5 Sub $200 USD 35mm RFs w/ Lightmeters: "Poor Man's Leicas"

Discussion in 'Rangefinder Forum' started by pale_blue_is, Nov 11, 2016.

  1. pale_blue_is

    pale_blue_is Member

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    First post!

    Most photographers would like to get an M6. But, they cost a lot. And that's not a bad thing; I can drop $1000 on a piece of gear. But I only will if I want it 1,000$ worth. In Leica's case, as of now, I don't. I do want to try out a rangefinder. However, it seems that the closer one gets to Leica's specs and features, the closer one gets to Leica's pricepoint. For that reason, I've compiled a list of light meter equipped rangefinders, without the price exceeding the average of an SLR. Note that I've never personally used any of these cameras, and am going entirely off of what I've read and the impressions of others, so read this objectively with a massive grain of salt. All of these cameras have non-detachable lenses, include a light meter, and can be readily found under 200$.

    I've put specs in bold that I think are good features worth nothing, and specs in italics are bad features worth noting.

    [​IMG]
    • Olympus 35RC
      • Lens: 5 elements in 4 groups, 42mm

      • Aperture: f/2.8 - f/22

      • Exposure: 1/15 - 1/500, B

      • ISO: 25-800

      • Auto/manual mode: manual and shutter priority

      • Shutter speed location: on top of body

      • Notes: Smaller than the others, and some people may be looking for that "compact" feel. The RC is tied with Minolta for the smallest aperture, but also the "slowest" lens. The lens also has the fewest amount of elements, which technically means a less sharp image. However, the shutter speed is actually on top of the body, making this the most desirable of the 5 for some, likely.

    [​IMG]
    • Olympus 35SP
      • Lens: 7 elements in 4 groups, 42mm

      • Aperture: f/1.7 - f/16

      • Exposure: 1 - 1/500, B

      • ISO: 25 - 800

      • Auto/manual mode: manual and shutter priority

      • Shutter speed location: on lens
      • Notes: The bigger brother of the RC, the SP wins in lens design and exposure range, dropping down to one second. It is larger though, and, unfortunately, the shutter is on the lens and not on the body. The SP also has the best metering system, including both spot metering, and center-weighted metering.
    [​IMG]

    • Canon Canonet QL 17 GIII
      • Lens: 6 elements in 4 groups, 40mm

      • Aperture: f/1.7 - f/16

      • Exposure: ¼ - 1/500, B

      • ISO: 25 - 800

      • Auto/manual mode: manual and shutter priority

      • Shutter speed location: on lens

      • Notes: Very "average" option from this list. The SP beats or matches everything the Canonet has to offer, but I suppose if one is a Canon fan then this may be the logical choice. One perk of the Canonet is that there is a protruding "tab"(?) on the focusing ring to make focusing quicker. Another perk of the canonet is the quick load feature, which allows for quick and easy film loading, contrary to leica's loading system which some find awkward.

    [​IMG]
    • Yashica Electro 35
      • Lens: 6 elements in 4 groups, 45mm

      • Aperture: f/1.7 - f/16

      • Exposure: 30 seconds - 1/500, B

      • ISO: 12 - 500, 25 - 1000 (depending on year/model)

      • auto/manual mode: aperture priority only

      • Shutter speed location: N/A

      • Notes: First: this is the camera used in The Amazing Spider Man. Kinda fun fact. It uses aperture priority only, which may turn some people off, and attract others, which is why I made it bold and italic. If I were to get a camera for exclusively "street photography", I'd likely get this one because aperture priority is a very attractive feature. From what I've heard, it is a bit wider and taller than the average rangefinder, so if you want something small, then maybe try the Olympus RC instead.
    [​IMG]
    • Minolta Hi-Matic 7S
      • Lens: 6 elements in 5 groups, 45mm

      • Aperture: f/1.8 - f/22

      • Exposure: ¼ - 1/500, B

      • ISO: 25 - 800

      • Auto/manual mode: manual or automatic

      • Shutter speed location: on lens

      • Notes: Another very "average" camera for this list. Tied with the Olympus 35RC for the smallest aperture but aside from that the Hi-Matic isn't particularly different in any way.
    Additional Option:

