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Author Topic: Camera & film rangefinder  (Read 2195 times)

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« on: July 10, 2017, 09:41 »
Hello I am new on the Forum.
Although I have been a microstock contributor for many years and use a DSLR, I was also thinking about a film rangefinder camera for 'street photography' as its known.
A rangefinder is more discreet than a whopping big DSLR and lens attached.
Anyone got any thoughts on this?

« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2017, 10:38 »
I've got - and from time to time use - a pile of old film cameras. I'm not sure how discreet they are given that they look rather novel these days, so a rangefinder might get you noticed more.
The main issue for stock, though, is the scanning of the negs and the processing of the resulting digital files. Commercial image scanning seems to me to produce poor results, even from specialist companies, so I need to do it myself. Dust is a problem and making sure that that resulting file is clean of spots is time-consuming.
On most microstock sites quality standards seem to have dropped a lot in the last few years, so the risk of grain being mistaken for noise may have receded, but there is still a risk of rejections from that (especially if you're using high ISO film).
I don't know what camera/focal length you have in mind but a possible alternative to a rangefinder for street work would be an SLR with a waist-level finder, such as a Nikon F2 fo which there are plenty of superb, cheap Non-Ai lenses available these days  (or even go medium format with a 6x6 TLR like a Mamiya 33 or the more basic Mamiya 220 for an old-fashioned look to the pictures.)
I hope that's of some use to you.

PS: Of course, modern street photography is done with a smartphone which would attract no attention at all. The fact you want to use film suggests you are looking for something more than just a record of street life, what that would be only you know.
« Last Edit: July 10, 2017, 10:41 by BaldricksTrousers »

« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2017, 12:42 »
Thank you for a quick response.
I think you are probably right about the scanning of negatives, and using a smartphone does not appeal.
I always look at the work produced by Brassai and keep remembering the quality of B & W prints.
But perhaps not for microstock agencies these days!!
Just every now and then I think about the enjoyment of using a rangefinder and what it can produce.

Having said that, digital is quicker and perhaps more viable, but it also means I tend to take more takes than needed. With film you tend to slow-down and compose with care, - if that makes sense.

« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2017, 15:51 »
If you're looking for a small discreet camera, why not check out a mirrorless option?

I live an hour from Manhattan and find my Olympus OM-D E-1 (current model is the Mark II) a great choice for street photography.

Granted, the E-1 costs more than most second hand film cameras, but there are several excellent and far less expensive options by Olympus, Panasonic, Fuji, etc. and you don't have the cost and/or the time-consuming need to scan all those photos.

If you're looking to show your street photography as fine art, don't worry that you're limited to film. That certainly hasn't been my experience. I use it for my fine art photography (both black and white and color) and have had several photos in juried gallery shows in NY and Connecticut over the past three years since I got my Oly. 

Here's a short article I wrote last week about the benefits of mirrorless cameras that you might find helpful. The assignment primarily focused on stock but I discuss other benefits too: https://www.greatescapepublishing.com/light-and-quiet-mirrorless-cameras-are-perfect-for-shooting-stock/

Feel free to ask questions here or send me a PM.

You can see some of the black and white photos here: http://travelstockblog.com/travel/my-world-in-black-and-white/

Hope this is helpful.

« Reply #4 on: July 10, 2017, 16:21 »
Rangefinder vs mirrorless?

I forgot to add that the Oly has an electronic viewfinder that looks through the lens, and has removable lenses, so it's not a rangefinder, but with a prime lens like the 17mm f/ 1.2 (35mm equivalent) is as small or smaller than any film rangefinders I can recall.

You're right that it won't slow you down like shooting film does, something I struggle with too. I've been trying to go out and limit myself to 36 or 72 photos as if I was shooting film. Doesn't always work.

My daughter, a grad student, just got back from three weeks in Europe and before that hadn't used her camera in ages, teased me that she turned into me shooting 60GB of photos with her little Nikon3100 and kit lens.

