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Friday, 01 June 2018

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Close, but no cigar, Mike. I love Leica lenses, positively HATE the camera mainly due to the awful film loading regime.
The Zeiss ZM is a very good leica clone, which I own and use with all my good Leica lenses.
I tried Leicas several times, had awful customer service with their repair shop in NJ, and the film loading finished them off-my last one was an M6, and The Zeiss ZM is basically the same camera with better film loading.

People sure like digital cameras that look and feel a bit like a rangefinder though: Fuji X100, XPRO, Panasonic GX-80, Olympus PEN-F ....

Mike is back and swinging hard! Go get 'em, champ! (Now where did I put that bag of popcorn?)

I think your article is spot on, with the usual exceptions. In the last days of film I finally got me an M3 and lost myself in the blaze of history and legend (even learning to photograph without a light meter was a joy). But after all of that went away (I like to question myself all the time) I found out that I really like the rangefinder.

You are absolutely right, is not convenient, and that's why everybody went to the SLRs when they were available. I will never make professional work in a rangefinder, but if I have a digital one it would be my everyday camera (that's my Fuji X100s now), its awkwardness and slowness would suit the spirit in which I do personal work.

years and years ago i went through my leica phase ( M2 / M3 / M4's and thank you but i don't need no stinking light meter blah blah blah / remember Dean Chatterton ? ) anyways i pretty much agree with everything you said about the illuminati red dot thing except when it comes to the Polaroid Land Cameras or in my case modified 110B's cause back in the day of dozens of Polaroid pack and sheet film emulsions they were, and still are, a treat to work with. never mind that most of the people known for their modifications were, and are misanthropic whack jobs, a good modification with a nice lens are a unique and fun tool to work with . .. . oh yeah, they are sometimes referred to as " Texas Leicas ". . . just saying.

IIRC, the Leitz-branded CL wasn't that good a seller, not least b/c it was rather behind technological developments. The Minolta-branded CLE, OTOH, sold better with its advancement in helpful features. It has been sought after years, even decades after it came out, most probably still is.

Some people like Leicas, Mike, SOME people.

The Canadian Magnum photographer Larry Towell is using a Leica.

I reckon the reason Leica survived, and why they're so leiked (sic), when so many other venerable camera companies went to the wall is solely down to HCB.

In any straw poll to determine the world's best photographer, he usually comes top. If not him, who? And his entire working life he was associated with one camera company.

Leica should have a shrine to him somewhere in their HQ. I bet he was number one on their Christmas card list.

[Actually back in the day it was Alfred Eisenstadt who was more closely associated with Leica, and who was most often associated with the idea of world's best photographer. I believe it was he who, Leica gave its camera with serial number 1,000,000—no? I hope someone will correct that if I'm misremembering. But H. C.-B's star is still aloft and Eisie's is somewhat down on the horizon now. --Mike]

You may be right. A lot of people will try a Leica because of the hype and find they don't like it. I use one because I can place focus accurately where I want it, not approximately, or where the autofocus wants it. The bright viewfinder is better than any EVF or SLR period. I shoot a digital Leica, but think the best film camera available today (used, and even including the M7) is the Mamiya 7. Look at current prices, the Mamiya 7 is up there with pristine Rolleiflexes. Perhaps a future classic, wish I hadn't sold mine!

Mike, you nailed it here. In the '70s when I was a newspaper photographer I carried four cameras every day. Leica M2 and M3, Nikon F and Nikkormat Ftn. After I stopped doing newspaper work I kept the M2 (still have it) but worked with SLRs almost exclusively. They were/are just simply much better tools.

Rangefinders are good for some (few) things. Most of the time an SLR, or these days a mirrorless digital camera, is a much better tool for most work.

You're right, of course. The eminently usable Fuji X100 series has nothing more than a cosmetic relationship to manual focus RF cameras. Fuji "fixed" RF cameras, made them relevant to a market long used to autofocus and advanced metering tricks. But they will never have the history or cachet or outright lunacy associated with Leica. Ken Rockwell's snarky essay on The Leica Man from a few years back is, it its way, rather instructive about this: https://kenrockwell.com/leica/leica-man.htm

Yes Mike, it’s true. I have a digital M (had a M6 back in the film days).
I love it and the 2 Summicrons I use.

For important work I use a Nikon D750 as it’s easier and more reliable in getting the shot. The Leica is just for play, which is OK. That’s not to say that ‘play’ doesn’t produce good results. When the Leica delivers the photos look great.

I have been tempted to just go for it and sell the Nikon. Heart says do it, head says No!

Rod

Rangefinder cameras are the photographic equivalent of air-cooled Volkswagens, steam locomotives, dinosaurs and carbon paper -- once useful but now just interesting artifacts.

“The Leica M3 is a legend; the Mamiya 6 is just a camera.”

You may have something there.

Isn’t it strange how hard it is to separate the strengths of the camera from the culture and the myth and all that?

Yup. I'm one who doesn't like rangefinders. But the pull of the red dot is inexorable. My wife bought me a Leica D-lux 4 version of a Panasonic something-or-other digicam, which I'm looking at while sitting at my desk, just so I could say I "have one". (Not fair: It isn't a rangefinder. Most Leicaphiles would insist it isn't even a Leica.) It's value is that it possesses Teutonic mimimalism and has a better lens than my iphone. Maybe. My last photo with it was in 2014, on a trip to Europe. I just couldn't stand to look all American making pictures with an iphone.

My several Soviet copies of Leicas count as rangefinders, and they work, I suppose, but they never motivated me to find an old IIIf or similar in good working condition to do that form factor correctly.

And now it seems to me that (proper) Leicas are expensive mostly to keep the proles from joining the club, sorta the same reason for the pricing of Patek Philippe watches. But I can't say that I wouldn't consider an M10 if I had lottery winnings to spend, but I'm pretty sure I would not take very many pictures with it.

I guess I'm just not cool enough.

Well said. At some point in the '70s, I owned a Minolta-made Leica CL for a minute or two. I think I sold it when a friend asked, "Cute - where does the water come out when you press the button?" On the other hand, I used a Mamiya 6, in several iterations, for years, as well as a Fuji GW690. Great cameras, but not Leicas. Of course, very few people knew what they were.

I love the viewing and focusing experience of a Leica M, combined with superb and compact M lenses. My sole digital cameras, all M models, since transitioning from film in 2009 attest to that. Not even the best EVF in the Leica SL, nor possibly the best optical finder in the Leica S, persuaded me to switch.

