Wich rangefinder should I buy?

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by gheur, May 6, 2016.

  1. I'm a long time slr user (mostly Pentax) and I've never used a rangefinder camera in my life. Well, I want to change that.
    I've been looking around trying to figure out wich one to buy, but couldn't find anything that matched my needs.
    Don't get me wrong, there are lots of great cameras, but they all missed something I need.
    I'm lookin for a rangefinder camera with 1) M and A modes, 2) lightmeter, 3) distance scale on the lens and 4) ideally, I shoudn't have to sell my car to buy just the body :p
    So, here's the question: which one should I buy?
    Thank you!!
  2. SCL


    I'd say, firstly, you ought to try an inexpensive one out to see if it is something you can work with and enjoy. Next - do you mean film based or digital? If film, you could try a Bessa with either Voigtlander or older Canon lenses. If you really like it and want to move up there's a whole range of used Leicas, much more expensive, but you can always use Leica lenses on your Bessa. Take a look at www.cameraquest.com for details on these.
  3. The Bessa R is very good with probably the best viewing finder you can find and you can use it with almost all L39 mount lenses. It's not too expensive and you can use it with a cheap Russian lens first if you are on a budget. If you don't like this camera then rangefinders aren't for you.
  4. I would start cheap to see if you like the rangefinder style. For around $100, you can get a fixed lens rangefinder like a Canonet or an Olympus 35RD. These are metered, can be operated in full manual mode or semi-auto mode (aperture priority), and have great lenses. If you fall in love with RF shooting, you can then upgrade to a higher quality or interchangeable lens outfit.
  5. Either the fixed lens Konica RF camera or the Konica Hexar RF system camera (interchangeable lens version) with very fine 50mmm f2 lens. Accepts other M mount lenses (Leica, Zeiss-Cosina or Voigtlander-Cosine). The system camera and lens should be available in clean condition and mint working order for around 1200 or 1300$, possibly less. A sweet system.
  6. +1 on Stephen Lewis.
    I would recommend starting with an inexpensive Soviet RF with a matching lens.
    Zorki and FED are Leica thread mount (I personally prefer the latter, especially the FED 2 or later).
    The Kiev is a Soviet-built continuation of the pre-war Contax II. It's my favorite former Soviet Union (FSA) camera.
    A Helios 58mm f/2 lens in the appropriate mount is still cheap and a superb lens.
    You may want a hand light meter of some sort too; although if you shoot color-negative films, the "sunny-16" rule will work plenty well.
    If you find out you like the experience of RF shooting, then upgrade to some of the even more classic (read expensive) film cameras, or modern digital RFs.
  7. This may be somewhat above your intended budget, but how about a Contax G1? A 1990s RF camera, all electronic, so a little old, but a work horse, and many are still available (there seems to be an endless supply of G1s sold OL from Japan) and going quite cheaply. I bought one recently ex Tokyo, with the silver sticker and not the green sticker (the latter indicates that the camera had the Contax fix enabling the use of the 21mm and 35mm lenses, and was a factory adjustment to the early models), for US$90, to replace one I originally bought in 1996, which now has a now and then rewind problem, but otherwise still works well.
    the lenses are something else. Carl Zeiss Japan-made G lenses cost a small fortune. And are well worth it. The glorious color rendition, tonal clarity and the legendary Zeiss "bite" (cutting through the shadows) are all very definitely there.
    That said, you would be looking at $400-$600 (with luck) for a G1 with a 45mm or 28mm lens. The 45 in its day was hailed by many as THE sharpest lens ever made, a claim I've wondered about, but the images I've made with this lens are superbly sharp. The 28mm is quite common and seems to vignette a bit in wide shots, but is otherwise a fine performer.
    I have the five fixed G lenses (21, 28, 35, 45 and 90) and I hope to be around and shooting long enough to be able to use them on another digital camera, currently the only option appears to be Sony but there are a few technical problems and after several bad experiences with Sony I no longer buy Sony anything, all the Sony products I've owned and used were generally OK til they malfunctioned, at which time I quickly learned that having a Sony product repaired can be frustrating as well as ridiculously expensive.
    If Fuji ever produce a camera, any camera, capable of taking my G lenses, I will be buying two in a lightning bolt flash. Those Zeiss lenses are too good to leave them on a film camera.
    JD in Malaysia.
  8. I've had the same curiosity about rangefinders, and basically did what JDM recommends. I took a Kiev-4a from eBay, which didn't cost a whole lot. It wasn't and isn't free from issues, but it works close enough to get the idea whether rangefinder focussing is for me, or not. Not a lot of money wasted to find I do not like it enough to build me a system around it, but I do vastly like the silence.
    So, as a nice intermediate, I found myself a Canonet QL17 at a very decent price, which is definitely worth recommending too. Yes, you cannot change the lens, but the one that's on there is actually really good and it's a nice, silent, small camera. And this camera actually nearly ticks all your boxes - semi-auto-exposure sets aperture, not speed.
  9. The various Yashica Electro 35 models are also quite good,
  10. Minolta CLE maybe?
    Its getting long in the tooth, isn't made to handle fast 90mms but provides your A mode. Unfortunately its a cult camera.
    How about an M8? - user beater condition can be had for 900Euro and Leica offer nice priced upgrades in case they ran out of spare
    parts for your problem. Its (still!) a nice fun digital camera and handles mostly like the more expensive M7 film body with aperture priority mode. - Drawback: crop factor 1.33 means you 'll need an 28 or 24mm as wide standard lens and the heavy goggled version if you want to shoot a 135mm.
    Otherwise I'd really suggest getting hold of a Lunasix F and an M4-P (user beater) but I never tried to use a Cosina body and haven't looked at the battery dependent fixed lens RF market.
    I tried FSU LTM stuff but am not sure if the lenses work on those bodies. They surely don't once adapted to my Leicas, so I'd rule them all out unless your seller guarantees an included 50mm f2 to be spot on wide open.
  11. I tried about all of them over the years. Yashica Electro 35 from the PX, Leica IIIF (best made camera I ever owned), Rollie 35, several Contax G's, and finally an M6 with a 50mm. Before the Leica, I had a Voigtlander with a 35mm Scopar. I should have stopped right there as that was the best of the bunch, but I had to try the ultimate M. I now have a rangefinder looking Fuji XE1. Slow AF, probably XE2 or XE2s would be much better.
  12. As a "long time SLR user" you are probably accustomed to multiple lenses. You'll get interchangeable lenses and M and A modes with these: Konica Hexar RF; Leica M7; Voigtlander R?A; Zeiss Ikon; and perhaps Contax G (not too sure about this). The cheapest way to find out if you get on with RF focussing is to borrow a camera for a roll or two. Other options have already been described.
  13. +1 Mukul. If you would start out your RF experience with a FED and lens cheap from the bay, with a little bad luck you might get FED up and toss the RF towel anyway.
  14. I've used many SLR's and many Rangefinder cameras.

