Topic Author
Posts: 264
Joined: Mon Aug 13, 2001 8:58 am

What Is A Rangefinder Camera?

Sun Sep 29, 2002 8:25 am

I know that this is more of a general photography question rather than an aviation photography question, but I was hoping someone could answer this question for me. What exactly is a rangefinder camera, and how does it differ from a regular SLR camera? I've seen this type of camera offered for sale at sites like Adorama and B&H, but the product descriptions never really explain what "rangefinder" means. Aside from just about all of them being manual focus and very expensive, there's nothing else that indicates what makes it different than a regular SLR.

I'm not thinking about getting one or anything (not at those prices!), just curious.

Michael L
Posts: 42
Joined: Mon Sep 23, 2002 7:37 am

RE: What Is A Rangefinder Camera?

Sun Sep 29, 2002 9:19 am

In the absence of any other replies,

Let me say that an SLR uses a mirror reflecting light through the lens to let the photographer see what he is focusing on. In this case, what the photographer sees and what is captured in the photo is pretty much the same.

In a classic rangefinder, the camera uses a prism, mounted usually to the right of the viewfinder coupled to the lens so that two images are created in the viewfinder. When those two images overlap, the image can be said to be in focus. Because the viewfinder is mounted in a different spot from the lens itself, what the photographer sees and what he captures are not necessarily the same, especially in close up shots.

Rangefinders are very quiet because they have no mirror to lift at the moment of exposure (such as SLR's do).

They tend to be more expensive these days because they are not as popular. They may also seem to be more expensive because the only companies manufacturing them as film based cameras are folks like Leica.


Posts: 3718
Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2000 1:04 pm

RE: What Is A Rangefinder Camera?

Sun Sep 29, 2002 9:49 am

For some 10 years now I have the proud owner of a Leica M4P. Frankly if push came to shove and I had to sell off my gear I would give up my entire EOS lineup and do what I could to keep the Leica.

"Show me the Braniffs"

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