Anyway, if you want a rangefinder, I have a little rangefinder Nikon P7000 that shoots RAW. Once I get a second mirrorless body I plan to sell it if that's the kind of thing you're interested in (and if you're in the US). Great for street photography, beautiful quality in the sunshine but not great in low light, but fine if you want a grainy black and white night images. Something like that might be what you're after. If you're interested feel free to PM me. Since I got the Olympus I rarely use it but put it in my bag as a backup for the Oly when I'm not lugging my DSLRs.

This shows the range of the built in lens from close-up to super wide. I used it as an extra backup when I spent four days at OpSail2012 and found the reach of the super-wide came in very handy.

This kind of digital camera, which has a viewfinder on the side and so is a true rangefinder, is a less expensive alternative to a mirrorless and it shoots RAW. I got it in 2012 for $500.00 so not cheap at the time. I don't know what the equivalent camera would be now. It's like a large point and shoot, smaller than a film rangefinder.  You can switch to manual focus if you want and of course on auto-focus or manual, you can always control f-stop and speed.

« Reply #5 on: July 10, 2017, 17:17 »
Hello Wordplanet,
I really found your reply and information extremely useful and very very interesting.
I looked at the 2 sites you quoted and was quite surprised at the quality. Excellent.
You have now got me thinking about mirrorless and I will have a search whats on the market etc.
I live in Scotland, UK, so will have to look at the market here.

I suppose in some ways I want to mix my enjoyment of photography. I do microstock and a little bit of Art photography, the latter by no means a great amount. I have concentrated on my Microstock to the exclusion of anything else.  Now I want to do both to a much greater extent, but also have a little of the pleasure back to the times when I used film.  But the mirrorless seems that it may also 'fit the bill'.
Thank you for your reply and your help.

« Reply #6 on: July 11, 2017, 02:29 »
Brassai would have been using a very large format camera, of course, so 35mm isn't going to get the same effect. Wasn't he the guy who continued making salt prints all his life, even after far easier and more efficient processing was invented? Salt prints are basically a contact printing process so you need a huge negative.
Large format is a world of its own, you need to be very disciplined to get the best from that - but the best is amazing. I've done a bit with an old Crown Graphic 4x5 press camera and when it goes well the results are impressive. There's a steep learning curve.
This is probably my best large format, and full size you can see the superstructure of the ship on the horizon in the depression between the two hills on the left https://fineartamerica.com/featured/cloudscape-at-three-cliffs-paul-cowan.html. It was shot with a 90mm Angulon and an orange filter.
Black and white can be a lot of fun but it's getting harder and harder to get stuff processed and find the films - and chemicals, if you're home printing.

« Reply #7 on: July 11, 2017, 03:16 »
Hello BaldricksTrousers,

I think you are right that using either large or medium format may be an answer.  Many years ago I had and used regularly a Hasselblad & 120 film which I always gave to a Professional Lab to process. The results were always good quality. That was around 1997 - 2001, then I purchased the Nikon D1.
To be honest I miss the old style of photography. It made you think more and take care of exposure etc.
So do you think for Art photography Digital or film, i.e. 120 Film or just stick to the DSLR?
Finding a decent Process Lab is probably going to be a problem. I just could not return to home processing!
I think in some ways looking at film photography is a bit of nostalgia. But it was GREAT!

« Reply #8 on: July 11, 2017, 05:21 »
I sometimes use Peak Imaging in Sheffield. They're not cheap but they are very good indeed (though I still found that I could improve on their scans using an Epson V600 at home, but their scans are probably as good as any other commercial processing house).  They've got a website with all the details of pricing.
Medium format is probably a good idea. I've got a couple of MF files among my best-sellers on Shutterstock. It's obviously easier to get a scan from MF though without running into grain rejections than it is for 35mm.
For art it's really just what you prefer to use. I've got both film and digital up on Fine Art America. Some people will think film is more artistically authentic but that's just pretentious. The larger neg gives a different look, old lenses are often lower-contrast due to poorer coatings, some old lenses have aberrations that are a distinctive signature - the Helios 44 is noted for its swirl, Tessars have a slightly harsh clumpiness and so on.
The trouble with having a DSLR and film cameras is deciding which to take with you, since taking both is rather impractical.
For MF the Mamiya 33 is one of my favourites. Built like a tank and the only TLR with interchangeable lenses. The long lenses are small and light, too, because of the bellows extension instead of having a metal tube. i don't know if you could find anyone to clean and lubricate those lenses, though. I checked the shutter speeds with a little test kit plugged into my computer and one of them was accurate from 1s to 1/125 then 250 came in at 125 before the speed picked up again with 1/500 actually being 1/333. The 1/500 speed is usually slow.