And, yes, I used and loved the Mamiya 6 and 7 in my film days. Great lenses there, too. Along with my film Ms.

I've prefered rangefinder cameras from the Super Ikonta B to the Leica to the present day Fuji that I use.

While I mostly agree with you, I sit resolutely on the fence here.
My enthusiasm for film cameras made me become quite friendly with some photo equipment collectors. All of them have Leica M's. When I tell them the mirror and pentaprism system prevailed over rangefinders for being the better one, they go defensive and start saying silly things like "you don't know how to operate a rangefinder camera", or "ha! you don't have experience of rangefinders." (Both of which are false, as I have experience with a rangefinder camera, albeit one that's admittedly not in the same league as the Leicas.)
On the other hand, I'm tired of reading the kind of stupid comments that always pop up when the subject is Leica: 'dentists' camera' is just one of them. The Leica M's are high quality pieces of equipment and have an illustrious tradition; they have carved their place in the history of photography. Think Robert Capa, HC-B and W. Eugene Smith. And Leica make the best lenses on the planet, which is not negligible
In my view, however, the rangefinder system has undeniable inaccuracies that remind me of the Porsche 911 - an ill-handling car made better by adding technology to the overkill, but which fundamental concept was flawed. With a Leica M you can't use lenses longer than 135mm, you can't do macro (but then again, who cares?), focusing can be hit-or-miss and composition is quite problematic, what with those fiddly lines on the viewfinder. And you can't preview depth of field either. You can have all of the above if your camera has a mirror and pentaprism in its innards; that's my concept of 'better.'
As an aside, I believe you have forgotten to mention some extremely popular rangefinder designs, such as the Olympus Trip, Yashica Electro 35 and Minolta 7S. They sold like hot cakes in their time.

Ummmm..... Fuji X-Pro line anyone?

You are right about people liking Leicas. But as someone who loves Leicas and rangefinders, I have to comment. Most rangefinders are terrible and once you use a Leica, you have been spoiled. I used to own a Hasselblad XPan as well as a Fuji 690. The finders in both these cameras are terrible! I sold the 690 almost immediately, and I put up with the XPan for a few years even though I barely used it. I had no problem focusing either camera, but the viewfinder was dark and it took effort seeing your subject, the rangefinder patch, and the frame lines. The Polaroid land cameras are even worse. I own several of them with different finders and the finders are all terrible in different ways. I also own a Fuji GF670, which was Fuji's last film camera (also available as a Voigtlaender Bessa version). It has a beautiful, bright viewfinder with good parallel correction, and people love it. Try to find one, and you will see. Also, the digital Epson rangefinder: people loved that camera. Yes, it was a niche product, but the reason it was discontinued was certainly not that people didn't like it. It had a 1.6 crop factor from full-frame, and the M8 was released with a 1.3 crop, which certainly took away sales.
Good rangefinders are complicated and expensive to make, which makes the cameras somewhat expensive, and Leica users seem to be more open to spending a lot of money for a camera, but if we want to generalize and say that people don't like rangefinders, then let's just say the reason is probably because people don't put enough effort into learning to use them properly and quickly. And I will then take it one step further and say: modern still photographers don't like manual focus.

Guilty!
I have always loved MMT's (metal mechanical things, a play on your MMM cameras). And, what is the highest expression of that in a camera? Well...a Leica of course. Wanted an M for years but could never justify the cost. So finally, nearing retirement sold a bunch of stuff and bought a M4-2 and two CV lenses, a 21 f4 and 35 f2.5.

After several months I had to admit that I'm not a rangefinder sort of guy. Thirty five years of Olympus OM system had spoiled me. And, the doggone M4-2 was bigger than my OM-1 anyway.


Still have the Leica but I don't know why. Really need to sell it before I die. I'll keep my OM gear, especially since I found a OM4Ti at a second hand store for $35 because it was 'jammed'. A couple of batteries put that right.

Always nice to see how different people are! I love rangefinders, because of the bright, clear viewfinder and being able to focus precisely.

I also liked the fact they're smaller and made less noise compared to a SLR. My rangefinder days ended when I considered film to be no longer practical, and switched to m4/3. For the same advantage, bright viewfinder and little noise.

I used a Nikon FM for about 16 years, exclusively and intensively. Before that, I'd used a Canonet and a Contax rangefinder, occasionally.

I tried a Leica M6 after the Nikon and stuck with that for almost 15 years. My "hit rate" with the Leica greatly exceeded that with the Nikon SLR—for the kind of pictures I took, which was of people interacting with each other.

The only reason I moved on from the Leica was the difficulty of getting relatively affordable, quality processing for film, with a reasonable turn-around time.

If we still had first rate, affordable B&W processing easily accessible, I might still be shooting with the Leica M6. I don't know much about other rangefinders. I did like that the Leica had a .85 magnification viewfinder. For me, the bigger, the better.

DSLRs are nice, but I do find modern camera, with numerous parameters and settings available for tweaking, get in the way of focused productivity. I'm still an aperture, shutter speed, focus kind of guy and like to keep the adjustable variables to a minimum. Focusing areas, focusing groups, eye focusing, white balance and all the rest are severe, creativity draining distractions to me.

"I have been tempted to just go for it and sell the Nikon. Heart says do it, head says No!" --Rod

With regard to camera equipment, a friend of mine says, Never sell anything.

Bill

You mis-remembered ;-)but close; Alfred Eisenstadt got 1.000.001, source https://leicarumors.com/2013/09/24/highlights-of-the-24th-westlicht-camera-auction-november-23rd-2013.aspx/
Dr Ludwig Leitz was given the millionth.

I not only don't like rangefinders, I'm not wild about viewfinders, either. I greatly prefer a ground-glass or an LCD, where I can see the whole composition with two eyes instead of just one, and the larger, the better!

You are speaking heresy, you know....

Actually, used Leica Ms—and the Hexar RF—pretty regularly for some years. I was shooting acoustic music acts in a small club and learned the hard way that SLRs didn’t cut it—too noisy. Then I discovered the Leica M...

Admit that since the advent of the mirrorless camera, I don’t use the Leicas that much anymore. Got rid of the digital Ms—didn’t like them all that much, but kept the filmers. Take ‘em out every now and then, when I need a break from digital...

But I should mention one of my most regularly used cameras is my XPro 2–my E-Leica, as I call it...

Leicas are ok, but the Mamiya super 23 with the K or the type 3 back, now that’s a rangefinder camera I’d switch back to film for if I had a darkroom and pan-x were still available.

