Tag Archives: Rangefinder

Olympus XA (1979)

Back in August, my wife and I took our two teenage sons to New York for eight days. I knew this was going to be a great trip to get some photos, so I took 3 cameras; one digital, and two film. The digital was a Canon 6D with 24-105mm f/4 lens. The two film cameras were my Leica M3 with 7Artisans f/1.1 lens, and a borrowed Olympus XA. I always tell myself I want to travel light and end up taking too much gear. The camera that received the most use on this trip was the Olympus XA. Why the Olympus XA? I needed something that was wider than 50mm, and small enough to fit in my pocket.

The Olympus XA is a compact camera that was sold from 1979 to 1985 and has some not-so-compact features. It’s a rangefinder focus camera, aperture priority, with a 35mm Zuiko f/2.8 lens, and shutter speeds from 1 – 1/500th sec. The design of the XA is simple, you slide open the camera, uncovering the lens and activating the CdS exposure meter. The rangefinder focus is located below the lens, and the aperture is controlled by a vertical sliding switch on the front right-side of the camera.

Compact 35mm cameras are commanding higher prices on eBay, and the XA is no exception. The unique compact design and sharp lens are two features that set this compact apart. The electronic A11 flash can be detached from the camera, making the camera a nice 7.9 ounces. And how did they get such a sharp f/2.8 lens in such a small design? According to Modern Photography Magazine in 1979, “high-refractive-index glasses had to be used to control aberrations across the picture field, and optical elements had to be manufactured and aligned to very close tolerances.” Olympus was able to accomplish this with, “the XA’s “reversed retrofocus” [is] a 6-element, 5-group optic measuring about 31mm from front element to film plane. Focusing is internal, via moving third group. Achieving this extremely flat design necessitated high index crown rear element, special flint second element. Result is a super-compact, rigid camera body with rangefinder focusing.” Voodoo magic and pixie dust? No, just some super engineering and meticulous optics.

The size doesn’t predict the quality of images this camera can deliver. As you can see by the gallery below, the Olympus XA was used a lot on my trip. Unfortunately, the photos taken from the top of the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center were subject to a few days of poor air quality in Manhattan. The only complaint I have about the XA is the sensitive shutter. The feather-touch shutter doesn’t take much pressure to fire, and it can take some getting used to. This is hard to explain, but this is the first film camera I’ve used where I knew immediately whether I got the shot I wanted. The images in the gallery were shot on both Kodak TMax 100 and Kodak Tri-X 400.

Camera: Olympus XA (1979)
Film: Kodak TMax 100 / Kodak Tri-X 400
Process: RepliColor SLC
Scanned: Epson V600 Photo

 

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Leica M3 (1959) – Part 2

While using the borrowed 50mm 5cm Summicron-M f/2.0 (Rigid/2nd version) (1956), I decided that I really needed to purchase my own lens. Having just spent what I think is a considerable amount on the M3 body, I wanted to limit my lens purchase to something more affordable. Searching for an M-Mount lens on eBay led me to this lens, followed by some research, and a week of careful consideration.

The 7artisans f/1.1 50mm is a new lens made in China. According to the 7artisans website, a group of seven Chinese camera enthusiasts, having various professional backgrounds, came together to create this new lens. The 50mm lens is a Leica M-Mount and has an aperture range from f/1.1 to f/16. It has 12 aperture blades, and 7 elements in 6 groups. The lens itself is a heavy piece of glass and aluminum, with a copper core. It weighs nearly 14 ounces, so slightly less than 1 lb.

As I was doing some research on this lens, I wanted to see actual images taken with a Leica camera. However, all I could find were digital photos taken with Sony cameras. I determined that Sony users are the perfect market for an affordable prime 50mm f/1.1 lens. I found this review by Hamish Gill on 35mmc.com, where he used the lens on a Sony body. And then found this review by Emulsive, where he used the f2 version of the lens on a Leica film camera. Note/opinion: the f/2 50mm has a better review because the f/1.1 tested was a pre-production model.

