« Whoops, Wrong Camera | Main | The Pros and Cons of True Rangefinder Viewfinding »

Friday, 01 June 2018


You know, it’s funny: after the last piece, most people would think that *you* didn’t like rangefinders! But that probably did not occur to you. To your precise mind you were writing about how *most* people feel about rangefinders, not yourself. If most writers tend to only write about their own feelings, that’s surely their own problem, no? And why would anybody jump to the conclusion that you should happen to agree with what most people feel? Absurd. :-)

(I’m not kidding, I do find this amusing.)

Man, did I want something like that Minolta!! But I was a mere high school student.

What about the Zeiss Ikon ZM? I bought mine after your review.


Panasonic GX9 with the 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens....that looks like it could be a fun set up.

(I agree on 40mm. I liked to use a 28mm lens with my Nikon DX cameras for a 42mm-e focal length, and I kind of miss it)

Just trashed my (new) Zeis Ikon, as for the third time it is DOA. Not even being used. Also, while ostensibly a Leica beater, the rangefinder is misaligned. That said, I do like the idea of an open viewfinder, that lets you concentrate on the scene, not just the plane of focus. But don’t think the rangefinder is a valid way to focus. Now just got to find a camera for the lenses.

Come on , Mike, your breaking my heart. I've tried several times to get to grips with RF cameras (Leica IIIg, Canon VI-t, Leica M9)but the only time things worked out was when I got a Hasselblad X-Pan. That camera saved my photographic life. I was in the dumps, and lost my vision, and hardly wanted to pick up a camera. But I was saved. I can't see why Fuji won't build a digital version (low sales?) but they would just muck up its beauty with needless features, so...

The rangefinder I use most now is my Kodak Retina IIIc. It's not the easiest thing to fiddle with, but it folds into a very small, but not light weight, package. And the 50mm f2.0 lens is superb. Yes, it's no Leica, but, as a cheapskate photographer it works well for me.

And, as my eyesight is not what it used to be, manual focusing a rangefinder is a bit easier for me than focusing on a ground glass, and I don't mind the lack of dof preview at all.

For more "serious" film photography I pull out my Texas Leica's (Fuji GW690 and GWS690 cameras. I would have loved a TLR or Hasselblad, but I find them very hard to focus. And I've found the medium format really needs a tripod to get the most out of them. So, not for casual use.

I think for photographers who can visualize the image without the viewfinder, rangefinder cameras can be a great tool and worth trying out if one likes to shoot film. I do have a DSLR (and iPhone) when I want auto focus, and avoid a trip to the laboratory and scanning. But, you've inspired me today Mike. I think I'll take the ol' Kodak Retina out for a spin!

And, sometimes, slow focus works to one's advantage....

3. Fujifilm GSW690iii. What a lens! Sharp, medium high contrast, rich colors, smooth bokeh, flare resistant, and no distortion. Works great for street scenes and landscapes (unless you want to use ND grads or a polarizer, haha). And they're cheaper than ever on the used market. The price has dropped about 1/3 from highs of about $1400 to about $900.

2. Leica MP. An M with a tabbed lens is the best way to learn how to scale focus by feel, a very useful technique that nobody on Youtube or the blogosphere seems to remember. All they talk about is zone and hyperfocal focusing, and they're missing out on such a key piece of a Leica's functionality. It's a shame that the only digital camera that lets you focus this way is the Leica Q. (Aside from the digital M's.) If exposure has already been set, all you have to do is raise the camera to your eye and snap. I no longer shoot enough 35mm to justify keeping it, but it's so pretty I can't let it go...at least not until Fujifilm makes an X-E4 with IBIS.

1. Fujifilm GS645. I swear I'm not a Fuji fanboy. I'm just a cheapskate and their old rangefinders are such good deals these days. It's as good as new after I replaced the bellows with one made in China. The lens is pretty sharp at f/3.5, and it has smooth bokeh and pleasant contrast. I appreciate the convenience of the built-in metering as I was also considering a post-war Zeiss Super Ikonta 532/16. Don't listen to the medium format snobs: 6x4.5 is worth shooting. This camera is so compact I can throw it in my regular shoulder bag (basically a canvas grocery bag) and take it with me everywhere.

I bought a fixed lens compact Olympus 35 RC about 20 years ago, kept it for about a year, shot one roll of film with it. It was small, light, felt good, but I never bonded with the rangefinder thing.

I gave up waiting for Nikon to do something worthwhile in mirrorless and bought a Fuji X-E3, with the 23/2 Fujicron and also a 27/2.8.
With the 27 fitted I can put it in a jacket pocket. So far it seems like a good thing and I'm looking forward to getting to know it better.

With all this rangefinder love, I'm surprised you don't own an X100F.