I agree that traditional rangefinder cameras are cumbersome to use compared to modern technology.

However there was a time when my favorite camera was a rangefinder model, but it wasn't because of the viewfinder experience. Instead, rangefinder technology permitted a much smaller size camera than SLRs. Older readers may remember the Olympus XA sub-compact 35mm rangefinder with its aperture-priority exposure system. It was so small, that I put a patch of Velcro on the back of mine used with a mating Velcro belt loop to carry the camera everywhere.

I could operate the camera while riding a bicycle. Just peel it off, estimate distance with the focus tab position, frame, and shoot. That camera also traveled in a fanny pack jangling together with the emergency tools when I rode off-road motorcycles on long trail rides.

Being a rangefinder made possible a very compact, go-anywhere camera in the case of the XA. It went places my larger SLRs couldn't, and was very discreet.

Rangefinders are an acquired taste, as they lack the convenience of iPhones and the wide shooting specs of DSLRs. I acquired the taste early on with my first serious camera which was an interchangeable lens non-coupled rangefinder called an Agilux (entirely made in London, including the lenses and shutter) in the early 1960's. I couldn't afford any of the new-fangled SLRs.

These days I use a couple of digital Ms (including the Monochrom – quite simply a justification for the continuing existence of Leitz all by itself), and several film rangefinders including Leica, Nikon, Fuji, and Agfa. (The latter two are MF folders. I tried to like Hasselblads a couple of times, but found them to be virtually unusable.)

The rangefinders are so elemental and basic that they 'disappear' in use faster then any other camera type, and simply let me think about the picture. Other types of cameras feel to me like I'm driving a machine, and sometimes I need what the machine can provide, but generally I don't.

They're a Brand- prestigious, expensive... sexy! They're Professional- fast, no nonsense... built to last!

I myself lust for them, though I can't afford them, have NO real need of them. I forget to focus when looking through them (prefocus, and I forget to undo it when necessary), the frame lines distract the hell outta me, and I Hate dealing with parallax.

Recently, I went to a street photography exhibit and every photographer talking in this impromptu circle had one conspicuously dangling from their neck- made me bloody nauseous. And still, I lust for one (and will forever defy its allure)...

Interesting point and I think you're generally right (which is about as right as you can be when generalizing). I liked my compact rangefinders (a Minolta 7sII and a Ricoh 500) better than I liked the Leica (M6 I think ?) that I tried many moons ago ... but I'm not sure that counters your claim, because I never used them on a remotely regular basis, preferring my SLR. So I don't fall into that category of people who say they like rangefinders in the first place - they're fun to play with.
Now the really interesting thing would be to check back in 20 years and see if you can say the same thing about mirrorless and SLR. My gut feeling is that there will be people who continue to prefer SLRs and it won't be because of a particular brand, but time will tell.

The stylish appeal of the Leica is not related to photography. The use of these cameras as fashion statements or lifestyle totems is no different from carrying a Luis Vuitton handbag or wearing an Apple watch. This is a marketing triumph on the part of Leica Camera.

What if the Ford Motor Company had managed the same trick with the Model T automobile? Imagine the sales pitch..."Presenting the new, improved 2018 T Roadster Mark IV... now with electrically actuated top and adjustable passenger cabin heater! Available in limited numbers for only $145,000! Reservations for delivery are now being accepted."

There's no doubt that the rangefinder camera is an outmoded intermediate technology that has long since been surpassed. Some of us grew up using them and still prefer them, so we need to be humored as long as we're around. When we're gone, technological archaeologists will peer through the little windows and scratch their heads in puzzlement.

People who are accustomed to rangefinders seem to prefer the M Leicas over other available choices because they do the best job of integrating the ranging and the finding. A fine point, perhaps, and completely irrelevant to folks who just want to take a picture with as little fuss and bother as possible.

There's certainly no denying that Leicas can feel very satisfying to hold in your hand and many of them make a very nice noise when you push the button. As for high quality photos, almost every modern camera that costs more than a few hundred dollars will do a good job of that.

Wait a second, I already own the perfect rangefinder camera.

No 70mm film at reasonable prices though.

I love rangefinder shooting and can barely stand Leica. The first rangefinder they made that wasn't insufferably buggy and three years behind the state of the art when it came out was the M10, so I'm reasonably happy now, but if Sony did a rangefinder with an M mount, that M10 would be on eBay in a heartbeat.

Shot with the original Monochrom: https://markprobst.exposure.co/lalanne-summer-throwdown-2016

I'm one of those photographers who fell under the allure of the Leica mystic, way back in the early 70's. I had two M-4s and the obligatory 35-50-90mm lenses. (35mm f1.4 Summilux, of course!) This all lasted until the Olympus OM-1 came out. Some tests confirmed I was better getting things in focus with the Olympus. Wasn't long until I had sold the Leicas to pay for the expanding Olympus lineup. Eventually I owned a lot of them, lots of the lenses, too, including the 180mm f2 and the 350mm f2.8. Photographically I never looked back. The romance of the Leica was gone once I had actually tried making pictures with them.

Mazda Miatas are useless.
Too low to be seen, thus dangerous.
Bumpy suspension.
No luggage room
for trips.
Can’t fit more than two.

Everyone should drive SUV’s,
the ONLY sensible vehicle.

Along with many others, I had an M3, because I could, and it was cool. I used it rarely. I also had a Mamiya 7, the "Texas Leica," and loved it because of the lenses, nothing sharper on the planet. If I had been paid per photo made out of focus... because everything looked sharp in the finder, simply forgot to focus, and with the lens cap on, I'd have better gear today. It was an interesting time, in the past.

In the 60s I was a USMC photographer and at one point was assigned a M3 for my use. Never used it. I had my own Nikon F with a 28mm lens and that combination was much easier to use in situations where you were in constant focus mode.

After getting out of the marines my local camera store had a M3 with a 50mm for sale and I bought it. Never used it for street photography. I tried but just couldn’t manage to focus fast enough. Again the Nikon F with the 28m was ideal for street photography. Why? I never really needed to focus the dam thing. Used a f-stop of maybe 11 and everything was sharp. Well almost everything. You still had to pay attention. Result was focus fatigue.

Still used the Leica whenever constant refocus wasn’t needed.

In the mid 90s I destroyed the M3. 10 years later I bought a used Contax G1 with the 45mm. After several shots I was in love with that camera. It became my go to street camera. Why? Auto-focus baby. Auto-focus.

I believe the reason street photography is so popular today is because of Auto-Focus.

Trying to focus on a moving subject in manual mode is pure hell.

