Many photographers that still shoot film adore Leica–and those photographers also want to go for the very best eventually. You’ve got lots of great options to start out with though, and there are loads of old rangefinder cameras that you can get, too. But some photographers only want a Leica–specifically a film Leica. These cameras by far have some of the best ergonomics and most simplistic features even today.
With the Q and A7R Mk II landing on the front the page of every photo website and in the Facebook feed of nearly every photographer, the mirror is looking less necessary by the day. What was once a conduit to essentially allow photographers to see what they’re photographing is now a vestige, something that needs space and adds weight. Ask any photographer who’s used big rigs, they’ll say the weight is the biggest drag, and that they’re increasingly drawn to smaller cameras by the likes of Sony, Fuji, Olympus and the like. Companies can make smaller cameras by taking out the mirror, and the company who’s been working on it perhaps the hardest is Sony. Leica’s up there now, too, but for different reasons.
Rangefinder cameras will always be at the heart of many photographers for their small size, simplistic ergonomics, silent shutter, and low profile looks that keep many away from thinking that you’ve got an expensive camera around your neck. Though they gave way to SLR cameras in terms of widespread use, they were still very popular amongst documentary and street photographers. In fact, many of the cameras still are in use by photographers.
We’ve rounded up some of the best film rangefinder cameras that you can find or that were iconic to many photographers. Here’s our list.
There is almost nothing better than having the benefit of a small rangefinder camera body and the large negative area of medium format film. While this isn’t available yet in a digital edition, lots of photographers want it. But those who want this also know how incredibly good lots of the medium format film rangefinder cameras are.
Indeed, most folks talk about the SLR cameras because they’re cheap; but there are lots and lots of film rangefinders that would possibly make you put down your digital camera and keep it in a box somewhere to gather dust once you see the incredible quality that these cameras are capable of.
The Canon Canonet QL17 is a camera that is highly sought after by many film photographers these days. It comes with a 40mm f1.7 fixed lens, an ISO setting only up to 800, and even has a light meter built in. It was very popular, and guess what: it’s a rangefinder!
When you think of rangefinder cameras you could easily think of companies like Leica, Zeiss, Voigtlander, Mamiya, Bronica and even Nikon. Rangefinders dominated the scene for many years until the SLR came about and offered interchangeable lenses, through the lens field of views, and affordability for many professional and hobbyist photographers alike.
As digital photography became the norm, new photographers began to pick up old film cameras in order to experiment and expand their creativity. But beyond that, there were a number of years where photographers couldn’t get a small, mirrorless good quality camera. Indeed, I was a part of this crowd. Now, the world has so many options but very few have the feel of solid rangefinder cameras like the QL17.
Want more affordable rangefinder cameras? We’ve got a full list here. But for even more, the folks at PDExposures have a video after the jump on the camera.
All images taken from our original interviews with the photographers.
Think that creating your own camera is too much work? It isn’t at all. In fact, creating your own cameras can be fun and can give you an experimental and creative edge that make you think differently about the way that you see images. Most of these cameras can be large format–or as is the case of many of the photographers that we’ve interviewed, a custom format. Before you continue on, you should first check out this video that is an introduction to large format shooting. You’ll see what a photographer needs to do in order to get the photos that they want.
Here are some Homemade Cameras that you’ll get inspired by.