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Moving from SLR to RF. Any recommendations for books on rangefinder photography?


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So, my M3 arrived on Christmas Eve and now has a roll of HP5+ in it.  Still working on the settings to cope with the light and lack of meter (using iPhone Light Meter App for now).  Just means taking two shots all the time as I realise I've checked something but not made any changes!

 

A real change from my previous SLR/DSLRs - things are now always in focus, except in the little square.

 

I know practice is the best form of learning, and I'm doing a lot of that.  But does anyone have any recommendations for books on rangefinder technique?

Edited by kentishrev
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M3 is excellent to begin RF with the large viewfinder almost life size.

 

Practicing is the best way to learn to appreciate (or hate) the RF vs SLR.

 

One old book that I read from time to time since 1988 :

 

LEICA M the advanced school of photographie , Günter Osterloh , Umschau , ISBN 3-524-68018-6

 

I have seen one from time to time on sale on line.

 

Have fun,

 

Arnaud

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The RF camera focusses well, esp.with standard lens.

The SLR sees beautifully.

Joy of seeing depth of field, if one can stop lens down..

The RF faster and more accurate.

M3 frames are very accurate.

Rather than books on technique, look at RF users.

Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, Ralph Gibson.

Gibson has a tiny book on shooting and seeing!

Play with framing and compare, how you see with SLR.

Enjoy.

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I've written a book on rangefinder technique. 

 

You look through the little window at the back, make sure everything you want in shot is within the little window frame that you see, and focus by lining up the double image in the middle.

 

The end. 

 

I hope you enjoyed it, please send me £19.95 (web edition). 

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I don't think you ever need a book about RF technique, once you've learned how to focus. OTOH, learning about manually exposed film photography is a totally different kettle of fish. I grew up with it from the 1950s with a box camera (auto everything 

), and learned manual exposure by long practice and bitter experience. I suspect I'd have learned more quickly if I'd read a few books...........
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I've written a book on rangefinder technique. 

 

You look through the little window at the back, make sure everything you want in shot is within the little window frame that you see, and focus by lining up the double image in the middle.

 

The end. 

 

I hope you enjoyed it, please send me £19.95 (web edition). 

Well, that's a helpful guide to getting the focus...... ;-)   But I'm already starting to notice the advantage of having a viewfinder that is larger than the picture.  Unlike the SLR, the framelines mean I can see things that are outside the picture too.  I can wait for the decisive moment (ahem).  Thoughts and reflections on how that can and has been best utilised would be an interesting read.  And I'm sure there are lots of other 'quirks' out there.

 

Of course, I know the only real way to learn is to keep taking photos.

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I don't think you ever need a book about RF technique, once you've learned how to focus. OTOH, learning about manually exposed film photography is a totally different kettle of fish. I grew up with it from the 1950s with a box camera (auto everything 

), and learned manual exposure by long practice and bitter experience. I suspect I'd have learned more quickly if I'd read a few books...........

Good point.  As I mentioned in the first post, I'm already finding myself checking light meter, adjusting aperture (forgetting to adjust speed).  Or adjusting speed and forgetting to focus (because you don't have to).  When this roll comes back I'll be intrigued by the number of 'deliberately artistic' over and under exposures.

 

All good lessons.  I hope.

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There's really nothing to know. It's no different than any other camera at it's core. If you're saying that you need to figure out exposure without a meter, then that's a skill that's good to have but it's not rocket science.

If you don't have an incident meter (I'd suggest buying one) then just use the sunny 16 rule and be aware of what the exposure is wherever you are. Film is forgiving of overexposure, if you take your best guess and then add a stop or two, you'll be fine.

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I've written a book on rangefinder technique.

 

You look through the little window at the back, make sure everything you want in shot is within the little window frame that you see, and focus by lining up the double image in the middle.

 

The end.

 

I hope you enjoyed it, please send me £19.95 (web edition).

Buddy, you kill me[emoji23]

 

Keep up the good work!

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Hold the camera in your right hand, focus with left. Try to not smash your nose too hard if you focus with your left eye, a little easier with your right eye. If your vision isn't spot on, get a screw in diopter. When you're sitting in front of your TV eating munchies, if your camera is unloaded, practice focusing, winding, and run thru your shutter speeds to keep everything lubricated - and get used to that wonderful delicate shutter sound. Learn to count your f stops on the lens so you know them without looking, same for shutter speeds. And even if you never use it, learn the Sunny 16 rule (in the USA, Sunny 11 rule in the UK). Pretty soon the camera will become an extension of your eyes and hands...ready to go in an instant. If you have a sense of humor and practicum from the old days of press photographers...remember "f/8 & be there" as a guide to getting the photo. As time goes on you'll learn about prefocusing and other tricks to quickly get the shots you want. Most of all, enjoy using your camera without obsessing over details which are relatively insignificant.

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The most valuable thing you can do is look at other photographers work who have used a rangefinder, and by default that means the famous ones. As long as you can focus it the rest should be apparent through study of the genre.

 

 

 

Steve

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From the FAQ on the digital M forum:
 

Question: I come from an autofocus camera background. What is the best way to get good focus on the M9?

The M9 works the same way as any rangefinder camera, the central patch in the viewfinder is your focusing tool.
It is important to look through the viewfinder in the optical axis. Looking into the camera skewed will result in inaccurate focus.

