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Thursday, 26 August 2010

Comments

If there was a Micro 4/3 Bessa with optical rangefinder and a decent range of lenses, I'd be on that like a shot as a replacement for my E-P1.

Mike,

Thanks for this post. Hope springs eternal. i would buy it in a heartbeat. No, really.

Chris

It would require some kind of mechanical connection between the lens and the body for rangefinder operation.

A different approach would be an electric connection transmitting the exact focus position to the body, and a mechanically separated mechanism for rangefinder operation.

Mike,

You are a mind-reader. I agree totally with your hope. There would be lots of photographers who can't spring for a Leica who would love a Voigtlander/Cosina RF camera. I have a film version and love it, regardless of its many, many faults. I would buy a digital version at the drop of a hat.

Roger

I love the thought of a Micro 4/3 rangefinder, but the question comes to mind: does the Micro 4/3 mount design have room for a mechanical rangefinder linkage?

I think with this lens that's impossible. From what I can tell it contains no electronic linkage between the lens and body. That's unfortunate because it can't activate the manual focus assist mode on m4/3s cameras. It also means it's impossible for the lens to link with the optical focus system required for a range finder camera. Even if such a camera was made, this lens couldn't be used on it.

Memory seems to be pretty fast forgetting things, to be honest.

Cosina already had that.
But for an APS-C sensor. It was called Epson RD1, the very first digital rangefinder.

EVF on a hotshoe as an adjunct to the RF viewfinder window? That gets beyond the mechanical linkage issue people are talking about. I'm not saying that would be desirable, but it's a possibility.

On my father's M4 hyperfocal focussing was his preferred method (I can't remember the lens - it was probably a 28 or 35mm). I only think of the EVF as an adjunct to the viewfinder window because my father had one of those external meters - he used to look at it now and again, but mostly not, knowing his exposure. So for someone who knows their hyperfocal focussing, the EVF could be relegated to an EVF for occasional checking or critical details.

On Sony Pellix cameras
[yep, mail is down]

[You´re not the only grumpy person on earth as of late]

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/cameras/epson-rd1.shtml

Cosina has already developed a digital rangefinder. Not the 4/3 standard [which I guess is expensive to buy].
But they did well before Leica did.

This 4/3s hype is starting to grind my gears, to be honest. [no personal attack intended]. But people seem to obviate what has done before.
Cheers.

PS
Remember the Sony´s, as they are a technological and logical step forward, specially for the continuous AF Phase detection system. That truly is a step forward.

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/cameras/sony-a55-preview.shtml

I'm sure such a product would easily sell dozens of copies.

What we need is only quite selective focus plus zone focus. The later is simply a menu/switch design issue (LX etc. does it quite well and in fact the yellow bar to show the zone is very good). The former as said might need some innovation. It might need mechanical link which require a total change in the m3/4 lens. Some of the good thing about the lens being close to the film (sensor) would be lost. Better one would be touch screen based (quite adequate based on iphone experience plus perhaps some "face chasing"). Some might use some kind of electronic confirmation. Perhaps even the electronic view finder but very quick and very high resolution might be good.

"Cosina has already developed a digital rangefinder."

Of course I remember. That's where the "hope" expressed in this post comes from.

Mike

It's always been my opinion that all this pining and gnashing of teeth for a small DMD type camera / digital m4/3 / small compact with a large sensor stems from a inner desire to replace the digital Leica M in our hearts that we could not obtain / afford / being ourselves to throw down the cash for one.

Well, for me anyway :)

I am also one of those cranks who thinks LCD / EVF composition is junk (yes i used one). To me the GF1 is not a DMD because it does not have an optical viewfinder... 

I guess I am one of the few here who would prefer that Cosina designs a rangefinder with a large sensor, maybe a 1.3x crop or even one that matches the exact dimension of a 24 x 36mm negative.

Please come out with a digital rangefinder so that those of us who can no longer pay the stratospheric prices of new Leica gear can actually enjoy photography with a PROPER rangefinder camera! :)

At this point I don't even care about having a viewfinder. I just want a digital with aperture settings on the lens, proper lens markings and a shutter speed dial. I'll line up behind Tom among the dozen or so buyers, unless I hit the Lotto, then I'll spring for the M9.

