In your opinion, what are the best non-Leica rangefinders ever built?

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Hi all,

Since I'm shopping around for a 35mm rangefinder, I figured that I'd ask some of you more experienced professionals/rangefinder aficionados about this. (I've been shooting 4x5 large format and 6x7, 645, and 6x9 (Fuji GW690III) medium format film for about 8 years and am working my way down to 35mm film!) Since I unfortunately can't afford a Leica (or a Contax G2 for that matter), I wanted to ask you guys which non-Leica rangefinder I should be looking at.

That said, what 35mm non-Leica/Contax G2 rangefinder camera systems do you think are the best to get into?

I did a little research myself and settled on four cameras that I think might qualify:

-Minolta CLE (I admittedly like the fact that it includes 40mm frame lines so I can dispense with the 35mm and 50mm lenses and just get one good 40mm lens.)
-Konica Hexar RF
-Voigtlander Bessa R4A (I feel like I'm more of a wide/standard lens shooter. I don't see myself using a 75mm to 135mm lens anyway.)
-Zeiss Ikon (which is expensive and a bit of a financial stretch for me)

Anyway, if you could point me in the right direction and talk about your experience with any of these cameras, that'd be very much appreciated! :smile:
 

mshchem

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Minolta CLE, or just buy more 120 film for the Fuji. Everything is going to be expensive. Maybe wait for an opportunity rather than chase something in particular . There's a lot of different cameras and lenses, be careful to avoid a money pit.
 

GregY

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I'd avoid the CLE with it's electronics. The CL is more reliable.... but since you said non-Leica.... Nikon RF would be my pick
 

John Wiegerink

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You can afford a Contax G1? I bought both a "green label" and a plain G1 with 28mm, 45mm and the 90mm. The main reason was for the lenses, since I wanted to adapt them to a Sony A7RII. Now I have extremely sharp lenses for the Sony and extremely sharp lenses for my B&W film work also. Would I rather have a Contax G2? Certainly, but I am not willing to pay the going price. Besides, the G1's work just fine and the results are near perfect. Something to think about, but the choice is all yours.
 

Paul Howell

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Canon 7 or 7S, or P, not the build quality of a Leica, but pretty good, will take most L39mm lens. An odd ball the Kodak Retina S, not the same mount as the Retina III. took the same mount as the Retina flex, lens with a the cam for the Retina S will work on both a flex and S. Downside is top shutter speed of 1/500, interlined exposure system, and hard to find a tech who will work on them. Then the Cosina Voitlander M, or L39mm mount.
 

AZD

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Had I not gone for a Leica, I would have instead bought a Nikon S3. I know it’s not on your list, but it might be worth considering. Basically a Nikon F with a big, bright rangefinder instead of a mirror box. Some of the Nikkor lenses are still reasonably priced, and Voigtlander made a few newer lenses to fit them.
 

Mike Lopez

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My XPAN II will accompany me to the grave. (But it’s kind of a unicorn and you sort of need to luck your way into one now.)
 
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Hard to beat the Hexar RF. If it said Leica on it, it would probably sell for $5000. As a picture taking tool it is much better than a Leica, but I can't say that since the Leica cult will throw eggs at me....

If the 40 is what you want, then the CLE is solid. With the AE it is a better shooter than all the Leicas, except for the M7. I think it is a good camera. Just wish it had different framelines.

Cheapest deal by a large margin is the Canon 7. Put a modern Voigtlander lens on it and away you go. Or stick with the old Canon lenses if you want that look. A few years back I picked up one that was super clean with the 50/1.4 on it for a couple hundred. Can't beat that deal.

If you just want to kick the tires on a 35mm rangefinder maybe snag one of those 70s rangefinder cameras like the Canon QL GIII or a Minolta 7sII. Probably cost about a hundy. Heck, buy one anyway. They only cost a hundy!

I'd skip the Bessas. The ZI is great but I think it is just way over priced these days. Then again nearly everything else is too.
 

Huss

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Hard to beat the Hexar RF. If it said Leica on it, it would probably sell for $5000. As a picture taking tool it is much better than a Leica, but I can't say that since the Leica cult will throw eggs at me....
Not at the current price eggs are at. We’ll just give u some stink eye.

I really liked the Nikon S2 that I had. Only has 50mm frame lines but consider it a poor man’s M3. I preferred it to my CLE, any of my Soviet RFs, my Zeiss Ikon ZM or my Bessa R3A.
 

madNbad

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Save your money and buy a M4-2. The finder patch is better than most of the others, it has parallax correction, no electronics to fail but if you really want to try a 35 rangefinder camera, get a Nikon S2. Currently, they're a lot of camera for the money and it's hard to beat any of the Nikkor 50mm lenses. The rangefinder patch is not as defined as a Leica but it offers a 1:1 viewfinder with the 50. Handling is good with the controls falling under your fingers.Pair it with a small, lightweight meter and you're set.
 

