Your experience with (cheaper) RF gear?

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Denis P.

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Hi,

I'd like to hear some opinions on the (cheaper) RF gear you've used (35mm and medium format). Pros, cons, peculiarities, etc.
I don't want to hear about Leica - I know about it, but it's waaaay beyond my price range :-(

The reason why I'm asking is that I do use some RF regularly (from Russian Kiev 4 and Zorki 4 to Koni Omega), and for each of them there are things that I like and those I dislike.

So far, Koni Omega can't be beat (for the price of $120 on that auction site - Koni Omega and Hexanon 90/3.5). RF is perfect, vievfinder clear, easy to focus (my eyesight is not what it used to be). And the benefit of large negative size is obvious. And the ergonomics are great - once you get used to "funky" way it's handled.
Also, I like the bokeh on Hexanon 90/3.5. Almost nothing about Koni Omega that I don't like. However, the size and weight is a limiting factor sometimes when I want to travel light.

I also like my Kiev 4 with its Jupiters (50/2 and 35/2.8) - it would be a perfect (cheap) 35mm RF if it weren't for the squinty viewfinder. However, the quality of photos I get from it makes me forget that viewfinder trouble :smile:

Zorki 4 has a better viewfinder (large and bright), but the rewind knob is a PITA :-((
Winding film to the next shot is definitely painful :smile:) Jupiter 8 (50/2) in LTM mount on my Zorki is also quite OK.

Lately I've been using my RF gear more and more - the RF is easier to focus (particularly in poor light) than my 35mm manual Nikon gear, and all of the above gear gives me better bokeh than most of my (consumer-grade) Nikkor glass.

Your experience?


Denis
 

livemoa

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I can recomend the Bessa R2, it's a good camera and the lenses are also very good value. If I hadn't got an M6 for a bargin I would use it as my main 35 m camera.
 

Ole

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The only "cheap" rangefinde I have any experience with is a FED-2. It is, quite simply, exellent! The rangefinder has a very long baseline, making very precise focussing possilbe with a good lens. Even shots at full aperture (f:3.5) with the FED collapsible lens have been spot on.

The viewfinder is small, but the dioptric correction goes all the way to -4, whih means I can use it without my glasses. I can then get close enough to the viewfinder to see through it properly, which is a first for me.

I also have a Bessa L, but that has no rangefinder or even viewfinder at all...
 
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My first decent camera was a Yashica RF (forgot the model, it had a 2.8 lens and uncoupled lightmeter).
The fact was, that most of the times I could not see the diference in photos taken between it and the (then) brand new Spotmatic.

Jorge O
 

matt miller

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My “cheap RF” is a Kodak Medalist. This 6x9 camera uses a fixed 100mm 3.5 Ektar lens, with helical focusing. The lens is very sharp and contrast is good. The camera is built like a tank, very heavy, and can be used as a weapon if need be. The Medalists were issued to US Navy photographers in the early-mid 40’s. The Medalist uses 620 size film. Since 120 is the same size film (spools are bigger on 120), I just roll 120 film onto 620 spools. J&C & others sell 620 film, but it is rather expensive. I bought mine on ebay for $100.
 

blackmelas

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My Kiev and Jupiter, which I realigned myself, outperform my Contax IIIa and Zeiss-Opton 50/2 Sonnar that I had CLA'd professionally for several hundred dollars. For a user I'd keep the Kiev anyday.

James
 
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Someone always beats me to the punch. I have a QL17 Canonet like jdef and if I don't want to lug along my lenses, I take a small bag if any at all with this camera and film. nothing else. I also have a fold out bellows type MF handheld made post war by a company in Germany named Wirgin. Fantastic camera. Local auctions for about a total of $15 for the two cameras. Makes for a lighter load sometimes. Or for nostalgia's sake.
 

Paul Howell

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I also have a Canon QL 1.7, I have owned mine for 30 years has never let me down. I also have a Mamyia Universal with 3 lens, another work horse, and a Retina 3 with a few lens. When working with 4X5 I often carry the Canon as my only 35mm.
 

Kevin Roach

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Ok I'll probably get flamed but I actually liked using an Argus c-33. It's fun to use, has different lenses, and takes pretty good pictures for dirt cheap.

