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How to Use a Rangefinder Camera (Step By Step Guide)

You are the best photographer or the part of a group of photographers you have heard about the cameras and their types.

So in this article, we are going to talk about the best rangefinder cameras. Now for those people who are not aware of the rangefinder cameras.

We all know that the SLR cameras are top-rated nowadays, but rangefinder cameras are also present very light and small, always providing high-quality images.

Are you in search of how to use a rangefinder camera?

So don’t worry, read the complete article to know everything about the rangefinder film cameras.

After too much research, we have collected all the details about what is a rangefinder camera, how to use a rangefinder camera, and many more.

How to Use a Rangefinder Camera

What is a Rangefinder Camera Good for?

Rangefinders are devices designed to determine the distance from the observer to the observed object.

In photography, a rangefinder film camera is used for focusing; the principle of their operation is borrowing from rangefinder artillery devices.

The principle of operation of the rangefinder depends on observing an object from different angles.

The first cheap rangefinder camera was the German Leica cameras. In 1932, the Leica II camera appeared on the market, which included a rangefinder.

The rangefinder was used in the Contax I camera, released by the German company Contax sometime later.

It allowed you to take high-quality pictures and intended for professional photography.

The ranges of Leica and Contax rangefinder cameras were improved continuously, more and more sophisticated and exciting models with an optical rangefinder appeared.

By the 40s, rangefinder cameras had become very popular.

If we note the old Soviet cameras, then rangefinders include, for example, Zorky, FED, and Kiev cameras (numbers 2, 3, 4).

What is the difference between an SLR and a Rangefinder camera?

The absolute difference between the SLR and rangefinder camera is given below.

DSLR (SLR Camera):

The camera allows a photographer to see the image formed on the focusing screen through a lens in the viewfinder.

And they are directed into the viewfinder by a mirror and a prism.

At the time of the shooting, the mirror rises, opening the path for the light rays to the shutter, behind the film or matrix.

Rangefinder camera:

The camera-equipped with viewfinder and rangefinder optical systems separate from the lens, using the parallax effect.

Typically, the viewfinder and rangefinder systems are combined to allow for simultaneous framing and focusing.

The rangefinder system is usually mechanically linked to a focusing ring located on the lens.

However, the main difference between rangefinder and SLR is in the method of focusing.

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If with an SLR camera, the photographer looks directly through the lens and sees the scene in the same way as its camera sees, then everything is not so simple in the rangefinder.

Here, for focusing, a unique optical scheme is used and, looking through the viewfinder, it is necessary to combine the two images by rotating the lens focusing ring.

The photographer sees the entire scene directly through the camera and the second image (usually of a semi-transparent yellow color) through a pentaprism or a system of mirrors.

The image formed at a certain distance from the viewfinder and optics is coupled with the lens.

Is it hard to use a rangefinder camera

Is it hard to use a rangefinder camera?

Do you know how to use a rangefinder camera? If the answer is no, then we are here to tell you about using a rangefinder camera.

The shooting process with a rangefinder camera:

When taking photos with the help of a rangefinder camera, you make sure that the subject will be in the picture a little further than it seems.

The above technique is the best technique for outdoor photography. However, it is effortless to operate the equipment of the rangefinder camera for the shooting.

It includes setting the aperture, focusing, setting shutter speed, and doing all the things manually.

This camera control principle is best for too many professionals.

The rangefinder camera is best for those people who do not want additional effects and want to pay complete attention to the subject.

How To Focus With A Rangefinder Camera:

When we look with the help of the best rangefinder cameras viewfinder, it is like we see through the window, and each thing is in focus except the small boxes present in the center of the image.

We will see the reflected image from the semi-mirror; this mirror is connected with the lens focus ring.

When you move it, you will get the exact focus when the two images matched.

Pros and Cons of Rangefinder Cameras:

Like all cameras, rangefinders have their advantages and disadvantages.


Its advantages include the clarity of the image that we see through the viewfinder and, consequently, the precision that we can achieve in terms of focus when the scene is not very bright.

Another advantageous feature is that the image we see through the viewfinder has a larger area than we see within the framing lines. The above thing strongly favors the composition of the final photo.

Another main advantage is that it does not have mobile mechanical systems among its components, such as conventional SLR cameras.

The camera hardly produces vibrations, so that you can take photos in low light situations with a slower shutter speed without fear of trepidations.

In addition to all this, rangefinder cameras are generally smaller and more manageable, both on the body and the lens, not forgetting that they are less noisy than cameras with mechanical systems.

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Budget rangefinder cameras are less camera shake during shooting due to the absence of a mirror lifting mechanism; there is no so-called shake.


Among the disadvantages of the rangefinder digital camera, the main one is related to focus.

There is no autofocus camera, so, depending on the situation, it can be somewhat cumbersome.

If manual focus is not our thing or works with long focal lengths that make the framed area very small, it may seem a rather uncomfortable system.

On the other hand, this type of camera has a parallax error since what we see through the viewfinder does not coincide with the resulting image due to its rangefinder.

This means that our final image has nothing to do with the desired one in close-up photographs or macro photography.

Why Rangefinder Cameras are so Expensive:

We all know that the best 35mm rangefinder cameras are costly; the main reason is supply and demand; besides this, the German products are expensive compared to the Japanese product even used.

The rangefinder cameras, especially the M series, were made very well, and they don’t have any parts like SLR’s

What is the Best Rangefinder Camera?

The best 35mm rangefinder camera, paradoxically, has a rangefinder – two windows spaced several centimeters apart.

Looking through the viewfinder, you can find the rangefinder spot, the image in which doubles if the subject is out of focus.

There are too many rangefinder cameras in the market, and it all depends on your budget and use that which rangefinder camera is the best option for you.

However, we are going to recommend some good rangefinder cameras.

Zorky-1 + Industar-22. Ultra-retro kit for the nostalgic for the glorious 195s, a domestic copy of the German Leica II, tiny viewfinder, awkward film loading, limited shutter speed range.

One of the advantages is a retractable lens. There is no built-in exposure metering, so you need to have an external exposure meter.

Kiev-2A + Jupiter-8. A heavy machine that allows you to take high-quality photos, but again you need an exposure meter.

FED-Mikron-2. A compact device with a fixed lens, a Soviet copy of Japanese budget cameras. On the plus side, there is an automatic exposure mode.

Olympus XA. The undisputed world champion in the price-size-quality category. A tiny pot-bellied chest with a very decent lens and aperture priority. It fits not just in an abstract pocket but even in a shirt chest pocket.

Japanese budget rangefinders with a fixed lens is a whole class in which it is difficult to highlight something.

We recommend taking a closer look at 35RD, 35RC, 35ED, Canon – Canonet 28, Q17, Q19, Yashica – 35CC, Minolta – Hi-Matic 7s, and so on (there are also Ricoh, Petri, Konica).

These simple boxes differ only in the lens’s aperture, the type of automatic mode (shutter speed or aperture priority), and design.

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Jason Baxter

Jason is a professional photographer based in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Loyd has been doing photography for over 14 years and specializes in fine art landscape photography. Loyd's work has appeared on book covers, CD covers, television, internet galleries, and on the walls of private residences.