Tag Archives: Leica

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.

Rangefinder Camera Reviews

As a rangefinder camera buff, I’m constantly searching the classifieds in local newspapers and online. As a collector as well as a photographer, part of the fun comes from contributing my observations and even my pet peeve’s to the general discussion. Every so often I will head to the Internet chat rooms or forums to read or even write rangefinder camera reviews.

Although many of these tend to be camera aficionados stretching their egos a bit, there are usually quite a lot of good information to be gleaned from members with a lot of experience in both photography and valuation of vintage cameras.

If you happen to have a desire to find out whether the 1958 Nikon S. rangefinder your uncle left you is worth anything there is usually quite a lot of detailed information from reviews available. If you’re in the market for vintage cameras, using many of the rangefinder camera reviews to determine what would be appropriate for your needs.

When buying a new camera, I will usually start by reviewing the official website to get the specs and then move on to search for review articles on the blogs that I trust as well as user generated forums. Sometimes you might find a few reviews that are actually PR pieces but generally you can count on material that is consistent with good photographic principles.

Reviews and articles may get a lot of responses both pro and con. For instance the Nikon rangefinder camera series has been around since the 50s; there are those who absolutely love these cameras and others who are passionate to a fault about its main rival Leica.  Rangefinder camera reviews on forums will bring the most responses while those on article directories usually go unchallenged.

The most useful reviews will cover the brand of camera, a brief description of its history and then focus specifically on the pros and cons. They will make a clear distinction between the features of the product and their opinions of its capabilities. You’ll be able to easily identify the commercial reviews because they will tend to contain a lot more technical specifications and a lot less observations from practical experience.

If you’re the type of person that likes to read the technical specs, definitely stop over at the various camera websites and download the PDF documents. If you’re the type of person that simply wants a general opinion on a specific piece of machinery, camera lens or accessory, rangefinder camera reviews can help a lot.

When the Leica M8 came out, the buzz about its capabilities appeared all over the internet. Most of the information was actually speculation with a few insiders who actually got to play with the camera. I prefer to wait until new equipment has been sold for a while before sinking into the reviews. You’re more likely to get the honest appraisal versus the professional review at that point. There’s nothing wrong with a little industry punditry but I prefer the “man in the street” perspective.

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.

35mm Rangefinder Cameras

Some of the best 35mm rangefinder cameras came out during my formative years in the 60s. If you are a fan of these cameras, you may be familiar with the Yashica brand. Back in the early -70s, the camera was with me every day. It was sturdy yet easy to shoot; being a lightweight model that was perfect for a hobbyist.

The 35 mm Rangefinder camera has a certain mystique about it that’s unique from its SLR cousin. They bring back memories of the emerging U.S. space program, the 1967 Ford Mustang Shelby GT 500 and young women with white vinyl boots and miniskirts. This model was my first introduction to real photography.

A 35mm rangefinder camera can simplify your picture taking in natural light and when taking casual photographs. The focus feature meant that you could take a picture easily so long as there was enough light to achieve focus. With RF cameras you have wider latitude with which to work. This may be one reason why so many of the greats of yesteryear used to them.

Not only were these cameras sleek and compact, there were much quieter than their SLR cousins. Even in the 21st century where the digital camera has taken over from its analog ancestors, digital rangefinders are far quieter. Perhaps that’s why I always associate the rangefinders with espionage.

The 35mm rangefinder camera continues to impress in both style and function. Although the modern camera has a lot of interesting features, I find them not to be as well made and sturdy as the classic 60s and 70s models. My 40 year old Leica and Yashica RF models will still function even when the battery dies. They can be set in fully manual mode and the shutter and apertures will work just fine.

The classic compact 35mm rangefinder camera from the 50s through to the mid-70s was very well armored. I’ve often joked that you could walk the streets without fear with one of these because you are basically armed and dangerous. Even the new Leica M series has a sturdy metal frame that reeks of quality and durability.

With the proliferation of digital SLR’s on the market over the last decade, it comes as no surprise to see the emergence of the 35mm rangefinder following suit. Leica has managed to take control of this market over the last few years with its M-series. Epson has joined the fray with the R-D1 which also works very well with a wide range of M and L mount rangefinder lenses. The challenge for most of us is the price.

My main considerations for digital 35mm rangefinder cameras are; ISO accuracy, file buffer handling, RAW processing capability and price. I can appreciate the work that goes into these models but there is still a matter of finding the right lenses that won’t leave you broke. This is the biggest upgrade cost for many photographers. Visit various websites that offer discounts on photo equipment to get killer deals.