« Reply #9 on: July 11, 2017, 07:05 »
When I dont shoot on my Nikon D810 I shoot on my Leica M10 with 35 summilux, 50 APO, 75 APO.

Its not street though! Still only commercial valued shoots, but it A PLEASURE to work with.

« Reply #10 on: July 11, 2017, 09:36 »
When I dont shoot on my Nikon D810 I shoot on my Leica M10 with 35 summilux, 50 APO, 75 APO.

Its not street though! Still only commercial valued shoots, but it A PLEASURE to work with.

Yeah, well, at $7,000 the Leica should be able to take commercial shots. It certainly makes the Nikon look cheap. My Leica is an R4s Mod P, which cost me about $100 and is also a pleasure to use. It's small and light despite being an SLR.

« Reply #11 on: July 11, 2017, 13:08 »
Thank you for your helpful replies.
You maybe right about a MF but I went into our local town today and found that the 2 places that did film processing have given-up, although they did say that film is making a bit of a comeback.
I will look at both a Mamiya 33 and a Leica R4s to see if any are around.
Having read the replies I am still thinking that there is room for both digital & film.
I am on 9 Microstock Agencies and FAA. I am very new on FAA so will see how it turns out.
I must admit to not photographing people and do a lot of landscapes or historical subjects, and where possible lanes and streets if they have 'the look'.  OOOps Brassai again!!!

« Reply #12 on: July 11, 2017, 14:49 »
If you go for an R4s make sure it is either Mod 2 or Mod P, that's the updated version from the end of production, the original R4s had a reputation for failing.  And look at the price of lenses - they can be very expensive. The 50mm Summicron-R is standard (and I think it needs to be the 3-cam version but I can't remember what it is the third "cam" controls), with the 90mm Summicron-R as a highly regarded portrait lens - but it costs a lot. There are lots of other lenses of course.
I should have said Mamiya C33, forgot to put the C on.
FAA is OK but they don't do marketing, they expect you to push your own images, so random sales are few and far between. I've had just two sales there this year, one for $30 and another for $120 without making any effort at all. I've got 845 images there. I'm not using their "stock" option because I wasn't happy with their approach to it - I thought it was unprofessional and the licensing was a mess. Anyway, I've found it worth paying the membership fee for unlimited uploads.

« Reply #13 on: July 11, 2017, 18:09 »
Denovan - glad at least it gave you something to think about.

Paul - your photo is awesome.

D & P - If I was going back to shooting film I'd certainly consider medium format, but large format would be amazing. I used a 4 x5 view camera once - in my first photography class in college. Each week two of us would get to take one out apiece with three sheets of film each. A friend and I borrowed a car and headed out to the Massachusetts countryside where we found a beautiful old barn. Asked the owners for permission to shoot. They gave us lemonade and then lunch as well.

The contact prints were amazing, as were the enlargements. Sadly, my film holder had a serious light leak so I cropped it - I'd concentrated on making abstract images from the old wood grain - today I might want to print it in full, light leaks and all. It makes me want to scour my attic and see if I can find those ancient negatives.

