Sunday, October 18, 2009

Resurgence of the Rangefinder

Anyone that has been doing photography for any amount of time, know at least something about Rangefinders... even if it is only that they are super high quality, and that they tend to be expensive.

Rangefinders are small, light and compact and great for travel and photojournalists, its been a favoured camera of National Geographic for many years, as well and Time, and many others. And in the far past, the Rangefinder was the start of 35mm sized format, in one of the old Leica's, to which the particular model eludes me. But Canon, Nikon, Contax, Minolta and Voigtländer all had their versions, and all were the ones you went with for quality... but everyone and their dog had a Rangefinder style camera at one point.

(If you want to know more about any of the older style cameras, I recommend that you go to Camera Quest, they have a lot of info on the Voigtländer, but also almost any of the others.)

And up until recently, only Leica and Voigtländer were still in the Rangefinder game... the latter being the one if you wanted lower cost but high quality, and the former is if you had far too much money in your pocket... but quality beyond anything you could ever dream of.

A couple of years ago, with the Canon G7, they started to bring back the look of the old Rangefinder look, but it still had the small sensor of the compact style camera. Also at about this time Panasonic, brought out their LX1/LX2/LX3, also much more reminiscent of the Rangefinder styling; albeit again, the smaller sensor. Sigma brought out their DP1 with a full APS-C sized Foveon sensor, but gave it a fixed lens 28mm ; great for some things, not for others; the DP2 is their latest incarnation of that series.

Early this year, Olympus shook the world with a Micro 4/3 rangefinder style camera, the EP-1 Digital PEN, meant to be reminiscent of their old PEN-F, so while not as big of a sensor as 35mm, it is still a much bigger sensor than any of the high end compacts. Small, light, interchangeable lenses and comes kit'ed with a fast 17mm F2.8, and with the right adapter, will take almost any lens you can think of; Leica M series, Olympus 4/3'rd or OM, Canon FD, Nikon F... You name it, they likely make a adapter for it, or will in short order.

Shortly after that, Panasonic announced the GF1, which is a direct match for the EP-1. Again, a nice interchangeable lens with the Micro 4/3'rd mount, a super fast 20mm F1.7 kit lens, that is as sharp as anything. And according to DP Review, is the must have lens for any one wanting either the EP1 or the GF1.

Both also have HD Video built in to them, so once I get mine, do expect some high quality videos out of me; and also have a great line up of lenses to start out with, with more slated to come out in the time to come.

Leica has also brought out their latest in their M-Series with the M9, which is a 24mm x 36mm sized sensor, and their X1 which is a APS-C sized fix 24mm lens. Both are not for the faint of heart for price, but both will give you top quality in lenses and construction.

Bang for your buck, anyone looking to get a Rangefinder style camera in the digital world, then take a hard look at either the GF1 or the EP1, I was lent one by Panasonic for a weekend just a week ago, and I feel in love with it. It was refreshing to have to work at my composition, being that I only had on the fixed 20mm F1.7 (40mm equivalence in 35mm speak), but the shallow depth of field was stunning how crisp it is, and how it makes the subject pop.

This is just how I am ordering mine

Again, this Panasonic GF1 can been seen at Kerrisdale Cameras and many other fine photographic retailers. At the moment, the few places to see the Olympus EP1 seems to be restriced to Lens & Shutter, but that I hear is coming to an end soon, and it will be released to other dealers shortly.

We'll see you all on the outing this Saturday, Oct 24th at the pumpkin patch in Maple Ridge, and at our meeting on Oct 26th after that, until then, good shooting

1 comment:

Tri-City Photography Club said...

Update: Nov 5, 2009

Olympus has just announced the E-P2, you can see it here: