Tagged: rangefinder

Olympus Auto-Eye – Week 82 results

Beth and I took the Auto-Eye to Cape Ann on a photowalk with the Greater Boston Film Photographers meet up group. We shot HP5 and color, but the color is still at the lab.

The Auto-Eye is the only rangefinder I’ve ever used which also has zone focus.  Brackets on the focusing scale and notches in the mechanism indicate CLOSE, GROUP, or SCENE. With the automatic exposure it becomes possible to shoot from the hip if you wish.

The camera is lighter than my Uniomat, but it feels heavier than my Leicas. The aperture indicator in the viewfinder features arrows at either end of the scale showing which way to rotate the shutter speed dial to properly expose. It is, however, possible to ignore them and take an over- or underexposed image.

I find I am more comfortable with aperture priority exposure, but I really enjoyed working with the Auto-Eye. I think it’s a keeper.

Week 82 – Olympus Auto Eye


Introduced in 1960, the Olympus Auto Eye is a fixed – lens rangefinder with shutter priority auto exposure. It features a 45 mm f2.8 lens. Shutter speed is selected on the lens barrel, and metered aperture is shown on a rotating dial inside the viewfinder.

Mine was a last minute steal on a ShopGoodwill.com auction. I paid less than $10. I’ve loaded a roll of HP5 and have an excursion planned for Saturday.

Official Olympus history page
There are only a couple on ebay right now.

Canonet QL17 GIII – week 77 results

As I’ve journeyed through my camera collection, some stand out as icons of their class. For rangefinders, it’s my M3 and M6.  In SLR, the Nikon FM2 & FG, Minolta SRT200 & XG9, and strangely my Chinon CM7. Box cameras? Brownie Hawkeye. TLRs would be a Yashica, probably the D. Polaroid? Spectra and 250. In viewfinders it’s the Vito B.

Then there’s the QL17.  I have an Olympus 35RC and a Konica C35, but I find myself drawn to the Canonet for a pocket rangefinder.  My example has a bright viewfinder and focus patch. Everything seems to work fine, although I have never tried it with a flash.  As a lefty, I like the focusing lever on the left side of the lens barrel.  Shutter speed is manually set on the lens barrel, and a pointer inside the viewfinder indicates the metered aperture on a scale along the right edge of the frame.  Red areas at the top and bottom indicate under- or over-exposure conditions.  As with all (most?) rangefinders, the shutter fires with a soft click.

The meter uses an obsolete battery, but I have had decent results with a modern alkaline replacement.  The CdS cell takes an average of the scene, which did cause the highlights to blow in a pair of shots where there was a large difference between skin tones and a dark background. A more sophisticated meter might have handled those shots better.

This week’s post contains more photos than usual because I enjoyed the subject immensely. As mentioned previously, Beth and I visited Andy Leider’s facility in Circleville, NY.  It’s a mecca for fire apparatus enthusiasts and a home for wayward fire engines. There are reported to be over 400 retired trucks on, in, and around the property. Most are difficult to photograph as they are crammed tightly into a dim warehouse, but it’s a place where we could wander and explore for hours. In fact we did, and we took advantage of the chance to catch up with an old friend as well.

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Shabby elegance – a 1940s sedan cab Mack quadruple combination (pump, tank, hose, and LOTS of ladders) basking in the sunshine from an open doorway.
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Mack painted one truck in stars & stripes as an advertising gimmick in 1976. Some cities loved the idea and ordered the paint scheme. I’d never seen one in person before.
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At the rear of the warehouse looking forward. This is one of the shots where the meter couldn’t handle the exposure extremes.
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IHC R-series. They sure had character.
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When I was a kid, THIS was what a New York City fire engine looked like in my mind. Not many have survived. Shop #MP8306
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Seagrave, Ward LaFrance, Pirsch. When styling counted for something.
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The graveyard out back. Some diamonds in the rough, lots of parts, and more than a few bees.
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1949 Oshkosh. This thing says “Pull over!” like nothing else.
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Old glory, old Snorkel

Week 77 – Canonet QL17 GIII


The Canonet QL17 GIII was the last of Canon’s fixed lens rangefinders. Manufactured sometime in the 1970’s, it has a 40mm lens and aperture priority automatic exposure. The QL designation indicates a quick-loading film system, while the 17 indicates a maximum aperture of f1.7. The Canonet range also included a QL19, QL25, and a Canonet 28 (f2.8) which was not quick loading.

