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      11-15-2010, 11:29 AM   #1
Chewy734
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Anyone here use rangefinders?

I'm just curious if any of you guys own or have used a rangefinder? On my last trip, my aching shoulder was begging for a better, smaller form-factor camera. Lugging around a 20D with a battery grip, a "nifty fifty", and a 70-300 lens, was killer on all-day treks (even with a nice backpack). Not to mention the fact that swapping lenses became quickly cumbersome. Plus, I had the annoyance of not being able to take such a large camera setup everywhere I went.

I've had my eyes set on a Leica M9 for almost a year now, but I'm also considering a 5DMKIII next year. Obviously there is a huge price difference (not only the body, but also for the lenses), and that will need to be taken into account depending on my financial status next year.

Also, I am aware of the many pros/cons to getting a rangefinder instead of a higher-end dSLR, but I'm wondering what your experiences are? I've heard people going from cropped sensors to full-frame sensors never look back. But, I've also heard many people who switch to rangefinders from dSLRs also never look back.

Obviously it depends on mostly what I shoot. Any sort of action or sports photography may be out of the question with a rangefinder, but most of my photos are of nature, landscapes, portraits, and non-moving cars. If I do decide to go that route, perhaps keeping my 20D with my current lenses will be enough to satisfy my action/sports photography needs.

Any comments, suggestions?
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      11-27-2010, 02:12 PM   #2
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Have you looked into a Micro-Four-Thirds? They offer better image quality over a POS. Panasonic Lumix GF1 and the Olympus Pen are some examples. Then there's Sony's Alpha Nex series that incorporates a APS-C sensor in a POS body. But they cost almost as much as an entry level DSLR.

BTW what other lenses do you have? If I was in your situation, I would keep the 20D or otherwise upgrade to something like the 7D(which will save about a grand over the 5D) and invest on some good glass. Even if you get a 5D, the nifty fifty and the 70-300 kit lens won't let you exploit its full capability.

Is this for professional level photography or is it mostly a hobby?

That said, aren't rangefinders very expensive even compared to a full frame DSLR?

Last edited by mad_max; 11-27-2010 at 06:08 PM.
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      12-03-2010, 12:58 PM   #3
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I gave them up in the 1960s. It's a case of "what you see is NOT what you get." You're constantly trying to visualize the finished product that'll look totally different from what you see in the crappy, 1920s technology, range finder. I went to twin-lens-reflex and finally SLR.

Back mounted LCDs have improved things because you can take a picture then "chimp" to see what it looked like. With my 5D MkII (no need to wait for the MkIII) I'm never so insecure that I feel any need to chimp. I will check my settings to make sure the highlight blowout warning blinkies aren't going off, but otherwise seldom look. With the 5D2, WYSIWYG.

What lens can you get on the Leica that'll come close to the coverage of a 70-300mm? Get the 5D2 with a 24-100/f4L and a 70-200f/4L and you'll have incredible coverage. The 5D2 is SO good at ISO 3200 and 6400 that you'll not feel a need for faster lenses.

Forget about sports with a rangefinder. They're fine for scenics and candid street shots, but the othewise SUCK. Certainly you should try before you buy, if I haven't disauded you. Don't buy and realize too late that you can do the things that you need to do. People used to cover sports with Speed Graphics, but you'd never chose one of those today for sports. Rangefinders are just as bad for sports. There's a reason that they've almost died. The Leica cult keeps them going and they ARE good for a couple of specific uses, but not sports, wildlife and anything needing a telephoto lens.

Here's a picture taken with my 5D2 at night in New Orleans at ISO 6400:


Napoleon House by dcstep, on Flickr

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      12-03-2010, 02:03 PM   #4
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There is a size and "clunkiness" issue though. I've gone hiking in the Sierras any number of times carrying a DSLR (20D and later 5D2) and 2-3 lenses. While doable this really does add a lot of weight and messing about. One time a friend brought along his Epson RD-1 (poor man's Leica) and a quiver of 3-4 Leica lenses. The whole shooting match was smaller/lighter than my 5D2 body alone (those rangefinder lenses that don't need retrofocus can be TINY).

I agree with dcstep that the 5D2 is a great camera, and I'm certainly keeping mine, but a lightweight digital rangefinder does have its attractions on the trail.
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      12-03-2010, 02:37 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vachss View Post
There is a size and "clunkiness" issue though. I've gone hiking in the Sierras any number of times carrying a DSLR (20D and later 5D2) and 2-3 lenses. While doable this really does add a lot of weight and messing about. One time a friend brought along his Epson RD-1 (poor man's Leica) and a quiver of 3-4 Leica lenses. The whole shooting match was smaller/lighter than my 5D2 body alone (those rangefinder lenses that don't need retrofocus can be TINY).

I agree with dcstep that the 5D2 is a great camera, and I'm certainly keeping mine, but a lightweight digital rangefinder does have its attractions on the trail.
Good points.

