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Ever use your fixed-lens rangefinder to force yourself to see differently?
Old 02-16-2007   #1
Jeremy Z
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Ever use your fixed-lens rangefinder to force yourself to see differently?

10 years ago, I got into SLR photography, and pretty much never looked back. With a mirror lock-up feature, most of the rangefinder advantages are gone. Let's face it, a 28-135mm range is not really that all-encompassing...

With fixed-lens rangefinders, you are so limited. You only have the one lens, and it is usually a good one. You can't take a proper wide angle shot, unless you have a lot of room. (very frustrating if you're trying to shoot an old European church and can't back up any further...)

However, if one sticks to the type of photography that rangefinders excel at, I bet it can be very liberating to use one.

You would know ahead of time that you only have a 40mm (or whatever) lens to work with, and you look for shots that would be good with that focal length.

Since coming to this forum, I see that the majority of pictures taken with rangefinders are street shots, people shots, and some landscape shots too. These are common types of photography for point-and-shooters, but here, there are more B&W, and they are uncommonly well done.

I can't wait until my Rollei 35 comes. I enjoyed shooting that last rool with the Yashica Electro, but haven't had it developed yet. (digital has made me kind of lazy...)
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Old 02-16-2007   #2
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Quote:
Let's face it, a 28-135mm range is not really that all-encompassing.
12-135mm you mean, surely?

But yes, I regularly go out with just a fixed-lens rangefinder, for exactly the reasons suggested. In fact, I often go out with an interchangeable lens rangefinder or an SLR but with only one lens, again for the same reasons.

Also, I have a friend who is just starting photography and I'm coaching him a little, and one of the exercises I have him do is go out with just one lens - sometimes I've even made it one of mine that he has never used before. And he reckons that it is really helping him to see things in different ways.
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Old 02-16-2007   #3
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With an SLR+zoom I have to:

1. Zoom to frame
2. Choose aperture
3. Check auto shutter speed is ok
4. Autofocus
5. Shoot

With a fixed lens rangefinder I have to

1. Walk to the right spot
2. Choose aperture
3. Check auto shutter speed is ok
4. Manually focus
5. Shoot

The bit I find hard is step 1. I find it's far easier to visualise what I want in my shot by walking to the spot than by zooming. With a zoom lens, I very often get terrible compositions. On the other hand, there are times (like your European church example, or perhaps a distant mountain) where you can alter the framing very easily by zooming, but it's very hard to do by walking.

So, for me, SLR + zoom = in focus wrongly framed, rangefinder = framed better sometimes out of focus.

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Old 02-16-2007   #4
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Seeing differently was what got me into RFs. I saw a Yashica Electro GTN in a pawn shop and bought it because it looked so fantastically old school. After shooting 5 rolls with it was I both excited and frustrated. Excited because the good shots had a real character that I missed with my digital kit - a character that made me want to go out and shoot again! Frustrated because the dim viewfinder and dimmer rangefinder made it tricky to focus and frame shots in lower light.

But like wintoid said the composition of my shots was better and I found myself thinking while I shot, not just clicking off shots like a stop-motion animator.

So I bought the R2a and 35 Ultron and haven't looked back. I never use my SLR and am considering selling it. I periodically still pull out my Yashica and Rolleiflex, but I've never shot more than since I got the Bessa. Best of all, the guys I shoot with semi-regularly have said that my photos have gotten much better since I started using it. They are starting to get jealous - which is the whole aim right!
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Old 02-16-2007   #5
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Quote:
With a zoom lens, I very often get terrible compositions
I completely agree (not that your compositions are terrible, but you know what I mean ).

I've used zooms a lot and they really are wonderful at times, but they so often lull people into the "shoot from here" mentality and make them completely forget about other vantage points. Using a rangefinder camera (or a prime lens on an SLR) really helps to keep me on my toes (literally), and I often spend ages walking in and out and all around a subject looking for the best angles.
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Old 02-16-2007   #6
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That is why I gave up on my SLR zooms. Primes only for me. Never leave home with more than one lens. Yeah, I may miss that perfect shot that required the ultra-wide or my long tele, but, my bag is light and there is almost always a good picture at the angle of my/any lens.
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Old 02-16-2007   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oscroft
12-135mm you mean, surely?
I hadn't really considered the wide lenses with add-on viewfinders. They are absurdly expensive, from what I've seen. I balk when a 35mm SLR lens costs more than $200. Why are prime rangefinder lenses so expensive? They seem to start at $500.
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Old 02-16-2007   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeremy Z
With fixed-lens rangefinders, you are so limited. You only have the one lens, and it is usually a good one...However, if one sticks to the type of photography that rangefinders excel at, I bet it can be very liberating to use one...You would know ahead of time that you only have a 40mm (or whatever) lens to work with, and you look for shots that would be good with that focal length...
That's basically my mindset.

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Old 02-16-2007   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeremy Z
I hadn't really considered the wide lenses with add-on viewfinders. They are absurdly expensive, from what I've seen. I balk when a 35mm SLR lens costs more than $200. Why are prime rangefinder lenses so expensive? They seem to start at $500.
Please do show me an ultrawide slr lens that costs 200$ only. Or one longer than 135mm.
(We are talking new, and fixed focals, right?)

