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Photography Question 
Wayne Turk
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/5/2005

Range Finder Camera's

While looking through photo magizines and catalogs or on line, I see Rangle Finder 35mm camera's listed. What makes these to expensive compaired to SLR 35mm. It's seams that they all start around $2,500.00 and go up from there. I don't understand what make them so expensive, can anyone please help me understand this.


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11/13/2005 9:21:25 AM

Will Turner   Rangefinder cameras are the predecessors to the 35mm SLR design. Before the invention of the versatile SLR prism head for viewfinding, these reigned as the premier professional cameras. They are still prized today among film users for their compactness, bright viewfinders, and ability to continuously view the subject without shutter blackout.

Not all rangefinder 35mm cameras are $2,500.00 and up, but several are. Open up a old-school, professional-grade 35mm camera, be it SLR or a rangefinder, and compare the parts quality and internal mechanism to a consumer SLR and you will readily see the difference. Most of these are cameras built to very high standards, with hardened metal operating mechanisms, bearing-mounted shutter and film advance, and precision-fit parts. These days, it's a lot cheaper to build with plastic, cheap printed circuits, and semiconductors with an 18-month product life cycle.

Some rangefinders are collector pieces, really. It's very, very expensive to build a camera this way these days. The demand is steady but tiny, so production is also small. All of which raises production costs. On the other hand, these cameras will likely outlast several modern 'sumer film or digital SLRs.

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11/13/2005 10:21:39 AM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/9/2005
  My quess is that you may be looking at the older Leica's..very expensive but superior optics and mechanical workmanship.
I had a "Voigtlander" range finder at one time..wish I NEVER sold it. LOL


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11/13/2005 3:57:39 PM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/18/2000
  The rangefinder concept itself is not expensive. Argus and other makers made very economical rangefinders "back in the day." The current line of rangefinders are expensive because they are very high quality and very low production volume. They are aimed at collectors and connoisseurs rather than amatuers and snapshooters.

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11/14/2005 9:11:18 AM

doug Nelson   Rangefinder cameras are alive and well for several reasons. Some of us who have trouble focusing an SLR in critical focus situations prefer rangefinders. The better ones are easier to focus in available light than are most SLR's.

The lens makers are able to sidestep a design obstacle, allowing space for the swinging SLR mirror. The rear element of the lens can be placed closer to the film plane. This does not seem to make the lenses cheaper, but, in some respects, they may be better optical designs, especially the wide angles. The camera and lens combined tends to be considerably smaller.

Check out Steven Gandy's and let him explain the advantages of rangefinder camera. He also has an excellent on-line catalogue of the reasonably priced Voigtlander Bessa cameras and lenses, and a compendium of information. The cameras and lenses are widely available used, for the budget conscious.

Mamiya and Bronica sell rangefinder cameras for 120/220 film, offering a larger negative to work with, for far less than a new Leica, and smaller and lighter than full-size SLR's.

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11/14/2005 10:00:47 AM

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