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Rangefinder like SLRs
Old 03-17-2018   #1
jgrainger
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Rangefinder like SLRs

This has probably come up before but..

Playing with my Olympus OM-1 in poor condition, I recall some have compared them to quality rangefinders.

To me it's not really a patch on a good rangefinder for the bold quality feel, but it's definitely lighter than a few rangefinders and is fairly still considering the moving mirror.

I don't expect to find an SLR which could tempt me away from rangefinders, especially as a 50mm prime kind of guy.. But it interests me to look at what's out there.

It would be interesting to know what might have some virtues compared to rangefinder cameras - in terms of feel, usability, small size.

Jonathan
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Old 03-17-2018   #2
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Perhaps check out the Pentax MX. Tiny little SLR, all mechanical with a built in meter. The meter, shutter speed and aperture are all visible in the finder. It is a very nice finder. Body is about the size of my Barnack clones but the prism housing make it slightly taller. With the 40mm pancake on it is about the same depth as the clone with a Nikkor 5cm f2.

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Old 03-17-2018   #3
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The Me-Super has a cylinder to make he mirror rise without much clatter!
Personally after using SLR and DSLR in pro work, the mirror bounce story is a fable!
Even my super bang Asahi Pentax 6x7 only suffered mirror shake at two speeds and longer lenses.
A correct base on tripod cured even that!
Seeing thru an SLR viewfinder is better for framing, always same size framing and if focus set at 7'~15' one can frame and see same as RF.
All SLR of good heritage are more than adequate.
Pentax K-1000, ME, MX: Canon AE-1P, Minoltas, Nikon F,F2,F3 are great.
These cameras are all old, may need service but are fun to use.
Yes I own Leica M's. The "look" of images a lil better.
The "lil" very pricey and always needing attention.
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Old 03-17-2018   #4
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To me rangefinder is then you have one eye open and another into rangefinder.
I wasn't smart enough to check it with lovely OM-1O and 50 1.8, but I did it with mint FG-20. I still have to push my nose, but two eyes were open and 1:1 view. Just like with M3 and 50mm lens. 50E lens was small and short focus throw. Yet, I still couldn't force my self to use it. Frames in VF were missing....
My next step is going to be SLR with external VF
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Old 03-17-2018   #5
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Pentax MX and ME. Get both.
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Old 03-17-2018   #6
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I like to be lazy sometimes and I have two P3n cameras. They have a couple of drawbacks: no DX override, and some don't like the split image finder. I do like the split image finder and I also being lazy with the full or partial automatic setting. It is 5mm taller than an MX and 1mm wider and longer. I bought one of them new in 1990 or 89, and only changed the battery because I worried it might go flat. So full manual, aperture priority, shutter priority, and full automatic. Plus you can with adapter use your screw mount Pentax lenses with aperture priority.

My last body cost $20 about 10 years ago and I saw one for $12 of ebay today. If you have F or FA lenses this is a great rig. I take both on vacation (one B&W and one color) so I can change two lenses if needed.
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Old 03-19-2018   #7
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I have come to the conclusion that no SLR is RF like, at least none that I have used. I think some are smaller and lighter than say my Yashica TL Super, or my Fujica ST901, but not all. Sometimes I enjoy using a RF camera, but mostly I enjoy using an SLR. I think I get better framing. Several people have mentioned the Pentax ME series, which are lighter than my Fujica. But I had the Fujica before while still using the Yashica TL Super. I liked it better because of the viewfinder readouts.