My digital start (film and rangefinders were decades ago) was with a Canon G7 then a G9 and I'm currently thinking of a buying a G12 to keep in the car at all times. If all I did was street shooting, scenics and general travel, I'd consider the FF Leica for its IQ. Just like I put up with the 5D2 and the 7D's bulk to get high IQ, I'd consider putting up with the Leica's rangefinder to gain a step up in IQ over the G12, which actually has pretty high IQ, but not up there with the 5D2 or Leica.

When I go in the woods I actually lug the 500/f4L on a tripod with a gimbal, mounted on the 7D and then I sling the 5D2 around my neck with the 70-200/f4L IS mounted and a wide-angle in my vest pocket. I'm mainly there to shoot wildlife, not hike. However, if your priority were to hike and then grab the occasional scenic shot, then the Leica would be up to the task and then some.

The question for the OP is, will you be able to do everything you desire? If you'll mainly use FF-equivalent focal lengths below say 105mm, then a rangefinder can yield excellent results.

Remember, we're in a digital world now and the value of Zeiss glass is somewhat lessened by the ability to post-process. For instance, if I compare images of a Canon 17-35mm L-series to a Zeiss 21mm distagon, the Zeiss will win when comparing the jpeg out of camera. However, if I shoot RAW convert the images in a program like DxO's Optics Pro 6.5 or Canon's Digital Photo Professional, that have geometric correction, chromatic aberation correction, etc. built into the conversion program, the finished jpegs are very hard to tell apart, even at the edges with the zoom wide open and at its widest angle. The old film days were the hayday of fast, sharp primes, but that is much less the case these digital days.

That said, I still believe that you should start with the sharpest lenses that you can afford for the usages that you have planned.

I couldn't do a lot of the things that I enjoy doing with my dslr setup, but someone that doesn't really need telephoto could be very happy. The IQ is going to be several steps up from a G12 or any 3/4 format camera and equal to the best dslr cameras, subject to the lens focal length limitations.

Dave
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      12-03-2010, 05:59 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mad_max View Post
Have you looked into a Micro-Four-Thirds? They offer better image quality over a POS. Panasonic Lumix GF1 and the Olympus Pen are some examples. Then there's Sony's Alpha Nex series that incorporates a APS-C sensor in a POS body. But they cost almost as much as an entry level DSLR.

BTW what other lenses do you have? If I was in your situation, I would keep the 20D or otherwise upgrade to something like the 7D(which will save about a grand over the 5D) and invest on some good glass. Even if you get a 5D, the nifty fifty and the 70-300 kit lens won't let you exploit its full capability.

Is this for professional level photography or is it mostly a hobby?

That said, aren't rangefinders very expensive even compared to a full frame DSLR?
I have looked a bit at the micro-four-thirds, and they are pretty cool as well. I agree that they are far more affordable than FF digital rangefinders, but I feel like the Leica M9 would be a camera I'd keep for life.

Those are the main lenses I have. I also have a macro lens which I rarely use. I was thinking about getting the 24-70 mm f/2.8 L lens at some point to be my everyday lens, and sell my current telephoto for a 70-200mm L lens (not sure if I want the f/4.0 or spend the extra money for an f/2.8).

This is more for a hobby than anything else, since I still consider myself a novice right now. But, I do love shooting whenever I have a chance, and hope to become better over the next few years.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dcstep View Post
I gave them up in the 1960s. It's a case of "what you see is NOT what you get." You're constantly trying to visualize the finished product that'll look totally different from what you see in the crappy, 1920s technology, range finder. I went to twin-lens-reflex and finally SLR.

Back mounted LCDs have improved things because you can take a picture then "chimp" to see what it looked like. With my 5D MkII (no need to wait for the MkIII) I'm never so insecure that I feel any need to chimp. I will check my settings to make sure the highlight blowout warning blinkies aren't going off, but otherwise seldom look. With the 5D2, WYSIWYG.

What lens can you get on the Leica that'll come close to the coverage of a 70-300mm? Get the 5D2 with a 24-100/f4L and a 70-200f/4L and you'll have incredible coverage. The 5D2 is SO good at ISO 3200 and 6400 that you'll not feel a need for faster lenses.

Forget about sports with a rangefinder. They're fine for scenics and candid street shots, but the othewise SUCK. Certainly you should try before you buy, if I haven't disauded you. Don't buy and realize too late that you can do the things that you need to do. People used to cover sports with Speed Graphics, but you'd never chose one of those today for sports. Rangefinders are just as bad for sports. There's a reason that they've almost died. The Leica cult keeps them going and they ARE good for a couple of specific uses, but not sports, wildlife and anything needing a telephoto lens.

Here's a picture taken with my 5D2 at night in New Orleans at ISO 6400:


Napoleon House by dcstep, on Flickr

Dave
As always, thanks for your comments and suggestions Dave. One of the things I've noticed when I shoot digital vs. many years before when I was shooting with a Canon AE-1, is that I pay less attention to various things that I feel like I should pay attention to. I feel like it's easier to take a photo, look at it, adjust it, take another one, rinse and repeat, until I get something good enough to work with in post-processing.

