SLRs and Rangefinders and Light Meters... oh my!

13 March 2016

SLRs and Rangefinders and Light Meters... oh my!


My rekindled interest in film photography (by way of 8mm and 16mm movie film) has made me want to start shooting some 35mm film again. I went to play with my mechanical Vivitar SLR and it was missing. It wasn't in the case, and I began to suspect it may have either been stolen or I had left it somewhere. In any case, I had spent four days tearing our house apart looking for it, but to no avail.

It's upsetting.

Then I remembered something...

Ten years ago, I had purchased a Canon Rebel-X film camera from a classified ad for $40. I only wanted the lens and the body sat on a shelf collecting dust. So I picked it up, dusted it off, bought a couple of CR123A lithium batteries and added my nifty 50mm EF lens to it. I have just ran two rolls through it and I'm excited to see the outcome of them. I also became a little spoiled with the auto load, auto rewind, the easy exposure meter, and general fantastic electronics on it. I still want a mechanical camera, but again... so nice to have these auto functions.

Despite having great image quality and versatility, SLRs are big and noisy. And intimidating. I feel that even though my camera was old, I was attracting more attention than I wanted. Part of that is me- I'm too observant and fearful (working on that), but the other part is that it's just a big camera to lug around.

Last year I managed to acquire some incredible finds from some local estate sales... and a couple of duds.

One item, which I had ALMOST sent off to Goodwill, ended up being my most intriguing find: I had found a Canon Canodate E Rangefinder at an estate sale for $7. I honestly didn't know what I had- but it's similar to a Canonet with a date imprint function (which only goes from year 1973 to 2009) and a few other key differences.

My renewed interest in film photography made me investigate the Canodate E. Suffice to say, I haven't been able to find much on it other than some forum posts. I can't even find a pdf of the manual online- and despite what many claim, the body is similar to the Canonet, but the lens and many of the functions are different. First off, it needs two PX640 batteries to even operate (which I have ordered- and I'll update this post with pictures when I get them). It's a leaf shutter in the lens system. The camera itself is mostly automatic; you set the ISO, it takes care of the aperture and the shutter speed. It's a Rangefinder, so you focus through the optical viewfinder, and line up a ghost image over the main image. That last part is what is intriguing- you can have selective focus without the weight of an SLR.

I'm not thrilled that the Canodate E is mostly automatic, but I feel like it's a great way to get into just shooting street photography for the joy of it. But my investigation of Rangefinders is making me take them far more seriously.  There are digital rangefinders, and Rangefinders in general seem to be a favorite among street photographers due to their unassuming nature. I am excited to see what kind of photos the Canodate E will take... I'm finding that my google searches are coming up a little dry.

Another estate sale find was one that I had completely forgotten about: a West German made Gossen Lunapro exposure meter! I bought the mint condition item for $5, but again, it needed hard to find batteries. It sat for a long time until recently when I bought some PX625 alkaline batteries from a local Interstate Battery shop, installed them and the meter worked perfectly! Needless to say, this is my new best friend.

It's easy to use (a quick overview):
  • Dial in your ASA (ISO). 
  • Decide if you want to measure the light the camera is receiving (reflected) by pointing it at the subject, or by the subject (incidental).
  • Push the side button, the meter will give you a value 1 to 11 (upper) or 12 to 22 (lower).
  • Use the second yellow dial to find the number needle reading; the time (shutter), f-stop, and frame rate (for cine) line up on the upper dial for correct exposure.

There's other functions too, which, again, would require another article.

I had recently watched "Finding Vivian Maier" on Netflix, and the format of camera she used also intrigued me. I had also started investigating Medium format photography. This really is a whole other article (which I will write soon)

So, I decided to take a plunge... again.. and bought a cheap Ebay find of a (lowly regarded) Lubitel 166B- a never used, boxed camera for $50. I'll write more on it, it's not the best but it's a quick and cheap way for me to learn a little bit about both TLRs and Medium Format- and once I get it and play around with it I'll talk about it more.




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