The first thing to do is to ascertain that you can see the rangefinder patch properly. A correct match between the rangefinder and your eye is even more important than it is using an SLR.
Leica sells corrective diopter lenses. Determining which one you need - if any- can be done by going to your optician and holding his try-out lenses between your eye and the viewfinder. The one that allows you to see the rangefinder patch and framelines sharply is the correct one. Order the nearest value from Leica. In a pinch you can use over-the-counter reading glasses for this test. If your eyes need special corrections, you can use your spectacles, provided you can see clearly at 2 metres distance ( the virtual distance of the rangefinder patch). Note that the background will be at background distance,so your eye should ideally be able to accomodate over the distance differential. However, there is some tolerance here.

For special cases there are viewfinder magnifiers. They can help, especially with longer and fast lenses and they can give confidence, but they can also be not very useful; they cannot correct errors in the focusing mechanism or your eye, in fact they magnify them.
Also, one loses contrast and brightness.
Leica offers a 1.25x one and a 1.4x. These need diopter correction like the camera, but often of a different value than the camera viewfinder.

There are also third-party magnifiers, sold by Japan Exposures, that include a variable diopter correction. 1.15x and 1.35x. For patent reasons they cannot be sold in the USA and Germany for use on a Leica camera, but they can be purchased for use on for instance a rifle scope.
Basically, for an experienced user, magnifiers are not needed and will only lower contrast and brightness, but many users do like and use them.

Once the viewfinder is corrected optimally, there are three methods of focusing, in ascending order of difficulty aka training.

1. The broken line method. Look for a vertical line in the image and bring it together in the rangefinder patch to be continuous.

2. The coincidence method. Look for a pattern in the image and bring it together to coincide. This may lead to errors with repeating patterns.

3. The contrast method. Once you have focus by method 1. or 2. a small adjustment will cause the rangefinder patch to "jump" into optimum contrast. At that point you have the most precise focussing adjustment.

Side remarks:

If you try focusing on a subject emitting polarized light like a reflection it may happen that the polarizing effect of the prism system in the rangefinder will blot out the contrast in the rangefinder patch, making focusing difficult. In that case rotate the camera 90 degrees to focus.

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The most important difference between window-viewfinder cameras (including Leica RFs) and screen-viewing cameras (EVF or SLR or view cameras) is that the first are about composing in time, and the latter are about composing in space.

 

While there is some overlap in what pictures you can take with both types, you will make yourself crazy trying to use an RF as just "a cuter, lighter, SLR." In David Alan Harvey's words, "A rangefinder is as different from an SLR as an SLR is from a 4x5 view camera."

 

The window viewfinder has sloppy framing precision, internal parallax errors, and no focus control outside the patch in the center. You can't see what "bokeh" you are getting - or even how much the background is or isn't blurred. (Another quote, from Charlie Harbutt - "With an SLR, you see the world at f/1.4 - with a Leica, you see everything sharp.") It is a less-than-ideal way to take pretty pictures - but it is a great way to capture compelling moments and gestures and expressions.

 

You see what is happening as it happens - no finder blackout. And there is no time lost to AF, auto-aperture-stopdown, or mirror movement. The only thing that happens when you push the button is - the shutter opens.

 

A rangefinder "moment" playing to the strengths of the range/viewfinder: 3 days after 9/11, Leica M4-2, 21mm Elmarit.

 

 

Three practical handling tips:

 

- Learn to use the "L-grip" - left thumb on or up the side of the camera near the viewfinder, and index finger under the lens, where it can move the lens focus tab (they exist for a reason) or slide across the focus ring knurling, rack-and-pinion-wise, for focusing. Avoid trying to grab the lens whole-handed as though it were an SLR lens.

 

https://luminous-landscape.com/articleImages/images-59/neil-iso800-bw-12.jpg

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7186/6899054381_ce562f1535_b.jpg

https://terakopian.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/leica-event-20120516-254-1.jpg

 - or see my avatar

 

It isn't the only way to hold a rangefinder - just the best.

 

- Learn that rangefinder focusing is "binary" - the two images are aligned (1), or they aren't (0). There is no "it's fuzzy, it's sharper, it's almost sharp - now it's fuzzy again" as with screen focusing. Don't waste time sawing the lens back and forth, just snap the two images together and shoot.

 

- If possible, learn to use your right eye for viewing. Note I said "if possible", not "if it is easy."

 

One of the great advantages of the off-center viewinder is that, used with the right eye, the camera doesn't mash your nose, is closer to your eye, keeps the wind lever out of your eye, and is pressed against your cheek more stably. But more important, it doesn't hide your face and turn you into an anonymous "Borg-photographer," as an SLR must.

 

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/47/4d/c1/474dc199af0b7c980be82ed9967419b0.jpg

 

Do you have any clue as to that photographer's personality or expression? Compared with the previous links above? This gives you a closer connection with your subjects.

 

That is about a good a guide to RF photography as a book can give - anything else will be technical stuff not significantly different from SLR photography (filters, films, lenses, metering, yada, yada).

 

Although not as short and sweet as the instructions Walker Evans gave to his roommate, painter Ben Shahn, when Shahn borrowed Evans' Leica back in the 1930s: "F/11 on the sunny side of the street; f/5.6 on the shady side; 1/250th of a second, and don't forget to focus."

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So many thanks to all of you.  I'm about done with the first roll of film, and I know there are a few duds in there as I tried ideas (and where I forgot to do certain elements).  Proof will be in the developing.

 

All these tips, ideas, reminders are really useful.  I'm so glad I found the forum before I started.

 

thanks again

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So many thanks to all of you.  I'm about done with the first roll of film, and I know there are a few duds in there as I tried ideas (and where I forgot to do certain elements).  Proof will be in the developing.

 

All these tips, ideas, reminders are really useful.  I'm so glad I found the forum before I started.

 

thanks again

 

Great! Please be sure to post a few.

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