current 90 asph apo will not. Havent seen the new 90 elmarit or the last non asph 90 summicron but suspect they will not work on the viso.
  11. In a way I second Gary. A 75/2.5 or 90/2.8 for your Bessa is cheaper, lighter and more compact than buying into an additional SLR System. You'll get AE with the camera you already have, no mirror slap, no black-out (crucial for twinkling eyes in portraits).<p> That said, the OM system is excellent. You'd need at least an OM2 for AE. The 85/2 is a fair lens but samples vary, you'd have to test. Cheers.
  12. I second Michael S. The Nikkor 105mm F2.5 is a beautiful optic, and the FM/FE bodies are smaller than my M3. Great combo for portraits.
  13. Not too familiar with the Contaxes you mentioned. The LX is good, but over the years, I have found the build quality of Pentax-M lenses wanting. The OM has a great reputation, but I'm not familiar with the OM lens line.

    I can tell you I would swear by the Canon F-1N and the Canon 85mm f1.2 Aspherical. Reliable camera and a brilliant lens. I also use the Nikon F and 85mm f1.4 Nikkor and 105mm f2.5 Nikkor. If you must have a light body, the Nikon FM and FE series are very light and go wonderfully with those lenses. The 105mm f2.5 Nikkor is a beautiful lens in both its rangefinder (Sonnar) and somewhat later SLR (Gauss) versions. It's getting harder to find the rangefinder version, but the SLR AI version is a true best buy in my opinion.
  14. "Another issue is the cost. For a 1/3 of the price of used Leica 75mm f1.4 I can have Contax 139Q with 85mm f1.4 which is superb lens from what I hear." Did you really have to remind of of this (true) fact? This is totally taboo on this forum. Just kidding; we can face the truth even if it hurts. 85mm f1.4, hmmmmmmmmmm.
  15. Larry, I'm a photographer on the budget, cost is always a factor in my decisions..............that's why I'm using Voigtlander over Leica :)

    Thank you all for your opinions, I purchased Contax 139Q with 85mm f1.4 today. KEH had a good deal and they will let me try it for two weeks so I loose almost nothing.

    Thanks again.
  16. I think the Pentax LX is a great choice. It was a full professional system camera with many
    accessories, plus the added ruggedness is a benefit. I'm not sure how easy it will be to find
    the accessories, but the lenses are plentiful. Look at the Olympus OM4, which was also a
    small professional system camera.. The FM2 and FE2 were superlative cameras, though not
    system cameras. One last and still very useable option is the legendary Pentax K1000. Its
    simplicity and sturdiness is maybe the best "fit" with the rangefinder philosophy and a match
    for your M cameras.
  17. Small, rugged SLR with quality glass? Search no longer---you want the Pentax MX.
  18. > want the Pentax MX

    Oh, sorry. Forgot the bit about the auto exposure. MX is manual only.

    The ME/ME Super/Super Program family would be worth looking into, though the LX is a superlative camera (for much more money).
  19. For a big-time bokeh fan, the Minolta X-700 family and MD-series lenses -- especially the wides -- might be the ticket, and they're dirt-cheap at the moment. Compact and well-made.
  20. I own a LX and will no way suggest getting one. I had too much trouble with the shutter electronics and repairs, which aren't available via Pentax themselves anymore, used to be pricy.

    Remembering the prices asked for a good looking LX with a few accessories, I'd rather get a 2nd beaten up M4-P

    If it has to be a SLR, I'd grab a praised Nikon lens on a inexpensive body. Personally I don't need AE, so I'll stick to mechanical Pentax, since I have them.
  21. As long as the Contax/Yashica electronics hold up, you bought a good camera. The viewfinders are pretty nice, I think. The problem I have with owning both Leica/VC gear and Nikon gear (which I did for a while) is switching back and forth between lenses that have the focus and aperture rings turning in opposite directions between long/short distance and open/closed apertures. Drove me nuts. Shooting portraits with a rangefinder didn't suit me either. I like to shoot at f/2 or 2.8, and for that with a 90mm I like seeing the falloff of depth of field.
  22. Olympus OM-2 is the SLR that Leica should have made. Small and quiet with well damped mirror and excellent lenses. There is even a 40mm pancake lens, though it is very expensive (ca. $700 used).
  23. I've used a 139Q for some years (and still my everyday body), never had a problem other that having to replace the batteries (widely available LR44/SR44) from time to time. In terms of features, I miss a decent grip (especially with long lenses, above 200mm) and mirror lock-up.

    As for the lens, you could have got the 2,8/85 Sonnar which is far smaller than 1,4/85 Planar.
  24. I'm a hard-core Nikon guy, but the SLR I carry in my M bag when I'm loaded up is an OM2n with a 24 and 135.
  25. Hi,

    I have spent the last 7 years using and also buying & selling the Contax C/Y Carl Zeiss, Pentax K, and the OM systems. I have used all the cameras you mention and would make the following observations, bearing in mind I have had 100's of the lenses through my hands.

    1. Whilst the OM cameras and Zuiko lenses are super, the build quality of the Zuiko lenses does not hold up over time. Many of them suffer with issues..sloppy aperture rings, loose barrels, much internal dust, they are in particular not well sealed compared to other makes of lens. I have had to return an awful lot to sellers. You must be very careful with buying used Zuiko lenses.

