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PostPosted: Fri Jan 15, 2010 10:31 am 
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Recently I’ve been looking into primes for my 7D in order to get a different photography experience compared to photography with a zoom lens. Since Canon’s ‘L’ primes are very expensive I started to look at Zeiss primes and thought I might even prefer a manual focus lens to add to the experience. To make a long story short(er) I’m now starting to consider rangefinders.
The idea is to use the 7D with zoom lenses to take advantage of the speed and versatility of DSLR photography and then to compliment it with a rangefinder for prime photography. Two completely different experiences with different strengths and weaknesses.

I wonder if it would be a good choice to do so. And if so, do I take a careful step and pick up a Leica M3 and simply digitize the negatives? Or do I take the plunge and save up for a Leica M8 and maintain the digital workflow (which I prefer)?

A somewhat different alternative could be the Leica X1. It’s still an AF camera, but it’s a 35mm equivalent, compact (an important advantage of rangefinders as well), a lot cheaper than an M8 with 24mm Elmarit and is still a Leica. (Although not actually an important criterion, but I can’t help but love Leica equipment.)

Any thoughts?

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 15, 2010 12:51 pm 
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Not having used a rangefinder, I can't really comment there, other than to say it does seem a potent package in a small size.

On the X1, it didn't make any sense to me until I got the E-P1 and 20mm f/1.7 on it. Something clicked and that style camera is nice to use. In that sense the X1 isn't as overpriced as initial feelings may be. The thing is though, it is no rangefinder and not that different to other modern compact cameras other than having large sensor. The Leica styling and brand is one thing, but cameras in that space are exploding so maybe look at the micro4/3 and other competitors appearing in that space too.

All that is going to cost a fair bit too, so are the Canon primes that expensive after all?

One more suggestion: as you're willing to go manual, don't forget Nikon primes too. Due to the difference in registration distance, it is possible to get physical adapters allowing fitting Nikon lenses onto Canon for full manual use. Just remember to pick the primes that let you manually control aperture.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 15, 2010 2:21 pm 
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Hi Dutch,

The trouble with a "cheap" M3 is that you still have to find the cash for expensive glass. Like popo I've never had the pleasure but at those prices I'd expect everything to be perfect.The M8 (and 8.3) have some issues (just browse the Leica User forum) and even the M9 isn't perfect. I hugely admire what Leica do but I can't justify the cost - I hope your situation is more Leica friendly. 8)

Bob.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 15, 2010 3:20 pm 
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Just sell your house and get the M9, a 24mm f/1.4, 35mm f/1.4, Noctilux, 70mm f/2 and a 135mm if you'd like. ;)
I'd love to get a Leica system, but working with film is something I'd never do (and have never done) and the fact that the M8 isn't full frame bothers me as well. So the M9 would be my only option. And that's way overpriced.

Try looking into some Bessa cameras and cheaper lenses (check out stevehuffphoto.com for lens reviews).

- Bjorn -

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 15, 2010 4:31 pm 
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@Dutch: I can follow your initial feeling that a range-finder with a nice prime is a good complement to a bulky DSLR.
And if you're in a position to realize that with a Leica M9 then that is certainly an excellent option.
But below the M9 I see not necessarily a preference for Leica (neither M8, nor X1, nor a film-body). I would wait for what will be presented to the market - as the manufacturers seem to have latched onto this market segment. And/or try-out the Oly E-P1 or any of the models that recently came out.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 15, 2010 6:49 pm 
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Thanks for all the responses.

I have looked at alternative lenses, even found an EOS converted summilux-R that wasn’t all that expensive. One thing that plays on my mind though is that as much as I love the 7D, I only use it if I go out specifically for photography. In the coming months/years it’s possible that I might go on some exotic journeys as part of my work (and honeymoon) and I wonder if I would be happy lugging the 7D around with me. A rangefinder is indeed a potent package in a small size, it’s also very tough and can take a beating. That makes it an interesting option as a travel cam. Plus, I had been thinking about getting a new compact anyway. The rangefinder will double as a smaller camera (though not entirely compact like an EP-1) as well as giving a different kind of shooting experience.

I fully agree that the M9 is the real rangefinder to have, but way overpriced. My situation is not all that ‘Leica friendly’. I work as a PhD researcher and we don’t get paid that much. But I don’t go drinking on Saturday and my time is increasingly spent on my work, so I like to treat myself to decadent luxury every once in a while. ;) A Leica M8 would be a long term project and I don’t mind it not being perfect. For film the Bessa is an option too, but I have doubts whether or not I will like the workflow.

Most important is that I should have fun using what I have. I can’t justify a Leica based on my skills as a photographer, I just enjoy the experience learning. I know I will spend more on my hobby than I ever thought I would, but as long as I have fun it will be okay. (If I work hard enough I might make it to ‘professor’ and be able to treat myself to “night vision” with an M9 + Noctilux 0.95 :lol: )

Going for a micro-4/3 (especially the EP-1 with 20 1.7) is an interesting and much cheaper alternative, but I have a soft spot for the X1 when it comes to compacts. I still have to save up so I can follow the market for a while and see what happens.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 17, 2010 4:11 pm 
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I’ve been looking through a few of the reviews of the X1 and I have to say that I’m seriously impressed. Sure the X1 has its quirks, but in terms of image quality it proves itself equal to a D300(s) (including high ISO performance). For a compact that is pretty darn impressive.

