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Is that a rangefinder in your pocket?
December 7, 2004 7:27 PM   Subscribe

I've developed an obsession of sorts with old cameras. You should too. Digital was cool for a while, but there is something about film. Now, I'm not saying run out and get a Lomo. Lomos are for lamers. No, get yourself a Kiev 35, the poor man's Minox, or perhaps an Olympux XA. Can't find batteries for your old cameras? You're not looking hard enough. Want to hold something a bit more substational? Perhaps you should check out a Yashica Rangefinder or a Canon Canonet. A good rangefinder will make you look like better photographer, and that's what it is all about.
posted by chunking express (54 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Junk Store Cameras is a personal favorite.
posted by mokujin at 7:35 PM on December 7, 2004


The Yashica MG-1 was the first real camera I had, I'd forgotten all about that thing, thanks for reminding me. Before that, I had one of these.
posted by marxchivist at 7:46 PM on December 7, 2004


Must you taunt?! (nice post!)
posted by shoepal at 7:56 PM on December 7, 2004


Probably more than anyone ever wants to know about old 35mm cameras at cameraquest.com. The XA is a favorite of mine. Hard to find in reliable condition anymore, though - be very wary of the ones you see on ebay. Minox cameras were always overpriced for what they are, although the lenses on them were good. The Kiev 35 is one to avoid if you want your camera to actually take ok pictures; most leak light without some do-it-yourself modifications.
posted by normy at 7:57 PM on December 7, 2004


For a while I kept eyeing the Zorkis on eBay... then I realized I don't need more cameras.
posted by stp123 at 7:58 PM on December 7, 2004


My first camera was a Brownie (yes a Brownie)
(CAUTION FLASHY SITE)
I've had various ones since (Nikon, Canon, etc) but nothing could ever replace the satisfaction of loading that camera, shooting the roll, then going into the darkroom and seeing what came out.
posted by kamylyon at 8:08 PM on December 7, 2004


My Kiev broke a few weeks back. It lasted about a month, but took some cool photos. They are so cheap they are almost disposable. I think the XA-2 is probably a better lomo alternative, in that it is cheap, and better made. I've noticed that they are getting quite pricey on eBay however.
posted by chunking express at 8:13 PM on December 7, 2004


YUM!
posted by undule at 8:13 PM on December 7, 2004


heh
posted by Grod at 8:20 PM on December 7, 2004


I have one of these, and since I'm fully convinced that 2-D photographs are for suckers, I'm satisfied with it. (Though it's a little hard to operate, and the ancient plastic cover broke because it was brittle with age.)
posted by interrobang at 8:22 PM on December 7, 2004


Nice post chunking.
posted by orange clock at 8:24 PM on December 7, 2004


How the hell do you have a FPP on rangefinder cameras without mentioning Leica one of the, if not the most famous makers of rangefinders, or Henri Cartier-Bresson, one of the, if not the worlds most famous (recently deceased) photographer, or, lest you sin more, mention the fact that Henri Cartier-Bresson used a Leica 35mm rangefinder, of which he was the worlds foremost photographer (master)?
posted by reflection at 8:39 PM on December 7, 2004


I think everyone knows who Leica are, which I why I didn't mention them. I wanted to highlight some low cost alternatives to M3s and M7s.

If you don't, Leica make cameras Puff Daddy can afford, but nobody else can. Nobody. If you know someone with a Leica, they probably killed someone to get it. You should call the cops.
posted by chunking express at 8:48 PM on December 7, 2004 [3 favorites]


So? The internet is running rampant with geeks who love hardware. The better the hardware the more for us to drool at. What you did was not in good conscience and I hope you go to hell for it.
posted by reflection at 8:51 PM on December 7, 2004


um. yeah. good luck with that.

