Rangefinders

Canon L1

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The P’s older brother – except for a few minor differences, a very similar camera. In spite of being a budget model (just like the P), it is built like a tank and every bit as capable as the other models in the range.

Canon P

IMG_1320One of the last of the Canon range of Leica Thread Mount rangefinders, the P is simple, solid, and capable. It represents one of the highest developments of Japanese rangefinder design, before the SLR revolution took over.

Certo Super Dollina II

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The Certo is a well-made but oddly designed folding rangefinder from East Germany. The ergonomics are fussy and it has the world’s smallest viewfinder, but the Zeiss lens is pin-sharp.

Certo Super Sport Dolly

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Another Certo, this one pre-war and medium format. It’s a highly featured camera, with an extinction meter, unit focusing, and a coupled rangefinder – all rare on folders – and a 75/2.8 Zeiss Tessar. It’s very well-made, and capable of very nice photos, but just as fussy to use as the Super Dollina.

FED-2

The FED is a Soviet-made 1950s evolution of the classic Leica rangefinder design dating from the 1930s. Some improvements include a longer base rangefinder for more accurate focusing and a modified wind knob. The factory 50mm f/2.8 Industar-26M lens has recently been supplanted by a 50mm f/2 Jupiter-8, which is a Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar copy. It is fully manual, and does not have a light meter.

Konica III

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An interesting example of mid-1950s Japanese experimentation as they began to go beyond traditional wartime and early post-war designs by adding new features; the left thumb-operated advance lever is an example of a good idea that went exactly nowhere. In spite of its rather unique design, the Konica III is a full-featured and seriously solid camera built to a very high standard.

Leica IIIc #1 & Leica IIIc #2

Two fine examples of the classic Leica bottom-loader arrived in rapid succession. There is little that can be said about them that hasn’t been already. They are wonderful, compact cameras, and a joy to use.

Olympus 35 SP

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This would be just another Japanese fixed-lens rangefinder but for two things: a fantastic and fast 42mm f/1.7 7-element lens and on-demand spot metering. Unlike most cameras in this class, the meter works in all modes. One of the most capable fixed-lens RFs ever made, and very pleasant to use as well.

Voigtländer Bessa II

A big, full-featured folder featuring excellent build quality, a coupled rangefinder, a very sharp coated Color Skopar 105/3.5, and a giant 6×9 negative, the Bessa II represents the end of an era in camera design. Later medium format cameras would ditch the compact folding model for larger and more complex arrangements.


Gone but not forgotten

Canon Canonet QL19

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One of the most popular fixed-lens rangefinders of the 1960s and 70s, Canon’s Canonet line sold in the millions. A fast 45mm f/1.9 lens, a large bright viewfinder, and a choice of shutter priority or fully manual shooting modes made for a very flexible and easy-to-use package.

Gone but not forgotten

Yashica Electro 35 GSN

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The GSN is not a small camera. It’s aperture-priority only and gives no indication of what shutter speed it chooses. But it’s got a very good 45mm f/1.7 lens and is super easy to use – no wonder they sold so many of them.

 

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4 comments on “Rangefinders

  1. Some nice examples! I have, had several on your list, several Yashica Electro’s often bought not working, and with some CLA love, they usually come back to life, then I would release them back to the world.
    The Olympus 35SP is a fine camera, the spot metering a great feature, mine was in virtual mint condition, apart from decaying light seals, which were easily replaced, it was recently let go to fund a Canon P, which is now sporting one of my Jupiter 50/2 lenses and is about to be loaded with XP2, speaking of which, just to show how good it is, I found a 12 year out of date roll in my sock draw ( so obviously not refrigerated! And sharing space with my socks won’t of helped!) which while a tad grainy in some shots, washed out in others, still gave some decent results.

    • Yep, most of mine have required some sort of attention before being put into service. Light seals are a usual replacement item, some shutters need work to run reliably, and then there are the model-specific items like the POD on the Yashica Electro. Old cameras often need a little work, but once it’s done they’re usually quite reliable.

      I used the Jupiter-8 as the standard lens on my Canon P for a while – it’s a great combination. I haven’t tried XP2, though I’ve heard good things.

  2. Just bought a Vito 1939 in bad condition and found this (excellent) site by accident. It is now down to bare metal and I need to find out why the door does not quite close. Also bought a Leica IIIc – not easy to load! Otherwise it is just beautiful!

    • Are you referring to the back (film loading) door or the front (lens erecting) door? The back door is quite simple; the front is a bit more complex. While you have it apart, be sure to clean the frame counting mechanism – it’s quite delicate and needs to be scrupulously clean to work reliably. The interrupter/reset wheel arrangement needs to be carefully adjusted as well.

      Loading the Leica will get easier, assuming you’re trimming the leaders. I know some people do it without trimming, but it’s much easier to just cut them before you head out and be done with it. Count 20 sprocket holes and cut, avoiding cutting through any holes or leaving any jagged edges.

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