Tag Archives: rangefinder

CCR Review 36 – Leica IIIc

Before the infamous red-dot there were the Barnack Leica’s. These compact rangefinders were designed by Barnack to take motion picture (35mm) film so that he could carry them around without giving him trouble with his asthma. The Leica III was the companies World War 2 camera and was the direct competitor to the Zeiss Ikon Contax line (which is why the Contax IIIa was featured earlier this month). I do like this camera but it really is one I like to hate so I don’t want to get rid of it really, it’s an excellent camera mostly due to the lens and it is small enough to fit in any sort of pocket and of course has the cache of being a Leica with everything that entails.

CCR - Review 36 - Leica IIIc

The Dirt
Make: Leica
Model: IIIc
Type: Rangefinder
Format: 35mm, 24×35
Lens: Interchangeable, Leica Thread Mount (LTM)/M39
Year of Manufacture: 1940-1951

CCR - Review 36 - Leica IIIc

CCR - Review 36 - Leica IIIc

The Good
Despite my personal issues with this camera which I will discuss in the next section this really isn’t a bad camera. It’s small, fairly light, without feeling cheap. Add a collapsible lens like the Summitar or Elmar and you can easily toss this camera into a pocket and go out onto the streets. And as for the camera it’s pretty low key, low profile and I can really see why street photographers and combat photographers would use them. Along with the simple construction comes a simple and easy to use design, remember these were designed by a man who had aesthma and needed something small and compact. And finally…I can’t let this go without mentioning the amazing optics that you can get for this camera!

CCR - Review 36 - Leica IIIc

CCR - Review 36 - Leica IIIc

The Bad
Despite this camera holding pretty high status among photographers there are two things that for me really keep this camera more on the shelf and the lens mounted on an M39 to E-Mount adapter for use on my digital camera. The first is the loading, drop in, from the bottom. Yep and it is really difficult to master and get it working as you also have to pull out the leader and re-cut it so that everything catches…if you’re lucky (I was lucky this time around and it worked the first time). The second is the dual window rangefinder/viewfinder. The rangefinder is incredibly small and hard to work with I have missed the focus several times because of this.

CCR - Review 36 - Leica IIIc

CCR - Review 36 - Leica IIIc

The Lowdown
I like this camera, I really do, but because of the two major sticking points, I tend to leave it at home in favour of something a little easy to use on the go. Not to say you shouldn’t get one, they are really well built cameras with top notch optics that are equal to Carl Zeiss. So if you like this style of camera and want to fashion yourself after Henri-Cartier Bresson and do B&W street photography in Paris by all means. On the plus side these are the cheaper of the Leica cameras on the used market. But if I had a choice, I’d spend the extra money and pickup a Leica M2 or M3 body and mount Voeitlander glass or use an adapter to mount the Summitar I have.

The one thing I will point out is on the used market there are a tonne of copies out there that are branded Leica but really aren’t. Probably the easiest way to tell is if they are marked with Third Reich (yes, Nazis) military markings you’re actually holding a Ukrainian copy by Zorki. If you’re in the Greater Toronto Area and have a Leica III series camera and need it identified I suggest North Halton Camera Exchange, one of the owners is a former Leica Employee and will gladly give you a hand!

All photos taken in Oakville & Burlington, Ontario
Leica IIIc – Leitz Summitar f=5cm 1:2 – Kodak TMax 100 @ ASA-32 – Kodak Xtol (1+1) 8:45 @ 20C

CCR Review 35 – Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa

There have been many photographers of fame that have inspired me, people like Ansel Adams to really pay attention to the details, be precise and to think first then take the photo. Stanley Kubrick for his composition and then there’s Robert Capa. Capa was the delfacto combat photographer of World War 2 in Fortress Europe, and after reading his WW2 book, Slightly Out of Focus I wanted to put together a historic impression of a WW2 combat photographer. And while many cameras of the era are in the realm of the collector and in poor functionality I wanted to go with something newer or similar. Capa had three cameras with him during the war a Rolleiflex (I got one a 1969 Rolleiflex 2.8F so check) and a pair of Contax II rangefinders. So when I was offered the chance to buy a really nice Contax IIIa kit, I jumped at the chance. This camera just clicked (sorry) for me, it’s easy to use, heavy in the hand and is a nice easy no-nonsense mechanical rangefinder that also takes amazing photos. I will be getting along rather well with this beauty!