/goes and hugs his 88CM

the only good leica is the texas leica (also in 6x8 and 6x9 flavors)

of course, with fuji and hasselblad et al going to digital and dropping their film lines, pretty soon kiev is going to be the only film camera maker left in MF, not just the most affordable one. long live mike fourman and also the good folks at arax!
posted by dorian at 8:55 PM on December 7, 2004


I heart my Olympus XA. I wish it were in healthier condition. I wish I could find a digital camera that was its equal.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:57 PM on December 7, 2004


I suspect Henri Cartier-Bresson would have made some great photos even if all he had was a Brownie. I wonder what he'd have made of the Canon EOS-1 (standard issue to many photojournalists, these days).
posted by normy at 9:00 PM on December 7, 2004


Nice post. Thanks.
posted by fatllama at 9:00 PM on December 7, 2004


I love the good old manual Canon SLRs. I have an A-1 and an AE-1. I like that they're older than me and made of actual metal.
posted by smackfu at 9:04 PM on December 7, 2004


I suspect Henri Cartier-Bresson would have made some great photos even if all he had was a Brownie. I wonder what he'd have made of the Canon EOS-1 (standard issue to many photojournalists, these days).

He wouldn't have touched it. He liked his Leica because it was tiny, and even quieter than that EOS-1 with it's cloth shutter. That EOS-1 is also not optimally suited for candid photography, which was his style.
posted by reflection at 9:05 PM on December 7, 2004


/needs a tongue-in-cheek tag
posted by normy at 9:06 PM on December 7, 2004


I love the good old manual Canon SLRs.

I do too. Well, actually, I was more of a Nikon chap, myself, until recently. But the demise of the good old robust mechanical SLR days is worth a moment's mourning, in my opinion. I'm gradually getting to grips with a digital camera, but it isn't the same. It's like things I'd grown used to over years have suddenly got to be re-learned over again. Digital cameras are where it's at now, no doubt, but there's definitely something about the process - the use of the camera - that isn't as fluid, graceful. It's an interface thing, I think. Digital cameras are somehow more demanding. Maybe it's just my unfamiliarity, but I find myself wondering why there's no digital camera with the same basic controls as an old-style SLR. Or even a digital rangefinder niche. Instead, we get 14 picture-taking 'modes' and a 'command dial'.
posted by normy at 9:18 PM on December 7, 2004


Well, there is the Leica Digilux 2, if you have a lot of money. A lot.
posted by chunking express at 9:24 PM on December 7, 2004


I have baaaad luck with film. Film hates me, so I stick to digital and mercilessly mock film, but I'll admit I'll never know the pleasures of a darkroom.
posted by TheGoldenOne at 9:28 PM on December 7, 2004


I was given an old Yashica with a case full of lenses and accessories by my boss, but once I saw it ran on mercury batteries I figured it was just nice-looking junk. Glad to know I was wrong, thanks for the links.
posted by cali at 9:33 PM on December 7, 2004


...I find myself wondering why there's no digital camera with the same basic controls as an old-style SLR.

My thoughts exactly - what I'd give for a digital camera that worked like my Pentax K1000 ...
posted by expialidocious at 9:38 PM on December 7, 2004


Well, there is the Leica Digilux 2, if you have a lot of money. A lot.
You can pick one up at Photo Village Located on Broadway in NYC for ~1400 bucks.
posted by reflection at 9:43 PM on December 7, 2004


Pfft. Do you guys listen to music on wax cylinders, too? wait. don't answer that.
posted by keswick at 10:01 PM on December 7, 2004 [1 favorite]


Was in an antique store a while back and found an Olympus OM10 with lens and case for $40. (antique? no.) The guy at the counter asked if I saw the other camera he had. Humoring him, I went to look. It was a Kodak and we all know that Kodaks are next-to-worthless because they made a million of everything. I noted the name on the little original manual and left. Did some Googling and went back and bought it immediately for $50. It was a Bantam Special which was a high dollar camera, particularly in the Great Depression. Kodak only made 19,000 of them. It is gorgeous.
posted by spock at 10:11 PM on December 7, 2004


if you're close to a goodwill, you should try out their auctions. i picked up a decent canonet and an old pentax slr all for under $50. they always seem to have cool old cameras around.
posted by blendor at 11:36 PM on December 7, 2004


I have a Zenit-M TTL. It hasn't seen action for over two years, though it is fun and challenging to try and make good pictures with it.