Shutter speeds range from B to 1/500 set with a ring on the lens barrel. When in automatic mode a needle in the viewfinder indicates the selected aperture. Manual exposure is also possible without the meter, and the shutter will fire without a battery. Focus is via a lever on the left side of the lens barrel.

My example is a thrift score of which I’m particularly proud. I found it in the display case of a newly opened store for $4. It has a small dent on the filter ring but is otherwise fully functional.

It had however gone missing for a while. When I finally located it (in my daughter’s camera bag!) it had a partially exposed roll of 400ASA color in it. We took it along on last week’s Fairchester Hose Haulers excursion.

Camera Wiki
All Canonets at eBay. Prices are all over the map, so shop carefully.

Results may be delayed as my schedule is crazy this week.

Yashica Minister III – Week 65 Results

Sometimes a camera just seems to shoot itself. The Minister III has nice balance, a bright rangefinder, and a smooth feel to its controls.  I blasted through a full 36 exposure roll in no time and sent it off to the lab.

I spent a bit of time planning an in-depth review of the camera, as I’d had a lot of fun using it. The images arrived yesterday, and here they are:




Yup. Nothing. Not a single image. Instead I received a cute note from my friends at the lab suggesting that I expose the film before shipping it to them next time. 🙂

A quick check reveals that the shutter in the Minister isn’t firing. It sounds fine, but it never opens.  FAIL. I’ve dropped it on the fix/sell pile. Perhaps I’ll get to diagnosing it some day, after I’ve finished all of the other projects in my life.  Onward. . .

Week 65 – Yashica Minister III

The Yashica Minister III is a fixed lens rangefinder from the early 1960s. I have been unable to pin down an exact date, but the previous Minister II was introduced in 1962. It features a 45mm f/2.8 lens with a coupled rangefinder.

The selenium meter cell is located inside the filter ring on the face of the lens, thereby facilitating automatic compensation for any filters or attachments. The meter reads on the top of the camera body, and this value is then transferred to a ring on the front of the lens. The camera has a sort of mechanical shutter-priority automation: adjusting the exposure ring changes aperture to match the set shutter speed. Adjusting the speed will cause the aperture to automatically change.

I don't remember where I got my example. I think it was a flea market find. I've already shot a roll of Fuji 400 color for this week and dispatched it to Old School Photo Lab.


Camera Wiki (search for the rest of the Yashica Minister series too)

I haven't found a manual, but here's one for the similar Minister II



Leica M6 – week 52 results

Every Leica enthusiast has a favorite model. The evolution from Barnack to M9 means there is probably a spot where your favorite combination of features was in production, and the cross-compatibility of most lenses lets you use your favorite glass.

I haven’t found that sweet spot yet, but it may be the M6 for me.

The M6 is a very nice camera. I like the weight. Everything feels smooth and solid. As with most Leica rangefinders, it’s very quiet to use. The meter was simple to operate, balancing the brightness of two LEDs in the viewfinder. I’m not sure what I think about the film loading system. It’s supposed to be simplified, but I find it easier to mis-load. The spindle in the M3 may be more finicky, but I know when I’ve gotten it right.

The M6 has 3 pairs of frame lines in the viewfinder, with the widest at 35mm. I find I must consciously think to frame 50mm shots.

I like it though. The meter makes it easier to use color and slide films, while the extra frame lines will be nice if I ever expand my lens collection. After a few more rolls, I should be proficient with it.

(Note: this week’s images were shot on FP4 and developed in my kitchen with Caffenol Delta-STD. It’s not really a fair example of what the M6 can do, but it displays some of the technical versatility of film. Coffee + soap + vitamin C= images!)


Week 52 – Leica M6

As week 52 marks the end of my first year of 52 Cameras, I decided to close the loop with my other Leica.

14 - 1
George is on vacation, but Beth’s hardworking Octan truck driver was happy to stand in on his coffee break.
Introduced in 1984, the M6 was an evolutionary step in the rangefinder line which began with the M3 in 1954. Primary differences are a rewind crank instead of a knob, a quick-loading film system, a slightly larger viewfinder (with lesser magnification,) and most importantly a light meter. It also features a hot shoe for the flash.

M6 production ran into 1997. It was replaced by the M6/TTL which simply added Through-the-Lens flash metering to the M6 chassis. Production continued until 2003. Who else makes anything for 19 years in the modern world?