Huss

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Hi all,

Since I'm shopping around for a 35mm rangefinder, ........Since I unfortunately can't afford a Leica (or a Contax G2 for that matter), I wanted to ask you guys which non-Leica rangefinder I should be looking at.
..

I did a little research myself and settled on four cameras that I think might qualify:

..
-Voigtlander Bessa R4A (I feel like I'm more of a wide/standard lens shooter. I don't see myself using a 75mm to 135mm lens anyway.)
-Zeiss Ikon (which is expensive and a bit of a financial stretch for me)
..

Those two cost the same as buying a Leica nowadays. If you are looking at those, buy a Leica and be done with it!
 

Radost

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Those two cost the same as buying a Leica nowadays. If you are looking at those, buy a Leica and be done with it!

I agree. No idea why Bessas are so much money. Yet the Konica rf is cheaper.
Konica RF is by far the best meter plus 4000 speed shutter. If I had a lot of money I will buy 5 Konica RF . So they last me a long time.
Leica should make 4000 speed kopal shutter film camera.
 

StevenG

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Hard to beat the Hexar RF. If it said Leica on it, it would probably sell for $5000. As a picture taking tool it is much better than a Leica, but I can't say that since the Leica cult will throw eggs at me....

If the 40 is what you want, then the CLE is solid. With the AE it is a better shooter than all the Leicas, except for the M7. I think it is a good camera. Just wish it had different framelines.

Cheapest deal by a large margin is the Canon 7. Put a modern Voigtlander lens on it and away you go. Or stick with the old Canon lenses if you want that look. A few years back I picked up one that was super clean with the 50/1.4 on it for a couple hundred. Can't beat that deal.

If you just want to kick the tires on a 35mm rangefinder maybe snag one of those 70s rangefinder cameras like the Canon QL GIII or a Minolta 7sII. Probably cost about a hundy. Heck, buy one anyway. They only cost a hundy!

I'd skip the Bessas. The ZI is great but I think it is just way over priced these days. Then again nearly everything else is too.

The Canon 7 is indeed the way to go. I got a 7 and a 50mm 1.8 for about $150. From all the range finders I have, the Canon 7 comes closest to the Leica M2. With the Canon 7 i like the viewfinder, which is quite big and has 35mm frame lines.

Indeed don't discard the 70s rangefinders. They're capable, have nearly a 40mm focal length and are relatively cheap.
 
OP
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I apologize. I should have mentioned that, even though I'm a large format shooter and use a dedicated Sekonic light meter for my work, I'd like for my future 35mm rangefinder to have an internal light meter at the very least.

That said, I'm pretty much split between the Minolta CLE, Contax G1 (Green Edition), Voigtlander Bessa R4A, and the Hexar RF. If you guys can tell me which of these would be the best, that'd be extremely helpful.

I'm a landscape shooter primarily. If you check out my work on my website, perhaps that might give a better idea for my rangefinder needs: https://www.kristianwolfe.com/works
 

Rexel

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Hi all,

Since I'm shopping around for a 35mm rangefinder, I figured that I'd ask some of you more experienced professionals/rangefinder aficionados about this. (I've been shooting 4x5 large format and 6x7, 645, and 6x9 (Fuji GW690III) medium format film for about 8 years and am working my way down to 35mm film!) Since I unfortunately can't afford a Leica (or a Contax G2 for that matter), I wanted to ask you guys which non-Leica rangefinder I should be looking at.

That said, what 35mm non-Leica/Contax G2 rangefinder camera systems do you think are the best to get into?

I did a little research myself and settled on four cameras that I think might qualify:

-Minolta CLE (I admittedly like the fact that it includes 40mm frame lines so I can dispense with the 35mm and 50mm lenses and just get one good 40mm lens.)
-Konica Hexar RF
-Voigtlander Bessa R4A (I feel like I'm more of a wide/standard lens shooter. I don't see myself using a 75mm to 135mm lens anyway.)
-Zeiss Ikon (which is expensive and a bit of a financial stretch for me)

Anyway, if you could point me in the right direction and talk about your experience with any of these cameras, that'd be very much appreciated! :smile:

I apologize. I should have mentioned that, even though I'm a large format shooter and use a dedicated Sekonic light meter for my work, I'd like for my future 35mm rangefinder to have an internal light meter at the very least.

