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I was looking at the Leica M9-P and was wondering if there are any affordable cameras of this format. Are the Sony NEX or Olympus PEN of this format? Are there any other interchangeable lens digital non-SLR formats one can look into?

EDIT:
Nikon D7000 is the upper-limit of affordable for me ;-)

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See also: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/11034/… –  Imre Sep 20 '11 at 4:43
    
do define "afforbable" :) While out of my budget given my current (and past) financial situation, were I to have the $10k to spare an M9P would be affordable to me (and as it sells it clearly is to some people). –  jwenting Sep 20 '11 at 6:00
    
@jwenting: done! –  lalli Sep 20 '11 at 6:14
    
by affordable, i actually mean mid-range budget. –  lalli Sep 20 '11 at 6:16

3 Answers 3

up vote 9 down vote accepted

If you're looking specifically for a rangefinder camera – in that you do not look through the lens and use a split-image mechanism to match subject distance to the plane of focus of the lens – with a digital sensor, the only ones available are the Leicas (M-E, M and M9 with some minor variants). Although they are likely to go down in value over time (like almost all digital cameras), those are probably outside your budget.

If you're looking for something that looks like a Leica but isn't necessarily a rangefinder camera, probably the closest current camera is the Fuji X-Pro1. It is similar to a digital Leica M in the following ways:

  • It lacks a flipping mirror mechanism
  • You do not look directly through the lens to compose; instead, you look through a viewfinder with overlaid frame lines
  • The X-Pro1 looks an awful lot like a film rangefinder camera

However, the X-Pro1 has the following differences from the M cameras:

  • The X-Pro1 uses Fujifilm's new X mount, while the M uses the long-established M mount.
  • The X-Pro1 has a "hybrid viewfinder" that overlays an electronic preview in the viewfinder.
  • The M9 or M-E or older have no sort of "live view" that allows you to compose with the digital screen instead of the viewfinder.
  • The X-Pro1 has autofocus, while all Leica rangefinders are manual focus only.
  • The X-Pro1 has an APS-C size sensor (like most digital SLRs), while the M9 or newer, M-9, and M-E have a larger 'full frame' (roughly equivalent to 35mm film) size sensor. The M8's sensor is in between those two sizes.

Fujifilm also has the new X-E1 (similar to the X-Pro1 but uses a fully electronic viewfinder instead of a hybrid viewfinder) and the X100 (with a fixed 35mm equivalent lens instead of an interchangable lens mount.

If interchangeable lenses are important to you, you might also look at the Olympus Pen series, the Panasonic GF/GX series, or the Sony NEX line. Like the Leica, these cameras do not have a reflex mirror and are part of interchangeable lens systems. Unlike a Leica, they use some sort of electronic viewfinder or you compose using the digital screen on the back. Also, all of these cameras have autofocus.

If you specifically want the experience of using a rangefinder but can live without an actual digital camera, you could use a film rangefinder and then have the film scanned. Leica and Cosina (using the Voigtlander and Zeiss brand names) still make new film rangefinders, and there are many available for on the used market.

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Have you looked into the Fuji x100? Technically not a rangefinder, but it sure feels like I'm shooting my old Konica Auto s2.

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There are a number of interchangeable lens cameras which are not SLRs. Aside from the Leica M8 & M9 and the defunct Epson R-D1, they are not range-finders either.

Sony, Olympus, Panasonic and Pentax all make mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras. Besides the Pentax Q, these have image quality rivaling DSLRs but are generally slower, particularly at autofocus which is done by contrast-detection. The gap is closing slowly.

Sony also makes ones with a semi-transparent mirror, called SLT. They are not mirrorless but they are not SLRs either. Their major advantages are that they use phase-detect autofocus and DSLR lenses directly without an adapter. So not only do they use the same sensors as DSLRs, they also use the same autofocus system too. Sony SLT cameras can focus and meter continuously during exposure which gives them outstanding performance for video and high-speed continuous drive (7-12 FPS). The compromise is that they are bigger than mirrorless offerings but smaller than DSLRs.

See the complete list of all SLD cameras here.

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I've thought about this too - if the market for a digital rangefinder has been largely impacted by the mirrorless interchangeable cameras. –  rfusca Sep 20 '11 at 3:21
1  
I certainly think so. Their advantages have almost all been taken by mirrorless cameras and none of their numerous disadvantages. –  Itai Sep 20 '11 at 3:25
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We're almost certainly talking about a tiny market. But if Cosina were to produce a Zeiss-branded digital rangefinder that were a fraction of the price of a Leica (just like their current Zeiss Ikon rangefinder is a fraction of the price of an M7), I wouldn't complain :) –  unexplainedBacn Sep 20 '11 at 21:00

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