Denovan, I totally get your desire to slow down your shooting. It's something I've thought about a lot lately too. I think that in this age of instant everything and falling stock photo prices there is so much pressure to shoot as much as you can, but for me at least, it backfires. With so many images from a shoot, I'm overwhelmed by my choices, especially since I license macro and micro images, so I feel the need to shoot for both when I can. Am heading on vacation soon for a week to one of my favorite photo spots. I want to limit myself to 108 photos, the equivalent of three rolls of 35mm film. Not sure I can pull it off. A fast 1 GB card would help LOL.

Spent 10 days in Edinburgh when my daughter performed in the Festival Fringe 10 years ago - loved the city - so did she. I just wish I'd had time to get out to the countryside. A tour of the British Isles is on my bucket list. Maybe when my husband and I retire, though I'd love to head out before. I watched the tv show "Shetland" recently on Netflix and also started freelancing for an editor from Dublin, and I have a photographer friend from the UK who keeps posting amazing photos from Cumbria, and then there's Poldark, so all this has rekindled my interest. May just have to break it up into several trips.

« Reply #14 on: July 11, 2017, 23:42 »
Thanks, Wordplanet. My daughter has a large print of that shot hanging on her wall.
A final word about the R4s - my example was almost certainly unused old stock, but even so the light seals disintegrated into slime shortly after I got it. They're cheap (on ebay) and easy to replace but that's probably a problem you should anticipate if you take that route.  Of course, there are lots of other small 35mm film cameras and some good, reasonably priced lenses for M42 screw-mount cameras, like an old pre-bayonet mount Pentax or even the super-cheap Zenit range  (which may come with the quirky Helios-44 lens). A 35mm Flektogon, a 50mm Tessar and a 135mm Sonnar would be a good set of lenses for an M42 - though, oddly enough, a similar set of Nikkor lenses for a Nikon F or F2 would probably cost less and be more reliable than the Zeiss Jena M42s, where drying grease sometimes makes focusing stiff and aperture blades can be a bit sticky.  This site http://www.naturfotograf.com/lens_surv.html gives reliable reviews of a huge range of old Nikon lenses - anything he scores as 4 or better is going to be excellent and the large production runs and durability of Nikkors have kept the prices well down.

« Reply #15 on: July 12, 2017, 02:50 »
Thank you for the great information and I searched through Ebay etc. to see some of the examples you all mention.
Yes I would like to slowdown a bit instead of clicking away and sorting later. Too easy with digital to do that!
The one problem is getting 120 film processed and it seems that the nearest Lab is 30 miles away but they are slightly too expensive. 35mm film is easier to get processed and scanned. 
I am new on FAA and have not yet taken the Premium membership yet.  I do not know what to think about them as I keep seeing both good feedback and some terrible feedback.
Yes my DSLR is doing the job very nicely for Microstock but there is that other aspect as I mentioned earlier. Tempted to also use a bit of film and was also looking at a Voigtlander Vitoret, the various comments on the internet seems to state that the lenses are excellent. Hmmm, ?????

« Reply #16 on: July 12, 2017, 08:59 »
The camera wiki isn't too complimentary about Vitorets http://camera-wiki.org/wiki/Vitoret . I don't know it, I've got a Vito which is a nice little fun camera with a folding front, but that's from the 1940s. It takes decent shots so the Prontor shutter has done OK down the years.
You don't have either a meter or a rangefinder or a choice of lenses with a vito or vitoret, though - so it's really basic guess-the-distance, sunny f/16 stuff. Still, if you pick one up for ten quid or so, why not try it?
Have you thought of checking out charity shops? If you ask they might have some cameras buried in the back room that they'd be glad to see the back of.

« Reply #17 on: July 12, 2017, 12:07 »
Yes you are right. Read the Vitoret Wiki and it would not be the right choice.

Will have to look closely again.

Thanks for pointing that out to me.

'Back to the drawing board'!!

« Reply #18 on: July 12, 2017, 12:27 »
Best RF camera Ive ever had was the Mamiya MF 6x7, the optics was superb!  as was the Leicas fantastic quality and the lenses WOW!  I have still got the MP5 but also the digital MP4.

Simon!  how about a wet-plate then!


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