CCR - Review 35 - Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa

The Dirt
Make: Zeiss Ikon
Model: Contax IIIa
Type: Rangefinder
Format: 35mm, 24×35
Lens: Interchangeable, Contax RF Mount
Year of Manufacture: 1951-1962, This model was produced in late 1953

CCR - Review 35 - Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa

CCR - Review 35 - Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa

The Good
This is probably one of the best 1950s rangefinders that I’ve had the pleasure of using, it’s built like a tank and fits nicely in my hands without being bulky. There’s two focus options a dial up on the body or the lens itself, the actual focus helical is mounted on the camera body. So most of the shorter lenses are just that, the aperature and the optics (this of course causes issues with adapting the lenses to mirrorless you need an adapter that has the helical built in). The trouble comes when you’re using say a Jupiter-9 which is a dual bayonet mount (pain to mount but worth it). It also is thankfully a single viewfinder with a split image focus indicator. While calibrated for the 50mm length you can mount an auxiliary viewfinder on the cold shoe. And probably the bit about this camera that I like the best is that it is a full removed back for film loading, none of this bottom loading that Leica used (still!). But overall this camera handles like a dream, good weight without being too heavy and plenty of good optics to back it up!

CCR - Review 35 - Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa

CCR - Review 35 - Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa

The Bad
Not every camera can be perfect and there are a couple things that aren’t exactly ideal with the IIIa. First off is the lenses, they are hard to come by these days so watch out with your glass. I was lucky and got a kit that came with three lenses (the Sonnar, a Jupiter-8, and a Jupiter-9). But even on the used market KEH/B&H and local shops the RF mount is hard to find. Another thing that isn’t so much a totally bad thing, just an annoyance to me is the infinity lock on the focus, it seems a little un-necessary to me and can ruin a good shot because I locked the focus. And finally there’s the selenium built in meter, this is actually the first camera I own that has a dead meter, at least it’s uncoupled so it doesn’t affect the camera, the read out is on the top of the top of the camera so it makes it a little difficult to meter set and then shoot. But since it’s dead it’s really a non-issue for me.

CCR - Review 35 - Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa

CCR - Review 35 - Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa

The Lowdown
Okay so the simple fact is that this camera isn’t really for everyone. But if you’re looking for a good mid-twentieth century rangefinder the Contax or Russian cousin the Kiev-3. They make a great choice if you’re going for a historic impression and want a solid camera that will actually take excellent photos or just as a prop (if you are going for a prop, get a non functioning unit). They make for great conversation pieces and if you use Sunny-16 they are a really fun camera to run and gun with.

All photos taken in Bristol, Virginia/Tennessee, USA
Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa – Zeiss-Opton Sonnar 1:1,5 f=50mm – Kodak TMax 100 @ ASA-32 – Kodak Xtol (1+1) 8:45 @ 20C

CCR Review 29 – Olympus 35SP

Playing along the same lines of the fixed lens camera rangefinders of the 1960s and 70s the Olympus 35 SP is one of the top models that you can get from that era, I’d actually rank it equal with the Minolta Hi-Matic 7s. And the best part as many people go for the Cannonet line of cameras, the 35 SP again like the 7s is more of an underdog camera and like many Olympus cameras has gained somewhat of a cult following. But what made the camera stand out among it’s peers that a dual metering system that had both a center weighted and an on-demand spot meter as well that were both available even when the camera was in manual mode.

CCR - Review 29 - Olympus 35 SP

The Dirt
Make: Olympus
Model: 35 SP
Type: Rangefinder
Format: 35mm, 35x24mm
Lens: Fixed, Olympus G.Zuiko 1:1,7 f=42mm
Year of Manufacture: 1969-1976

CCR - Review 29 - Olympus 35 SP

CCR - Review 29 - Olympus 35 SP

The Good
This is a fantastic camera, light weight, easy to handle, the focus ring has a wonderful lever that makes it super smooth to focus without moving your hand from the bottom of the camera. And pairing that with the sharp just a little wider than normal 42mm Zuiko lens makes the images even better. But the thing that makes the camera really shine is the meter. This was one of the few fixed lens rangefinders that has a dual meter, both center weighted normally and a button you press that gives you a spot meter reading. And to make it even better the camera meter does this in both fully automatic mode and manual mode. And as for manual mode the camera meter display in the finder uses the EV scale, but on the lens barrel you can easy adjust the aperture and shutter speed and a display window will give you your EV number. Or just run full manually with Sunny-16 or an external meter as the mechanical body will run even without a battery.

CCR - Review 29 - Olympus 35 SP

CCR - Review 29 - Olympus 35 SP

The Bad
Like many of these cameras of the era the camera does take a mercury battery so finding one with a functioning battery is possible but rare and the replacements are out there but again cost a bit of money and don’t last as long. But on the other side of the coin being a mechanical camera means it will function even without a battery. The second beef I have with the camera isn’t the meter itself but the placement of the meter. The window is off to the side so if you want to use filters on the camera you do have to take the filter factor into account and even with my head it’s difficult to figure that out on the fly. So generally I don’t.