But if not an argus, look here. I think I tried almost all of these. I like the Canon and Olympus cameras best. and the yashica g cameras take great pictures but don't fit in my pocket.

http://www.cameraquest.com/com35s.htm
 

srs5694

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I've got several rangefinders, but in general I prefer SLRs. My thoughts on my rangefinders:

  • Canonet QL17-GIII -- This is a nice and compact rangefinder for when I don't want to lug around a lot of gear. Unfortunately, mine's got some fungus in the lens. :sad: Fungus-free Canonet QL17s are very sharp.
  • Sokol 2 Automat -- This is the Soviet Union's answer to the Canonet and similar Japanese fixed-lens rangefinders of the 1970s. It's got features such as a rangefinder with automatic parallax adjustment and an exposure meter with automatic exposure control. The Sokol is bigger, heavier, klunkier, and just plain weirder than its Japanese counterparts, though. It's got a frame counter on the bottom of the camera, a film-rewind crank on the side, and a shutter release on the front, for instance. It's got a very sharp lens, though. Despite its weirdnesses, I kind of like it.
  • FED 2 -- I bought this one because it's got a collapsible lens, which makes this camera very compact and easy to carry, by rangefinder standards. It has no meter, though. It's an old model, and mine's got some quirks that seem to be age-related, such as a rangefinder whose image appears slightly below the main image, which complicates focusing. In part because it's such an old design, it's got a limited range of shutter speeds (1/25s to 1/500s, IIRC). For the most part, I've been using a Canon point-and-shoot and a FED 50 compact (with manual focus but no rangefinder) as compact-carryable cameras rather than the FED 2.
  • FED 5 -- This camera's got a meter, but not automatic exposure. On paper, it's got the sort of features I like, including long shutter speeds and the meter. I just find it awkward because the 50mm Industar-61L/D lens focus is very stiff and using other focal lengths requires use of an auxiliary finder, which complicates matters. The stiff focus on the standard lens is definitely a lens-specific issue, although reportedly a common one with this lens. One of these days I'll clean it out, but I haven't gotten around to that yet.

The FED 2 and FED 5 both take LTM39 lenses, and I've got a couple aside from these cameras' standard lenses. I particularly like my 35mm Jupiter-12.
 

mcgrattan

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I have a Chinon 35EE which I love. Incredibly sharp and contrasty lens, accurate meter and it's tiny. I had to replace the light seals on mine and realign the rangefinder but once done, it's been consistently reliable. I believe it's a near identical copy of a number of other Japanese fixed rangefinders, the Konica C35A, etc.

I have a Fed-4 which is probably the camera which gives me the most consistently good photographs. It's ugly and bigger than I'd like but the Industar 61L/D lens is like butter (unlike previous poster) and takes such lovely negatives.

I also ahve a Fuji GS645S which is nice, but the vertical 6x4.5 negative and the fixed lens aren't 100% to my taste. It takes great pictures though, it's just the shooting style/ergonomics are a bit awkward for my use.
 

bobfowler

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The only rangefinder I have now (besides a Mini Speed Graphic) is a Retina IIa. In addition to a bunch of Retina's I've owned in the past, I've owned various Leica and Canon LTM RF's, but keep coming back to the simple Retina with it's 50mm f/2 Xenon. I have a few scale focus medium format folders as well, Zeiss and Zenobia, but they don't see nearly as much use.
 
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Denis P.

Denis P.

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Gee, my original post dates back to June 2004 :smile:

I don't know how it got resurrected....

Anyway, in the meantime I bit the bullet and bought a Leica. Well, a couple of those, to be more precise :smile:

No complaints there, I might add :smile:

My Kiev 4A ended up in North Carolina, and since then I'm Kiev-less :sad:

I'll have to do something about it, though. Even though I managed to lay my hands on several of the rangefinders mentioned above, I still like Kiev (the meterless one) the best (except the Leicas, which are a league of their own).

Denis
 

Ryuji

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To add more...

I love new Mamiya 6 (the version immediately before Mamiya 6MF). I have two of these and this is probably the most useful camera I have used. However, it's not cheap. (It's probably cheap if you compare quality of camera, lens and the price tags on its competitors.)

http://www.silvergrain.org/g2/v/Uncategorized/Into+The+Midnight+Fog--Nov+2005.jpg.html
Taken with M6 with 50mm lens.


In the 35mm world, I use Konica Auto S2. It has great lens and this camera is easy to operate.

http://www.silvergrain.org/g2/v/Uncategorized/050-Barber-BourbonSt.jpg.html
Taken with Auto S2 in New Orleans, about this time of the year in 1998.

I should add that both of these images were taken on foggy day (and night). One of the strengths of these optics is very clear, high contrast image, but it's not very obvious in these pictures.
 

mejiro

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Denis P. said:
Anyway, in the meantime I bit the bullet and bought a Leica. Well, a couple of those, to be more precise :smile:

Glad to hear your finances improved enough to buy a Leica :wink:
 

AndrewMc

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I enjoy using rangefinders more than slrs, I don't know why but they just suit me better.
I have several that I use regularly. I uses a couple of Zorkis (4K & 6) and really like them. they both have great viewfinders and feel solid. the 6 is maybe nicer as it's smaller, has strap lugs and is reasonably quiet but it lacks all the speeds the 4 has on offer.
and oh yeah. I love my Jupiter 8!!
I have a couple of Feds too. 3b and 4. My 3b felt the nicest to use out of them all but it has rather bad shutter problems. the 4 gave me problems with film winding. I'd get black strips along the top of the frame as the film pulled up or down as it was winding. I think it is sorting itself out though.
I like the Fed4 it's big and ugly and heavy but it feels solid and reliable.
I've got some pretty good result from the humble I-61 too. I got some pics that had really excellent texture and contrast form that lens but using it in low light I found I just got murky dark photos. In contrast I tested the J-8 on the worst possible day and all my pics came out perfectly!