    [​IMG]
    • Konica Auto S3
      • Lens: 6 elements in 4 groups, 38mm
    • Aperture: f/1.8 - (?) could not find the highest aperture online
    • Exposure: 1/8 - 1/500, B
    • ISO: 25 - 800
    • Auto/manual mode: shutter priority only
    • shutter speed location: on lens
    • Notes: Another camera considered to be slightly larger than the others on this list, the Konica has the advantage of having the widest lens, which is good for street photography, shooting rooms/scenes, and landscape work (although I don't neccessarily recommend this camera for landscape photography!). It also is the only camera from this list to come in only black (there are several that do come in black but aren't as common). The big drawback to the S3, though, is the lack of full manual mode.




    So what does all of this information mean? Which one is the best, or the most like Leica? Well, surprise: it comes up to personal preference. Since I've never used a Leica, and I've never used any of these cameras I can't say which is most similar, or which is the best. But, based on my impressions and my research, I'll say this:
    • The SP technically has the "best" lens. If you're going for optics, go for the SP.
    • If you want the best beater camera, used for snapshots and without much care or effort, I'd suggest the RC because of it's compact nature and shutter priority mode.
    • If you want a rangefinder for primarily street photography, I'd recommend the Electro 35 due to it's aperture priority mode, which would help simplify zone focusing.

    To clarify: as others have mentioned, this is just specs. There's much more to a camera than what can be written about it objectively. You may make your choice based on the information I compiled and find it an aggravating or unnatural camera to use. In a perfect universe you'd be able to try all of these out in a shop and then buy them based on your thoughts, but unless you live in Tokyo or New York, likely you don't have that option.

    I wrote this out this way so that noobies like myself can have all of the information on entry level rangefinders they need in a compiled format. If there are any suggestions or noticeable errors please let me know and I will make the changes. As far as my choice after writing this all out: I'm going to keep my eyes out for an Olympus 35SP. Thanks for reading, and I hope this list will help you.

    Sources: mattsclassiccameras, eBay, Ken Rockwell, camerapedia
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2016
  2. frank

    frank Member
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    The SP35 is the standout of the crowd.
     
  3. Theo Sulphate

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    I have the Canon QL-17 GIII, a Leica M6, M6 TTL, and two M3's, so I can do some comparison.

    First, the Leicas feel both solid and smooth. The viewfinders are bright and clear. The shutter is relatively quiet (for a focal plane shutter) and sounds smooth. The Leica lenses also feel solid and work smoothly. Lack of automation seems more of an asset than a liability.

    The G-III is fun to use - it seems lighter and smaller, more easy to put in a coat pocket or just carry around. Its shutter is much quieter than the Leica's. It's nowhere near as smooth or solid feeling, but it's not bad. It's easier to load but harder to focus.


    I think the G-III and RC (which indicates shutter speed and aperture in the viewfinder) are equally as enjoyable to use as the Leica. Unless you're doing very critical fine grain work, the results from them would probably match the Leica's up to 8x10, maybe more.

    Of those in your list, I see them for the fine cameras that they are.
     
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    pale_blue_is

    pale_blue_is Member

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    Thanks for reminding me about the quick load feature of the Canonet, I'll edit that in.
     
  5. TheRook

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    There's a lot more to a camera than specs and features. For example, some cameras feel more comfortable to operate than others. If all you do is compare various rangefinder cameras to Leica, then you won't be happy with anything other than Leica. One time I borrowed a Leica camera for a few days and honestly, I was a bit disappointed. A somewhat awkward camera, I thought.
     
  6. Sirius Glass

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  7. OP
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    pale_blue_is

    pale_blue_is Member

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    I completely agree with that and that's not really what this was supposed to be about, just a simple objective comparison
     
  8. OP
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    pale_blue_is

    pale_blue_is Member

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    Thank you! Very different community from the reddit analog subreddit which I usually go to. I like it here :smile:
     
  9. Huss

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    Very cool summation, welcome!
     
