Monday, March 06, 2006

Rangefinder Photography

Have you ever wondered why so many photographers just love Leica rangefinder cameras? I did, and after digging around and visiting countless websites and magazine reviews I decided to take the plunge. Yes, this "gotta go digital" techie now has not one but two rangefinder cameras.

Now, I know you're probably asking yourself "why would you purchase two old film cameras?" I'm glad you asked. I'm still considering a Leica M6 and/or a Hasselblad XPan II (I just love panoramas) and I wasn't going to let their hefty price tags stop me from exploring this form of photography. I now use an Olympus XA and a Yashica Electro GSN (it arrives this week). The Yashica is 30 years old, and based on the pristine condition in the photos from eBay it will be making great prints 30 years from now.

What makes rangefinders so special and still appealing are their razor-sharp focus, great build quality, and small size. Although they are often heavy (especially the Leicas) they are not as big and bulky as SLRs. Interestingly, people are not intimidated by them as they typically look like your grandfather's tourist camera. And because of these factors they are perfect photographic tools for capturing still life and "street photography."

Having grown-up using instamatics and SLRs, using the old-fashioned rangefinder focusing lever has taken some practice and lots of patience. But, like anything else in life the more you do it the better you become. And, the larger bodied rangefinders (like my Yashica) feature focus rings similar to our beloved SLRs.

I won't bore you with the technical details, but I encourage you to visit the Rangefinder Forum's gallery to discover for yourself why you should seriously consider adding a good rangefinder camera to your bag. Not as a prime or even as a backup, but as a unique photographic tool that could yield some fascinating results that could easily find themselves in many of your client's books. Be blessed and keep shooting!


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