I'm interested in trying out film photography and I would also love to try out a rangefinder camera as those seem to be perfect for manual focusing in street photography.

Now, of course, the question is: Which camera and lenses should I buy? What are the differences? I'm all new to these cameras, so don't hesitate to include some very basic stuff in your answers :)

Regarding the price: As it is an experiment, I don't want to spend any more than 1000 USD in total for the beginning. If the whole thing turns out to be not for me, I should be able to sell the equipment for a good price, right?

  • \$\begingroup\$ I enjoy shooting street with my Olympus OM-1 with a 28mm f/3.5 lens a lot more than my Bessa R2 with the 35 f/1.4. It's much cheaper than a rangefinder and you can use the optics with your DSLR of choice. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 18, 2011 at 19:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jędrek: It's a matter of taste. A rangefinder finder does never black out, has more DOF, shows context outside the frame, etc. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 18, 2011 at 19:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh, I know, like I said - I have a Bessa, I just wanted to give the OP a different perspective on what they could get to experiment with shooting street on film, on the cheap. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 20, 2011 at 6:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is what guided me to my first rangefinder: cameraquest.com/rfbuy.htm \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 17:27

3 Answers 3


If you're willing to reduce your budget by a factor of 10, you could get a Canonet QL17 GIII, which has a permanently mounted 40mm f/1.7 lens and shutter-priority auto exposure. I really enjoyed mine and considered it an excellent value. The 40mm focal length suited me well, and the lens "drew" nicely, with sharp focus and pleasant bokeh.

Tour guide, Ste.-Chapelle (Paris)

Hale Telescope, Palomar Observatory

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is great advice. See cameraquest.com for more profiles of rangefinder cameras. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 18, 2011 at 16:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ I do wish the Canonet hadn't been shutterspeed-priority though. It's just the opposite of what one usually wants! But of course - most rangefinders of that vintage have shutter-priority instead of aperture-priority so it can't be helped. \$\endgroup\$
    – Staale S
    Commented Apr 18, 2011 at 18:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Staale: There are some exceptions. I have a Yashica 35CC that has aperture-priority (but no manual override). These cameras are OK to try rangefinders and street photography for little money. If you are hooked you can always buy a Leica later on... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 18, 2011 at 18:50

The Canonet GIII as suggested is a good one. It does have a fixed lens though, and it is an old camera model so some luck is needed to get a good working one, in particular you will want to get one whose light-seals have been replaced recently.

For an entry-level interchangeable lens rangefinder, take a look at the various R2, R3, R4 offerings from Cosina-Voigtländer, they are quite reasonably built, of recent vintage, take Leica M optics of all kinds, and each has a modern, built-in lightmeter.

(Of course, for a thousand bucks you should be able to get the real deal - an old Leica M with a lens.)


If you want something just to mess around with, I can't recommend the Zorki 4 with the 50mm f/2 Jupiter-8 lens highly enough. The body is a Leica copy and the lens uses the same design as the Zeiss 50mm f/2 Sonnar. I've been really happy with photos I've taken both with a Zorki and with the Zorki's lens attached to my Leica IIIc. The only issue is finding a well-adjusted model. Sometimes the lens is badly aligned or the camera doesn't quite work right. The old Russian cameras aren't exactly known for quality control. But, it's a good introduction to rangefinder photography for super cheap. You can find a decent example on eBay for less than $150. And if you ever upgrade to a Leica M, you can get thread mount (M39) to Leica M adapters for your lenses.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Didn't notice the age of this thread. If the original poster has already gone out and bought a good RF, my apologies! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 27, 2011 at 16:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ your answer could be useful for other people, too. So no harm done! \$\endgroup\$
    – Francesco
    Commented Jul 27, 2011 at 17:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Esten Hurtle - I appreciated the added comment, even if it is after the original post. Your addition of "Zorki 4" is welcomed! \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Jul 27, 2011 at 17:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've not yet bought one, I'll do that in November when I return home to Germany. So your answer still helps me :) Thanks a lot! \$\endgroup\$
    – eflorico
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 9:19

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