The M6 and M6/TTL hold the distinction of being the last mechanical Leicas. Although a battery is required for the light meter, the shutter continues to function without it. The later M7 introduced aperture priority automation and an electronic shutter.

The serial number of my chrome M6 body dates it to July of 1997, shortly before the upgrade to TTL flash. It is both the newest Leica and most newly acquired Leica in my collection. I’ve fitted my 1960 vintage Summilux 50mm f1.4 and loaded a roll of Ilford FP4 for the week.



Manual from Mike Butkus

Serial number guides for M-cameras and lenses

Want one of your own? I would suggest a dealer like KEH Camera or Adorama, or you could try your luck on eBay.

Rest assured 52 Cameras will continue. I have something special planned to kick off year #2, and the collection continues to grow.

Week 50 – Polaroid Automatic 103

Polaroid 103 shot on it’s great-grandson, the Fuji Instax 210 Wide
It occurred to me recently that I hadn’t showcased any of my Polaroid pack-film cameras.  They are uniquely physical and satisfying to use. My collection includes a pair of cameras with family history; Dad bought the 230 when he returned from the army, and Gramp bought the 220 for a trip to Bermuda. As it was snowing heavily, neither of them was coming off the shelf. The 250 was in hiding, the 420 is Beth’s; the Colorpack II is cool but I felt like a rangefinder; the Countdown 90 isn’t working. I have a pair of thrift store 103’s though. . .

Manufactured from 1965 to 1967, the Polaroid Land Automatic 103 is a simpler variant of the 100 series RF. It has a 114mm f/8 lens with an automatic electronic shutter. A simple slider selects between two apertures for either color (100ASA) or B/W (3000ASA) film. The rangefinder uses separate focusing and viewing windows, and it folds inside the camera when closed.

I dipped into our stash of Fuji FP3000b for some snow shots.  I’m going to miss this film when it’s gone.

Global Warming

Like most Land Automatics, the 103 is mechanically complicated to use. The front slides out and locks. Focus is accomplished with a sliding bar which moves the lens board back and forth. The shutter is cocked manually with a lever on the right side of the lens board then tripped by a button on the camera body. After exposing, you pull a paper tab on the right side of the camera then pull the print out of the camera. The spreader rollers make a nice ringing sound. Modern Fuji film is self-limiting, so timing print developing isn’t necessary.

Polaroid simplified the process by numbering each of the controls. I disagree with their operating order though. The manual recommends leaving the shutter cocked, presumably so you won’t miss a shot. As an owner and user of many old cameras I prefer not to leave any springs compressed, so I arm the shutter immediately before shooting.

I’ve recently completed conversion of all of my pack cameras to modern batteries. My first two shots with the 103 were junk, and I thought I’d done something wrong. Upon investigation I found that I’d simply left the exposure ring set too dark. After a quick adjustment, they were fine.

Winter beach



Manual from Mike Butkus

Polaroid 103 at the Land List


If you want one, you have lots of options. I find pack cameras and the 103 in particular to be frequent thrift-store bargains. Neither of mine cost more than $12. If you just have to get your hands on one today, try eBay. Most any example you get will require conversion to modern batteries, but the process is easy. Google can help, at least until I get around to writing the article.



Argus C3 – week 45 results

The Argus C3 earned the nickname “the brick” with its styling and weight. While I cannot disagree, I find that it has the ergonomics of a brick as well.

Actually, that’s unfair to the brick. Bricks are perfectly shaped for their purpose. The C3 applies the ergonomics of masonry to photography and is a poorer camera for it.

I don’t dispute its history or it’s important position as one of the first affordable 35mm rangefinders. Not everyone could afford a Leica III, and the Argus strove to bring some of those features to the mass market. It succeeded, but only in the way a Model T is a copy of a Mercedes Benz. Same basic features, much different feeling.

Everything on this camera is completely manual. There are no interlocks. A knob winds the film; a small lever releases to wind for the next exposure, and a lever on the front cocks the shutter. If you forget any one of the three your shot will be ruined. Aperture is set with a small ring inside the front of the lens; shutter speed is a wheel on the front of the camera; adjusting either requires turning the camera around to face yourself. I find that if I don’t hold it exactly right, the shutter cocking lever whacks me in the knuckles when it releases.

If you can get past the clumsiness, it does take nice pictures.

Just after I took this one, a gentleman recognized the C3 and inquired about it. It does have that going for it.


Overall, I like the C3. I do have to be in a certain mood to enjoy carrying it though.

Tri-X 400, developed at home in D76 1+1.