However, my current digicam (Powershot Pro1) beats the pants off of any vintage camera in just about every conceivable respect except maximum amount of shots before recharging and ultra-long exposure. It outguns most film SLR configurations as well, except sometimes in autofocus speed. I carry it everywhere and am able to do things I could never do with any film camera, and can't see a reason to shoot film except for curiosity value.
posted by azazello at 12:35 AM on December 8, 2004


For a digital equivalent, check out the Epson R-D1. It accepts Leica M and L mount lenses, has rangefinder-style controls, and is pretty neat. If it weren't $3k, I might consider one.
posted by thethirdman at 12:55 AM on December 8, 2004


The 3-d 35mm camera interrobang linked to looked cool, but I've been hankering for a good option for digital 3-d photograhy. There's the Mission 3-d kit, but it seems a little expensive for a glorified tripod. (I realize you're paying in part for the software, but since it's Windows-only and I'm a Mac user, it doesn't do me much good.) If anybody has any bright alternatives, I'll be eternally grateful.
posted by yankeefog at 2:51 AM on December 8, 2004


If you love actually using old rangefinders, as opposed to collecting them, RangefinderForum.com is a great community to check out. A couple of us there now are branching into digital (blasphemy!) with the release of the R-D1.
posted by DaShiv at 3:32 AM on December 8, 2004


Well, if you want to look chic without the Leica prices, there's the wonderful Voigtlander Bessa R (available from the aforementioned CameraQuest). The original R took Leica screwmount lenses and the current R2 is M mount. Either way, you can't lose. You may notice a familial similarity to the Epson R-D1, the holy (digital) grail for Bessa fans. Epson licensed the body from Chinon (manufacturer of the current Voigtlander).

Oh, and one more alternative for the Leica-phile/phobe: Panasonic is the actual manufacturer of the Leica Digilux 2: their is the DMC-LC1. It's at least $300 less than the Leica-badged model. Same Leica lens, tho.
posted by jdfan at 3:33 AM on December 8, 2004


I used to be a rangefinder nerd, but I found I was missing a lot of shots due to lens changing and slow focussing. Unless you really like futzing with cool mechanical stuff, a DSLR will get far more and better pictures for you.

I did keep one item of my rangefinder kit; the Voigtländer 15mm Super Wide Heliar lens. It's so good, I even bought a basic body for it alone.
posted by scruss at 4:22 AM on December 8, 2004


Lomos are not for lamers. Reading the link about them, the author gripes more about the marketing machine and the business than the photos themselves.

Bullshit. I like both of my Lomos.
posted by TeamBilly at 5:07 AM on December 8, 2004


Spock, excellent Kodak Bantam Special link. Looks more like a radio of that era. Absolutely gorgeous.
posted by TomSophieIvy at 5:51 AM on December 8, 2004


{from the link in this entry}: It's not the photographer. It's the camera.

that is so wrong. In fact, it's exactly the opposite.
posted by crunchland at 5:52 AM on December 8, 2004


TeamBilly. I was being a bit tongue-and-cheek. I just think lomosshould cost as much as Kievs. They are broken-ass soviet era clones of Cosina CX-2s after all. I actually want a lomo. My obsession with rangefinders has its roots with my quest to get a lomo on the cheap. That said, a digital camera or a camera phone is probably better suited for the lomography philosophy then a film camera. Lomos take cool pictures, but for 150 US you can get a lame digital camera that will let you be free and wild with your photography as well.
posted by chunking express at 6:16 AM on December 8, 2004


I love the good old manual Canon SLRs. I have an A-1 and an AE-1. I like that they're older than me and made of actual metal.

Don't both of those cameras have automatic exposure control ? I used to have an AE-1 Program and it had shutter priority exposure. I sold it when I bought my digital camera. I kept my Canon FT-QL, though. Now that's a manual camera - the only thing the battery does is power the exposure meter.
posted by rfs at 7:10 AM on December 8, 2004


Nice post.