Just give me auto-focus baby.

"There's a profound difference between the simple non-reflex, direct-viewing camera (such as a range-finder Leica) and a SLR. With a reflex you tend to make the picture in the camera; with the other, you see the picture and then put a frame around it. The RF camera is also faster, quicker to focus, less noisy, and smaller, but these advantages are much less important than the fundamental difference." - Elliott Erwitt

Now, the part about the RF being quicker to focus and quieter isn't true anymore, but fortunately the quote doesn't stress those attributes.

Many street photographers still use rangefinders (or put optical viewfinders on top of their digital cameras). It's difficult to take candids of strangers in the street with the camera pasted to your face; so instead, you usually compose the picture in your head, lift the camera, and then use the viewfinder lines to quickly confirm your composition.

(This is partially why the Mamiyas 6 and 7 are different from a Leica, because medium format isn't as suited to working quickly as smaller formats. So what few advantages a rangefinder gives are mostly lost on the slower, more deliberative work you would tend to do.)

I‘ve never owned a Leica, but I do own and still use a Mamiya 7ii, a Voigtländer Bessa III and IIIW, and a Zeiss ZM. So yes, I do like rangefinders (as well as view cameras). Especially for the medium format rangefinders, I love the portability and quiet shutter compared to their SLR brethren, with the quality of the large negative.

Sorry, Mike, I love my Leica M6, but not for any of the reasons you've mentioned in this post. I like that my old eyes can so easily nail focus. I like the view of the world through the VF; I feel as if I'm somehow "connected" with the world beyond the VF, not squinting at it though a tunnel! I don't mind the fiddly film loading; actually, after 30 years I'm pretty good and fast at it. The only thing I don't like is how the VF can flare out, if a bright light hits it just right.

As far as liking it because it's a Leica...nah. I tried a friends Bessa R3m for a day, but didn't warm up to it at all.

Right, got it. Using your cold and the mood it puts you in for cover, you make your statement, (in short): RF appeal is actually Leica appeal is snob appeal. I think that might often be true, just as I think snobbery also plays a part in walking around with DSLR's dangling from straps that show their brand name printed large. But who cares? To me, using a Leica RF feels like playing a steelstring acoustic guitar instead of my (also beloved) Telecaster. An acoustic guitar is harder to play, its possibilities are in a way severly limited in comparison to the amplified and sometimes electronically manipulated Tele-sound, but it's got a quality all of its own that inspires in a different way. Sometimes un-plugged albums are appreciated for reasons entirely musical.

I mentioned in a comment on a previous blog post about not getting a Leica M4 some 45 years ago when I was an even more callow youth than I am now.
For the most part I didn't think about it until a few years ago when I read your blog post about using one camera, one lens, and one film for a year and the reason it should be a Leica. I believe that you were aiming this post at young photographers just starting out and I thought that this essay was sound training advise.
One thing that I believe you said and that stuck with me was the idea that there was a virtue in having a camera that you could see outside of the frame lines to see what is moving in and out of the picture. I thought about this when reading your M4 post and wondered if this is a good reason to get a rangefinder camera. And if so, would a Fuji X-Pro or X100 with their hybrid viewing system achieve the same result? For me, having the ability to see outside the frame lines would be the only reason to get a Leica, but of course I believe that everyone should get to make their own choice.

I've had two rangefinder cameras over the years. My first was an Argus C3 that I inherited from my father. He carried it all over Korea during the war. I suspect he chose it for two reasons. First he could afford it and second since he was in a war there was the odd chance that he might have to throw it at someone and he needed something with some heft and sharp edges.
My second was a Nikon S2 which was lovely but less useful than the Pentax H1a I already had so I ended up giving the Nikon to a camera collector friend. I did get a chance to try out a friends Nikon SP and it may have been the best 35mm film rangefinder camera ever.
It was nice enough that Nikon took out the rangefinder system, replaced it with a mirror box and the rest is history.
M series Leicas are superb cameras and beautiful works of art but the Lenny Kravitz MP says a lot about how Leica now sees itself. The camera left me confused and a little sad. No matter, too broke for the L word and don't see that changing anytime soon.

Mike,
I understand your essay, but I am one of many who like rangefinder viewing for lenses in the 28-90mm range. And I love my Leica M2 camera. With aging eyesight, I can align the focus patch in the lowest light, something which is difficult in most reflex cameras. Now if companies still made bright true-prism finders like the superb Nikon F3 or Leicaflex SL, I would be more enthusiastic, but most DSLR finders I have looked through were rather grim. The "photographers" on Dpreview will go ballistic with your essay because they all claim to despise Leica in every form and fashion, although they certainly take time to write derogatory comments about a brand in which they claim to have no interest.

As much as it is possible to generalize about such things, I think some people simply like manual/mechanical things -- mechanical watches, exquisite fountain pens, stick shifts, Leicas, etc. I owned a couple of Leicas and a bunch of lenses, bought after a lifetime of SLRs, and they mystified me. I could work them okay, but I kept thinking, why? As far as I was concerned, the best thing about Leicas was that when I finally sold off the lenses, I made a profit (bought the film Leica and lenses just when digital was exploding, and the Leica prices were way down. Then the M8 came along...) My favorite challenge to Leica street shooters was this -- go stand between your garage and a tree (say) but much closer to one than the other. Then take ten shots, swinging back and forth between shots as quickly as you can, one with a modern DSLR and the other with (say) an M10, and see how quickly you can finish with ten well-focused photos. This, of course, is my news background speaking up, where quickness is essential. If you're a more contemplative photographer...no, a DSLR is still better. IMHO.

A friend of mine took his Porsche Turbo to a racetrack for a measured race against a hand-built street dragster. He beat the dragster by a few thousandths of a second, because, he said the dragster guy had to shift, and every time he shifted he lost about 20 feet to the Porsche...there's no way a manual shift can compare to a modern automatic, but some people still swear by them. I like them myself, but I only like them because I like them, not because they're better. Same, I think, with Leica.

By the way, I still have an Epson R-D1. Somewhere.

Well, count me as a black sheep... I DO like rangefinders. The edge viewfinder is much nicer to use and I love how quiet they are because there is no mirror to swing about. Certainly they have their shortcomings compared to an slr or mirrorless but they are my preferred style of camera for most of my photography.
I know you secretly like them to because you featured my photo of my Nikon S3 many years ago on TOP. ;)

I did consider R-D1, but by that time its 6 Mp crop sensor was out of date and the crop made it unworkable for me (I badly wanted a digital house for my Summicron 50 at that time). I didn't want to get stuck with a 75mm field of view lens for my taste of photography. I also heard that its shutter sound was rather loud, but I had never actually used it.