    The Minolta Hi-Matic 9 has a very sharp 45/1.7 lens, Auto-Mode, Manual mode with the Light Meter using the older EV
    system- but works. The Canonet Ql17l and GIII- meter only works on Shutter-Preferred auto. It turns off for manual

    The Minolta is very inexpensive these days. About the same soze as a K-1000.
  15. Ideally: A Leica M6 (no automatic mode) with a Summicron 50mm and you may need to sell your car. But, if you just want to experiment the good at the lowest price is a Yashica GSN; a working model is under $100. With it you will be able to determine if further expenditure is warranted. There are others listed above which are excellent but as they tend to be smaller than the Leica M6.
  16. If money is no object a Leica m series. If it is
    then a Canonet GIII QL17. Aka the poor mans
  17. Good rangefinder and A mode is pretty rare. Working right, even more rare.
    I recommend the Canon P and an appropriate LTM lens. There is a light meter for it which couples to the shutter speed knob. Then you read the aperture of the meter and set the lens yourself.
    But it is usual for that time to use selenium cells, and they don't age well. I have two meters that work some of the time, and tapping the side sometimes helps. I expect that is as well as you do.
    In later years, the technology went into SLRs, and some rangefinders with A mode were produced, mostly without interchangeable lenses. These were meant for people moving up from simpler cameras, but couldn't yet afford an SLR.
    In the earlier years, there were some non-interchangeable lens models, also without light meter (that is why there are so many light meters around), such as the Minolta A.
    I believe this is close to the model I used to have, that I inherited from my grandfather. I used it in many situations where I didn't want to bring a more expensive camera. Should be available for less than $100, and you will learn about using a rangefinder.
    Then, after you are used to it, decide to move to a Canon or Leica, or as noted, one of the Soviet models.
    There are uncoupled light meters that fit into the accessory shoe, or handheld with their own strap.
  18. hailed by many as THE sharpest lens ever made,​
    I wish I had a dollar for everytime someone writes this about "the best lens ever". There are so many standard lenses that have claimed this crown I have lost count. Last time I read it was the Contarex Planar, Contax/Kyocera 50mm Planar, or Leica Summicron-M, then the Summilux R(60) then the new Summilux-M ASPH, Apo Summicron-M and now Zeiss Otus, and that's just a sample not even including the 40mm Rokkors or FD 50/1.4s etc etc.
    I would suggest a Contax G, Minolta CLE, Hexar RF + Konica lens, Voigtlander Bessa RA, Yashica Electro-35 (if it is actually working - very nice), Canonet with f1.7 (again if the exposure meter is actually accurate - I found mine very erratic). There probably are others: Nikon 35Ti, Contax Ts which are really glorified point and shoots.
  19. While the CLE is compact with an accurate meter and shutter and has frame lines for 28, 40, and 90 mm lenses, the
    electronics are old now and replacement parts are not available. Since the shutter is electronic, failure of critical
    components will render it deader than a can of spam. For compactness with Leica M compatibility you migh look for a
    Leica CL. It has a mechanical shutter and match needle metering.
  20. Yes, but, but, he expressly wants an A setting which the CL does not have. This is a stumbling block as most electronic shutters on rangefinders are getting long in the tooth unless still very expensive (Leica M7).
    I'm lookin for a rangefinder camera with 1) M and A modes,​
  21. Konica S2 or S3.
  22. A and M metering are available on some Voigtlander Bessa models, which have been discontinued only fairly recently but atill is stock at some sellers. The R2A and R3A may not be available at all, but the R4A is still listed as available at www.cameraquest.com (You have to scroll well down their Price List of lenses to find the cameras) The former two have 35 to 90 mm framelines, while the R4A has 21 to 50mm framelines. New price of each is about 800$. Used, there are some, like https://www.google.ca/#q=voigtlander+bessa+r3a+for+sale
  23. Besides 35mm rangefinders, another (pricey) candidate might be in medium format, such as the Mamiya 7. It has an
    almost silent leaf shutter in the lenses, and can be used both in manual and auto modes. The shutter is battery powered
    and the meter takes its readings from a small area just below the center of the frame. The camera is roughly the size of a
    full-frame DSLR, but probably weighs less, and the lenses are not massive either. A roll of 120 film yields just 10 large
    exposures, which means that you won't have to make 36 exposures before developing your film.

