A black Leica M4 or M2 is in my wish list ever since I went back to using film early last year. I can’t afford or justify the big expense of buying these classics just yet so I’ve been buying a poor man’s substitute for them ever since. So far, I had acquired a small collection of various models of vintage rangefinder cameras.
Come to think of it, if I had saved my money instead I could have gotten my dream M4 or M2 by now, but I don’t think I would have gotten more fun. Each of my vintage rangefinders have their own quirks and characters. I think just using them had enhanced my photographic skill and technique.
Regretfully I haven’t been using all of them as much as I want to. Recently, however, I found that I have three favorite cameras that I use more often.
The first one is a Leica IIF, an older and less expensive sibling of the M series. Designed by Oscar Barnack, the innovator of the 35mm rangefinder camera format, this is the type of camera that made Leica a legend. It has interchangeable screw mount lens, separate viewfinder and rangefinder windows. It is a small and compact camera. I use it with a collapsible Fed-50 f3.5 or Jupiter-12 35mm f2.8 lenses borrowed from my Fed-1 camera (Soviet copy of the Leica II).
The Last Passengers
Weeds & Metal
For extensive shooting, my favorite is the Canon P ("Populaire") produced in Japan from 1958 to 1961. A camera that is also compatible with many Leica screw mount lenses. It has a big and very bright parallax corrected viewfinder with visible built in frames for the 35/50/100 lenses. Film loading with this camera is better and faster than the Leicas because of the hinged back.
My Canon P came with a 50mm f1.8 lens that is comparable with many Leica lenses in image quality and sharpness.
Kodak Retina IIA
My next favorite is the Kodak Retina IIA (type 016), a very compact folding rangefinder camera made in Germany in the early 1950s. It has a fixed 6 element 50mm f2 Schneider Xenon lens that I find very sharp. This camera replaced my Leica IIF as my carry everywhere camera because of its folding design and compactness, very easy to carry in a coat pocket. The Xenon lens is also faster with the f2 largest aperture than the Fed-50 f3.5 lens.
See my other rangefinder cameras and photos taken with them.