I've never owned a Leica, but I do own a Mamiya 7, an Ansco Super Speedex, and an Olympus XA. All three are range finder cameras that I love, despite them having range finders. The fact is the range finder makes the camera more compact than an SLR and that allows me to take the camera more places. It also helps that removing the mirror allows for simpler high quality lenses. I do not like range finder focusing, but I love range finders.

I am one of the few outliers. I love RF. XPan II, Olympus XA, M7.

I even bought the RD-1, then traded it in for an M8, then traded that in for an M9.

Lightweight, quick to respond... see outside the frame. Love them.

Thank you! I really tried to like my late father's Voitländer Vitessa, a rangefinder which he bought in Germany in the mid-1950s.

It was a beautiful device - with the folding barn doors, wonderfully made and the lens on it was wicked sharp. But it was a pain to take pictures with and being a mostly left-eye person, it was no fun to hold to my face or try to focus. I felt guilty (we should all *love* well made rangefinders, right?) but I eventually sold it on eBay. I don't miss it, though I miss what it reminds me of.

I think of it now as a vaccine. Having had a rangefinder, I know I don't like them and thus I have no interest in buying another, even a really nice one with a red dot on the front ...

Faux is in, authentic is out. Make it look like a Leica, and fauxtogrphers will stand in line to buy Faux Leica cameras.

Too bad that Kyocera didn't stick around long enough to make a Digital Contax G3. If they had there would be NO Faux Fuji.

Years after the SLR insurgency, rangefinder cameras still thrived, albeit in compact models with permanently attached lenses, well into the 70s.

Leicas themselves still sort of thrived because once you got used to it a rangefinder could focus quicker and more accurately than an SLR, especially with wide angle lenses, and especially in low light.

Leica shutters could be much quieter also, without the mirror clatter. (Hexar RF, with its whiney motor drive, was louder than some of the SLRS of the time- such as the very quiet N80).

With the emergence of AF and AE, Leica M moved into niche territory permanently.

In 1990 you could still get a top of the line M6, black or chrome chrome, with a 5-year no-questions-asked Leica USA warranty for $1800-1900. That Leica would never get obsolete from technology advances.

The turning of a fine camera with Velblen tendencies into a full-blown aspirational product with pricing far outshooting inflation or logical rationality turned it into something totally other.

Funny, never thought I was all that different BUT ...

I love rangefinder cameras. I prefer them to all other kinds.

As I told you the other day I am going to buy a Canon P and a good 50/1.8 and a pile of Kodak Ektar 100. Later I'll a Canon 35 & 100 and be very happy with them.

I agree with most of your thesis, Mike. But only after the first two paragraphs. I don’t think “most people” have ever used, or even touched, a true rangefinder camera. You can probably cut that small number by, what, 90% for people under the age of 55-60. I’m extremely confident of this due largely to all the usual factors, costs and availability being tops.

That stat claim aside, I would say that most people probably wouldn’t like using any rangefinder camera, regardless of brand. As I asserted at the beginning of this latest Leica kerfuffle, there’s a reason these dinosaurs became extinct so quickly. I mean c’mon, who really thinks that Alfred Eisenstaedt would be schlepping Leicas around if he had, say, something like a Sony A9 at-hand?

Do I use my Leica more frequently than when you asked me in person several years ago? Probably not. On annual average, a couple of times each month. There are certain jobs that Leica lenses on a Leica camera are truly better for than any other 35mm-class digital camera, even today. But that’s an aside.

Like so many undertakings photography offers whiffs of romance and adventure. Today no style of camera evokes that better than a Leica, particularly when trying to sell stuff to an older audience. In, say, 20-30 years the icon will probably be a dslr which, by then, few people will ever have owned or used.

An earlier remark about film loading reminded me of this true story about my very first outing with my very first Leica, a brand-new M7. It was a chilly gray November afternoon and I had reached the end of my first roll of film. While sitting on a bench to navigate the Byzantine complexity (to me) of this diaper change a little girl stopped dead in her tracks in front of me, mesmerized by what I was doing. When her mother came to retrieve her the little girl whispered (loudly) to her mother, “Mom, look, that man’s camera broke!”. Her mother replied, “Come on, let’s let him try to fix it in peace.”.

A footnote: Four months later large prints of two frames from that very first roll of Leica-shot film (Agfa Scala!) were hanging in the lobby of a large law firm just 4 blocks from where I was changing that film. The proceeds paid for the camera 6-times over. I was kinda hooked. That’s how it happens.

The Mamiya 6 was 'just a camera'?! It was a classic...Ditto the Epson RD1. I had them both and I'd have them still if my eyesight lent itself anymore to rangefinder focusing...I think one reason people eventually leave rangefinders behind is the wear and tear on our eyes...
best
Ian C

I've liked rangefinders since I was a kid and got to play with my dad's Leica M2 & Retina IIc. Had no idea one was a coveted status symbol and the other just a camera. :) In the early 90s I bought a used Contax IIa & Zeiss 50/1.5 Sonnar at my local camera shop for peanuts and fell hard for that combo. Good thing I'm a 50mm guy as the camera isn't very friendly to other focal lengths. Still have it, though nowadays I'm more likely to use the lens on a Sony A7iii via a double adapter rig, featuring a Techart Pro, that gives me autofocus! My M9, though, is my oldest and in many ways still most favorite digicam. Color me strange…

I will no doubt be hated for saying that I think that most Leicas are owned by two sorts of people- the well heeled ones that want to own the best and the ones that imagine that if they have the "best" camera that they will take better pictures.

Some like them because they are a beautiful piece of engineering. I know someone who has an M8. This was a pitifully bad camera. Having missed out on the short lived Leica offer to replace the sensors with peeling coatings he now owns an expensive paperweight.

Never could afford any Leicas, though lusted after them often; much more for their fineness as machines than their utility for my style of photography. I tend to shoot longer than normal lenses rather than shorter.

I've owned some 1950-60-70's point+shoot rangefinders and some medium format folders with rangefinders, but never ended up shooting with them all that much. I plead guilty to camera collecting. The only rangefinder camera that I used a lot was my Fuji 645 crash bar, and that was only because I loved the lens, the format, and the form factor more than I disliked the finder.

Many times considered the Mamiya 6, but their longer lens focussing was hit-or-miss because of the rangefinder.