Probably I just figure to use the camera I want for the photos I want to take. SLR, Rangefinder, 9x12, whatever. But focusing is what makes them what they are, and other than wanting to use zooms sometimes, focusing is just what it is.
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Old 03-19-2018   #8
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I'm with oftherd. For slr I use the OM 4TI. It's light, small, fast to work shutter and aperture, and it frames better than a range finder. The only similarity is size.
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Old 03-19-2018   #9
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I used to have a Nikon EM and FG that had been hacked to shoot a non AI 50 H Nikkor lens (as well as a Leica R 90 Elmarit w/ an adapter). They are tiny, and have AE. The EM is AE only and has no way to shoot in manual (there than 1/90 in case the battery dies). That was my favorite one to use because the meter is very good and was nearly always right. It had a little button you could push to give more exposure if the scene was backlit, and that was it. A real P&S little beastie that could be used quickly. Both had split prism screens. The FG could be used in AE, manual, or aperture priority mode w. a non Nikkor lens. I felt the H 50 Nikkor was as good a 50 as you could ever find. They didn't have Leica build quality or feel, but I just wanted small, light and a good meter. Plus, they had the ability to use Leica R lenses.
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Old 03-19-2018   #10
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Plenty of small & light SLRs out there. But none is "like" a rangefinder...how could one be in the first place?
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Old 03-19-2018   #11
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Not that I'll ever be able to afford one, but a few of the early Alpas (I think models 5-8) have a pentaprism and a rangefinder window (well I suppose it must be a window for composing, not a true RF). What intrigues me about them are the Switar lenses and the handmade quality, perhaps even putting Leica to shame in that arena.
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Old 03-19-2018   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluesun267 View Post
Not that I'll ever be able to afford one, but a few of the early Alpas (I think models 5-8) have a pentaprism and a rangefinder window (well I suppose it must be a window for composing, not a true RF). What intrigues me about them are the Switar lenses and the handmade quality, perhaps even putting Leica to shame in that arena.

The ALPA Reflex and Prisma models have a horizontal non-coincidence rangefinder across the top of the body in addition to reflex focusing. Waist level finder for the Reflex; Kern pentaprism with trademark 45 degree offset eyepiece for the Prisma. A few Reflex models were returned to Pignons and upgraded to Prisma specification.

Later ALPA 4, 5, 6, 7 & 8 models all incorporated an optical finder on the rewind side of the body in addition to reflex focusing with a similar 45 degree eyepiece used in the Prisma (except the 4, which has a chimney type reflex finder). The additional non-reflex finder of 4, 5 & 6 models is useful only as a framing device for a 50mm lens. In the same way as Eg that fitted to KW's underrated Praktina SLRs.

The 7 & 7s/8 series went one step further and include a true vertical coupled rangefinder system, and these have an additional window for the RF patch at the bottom front of the body on the rewind side, near the focus ring.

It's coupled only to the 50mm lenses for these cameras, including of course, the 50mm Switar f/1.8. The 7/7s/8 auxiliary finder also has three magnification ratios up to 135mm (even though longer lenses are not coupled).

The 7 series has a ground glass focus screen. The 7s/8 uses a reflex screen with split wedge RF, providing the option of two types of rangefinder focusing.

One of our members, Chris Livesy, has owned and used ALPA 6 & 7 models for many years and knows them very well. And I've been shooting with ALPA 5, 9d and 11si models for a few months, and have a 7 repair project of my own. I actually started a thread about them last year.

I almost bought the 9d I'm presently running a film through, because it's an interesting, well made and attractive SLR with conventional eyepiece angle, but the finder of at least this example is so dim it really does compromise all round usability. The earlier Alnea series models do not have stellar finders, but they're altogether much easier to focus with, offset eyepiece notwithstanding. On the other hand if you want an ALPA you can just pick up and shoot with and forget you're using an unusual, expensive hand-made Swiss camera, the 11si is the shot. Super bright finder, great split RF wedge and microprism and non-rotating shutter dial. Only the reversed wind lever and front mounted shutter release really remind you it's an ALPA, and they’re easily adjusted to in my experience.

The ALPA lenses can be expensive to procure, in some cases very expensive, but bargains do pop up occasionally. Values for ALPA bodies can be all over the place. I don't think you'll ever get much of a bargain on a 7s or 8 series, but, someone in a Facebook camera repair group has just scored a couple of bodies including a 7, for $100 each. Probably with some sort of issues, and extremely unlikely the speeds will be any good. If you would really like one badly enough, I think the way to do it is to get a foot in the door and find the best example of the body you would like at an affordable price, get it going, pair it up to a Nikon or M42 adapter and keep sniping eBay auctions until you score a Switar for a few hundred.

