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Rangefinder Photography – An Introduction And Discussion

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Rangefinder Cameras

Rangefinder Cameras are a own category of photo cameras: The mechanisms for selecting the field of view as well as the focussing view mechanism don’t pass the camera lens.

3d-minox parallelview stereogram

Some Rangefinder Cameras have a fix installed lens, others have interchangable lenses. Some of the most legendary Rangfinder Cameras are the Leica M series – analog and digital since more than 60 years. In 1954, the Leica M3 was lauched, a system with interchangable lenses, still compatible with the most modern and digital Leica M’s.

Black Vintage Rangefinder Camera
Black Vintage Rangefinder Camera

The Rangefinder – Parallax Focussing

The rangefinder focussing mechanism is a parallax mechanism, using an own optic, not passing the lens.
What does that mean:

  • Viewfinder and Lense have a different axis
  • the lense may cover parts of the viewer field of sight
  • no focussing mechanism elemets (e.g. mirrors) effects the photo capturing axis (lens – film or image sensor)
  • until now no zoom lenses are available for rangefinder cameras
  • no autofocus lenses are available

Rangefinder Camera Design

Due to the above properties, rangefinder cameras have a compact design.
  • they do not have a mirror for the viewfinder viewing axis passing through the lense, so there also is no need for the mechanism for removing the mirror for opening the shutter
  • they have no autofocus lenses
  • they have no zoom lenses
Ricoh 500 G Rangefinder Camera
Ricoh 500 G Rangefinder Camera

Using Rangefinder Camera


last update: 17.02.20
published: 06.03.18

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