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Historic: What is Rangefinder? and related history questions
I am interested in the history of development of photography.I am sure a lot of experienced posters here in the forum wouldbe able to take my question..

What is rangefinder?Does it mean the cameras that are similar to thecompact film cameras, that does not have a mirror?I used to have a Nikon compact film camera that I thinkis 35mm. And I look through a "viewfinder" which showsthe view even if the lens cover is closed..

Viewfinder is the eye piece that I looked at, right?Are there any (ancient) cameras that have no viewfinders?.

My father, born 1940s said that the first camera he had,he could only select "Close" "Medium" or "Far" distanceas focus.Alternatively: Full body, head and shoulder, ?head only.

Many thanks.The history of camera development is very interesting to me.Nowadays, do we still think German is better than Japan?..

Comments (24)

No. That would be a viewfinder. A rangefinder used an optical system to superimpose a small rectangle in the middle of the viewfinder that when adjusted would allow you to focus the lens on your subject..

For example look at the Leica M series of cameras..

The greatest of mankind's criminals are those who delude themselves into thinking they have done 'the right thing.'- Rayna Butler..

Comment #1

Alright..

I used to use a Minolta XG2 Manual focus film SLR camera.It does have two semicircle that would be clear and matches upwhen it is in focus.I depend a lot on that to find focus..

So, a SLR can also have Rangefinder then..

Kenneth.

GodSpeaks wrote:.

No. That would be a viewfinder. A rangefinder used an opticalsystem to superimpose a small rectangle in the middle of theviewfinder that when adjusted would allow you to focus the lens onyour subject..

For example look at the Leica M series of cameras..

The greatest of mankind's criminals are those who delude themselvesinto thinking they have done 'the right thing.'- Rayna Butler..

Comment #2

KennethKwok wrote:.

Alright..

I used to use a Minolta XG2 Manual focus film SLR camera.It does have two semicircle that would be clear and matches upwhen it is in focus.I depend a lot on that to find focus..

So, a SLR can also have Rangefinder then..

No..

Just because a camera's automation or manual controls allow you to find out the distance to the subject in focus does not make them a range finder..

Start here:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rangefinder_camera.

Google is your friend...

Comment #3

Thanks, Mrxdimension,Are you saying that I cannot ask here, though?.

Thanks for the link.

Wikipedia: A rangefinder camera is a camera fitted with a rangefinder: a range-finding focusing mechanism allowing the photographer to measure the subject distance and take photographs that are in sharp focus..

If we use this definition, then a electronic meter, or a tape ruler,can also tell the subject distance, and are thus rangefinders..

Mrxdimension wrote:.

No.Just because a camera's automation or manual controls allow you tofind out the distance to the subject in focus does not make them arange finder..

Start here:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rangefinder_camera.

Google is your friend...

Comment #4

KennethKwok wrote:.

Alright..

I used to use a Minolta XG2 Manual focus film SLR camera.It does have two semicircle that would be clear and matches upwhen it is in focus.I depend a lot on that to find focus..

So, a SLR can also have Rangefinder then..

Kenneth.

That would be a split prism. With a rangefinder when you look through the viewfinder you are not looking through the lens like on a SLR.These are images of rangefinders..

Image control:Zoom outZoom 100%Zoom inExpand AllOpen in new window.

When you look through most rangefinder's viewfinder the light is coming from two windows on the front, when you line the images up the lens is focused..

Image control:Zoom outZoom 100%Zoom inExpand AllOpen in new window.

Notice no prism hump on this leica. There's the two windows for focusing..

Image control:Zoom outZoom 100%Zoom inExpand AllOpen in new window..

Comment #5

KennethKwok wrote:.

Thanks, Mrxdimension,Are you saying that I cannot ask here, though?.

No. I'm saying Google and Wikipedia are also your friends..

Thanks for the linkWikipedia: A rangefinder camera is a camera fitted with arangefinder: a range-finding focusing mechanism allowing thephotographer to measure the subject distance and take photographsthat are in sharp focus..

If we use this definition, then a electronic meter, or a tape ruler,can also tell the subject distance, and are thus rangefinders..

A rangefinder camera is a specific method of finding the distance to the subject so you can set the lens (automatically or manually). Perhaps rangefinder with respect to cameras is a misnomer that is confusing you..

From the link on wikipedia here's a link that describes various types of mechanisms used in rangefinder cameras.http://rick_oleson.tripod.com/looking_forward.htm.

