Tag Archives: United States

Nikon Rangefinder Cameras

In 1948 a 35mm rangefinder camera known as Nikon I was manufactured by Nippon Kogaku KK of Japan. The cameras actually began to be recognized because of the lenses created by the company. Photographers requested Nikkor lenses to fit their Leicas. By the 1950s, the Nikon S became very popular in the United States. These early cameras still fetch a high price on the collectors market.

The Nikon rangefinder cameras are way ahead of the competition in terms of design and lens sharpness. Whether taking still life or group shots or little league victory parties, I’m still impressed with the ease at which these cameras can be loaded, focused and fired. Many professional photographers who handle weddings, portraits and special events use digital rangefinder cameras. They also keep a backup RF with film.

There are a few issues with close up and zoom; that’s a drawback of most RF cameras. Extreme close-up shots are a little clunky to achieve. There are workarounds with specific close-up lenses and viewfinder adapters. Some filters can block the viewfinder area as well. These are minor issues in comparison. Using the classic rangefinders makes me appreciate the craftsmanship put into these vintage models from the 1950s and 60s.

Even in today’s modern digital camera world, there is a clear difference between the two systems. The SLR has certain features that are attractive to certain types of photographers while the RF cameras continue to have their devotees. Because the viewfinder magnification remains constant no matter which lens is mounted, this makes it excellent for certain types of pictures. These cameras are amazingly accurate especially when shooting sports and outdoor scenes.

Other than the workarounds needed to do extreme close-up work, I find the Nikon RF models give me wider latitude with my selection of 50 mm and 28mm lenses. I get sharper pictures with my normal lenses at full to medium a picture. If I’m heading out to shoot street scenes I can count on the rangefinder to give me good quality with available light from dawn till dusk.

When I’m photographing kids and young adults in a social setting, I can open up my lens aperture and capture action. At this stage I’m all about capturing composition quickly while framing small or large groups

Many SLR users tend to have a difficult time adjusting to the world of the rangefinder. The focusing techniques are different and in my mind even the shooting styles are not quite the same. I tend to use the RF for candid and lifestyle photography because it lends itself to spontaneity and natural light conditions.

The classic focal lengths for the rangefinder are 28, 35, 50 and 90 mm lenses. If you have collected lenses in the past, you definitely get to use them on the new digital bodies. The popular L and M amounts are compatible with a variety of brands and you can always find adapters available on the Internet. Nikon rangefinder cameras are worth keeping regardless of age.

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.