Leica rangefinder cameras are the royal family of the RF format. They literally got this system off the ground in the twenties. My first introduction to the Leica rangefinder cameras was at age 14 when my father took me to Times Square in New York City in search of the right camera for my new hobby. The camera store clerk knew absolutely nothing about the merchandise but he let me hold practically every camera in the store.
If you are a fan of Leica rangefinder cameras, you may be familiar with the legendary Leica II. Back in 1932, this camera popularized the 35mm rangefinder model. Rangefinder cameras came in all sizes and formats with this stylish and compact design held the fascination of the general public.
Using the classic rangefinders makes me appreciate the craftsmanship that was infused into these vintage models from the 1930s through the 70s. These cameras worked hard along with their owners during World War II and the Korean Conflict, then later during the war in Viet Nam.
Photo journalists loved the light weight, the solid workmanship and the rangefinder’s ability to quickly frame and shoot in all manner of lighting conditions. The models come with a viewfinder/rangefinder system with bright automatically switching frame lines for easy focusing and composition.
Many of the classic Leica rangefinder cameras can still be found in the hands of collectors. Modern RFs still hold their unique locking systems for their lenses; for instance; screw mount versus bayonet mounts. Many of the premier lens manufacturers such as Nikon, Canon and Leica offer adapters or various styles to fit other camera bodies.
With the proliferation of digital SLR’s on the market over the last decade, it comes as no surprise to see the digital Leica M-series rangefinder cameras following suit. Leica has regain control of this market over the last few years with its characteristic attention to detail.
In 2006, they began distributing the M8 digital Leica rangefinder cameras. The price was steep; the prices of DRFs are a few notches above their SLR cousins. The expense was well worth the wait however. The all metal magnesium alloy body was reminiscent of the early Leicas that saw combat in three major wars.
The M8 makes use of a metal blade focal plane shutter that can sync at 1/250 of the second for flash photography using the M-TTL system very effectively. This shutter speed tops out at 1/8000 sec. and goes as low as 8 seconds. The 10.3 megapixels was a bit disappointing considering many SLRs now go as high as 18 megapixels but the camera is a beauty.
The lens mount has the special connecting mechanism that attaches the lens to the camera body. This allows for interchangeable lenses to be used with your Leica rangefinder cameras. You’ll find the standard variety available in screw threaded type, bayonet type or friction lock type; the various camera companies insure compatibility between camera and lens through their unique locking systems. After almost a century, these cameras are still going strong.