CCR - Review 29 - Olympus 35 SP

CCR - Review 29 - Olympus 35 SP

The Lowdown
These are certainly beautiful cameras to both shoot with and use, and being a bit on the side of the underdog you can get these for fairly cheap and they really won’t let you down. With a solid meter and great optics, as well as fantastic handling. If you’re looking for a good camera for street work or just a general travel camera that you can throw in your bag, the 35 SP or any camera from the Olympus 35 series will suit you just fine!

All photos taken in Oakville, Ontario
Olympus Stylus Epic DLX – Olympus G.Zuiko 1:1,7 f=42mm – Svema Foto 400 – Xtol (1+1) 14:00 @ 20C

CCR Review 26 – Olympus XA

Probably the most powerful pocket camera I’ve ever used, the Olympus XA brings the power of the rangefinder, aperture priority and stunning optics into something that can fit in almost every pocket. I’ve used a couple cameras from the XA line in the past, the terribly restrictive XA1 (don’t let the 1 fool you, the 1 came later than the XA and was pretty darn limited), along with the wide angle XA4, but the XA is truly where Olympus made something that was nothing short of magic.

CCR Review 26 - Olympus XA

The Dirt
Make: Olympus
Model: XA
Type: Rangefinder
Format: 35mm, 35x24mm
Lens: Fixed, Olympus F.Zuiko 1:2.8 f=35mm
Year of Manufacture: 1979

CCR Review 26 - Olympus XA

CCR Review 26 - Olympus XA

The Good
There are several excellent points on the XA. First and foremost is the optical quality, it seems that Olympus managed to nail down optics for these tiny cameras such as the Trip 35 and even the later Stylus line of cameras. You wouldn’t think, because of the size of the XA that the F.Zuiko lens would be as sharp as it is, but I wasn’t disappointed when I pulled the film out of the tank. Size wise you can’t beat the power that this little rangefinder has in the tiny form factor and simplicity in design with the clamshell on/off switch and weight, you’d forget it was even in your pocket. And finally the camera is pretty darn easy to use, everything is neatly laid out, and even though it’s aperture priority you can still see the shutter speeds displayed in the view finder so you can adjust the aperture accordingly.

CCR Review 26 - Olympus XA

CCR Review 26 - Olympus XA

The Bad
Everything they say about the shutter release being super sensitive is true, in fact there’s a good chance that by reading this article that you’ve set off several of the XAs around the world, that is providing they’re turned on. When it comes to handling the camera itself feels pretty good, however I do have issue with the focusing leaver, often I wouldn’t be able to pull the focus without having to look to make sure that I was using the leaver at the correct angle and pressure, since if you don’t it does tend to stick. And finally the flash unit, the camera itself is a nice compact package at least until you throw on the side-car flash then it adds a bit of extra length which for me throws off the whole feel of the camera as being a nice compact powerhouse. But I don’t use flash that often on these tiny cameras so I just leave it off.

CCR Review 26 - Olympus XA

CCR Review 26 - Olympus XA

The Lowdown
If you want to go ultra-light to a photowalk and not loose out on quality, power, and the ablity to manually focus then this is your camera. Also if you’re a street photographer who just wants something that is probably the ultimate stealth camera the XA won’t let you down either. Just keep that trigger finger away from the shutter release until you have your shot ready. Sadly these cameras being a bit of a cult classic do carry a bit more a price tag than say the XA2 or XA3 but those cameras will do you just fine also you just lose the rangefinder focus.

All photos taken in Erie, PA, USA
Olympus XA – Olympus F.Zuiko 1:2.8 f=35mm – Ultrafine Xtreme 400
Kodak Xtol (1+1) 9:30 @ 20C

CCR Review 8 – Minolta Hi-Matic 7s

The Hi-Matic 7s, where to start on this sweet fixed lens rangefinder. It truely is the underdog when it comes to the rangefinder explosion of the 1960s and today is barely seen with everyone clamoring for Yashica Electros, Canonet QL17 GIIIs, and Olympus 35SP, and while these are all great cameras the Hi-Matic 7s is a true sleeper. The slightly upgraded version of the Hi-Matic 7 (the second camera in the Hi-Matic line) features the same meter as Minolta’s SrT line of single lens reflex cameras, a hotshoe, and the Safe Loading System (SLS). This also happens to be the very first camera that I ever got as my own camera. That junky 110 camera I got from McDonalds doesn’t count.

