Which classic rangefinder would you recommend?


A native Texan looking for the light.
Local time
5:14 AM
Nov 12, 2022
I've got a Canon L1 and a Model P and want to buy a classic RF. Either a Canon, Nicca, or a Leotax LTM RF. Which would you recommend?

Many thanks,
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You already have two classic 35mm rangefinders.

JIm B.
Dear Jim,

You beat me to it!

But to answer wrs1145 it might help if you provide details on what you wish to spend. I'll be out of the conversation but with more information other members will be certain to take up the slack.


Tim Murphy
I've got a Canon L1 and a Model P and want to buy a classic RF.

More important than what you want to spend is what you want to get.

Do you want iconic? An experience? A "daily driver"? A curiosity?

For example: Argus C3, Contax III, Leica II, Speed Graphic, Super Ikonta. All classics in their own right... and all very different experiences.
A Leica iif with a 1950s Summarit 50/1.5.

Why? Because I own one, and it's a brilliant kit.

Not exactly cheap, though. The camera didn't set me back a small mint, but getting it restored to modern day functionality did.

Otherwise, yes, the OP should give us more information. Starting with, how much does he want to spend? A $$ figure, please, NOT "as little as I can get away with."
Contax IIa. Bad viewfinder (but precise rangefinder), exceptional build quality and the best chrome finish ever.
Contax IIa. Very well made, excellent lenses, light and easy to use. Lastly there are still quite a lot of both cameras and lenses available at reasonable prices.
If you have to have another, an M3 with a 50 Summitar or Summarit. Or the M2 mentioned above with a 35 Summaron. Doesn't get more classic.

My first M was an M3 DS with a Summarit on it that I got in a used camera store in Oakland in around 1993. Went back the next week to add the single stroke M3 with a 35 goggled Summaron. Really smooth cameras, really nice results. And in the 1990's these lenses were lower-contrast than the Summicrons of the day. Here's a snap of the family group with an M2 too. The M2 is wearing a 21mm lens and an external finder. It also has one of Tom Abramson's Rapidwinders on there: perhaps not strictly classic, but super useful and a lot of fun. I have added various gadgets: the release buttons and the cases.

I can't say -- despite my fanboy nature -- that any of these will do better for you in terms of final output than the two excellent cameras you already have. But these are solid machines, made at a time when cameras of this quality were designed to be serviced and kept in service rather than replaced when the next flavor came along. Wonderful viewfinders in the Leicas, although the Nikons of this era let you view with both eyes open (one looking through the VF, one past the camera) when using a 50mm lens for a head's up display effect that superimposes the framelines on the world and which was really light years ahead of its time. When I got these, I was mainly shooting with a Nikon F4s and with a 70's era Hasselblad, so it was a very different way of seeing the world, and one on which I got hooked.

I would say too that if you are looking for a classic RF camera, look for a repair person who is comfortable servicing cameras from that era at the same time. The cameras below are coming up on 75 years old . . . eventually, something will break or need adjustment.

Are you going just to wear it or take pictures also?
If the latter, get something you know can be serviced, which means the Leica M series.