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LC-A Big Book Chapter 74: Rangefinders are Back

The biggest advantages of rangefinder-cameras are that they are in general quieter and smaller than SLR-cameras, therefore quite important for the development of compact cameras. Although the development of these cameras was temporarily stopped by the Second World War, rangefinders experienced a second golden age in the 1950s.

Introduced by descendants of the original Leica, rangefinder cameras were the first choice for professional and amateur photographers in the 1930s and 40s before SLRs were introduced. Instead of featuring a movable mirror as with SLRs, the rangefinder mechanism allows the photographer to judge the focusing distance by coinciding two images visible through the viewfinder. The biggest advantages of rangefinder-cameras are that they are in general quieter and smaller than SLR-cameras, therefore quite important for the development of compact cameras. Although the development of these cameras was temporarily stopped by the Second World War, rangefinders experienced a second golden age in the 1950s. Life Magazine Photographer Douglas Duncan introduced Nikon rangefinders to the West and they quickly became the standard for American photojournalists due to the excellent Nikon lenses. At this time the German industry had to battle with the influx of many Japanese models to the western market and lost its dominance in the photographic market. Rangefinder-cameras with brilliant optics and functions were all over the place in the 19505, featuring models such as Canons and Nikons, the Zeiss Contax lIa and lIIa and the Leica M-series. Even though many producers stopped assembling rangefinders by the 1960s, as they couldn’t compete anymore with modern SLRs, there are some rangefinders definitely still worth mentioning and trying out, even today, decades after their first appearance. Models such as the 1970s Olympus 35 series were highly compact and featured exact focusing options and easy handling due to their rangefinder-mechanism. These cameras can be considered milestones in the history of compact cameras.

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written by ungrumpy

1 comment

  1. rbruce63

    rbruce63

    I love my rangefinders, YE35 GSN, GX and my do it all Rollei 35 S, but they are not substitutes for my Minolta 600 Si.

    about 1 year ago · report as spam

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This is the original article written in: English. It is also available in: Spanish.