The shots below are my initial results with the Leica M3. Being a Leica newbie, I must have done something very wrong because the first half of this roll did not come out. Overall, this is a solid lens. The build quality is good. The aperture and focus are smooth and easy to use. Unfortunately, a focus tab is not built on to this lens. They ship a rubber tab that you can stick to the lens barrel if you want, not ideal. The optical quality is what I would expect for the price. I expected the lens to be soft when it’s open at f/1.1, but was surprised by a few shots. The thin slice of focus is nice, but hard to achieve. And really, how often do you need something at f/1.1? This lens is also shipped with a focus sheet and some instructions on how to adjust the focus. Something I don’t think I’d attempt to mess with.

I spent a week in New York with the M3 and the 7artisan 50mm f/1.1. After a while, my biggest complaint became the weight. The 50mm Summicron-M would have been a better choice. Or anything smaller and lighter for that matter. Walking 7 to 14 miles in and around the city made me reconsider the choice I’d made. There were three days I left the camera behind. I’ll be sharing some photos of New York in the coming weeks.

Camera: Leica M3 (1959)
Film: Kosmo Foto Mono 100
Process: Kodak D-76 (1+1) 10:00 @ 20c
Scanned: Epson V600 Photo

 


Leica M3 (1959) – Part 1

Over the past few years of buying and shooting vintage cameras, there’s one camera I never thought I’d actually own, and that’s a Leica. Why? A Leica always seemed like a “bucket list camera.” Nice to look at, but too expensive to own. Of course, I had to ask myself, do they live up to the hype? Or do photographers tell themselves they are outstanding cameras to justify spending the money?

About a year ago, my friend Scott Smith purchased this M3 from our mutual friend, Maurice Greeson, who is a Leica collector and expert on all things Leica. Scott decided that after purchasing an M6, he wasn’t using this M3 as much as he used to. It was a hard decision for Scott to sell me the M3 because it’s in beautiful condition, and Maurice had taken excellent care of it. In a small way, I had to convince Scott to sell it to me. However, with all Leica camera owners, I consider myself the “current possessor” of this camera. The build quality will outlive me or any of its future owners. And as a side note, I’ve promised both Scott and Maurice visitation privileges as long as I have the camera.

Leica M3 (1959)

Production of the M3 began in 1954 and was the transition point for Leitz to move from screw-mount lenses to the updated Leica M Mount. The M Mount was able to give new M-series cameras a single viewfinder/rangefinder window. The M3 features a coupled rangefinder with an incredibly bright viewfinder, and a focal plane shutter with speeds from 1 to 1/1000th second. Early models of the M3 had a two-throw film advance, meaning you had to move the film advance lever twice to move the film to the next frame. And those early models also had German-based shutter speeds of 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, etc. This M3 is a single-throw model and came with a Leicameter MR.

Several version of Leicameter’s were made starting in 1951. The MR was manufactured from 1965-1967 and has CdS cell behind a small lens. The meter mounts to the flash shoe on the camera and is coupled with the shutter dial. A meter reading is taken by pressing the needle release button for 2 seconds, then using the channel scale, you know where to set the correct lens aperture.

When I initially purchased the M3, I didn’t have a lens. Maurice loaned me his 5cm f/2.0 Summicron-M (1956). This lens is the second version of the Summicron 5cm and is a rigid lens, meaning it doesn’t collapse like the original. The updated lens increased the distance between the front lens elements. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo of this lens on the camera. All the photos below were shot with the 5cm f/2.0 Summicron-M lens, making this part one of a two-part post. In the next post, I’ll share some images taken with the M3 and the new 7 Artisan’s 50mm f/1.1 lens.

Overall, I’m very happy to have an M3. A few friends have joked with me about becoming a Leica snob, or professing the “Leica lifestyle.” It’s been an ongoing joke with me and Mike Williams. I don’t see myself becoming obsessed with Leica gear. I may have champagne taste, but I’m always on a PBR budget. I’ve never used a rangefinder that has such a big, bright, viewfinder. That’s probably my favorite thing about Leica cameras. And the camera is so quiet to operate, you almost don’t hear the shutter click. And again, I could go on-and-on about the build quality of this camera because it is incredible.

