The camera needs frequent servicing since it loses accuracy with time and use. It isn’t particularly good with telephoto lenses, and not all models will allow you to check the effects of filters or depth of field—not until after your film is developed.
The rangefinder makes up for its faults with something it lacks—a moving, flipping mirror. Its absence means that upon pressing the shutter button, a rangefinder will have fewer vibrations than an SLR, making for clear, sharp pictures with no blur and less distortion. This also makes shooting with available light at low shutter speeds a breeze.
There is also the thrill of shooting with the same kind of camera used by photography legends like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, Josef Koudelka, Inge Morath, Man Ray, Walker Evans, Robert Doisneau, Eugene Smith, Helmut Newton, Diane Arbus, Garry Winogrand, and Eugene Richards, to name a few.
Historical relevance, elegant design, fine craftsmanship, and durability ensure that the rangefinder will never go out of style.
Type: 35mm rangefinder camera
Lens mount: Interchangeable lens, Leica M bayonet mount
Dimensions: 138 × 77 × 33.5 mm Weight: 580 g
Estimated price: USD 1,500
No other camera has been universally described as a timeless masterpiece. Introduced in 1954 as the first “M series” rangefinder camera (the first to have a quick-change bayonet lens mount instead of the Leica M39 bayonet mount), the Leica M3’s viewfinder is reportedly the world’s biggest, brightest, sharpest, and most accurate in the rangefinder system. The M3 also has the highest focusing precision of any Leica and is built to last beyond a lifetime with its smooth, solid, and precise mechanics.
It was the camera of choice of Henri Cartier Bresson, Robert Capa, Elliott Erwitt, Josef Koudelka, and Inge Morath. In fact, some of the world’s most famous photographs of the twentieth century have been shot with a Leica M3. In 1986, to commemorate the sixtieth birthday of Queen Elizabeth II, postal stamps were created featuring her portraits, one of which includes a photograph of the Queen holding her beloved Leica M3.
Nikon S3 Year 2000
Millennium Model Limited Edition
Type: 35mm rangefinder camera
Lens mount: Nikon S mount (bayonet mount)
Dimensions: 136 mm × 81 mm × 43 mm
Weight: 590 g (body), 765 g (with 50 mm f/1.4)
Estimated price: USD 5,499
This model is a near duplicate of the Nikon S3 released in 1958 and was used by legendary photographer Steve Schapiro. The S3 was the rangefinder with the world’s first 1:1 viewfinder for the 35mm focal length lens. The S3 Millennium Model reproduced this viewfinder, the focal length adjusting gear at the upper right of the camera body, and the quiet cloth focal-plane shutter curtains.
Type: 35mm rangefinder camera Lens mount: Interchangeable lens, Leica M bayonet mount
Dimensions: 138 mm (5.4 in) x 77 mm (3.0 in) x 38 mm (1.5 in)
Weight: 585 g
Estimated price: USD 1,600
The M3’s equally handsome brother is the M6, perhaps the most advanced mechanical rangefinder camera, which combines the classic silhouette of the Leica M3 with modern through-the-lens metering, no moving parts, and LED arrows in the viewfinder. All functions, except for the light meter, still work without batteries. The top and bottom plates of the M6 are made from magnesium alloy rather than the brass of the M3. But just like the M3, the M6 is small, solid, silent, and crafted with exceptional precision. Sebastião Salgado and David Allan Harvey have used the M6 for their extraordinary photographs.
Type: Coupled rangefinder film camera with interchangeable lenses
Lens mount: Bayonet
Dual-format: 24 x 65 mm and 24 x 36 mm Dimensions: 2.04 in x 3.28 in x 6.64 in Weight: 720 g
Estimated price: USD 2,299
The XPan is a unique camera born of the union between Hasselblad of Sweden and Fuji Photo of Japan. It is a 35mm rangefinder camera that gives you the option of taking regular shots, or panoramic photographs all on the same roll. At the turn of a knob, the XPan expands the 35mm image to twice its width or produces an image equal to a 6 x 7 medium format camera.
Type: 6 x 7 format rangefinder with interchangeable lenses
Multi-formats: Optional interchangeable panoramic insert mask yields 65 x 24 mm (2.7:1) with 35mm roll film.
Dimensions: 159 x 112 x 123 mm (6.2 x 4.4 x 4.8 in)
Weight: 1,210 g (2.6 lbs) with 80mm lens
Estimated price: USD 3,699
Some photographers consider the Mamiya 7 as the world’s best, offering the technical image quality of a medium format camera while being small enough to carry all day and shoot hand-held. The Mamiya 7 is a 6 x 7cm medium-format rangefinder camera system with interchangeable lenses that take 120 and 220 film. The optical quality of its lenses go far beyond any 35mm or zoom lens. Another special feature is its leaf shutters—they are quieter and vibrate less than the cloth focal plane shutters of the smaller format Leicas.
Type: 35mm digital rangefinder camera Sensor: 23.9 x 35.8
Maximum resolution: 18.5 megapixels
Lens mount: Interchangeable lens, Leica M mount Dimensions: 5.5 x 3.1 x 1.5 in
Weight: 585 g with battery Estimated price: USD 6,000
The Leica M9 is the world’s first rangefinder digital camera featuring a full-frame 24 x 36 sensor. The 18-megapixel CCD image sensor was designed by Kodak to get the full 35mm use of the Leica lenses. Another new and special feature is that the M9’s cover glass eliminates infrared light, so there is no need to use any IR filters with the camera. The M9 is purported to be the smallest rangefinder digital camera. It is compact, easy to handle, and as with any Leica, is dependable and durable.