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Howard Decker's picture

Rangefinder film cameras

Anybody here into non-Leica rangefinder film cameras? I adore rangefinders -- so smooth, quiet and classy. I have a Yashica J, a Yashica Minister 3, a Minolta AL and a Canonet 3GQL19, to name a few. The latter cost me $15 and is in fabulous cosmetic and mechanical condition. For the record -- I don't hate the Leica. I used a 3f and an M2R professionally and really, really liked the M2R. But I also like the lower-cost rangefinders and pick them up for a song. I don't collect cameras, I rescue them.

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Right now I've got a Canon 7 (with working meter) and a Mamiya Press. Would love to get one of the Fuji 6x7 or 6x9's - ideally the 1st generation with interchangeable lenses. Owned a Mamiya 7 back in the 90s, but never really fell in love with it. Too bad - its highly resolving but unflashy presentation is perfect for the digital era, where more pizzazz is just a slider click away.

The Canonet QL19 is quite sharp, but looking at eBay, other people have caught onto it....

I don't yet own a dedicated 35mm film scanner, so for now mostly work the MF film, which I'm getting addicted to again.

I have the QL17, and an Olympus 35 SPn.

The leaf shutter is very handy for street photography - I wished the olympus was black, maybe I'll get some gaffers tape.

Zeiss Ikon ZM, its a beauty, not as expensive as the m7, but definitely not cheap.

I have had my eye on some of the Olympus rangefinders from the late 1960s and early 1970s. They seem to be relatively inexpensive, with many fine examples available on Ebay. However, I prefer to buy my used cameras from a dealer such as KEH, so I have yet to pull the trigger on the one that seems just right. The Nikon rangefinders from the 1950s have always intrigued me. They rival Leicas for cost, however.

I love a lot of rangefinder cameras - some rangefinders I like more than certain Leicas, at least for the price.

I've had a Leica M5, Leica CL, Minolta CLE, numerous Barnack Leicas, Leica Monochrom (not analog, I know), Bessa R, Canonet QL17, Contax T, Contax G1/G2, Minolta Model 35 II, Canon IVSB, Canon P, Minolta Hi-Matic 7, Konica S3, Yashica GT, several Zorkis and Leotaxs, Contax IIa/IIIa, and probably others.

I liked the M5 more than a lot of people. I liked the CL, but the short effective rangefinder base length made it difficult to focus, especially since I wear glasses. The CLE is similar, though that camera is pretty great since it has aperture priority which Leica didn't have until the uber-expensive M7.

My favorite rangefinder that gives a Leica-like experience at a lower cost, and with some additional features is the Bessa R4a - with rangefinders, I often shoot wider and almost never longer than 50, so the 21, 25, 28, 35, and 50 frame-lines are just perfect for me. Plus, aperture priority.

I would really like to try out a Zeiss Ikon. And a Rollei 35 RF and a Konica Hexar RF.

Beyond that, I love my Contax T, for the same reasons I love my Minox 35GT - small, discreet, nearly silent, great lens.

Also love the Contax G1 and G2 - some may not view these as true rangefinders, but technically they are. And the Contax G glass is some of the best glass ever produced for any system.

Right now I'm looking for a good deal on a Leica M4-p. I've been shooting some Barnacks and other non-metered rangefinders and have really been enjoying the freedom of not worrying about what a meter says. Rarely am I off, anyway.

Here's my M5 after I repaired it and then painted it and replaced the vulcanite.