EDIT: do develop those yashica rolls. You might get pleasantly surprised.
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Old 02-16-2007   #10
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iambic pentameter seems limiting as well, but there is a remarkable level of freedom there, as can be seen by reading what some have done with it. IMHO, there is not much really limiting about using one lens. There are things they won't do well, to be sure, but those opportunities are far more rare than the shots that they handle perfectly.

I would like to own a portrait telephoto and a 28mm or so for my Kiev's and CL, but for now, all my lenses for my rangefinders are either 40mm or 50mm. I haven't touched my SLR in at least a year, despite having a tele and a wide for it. While I will eventually add at least two more lenses for my M-mount and Kiev's, I certainly don't feel restricted. I tend to find it more liberating to explore an area looking for the proper vantage point instead of simply taking a shot from where I stand.
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Old 02-17-2007   #11
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I went downtown today with only the Electro 35 and a couple rolls of film. I didn't even finish the first roll, Agfapan 400. (I shot 23 shots)

Somehow, in my travels, I was sucked into Central Camera Co. and walked out, in a daze, with a nice little gem, an Olympus XA, w/ A11. My goodness, what a little beauty. I was shocked at the build quality and the thought that went into every little detail. It is not plastic-fantastic, as it appears to be in the photos. It already has a roll of Ilford XP2 in it.

Anyhow, I'm considering just rewinding the Agfapan right now and sending it in for processing. I'm anxious to see a couple shots that are on it. I do wish they'd make 12 exposure rolls of B&W...

I do see what you guys mean, with it forcing you to move around more. At first, it was an inconvenience, but now I can see how it helps you to see things differently. It kind of gives you hands-on experience as to how things will look from a different viewpoint before you even get there.

Also, as nice as that XA is, it cannot compete with the build quality of the Electro 35. What a well-finished tank that is!
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Old 02-17-2007   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oscroft
But yes, I regularly go out with just a fixed-lens rangefinder, for exactly the reasons suggested. In fact, I often go out with an interchangeable lens rangefinder or an SLR but with only one lens, again for the same reasons.
What he said.

With a single lens, whether on a fixed-lens camera or interchangeable lens camera, you can adjust your mental view to "see" photo possibilities in the angle of view of the lens. This can be liberating in simplifying the mental processes and concentrating on the photo making. I don't often carry additional lenses with me unless I'm well away from home, and then each walk away from the vehicle or hotel is generally with just one selected focal length appropriate for expected subjects.

Several years ago I took only a Fuji GS645S (fixed 60mm f/4) to Hawaii, and the lack of other lens choices just wasn't a problem. I've been on other trips with just a Minolta CLE and its 40mm, a very similar situation. A year ago on a trip to the Palm Springs CA area I had three lenses along, but only used one. I just got another fixed-lens Fuji; the big GW670 with its 90mm lens, and I'm sure that'll be entirely satisfactory too. I find that lenses in the 35mm, 40mm, 45mm range (or other-format equivalent) are incredibly useful.

But there are fixed wide-angle models out there too, and those can be fun as well.
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Old 02-18-2007   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeremy Z
I'm anxious to see a couple shots that are on it. I do wish they'd make 12 exposure rolls of B&W...
They do. Ilford FP4+ exists in 12-frame rolls. But it comes out quite more expensive.
I guess you could roll your own to make it cheap and as short as you want. Processing costs would still be higher.
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Old 02-18-2007   #14
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It took me some time to adjust to rangefinder focusing and not to actually see beforehand what is in focus and what is not. Now I use 80% rangefinder camera and 20% SLR cameras. Nothing comes close to being able to use a 500mm lens on a SLR. The other advantage forusing both systems is economics. I cannot afford a lens similar to the 85mm/1.2 for my SLR. I only have vintage lenses for the rangefinder camera since new lenses are expensive.
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Indecision is a terrible thing
Old 02-18-2007   #15
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Indecision is a terrible thing

Never a decisive moment lost while changing lenses!

Chris

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Old 02-18-2007   #16
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Well, you don't have to zoom with your zoom. No need to buy a prime, just tape the zoom ring in position.
If however you think 2.8 is slow, zooms are out of the question.
I tend to use primes. Sometimes my camera can't change lenses. If it can I tend to use the same lens during the whole day. Even on my Canon 20d I use primes most of the time. But that's because of the speed.
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Old 02-18-2007   #17
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Quote:
I balk when a 35mm SLR lens costs more than $200. Why are prime rangefinder lenses so expensive? They seem to start at $500.
Cosina Voigtlander lenses (prices from CameraQuest)...
12mm f5.6 = $594
15mm f4.5 = $345
21mm f4 = $329
25mm f4 = $245

That's hardly "starting at $500".
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Old 02-18-2007   #18
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I went out shooting today for about an hour. There i something I am having a hard time getting over. I am used to SLRs. I have been using SLRs for 10 ears, and for some reason, my brain is having a hard time framing the shot inside the framelines. I am conditioned to think that everything I see is what I will get, and putting the picture inside the framelines with all the space outside of them is completely unnatural.

