... blog post:
For some, the range finder camera is something magical to be spoken of in hushed reverential tones. To most, it is an anachronism, an obsolete form of tech that should have died out long ago... and yet...
Yet the rangefinder camera is to be found in the hands of the aficionado of classical photography, those who have the knowledge and understanding to use such a stripped down, minimalist, manual system together with its unique ‘Messsucher' optical finder.
In this combined viewfinder and rangefinder, the viewfinder is coupled to frames that show not only the subject, but also what is going on around it. This lets you observe how a scene develops, compose your shot and interact directly with your subject.
You impose your bright frames on the world as seen in the finder to compose your picture, it is a different way of visualisation.
So, photographers cling on to their old 35mm film rangefinder cameras, their Leica M's, Zeiss Ikon ZM's, Konica RF's, Nikon S's, Canon 7's, Voigtlander Bessa's, and latterly the modern Leica M Digital rangefinders typically the M9 and various marks of the M10.
Rangefinder users, er... fanatics is often a good way of describing us - yes me too, say that our rangefinder cameras help slow us down into a more considered way of working and help us see the world differently with our 'eyes wide open'. Our detractors, of which there are many, say this is load of hooey and they can do every thing we can do and infinitely more, with their feature packed modern D-SLR's and Mirrorless camera systems, easier and faster to boot - so there. There is more than a grain of truth in the latter statement, especially the 'infinitely more' bit - rangefinder cameras by their very nature have limitations, you couldn't do birding with one for example.
Now, I have known a couple of my fellow photogs who have bought rangefinder cameras with the misconception that it would somehow instantly transform their work into something magical only to be very disappointed by the outcome. So much so, they quickly sold their cameras off, badmouthing them as they did so. Why, you may well ask?
Well, they were hugely frustrated by the camera's very manual operation and were not willing to give the time and patience needed to learn them to become proficient in their use. There again they were used to the sophisticated features in their usual highly automated cameras doing a lot of the work for them and then just selecting one shot out of a 'machine gunned' sequence of image variants to find the perfect one they liked. Here they had to get it right first time in camera themselves. They lacked the skill and knowledge to do this. Again they were not willing to devote the time to gaining these skills.
Where does this leave us, then? Are rangefinder cameras really the 'Mystic Instruments of the Ancients' or is this just a load of donkey twaddle?
Well, for those who can accept working within their limitations and are prepared to invest the time to learn their operation, they will develop an undying attachment to them that will be hard to shake. For everyone else it's all definitely donkey twaddle, pure and simple, and the province of a bunch of poseurs. Mind you, even those of us who are rangefinder fans don't believe the mystic instruments bit, not really, well maybe not, not even a smidgen? No, of course not, don't be silly. Well, actually...