Only a couple of weeks ago an ALPA 5 complete with 50mm Kern Switar f/1.8 sold for only USD $671.00. Well under what that lens can fetch by itself. So whilst these cameras can sell for thousands of dollars, if you're persistent, you can get one for hundreds.

When it comes to buying an ALPA SLR I think there are two ways to go about it. One: pony up the dollars for a really good working example that's been recently serviced and is guaranteed. Two: purchase one being sold as being in need of some servicing. In the last few months I've handled examples of the original Reflex, the Prisma, 5, 7, 9d and 3 x 11si SLRs. Of all those: only one example of the 11si has been working absolutely flawlessly. The others at best have been running a half a stop slow (the 5, usable with even exposure across the gate). All the rest have had tapering 1/1000 speeds at best or tapering faults at slower speeds also. The Reflex was jammed up and damaged, the Prisma cocking and firing nicely but capping completely on 1/1000. Note that Reflex and Prisma models are ALPA in name but totally different designs, less reliable, use a smaller ALPA bayonet that cannot mount the Switars, Kinoptiks and so on. Breathtakingly pretty things, they're not for serious use in my view.

What you can see, I think, is that if you're not paying higher prices, the odds of getting a cheap ALPA that's ready to rock and roll are very slim. So there's not much point paying a few hundred more for an example the seller claims "speeds sound good, not tested with film...blah, blah, blah". It won't be any good to use, you will have to get it serviced. You may as well get the alternative example that looks just as good that is being described as having an inaccurate shutter. If you pay the extra for the "perhaps it'll be OK" specimens, well, they just won't be.

The third option I suppose is to repair one yourself. Almost no information out there about these cameras. But they're nicely made for the most part and the basic mechanism is not that complex really. Arguably less so than an Exakta with all their many speeds, although the way each type goes together is rather different, with the separate body housing and mechanisms of the Exakta, versus the front/rear body castings of the ALPA, with its mechanism mostly sandwiched in between. There is a repair manual for them, which is actually not a repair manual at all. Just some exploded parts diagrams and part number listings that is only of very limited help.

Personally, I think I am beginning to get my head around them and perhaps working out, a little, why they can often be so temperamental. At the heart of the problem is that the slit width likes to widen excessively, and I'm not referring to simple tapering across the gate (although that also occurs). I'm referring to the starting relationship between the curtains being too wide from the get go.

Why does this occur? Well, the mechanisms are just exquisite. Not better than Nikon or Canon, Pentax, et al. Probably worse, because they certainly dislike sitting idle a lot more. But they are so nicely crafted. So I don't think it's mechanical wear. I have a theory, not fully tested as yet, that perhaps the ribbon or curtain material is not dimensionally stable over time. For instance, if the first curtain material shrinks, even if it is still light proof, you're likely to have a wider starting slit than is desirable, whether the shutter actually tapers at high speeds or not (they usually will anyway). Perhaps a loss of the suppleness the fabric may have originally had might also be a factor. I'm not sure. But, having put all the working examples I've seen across my electronic tester, even briefly, the way it often plays out is that the first part of the gate may have half a stop or more of overexposure (slit starts too wide). You might have exposure close to accurate in the centre, but near the end of the gate, the second curtain has usually nearly caught the first and there could be a stop or more of underexposure.

Now, the neophyte repairer might assume, on basic principles, that the first curtain spring tension needs some boosting due to the tapering exposure across the gate. And it probably will need a little. But, this does not account for the overexposure at the beginning of the gate, and it's not going to fix that (actually, increasing first curtain tension by itself will make that worse). What will probably be required is to replace the curtains and ribbons and set the correct slit width for the 1/1000. Obviously, you have to clean and lubricate the mechanism as well. Then, and only then, can you carefully balance the curtain spring tensions, without increasing them excessively, to get correct, even exposure across the film gate, at all the different speeds. In short: the slit has to start off right. If it starts wide, you can't really get decent results until you correct the reasons for that.
Cheers,
Brett
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Old 03-19-2018   #13
Sarcophilus Harrisii
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Archlich View Post
Plenty of small & light SLRs out there. But none is "like" a rangefinder...how could one be in the first place?
Well, nearly none. The Reflex, Prisma, 7, 7s and 8 model ALPA SLRs are "like" a rangefinder, because they are rangefinders. Very odd ones, to be sure. But rangefinders nevertheless.
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Old 03-19-2018   #14
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The most rangefinder-like SLR ever made, that is not an actual rangefinder, is the original Corfield Periflex.