Speculation of new non-Leica digital rangefinder cameras has predictably swirled around every recent Photokina show. Now with signs of life in micro four-thirds speculation is congealing around these cameras.

Who knows? But I seriously doubt we'll see any new life in the rangefinder camera design. For all the breathless chatter on Internet photo sites the retro camera design is really not very popular due mainly to the many limitations and inconveniences of a rangefinder. A mechanical rangefinder mechanism is also a support headache for manufacturer.

The most "modern" rangefinder design, at least to my knowledge, was that of the now-extinct Contax G2. Unlike the Leica manual patch-match design the Contax rangefinder featured auto-focus ... and pretty good and quick AF at that! Manual focus on these cameras was the designed exception and was performed basically by-wire.

Writing as someone who's very recently become a real fan of the excellent but short-lived Contax G2 I'd love to see that style of rangefinder camera adapted for digital capture.

But I think the chances are slim to none...and I think Slim left the building long ago.

A previous commenter mentions dozens of copies potentially sold. I agree. As we wax nostalgic on these imaginary ideas, think of the cost to engineer and produce a niche camera...to fill a microscopic niche. Potential rewards for the producer? Huzzah! If only it had this or that (evermore obscure)missing feature. Methinks thou dost pine for the past as you fondly remember it without regard for the practical needs of profitable production. No doubt there is a small group of collectors on this earth who still collect buggy whips. Wonder if they dream of kevlar and carbon fiber reinforced modern versions of the old classics. Keep dreaming boys...and smiling, this was all written with a smile. I can be a Luddite too.

As has already been stated (and the first thing that came to my mind), Cosina already made such a rangefinder camera in the Epson R-D1. Considering that it was based on the internals of a $200 film camera, the price was outrageous. Of course, it was the only game in town, at the time. It was also produced in limited numbers.

What Cosina should do is revive the camera, without the silly bits of the original, and sell it for less than $1K. They could use a Sony, or Samsung sensor (APS-C). All the work has already been done; they are just sitting on it.

The real question is why is Cosina sitting on this camera all this time? Is it an agreement with Epson?

Agree with Mike 100%.

Regarding the Epson RD1, I was very tempted to get one at that time when I didn't have a digital camera yet. I'm happy I didn't get one because it vanished without a trace. I think its inception was to premature. At that time any serious amateur or professional wanted an SLR period. Recently, after an undeniable maturation period, of digital photographers and the industry, very cleverly (from the timing point of view) Olympus and Panasonic came with a most desirable product that filled a niche, high quality images with a compact camera. Not only Sony, but everybody is going to jump to the boat. I think Voigtlander-Cosina has the gold opportunity to create a new classic, a simple manual focus high quality digital rangefinder a la M9 but more compact, with high quality high speed lenses. Hope this dream comes true.

Regards

seconded a MILLION times over. if mr. k is interested in the idea, i know someone they can "consult".

the r-d1 is long in tooth with only 6mp (most people want 12mp), and it still costs a pretty penny.

Hear hear! I do hope you get your wish!

Amen to that, Mike.

"No doubt there is a small group of collectors on this earth who still collect buggy whips."

Uhh, guys...the Leica M9 is a digital rangefinder. And it seems to be doing just fine. And it would be doing much better if you could count the legions of enthusiasts who want one but can't afford it.

Mike

"The real question is why is Cosina sitting on this camera all this time? Is it an agreement with Epson?"

It was an "agreement" with somebody, but not Epson.

Mike

You mean a film camera? For what film? It would be smaller than 35mm, no?

Or a manual digital camera done by Cosina? I sorta don't see that one happening.

No, I don't mean a film camera! How could a Micro 4/3 camera be a film camera?

Mike

Hats off to Voigtlander - and Leica. Coincidence that the driving forces behind both are camera enthusiast individuals? One of my greatest joys the past year has been my Bessa 667. Who would have thought that in this day and age a camera company would risk such a venture? The Bessa has been curiously maligned on the web with few people giving credit to the vision, (or maybe enthusiasm) that lay behind it.

