Rangefinder cameras.

2013, Favourite, Inspiration, Leica 50mm Summilux ASPH f/1.4, Leica M9(P)/M-E (CCD Lives!), Portrait, Teaching point


Life is too short, to have never experienced a rangefinder camera.

If you’re a photography enthusiast, and you’ve never had the pleasure, do yourself a favour and shoot with a rangefinder (Leica, Zeiss, Mamiya, Voigtländer, Contax, Nikon, Epson, Fuji, Yashica, or whatever).

It will change you.


32 thoughts on “Rangefinder cameras.

  1. Indeed! ^_^
    I fell in love with ragefinders as a kid when I got to use my dad’s Contax.
    A while back I picked up a Zeiss Ikon ZI film camera and fell in love all over again.
    About a year ago I sold a boatload of high-end DSLR gear to fund a Leica M9-P. No regrets!

    1. You’ve come back full circle. I never had the pleasure of knowing these cameras as a child. As an adult, I couldn’t image what I’d photograph with if they were to suddenly disappear.

  2. Oui, d’accord.

    I started on a Kodak Retina IIC around 14. Bought my first M3 with money earned over the summer at 17. Naturally, there are uses for different focusing systems, but the mystique of the rangefinder, I think, comes from its accuracy and reliability, and, yes, from the way things look through the viewfinder. Still dreaming about a digital M.

  3. The experience of the rangefinder is for me, I met a magician!
    You! Peter! I do not forget and I will never forget those first moments with my M9 … And this I owe to you, Peter!
    I live largely for photography … and fun to shoot with a rangefinder is truly unique …
    I take this post to tell you all my respect for the person that you are and for your photography that is truly unique …. as is the experience with the rangefinder!

    Your friend.


    1. Hugues, my friend. You are such a humble man – I am in awe. You fail to mention your incredible photographic talents, but as I mentioned, you are extremely humble (and loyal, and appreciative…). I consider it an honour to have played a small role in your introduction to rangefinders… and my reward has been great, in seeing what you’ve been able to do…

  4. I envy all of you the joy of your experience. Unfortunately (admittedly based on very limited rf experience) my poor eyesight alone is a stopper. Further, I’m too lazy for film and the expense of digital options has proven a source of considerable resistance. I continue to think about it often, but those factors have so far proven determinative.

    And truth be told, there is nothing in my own photography that suggests it would benefit from any change of equipment. 😉

    1. It’s a bit of a conundrum for many looking to enter rangefinder photography… the choices are limited to film or expensive digital… even “cheap” solutions like an Epson RD-1 or used M8/M9s are actually expensive.

      Perhaps you’ll eventually find one at a price point that you’re comfortable with; at that point, get a lens that you can stop down and not worry so much about focusing.

  5. Life is too short and wish I’d found the rangefinder experience much sooner. But I have no other regrets now that I have one. I chuckle when all of this new complicated technology comes along to try and compete with a camera that hasn’t changed its main focusing system nor lens mount in 60 years. Plus one still has direct control of the basic controls that the new technology has tried to hide from aperture and shutter control to manually controlling where you the shooter want to focus not wondering if the auto focus has locked on to where you think it has.

    As I write this I’m at the airport on my way to work. I travel 7 days every other week and can be anywhere in the world. I always have my camera with me. I can easily travel with my Leica M-E and 3 lens kit and not feel overburdened with the weight or space another kit would require.

    1. Duane I am currently on a trip overseas with my family and travelling with my Monochrome. I agree it certainly makes a big difference compared the world of DSLR. However that world, the one of the DSLR, from what I can see is well and alive! A lot of people still have them carry very large 28-70mm 2.8 glass, let alone a 70-200mm.

      I do not miss that AT ALL!!

      I also agree, even with new mirror less cameras coming out you just can’t help feeling it’s a technology fest…lacking a little bit of soul in the ergonomic sense (and in some cases the sensor sense as well).

      Thank you Peter for the inspiration AND to tip me over the edge to try a rangefinder out!

      1. You’ve come to the same conclusion as me Andy and its what Peter is able to prove every day he posts one of his images here on his blog.

        There is a “synergy” that the Leica rangefinder camera imparts to the shooter that no other camera I’ve handled ever did.

        Until one actually handles one and spends more than a few minutes in a camera shop with one will never know!