Like Porsches.
Same deal with friends - don't discuss it.

I like rangefinders. I have two: the Zeiss Ikon, which I love (that viewfinder is just a wonder of our time) and, after much agonising about frame lines and fical lengths, a Minolta CLE. Both of them are light enough to carry in one hand all day and the CLE (with the CV 40/1.4 which caused the agonising) is so light and small that you barely notice it. I have no time for either the sheer ostentation or the weight of a Leica: I'm 55 and I don't need to continually show off how rich I am in some awful Trump-like way, and my arms hurt enough without carrying around cameras made of brass and steel when aluminium, magnesium, titanium and carbon-fibre have been practical alternatives for most of my lifetime.

(I do have a Leica III, which I even occasionally use, but that's the camera equivalent of a vintage sports car: beautiful but not completely practical nowadays.)

Have you checked the prices of Mamiya 7/ 7ii rangefinders lately? There's serious love around for that camera and its fantastic lenses. Deservedly, given the beautiful 16x20 inch silver prints on my wall from negatives shot in the high Himalayas.

Most people admire Leica, even grudgingly, as the rugged camera used by some of the biggest name photographers in some of the worst situations, like Vietnam. No other 35mm brand shares that reputation. So, not liking Leica is not a viable option, even if they don't understand the advantages of a rangefinder camera. It's like saying Hasselblad is crap.

Most people prefer SLRs over rangefinder cameras because they've been seduced by the experience of looking through the viewfinder of an SLR. It's fun to look at the world through a long lens, or a wide lens. We all go "wow" when we do. For most people, that viewfinder experience is more compelling than the images they make with the camera. So they say they "need" an SLR.

And perhaps they've peeked through a clouded-up rangefinder viewfinder at a junk sale and wondered what all the fuss is about.

Many people like rangefinders and the advantages they provide: smaller, quieter cameras with no bulky mirror box and no vibration-inducing flipping mirror. Able to be held more securely at lower shutter speeds because they sit flush against the face and nestle nicely against the nose rather than pivot stupidly against the point of your nose. Sharper shots.

Yeah, yeah, macro is difficult, long lenses are difficult. OK, so have an SLR for your African safari. Why do people swallow the exceptions as the rule? Perhaps they're overly focused on and enjoy the gadgetry or the seductive viewfinder experience, rather than the photographs.

Most, but not all of us, Mike.

I have several digital Leicas. SL, S and M. I was a bit frustrated (ageing eyes and calibration) and thought I'd get rid of my M kit and replace my M10 with a digital CL. Same dot. Great lenses. The new CL is a really nice little Leica.

But it mostly sits at home while the M10 still follows me around. What I discovered is that I actually like rangefinders. I like being able to see outside the frame. I like the precision of manual focus using the patch and I like not looking through a wide open lens when I compose.

So it's apparent that I do like Leicas AND I like rangefinders. In my case they're not mutually exclusive.

I would also offer the thought that the RF was mostly replaced by the SLR because of the advent of the zoom lens, cost of manufacture and complexity of design and calibration, not the RF concept itself. Also some people have less than perfect eyesight. Not ideal for RF photography.

Gordon

Surely one of the attractions of the X-Pro series (and also the X100 series), is that you get the best of both worlds. OVF when it suits, EVF when it doesn't. I just wish the X-Pro2 was a little smaller. The cult of the red dot holds no appeal for me, but I wish that Fuji would release a monochrome version of one of their cameras.

I have owned (and still have) many film cameras well before I transitioned to digital. And FWIW, I spent a lot of my youth searching for the "best" film camera to suit my personal shooting style. Tried Nikon, Hasselblad, Pentax, Leica, Mamiya, ,Contax, Konica, and on and on. So, where did I end up? The Mamiya 6 was in my mind a cross between a Hasselblad and a Leica M3 on steroids. Stunning output. Easy to take with me. And it is still is my personally favorite film camera, and the only one that still gets used with any regularity.

All that said, I also learned something along this pathway to enlightenment. I learned that rangefinder cameras are much easier to manually focus than SLRs when using wide to moderate focal length lenses, but are excruciatilngly difficult to manually focus with telephoto lenses (which is why few rangefinder camera manufactures ever made lenses greater than about 90mm (well maybe 135) effective focal length to fit a 35mm rangefinder body). Tele lenses get really really hard to critically focus with a manually sighted rangefinder eyepiece.

So, my bottom line from the film era: If I want to shoot with wide angle lenses and have no autofocus technology to assist, rangefinder cameras really rock. If I want to go moderate (e.g. "portrait" tele) lens, SLRs rule the day. I know few photographers that practice street photography with tele lenses, hence Leicas and their 35mm format counterparts fill that genre really well, but my Mamiya 6 cameras do it even better... Collapsible bellows, a mere 3 available but incredibly superb lenses, and medium format film made the Mamiya 6 perfectly suited to my needs as the ideal travel and street photography camera.

My runner up as favorite rangefinder was a Leica M3 double stroke, but I have to admit it wasn't because of its film output quality. It was the whole Leica Gestalt thing going on. It just felt so sweet to hold and use. That said, I sold the Leica, but I have kept my two Mamiya M6's and still use them.

Well, some of us Do like rangefinders. In the late 60's I got a used Kodak Signet 35 as my first camera, then a cheap Praktica SLR. I went back to RFs in the form of an Olympus RD.

I eventually went the SLR and DSLR route but I think my early use of a RF "imprinted" me or something.

I owned an Fuji x-pro1 and sold it for an x-pro2. I've only held a Leica in my hands once but I do lust after one. On the other hand, if Cosina made a digital RF I'd be all over that and forget the Leica.

Your post is an interesting follow-on to a recent comment that revealed a desirable feature that I never knew existed, in which Jim Richardson wrote about the Olympus Pro Capture mode: "This is the thing that uses a buffer and allows you to take pictures nearly a full second before you press the shutter" (just like a cell phone!)

That brings to mind the reason, as I recall, that many middle aged professionals (I'm thinking dentists here, not professional photographers) claimed was the pre-eminent reason that they chose to purchase their new Leica: to unobtrusively capture the "decisive moment." It seems that Oly and other makers have outdone Leica now.

I'm not dissing either the "decisive moment" or middle aged professionals; I began encountering "decisive moment" aficionados on various rangefinder-related sites when wife and I finally paid off our medical school loans and I was able to purchase a whisper-quiet Mamiya 7 (with the ca. 8 millisecond shutter lag that never mattered in my tripod-mounted landscape pursuits.) However, I wonder if the various advantages of newer cameras similar to my Sony (which offers a silent shutter and a flip-up screen for waist-level viewing that might be even more discreet than an eye-level Leica) might out-Leica Leica if a Pro Capture mode was included--and I can mount any Leica lenses that I can afford, too. But my Sony is not rangefinder, and it's not a Leica.