NB I might be inclined to buy ANY 4/3 camera if it had a proper viewfinder.....

I think one approach might be to overlay a "patch" of 100% pixel view over part of the screen (center, for sure, with some way to quickly move the spot, or even several predefined positions all with patches displayed at once) which would allow for real-time MF without the need to drop into a dedicated zoom mode (where you lose the framing). Even make the patches semi-transparent so they don't obstruct the view too much. With the current high resolution EVFs in use, there is latitude to pull something like this off seamlessly.

Mike, how about an Epson RD3, with an APS-C sensor that's not 5 years old and a price tag south of $1,300? The original Epson already even had an articulated LCD!

Just sayin'...

I would certainly consider adding that to my bag - alongside my Epson R-D1s, of course! But I'd rather have a full-frame 35mm M-mount digital Bessa, Epson or no...

I agree with you. I originally thought Cosina should come out with a Voigtlander full frame digital to compete with Leica. However, the rangefinder micro 4/3 model is a superb idea and would make a great camera for street photography. I like it!

I'm having a ball with an EPL1. Not only do I use the Oly 17 2.8 but a few Voigtlander and Leica lenses via a adapter.

One problem with the adapted rangefinder lenses is the auto-diaphragm needed to keep a bright viewfinder is non existent. Both EVF and rear screen get very dark when the lens is stopped down a bit. Sure the M 4/3 system has decent DOF at F2.8 but now you are fighting that 1/2000 max shutter speed in bright light.

Have to admit though the Voigtlander 40 1.4 makes a decent portrait lens and 1.4 gives one some control of the DOF.

I'd like to see Cosina produce a Zeiss Ikon with the M 4/3 sensor. Under $2000 new and I think they would have something. (Hey Nikon I'm still waiting for the digital FM3a!!!)

And whilst we hope eternal, let's make it the first B&W only digital RF...

Take the R-D1x body, drop one of those nifty new Sony sensors in it, add a few framelines and updated electronics. Shouldn't be rocket science. Alternative: Give us the digital Zeiss rangefinder. Keep the shutter cocking lever! I enjoy photography with the R-D1x immensely, even today, but I simply won't drop 5,5k EUR for a Leica M9. But I'd be willing to pay up to 2k for an updated R-D1x experience.

While an M9 is destined, sadly, to be forever beyond my financial reach, a M4/3 digital body with optical rangefinder focusing (double stress that last criterion) would probably be affordable, and Cosina is certainly able to solve the lens linkage issue. If anything, such a camera would act as a feeder for the M9 market rather than competing for sales. Cosina - please give it a decent RF baseline length to allow accurate focusing with those lovely fast lenses you will make for it!

Mike, this is spot on. I recently had an Olympus E-PL1 and Panasonic 20mm pancake lens on loan from a generous friend, and it reminded me of the fun I had shooting with the Bessa R3M + 40mm combo. It is digital, it wasn't as responsive, and the EVF felt different, but it was just as fun, and not all that different.

If anyone could step up and do it, my money would be on Mr K and Cosina, and them joining the MFT group brings hope that the format would eventually succeed as a spiritual heir to the rangefinder legacy. Which is just the way I like it of course!

I think that a combination of a rangefinder and m43 is a dead-end. Why ? For several reasons:

- a rangefinder itself is complex, pricey and limits body compactness (of course - it can be made small, but there is a price to pay).

- m43 is a few steps behind competition when it comes to sensors ... This is a sad truth. Most people will go after IQ. One can make a great camera, but if IQ is behind competition - it will lose.

So, what is the future ?
I would love to see a "rangefinder" with an EVF (let alone the sensor size and mount):

- EVFs will evolve and will become better and better. Classical rangefinders will not evolve. You can refine them but the cost will increase.
- EVF and contrast detect AF - gives you the functionality of a manual rangefinder, plus - you can select the focus confirmation point freely.
- EVF can be placed anywhere on the body, since it is connected to the sensor by wire.
- EVF and a good sensor will enable us to see much better in darkness. Yes, we came to a point when cameras can see more than we do.
- EVF can be shared amongst many camera models, so it can be much cheaper.

