Selecting a new or used rangefinder camera is as much of an art as it is a science. Rangefinder cameras inspire the photographer to step into a world without all the bells-and-whistles of technology and use skill and experience to capture the world at large. Several different styles and types of camera options exist when choosing a rangefinder, but knowing what to look for can make the process much easier.
Understanding How Rangefinder Cameras Work
Rangefinder cameras use mechanisms that allow the photographer to find the range, or distance, to the subject of the photograph for accurate focusing of the lenses. Unlike digital SLR cameras, which show the exact image that the camera records, rangefinder cameras feature viewfinders that are offset from the lens, which means what photographers see is not exactly what the camera captures. This is not noticeable over long ranges, but for close up photography studies, the parallax error can be difficult to compensate for.
Brands of Rangefinder Cameras
Many consumers feel more comfortable purchasing a brand of camera they know. Rangefinder cameras from well know manufacturers, range from the Leica to the much loved and long-lived Canon rangefinder camera. With such a broad selection, buyers should take the time to determine which camera is the right one for what they intend to photograph as well as how comfortable it is to use. If the camera is to be a collectable, photographers can find many models in the vintage camera market and brand may not be as much of a consideration. For serious photographers who intend to use the camera to shoot photographs, the brand may play an important role.
Types of Lenses
Interchangeable lenses are very popular with photographers who use rangefinder cameras; however, interchangeable lenses can be expensive and hard to find for older rangefinder cameras. Leica and Contax brands offer interchangeable lenses for rangefinders and many aftermarket companies manufacture them. It is important to consider that interchangeable rangefinder camera lenses are manual and do not set automatically, as many digital camera lenses do. If owners are not familiar with camera lens settings and film cameras, there may be some period of trial and error. Several manufacturers of rangefinder cameras, including Nikon, offer fixed lenses that even novice photographers can use successfully.
Styles of Rangefinder Cameras
Different manufacturers have different options and features on their rangefinder cameras. Leica cameras include a number of features, such as screw on lenses that allow photographers to change zoom levels. Cameras from before World War II from Zeiss Contax have historical value and include built in light meters. Canon is one of the most respected names in the photography industry and their rangefinders included both automatic and manual modes. Vintage Canon rangefinder cameras may be difficult to use due to the vintage battery size availability.