I feel that although going digital gives us that flexibility, it doesn't allow me to "think" before shooting most of the time. Of course, I don't need to shoot that way, but the ease of constantly adjusting a myriad of features (some of which are unnecessary to produce excellent photos) lends to this sort of behavior quite easily.

I agree with you that the telephoto capabilities are lackluster to the point of being non-existant on the Leica. In fact, the longest lens they currently have in production is a mere 135 mm. However, most the time I take my shots in the lower focal ranges (27-80 mm) anyways.

One thing you failed to mention is that Rangefinders also lack in their macro performance as well, for obvious reasons on how they inherently work.

The 5DMKII is phenomenal with its low-light IQ, rivaling that of the 1Ds. After playing with the M9, however, I found that it's possible to focus in lower light with it than with the 5DMKII, and the lens/sensor combination provides a better IQ, albeit the price differences. It's hard to discount Leica primes, as they are some of the best in the world, imo. They finally have a great body to complement them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vachss View Post
There is a size and "clunkiness" issue though. I've gone hiking in the Sierras any number of times carrying a DSLR (20D and later 5D2) and 2-3 lenses. While doable this really does add a lot of weight and messing about. One time a friend brought along his Epson RD-1 (poor man's Leica) and a quiver of 3-4 Leica lenses. The whole shooting match was smaller/lighter than my 5D2 body alone (those rangefinder lenses that don't need retrofocus can be TINY).

I agree with dcstep that the 5D2 is a great camera, and I'm certainly keeping mine, but a lightweight digital rangefinder does have its attractions on the trail.
Thanks, I agree with you. Rangefinders have their advantages, but also their distinct disadvantages.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dcstep View Post
Good points.

My digital start (film and rangefinders were decades ago) was with a Canon G7 then a G9 and I'm currently thinking of a buying a G12 to keep in the car at all times. If all I did was street shooting, scenics and general travel, I'd consider the FF Leica for its IQ. Just like I put up with the 5D2 and the 7D's bulk to get high IQ, I'd consider putting up with the Leica's rangefinder to gain a step up in IQ over the G12, which actually has pretty high IQ, but not up there with the 5D2 or Leica.

When I go in the woods I actually lug the 500/f4L on a tripod with a gimbal, mounted on the 7D and then I sling the 5D2 around my neck with the 70-200/f4L IS mounted and a wide-angle in my vest pocket. I'm mainly there to shoot wildlife, not hike. However, if your priority were to hike and then grab the occasional scenic shot, then the Leica would be up to the task and then some.

The question for the OP is, will you be able to do everything you desire? If you'll mainly use FF-equivalent focal lengths below say 105mm, then a rangefinder can yield excellent results.

Remember, we're in a digital world now and the value of Zeiss glass is somewhat lessened by the ability to post-process. For instance, if I compare images of a Canon 17-35mm L-series to a Zeiss 21mm distagon, the Zeiss will win when comparing the jpeg out of camera. However, if I shoot RAW convert the images in a program like DxO's Optics Pro 6.5 or Canon's Digital Photo Professional, that have geometric correction, chromatic aberation correction, etc. built into the conversion program, the finished jpegs are very hard to tell apart, even at the edges with the zoom wide open and at its widest angle. The old film days were the hayday of fast, sharp primes, but that is much less the case these digital days.

That said, I still believe that you should start with the sharpest lenses that you can afford for the usages that you have planned.

I couldn't do a lot of the things that I enjoy doing with my dslr setup, but someone that doesn't really need telephoto could be very happy. The IQ is going to be several steps up from a G12 or any 3/4 format camera and equal to the best dslr cameras, subject to the lens focal length limitations.

Dave
Thanks again Dave. That's true, post-processing has somewhat been a game changer in that respect. In smaller print or digital sizes you probably wouldn't notice a difference in IQ between an L lens vs. Zeiss or Leica. But, in larger prints I think that small difference becomes more obvious.

Most of the things I shoot are below 80 mm, but not all. I'm sure if I just had a rangefinder, I'd miss the telephoto capabilities once in a while, and moreso moving/sports shots.
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      12-03-2010, 11:12 PM   #7
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There's no doubt about the IQ of the Leica. It's very well suited for shooting at 85mm. Even with huge prints, I don't think that you'll exceed the IQ of a 5D2 with one of Canon's tops lenses, assuming you'll shoot RAW and convert using a modern program, but it will be more compact and has a certain "appeal" for people that go for such things. (Zeiss makes lenses for Canon now, I assume that you know that).

If the telephoto thing is just an occasional thing, then you can keep your current Canon and use it for that, or upgrade to a T2i for their latest and greatest crop-sensor (same as in the 7D). You're already talking big money, so what the hey, get a good dslr to back up your Leica where it's not suitable.

BTW, you mentioned the 70-200mm f/4L IS. I've got that and it's a stunning lens. It would be a major upgrade over your current lens.

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