So, what is really needed is very very close. Just a camera with an EVF and properly designed manual focus mode - with focus confirmation on manual lenses. And that's it.

What about an optical viewfinder with a superimposed red dot when a central area is in focus?
I mean contrast focusing on the sensor: if it can make a lens rotating, could it just switch a led on?

Addendum:
if contrast detection wouldn't work with manual focusing, there's fuji patent...

I'm with MJ on this one. To those who say the market is too small for a real camera I'd argue that the constant RFF chatter and other classic camera forums demonstrate other wise. Look how much legacy K-mount lenses have increased in price now that they can be used on Pentax digital bodies. The stratospheric price of the older, used 35mm f2 Minolta AF lens should penetrate even the dim, zoom obsessed brains of SONY's camera development teams, ie, 'Hey! We're missing a market here.' The healthy market for all manner of lens adapters to the M4:3 mount is another indication of market potential. One more thing. Just because Oskar Barnack stuck together two 35mm movie frames a hundred years ago does not make 24X36 a magic number.

OK, So I'm a cranky old man, but even cranky old men are right sometime.

Mike,

That be one heckuva engineering challenge.

Firstly, they'd have to cram all the electronics into a smaller body.

Also with Micro 4/3rds, the effective focal length is doubled -- doesn't this mean the effective focusing accuracy will also now need to be twice as accurate as well?

I would have thought perhaps an M-series body would be the first step... (and I'd be interested!)

Pak

Assuming price is reasonable, I'd buy that in a heart beat. Or I'll make sure it gets to my birthday/xmas wishlist.

Oh. Ok. Well, I agree that it would be very cool if it were to work. But it seems like small companies making digital cameras have a ridiculously uphill battle.

I doubt if there's really a market for a Coupled Rangefinder compact digital camera.

Kobayashi doesn't know anything that the big boys don't. They won't make it up in volume. So they'd need to charge a premium price for a very small volume product. And to charge a premium price they'd have to first upscale this or that piece of it. Bam, you're well over a thousand dollars again.

It would be a boutique piece, regardless.

Once upon a time, rangefinders were nothing special; they were simply state of the art, and all price points offered them. The pent-up demand for SLRs exploded after post-war production ramped up, and rangefinders were crushed almost overnight, just like film camera were more recently.

The small niche that Kobayashi addressed 10 years ago with a cheaper (relatively speaking!!) film rangefinder has shrunk even more.

Heck, we can't even get a compact digital camera with a decent eye-level viewfinder; no way we'll get one with a couple rangefinder.

Sad to say.

Here is my personal hope. I would like to see that this lens has some electronics in it. I like rangefinders for almost all of their attributes but would not insist on the rangefinder mechanism itself as essential to the spirit of rangefinder photography of the future.

One of the problems of current ways is that the m43 sensor is designed to shoot in more that one aspect ratio. I find multiple framelines irritating enough - can you imagine one with 16:9, 4:3, 2:3 and square aspect ratios?

What would be possible is a glass rangefinder which is mounted in the hotshoe. however a electronic coupling could be designed for future bodies which would transmit information about the focal length, focus distance and aspect ratio and show a single frame line with liquid display technology such as used by Nikons D300 and other such cameras.

That way we would have the perfect rangefinder. It would be with one frameline which would change according to need. It could have a focus confirmation light (faint, light sensitive and in the center?) instead of a silver patch be parallax corrected better than currently possible and if one designed a set of three - for wide, normal and telephoto, they could be with a magnification ratio tailored to need.

That is my dream. Manual focus in the current Leica idiom. Simple in the same way. Small and light as only M43 seems to be able to be - but extending the rangefinder concept in a whole new way!

Too much to dream about? Before this new F .95 lens came out I would have thought so. But now?

