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Rangefinder Recommendations?

Discussion in 'Classic Models & Marques' started by Fishboy, Jan 7, 2016.

  1. Fishboy

    Fishboy Well-Known Member

    Since joining this forum I’ve discovered a few new things – for example I didn’t know that Ilford offered a film processing and digital scanning service. Finding this out led me to looking at 35mm film prices and, from there, to a general feeling that I’d perhaps like to buy myself a used rangefinder camera of relatively decent quality and run a couple of rolls of HP5 through it. My knowledge of such beasts is poor to say the least, hence I'm turning to you good people.

    I’ll probably be looking at a spend of £200 including a lens – although my willpower when it comes to resisting spending too much money on kit is very poor, so there’s the possibility that this could increase if I see something too good to pass-up on!

    There’s no logical reason behind wanting a used rangefinder – it’s just one of those daft things that sometimes gets stuck in my head.

    Does anybody have any suggestions regarding what I should be looking at that's near to my price range? Nothing is too outlandish for me to consider!

    Cheers, Jeff
  2. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Probably a Cosina/Voigtlander Bessa R would be your best bet at that price - a reasonable camera with access to some terrific Leica screw mount lenses, and within budget.

    A much cheaper alternative is a FED 2, if you can get one with a good shutter - no meter, and limited shutter speed range, but it gives you the true rangefinder experience, and isn't too heavy, unlike the rather nasty FED 4. Can be bought for around £25-50 with the decent Industar lens.
  3. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    You won't find much for £200 with an interchangeable lens, except perhaps an elderly screw-mount Leica or a Zorkii/Fed (VERY variable quality), but equally, you should have difficulty in spending as much as £50 on one with a fixed lens: I'd recommend a Konica. Beware of auto-exposure-only cameras. My Rangefinder Book is still in print but you can probably find a second-hand copy cheaper. There are reviews at http://www.amazon.com/Rangefinder-E...Descending&filterByStar=critical&pageNumber=1 and as usual they are sharply divided between those who love it (4x 5 star and 1x 4 star) and those who hate it (1 x 1 star, 2x 2 star).

    Edit (prompted by Nick): I hadn't realized that the Bessa-R can be found that cheaply with a lens, but if it can, it's a very good buy indeed.


    Last edited: Jan 7, 2016
  4. RogerMac

    RogerMac Well-Known Member

    Don't forget that a lot of rangefinders had fixed lenses and for one of those £200 would be a very generous budget. I have a Canonet QL with a fixed F1.7 lens that is a VERY nice camera, afraid its not for sale, but that type of camera is well worth investigating

    Edit Looks as if I've been eaten to it.
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2016
  5. 0lybacker

    0lybacker In the Stop Bath

    You'll be fortunate to find a 'modern' Voigtlander (Cosina) for under £200 but you may get lucky and find a really battered one with an old, slow 35mm for close to that. Mind you, battered, worn AND rangefinder - phew! - that will enhance your street cred no end! :D

    I echo Roger Mac's suggestion for a fixie rangefinder but be warned: they don't come cheap either unless you get lucky on a good deal. You could easily pay £100 and then have to fork out for strange, obscure batteries and possible repair or maintenance bills. I suggest you have a look at the Japan Camera Hunter w/s for info on buying. There is some excellent advice there in the side bar articles.

    Canonets are excellent but there are similar offerings from some of the other majors - Olympus & Minolta - and also from Rollei/Voigtlander and Yashica.
  6. Fishboy

    Fishboy Well-Known Member

    Thank you all very much - there's some serious food for thought here.

    My only experience of rangefinder cameras are an aged Halina 35L which I was given and a Voigtlander Vito B with a Gnome distance finder that I bought for the princely sum of £1 from a stall at a charity fair (the first time I put a film through it all of the aperture blades came adrift and started rattling around inside the lens!).

    There was a Leica iii with a 5cm f3.5 for sale recently at...of all places...the Rochdale branch of Cash Converters.. It was advertised as being an 'Ernest Leitz Wetzlar' rather than a Leica and was described as having dials that were 'difficult to turn'. They ended up eventually dropping the price to £125 and somebody beat me to it.