  10. bernard_L

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    Missing IMO are:
    • Oly 35RD
    • Minolta Hi-matic 7SII, lighter and more compact than the 7S
    • Konica Auto S3
    • Yashica 35CC (less of a "tank" than the rest of the Yashica RF's)
    • Retina II (Yes, no meter. Just because)
    And, I don't think one can choose a camera from a feature list: this method has led to the silly megapixels war and the superzoom war. Lens quality is not judged by the number of elements, but by the perceived sharpness; for instance I doubt that in any blind test one could make a difference between the listed cameras on the basis of web-posted images (that is where most images exist nowadays). Accuracy of the meters with currently available batteries is also an issue to be considered, or side-stepped with a hand-held meter (or Sunny 16). And beyond technical qualities (as opposed to advertised specs) there is also the "feel" for each camera. My humble 35RC is among my preferred cameras.

    This said, welcome to APUG. And I hope my comments help you make the right purchase, since the main goal of your OP seems to be to seek advice Re: a potential purchase.
     
  11. AgX

    AgX Member

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    A major disadvantage of the listed cameras is the location of the focusing ring near the body. When using glasses the arresting point at ones face is lacking and the left hands gets more importance. Its position at the front of the lens would gain more stability in holding the camera than at a small ring next to the body.
    It also is hard to grasp with gloves on.
    The Canonets in contrast got that additional tab that lets you focus by fingertip, letting the rest of your left hand fingers hold the body firmly.


    I very much dislike the action of the release button of the Canonets.


    Long exposure times:
    Comparing 1sec to 1/4sec actually means a practical lack of only one time stop. As 1sec and of course longer can easily be counted down without means.
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2016
  12. PinkPony

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    Hello,

    I bought a 35RC 12 years ago :smile: Found out all light seals were a melted goo in the camera. At that time I payed much less for it than what they go for now so I just put it in a box. About two years ago I did a DIY light seal job on it and it works.
    It's a nice little "toy" camera. Lens is sharp but there is some minor distortion that seldom shows in photos. The aparture of the lens is also squre so sometimes out of focus bokeh shows up a squeres which looks a little unusual.

    Common problems with 35RC:

    - Light seals are a metled goo and needs replacement, camera needs to be cleaned out of the mess, takes a couple of hours.
    - Range finder spot may be faint (is in mine), there are hacks for this as well. I just live with mine being a very faint patch.
    - Batteries may be a problem as the camera is made for mercury batteries no longer made.

    If you get it working or one that is reportedly serviced I can recommend the camera but it's not really a Leica substitute.
     
  13. R.Gould

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    Missing, Voigtlander Vitomatic, vitessa t, Werramatic, Retina IIIc and IIIC (large c) Canon Model c, these just from the top of my head and my own collection, all with good working meters
     
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  15. Kirks518

    Kirks518 Member

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    Welcome to APUG!

    Nice list, and I'm not going to add to it, but in lieu of the Minolta Hi-Matic 7, I, like Bernad_L, would switch it for the Minolta Hi-Matic 7sII. An outstanding camera, with an outstanding lens, in a more compact package.
     
  16. one90guy

    one90guy Member

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    Welcome to APUG.

    My 35mm rangefinders, Yashica GL with working meter, Yashica Lynx 5000e with bad meter, and a Argus C-3. My favorite is the Lynx, compact and IMHO a great lens. It is a wonderful period in time as we have a lot of fine cameras to be had to fit most budgets or taste.

    David
     
  17. guangong

    guangong Subscriber
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    The difficulty we have nowadays is the disappearance of camera stores that allow a customer to handle a variety of cameras and make a choice. The choices are indeed subjective. Also,there are many Leica users who do not lust for an m6. The technical specs are nice but they don't reveal how a camera "feels". I chose my Hassy fcm over a plaubel making when both hit the market solely for the reason that in my hands the Hassy just felt more comfortable but somebody else may have had a different response. It's hard to buy an unfamiliar camera.
     
  18. AgX

    AgX Member

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    Yes, there is more to a camera than just some data. You have to handle it.
    And then still there is something else, let me call it "attraction".
     
