Rangefinder (1/2)

So how do the photos of a 40 year old camera look like?

Lovely I must say 🙂

My dreams of buying a Leica rangefinder camera are set way back at the moment, but I figured that an alternative should be out there somewhere. After all, it is hard to imagine that everyone had a Leica back in the 1960s, right?

I’ve been looking for that alternative for a while, and recently have found not one… but several alternatives, and they all shared the same basic design and look in one way or another. Just like the way all the DSLR and compact groups of today look and operate almost exactly the same, back in the 1960s all the major camera manufactures produced viewfinders of more or less the same style and specifications. It must have been tough on the consumer to chose the right camera back then as it is today.

Canon, Yashica, Minolta and probably other manufacturers had rangefinder cameras similar to the Konica Auto S2 I bought few days ago and received and tested yesterday. It’s a compact-ish automatic-ish almost all metal bodied viewfinder camera which looks so alluring as you can see.

First of all, what is a ‘rangefinder’ camera and does it differ from an SLR camera?

Simply put, with the DSLR you see -almost- exactly what the picture will look like on the film (regarding the framing and focus and sometimes the depth of field) since the same image which will be printed on the film is diverted to your eye through the viewfinder. With a rangefinder camera you look through a totally different hole! what you see is an image “close” to what the film will see. That must be a bad thing, right? Far from it!

SLR (and DSLR) is a wonderful technology, it could be used for almost every kind of photography. Then why would one go back to an ‘older’ technology when we have a newer and better one?

Well, it’s not only nostalgia if you are thinking about it. SLRs are great, but they are not without limitations. First, they are big, heavy and complicated. They have many moving parts which can get jammed or broken. They are expensive and harder to manufacture and maintain. Oh, and they are noisy!

The rangefinder camera is a lot simpler. It basically is a box with a hole! Sure there is some kind of electronics inside the auto ones, but it is still much simpler to make and maintain than an SLR.

And there is the one magical advantage; when you click on he shutter release… the viewfinder does not blink! You just hear a simi-silent.. click!

All of the above advantages made viewfinders the perfect cameras for photojournalists, street photographers and anyone looking for a reliable camera that can assist them with catching fast action as quietly and discreetly as possible!

Those were the main differences between DSLRs and viewfinders, and as you can see those differences were significant… at least until 5 years ago or so.

Today we have lots of alternatives. We have amazing digital compacts, and brand new technologies like the Micro 4/3s. So why go back 40 years in time?

Two main reasons. First, I got my Konica Auto S2 for £13! That’s 6 KD!! And we are not talking about a crappy old plastic camera which produces useless blurry pictures. It is an almost all metal camera with, pay attention, super sharp 45mm f/1.8 lens!! You can’t even rent a lens like that for that price!

And second…. Just look how cool it looks! 😀

And one more cool pic by Athoob:

For me, it’s a cheap way to live the rangefinder experience, and believe me… It’s nothing like anything I have tried before! Yes, it’s mostly psychological, I admit that. I have done some great street photography with my Leica D-Lux 4 and even with the Canon 5D, but when I held the Konica in my hands and walked around Birmingham City Centre streets, ticking here, and ticking there, with my eye actually looking ‘through’ not ‘at’ something… and winding a lever with my thump to assure myself that I just got a picture.. now that is feeling technology can’t evoke!

The result?

You can see it in this gallery:

Half Term Monday



– This post was originally written on 27 Oct 2009
– For the above set I used one cheap Fuji film (I can’t remember which), I think it was an ISO200.
– I only adjusted the contrast a bit and cropped few of the shots digitally.
– I shot the film roll in a couple of hours span and got it developed and scanned while I got a haircut 😀
– The first few shots were taken in TV mode, the rest I exposed manually with the help of an iPhone app called Expositor. Why I switched to manual? Because the light meter stopped working!.. but that’s another story 😛

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