You keep writing about rangefinders, and Leicas, and now I want to go get another one. Dammit. I must admit that I understood the concept from the first time I tried one, and although a majority of my small-format work over the decades has been with SLRs, the Leica M remains my favorite camera. It's too bad that my last one is beyond repair- but it's my own fault, so not complaining. (Anyone want to buy a 1938 National Duolian?)

I like old Leicas, from back in the day when they were designed as tool to do a job other cameras e.g. SpeedGraphics or TLRs were less well-suited for; M3s and M4s. I view them the same way as I view vintage watches, cool for a device that was designed to do a specific job, like the original Rolex 5510 "Big Crown" Sub, Daytona chronograph or even cooler, the Tudor Sub with "snowflake" hands per the specification from the French Maritime Nationale.

The problem for me with respect to Leica and Rolex is they went from being practical tools to luxury items. And in so doing, they lost the beauty that was the result of their function over form design and as a result, became absolutely silly with respect to luxury, limited editions e.g. the pink Go Kitty Leicas, gilt and bejeweled Rolex Daytonas, or those ridiculous digital Leicas e.g. the pre-brassed Lenny Kravitz "Correspondent Edition" M-P or worse yet, the $15,000 M-P "Grip" covered in ping pong paddle rubber. Good lord.....

With respect to photography, I still really, really enjoy photographing using a single lens, and a window-finder with frame lines. Its good discipline, and photographic discipline is increasingly rare in these days of 693 phase-detect AF points, IBIS and "eye focus". And I still like a good, simple, mechanical tool watch.

Give me an X100F and a Sinn 556A, and color me gone...

Let me see, I've got an M6 0.85, M4-p. M240.
And Canon P, Canon7, Minolta CLE.
And Fuji GSW690III, Linhof 5x4 super technika, Koni Omega 6x7.
Maybe I'm the exception that proves the rule, just love rangefinders of any ilk.
I want to look directly at the subject, not on a GG screen and certainly not on a mini tv set.

Most people don't like view cameras, either...

Reading this, I couldn't help but think that the Leica may be the air cooled Porsche of the camera world: a trendy status symbol that is rarely used and perhaps over hyped. Nonetheless, I hope to try one someday. I truly enjoy simpler cameras, and even on my digital cameras I use manual focus lenses more often than not. I find that focusing for myself, and determining my own exposure, contributes to a more immersive process, and brings me more joy from my photography.

I'm not so sure people don't like rangefinders. I think rangefinders are expensive to mass produce to the standards needed for serious photography, and difficult for the casual shooter to use with confidence, all of which results in lower consumer uptake and lower margins. There's no money in it.

An SLR, on the other hand, can be used with confidence right out of the box (even if it's a false confidence), and thus bought in huge numbers, and thus sold at a healthy profit. The SLR is serious photography for the common man. The rangefinder was never that, because the price for the decent models was too high, and their learning curve too long.

Leica Camera has historically been a small company dedicated to production of precision instruments for the serious pursuit of photography, so for them economies of scale has always been an alien concept. But therein lies the charm.

If ever there was a technology meant for mass production and mass adoption, it's digital. Since Leica's sole expertise and focus lay in the manufacture of precision analog instruments, the digital revolution in photography left them hidebound. They insisted for as long as they could that a digital version of their rangefinder was simply impossible to make, and they clung to this claim for dear life.

It was then left to Epson, of all companies, to introduce a digital rangefinder, despite this being decidedly outside their corporate wheelhouse. They did this, as we all know, by partnering with Cosina to produce the R-D1. Epson insisted several times that they weren't interested in getting into the camera business, so I think the R-D1 was very much a one-off, a proof of concept intended primarily for Leica, to demonstrate that a digital rangefinder could in fact be made, and sold at a profit. I have no idea why Epson took this upon themselves, but probably it was because they could, and because some influential executives at Epson happened to be Leica fans. That's what I'm guessing.

Some time after the R-D1 appeared, Leica produced their M8. Until I read your review of it just now, I'd forgotten what an abomination this camera was. Any other smallish company might have gone under by producing such a product, especially in the way they did. (Remember the IR contamination issue, and how all the advance reviews made no mention of it? It was left to customers to discover, and only then a solution devised -- screw-on filters!) But for Leica and its enthusiasts, even with all its fatal flaws the M8 represented a real breakthrough, hope at last that the company and its products had a future.

That future, it turned out, lay not in mass production, which is still alien to Leica, but in going further into the prestige niche. As the prices increase so too do purchases purely for purposes of prestige, and so too, presumably, do profits. To hear Leica tell it, their sales are higher than ever, and their financials never healthier. From a business standpoint, then, this approach is a brilliant one, and probably the only avenue open to it for survival in today's world. Prosper as you can or die as you must.

What gets left behind, though, are those photographers who are willing to pay a premium price -- and able to stretch to it -- in exchange for a superior instrument. I'll buy gold if gold is the best metal for the job, but I have no need of precious gems.

So the rangefinder has been saved, but only by taking it somewhat far afield of pure photographic pursuit. Is the SLR really superior, though? The SLR is still with us only as a legacy of film days. Given that the mirror box has no prestige niche to seek refuge in, the SLR may disappear before the rangefinder does.

My first rangefinder was a FED-5, which before I broke the shutter by changing speed when I shouldn't have taught me that I wanted a better one, so I bought a Voigtlander R3A, and I really loved that camera to the point where if I could only own one camera that'd be it.
Got a few simpler ones, a Kodak Retina IIIc with its ridiculously sharp lens, and a Minolta Hi-Matic F which is super-tiny when I want to travel really light.

Recently though I did treat myself to a Leica IIIf - the arcane film loading system turned out not to be as difficult as I imagined - and when the 5cm Elmar is retracted it'll even fit in a pocket (though not for long as it is rather solidly made and heavy).

I never had one, but I did always like the idea of the Epson RD-1 and had Cosina ever released an updated version with full-frame sensor and modern electronics I'd buy one in a trice. Those analogue gauges for battery life and memory card space! Having to 'wind it on' after each shot!
Those things are still going for crazy money on the 'bay, more than Leica M8s!

