When I gave two of my best rangefinder cameras to my mother, she thoroughly enjoyed the fact that there was no need to close one eye when focusing. You can focus, compose and shoot with both eyes open. The compact, lightweight Yashica body fit nicely in her hands.
During the 1920s Oscar Barnett showcased the Leica A. This is the beginning of 35mm photography as it exists today. The focusing system relied on a device that figures out the distance to an object using triangulation. This is done visually or electronically depending on the age of your camera.
Although there are many different cameras to choose from in both styles and format, I find that some of my most immediate and spontaneous shots come off the 35mm rangefinder. I love these cameras for taking candid shots in any light conditions. To this day, the most resilient brand of rangefinder cameras is Leica.
The simplicity in their design extends to how they operate. I still use the rangefinders for everyday shooting. The best rangefinder cameras allow you to shoot at high shutter speeds under a variety of lighting conditions.
If I’m shooting group shots at a wedding reception or high school reunion, the rangefinder cameras are excellent for quick composition and shooting on the go. I’ll keep the RF camera handy for this kind of photography because I can usually set it at f/8 – 1/60 – 1/125 of a second and mount the camera on the mono-pod. I can count on great informal looking shots even when I switch to fill flash.
If you’re into shooting the great outdoors, use a wide-angle lens on an RF camera and begin framing your shots. The Leica 24 mm f/3.8 wide angle lens allows me to shoot fairly sharp pictures at a wide variety of f-stops; with or without flash.
Because these cameras are practically vibration free, you can get great shots with longer exposures. Try shooting at f/4 or f/5.6 and marvel at the great results that are relatively free of distortion. Another great advantage is the ability to get razor-sharp optical quality with wide-angle lenses and in low light levels even at f/2.0.
Most of my RF cameras are flat, compact and easy to carry with one extra lens. The best rangefinder cameras allow me to shoot in available light during solemn occasions such as weddings and other special events. These cameras allow you to set your shutter speed manually and give you total creative control or you can set them on semiautomatic for party pictures.
The shutter design of the best rangefinder cameras gives them an advantage over the SLR. You can shoot at shutter speed ranges between 1/8 – 1/15 sec with your 50mm lens and get amazing shots! Learn as much about the operation of the RF’s from those who use it regularly.
Check out the forums and blogs to find out what other photographers are doing. It is a very active community for rangefinders on the Internet.