Corfield Periflex. For when you really want to use your LTM lenses on an SLR camera. by Mike Novak, on Flickr
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Old 03-19-2018   #15
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olympus pen f



it has the same form factor as a rangefinder. feels nice.


pentax spotmatic



svelte and feels great, especially the lenses.


pentax lx



the smoothest, best made compact slr.
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Old 03-20-2018   #16
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Jonathan, what is *your* favourite RF camera? As long this is unknown it's impossibly difficult to say which SLR would resemble the most.

IMHO, not just the form factor, but also -- and certainly more important -- the *function factors* play a big role: there are merely few SLRs that actually have *Leica M ergonomics* -- Nikon, Olympus or Pentax are not among them, AFAIK.

Another Japanese maker follows the Leica M function factors/ergonomics quite well, e.g.:

-- Here we have the shutter release button is where it belongs, concentric with the advance lever:



-- Here we have the film reminder where it belongs:



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Old 03-20-2018   #17
David Hughes
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Perhaps we should be wondering about a rangefinder that is SLR like.

Just a thought, although I see SLR's as SLR's and RF's as RF's and as for P&S's; well, the Olympus XA is fairly like the XA2 to use...

Regards, David


PS What I'm trying to say or suggest is that not all RF's have Leica written on them and there's a wide range of types as well as makes to confuse the issue more. And that goes for SLR's too.
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Old 03-20-2018   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Hughes View Post
Perhaps we should be wondering about a rangefinder that is SLR like.
I recall that during my childhood/teenage years I've tried several DV/RF cameras that in hindsight were *SLR-like DV/RF cameras* -- I found them annoying, particularly those that had too many scales and/or needles and/or blinking symbols implemented in their finders. (I suppose this breed was eradicated when everything went autofocus?)
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Old 03-20-2018   #19
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Sumarongi, what's that camera?
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Old 03-20-2018   #20
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Sumarongi, what's that camera?
It's a relatively early (black shutter dial) Minolta SRT101.
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Old 03-20-2018   #21
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SLR-like in the worst sense are those that have the finder eyepiece in the middle rather than at the side of the body where it belongs. Unfortunately there are lots of them, mostly ultra compact class like XA and some fancy Contaxes, as well as medium format folders...
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Old 03-20-2018   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sarcophilus Harrisii View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by mabelsound View Post
Sumarongi, what's that camera?
It's a relatively early (black shutter dial) Minolta SRT101.
*Very* close, but no cigar!

It's a tad earlier than the SR-T 101, it's the last version of the SR-7, see: http://camera-wiki.org/wiki/Minolta_SR-7

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SLR-like in the worst sense are those that have the finder eyepiece in the middle rather than at the side of the body where it belongs. Unfortunately there are lots of them, mostly ultra compact class like XA and some fancy Contaxes, as well as medium format folders...
Oh, yes, that's also very annoying.
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Old 03-20-2018   #23
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I would think most of these "function factors" boil down to one's own personal preferences. Shutter button concentric with the advance lever? Too awkward, doesn't fit my hand size at all.
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Old 03-20-2018   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sumarongi View Post
*Very* close, but no cigar!

It's a tad earlier than the SR-T 101, it's the last version of the SR-7, see: http://camera-wiki.org/wiki/Minolta_SR-7



Oh, yes, that's also very annoying.
Learned something there, thanks! I don’t think I’ve seen a SR-7 yet. I love my pair of 101s though. They sort of found me, I ignored them for a long time, but, when I finally started using them I was quickly converted.
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Old 03-20-2018   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by css9450 View Post
I would think most of these "function factors" boil down to one's own personal preferences. Shutter button concentric with the advance lever? Too awkward, doesn't fit my hand size at all.
That's funny -- I'd say, the only Nikon that I would probably like (I do have a totally neglected kaput F2, I just needed the DP-or DF-or-something-finder as a present for my mother-in-law) is the one that has the release button Leica-M/Minolta-like: the F3 -- and I do have large pianist's hands