[I own an X100S. And, apropos my "Whoops" post, I SHOULD PUT IT IN THE CAR!!! :-) --Mike]

I have both the 40 and the 90 m-Rokkors to use with my Sony A7ii as "EDC" - every day carry. It's a shame the 28 that Minolta made had serious issues, the infamous "white spots". I agree the 40mm FL is a nice length for "street" and general use, and it's sharp!

I do hope Fuji goes ahead and makes a digital Texas RF, as rumored.

Is it really fair to say that the three digicams you mention are better than rangefinders? It seems to me that they are potentially better at other things, but much worse at the things that rangefinders do well.

Do they have viewfinders that show the whole scene, and some of its surroundings, in real time? Do they keep displaying the scene as they shoot, so that you can tell right away if someone blinked? Do they let you see your composition without depth-of-field artifacts, so that you can see how your subjects will stack, and thus make stronger images?

Granted, not every photographer likes rangefinder cameras. Telling those that do like them to get an EVF camera instead is just absurd.

[Where did I tell people who like rangefinders to get a camera with an EVF instead? I didn't say that. --Mike]

Mike - and speaking of Leicas, did you catch this?


When it was time for me to go off to college in the fall of 1972 and I could no longer commandeer my father's Miranda Sensorex SLR, I bought a used Yashica rangefinder -- probably the popular Electro 35 but it's long gone so I'll never know for sure.

But that camera taught me how wonderful split-screen focusing can be. In fact I've always preferred that to other focusing methods -- except autofocus.

A few years later I traded it in for my first SLR, the Nikon FM, but I'll always fondly remember the rangefinder.

My favorite rangefinder, was and is the Plaubel Makina 67. A folding 120/220 camera with a Nikkor 80mm lens. I still own it but my film days are long over.
My second favorite was and is my Linhof Technika with a Nikkor 135 lens, useful handheld with 4x5 sheet film. This is packed away with holders and other paraphernalia.
Third was (not sure where it is) my first 35mm camera a Yashica Lynx 1000, a step up from my Instamatic 300 that I photographed the New York Worlds Fair over 50 years ago.

But if you only have one of them with you, that’s the best (meaning better than none).

“My Three Favorite Rangefinders” .... sounds like a variant of an old American tv series...for shutterbugs.

Call me weird, but there are times when the non-accuracy of rangefinder viewfinders is helpful to me, and those new EVFs are too good to be helpful in that way.

Don't get me wrong, I often want and need to get composition and perspective just so, and only TTL viewing will do, but sometimes I need to be more focused on activity, context, ambiance, mood and fleeting moments, and (speaking strictly for myself here, of course) I'm much better off relying on experience and instinct--or dumb luck--about how the lens sees; it's a faster and less distracting way to work in that mode.

That mode seems to engage a visualizing process that TTL viewing represses somewhat. It's similar to how shooting film forces me to use more parts of my brain to imagine the result--not so much literally, as in "seeing" the finished print in my head, but more like sensing when things are going to work or not, or could work especially well.

Of course, that mechanism isn't infallible--not by a long shot!

I suppose this also addresses another recent post, because depending on which mode I want to shoot in, I can very easily not have the "best" camera with me.

One thing you may have overlooked in your Leica/not-Leica rant is the age factor. (Yes, that again!) Around when I first got really serious about picture-making, my favorite camera for a time was an Olympus XA. It went everywhere with me. I even practiced how to operate it one-handed--from pocket to shot and back to pocket. But my eyes were sharper then and my fingers more nimble. Today, I find the tiny form factor and teensy, fussy finder too frustrating to use.

I shot from the hip a lot more then, too, but why that is I suspect is a chicken vs. egg thing.

In the late Eighties visiting Singapore I saw a Plaubel Makina 670 so cheap I couldn’t refuse the offer. It was the second version with the fast ‘normal’ 80mm f/2.8 Nikkor lens. A new generation of social photographers here in Europe all used one. Martin Parr, Paul Graham, Chris Killip, Carl de Keyzer and Anna Fox to name a few. Unfortunately mine broke down after 400 frames and was sent back to Plaubel in Germany for repair. Also I could not get used to seeing part of the lens in the viewfinder and thus blocking the image all the time. Still not a bad bargain, because I sold it with a big fat profit despite the repair.

Recently I sold my other 6 X 7 rangefinder, the Mamiya 7 to a young woman who is ten times better with the thing than me. Makes me happy. The Mamiya 7 lenses are far superior to that Nikkors on the Plaubels. But for me all rangefinders, especially the larger format ones, don’t get close enough. Of all the advantages of the digital rangefinder lookalikes have over the originals for me being able to get close is the most significant.

How goofy and rangefinder-brained am I?

When my Leica was getting its sensor replaced, I shot with a Pen-F and the 17/1.8 lens, but manually focused the lens most of the time.