    Also, IMO the OM cameras are not as easy to focus as many users make out. Although they have bright and large viewfinders, they do not have a very pronounced focus 'snap' like other makes.

    2. I have used Contax extensively and cannot recommend them highly enough. The 139Q though, was the bottom of the range in its time and is not especially well made. It feels lightweight and would not really recommend it. The Aria is very recent and is also a top end 'amateur' SLR but is lovely. It is a scaled down version of the Contax ST, which is one of my favourite SLR's of all time.

    If you want a pro spec auto SLR, dont mind an extra 300g over the Aria then the Contax ST or RX are amazing and real bargains.

    The Zeiss lenses are superb and are now dropping in price and are spectacular bargains. The slower 85/2.8 is just as good as the more highly acclaimed 85/1.4, far cheaper and far lighter.

    3. The Pentax LX is superb, but you must buy a fully serviced one. They do suffer from an issue with the mirror sticking over time. This is related to time and not just useage, so a little used but mint one will still suffer.

    The Pentax lenses are also unfairly over-looked. I do not understand the comment above about build quality. I have had 100's and had nothing like the issues with Pentax lenses that I have had with Zuiko's. The image quality of pentax & build quality is superb. I cannot recommend them enough.

    The only problem is supply. The less common ones (and fast lenses) are all in very short supply, especially the later A series ones. This is due to them being bought by the pentax DSLR users. The SMC-A* 85/1.4 will cost you about 600 GBP (1200 USD) in EXC condition and is becoming like gold dust, whereas the Zeiss 85/1.4 is easy to find any week, and would cost half that and be MINT.

    Bearing in mind you said you really wanted an AE camera, the Leica R6 Is NOT! I am always confused as to why so many Leica SLR users completely overlook the R7. It adds the option of AE, it costs less than the R6 and costs about HALF that of an R6.2. I bought one in almost mint condition for 399 GBP (800 USD) and it is fantastic...

    hopr all this helps..cheers Steve.M. (UK)
  26. I would recommend a Nikon FE2 or an Olympus OM-2n. Having owned both, I can say that they each have their merits, ergonomically, you should put each into your hands and decide for yourself. As for the lenses, in the Nikon camp, while the 105mm f2.5 is a well regarded classic, it is noticeably heavier than the 85mm f2. In the Olympus Camp, the clear choices would be either the 100mm f2, or the 100mm f2.8 depending on whether you value size or speed more.

    Another alternative optic to consider, in either case, would be the outstanding Tamron 90mm f2.5 SP Macro. I own all three of the 85mm and 105mm Nikkors, and the Tamron, and I can say that I find it to be very nearly the equal of the Nikkors as a portrait lens, and it is also a SUPERB macro lens. And it is mechanically every bit the quality of the Nikkors as well. I would say that it is BY FAR the best 3rd party optic I have ever owned.
  27. Olympus makes the smallest (total volume) range of lenses and bodies. A few of their
    lenses may be a bit bigger than the competition, but that's usually because they are a stop
    faster too.

    The downside is that Olympus gear is getting more and more expensive.
  28. Hi,

    "A few of their lenses may be a bit bigger than the competition, but that's usually because they are a stop faster too"

    Andrew..have you got examples..I do not understand this..

    ..and having spent the last 7 years buying & selling OM gear I can say from my own expereince that OM gear and Zuiko lenses are mostly getting cheaper, so I do not understand how you say they are getting more expensive? even the prices of the scarce lenses such as the 16mm, 18mm, 100/2 etc has fallen slightly in the last 2 years.

    cheers Steve.
  29. Another suggestion. The modern Pentax FA77/1.8 Limited lens has an excellent reputation for its image quality including bokeh, it works well with both auto-focus and manual cameras, and is readily available. It would be a good choice with an LX, or alternately even a relatively cheap body like the MZ-5.
  30. Steven, there are a number of commonly available Zuikos, including many of the slower

    However, if you want to know what I mean about the size of these, compare the 21 f/2, 24
    f/2, and 28 f/2 with anybody else's f/2.8 lenses. The Zuikos are about the same size.
    Compare the Zukio 2.8 lenses with the 2.8 lenses from the competition - you'll see that the
    Zuikos are smaller.
  31. Contax S2 is small, about the same size as 139Q, but with a titanium body.
  32. jtk


    Tomasz, I like your photographs a great deal, both your people and things, but your website design doesn't do you justice, it's a nightmare.

    SLR manual focus calls for selection of proper focus screens.

    SLRs, because of their precision framing, are superior to rangefinders with ultra-wides (20/21/24/25mm) just as they are over 100mm. I'd go with Nikon FM2. Avoid plastic SLRs and lenses with plastic bodies (eg. Canon AE series).
  33. John, thank you. Actually it's a first bad opinion about the website itself, I would like to hear more. I will be redesigning my website soon but I want to keep the menu and design and change the galleries. My design philosophy is "as simple as possible, with little of info and a lot of large high quality pictures" but I'm surely open to others comments so please elaborate if you'll find a moment.

    As far as the camera I love my Voigtlander with Nokton 40mm on it and I'll keep it that way, I already purchased Contax 139Q with 85mm 1.4 and I really like the results but I'll be returning 139Q and looking for Contax Aria as I really want spot meter. If anyone have one for sale I would be interested :)

    Thanks again, Tom.

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