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Rangefinder Digital Cameras

With the proliferation of digital SLR’s on the market over the last decade, it comes as no surprise to see the digital rangefinder following suit. Epson has started the trend with the R-D1 which works well with a wide range of M and L mount rangefinder lenses. Leica has managed to take control of this upscale market over the last few years with its Digital M-series.

The M8 and R-D1 are expensive compared to the digital SLRs on the market right now. They don’t have a few of the standard features as live preview, movie recording, and face detection. Many pros and advanced amateurs are grateful for that because they don’t want the camera’s technology to get in the way of their photographic style or techniques.

There are only a few brands digital rangefinders around but the ones that are here are very good at what they do best. Thousands of great RF cameras and lenses were manufactured by Konica, Minolta, Leica, Zeiss, Voightlander. Most of these RF cameras are still in usable condition over the decades. Many owners have heavy investment in very expensive lenses and want to get a digital camera to put them on.

The choices of players in the DRF market are meager. The prices are high and the pickings are slim in this market right now. Someday when digital R&D costs come down, there will be niche players in the photographic market again. But until then, get used to not having your needs fully met if you are a serious amateur or professional photographer looking for great balance between amenities and price in your digital rangefinder cameras.

If you’re looking to get a brand-new camera, you should know that both digital SLR’s and rangefinders are going to be costly. You can choose a lesser known brand for the body and put your money in the lenses. This is one option many budding photographers have considered because all the major camera manufacturers pride themselves in the quality of their lenses.

Pros and amateurs with a collection of M-mount lenses would be very happy with a really good digital camera body in a mid range price that allowed them to use their lens collection. There already are a few rangefinder digital cameras being manufactured today in a few high and mid range price ranges. Manufacturers such as Voigtandor, Canon or Leica are promoting the format again. A lot of factors surface when choosing a camera for your overall use; format and function does matter along with price.

These companies should be given serious consideration if you’re thinking buying a DRF this year. Rangefinder digital cameras are topping out on the resolution and beginning to focus more on ease of use and memory management.

The hunger for digital is still growing strong. Many young people who have started by taking pictures with their phones have graduated to more detailed and precise photographic tools. Having access to a few good rangefinder digital cameras will only help improve their art.

Rangefinder Cameras

When I think about vintage camera collectables, I think rangefinder. The rangefinder cameras that immediately come to mind are the Leica brand models. They have been around since the 1930’s. One of the major selling points of rangefinder cameras going back to the 50s and 60s was its ease of use. The sleek flat design made these cameras quite compact especially in an era when design meant big, bold and beautiful. One of the most practical reasons for owning the style was the amazing all purpose 50 millimeter lens.

I remember watching the spy movies back in the late 60s and looking at the really cool cameras that they had back then. One of my favorites was the Leica M3. This was around 1964 when the three dominant 35mm camera companies of the time were Leica, Yashica and Nikon. There was always something sexy and stylish about the 1960s era rangefinder cameras. The sleek body style was reminiscent of these sports cars of that time. The sleek trim and compact design gave you a feeling of danger; as a kid, I carried mine everywhere I went.

The basic difference between SLRs and RFs is in the function of viewing the image and focusing for the shot. The smooth shutter speed of the rangefinder cameras gives it an advantage over the SLR. You can shoot at shutter speeds range between 1/8 – 1/15 with your 50 mm lens and get great shots! 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.

I am still sold on the ease, speed and accuracy of focusing with the rangefinder. There is a small rectangular yellow patch in the center of the viewfinder. Find your subject and you’ll see a superimposed double image. Quickly adjust the focusing ring to bring the two images together as one; you’re now in sharp focus; it’s that easy.

One of the most important components of the camera system is the type of lens you are using. The lens mount is the particular connecting mechanism that attaches the lens to the camera body. This allows for interchangeable lenses to be used with your rangefinder. 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.

When shopping for additional lenses for your rangefinder, be sure to identify the particular lens mounting system. Each camera company tends to favor its own unique mounting system; screw type mounts, baronet mounts, etc., Leica originally developed the screw mount system way back in the late 1920’s.

Many of the classic 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.

Leica Rangefinder Cameras

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.