Des this officially make me an old dog?

PS: The Pen-F is an objectively awesome camera and I use it for indoor, low-light work more than the Leica now.

I only have one genuine rangefinder, Mike... a 1967 M4. And while rangefinder focusing never bothered me (and still doesn't), I never really felt the beyond-the-sightlines view was necessarily superior to a traditional OVF. This was in the film-and-manual-focus days. The split screen in my 1975 Minolta SRT-200 satisfied me very much.

Today, I personally find the latest EVFs superior to both rangefinders and OVFs. I currently own a number of rangefinder-style digital cameras including the original Fuji X100, a Fuji X-Pro 2, a Panasonic GX8 and, of course, a silver Pen F. Somewhere down the road an X-E3 or an X100F could be waiting. But only if I sell one of the other cameras first.

Texas Leica: GW690 or GSW690. I had the GSW690II, loved that camera! Only recently sold it to help finance my 645Z. I miss it. But the prices finally started falling after holding steady for years---for 15 years it amazingly defied depreciation. I let it go figuring one day I could pick another one up for less than I got in trade-in, so it was time. It had been gathering dust for a few years in truth.

I've owned four brands of rangefinders and enjoyed them all. Contax G1 and G2, Leica M3, Zeiss Ikon (the modern one that takes ZM lenses) and Plaubel Makinas (the 670 and W67).

I still have and use them all except the Contax cameras, which I sold due to electronic gremlins. It was hard. They were the best 35mm cameras you could get at the time no matter what anyone says.

I struggled with the M3 for a few years but the truth is I need aperture priority, and that's that. It sits in a drawer and I need to sell it.

The Ikon is the best 35mm camera for me, with an accurate shutter, aperture priority and a wonderful, large, bright viewfinder. It's my note-taker. Whenever I hand that camera to a non-camera person and they look through it, a positive expletive always follows. It's a surprising and beautiful way to see the world.

And the Makinas probably get the most use. They collapse for easy carry in town, make sharp 6x7 images, and have that Weird Harold focus system that I enjoy (it focuses on top, around the shutter release.) The Nikkor lenses are tops.

I’ve had several Leicas, Contax G1, and a Mamiya 6. I loved operating the M6, it was a complete joy to use. I made several of my favorite images with it. I’ve consistently had one problem with RFs and it pains me because I love them: I’m constantly running afoul of the minimum focusing distance. Every third image would either be out of focus because I was too close or you’d see me performing contorsionist movements to get just far enough away. The final straw came the afternoon I took my wife and mother out for a Mothers Day lunch and I had to stand up and back away from the table every few minutes to take a picture across the table. With great sadness I sold it on. Maybe someday I’ll rebuy and have another go but it’s not the right tool for what I’m doing now.

In addition to my M4 fetish object, I have two Canon P bodies, one of which I had tuned up by Mark Hama; it has the most delicious shutter release I've ever experienced. I haven't used it in a few years, but I'm far more likely to use it in the future than the M4. It's a delightful camera to handle, the couple of vintage Canon lens I have make wonderfully soft portraits and its conventional film loading is enough reason alone to leave the M4 on the shelf.

I stopped using my CLE about 10 years ago when I started a slow transition to digital imaging. The question became what would be a good digital replacement for it?

I find the often maligned Nikon V1 fits the bill nicely. It is compact, unobtrusive and makes decent images. I also have a Lumix GX7 but the smaller V1 is with me almost all the time.

Another vote for the Plaubel Makina 670 [the second version with 120/220 and "more reliable" advance mechanism]. The camera was junk, in that it was constantly having to be fixed, but the 80mm Nikkor f2.8 lens was wonderful, and it was nearly pocketable [though it made my sport jacket sag on one side]. Sometimes I still miss it, think about finding another one, then remind myself about the semi-annual repair bills. I guess I miss it the same way I miss a 1967 Fiat 1500 I once owned [wonderful to drive, constantly broken].

My first 35mm camera was a Petri Hi-Lite rangefinder with a 45mm f2.8 lens and a max ASA of 400. I mostly used Kodachrome 25 with it and the slides it produced were pretty nice. But it broke (I still have it tucked away in a cabinet downstairs), got fixed and it broke again. The next 35mm camera was a Exacta that I shot with for a few years. After getting out of High School I opted for 35mm SLR's but picked up an Olympus XA along the way.
I have not shot a frame with a rangefinder since the early 80's, but I still have them and I just might dig out the Olympus and abuse a roll of Ektachrome I have had in the fridge since 2005.

In reverse order:

3. Olympus XA. My first rangefinder. Bought in Africa as an alternative to my honkin' great SLR. Love at first exposure. That one got stolen but I still have one. This camera started my path with not only rangefinders but small cameras. I'd been chasing the bigger is better lie for years before that.