        (note: waiting to see what Peter has to say about his latest venture with the little Voigt 35.)

  6. I was weaned on the Bell & Howell/Canon Canonet (that had the film wind and rewind levers on the bottom plate) and later the Canonet QL17. I took one of my best photographs with the QL17, but soon wanted a wider view and switched to an SLR. Leica was always beyond reach and now an M system would be more about gear than photography, even though I love the “Leica look.” But, who knows, maybe 🙂

  7. I used slr’s for years, ultimately having a canon kit with a 1Ds3 and 5D, along with a fair collection of lenses. I largely carried the 1Ds3 and the 50 around though. One day I bought a Zorki 4k on ebay for £4 and was enamoured. I remembered that the first camera my grandfather had lent me was also a, fixed lens, rangefinder. Soon I bought a Zeiss Ikon and 50 Sonnar so much was I smitten by the different way of viewing the world. I still have the Ikon and an M9, but the slr kit has all gone.

    RF’s, I think, tend to make you focus on subject rather than image. This suits mine, and some peoples photography – Peter, you comment on Luiz’s work with his daughter, and I think this reflects what makes RF’s powerful:-

    “Everybody starts off with the most essential quality of a good photographer – honesty to himself. A mother taking pictures of a baby on a beach with a box Brownie has this honesty. No illusions, no pretensions. She is not trying to be arty or clever. She photographs what she likes, simply and directly. All photographers start off with this honesty but most unfortunately lose it as soon as they attempt to become a “better” photographer. Their integrity is swamped by gimmickry and the control of technique. Too often photographers aim for visual effect. Pure boredom. They should forget about being conscious of composition and attempt to be more conscious of feeling. Good photographs come from a photographer having a genuine feeling towards a subject and a desire to record it. If you photograph something that really interests you in a direct and simple way it is a fair bet that your pictures will be more significant.” – David Hurn

    You don’t need an rf to do this, but it does restrict your choices and it really doesn’t get in between you and subject as much.

    On film – if you don’t shoot much then sending it out and getting prints made is still a nice thing to do. You can edit from prints in a group – better than a screen really – and only scan anything you want to do more with. If your suitably ruthless in editing then scanning is not such a chore! Oh, film is also beautiful and addictive.


    1. All good points Mike. I know for me the rangefinder represents the clearest path to record what I see. And, oh yes, the beauty of film will always call out to me.

  8. My first rangefinder experience began with the MF Mamiya-6 system, 2 bodies & 3 lenses, then added the Mamiya 7 to the mix. Back in the day, the image quality was intense and considering the size of the Hasselblad and RZ67 MF bodies, the Mamiya’s were diminutive in comparison. Now using the M9 and M240, I find the same qualities in the Leica compared to my Canon DSLR’s.

  9. Well, I’ve had an M9 for 6 months, but keep a DSLR for all the important shots. Setting up leisurely portraits of family is one thing, but for those rare split-second opportunities in the public sphere that can’t be predicted, and will never be repeated, automatic focus is essential.

    1. Harvey, I respectfully disagree. I, among others subscribed to this blog make my living shooting and since getting my M9, 4 lenses and now the M240, my flagship DSMKIII is used only sparingly. The Canon is largely relegated to jobs where my clients’ require tethering, or when a long lens is required. I’ve also found that, especially when shooting wide-open my percentage of “in-focus” shots is higher with the rangefinder.

  10. Just discovered your site…… And I feel you know what you want to say.
    My history is strange, I started in 80’s with russian cameras which were counterfeits of japanes slr’s. In early 200’s I bought Nikon slr, was delighted, but when digital came into the market I started following news. I had lucky in my life, jmeeting my old friend from Sicily, Enzo, who is an fantastic photographer and Leica user, only analog. When I was engaged in Nikon dslr he sold me his Epson RD1 with 50 Summicorn and… I felt in love…. But then, seeing some limitations, I changed the systems, came to Canon full frame and I was feling happy. You know, all this crazy lenses, as e.g. 85/1.2LII, 70-200/2.8 and so on. Buy still I was looking my place. And lately I bouught M9-P and finally, after all this years I know what is the point. No, I’m not a geek, following by the trends…. Now I feel happy being focused on my pictures, thoughts…. Thinking about it…… This your post was something which I could copy and paste on my blog :)))) take care, I’lll follow you, good luck!!!

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