One characteristic of a rangefinder camera is that you're not looking through the taking lens when you focus. Another is that there is not a mirror between the taking lens and the sensor or film. Rangefinders collect input from two separate inputs, neither one of which is the lens used to take the photo. The larger the distance between the two separate inputs are, the more accurate the focusing can be..

Here's another link from the wikipedia article describing practical differences between a rangefinder and slr.http://photozone.de/slr-vs-rangefinder.

Perhaps the descriptions are too complex. If possible visit a used camera shop and ask to look at an old rangefinder. The differences in control will become obvious. You can probably buy a half decent film rangefinder in good shape for less money than a decent filter if you don't go for a rare classic collectible rangefinder..

IMO you'll see differently and take different photo's when using a slr or rangefinder...

Comment #6

Many thanks indeed..

Kenneth.

BA baracus wrote:.

When you look through most rangefinder's viewfinder the light iscoming from two windows on the front, when you line the images up thelens is focused...

Comment #7

Pretty good illustrations..

My second camera was an old Certo-Dollina II that had the rangefinder mechanism cobbled onto the top of the camera. The viewfinder was separate from the little hole you peered through to focus the camera using the rangefinder. What you saw through the rangefinder window was a portion of the area that would be included in the photo split in half horizontally. You turned a knob mounted on top of the rangefinder mechanism until things lined up properly, like the subject's head was no longer separated from her body. Turning that knob moved the mirror in the rangefinder mechanism and also racked the lens, bellows mounted, in or out to change focus. Once you were happy with the focus, you switched back to the viewfinder window to frame your shot..

This, as I recall, was a pretty cumbersome process. You can see a picture of this beast here:http://www.camerapedia.org/wiki/Certo_Dollina_IRegards, John...

Comment #8

Well an odd note perhaps, but you can get a Katz Eye split ring for many DSLRs. Why would you want that? It gives you better focusing for those old manual focus lenses that everyone sells on e-bay..

Http://www.katzeyeoptics.com/...-Screen-for-the-Nikon-D40-D40xprod_D40.html.

I don't have one, but personally think the split ring for focusing was really a great thing. I miss not having one in my D80..

K..

Comment #9

Image control:Zoom outZoom 100%Zoom inExpand AllOpen in new window.

I managed to find a photo of the filmNikon RD2 camera that I had..

Is this a rangefinder?.

If people are offended, I apologize in advance...

Comment #10

Here is a picture of my own rangefinder..

Image control:Zoom outZoom 100%Zoom inExpand AllOpen in new window.

Image control:Zoom outZoom 100%Zoom inExpand AllOpen in new window.

This slides into the accessory shoe on top of the camera. I used it with a manual-focus camera. First the rangefinder is used to measure the subject distance. Then the focus scale of the lens is turned so it is set to the same distance..

Clearly this is a slow way of working, so later I bought a camera with such a device built-in, and mechanically connected to the lens focussing system. This is properly known as a coupled-rangefinder camera, or for short, a rangefinder camera..

There were many examples, particularly low-cost models from the former Soviet Union, such as Zorki, Fed and Kiev. Many of these were based on older Leica and Contax cameras.Examples:http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=kiev+rangefinder.

Hope this helps,Peter..

Comment #11

KennethKwok wrote:.

Image control:Zoom outZoom 100%Zoom inExpand AllOpen in new window.

I managed to find a photo of the filmNikon RD2 camera that I had..

Is this a rangefinder?.

Judging from the photo, no it isn't. This appears to be an automated camera that uses an infra-red active focussing system, where a beam is sent out by the camera, reflects from the subject and is detected by a sensor in the camera, which sets the lens focus based on the angle of the returning beam..

On this page, it is listed as a "fixed lens compact" http://www.camerapedia.org/wiki/Nikon.

If people are offended, I apologize in advance..

No problem here.Regards,Peter..

Comment #12

Dear Peter,.

Thanks a lot.Thanks for showing me the rangefinder...

Comment #13

Here you can read all about a rangefinder camerahttp://www.dpreview.com/reviews/leicam8/.

The major advantage of a rangefinder camera is the ability to focus perfectly in low light circumstances.Grtz. Blanche..

Comment #14

KennethKwok wrote:.

Dear Peter,.

Thanks a lot.Thanks for showing me the rangefinder..

One not-too-ancient true rangefinder is the Olympus XA. Among the last before all compacts got autofocus...

Comment #15

KennethKwok wrote:.

Nowadays, do we still think German is better than Japan?.

Maybe a valid question about cars, but these days all the top camera makers are in Japan, even though they actually produce them in many countries...