2. M10. The PenF, XPro2 and CL are all easier to shoot with and have more features and close enough IQ. So why can't I sell the M10?

1. XPan. Swoon. I'm still in love with this camera even though I don't own it anymore. I ate a lot of 2 minute noodles to save for it and it was my constant companion for years. Sold at the start of the digital revolution but still missed.

I had a Mamyia 7II but never fell in love with it. I have as close as is available in digital (X1D) and adore that. Not sure why I didn't like the 7II. Bonding is a strange thing.


I had Minolta CLE for a while. It was a lovely camera, but had issues with metering that was randomly way off, so I sold it. Thinking back I should have got it repaired, because I really enjoyed using it, unlike the M3 I still have, but have never really warmed to.

I was very much looking forward to GX9, but was disappointed with the specs. Maybe I should go and try it out. Specs are not everything if the camera feels right.

The kalart rangefinder on the Speed Graphic could be fitted with a lamp that beamed a light thru the rangefinder. When the two spots of light were brought together on a subject, it was then in focus. The lamp was plugged into the flash gun on the camera. This worked particularly well under poor lighting conditions.

I have always loved rangefinders as an Olympus (35 ED?) was my first decent camera after an Instamatic-type. I was about 12 and found that the Instamatic was not sufficient to take the quality of photos I needed to enter my models in Model Car magazine contests. My dad's TLR was not exactly useful either. So after a while saving grass-mowing and hauling away garbage money I had one.

The Olympus wasn't all that great for taking the detailed shots of the engine and so on that I needed either. But it sure was fun to move the focus and watch those little yellowish squares move into perfect alignment. Just the memory of that camera makes me want to shoot with a real rangefinder again. The feel of it, the smell of the fresh film being opened, knowing that I had a real camera when none of my friends even had a camera of any type.

I replaced it with an Olympus OM-1 a few years later and moved on to wildlife and nature photography (frogs, toads, far away squirrels, and flashes of fleeing whitetails.) Later I would occasionally pick up another Oly RF of some type, but none of them seemed to last a long time.

But the next ox that needs to be gored is this black cameras are less inconspicuous idea. (Who began promoting that, the marketing departments of camera companies?) Unless we are comparing it against a flashing neon pink camera, I assert that is 99.7% nonsense.

My first camera was a Ricoh 500G. I aspired to a Leica M but couldn't afford it. Now that I can afford it I can't justify it.

I thought I wanted a rangefinder camera until I tried one. I just never "clicked" with it. The viewfinder was so annoying. I guess I didn't have the imagination to envision what the lens was seeing. I felt like I had to always use a wide angle and then crop the real picture I hoped I got.

No thanks.


re "Where did I tell people who like rangefinders to get a camera with an EVF instead? "

That's how the last paragraph reads. Any "rangefinder-style" digital has it all over your three favourite rangefinders. Did I misinterpret that? If so the wording confused me.

[I think a good EVF is superior in the ways that I mentioned, but that doesn't mean anyone has to prefer it, much less that they have to use one. There are viable reasons to use an optical rangefinder/viewfinder camera too, and people should do anything they want to...as I always say, it's your hobby, and you own it, so you should do what you want to.

Maybe this bears more discussion. You mentioned some of the RF's advantages, but you didn't include any of the long list of RF disadvantages. An EVF just doesn't have most of those disadvantages. That still doesn't mean anyone has to prefer one, of course. --Mike]

How about the Linhof Technika 70? It had the longest base length for any rangefinder that had frame lines (without any accessory finder) for a true wide angle lens. Limited to a selection of three RF-coupled lenses, Rodenstock, Schneider or Zeiss, and weighed a ton, but had front & rear movements if you took the time to use a tripod. Interchangeable film backs and lately digital back adapters. Advertised as a truly "Universal Camera".

Even dentist who doesn't know anything a out wines can find a good bottle for $100,. Knowing how to find that $12 Old Vine Zin sleeper, that takes some skill.

Yeah it's true that the original Hexar did not have RF focus ... but it did have that great viewfinder so I thought mentioning it was in the spirit of the exercise. 😃

Obligatory scanned B&W shot from that camera:


"Seriously, though, it should be remembered that Leica was in a very fragile state in the '90s and there were many indications that it might not survive. (And it probably would not have, save for its eventual "angel," Dr. Kaufmann, in 2004.) Some Leica fans, justifiably or not, were extremely anxious at the time that products from healthier and technically much more advanced Japanese companies not pirate needed sales from Leica, thereby, or so they imagined, hastening its demise."

But in the end it is Japanese printer firm Epson that save Leica from extinction.

Still remember the time no one buy any Leica lens as it is a dead end. Even Leica it is impossible to make a digital camera for M mounts.

Cheers for Epson ... even people still remember.

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007