Camera: Leica M3 (1959)
Lens: 50mm 5cm Summicron-M f/2/0 (Rigid/2nd version) (1956)
Film: Kodak Tri-X 400
Process: Kodak D-76 (1+1) 9:45 @ 20c
Scanned: Epson V600 Photo

 


Pacemaker Crown Graphic (1955)

You know the saying, “the first drug is always free?” That’s how my friend Maurice convinced me to experiment with large format. Late last year, he asked me if I would be interested in trying one of his Graflex cameras. He even sweetened the deal by loading some Arista 4×5 film into the film holders, and volunteered to develop them. On a Saturday morning, he gave me hands-on lesson and answered all my questions.

Maurice & Shaun - Photo by Charles Trentelman

Maurice & Shaun – Photo by Charles Trentelman

The Pacemaker Crown Graphic was manufactured from 1947 to 1973 by Graflex Inc. Made of mahogany wood and metal, the Pacemaker has a side-mounted rangefinder focus, but does not have a focal plane shutter like nearly identical Pacemaker Speed Graphic. To give the camera access to a variety of wide-angle lenses, and to reduce the overall weight, it was made without a focal plane shutter. My Pacemaker was manufactured in 1955 and features a lens board with a 135mm Graflex Optar lens, f/4.7 – 32, and shutter speeds 1/400 – 1 sec.

Photographers often describe their satisfaction of shooting film as: it allows me to slow down. Using a large format camera, like a Graflex, takes that same notion and multiplies it. Everything from setting the camera up to the final click of the shutter is a deliberate, leisurely, and enjoyable process.

After shooting the film that Maurice had loaded, I returned the camera and film holders to him. He told me that he was likely going to sell the Pacemaker and offered it to me. A few days later, I returned and bought the camera from him. Maurice also threw in the book,  Graphic Graflex Photography: The Master Book for the Larger Camera (1943), 8 film holders, and a Polaroid 100-series Packfilm holder. Adding to my new large format arsenal, I bought the SP-445 Compact 4×5 Film Processing System, along with New55 Atomic-X and Kodak T-Max film. For me, developing black and white 4×5 sheets are easier than 35 or 120. And it’s exciting to see a large 4×5 negative with so much detail. Compared to a digital camera sensor, a single sheet of 4×5 film provides more “data” than you can possibly imagine. Learning with some additional practice, I plan to create more 4×5 images with better composition and depth of field. However, I am happy with my first attempt with large format photography.


Zorki 4

I have to admit something that every photographer has done at least a dozen times. I coveted my friends Leica cameras. Maybe coveted is too strong of a word, but I’m a sucker for a good rangefinder camera, but also aware that my funds don’t allow me to possess a Leica. However, I can afford a Zorki!

The Zorki 4 was manufactured by KMZ, Krasnogorsky Mekhanichesky Zavod, from 1956 to 1973 near Moscow in the former USSR. This model was one of the most popular because it was exported from Russia to the western world. The Zorki 4 features a cloth focal plane shutter, with shutter speeds from 1s – 1/1000s. According to some research, there were at least 32 versions of the Zorki 4 released during its 17-year run. All of the changes were cosmetic, either by changing the way the camera name was printed (or engraved) along with anniversary models or commemorative editions. The model that I purchased was manufactured in 1963 (Zorki 4B), indicated by the first two-digits in the serial number. The Zorki 4 uses the old Leica M39 lens screw mount. The cameras were sold with either a Jupiter-8 50mm f/2 or Industar-50 50mm f/3.5 lens. I chose to purchase a model with the Jupiter lens because of the reviews I’ve read and comments from friends.

Overall, this camera is built like a tank, a Russian tank. The camera is easy to focus, and the viewfinder is bright. If I compared it to a pre-war Leica, like most photographers do, I would say that the sound of the shutter, and the feel of the camera are exactly what I’d expect. One disadvantage of the Zorki 4 is the viewfinder. It’s is so big that you don’t know where the edges of your framed shot are, or where they should be. Ideally, it should have been designed like other rangefinders at the time with faint boarder lines in the viewfinder. Image composition is difficult.