    I'll bear all of your advice in mind, have a look around and see what I can find and then, after I've given it a try, see if I can put together a bit of a mini-review on whatever I end up with.

    Thanks again, Jeff
  7. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    I was thinking about the same thing and I noticed that you can find Canon rangefinder bodies for less than a hundred pounds at the moment. Theres a company called Mwclassic that seem to have several but I dont know how good they are.
  8. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Rather nice, actually. I've got a couple, most usable is the 7 - mine is as smooth as my Leica M3 was (which is extremely smooth), although the feel of the topplate isn't quite as nice. Big, clear finder(most earlier models are much pokier), several brightline frames for lenses from 35mm to 135mm, and sometimes even a working meter. Decent alternative.
  9. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Dear Oly,

    Batteries? What sort of decent fixed-lens RF camera has batteries?


  10. RogerMac

    RogerMac Well-Known Member

    Well actually my Cannonet but since I put it back in commission I have ignored them completely as they only power the built in meter and a separate hand held meter is much more accurate (a DSLR substitutes nicely)
  11. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

  12. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    I ain't giving nobody my little Rolleis. ;)
  13. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

  14. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    I'm trying to think of a suitable pun in response, but am failing. "Sonnars like a plan" was the best I could manage.
  15. Fishboy

    Fishboy Well-Known Member

    Scale focus is another thing for me to consider!

    As far as a meter is concerned, when I was being taught to take photographs I wasn't allowed to use a meter until I'd learned how to do without one.

    Even with an SLR on a strap over my shoulder I was taught to change the settings each time the light changed and to keep the infinity mark on the lens just inside the depth of field marking for whatever aperture I'd selected.

    These things were up there with always leaving an exposure 'up the spout' - never finishing a roll of film unless I intended to immediately replace it!

    ...and try telling that to the kids of today and they won't believe you!
  16. steveandthedogs

    steveandthedogs Well-Known Member

    At the cheap end: Yashica Minister III, Petri 7s, Minolta AL, Werra [-matic for choice], Fed 3, Ricoh 500, Vitomatic, Kodak Retina II or III for a bit more, Zeiss Contessa 35. Or even a tiny, tiny Vito or Vito II

    What about medium format? Some nice scale focus folders: Ensign 16-20, Voigtlaender Baby Bessas, both not much bigger than a 35 rangefinder and pocketable.

    None perhaps up to Leica quality, but great fun and all less than £50. [Alright, the Retinas may be a touch more, but most of the others cost me less than £25].

  17. Fishboy

    Fishboy Well-Known Member

    I'll have a look at some of your 35mm suggestions - I can see that this might end up in a visit to a real camera shop rather than just a peruse of the internet!

    Thanks for the suggestion of medium format, but I'm sort of covered in that area.

    When I was nothing but a tiddler most of my exam photographs for 'O' Level were taken on a nice folding Zeiss Ikon Nettar (which I still have). I've got an Ensign Selfix 20, and a pair of Dacoras - one folding and one with a sprung pop-out lens. I've got a Baldixette with a similar pop-out lens.

    In addition, I've also got a couple of rather nice Yashica TLRs and a couple of Bronica ETRSs.

    I've also got a Kodak Instamatic with a Dymo Tape label (remember Dymo Tape?) saying 'HASSELBLAD' stuck over where it says 'Instamatic'!

    On reflection this whole desire to buy a rangefinder probably comes from my disappointment at the catastrophic failure of the Vito B I bought - I had high hopes for it and it let me down. I might see what's available along those lines (unless I'm seduced by a Leica!).

    Cheers, Jeff
  18. graham_mouat

    graham_mouat Well-Known Member

    Since you're not far from Manchester and thinking about a visit to a real camera shop, what about looking here:


  19. Fishboy

    Fishboy Well-Known Member

    That sounds like a plan - I believe there's also a pretty good place in the centre of Leeds. I'll have to book a day off work and arrange a bit of a trip out!

    Cheers, Jeff
  20. graham_mouat

    graham_mouat Well-Known Member

    Yes, this is the Leeds shop I think you mean:


    Both worth a visit IMHO.


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