Disagree with you Mike; you are all wet with this one. You have been on this saw for quite a while. Apparently your cold brought this out again for another whack. You seem to have deep seated Leica phobia.

Your sweeping statements are just that, sweeping generalizations to support your bias. Many people, myself included, use and like rangefinders. I have had. Mamiya 6, still have (and use) a Mamiya 7, and Leica M7 for over 20 years and now also use Leica M10.

Rangefinders are small, capable, unobtrusive (relatively -the Mamiya 7 is only small compared to a Mamiya Rz67 or Bronica GS-1). You can travel with a camera and few lenses with less bother - even today's digital fuji system has larger lenses than a Leica M lens lineup.

The fact that they (Leica M's) happen to be solid, obviously well constructed, and serve a small market doesn't mean that all photographers who use them simply want them for the nameplate.

Maybe the camera fits them well (something else you have opined on for years in these pages.). How would you react if they were half the price? Maybe this is more about Leica envy than Leica user bashing.

If they were half the price, Leica would probably be out of business. Their navigation of where they were in 2004 to today is in and of itself a story in shrewd risk taking and execution.

We are all better off today with Leica as an option in the diverse choices we have as photographers.

[Evidently you hadn't seen the post after this one when you made these accusations, George.... This post merely reflects my own observations of others over the years. It doesn't reflect my own preferences, or yours. --Mike]

I want to add one more reason to why people might not like rangefinders.

Most people are lazy.

Most people just don't want to learn the skill set an rangefinder demands. It takes time to master a rangefinder and practice to keep those skill honed. With AF you point the little black box at something and push a button. With an RF you need to develop muscle memory. Which way to turn the focus. Remembering the tab position for prefocusing. Counting click stops on the lens. Accounting mentally for parralax error. Focus and recompose.

I brag that I can follow a bride walking down the aisle with a 90mm Summicron wide open and I certainly USED to be able to do that. Now I shoot AF at weddings I'd need a week of practice to re-learn those skills.

People don't want to learn stuff. People want to be able to do stuff. RF photography requires a learning curve most won't take. If more modern photographers were forced to use a rangefinder for a month I think many of them would come to appreciate it and enjoy it. After 10 minutes in a store it's just an annoyance.

Gordon

Similarly, a lot of people like Ferraris, but not so much the actual experience of driving them. And of those who do drive them, not very many have the skill needed to realize more than a fraction of their performance potential.

I believe there's a word that describes these sort of products. It's right there on the tip of my tongue... ;^)

Don't knock the R-D1, it had an amazing lifespan for a Digital body.

introduced in 2003, refreshed in 2006 as the R-D1s and then updated in 2009 as the R-D1x, it wouldn't be finally discontinued until 2014, an amazing 11 year run (all 3 versions were fundamentally the same camera, built around Sony's once-ubiquitous 6mp CCD sensor, and the discontinuing of that sensor is probably what finally killed off the R-D1x).

Fuji's of course also made a mint with their RF-like bodies, the X100 series continues to be very popular, and the X-Pro's and X-E's sell well (although the X-T series definitely seems to own the core of Fuji's market.

[That's maybe a tad disingenuous about the Cosina/Epson, because shortly after the M8 was introduced in 2006 the RD-1 was withdrawn from most of the world. The later iterations were Japan-only. --Mike]

Just to expand a bit on my own post, in ten or fifteen years it's quite likely there won't be any cameras with a mirror box available to buy new. But there will almost surely still be Leica rangefinders -- in a digital version, of course, but also a film one. Why wouldn't there be? Fifteen years from now a brand new Leica MP or M-A will be even more of a status symbol than it is today.

If no one makes film anymore, Leica will offer it under their own brand, at least in black and white. Black and white film isn't that expensive to make, and the chemistry needed to process it is simple and cheap.

Just imagine:

"Leica Pan 100 and 100RSD [the latter version comes pre-fogged], available in 36-exposure rolls for only $79.95. Includes processing at our lab in Wetzlar. Or pay only $49.95 and process it yourself using our Leica Nooky Home Developing Kit, which includes everything you need for only $599.95 (chemistry sold separately)."

If the Leica badge is all that people want, then one should see Leica selling way more of their other “pratical” cameras. Yet rangefinders, not compact cameras or their mirrorless, are the bulk of Leica sales. So that small niche clearly wants rengefinders. Perhaps a Leica Rangefinder, but a rangefinder nevertheless. I for one, still dream about an updated RD1 with current sensor and electronics technologies. But until that happens, I still getting great joy of my M8 and MM classic.

Excellent post, Mike, and you get the sense of how a whole lot of people think about rangefinders and their primus inter pares, the Leica, just right, in combination with your additional thoughts in the other post.

Not everybody of course, but many clearly feel this way and it is all reasonable. Love of the idea of a rangefinder need not force anyone to use one a lot who doesn't enjoy doing so. No worries.

I have stuck with interchangeable lens SLRs because they suit my needs and work better than rangefinders I have tried. Maybe if I had had the cash for a Leica back in the day I might have gotten hooked but I didn't, so that never happened. Getting good results from the type of camera I did get hooked on has given me a life and projects I care about pursuing - yes, still using classic film era lenses on a modern digital Pentax, true for me for a few years now, and that is the holy grail as far as I am concerned.

Jeff Clevenger

@Doug Thacker

Leica developing tank? That's the TAHOO

https://rondinax.wordpress.com/2014/09/17/the-leitz-correx-daylight-developing-tank-from-1938/

The NOOKY is for closeups

People today don't like rangefinder cameras because with them, you're not staring at a screen. And staring at a screen...any screen... that's the best and most important thing anyone can do, isn't it?

Never a truer word spoken... I went through something similar with Bessas and concluded: nope, I really don't like rangefinders. (Love the form factor though - perfected in the current generation of mirrorless digital cameras.)

Leica M series and Zeiss ZM rangefinders are not so much like Model Ts. These modern rangefinders are more like post-war convertibles whose tops require the driver to physically lower them as needed. It may take more effort, but you still get to take in just as much scenery

If that comparison does not work, I can offer a less poetic rationale for rangefinders.

Over the last 10 years, the large format adage “If it’s more than 500 feet … “ (or is it yards?) “ … from the road, it isn’t photogenic.” has become my anti-SLR mantra. I prefer to walk around with one of my Zeiss ZM, Contax G2, or Fuji X100s rangefinders because they and their lenses are significantly smaller and lighter than any of my SLR rigs, digital or film. However, if I want to make macro pictures or shoot with long lenses, I use an SLR with a tripod – often transported by car.

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