I also have a Ricoh 500ME. I've always liked Ricohs. They are unspectacular but solid. It's got a nice sharp lens on it and it's small enough to use as a street shooter and kind of not be seen. But I HATE the viewfinder. I really just can't see what I am focusing on. The little diamond rf spot is too small and murky for my liking. So I don't use it. I only use it to line up shots, I focus hyperfocally on it because, well, how else am I supposed to?
Close my eyes an hope for the best!!?

A.
 
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Denis P.

Denis P.

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mejiro said:
Glad to hear your finances improved enough to buy a Leica :wink:

Heh, I've been working - a lot. That's why I didn't have the time to shoot as much as I would like to.

However, one rangefinder that I haven't seen mentioned here, and which definitely deserves mentioning, is a Yashica Lynx 14E (IC).
I have that one, too, and it's a great camera. Unlike its "Electro" cousins, it is fully manual (you control both the aperture and the shutter speed), has a good light meter, and sports an absolutely wonderful lens (45/1.4). Yup, that's f1.4! Perhaps not every bit as good as a Summilux, but a darn good lens!
The camera is a bit on the heavy side, but for the money, it can't be beat.
A lot quieter than a Leica, too :smile:

Denis
 

petebown

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The Ricoh 500G very rarely gets a mention. I used one a couple of years ago. Aperture priority and metered manual. Good quality 40mm f2.8 lens. A good one can be picked up for around £25 or $40 these days.

Full spec here:
Dead Link Removed
 

Tom Hoskinson

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I own 2 M-3 Leicas and a Voightlander "T"

The rangefinder cameras I currently use the most are:

1. Voigtlander T with with 21mm Skopar.

2. Voigtlander Bessa-II

2. Fuji 690-II

3. 2.25 x 3.25 Crown Graphic with various lenses
 

kmccmack

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Don't forget the Konica Auto S2, very sharp Hexanon lens, big bright paralax adjusted brightline finder. Very usable shooter.
 

gnashings

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One more vote for the Canonets - my wife and I have two: the QL17 and a Bell and Howell Canonet 19, both wonderful cameras in their own way. The QL17 is a truly capable, tiny little piture taker with a great fast lens, while the 19 is all quirky charm: from the backwards film loading, to the left handed, bottom mounted film winding lever and with the ring of photocells around the lens for good measure. Not as fast, super sharp, and definitely not compact like the QL17, but a great old camera with lots of character. I paid a little much for the 17 ($75 cdn), but its absolutely mint and came with the original case and a matching, functioning speedlite. The 19 cost me $12 CDN, and that's with shipping! Worth evey penny!
 

Trond

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I have a Kiev-4 (acutually I have 3 of them...). It´s a rather big and heavy camera, and the controls are a bit cumbersome, but for some reason it´s still a joy to use. The best part of it is of course that it produces wonderful images. I have the 35, 50 and 85mm Jupiter lenses, which are all great.

Trond
 

reellis67

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The only rangefinders that I have are the Argus C-3 and two Zorki-1s. The Argus is neat, but I don't use it often. The Zorki-1 on the other hand is a joy to use. I have the collapsable Elmar copy and this is the only 35mm camera that I still use on any kind of regular basis. It's easy to work on, works smoothly and quietly, and is just plain fun to use. $50 and it comes in the smelliest case you ever experienced. Part of the fun ya' know...

- Randy
 

Martin Liew

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Seems like everyone is using rangefinders with familiar brand names like Canon, Yashica, Voightlander Bessa, Zorki, just to name a few. :smile:

Well the one and only rangefinder I own right now is a Seagull 205 with a fixated 50mm lens f/2.8. It's an old camera that was manufactured in the 70s and I got it very cheap at a Chinese website. As I'm more into street photography, this rangefinder is the ideal tool for me. It doesn't make loud click sound when you press that shutter release button.

See below for the camera pic reference and some street shots I did.

ContactSheet-1.jpg


There's one disadvantage of this camera - the lens coating which unlike the branded ones, doesn't last long enuff. Well it's a 2nd hand stock and upon looking closer to the lens surface under bright light, I can see the coating is "thin" like starting to wear off. Until then I might get one Bessa R2A for better performance and good image quality. :smile:
 

gnashings

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Well, you want obscure? I had a Canter Beauty - but unfortunately, its helical has somehow started grinding itself into metal shavings by the time I got it... so it was not much use, and I am not crafty enough to fix it. Wish I could have taken some shots with, just to see what gives.
 
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