For this reason, the Olympus XA was easier for me to use. (though I did miss a couple of shots of snowmobilers because the cover wasn't quite 100% open. Damn)
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Old 02-18-2007   #19
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Oh, and I found that the 35mm focal length of the XA was much more useful than the 45mm of the Yashica GS. I was constantly having to walk back with the GS.
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Old 02-18-2007   #20
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Jeremy,
I also began this wonderful hobby w/ an SLR. 5 years ago, I discovered RFs & I thought it was a wonderful way of seeing. Last summer I managed to finally nab an M6 and I haven't looked back since.
Although I have a wide zoom for the DSLR (17-35mm), I'd much rather have one prime lens - a 35mm (or 40mm) - when out shooting with either a SLR or RF. For several years I've used a 35mm & 50mm almost exclusively at approx 3:1 ratio. For my uses, I don't see the need for anything beyond these two. Even when I use the DSLR and zoom, it's always set to 24-28mm which is about 36-43mm with the crop factor.

Actually, I sometimes feel like my head's going to pop when I have too many choices....
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Old 02-21-2007   #21
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Hi !

I'm very new to rangefinders and even newer to analog film shooting.

Three years ago (I'm 40 years old now) I started with a simple digi cam and no photographic background at all.

After the simple 2 MP camera I stepped up the ladder with some Panasonic superzoom cameras (no need of walking, everything can be caught were you stand ), then the great Panasonic LC-1/Leica Digilux 2 (less zoom) and then a Nikon D50.
At first I bought many zoom lenses for the D50 (18-200, 70-300, etc.), but one day I got the cheap 50/1.8 lens and from that on I was hooked to primes.
Now I had to think before I took a picture !

And this helps me to get better in what I'm doing.

One day I noticed some old and odd looking cameras in a shop window and did a little research in the internet about that things.

Bad idea !!!

Thanks eBay I nowown about seven rangefinders (e.g. Canonet QL17 GIII, Revue 400 SE aka Minolta Hi-Matic 7SII) and three SRL's (one is a Revue AC-4 SP aka Chinon CP-6 SP) with only fast primes.

I have to admit that I use these analog cameras more and more and my digital gear just for occasions with many pictures to take.

Primes and rangefinders force you really to think about what you do.
For a newbie like me it was enlightened to learn with my rangefinders the meanings of ISO, DoF, the interaction between shutter speed and aperture, etc.

All this things meant nothing to me because my digital cameras did this things for me and all I had to do was pressing the shutter in the right moment

A few months ago I laughed about the silly idea of implementing a winding lever in a digital cam (Epson R-D1), but now I often find myself trying to pull the (imaginary) lever on my digitals

Sorry for the long (and boring) story, but I'm really glad that I've found my way to analog rangefinders and hope to learn more and more from them.


Happy shooting,

Martin

BTW, is there some one with any experience with the Hewlett-Packard Scanjet G4050 for digitalizing my negatives ?

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Old 02-21-2007   #22
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Martin, welcome to RFF and rangefinder enthusiasm!
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Old 02-22-2007   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Manie_de
I have to admit that I use these analog cameras more and more and my digital gear just for occasions with many pictures to take.

Primes and rangefinders force you really to think about what you do.
For a newbie like me it was enlightened to learn with my rangefinders the meanings of ISO, DoF, the interaction between shutter speed and aperture, etc.

<snip>

BTW, is there some one with any experience with the Hewlett-Packard Scanjet G4050 for digitalizing my negatives ?
Martin, This is the disadvantage of analog cameras. There is the extra step of digitizing, unless you pay the extra to have them scanned at the time of development.

Now, I'm really going to rock your world. Stop messing around with digitizing (aside from the odd scanned print here and there, and get a basic darkroom set up. You have only truly discovered about half (maybe less) the joy of film photography until you develop & print your own stuff. This is not so practical with color, but a lot of us prefer B&W anyhow. If you're going primitive, you may as well do it right.

To cap it all off, start mailing your prints to friends & family. (Mail? Gasp.)

If you haven't got one yet, get a yellow filter for your favorite B&W lens.
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Old 03-01-2007   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeremy Z

If you haven't got one yet, get a yellow filter for your favorite B&W lens.
What is the yellow filter for? Are there various types of yellow filters or just a standard one?

thanks for the tip
sophia
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Old 03-01-2007   #25
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Quote:
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What is the yellow filter for? Are there various types of yellow filters or just a standard one?
Hi Sophia-- There is a progression of strengths from light to medium to dark yellow, yellow-green, yellow-orange, orange, red-orange, and reds. These filters and others darken their complementaray color. Yellow darkens blue, so is a favorite with B&W film to make white clouds stand out against a darker blue sky. It will also darken blue-sky-lit shadow areas. The deeper the yellow, the stronger the effect. Red has a very strong effect, often making a blue sky black.

You might scan the filter descriptions at http://www.bhphotovideo.com/, as there's a short commentary for each.
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