No cigars and no Brandy here as I would like to write a few lines about ‘my other hobby’: photography. In particular this post is about rangefinder cameras and about me starting out to shoot film.
At first some words of theory for the ones of us not being camera gear heads. A rangefinder is a camera that works with two overlapping images that have to be aligned/fused by turning/adjusting a wheel or the lens. Once the image coincides the area is sharp, respectively the camera knows the distance to the sharp part of the image. In other words you are looking at a camera that has its design principle invented decades before (the todays pre-dominant) Single Lens Reflex cameras (SLRs) which work with a mirror.
In order to learn more about photography my (hobby related) new years resolution was “shoot film”. In particular with older cameras that do not contain a computer that outperforms the one NASA used to land on the moon in the Sixties and thus does all the thinking for the modern photographer. I wanted to be forced to really go into understanding aperture, shutter time, etc. and live with the consequences of my doing including more limited post processing possibilities.
But why range finders? Well, I was bitten by the Leica bug about two years ago and after some figuring out how to finance this I got myself a used M8 and a Canadian made 35mm Summicron on ebay. And I loved it immediately! It made me use the camera more consciously as I was forced to think and take my time to take the picture. And the resulting images, how they are rendered, the colors and the details were simply magical to me! After a while I lusted for the full frame M9 because of even more details, CCD sensor rendering and colors and no more crop factor calculations. I made some re-arrangements (sold the M8 and some other stuff) to get a good used copy together with a new Summilux 50mm ASPH. The results coming out of the M9, if properly done, really blow my mind up until today and it is my favorite digital camera bar none. Seeking for an additional excuse to own insanely expensive Leica glass then made think on how I can re-use the lenses on another camera body. Coupled with the fixed idea of wanting to shoot film I got hold of a beat up M4-2. After a little service, repairing the Vulcanite and some ‘tape-work’ I am very happy how this fully mechanic camera handles. I yet have to see how the pictures really come out as I am still experimenting with different films. Last but not least I stumbled over a nice opportunity to get a Leica IIf that was (and is) in very nice shape and I could not resist to get my hands on this almost 60 year old thread mount jewel as well.
Apart from the Leicas I am lucky enough that I am allowed to use my dad’s Swiss made Alpa Reflex rangefinder built in the 1940ies by a former watch maker company. I used this camera before, back in the 80ies and early 90ies when digital photography was not even invented and I liked it. But somehow over the years I have completely forgotten about it. You can imagine that when I set myself the goal to shoot film this camera was on the top of my list and I am happy to say that I am currently running the first roll of film through it since 20 years. I wonder if the old and dusty, but back then highly regarded, Agenieux 50mm 2.9 lens is still capable of taking good pictures?
Another rangefinder in my ‘possession’ is the Voigtländer Vitessa. This one was my dad’s as well and spend a good 40 years in a box in the cellar before I discovered it a few month back by mere coincident. First I wasn’t sure what to do with it but before I am going to make a decision here I will run some film through it. 🙂 While the 3.5 minimum aperture lens is not to my liking – did I mention that I am a real sucker for fast glass?!? – I find the way the Vitessa handles very appealing, the range finder window is nice and bright and the camera is very easy to operate with the wheel to get things in focus.
Last but not least there is my newest aquisition: the Nikon S2. In fact it is so new that I did not even load it with film yet. But I was always curious to go back to the origins of Nikon and see what the genetic pool for modern DSLRs looks, feels and handles like. And I am particularly intrigued by the fact that the S2 has a fast 1.4 50mm Nikkor lens – remember, I love fast glass. Looking very much forward to use this one in the field.
Most of the cameras in this post are much older than I am. So I am very impressed on how this dusty and rusty cameras handle! Nevertheless I am sure that until the end of the year I will sell some of the cameras again as there are only so many cameras I can use and own. But in the meantime working with extra ordinary rangefinders from the last 60 years is a real pleasure and a special treat!
Since this post only has pictures of gear I would like to take the opportunity to point out my own photo blog: www.frontlefteye.com – go pay it a visit from time to time. And don’t forget my Facebook entries as there is even more content (this goes for feltedhat as well as frontlefteye). There are no film photos online yet but this will change, promised. 🙂