Don't forget the Kodak Retina. I still have my Grandfather's Retina IIIc from the 1950s and it takes nice pictures. You can usually find working models on ebay for less than $100. You can also find a photocopied instruction manual for a few bucks or a used copy of the fan's book "The Retina Way." Beautiful camera.
posted by since1968 at 7:18 AM on December 8, 2004


Anyone shoot with a GR1?
posted by shoepal at 8:02 AM on December 8, 2004


I have a FED 3 camera that was given to me by a Russian friend. I also bought a Lubitel 166 camera for peanuts when I was a student.

When I got back to doing photograhpy, I got a FM10 (not a real Nikon, and what I really wanted was a FM2N but it was to expensive for me at the time.)

Of course, rumors of a FM3D are keeping me very excited,
especially if it had a Zone System spot metering -- that would be too awesome.

But realistically, I think I'll eventually buy a used D1x.
posted by NewBornHippy at 9:27 AM on December 8, 2004


A good rangefinder will make you look like better photographer, and that's what it is all about.

I own a Kiev 88. Interesting thing about Kiev's: the production value on them was all over the place. I've seen Kiev 88's that were absolutely identical to the Hassy's in operation, and I've seen Kiev 88's that were just god-awful. Light leaks in the box, shoddy tolerances, etc. I wondered why that was, until a few years ago when I talked with a Russian camera enthusiast.

He told me that above all, the most important thing was to never purchase a Kiev built on a Monday, because Monday was when all the workers would come back to work with hangovers. He said Fridays weren't so hot, either, because all the workers were looking forward to the weekend.

By the way, for any Kiev 88 owners out there, there is a highly competent American distributor in Connecticut that will retrofit your old Kiev 88 for $cheap and have it working just like new.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:17 AM on December 8, 2004


I must confess to compulsive buying of old cameras in junk sales. I've got a working compact Agfa Optima Ia, a probably non-working fold-up 6x6 Zeiss/Ikon Ikonta B 521/16 with Novar lens and Prontor S shutter (which seems to be an uncommon configuration) and a definitely non working plate Ensign Cameo. Also, an apparently working Eumig C3 8 mm movie camera and a piece-of-crap Praktica BCA SLR I just can't get rid of.
Plus (as cameras I actually use) a Minox 35 GT I recently tried to trade in but couldn't get rid of (makes nice pictures, though), a Leica Minilux compact and my two digitals, a Konica KD-400Z (good pictures, but damn slow) and my darling Nikon D70 dSLR.
posted by Skeptic at 2:06 PM on December 8, 2004


I can't believe nobody mentioned the Holga and the Diana.
I use both, esp the Holga (.pdf file) either with b/w or cross-processed slide film for tungsten lighting, and I get very interesting results.
the Toycamera site is always good.
cool stuff. I suggest using TechPan film with your Holga
posted by matteo at 5:41 PM on December 8, 2004


oh, and btw, how's the new Epson digital rangefinder? it sounds... expensive.
posted by matteo at 5:42 PM on December 8, 2004


a kind user e-mails me to warn that TechPan has been fucking discontinued. damn those ugly-ass digital cameras.
one wonders if Tri-X is next, now.

*looks for TechPan rolls on eBay to buy and freeze for future use, shakes fist at reality*
posted by matteo at 5:54 PM on December 8, 2004


Matteo, the holgaroid is where it's at!
posted by shoepal at 7:23 PM on December 8, 2004


yeah but the Polga images are really tiny, one has to scan them and seriously blow them up. I like big prints
posted by matteo at 7:46 PM on December 8, 2004


and you can not lie...
posted by shoepal at 8:07 PM on December 8, 2004


My first camera was the Kodak Disc. I got it for my 9th birthday. I probably still have it somewhere.
posted by SisterHavana at 10:00 PM on December 8, 2004


Olde skool cameras are great collector items, but when it comes to taking outstanding photographs I just don't see it working. I would never be able to take 500 shots in an afternoon, on a whim, with a wetware camera. The trump card for digital is the ability to be fearless in shooting, not worrying about taking bad shots. In the case of taking great photos, quantity creates quality.
posted by mullingitover at 12:39 AM on December 9, 2004 [1 favorite]


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