    Also, there are just a handful of amazing lenses to choose from, which although not cheap, compare very favorably with
    high- end 35mm choices.

    It also depends, however, on one's artistic sensibility. Mamiya is almost clinically precise. Being able to mount Soviet
    lenses, and whatever other fun things out there, could point towards the M-mount lens choice universe. Heaven help me
    with that one!
  24. Your choices depend on how strongly interested you are in trying a rangefinder camera, and how much money you can afford and are prepared to pay for one. The more firmly determined you are to get a camera with certain specific features, the more money you are probably going to have to spend. Recommendations are usually based on personal experience and brand loyalty, so you will get a wide range of suggestions.
    If you are looking for a relatively inexpensive fixed-lens rangefinder to try without spending too much money, several major camera manufacturers (notably Olympus, Canon, Konica and Yashica) offered multiple models of such cameras during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Based on personal experience, my recommendation would be for an Olympus 35SP, if you can find one in good working condition -- 42mm f/1.7 lens with 7 elements, fast and sharp; clear and precise rangefinder/viewfinder; and a sensitive CdS exposure meter. The exposure meter required PX625 or MRB625 batteries, so you may have to hunt around a bit for the current equivalent, but you should be able to find something that will work. Photo and more details here: https://web2.ph.utexas.edu/~yue/misc/35SP.html . A closely comparable camera was the Canon Canonet G-III 17, with a 40mm f/1.7 lens -- photo and details at https://www.cameraquest.com/canql17.htm . Those companies both offered similar but less expensive models with slightly slower lenses, such as the Olympus 35RC and the Canonet 28, both with f/2.8 lenses.
    If you want a decent quality interchangeable-lens camera and are willing to spend somewhat more money, a Canon P and a Canon 35mm f/1.8 or 35mm f/2 LTM (Leica thread mount) lens would be a good place to start -- well made, very good optical quality, and the ability to handle a number of Canon, Nikon, Leitz and other LTM lenses in other focal lengths. A more modern and readily available alternative might be a Voigtlander Bessa, but I have no personal experience with those. The Leica CL and Minolta CLE are also in this category, but have been out of production long enough that obtaining spare parts for repairs can be difficult.
    If you have more disposable cash, and want to try a high-quality rangefinder, you might consider something like a Leica M2 with a Leitz 35mm f/2.8 Summaron M-mount lens. (Leitz was was the original name of the company now known as Leica -- Leica was an acronym for LEI_tz CA_mera. For many years, the cameras were called Leicas and the lenses called Leitz, until Leica finally chose to go with a single brand name for clarity. The Leitz lenses were all made by Leica, and all of Leica quality.) The cost would vary depending on condition, and you would also have to factor in purchasing a hand-held light meter, but you could probably get this combination for under $2,000 and would be getting very high quality equipment which would retain its resale value. The M2 has built-in viewfinder frames for 35mm, 50mm and 90mm lenses. Like other Leica M cameras, it can take older LTM lenses if equipped with an LTM to bayonet adapter, so you might save some money by getting a Leitz, Canon or Nikon lens in LTM mount -- collectibles now, so not as cheap as they used to be, but still more affordable than Leica M mount lenses. You might also consider a Leitz or Leica 35mm f/2 Summicron in M mount, all versions of which have been of exceptionally high optical quality, but those will be more expensive if in good condition (especially the original 8-element version, now a collectible, and the current production aspheric version). While the M2 has been out of production for some time, it shares many parts with later Leica models, so obtaining service and spare parts is not really a problem. Of similar vintage, the M3 was also of high quality, and had a higher-magnification viewfinder which offered different tradeoffs -- greater accuracy in focusing high-speed lenses, but designed for 50mm lenses and thus requiring 35mm lenses with "goggles."
    There are, of course, a number of more recent and more expensive Leica M-mount film bodies (the meterless M4 and the metered M5, M6, M7, MP), modern digital bodies (M8, M9, M240, Monochrom), and a wide range of M-mount lenses from 21mm to 135mm. These are almost uniformly of exceptionally high quality. If in good or better condition, however, most of these are quite expensive -- enough so that only a wealthy person would choose them as something to begin with.

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