The lenses could have nice long focusing scales so that we could have decent depth of field scales. This could be a major innovation in control over depth of field and focusing! : )

Mike
In the 80's when first married and not a photographer I had an Olympus XA (I looked this up on the net last night cos my memory has glitches, it is 61 years old after all) I knew zero about cameras but this camera was superb, it was full frame 35mm and fitted in a pocket any pocket, you just took it out slid open the front pointed it at what ever pressed the shutter advanced the film closed the front put it back in your pocket, job done. It cost £80 inc detachtable flash, the battery lasted so long that I had trouble remembering how to change it when it died. why cannot we have a digital version, I cannot remember the designer's name but I believe he designed the Pen? he's still working isn't he? What is frustrating is I can not remember what happened to it. In the back of that drawer with all other junk that people dont throw away I guess. My point is if they could it in 1979 why not now? I'd buy one immediatly maybe two.(35mm and 20mm)
Leigh.

A m4/3 rangefinder camera would be very interesting. If V-C made three or four lenses for it that were fast, smallish and relatively cheap (as they've been able to do in M-mount) I think there'd be good demand for it. Say, a range of lenses equivalent to 28/35/50/75 at f/2 or faster.

If you are waiting for a digital rangefinder from Cosina, don't hold your breath too long. According to a number of sources Mr. Kobayashi has repeatedly expressed his disdain for the digital realm. After watching the excitement over the Bessa 3, I was curious if he was going to pursue that direction further - it doesn't look like it.

The Epson camera - I think was a contract thing, much like the work they do for a number of manufacturers. However you would never not think that camera was anything but a voigtlander with digital guts.

However all of that being the case, if Mr. Kobayashi wants to stay relevant (whatever that means), at some point he is going to have to go digital in some form.

I would love a digital R3A, I am kind of discouraged that it hasn't happened.

Hear, hear!Much as I Love Leicas, it would be nice to see an alternative rangefinder, so that those with less than champagne budgets could enjoy the pleasures of rangefinder photography.

To go further.. noted the comment above about rangefinders being "buggy whips."

I think many of us--and a lot of pros--would like something better than a digital point and shoot. And digital SLRs seem to be getting bigger, heavier,and bulkier. Not exactly the kind of cameras you want to go street shooting with.

So I think there would be a market for a high-quality camera (WITHOUT the Rolls-Royce price of a Leica) that is small, light and discreet. After all, wasn't that the idea behind Otto Barnack's invention? And really, isn't that where digital photography should be going, rather than giving us the battleships that are DSLRs?

Hello Mike,
Could you 'expand' on what you are referencing in the following exchange?
["The real question is why is Cosina sitting on this camera all this time? Is it an agreement with Epson?"

It was an "agreement" with somebody, but not Epson.]
I'm kind of new to things in the Rangefinder Community and would like to understand better some of the 'corporate' realities of the 'Big Players' who supply the market.
Thanks
Richard in Michigan

Mike

Oh, just suck it up and get a Bessa and a film scanner! :)

i know it's heresy around here to say this, but i have no interest in a digital rangefinder. rangefinders have to be bigger than a gf1 for accurate focusing of large aperture lenses. i also often like to focus lenses closer than .7m. finally, i like to see my dof when i compose. i want a modernization of the rangefinder not a replica of an 85 year old design with a digital sensor made with less mechanical precision than the actual 85 year old camera (to keep costs down). i want a gf1 sized body (or smaller) with a high resolution built in evf where a rangefinder viewfinder would be. it can have autofocus to attract more people (but i probably won't use it). it should have a 100% patch as Chez Wimpy suggests and you should be able to move that patch around to any place on the frame you deem fit. finally there should be a focus distance and dof readout at the bottom of the evf along with aperture, shutter speed, iso, exposure compensation, and what have you. image stabilization would be great too. if there's room for an lcd great, if not whatever. same goes for controls beyond what is on a leica m.

the follow up on the Epson RD1 WILL come!
But when?

"Could you 'expand' on what you are referencing"

Richard in Michigan,
I can't. I know a little about the politics of the situation, but I was told off the record.

Mike

"I cannot remember the designer's name but I believe he designed the Pen? he's still working isn't he?"

Leigh,
His name was Yoshihisu Maitani and he died July 30th, 2009.

Here's a page on the design of the XA.