That said, I'm pretty much split between the Minolta CLE, Contax G1 (Green Edition), Voigtlander Bessa R4A, and the Hexar RF. If you guys can tell me which of these would be the best, that'd be extremely helpful.

I'm a landscape shooter primarily. If you check out my work on my website, perhaps that might give a better idea for my rangefinder needs: https://www.kristianwolfe.com/works

Nothing really compares to a Leica but i have a Nikon S3 which is a pleasure to use. I have at various times had Leica MP M6 M3 and also Contax iia and G1 and 2. The Contax lenses are brilliant but the auto focus is very slow by modern standards. The metering is great. A lot of the lcd displays are fading and no prospect of parts.

If you are happy with a 50 mm lens the Nikon 50 1.4 is very good indeed. Choice of other focal lengths in Nikon is much less and they are all getting on in years. Voigtlander made some S mount lenses which are good and reasonably priced.

There is no through the lens meter but the Voigtlander hot shoe meter is very good. Its a doddle in practice.

The rangefinder patch is very good and never flares. The viewfinder is huge 1 to 1 which is a real pleasure.

Nikon build quality also a bonus.

A Nikon S2 not too expensive.

Basically all the cameras you mention are great. The Nikon is a niche product but i love it.

Best wishes
Richard
 

guangong

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Even as a Leica fan, for superior build quality the choices are Canon and Nikon, especially regarding shutter reliability.
 

warden

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If I wanted a 40 mm lens on a rangefinder to make landscapes like you do, I would get a G1 with a 45 mm Planar. That lens is an absolute gem.

from your list I’ve owned the G1, G2, and Zeiss Ikon. For me the Ikon wins over Leica and Contax for its viewfinder but it’s expensive.
 

film_man

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I had a look at your website. Two comments:
1. you may want to look at resizing the images, your landing page is 480MB!!! It took a good 30+ seconds to load and I'm on a 100mbps connection.
2. I don't understand what a rangefinder gives you over what you have, your work looks like it was all done from a tripod so anything medium format will be much better whatever Leica or anything else you buy...?

If you want something faster to shoot with then think of your lens choices. If you are looking at 28mm or longer then you can get a very nice Canon/Nikon AF SLR for peanuts with compact lenses (also costing peanuts) that will have no performance penalty really if you're shooting them at f/4 or f/8. If you want wider then a rangefinder makes sense as SLR super wides get big quickly and are never as good as a rangefinder superwide.

As for your cameras, I am a Leica user. I had a Contax G2, it arrived broken (sticky AF) and nobody could fix it. That kind of put me off. I had a Voigtlander R3A, a unique camera with a 1:1 finder. A bit dinky and unrefined next to a Leica but it is half the price!

The XPan would probably be the most appropriate for you given your work but I'd have to be really rich to throw 3-4k on an old electronic camera that cannot be repaired.
 

GregY

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IMO the title of your post is at odds with the cameras you mention. i don't think any of the cameras you mention are the best thing since white bread. I'd certainly take the mechanical Leica CL which can be repaired, over any of the electronic choices which risk becoming expensive bricks.... i'd choose a nikon with one of the handful of tiny add on meters.
 

cliveh

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Reid and Sigrist. If I could afford one, I would buy it.

1674406792751.png
 
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For the photographs you take you would be better off with an SLR to get better framing accuracy. That would also save you a ton of money. On top of that you could get tilt shift lenses for them in the future if you like that way of shooting. Not sure what other manufacturers have in the way of tilt shift, but Canon would have you covered for sure. I frankly don't see the benefit of a rangefinder for you if you want to continue to make the images that you show on your website. One of the last film cameras, such as a Canon Elan 7 or a Nikon N80 would do the trick. Get a 50 or a small high quality zoom and you'd be set. You could also get one of the 70s rangefinders that I mentioned before. What you are really looking for is a way of shooting, not a particular camera. If the rangefinder does it for you then you know a Leica/Hexar/Minolta might be good for you. I'd be surprised though if that was the case. That is based on a lifetime of shooting.

And I second the comment about your website. You need to resize your images before you upload them. No one wants to wait for them to appear.
 

Vaidotas

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CLA’ed Zorki or FED. I’d prefer Zorki-4 which I use with Leitz Summar 50/2.
A lot of info on the web.
 

Huss

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CLA’ed Zorki or FED. I’d prefer Zorki-4 which I use with Leitz Summar 50/2.
A lot of info on the web.

I've owned Zorki, FED and Kiev.

And with that I can honestly say if you can afford a Canon P, 7 etc or a Nikon S2, S3, or a Voigtlander/Zeiss/Contax/Leica etc do whatever you can to get one of those.
 
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