Rangefinders for Leica I and other early cameras
Old 05-16-2019   #1
Jim Evidon
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Rangefinders for Leica I and other early cameras

I am looking for an accurate rangefinder for use on a Leica I, Robot and other old film cameras. I have considered finding a clear & contrasty Leica/Leitz Fodis or Fofer. Another choice is to buy a modern laser rangefinder of which there are two types; one with a viewfinder for hunting/archery, etc. The other is one without a viewfinder such a she Leica Disto which one points as accurately as a guesstimate can be for a more reading that has closer tolerances and accuracy.

Has anyone had any experience using a modern laser rangefinder for photo work? If so, what is your experience?
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Old 05-16-2019   #2
WJJ3
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I haven’t used a laser rangefinder for taking photos, but it doesn’t seem practical. You only really need precise focus at closer distances for focal lengths up to normal, and using uncoupled focusing for longer lenses is just a guessing game.

At closer distances it’s important that the rangefinder reading is taken from the film plane, which is why the Leica accessory rangefinders work well. How are you going to use a handheld rangefinder to measure the distance between your film plane and your subject, set it on the lens, and then take the photo while maintaining your accuracy?

I have a FOKOS I use on my Leica 1f sometimes, and it works, but requires you to work carefully. I can’t picture how you are going to use a handheld rangefinder unless you are shooting from a tripod...
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Old 05-16-2019   #3
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Old 05-16-2019   #4
Jim Evidon
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WJJ3 View Post
I haven’t used a laser rangefinder for taking photos, but it doesn’t seem practical. You only really need precise focus at closer distances for focal lengths up to normal, and using uncoupled focusing for longer lenses is just a guessing game.

At closer distances it’s important that the rangefinder reading is taken from the film plane, which is why the Leica accessory rangefinders work well. How are you going to use a handheld rangefinder to measure the distance between your film plane and your subject, set it on the lens, and then take the photo while maintaining your accuracy?

I have a FOKOS I use on my Leica 1f sometimes, and it works, but requires you to work carefully. I can’t picture how you are going to use a handheld rangefinder unless you are shooting from a tripod...
The camera I wanted to use it with is an old RoBoT Star II which doesn't have an accessory shoe. The camera uses a color code on the lens barrel but it is still a guess and by gosh system. A rangefinder hand held or not would be more reliable than guessing. Besides, I cheat by using the smallest f/stop I can get away with given the lighting and small aperture diffusion factors.
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Old 05-16-2019   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Evidon View Post
The camera I wanted to use it with is an old RoBoT Star II which doesn't have an accessory shoe. The camera uses a color code on the lens barrel but it is still a guess and by gosh system. A rangefinder hand held or not would be more reliable than guessing. Besides, I cheat by using the smallest f/stop I can get away with given the lighting and small aperture diffusion factors.
I see. So what is a scenario you want to measure distance with a handheld rangefinder and set it on the lens distance scale? Are we talking taking a photo of someone’s face at 3 or 5 feet?
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Old 05-16-2019   #6
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There's a VOIGTLANDER 93/184 RANGEFINDER on eBay @ a reasonable price.

A Leitz Fokos is probably more than you need - but I use one hand-held with a Vito II and keep it in a pants pocket when not in use.
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Old 05-16-2019   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Solinar View Post
There's a VOIGTLANDER 93/184 RANGEFINDER on eBay @ a reasonable price.

A Leitz Fokos is probably more than you need - but I use one hand-held with a Vito II and keep it in a pants pocket when not in use.
The FOKOS is a nice little unit. In terms of using it handheld, what kind of distances are you measuring and transferring to your camera?
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Old 05-16-2019   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WJJ3 View Post
The FOKOS is a nice little unit. In terms of using it handheld, what kind of distances are you measuring and transferring to your camera?
My scale focus cameras have markings in feet. So, 4 to 12 feet usually, which is about 1 meter plus to under 4 meters.
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Old 05-16-2019   #9
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I see, well if your focus hit rate is improving using that technique I can see it being worth the effort.

I do a fair amount of scale focus shooting, and with a 50mm lens I can usually guess good enough down to 5 or 6 feet (wider apertures can be trickier). Closer than that and the FOKOS is worth using, but I can't imagine trying to use it hand held and maintaining film plane to subject distance at these closer distances...
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Old 05-16-2019   #10
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Is that needed? Quoting 'They are designed for discreet, hyperfocal use, colour-points on the distance scale of each lens indicate the depth of the field according to the aperture set.'

Maybe one of those very tiny 3m/10ft tape measures for closer distances? Otherwise hyperfocal setting.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Evidon View Post
I am looking for an accurate rangefinder for use on a Leica I, Robot and other old film cameras. I have considered finding a clear & contrasty Leica/Leitz Fodis or Fofer. Another choice is to buy a modern laser rangefinder of which there are two types; one with a viewfinder for hunting/archery, etc. The other is one without a viewfinder such a she Leica Disto which one points as accurately as a guesstimate can be for a more reading that has closer tolerances and accuracy.

Has anyone had any experience using a modern laser rangefinder for photo work? If so, what is your experience?
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Old 05-16-2019   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WJJ3 View Post
I see, well if your focus hit rate is improving using that technique I can see it being worth the effort.
In good summer daylight @ F/8 to F/16, I'll guesstimate every time.

In the winter months, @F/4 with a dark cloudy days and the subject in the shadows, I'll break out the external RF using my Vito II or Perkeo II. Usually the subject is moving, so opting for a slow shutter speed is not how I want to shoot.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 571514m3 View Post
Maybe one of those very tiny 3m/10ft tape measures for closer distances? Otherwise hyperfocal setting.
My left shoulder to the tip of my right hand is approximately 1 meter.
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Old 05-17-2019   #12
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It’s not “cheating” to use depth of field. In many ways mastering the depth of field scale gives you better pictures than a rangefinder, by being able to set your subject where you want them. I had been a “focus fanatic” until I started shooting a Stereo Realist and simply following the hyperfocal scale. Remember back in the day film was much slower and F 5.6 was used a lot more than F 11.
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Old 05-17-2019   #13
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Old 05-18-2019   #14
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Once upon a time RF's were accessories and lots of firms made them. You still see them on ebay and so on and they are often dirt cheap as few want them and fewer still know what they are for. In your shoes I'd look for one of them...

There are a few problems, they don't like being knocked and may not be repairable and they may need adjusting but won't have the instructions with them. And, of course, some are marked in feet and some in meters. To confuse things further, the scales might not coincide. So the RF might show a scale (in meters) of 1, 3, 5, 10, 20 and infinity and the camera's scale might be for a different set of distances.

From memory only Leitz/Leica and Blik and Lomo matched. Lomo means, of course, expensive due to lomotics paying stupid prices for the name. Anyway, I'll wish you luck searching for one and add that I use a 10 ft tape measure a lot of the time and can guess fairly well when the DoF means it's not too critical.

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Old 05-18-2019   #15
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The scale on the Lomo Blik rangefinder is marked in exactly the same steps as those on my Welta Weltax, which is why I've had two of the Bliks. Unfortunately both were slightly out when I got them and I couldn't manage to adjust them correctly. I knew I'd have to take the shoe off and undo the big screw and only then turn the little screws, but I still had too much trouble.

I need them as I'm no good at judging distances.

I get the impression that some laser rangefinders only use the laser to aim with and actually use some sort of sonic method to measure the distance.
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