I love that this camera is all mechanical, no batteries, and no meter. The Jupiter lens is easy to focus and provides nice depth of field. One of the best pieces of advice I read online before pulling the trigger on eBay was; you get what you pay for with the Zorki. Most are shipped from sellers in Russia and normally the price indicates the condition and functionality of the camera. Of course you always want to check seller feedback, current sold and shipping prices. My test images were shot on Film Photography Project’s Edu 200 BW Film. Currently I have some Svema BW Super Positive ISO .8 BW Film from the Film Photography Project loaded in the Zorki. Russian camera, Russian film, отлично!


Petri 7s

The camera review this week was a donation from Mike Williams in Hickory, North Carolina. Mike found the 7s at a local yard sale for $5.00 (US) and shipped it out west. Make sure to check our Mike’s current project on Youtube, 12 Months/12 Cameras, where he shoots an entire month with a single camera and shares a video review.

Petri 7s (1963 - 1973)

The Petri 7s was manufactured by the Petri Camera Company from 1963 – 1976. Features: coupled rangefinder focus, around-the-lens selenium light meter, shutter speeds from 1 to 1/500 sec, and a 45mm f/2.8 – 16 lens. The Petri company called their rangefinder focus system the Green-O-Matic because the overall viewfinder is tinted green while the focusing area is yellow. The idea was that contrasting colors made it easier to focus.

After the Petri 7S arrived, I purchased a telephoto and wide angle diopter set from a user in a vintage camera group on Facebook for $12. The diopters are screwed in to the 52mm thread mount, and the viewfinder is attached to the camera cold/accessory shoe. My results with the diopter set are mixed. This is the first time I’ve used diopters with a rangefinder camera. In the digital world, my experience with adding more glass in front or behind a lens results in difficult focusing and poor image quality.

The selenium light meter on the Petri 7s circles the lens. This design was initially created to allow the meter to read the light behind an attached lens filter. The camera has two match-needle meters. One is visible in the viewfinder, and the other on the top of the camera body. In this particular 7s, the needles on both do not display the same reading. In some of my images, I tried to split the difference between the two with little success. I had much better results metering with my Gossen Luna Pro S handheld meter.

You can find the Petri 7s for as cheap as $8.00 (US) on eBay, and there are a lot of them. While I really enjoy a good rangefinder camera, this one ranks towards the bottom of the list. And not because of the meter issue. That’s almost expected with a selenium meter on a camera that’s a) this old and b) you don’t know how it was stored. My test images were shot on Film Photography Project’s Edu 200 BW Film. There was some scratching on the negatives in most of the images that I intend to investigate. If I had to pick a rangefinder from 60’s or 70’s, I’d consider a Yashica or Minolta over the Petri. However, for less than twenty bucks, it was worth the gamble. Do you have a any of the Petri rangefinders? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.


Canon Canonet G-III QL17

Back in March when I won a Minolta Hi-Matic 7S at the Film Photography Project Walking Workshop, I had been looking to get a 35mm rangefinder camera. Shortly after that, my friend Mike Williams sent me a Yashica Electro 35 GS, another great rangefinder. And now, the Canon Canonet G-III QL17 rangefinder. I actually found the Canonet at a local thrift store for $35 USD. In the past seven months, I’ve had the chance to own and test three of the best consumer rangefinders. This version of the Canonet is the top-end of the series that was manufactured during the 1960’s and 1970’s. My friend Maurice, being a Canon reseller tells me this story from his camera store experience. The President of Canon at the time went to his engineers and asked them to make him a camera. His first requirement, it had to be the smallest rangefinder they could produce, 120 x 75 x 60 mm, 620 g. The second, it had to have the best glass lens that Canon had to offer at the time, 40mm f/1.7 (6 elements in 4 groups). The result was the G-III QL17, selling more than 1.2 million units from 1972 to 1982.