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sarcophilus Harrisii View Post
Learned something there, thanks! I don’t think I’ve seen a SR-7 yet. I love my pair of 101s though. They sort of found me, I ignored them for a long time, but, when I finally started using them I was quickly converted.
Cheers
Brett
Brett, similar in my case -- a couple of years ago I did recall that several of my school mates were Minolta shooters -- and soon I discovered that some of them are really really good, particularly those that were already old-fashioned when I was born
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Old 03-20-2018   #26
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IMHO i guess that SLR like RF is a mythical search!
You wanna see clearly what you are framing, it's SLR.
IF you wanna have the "feel" of RF then list is very short.
There is no SLR LIKE a RF!
Close, similar is never the same!
One either has a Leica M, or one is simply a loser.
The Spotmatic and later K-1000 kinda simple like an M.
Canon Ae-1P has all same directions of focus and shutter dial like an M.
Nikon is opposite!
The Alpas are a nightmare, to use, to maintain and service!
If you own some, you are to be applauded.

I love RF when I had long shoots and longer days!
My eyes tired, the RF is the best.
The M lenses before apoch. era are really small and easy to pocket.
Smaller rigs (price of Leica stuff) are the best.
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Old 03-20-2018   #27
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If all you are considering is size then there are several SLR camera/lens combinations that fit the size criteria.

The difference between rangefinder and slr is not size, irregardless of what some would like to pretend. They each provide a very different experience even when the photographer is using them for similar tasks. As noted several times already in the posts found in this thread alone, some like the rangefinder experience, some do not, and others appear to be somewhat ambivalent (though their personal use pattern probably does reveal a preference.)

I love my Pentax LX and it is a very, very smooth camera in operation. Over the years it has passed up the K1000 as my favorite SLR. I seriously doubt I will ever get rid of it and I do use it pretty regularly. But I think that my use patterns over the past few years clearly shows a personal preference for the rangefinder whenever shooting 35mm.
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Old 03-20-2018   #28
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Quote:
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If all you are considering is size then there are several SLR camera/lens combinations that fit the size criteria.

The difference between rangefinder and slr is not size, irregardless of what some would like to pretend. They each provide a very different experience even when the photographer is using them for similar tasks. As noted several times already in the posts found in this thread alone, some like the rangefinder experience, some do not, and others appear to be somewhat ambivalent (though their personal use pattern probably does reveal a preference.)

I love my Pentax LX and it is a very, very smooth camera in operation. Over the years it has passed up the K1000 as my favorite SLR. I seriously doubt I will ever get rid of it and I do use it pretty regularly. But I think that my use patterns over the past few years clearly shows a personal preference for the rangefinder whenever shooting 35mm.
Dan, is that because of focusing ability? I find the rangefinder more appealing the older my eyes get. That is my case; even with SLR finders that I like I am having increasingly more troubles with focus.
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Old 03-20-2018   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Archlich View Post
Plenty of small & light SLRs out there. But none is "like" a rangefinder...how could one be in the first place?
A,

At the February NYC Camera Carnival Sam showed off this ALPA that was both a SLR with a rangefinder.

Sam is a collector. He says he has about 300 cameras.

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Old 03-20-2018   #30
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Dan, is that because of focusing ability? I find the rangefinder more appealing the older my eyes get. That is my case; even with SLR finders that I like I am having increasingly more troubles with focus.
So I do. The "bright and big" Viewfinders of my SLRs are more and more complicated to handle with older eyes.
The brightness of Rangefinders and electronic viewfinders become more important with every year of age.

But there are also facts like silence and a real visible moment while shooting without blackout that SLRs never
brought up. I think that every tool is designed for special work. So a SLR never would be "like a rangefinder"
and vice versa.
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Old 03-20-2018   #31
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From the Nikon RF perspective, it's a Nikon F plain prism.

(It is Nikon RF Month and all).......