CCR - Review 8 - Minolta Hi-Matic 7s
Great performance and good looks at that!

The Dirt
Maker: Minolta
Model: Hi-Matic 7s
Type: 35mm Rangefinder
Lens: Fixed, Rokkor-PF f=45mm 1:1.7
Year of Manufacture: 1969

CCR - Review 8 - Minolta Hi-Matic 7s

CCR - Review 8 - Minolta Hi-Matic 7s

The Good
Being really an outlyer camera in the fixed lens rangefinder market the cost of these cameras is relatively low while the more cult classics fetch large prices, this will give you solid performance without breaking the bank. It’s also a fully mechanical camera, so that pesky battery only powers the meter, so you can use the camera on the fly with the Sunny-16 rule, or use a shoe mounted meter or just your smartphone. Speaking of the shoe the camera has both a hotshoe and a PC socket and with a leaf shutter you can sync the flash at any shutter speed. And then there’s the optics, the Rokkor glass is super sharp, and with a nice wide f/1.7 aperture you can use this camera easily in low light. The camera also has a bright viewfinder with good focus assist and bright composition lines, because like all rangefinders the viewfinder is offset from the lens.

CCR - Review 8 - Minolta Hi-Matic 7s

CCR - Review 8 - Minolta Hi-Matic 7s

The Bad
The weak point for this camera is the battery, like many camera of its age the Hi-Matic 7s takes a mercury cell so many times if you can find one the battery may already be removed and you cannot purchase these cells anymore. However you do have a couple options if you want to power the meter. The first is of course just placing an alkaline or silver oxide cell in camera that will power it but there is a voltage difference of .2 which doesn’t really equate to much but may throw off the metering or blow a circuit somewhere. Next option is a Wyne cell, but they don’t last long and require you to drill a hole in the battery cover. The final, and best option in my view is C.R.I.S Camera Repair which sells adapter units that will step down the voltage of modern batteries. Then there’s the weight, the Hi-Matic 7s is not a light camera, it has a good heft to it, and has a fairly large presence. But don’t let that slow you down, I guess i was just really feeling it after several hours doing musket drill with a bayonet fixed.

CCR - Review 8 - Minolta Hi-Matic 7s

CCR - Review 8 - Minolta Hi-Matic 7s

The Low Down
This is a great camera to pick up to get into using rangefinders, inexpensive and good quality results. Plus it can seriously take a beating and still work. Mine wears a dent where I dropped it, the back stayed closed, even the lens avoided damage, just this one ding up at the top. As a learner camera I wouldn’t say it’s a top one to get, the meter, if you use it, is only in Exposure Values (EV) so I didn’t really learn anything about exposure, mostly because I used the meter well until the battery died. But for a first camera, it was great to figure everything out even if I left it in auto.

If you want to hear more about the Hi-Matic 7(s) check out: Episode 122 of the Film Photography Podcast or Episode 3 of Classic Camera Revival!

Fort York National Historic Site in Toronto, Ontario
Minolta Hi-Matic 7s – Rokkor-PF f=45mm 1:1.7 – Ilford FP4+ @ ASA-125 – Ilford Perceptol (1+1) 15:00 @ 20C

Classic Camera Revival – Episode 3 – Rangefinders

ccr-logo-leaf

A favoured camera of the street photography group, the rangefinder, is one of those niche cameras that is often associated with brands like Leica. However while none of us have a Leica to present this episode we have some fine (cheaper) alternatives to the Leica that are sure to get your attention. The main feature of the rangefinder is that the viewfinder is often off-set from the taking lens, and uses a super-imposed image that you ‘line up’ to get the focus. However, composing takes a bit of work. The first rangefinders were produced by Kodak back in 1916, but really got popular in 1925 with the first Leica camera.

The cameras featured on this episode are:

Minolta Hi-Matic 7s – The Upgraded version of the Hi-Matic 7, this beautiful fixed lens rangefinder has a Rokkor 45mm f/1.7 lens, hot shoe and an auto exposure system from the SRT line of SLRs. But since it takes a mercury cell is no longer usable. But being mechanical the camera still works like a charm!