The Canon Canonet G-III QL17 was manufactured from 1972 to 1982, features a 40mm f/1.7 lens, Copal leaf shutter, speeds from 1/4 to 1/500, and flash sync at all speeds. The G-III fit into a new group of high-end rangefinder cameras with lenses faster than f/2. The “QL” part of this model was Canon’s new Quick Loading film feature, making the process of threading 35mm film on to the take-up spool easy and very advanced for the time. The camera has a CdS cell meter that is mounted above the lens and provides shutter-priority, and unmetered manual mode. The location of the CdS cell above the front lens element allows it to take lens filters into account when metering. The exposure indicator needle can be seen in the viewfinder, indicating over/under exposure.

Out of the three 35mm rangefinders I currently own, the Canonet is my favorite. It has the sharpest lens, has the smallest footprint, and has more features that I want compared to the Minolta Hi-Matic 7S and Yashica Electro 35 GS. They’re all great cameras. At one point this past summer, I had all three in my walk around camera bag at the same time. My biggest complaint about all three cameras is they have what I would call a mushy shutter. There’s no solid click. I’ve found when I compose a shot, focus, check exposure, and press the shutter down, down, down some more, down, down, and then there’s a soft click. The images below were shot on Ilford Pan F Plus 50 B&W Film, processed by RepliColor in Salt Lake City, and scanned on an Epson Perfection V600 Photo Scanner.

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Film Photography Project Walking Workshop – Part 3

On the first day of the FPP Walking Workshop, each person received a ticket to be part of a camera giveaway. Everyone had a chance to browse through several tables of cameras, select one, and enter to win that specific camera. I’ve been fascinated with old rangefinder cameras lately, so I put my ticket in the cup next to a Minolta Hi-Matic 7s. Because there were so many cameras, I was the only person that entered to win this 7s, and by default, I won! Along with the camera came a printed instruction manual, a contact sheet displaying the test images from the camera, and a letter entitled, “To the new owner,” along with details and specific information about the camera. Again, thank you FPP listener and contributor Johnny Brain in Iowa for this outstanding camera!

The Minolta Hi-Matic 7s rangefinder was manufactured in 1966. The 7s is one model in the popular line of Hi-Matic’s made from 1962 to 1984. Some other notable 35mm rangefinder cameras made during this time are the Canon Canonet and the Yashica Electro 35 series. The 7s has a very sharp, and wide, 45mm f/1.8 Rokkor lens. The aperture on the leaf shutter lens goes from f/1.8 all the way to f/22! Shutter speeds range from bulb, 4/sec up to 500/sec, ISO 25 to 800, and includes an automatic mode for both shutter and aperture settings. The 7s has a Contrast Light Compensation (CLC) metering system. This was an original feature Minolta borrowed from their SR-T SLR line of cameras and used for the Hi-Matic’s. The meter sensor is positioned at the top of the lens and the visible needle can be seen through the bright, clear, viewfinder. The meter is battery-powered and originally required a mercury battery. This 7s has an updated battery and uses an adapter with a diode to step-down the power for correct metering.

On the second day of the workshop, I sat outside in the warm morning sun and read through the 7s manual. Like a kid with a new toy, I really wanted to use this camera. I put some Kodak Ektar 100 in the 7s and used it to capture various moments throughout the second day. Aside from some poor compositions and getting used to the rangefinder, I’m really impressed with this camera. While walking around the workshop, several people commented on what a great camera it is. Yes, I’ve made a few easy mistakes with this camera. For example, because it’s a rangefinder, I’ve forgotten to remove the lens cap on two occasions. And as Leslie Lazenby points out on Episode #122 of the Film Photography Podcast, this camera also has the longest throw for advancing the film, 220 degrees! Because of this, I cranked the film right off the end of the roll! I won’t misjudge the film advance on this camera, or any other, ever again. I’m really impressed with this camera. I enjoy this camera so much that it was one of the five I selected to take to the Oregon coast a few weeks ago. If you’re looking for a solid rangefinder with sharp glass, make sure to check out the Hi-Matic’s. If you’re buying used, I recommend examining the leaf shutter for missing or broken aperture blades/leafs. If you’re concerned about using the meter, check into an updated battery or simply use the Sunny 16 Rule.

 

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