  19. Paul Howell

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    Also worth a mention is the Yashica IC with the 45 1.4 lens I dont recall the model but Yashica also made a rangefinder with a 35mm in a black body.
     
  20. Jim Jones

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    Specs, including the number of lens elements, certainly don't tell all of the story. Several decades ago I did a brief but critical test on about 35 lenses for 35mm cameras. Two of the very best were the 45mm GN-Nikkor and the 50mm f/2.8 Elmar. Although only 4 element lenses, they beat out a variety of 5 and 6 element lenses. The two that equaled these were the five element 55mm f/3.5 Micro-Nikkor and the 6 element 50mm f/2.8 El-Nikkor enlarging lens. Another consideration for cameras that will be used intensively is durability. Here the Leica is superb. I've used Leicas from the equator to above the Artic Circle with never a failure. My M4 bought in 1970 has had many hundreds of rolls of film run through it. Its lenses were also excellent. The Kodak Retina was a convenient pocket camera with good performance, but lightly constructed in comparison to the Leica.
     
  21. frank

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    But certainly better constructed than say, the Yashica Electro and many others. Totally agree with you about the film Leicas being well constructed.
     
  22. R.Gould

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    Disagree about the Retina, the IIIc/IIIC were considered by many to be a competitor to the Leica, well made folders, the only weak point with them is the notoriours Cocking rack, apart from that very well and strongly made cameras with high performance, The leica.s, at least the Screw mount Barnack cameras, the only ones I have experiance with were well made, strong, and will last forever with a little servicing, but so will the Retina, and having tested a IIIF side by side with a Retina both 1b and IIIc, there is nothing to chose between the three cameras,and if you are feeling a little fragile, then slip the retina over your shoulder ,add a Weston, filterf and a few films and away you go, but I admit I love my Leica,
     
  23. OP
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    pale_blue_is

    pale_blue_is Member

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    Like I said, I'm not trying to imply specs are the only thing to a camera. I'm well aware of this. I'll add this to the post to clarify that this isn't meant to be a hands on review of all of them
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2016
  24. PGraham3

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    Good list and discussion here!

    Would any of you think a FUJICA V2 should be added as well? :wink: It's a great, fun rangefinder to use that produces fairly sharp images.
     
  25. Harry Stevens

    Harry Stevens Member

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    Only can write as I find, I own a Canon, Zorki, Yashica, Minolta, Retina rangefinders and for street work I would say the Yashica GSN is the best for street photography. The camera is a joy to use and the viewfinder is big bright and clear and the handling really encourages you to take photographs.
    The best lenses are the Retinas, Zorki(J8) and then the Yashica/Minolta. All the cameras mentioned in this thread are good cameras and I have seen many a nothing special shot taken on a M6 it is so much more than just the camera and any listed so far by people are capable of given you good results.

    Just my views.:smile:
     
  26. flavio81

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    Amazingly, i've own or used almost all the rangefinders listed on the thread. My personal favorites are the Retina IIIc, Agfa Karat IV, Yashica Electro (any model) and Zeiss Contessa (folding).

    To the OP: number of lens element is not a reliable measure of lens performance. To be honest, ALL the cameras mentioned in this thread have sharp lenses. The difference is more in the rendering. For example on your list the Electro 35 (and the Himatic 7) are the ones with the nicest rendering. Another thing is that specs don't tell you how the camera performs in real use.

    Specs-wise. the Electro 35GSN is unremarkable, it even appears too big and ugly but this camera works fast, meter is reliable, viewfinder is excellent, lens renders beautifully and the camera is comfortable in use. So that explains why is so popular.

    Another one: the Olympus 35SP is supposed to be better than the 35RC but the latter is slightly better built (feels more solid) and has a smoother shutter. The shutter of the 35SP is clunky and loud in a bad way (i own the camera.) Focus throw is too short.

    Most beautiful lens rendering on such cameras i've had it on the Agfa Karat IV with 50/2 solagon. But the Retinas have better ergonomics.

    I should add the Voigtlander VF101 to the list of cameras mentioned, a good competitor to the 35RC.
     
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