Comment #16

My first rangefinder camera was a Minolta H-iMatic 11. The viewfinder had a split image in the center of the field. When you focused, the images came together. When they were superimposed, you were in focus. It was a very accurate focusing aid that also included parallax correction..

Http://www.camerapedia.org/wiki/Minolta_Hi-Matic_11.

Only problem I had was after years of using a 35mm SLR, I took a lot of pictures with the lens cap on with this camerabut they were in focus....

Comment #17

My father still think that the best camera isHasselblad. Zeiss makes the lens for them, right?[So I did think of having a Zeiss lens for my Nikon D300.Luckily my sense come back to me, and I did not get themanual focus Zeiss lens].

And I heard of names like carl zeiss (on sony ericsson phones)and sometimes some Shneidnerunspellable, Leica....

Just wondered if these are still king, or is it already taken overby Canon and Nikon from Japan.I suppose Canon and Nikon is king in 35mm / FX/ Full frame andbelow (include APS/DX/APS-H/C/...).

I have heard of Hasselblad and PhaseOne in digital medium format.Not quite sure where the Mamiya stands in terms of quality, prestige,ranking....

Has large format essentially died? Or still in use?Some say the large format viewcam still gives the best image,probably on film.I yahooed photos of viewcam lens, and they all look pretty ancient..

Greg Nut wrote:.

KennethKwok wrote:.

Nowadays, do we still think German is better than Japan?.

Maybe a valid question about cars, but these days all the top cameramakers are in Japan, even though they actually produce them in manycountries...

Comment #18

Very Funny! Still in focus!I had the same problem with the Nikon compact automatic film camera.But then, the shutter wouldn't activate, as the lens cap doubles as thepower switch.

Do you enjoy the rangefinder? Advantage would be quick focusin the dark as mentioned, and no mirror vibration, I presume..

AlphaDSLR wrote:.

My first rangefinder camera was a Minolta H-iMatic 11. Theviewfinder had a split image in the center of the field. When youfocused, the images came together. When they were superimposed, youwere in focus. It was a very accurate focusing aid that alsoincluded parallax correction..

Http://www.camerapedia.org/wiki/Minolta_Hi-Matic_11.

Only problem I had was after years of using a 35mm SLR, I took a lotof pictures with the lens cap on with this camerabut they were infocus....

Comment #19

Search 'rangefinder cameras' in Wikipedia, it has fairly good article on the subject. It also has good links to a lot of more detailed and brand specific rangefinder related sites..

Shay son of Che..

Comment #20

Except for that lens cap thing, I really liked the camera. At the time, I was using a Yashica TL Super 35mm SLR. It was a manual focus, match needle metering SLR. You sure learn a lot about photography using that type of camera..

I bought the rangefinder for two reasons. First was to try to get my wife interested in photography with a simpler to use 35mm. Second, it was an early auto-exposure camera with a good lens that would be quick and easy to use. Back then, your choices of cameras was pretty much the 126 cartridge point and shoots and the 35mms. The two worlds of photography were miles apart and the 35mm rangefinders helped bridge that gap..

I still have that camera and about 50 others that I have collected including some that date back to the 1920s like this gem..

Http://www.tias.com/cgi-bin/google.fcgi/itemKey=3923231962.

I can no longer use the rangefinder and a couple of my SLRs because they used mercury batteries and you can not buy them now. The voltage on the alkalines that fit is different enough to mess up the metering..

We have come a long way..

Comment #21

Yes, cameras have certainly come a long way..

That looks like a very nice version of my secondaryschool science project.We had a pinhole in a block box.And a translucent paper film as the "film"/view area/!!Camera back..

The pinhole black box camera should be free of anychromatic aberration, aliasing,.......And it does not even need a lens..

Does your 1920 gem has a lens?.

Kenneth.

AlphaDSLR wrote:.

I still have that camera and about 50 others that I have collectedincluding some that date back to the 1920s like this gem..

We have come a long way..

Comment #22

Yep, has a lens and a reflex viewer in the top of the camera. Also has a little red window so you can read the Number of the film frame you were shooting. 120 and 220 film used to be paper backed and on a roll with frame #s printed on the back. These old camera took sharp pictures because the negatives were about 2.5 x 3.5 inches...

Comment #23

A really primitive-looking camera with a Schneider Xenon, as good a lens as has been ground from glass. Once you focus the thing, you should be able to take absolutely great pictures..

Leonard Migliore..

Comment #24

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