For awhile, I’ve been considering my film photography gear and thinking about making a change. With the new year, it seemed like a good time to execute. To start with, I wanted to clear out my existing equipment in order to make room and free up some budget for a new photography journey.
I’ve been thinking about getting into rangefinder cameras for a little while. I love vintage cameras, and am not afraid of a few extra steps in taking a picture (read: automatic metering is not required). Certainly, when I used my Kodak Recomar 33 in the past I had no meter, and no real knowledge that I even had the focus correct. With a rangefinder, there is at least relative comfort knowing the picture will be in focus – assuming everything is aligned properly.
What is a rangefinder camera? These cameras have been around since the 1930s, and consist of a viewfinder with two side-by-side images. As the focus ring of the lens is turned, one of the two images will move toward or away from the other. When the images align, the picture will be in focus. Both 35mm, digital, and 120 film cameras exist in the rangefinder style today, with Leica being probably the most famous manufacturer for 35mm and digital rangefinder. The Mamiya 6 is probably a well regarded example of a 120 medium format rangefinder.
The Canon AE-1 has been sold now, as has the frame and bellows of my Gundlach 8×10 view camera that I never got around to restoring. As much as I love large format photography, I suspect that particular camera was a bit beyond me at this point. The Canon was a great camera, but SLRs in general tend to be larger, heavier cameras. I am looking for a minimal resistance principal to photography: small, ever-ready, with good picture quality. No batteries is a plus too. Since I still have a daylight developing tank for 35mm/120, using those format would make it possible for me to easily get back into developing film again as well.
So, I am considering an older rangefinder. The Barnack-design Leicas are very appealing. They use a separate rangefinder/viewfinder window which some find inconvenience. Certainly it seems more primitive, but then again after some research I think it will work fine. The more refined Barnack design, such as the Leica IIIc or IIIf seems the most capable against the field of models available at this time. Canon also made some very good copies of these, including their own enhancements such as a combined rangefinder/viewfinder with selectable magnification. Of course, the Leica M series is a highly refined next-generation rangefinder camera and these cameras are very well regarded by photographers. They are also over twice the price, just for the body. The lenses are astronomical. So, for the same reason I used FD lenses on my Canon SLR of choice, the older Leica Thread Mount lenses seem like the economical choice.
In the meantime, I’ve included a gallery of photos taken with the Canon AE-1 Program. I look forward to posting a review of a neat older rangefinder, and a gallery of shots, in the future. I’m on the hunt!