It’s an increasingly interesting option. I’ve been considering the finances as well and an M8 with Zeiss Biogon lens would be pushing it, the X1 is about half the price. Plus, it looks like we’re going on a highly exclusive honeymoon. To be able to bring a compact with the image quality of a DSLR would be very nice since it would allow large size prints of the best images. The 7D (I’m afraid) would be too much of a camera to carry around during the honeymoon.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 17, 2010 4:48 pm 
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Camera Magazine, available in Dutch stores right now, has reviewed both the M9 and the X1. The latter, and the M9, both got positive reviews. Here's the pros and cons for the X1, I suggest you'd get the magazine for the entire review.

Pro:
- Beautiful styling like an M
- Big sensor with good noise results
- Good whitebalance and exposure metering
- Good user-interface on LCD
- It's a Leica lens

Con:
- Lens limitation
- Not as compact as you might like
- Doubtful AF
- Loss of sharpness at ISO1600 because of noise reduction
- No optical viewfinder (not included anyway)
- No focus-lock
- Dials are too easily turned
- Price of the camera itself and its accessories

The review convinced me that I didn't really need such a camera. I too would like a compact, great quality cam to carry around on days when a DSLR is just too big, but being limited to one lens only, which is quite wide as well, doesn't seem like the best option for me. Especially at this high a price.

- Bjorn -

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 18, 2010 7:21 am 
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Thanks for the tip Bjorn! I’ll have a look for the magazine during the week.
What you list seems to be pretty consistent with the other reviews I have seen. Like for instance Steve Huff’s excellent review.

The cons on the list are actually not that bad for my own personal taste.
- I was already looking for something with either a 35 or 50 equivalent fixed focal length. In fact, it’s a key point. In that regard the X1 doesn’t differ from an M8 with a 24 that I would also consider, it’s just that the M8 would also allow a 35 to be mounted.
- It doesn’t have to be very compact.
- The AF isn’t very fast in low light (Steve Huff has a video of it in his review), which is disappointing for such an expensive camera. But for fast shooting I have the 7D.
- The high ISO noise reduction is no problem at all since I shoot RAW and the files at 3200 look great for B/W, something that I would use the X1 for a lot. I do wish Leica wouldn’t have been so daft and allowed RAW only shooting.
- I agree Leica should have given the viewfinder as standard.
- Focus lock is a good point.
- The dials is something Steve Huff noted too and for Leica quality they should be able to do better. I do love the fact that they are there.
- The prices are silly, I fully agree. ($125 for a plastic grip?!) Although I also agree with Steve Huff on the following... "I would have preferred for Leica put manual controls on the lens, beefed up the finish, speed up the AF, and shoot it out the door for $2500."
But I guess that would endanger their rangefinder sales.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 2010 2:38 am 
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Hi Dutch,

If you don't mind to use film , I suggest try Voigtlander Bessa R series with its lenses. It is relatively cheap compare to Leica system and a great way to familiarize yourself with rangefinder camera. Cheers

Among

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 2010 8:34 am 
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Hi Among,

Thanks for the advise. I went to my local shop yesterday and spoke with one of the people there about Leica, film cameras and compact cameras. They might have an Olympus E-P1 for me to try out for a while. If I would take that instead of an X1 it would leave me some money for a film rangefinder. A Bessa R would be a great option then, I hear that the Voigtlander lenses are pretty good.

I still like the X1 though. Maybe an X1 and Bessa R? :P

Bjorn, I bought a copy of Camera Magazine. A good read. For me it pointed out the potential of having a D300 sensor with a 24 Elmarit lens in a compact body. It is a 'reportage' camera and thus differs a lot from other compacts.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 2010 9:15 am 
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oh I almost forgot.. if you are feeling lucky, Epson RD1s also a good option. It's quite hard to find one on the market..

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 2010 5:34 pm 
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Thanks, I know about the Epson. I've not yet seen any for sale, but have heard these are starting to fetch "collector" prices. Especially the latest version.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 21, 2010 11:25 pm 
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Hey Dutch

If you want to dive into the rangefinder experience, don't forget to look at the Zeiss Ikon ZM

http://www.zeiss.com/zeissikon

I found a new one on eBay, a couple of months ago for roughly half the price they normally go for. And at the moment this is the camera I really want to take with me everywhere I go.
The ZI is a very good camera, build like a tank, with probably the best viewfinder of them all.
The lenses are very good, but hey there zeiss T* lenses. So the price is a bit too high for my taste.
But there are a lot of alternatives for good M-mount lenses. You already know the Voigtlander and Leica. But don't forget the Konica M-Hexanon and Zeiss ZM (see link above). And there are also some very good vintage lenses available.

The only drawback to a film rangefinder, is that you have to find a way to get your images scanned. You can buy a scanner and do it yourself, or if you lucky a nearby photoshop can do it for you. Not one of the photoshops in my area did deliver the quality I was looking for, so I bought a scanner myself.

For more info on everything rangefinder, go here:
http://www.rangefinderforum.com

cheers


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 24, 2010 12:00 pm 
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Hi,
Thanks for your response. I’ve done a lot of searching and found a few rangefinders that could be interesting, Voigtlander Bessa, Zeiss Ikon, Leica M5 and newer. But I also realised that I very much prefer a digital workflow and that narrowed it down to a Leica M8 or M9.

Unfortunately I had a pretty big financial setback and that has caused me to reconsider the whole idea of getting a rangefinder any time soon. I might get one later (next year or so), but for the short term I decided to look into something small and cheap. Most likely it will be a Panasonic LX3 or such. I just want something with me so I can shoot a lot more, even during the week when I have a pretty busy job.

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