B2 (;->
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Old 03-20-2018   #32
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Dan, is that because of focusing ability? I find the rangefinder more appealing the older my eyes get. That is my case; even with SLR finders that I like I am having increasingly more troubles with focus.
It could be that focusing is easier, but I really couldn't say based on my photos. In reality I seem to use hyperfocal focusing with the rangefinders quite frequently while actually focusing with the SLRs.

I tell myself that the size factor is a bigger deal but that is also being influenced by the fact that I seem to be using my faster, brighter (and heavier, larger) lenses on my SLRs than I did in the past. I tell myself that I like the better control of depth of field I get with these faster lenses but it may be as simple as being able to focus them easier because the image is brighter. This could also be why I am far more inclined to use my LX than my K1000 as I get older since the viewfinder itself is far brighter on the LX.

You could certainly be onto something with the focus issue. On the rangefinders I still use the f/2 or slower primes since they are smaller and the depth of field lends itself to hyperfocal focusing. On the flip side it is harder to achieve critical focus with faster lenses on the rangefinder (though the M3 still seems to be pretty easy for me to work with in this regards.)

I'll have to give this some more thought (and perhaps I need to buy a newer pair of glasses.)

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Old 03-20-2018   #33
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I'm surprised no one has mentioned the original Leicaflex. Its viewfinder is like a rangefinder in that the only part that focuses is the central microprism -- the outer region of the viewfinder is always in focus, like a rangefinder's viewfinder. And like a rangefinder, the viewfinder is particularly bright. (Oh, and like many rangefinders, the metering is not through the lens.)

Otherwise, it's a rather large and hefty camera, so rather un-rangefinderlike in that regard.
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Old 03-20-2018   #34
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Quote:
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Plenty of small & light SLRs out there. But none is "like" a rangefinder...how could one be in the first place?
Agree. I have both types and cherish them all. My Nikon FE is awesome but it is not a Leica and that's not a put down. Just a different experience.
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Old 03-21-2018   #35
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Quote:
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I'm surprised no one has mentioned the original Leicaflex. Its viewfinder is like a rangefinder in that the only part that focuses is the central microprism -- the outer region of the viewfinder is always in focus, like a rangefinder's viewfinder. And like a rangefinder, the viewfinder is particularly bright.
The Canon EX auto has a viewfinder similar to the Leicaflex.
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Old 03-22-2018   #36
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Most of my Alpas are in a secure place, too expensive to use in my usual manner (in anorak pockets, knocked about in rucksacks etc). I do however recall that it was quite easy to inadvertently block the lower rangefinder window while focussing. Also, the angled rangefinder "finger" touching the Switar was less robust than the leica roller design.

I put up with the stupidly designed (involuntarily moveable) focussing fiield, the digital Pen F , with a software revision it could be a good substitute for the old rangefinder M6.
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Old 03-22-2018   #37
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If it's about the left-sided viewfinder and something "modern" is not totally out of question, then have a look at the Olympus Evolt E-300. This piece of digital art has a left viewfinder, but is a real DSLR. The finder itself is just ingenious!

Look at that:
https://www.dpreview.com/reviews/olympuse300/3

Oh, and it has a Kodak sensor... :-)
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Old 03-22-2018   #38
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I would go for a Pentax Mx with 40/2.8 SMC M series lens
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Old 03-22-2018   #39
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I've never owned one, but I have occasionally been intrigued by pellicle mirror cameras like the Canon Pellix or the EOS RT. When the RT was new I fondled one in a camera store, snapping some imaginary shots, and it didn't black out with a flip of the mirror. I thought it might be a neat cross between the user experience of a rangefinder crossed with the ability to look through the lens.

Maybe someday....

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Old 03-22-2018   #40
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Quote:
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*Very* close, but no cigar!

It's a tad earlier than the SR-T 101, it's the last version of the SR-7, see: http://camera-wiki.org/wiki/Minolta_SR-7



Oh, yes, that's also very annoying.
Then you must have changed your avatar, because what I see is a Geiss modified Argus C4.

PF

PS: Oops, I just realized he was asking about another posting before the one his post wound up under. Just ignore mine.
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