Mike

"According to a number of sources Mr. Kobayashi has repeatedly expressed his disdain for the digital realm."

I would hate to be in the position of having to hew to that creed in this day and age...the market might not be perfect, but it is certainly speaking.

Mike

For me the primary advantage of the rangefinder camera was low-light focusing. Better screens helped make later SLRs better (brighter finder), but the rangefinder still had an advantage.

With my D700, I can AF in conditions I couldn't focus a rangefinder in when my eyes were 30 years younger. Also I can see things on the LCD that it was too dark to see through the viewfinder (for flash work especially). (I went AF in 1994 after a weekend of heavy use of a rental N90 showed me that AF greatly improved my pictures.)

Smaller and lighter than a D700 would be fine, and some fast primes I could afford would be fine (but AF, or they're little use to me; I got the D700 by selling my Nikkor 58mm f/1.2 NOCT, which I couldn't manually focus very well on a DSLR). But in the end I'll take the image quality over the convenience. (Of course at some level, which varies person to person, "inconvenience" becomes "impossible" or at least "I'm not doing that").

Richard in Michigan,

I have a feeling the agreement was with a certain company in Germany.

Thank You for the response to my Inquiry, Mike. re: whomever CV might have an agreement with to NOT produce a dRF.

Honoring the confidences of an off-the-record conversation is, well, quite Honorable and I respect that. In this age of instant blogging, twittering, and forum posting, it seems that even strict non-disclosure contracts carry no meaning anymore. ie: some schmo in Siberia decides to break it and every signatory to the same NDA just links to that post and chimes in with everything the fellow from the frozen hinterland left out.

Quite fun to read their gossips and musings, but that doesn't make their actions 'kosher', so to speak.

Thanks
Richard in Michigan

Thank you for your answer, Mike.

All this time I've been wondering about the reason.

So (I've got to ask, but you don't have to answer), why would Cosina decide to make an M4/3 camera when they agreed not to produce an APS-C version? If executed properly, such a camera would still have the potential of reducing sales of "the real thing". And, if the argument is that now we are living in a different time, with a viable product out of Germany, then why can't Cosina resume production of a more modern R-D1 (APS-C) successor?

Yes, yes, YES !!!

I will have to be the contrarian here. The mechanical RF is just a way to focus a lens. It must be very precise in order to focus a wide variety of lenses, many of which have slightly funky optical properties (front focus, back focus, focus-shift etc.) From my perspective the strength of M-4/3 is precisely that you are seeing through the lens. You get all the strengths in terms of non-retrofocus wide-angle lens design and compact lenses of very high quality, but you negate the one flaw of RF systems: maintaining the marriage of some very precisely machined cams and a fiendishly complicated mechanical-optical linkage system. Currently M-4/3 lets you bypass all of this and just focus the durn things. End of story. My argument: Another mechanical RF camera is not what the world needs; rather, we need a camera with a nice, large chip and TTL focusing that lets us use the great lenses already out there. So: one from the minority bleachers. . .

I just want a manual focus digital camera... or the time and tools to process my own B&W film. If the latter, I keep thinking I need a more up-to-date camera than my early 70s Canon. I know what I really need is more experience and self-confidence and a newer camera isn't going to give me that. But if anyone wants to give me a Bessa with, say, a 50mm Hexanon, I'll gladly pretend I'm a better photographer.

jona,
Heck, you don't need a Bessa and a[n M-]Hexanon. There are plenty of great cameras out there available for a song that will take just as good pictures.

Mike

I use a GF1 (with Pana and Nikon glass ranging from 28 up to 1200 mm 35mm equivalent) and EVF are more then enough for me even for manual focussinga 600 mm and shoting out of hand. As the picture of the rollercoaster shows on my flickr site. It is al just a matter of getting used to and counting your blessings with the EVF (composition lines for instance). Only in the dark things can stil get ugly using an EVF but I don't do the dark, so no problem there!

Greetings, Ed

Mike,

I hope you get your wish as I got mine: http://www.mu-43.com/f38/open-letter-mr-kobayashi-president-cosina-875/

All best,
Amin

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