The Collection - September 2012

Foggy Dew

Golden

Parking

Kodak 35 RF – The coupled rangefinder version of the original Kodak 35, this ungainly looking camera was introduced in 1940 but don’t let the weird looks fool you, it’s a solid camera with legendary Kodak optics backing it up.

kodak35

k35-02

k35-01

Olympus 35 SP – Another cult favourite of Olympus with both a centre weighted and spot metering system built in, and a 42mm f/1.7 Zuiko lens to back it all up, this compact rangefinder is very user friendly with wickedly sharp optics!

olympus35sp

oly35sp-01

oly35sp-02

oly35sp-03

Voigtlander Bessa R – The only interchangeable lens rangefinder on the show today, the Bessa R, gives all those folks who are fans of the Leica Thread Mount (LTM/M39) a camera with TTL metering and easy loading! While not actually from the famous Voigtlander name, but rather designed and built by the Japanese company ‘Cosina,’ the the Bessa R is a solid contender.

bessa-r

bessar-02

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Of course, this is far from a complete list of rangefinders out there. In addition to the iconic Leica lineup there are some other good cameras to look at.  Such as the Yashica Electro 35G, Canonet QL17 GIII, Konica S3, and Olympus XA.

The Darkroom
A topic that will get any traditional photographer going for hours (thankfully it didn’t for this episode) is developers! Even today there are still a pile of different developers available for black and white films, and they come in two different varieties. First being powder which you combine with water to create a stock solution which can be used on its own in many cases or diluted down with water. Second is liquid, which can be mixed into a stock solution (like Kodak HC-110) or diluted straight with water into a one-shot working dilution, such as Rodinal.

Some of the developers mentioned in today’s show include.

  • Rodinal – The oldest commercial developer still in production today, however it’s known as Blazinal, Adonal, or Agfa R09 One Shot. Produces incredibly sharp images but does enhance grain.
  • Pyro Developers – These are staining developers that produce amazing tones, fine grain, and sharp images. They do leave almost a sepia stain on the negs. Two types are mentioned, Pyrocat-HD and PMK Pyro, both are avalible from Photographer’s Formulary.
  • Diafine – This unique two bath developer (don’t mix the two baths) will produce ultra-fine grain, and increase film speed, sharpness, and resolution. Oh and the stuff lasts forever!
  • Kodak Xtol – A powdered fine grain developer from Kodak that produces good sharpeness and fine grain. It’s also one of the more environmentally friendly developers out there being based on Vitamin C. The downside is that you have to mix it up 5 liters at a time. A jerry can is a good idea for storage.
  • Caffenol – a developer that you can mix up yourself and you can make it in so many different ways. At the core is instant coffee, then you add additional stuff to change the results. Best part there’s nothing really dangerous that mixes in with it, just don’t drink it. Co-Host Alex did a good experiment with Caffenol a year or so back.
  • Kodak HC-110 – One of the more interesting developers because of the alphabet dilution table, and introduced without much fanfare. You can mix it up as a stock solution and dilute from there, or just dilute straight from syrup. If you want that ‘Tri-X look’ HC-110, Dilution B.
  • Kodak TMax Developer – Designed for use with the T-Grain (TMax) films, but don’t let that scare you, this is a fantastic developer that makes most film (even Tri-X and Plus-X) sing! There’s a little more grain but you do get nice sharp negs.
  • Ilfosol 3 – A general purpose film developer designed for use with slower films with great results especially with Pan F and Delta 100

If you want to try mix up your own developers you can find a pile of great recipes online at the Unblinking Eye. Also check out the Massive Dev Chart to get starting developing times. If you’re just starting out with film developing a good one to start with is Kodak D-76 or Ilford ID-11, as it’s cheap and works with almost every film out there! And more importantly don’t be afraid to experiment and find your favourites that get the results that you want! Just note that if you order liquid developers from US distributors you may not be able to ship them across the border, you may even face some restrictions with powder as well. New York City isn’t that far away and totally worth the trip just to see the awesomeness that is B&H!

If you are in the Toronto area be sure to check out host, John Meadow’s first gallery show: The Silver Path. Running from the 10th of April to the 19th. Check out his site for more details: johnmeadowsphotography.wordpress.com/the-silver-path-film-photography-by-john-meadows/!

Looking for a place to get this chemistry, check out Burlington Camera, Downtown Camera, or Film Plus if you’re in the GTA region of Ontario, if you’re on the West Coast (British Columbia) check out Beau Photo Supply. Additionally you can order online at Argentix (Quebec), the Film Photography Project or Freestyle Photographic.

Rediscovering an Old Friend

Sometimes you just look up and see your first camera sitting there, the lens still shining as if new, and it begs you to be used. Well that happened recently, my very first camera, religated to my third shelf (were I place seldom used cameras, ones that work but have something off with them, or just cannot get the film anymore…), the Minolta Hi-Matic 7s, a five dollar garage sale find. All mechanical, the battery for the light meter long dead, but everything still works. So I dicided to take it out for a trip.

Because I can.

Golden

Foggy Dew

Parking

Minolta Hi-Matic 7s – Rokkor-PF 45mm 1:1.7 – Silver Tone 100