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.