Design a site like this with
Get started

Rangefinder or Not – that is the Question

This story started a little more than a half year ago. Somewhere around June 2022, I had the urge to have a digital rangefinder camera again. So I gave myself a budget of up to €250 (which is not much for this type of camera) and waited for a good offer.

I’ve always had a soft spot for rangefinder cameras, not specifically for the technology behind them, but rather because they look so good 🙂
I did have a few analog versions in my collection, mostly Russian ones, like the Zorki 1C export edition, Zorki 4 and 4K, Fed 2 and other USSR made, also a Japanese Nicca and a Cosina made Voigtlander Bessa L without viewfinder.
All are “Leica” clones or very similar in appearance.
A Leica is the camera that most people have in mind when they think of a rangefinder, I think that the Leica is the most coveted camera among rangefinder enthusiasts, and at the same time the most expensive one.

What is different about rangefinder technology:
I don’t want to go into much detail here, but focusing comes down to aligning two of the same images until they are perfectly superimposed.
That measured value is sometimes mechanically coupled to the lens, older ones had to be transferred manually to the lens, and needless to say there are also electronic variations on it. Composition happens independently of what the lens actually sees.
That’s about it in short.

Besides the “real rangefinders” you also have digital “rangefinder style” cameras.
I have owned a Fujifilm X100, Fuji X-E1, and I also had an Olympus E-PM1 and a Samsung NX3000, the last two are viewfinderless.
And there are so many more, like the Fujifilm X Pro, Olympus Pen F, Olympus Pen E series, etc…
They are very similar to a rangefinder, but technically they are not, they just look like one.

Fact is that I had a Fuji X100, but sold it.
And the inevitable rangefinder itch has come back again.
So what now?
An X100T comes to mind, or an X Pro 1 and also an Olympus Pen F, however, they are all expensive.
Panasonic also has some rangefinder type models, but I find them downright ugly – sorry.

I do have an analog Pen FT, and although it looks like a rangefinder, it’s actually an SLR !
But to elaborate on this, I always liked the style of the old Pen F, and although the digital version, namely the Pen F, is rather on the pricey side, there is an alternative !

Of all Olympus Pen E series cameras, the E-P5 and the E-PL7 are the one that most closely resembles an original analog Pen F.
We really have to keep thinking in “looks”, because the E-P5 nor the E-PL7 has a viewfinder, focusing and composition is done on the LCD on the back.
To get that rangefinder feeling a bit, I could experiment as before with an external viewfinder like the Russian KMZ Turret viewfinder. I once used it on a Voigtlander Bessa L and I still have it, so this could be a new experiment with a rangefinder style camera.

And so I found and ordered an Olympus E-PL7 in good condition, classic look silver & black, for €135 and delivered with an external electronic viewfinder VF-3 on top – a real bargain ! And here are some pictures of what it looks like compared to the real Pen FT:

Apart from the similarities with the analog Pen FT, an E-PL7 (and for that matter also the E-PL8) is actually an E-M10 MKI without a viewfinder. In terms of similarity, an E-PL5 or E-PL6 could also have served, but those cameras have a less good LCD (1037k vs 460k), hence the choice for this camera. From the E-PL9 you also have an electronic shutter, but for this purpose I found that less important, the price difference is also double.

With the E-PL7 I had a good looking rangefinder “type” camera again, however, was a camera without a “build-in” viewfinder a good idea ? I’ve had a few in the past and never liked them.
Read the sequel how it turned out after six months, by the end of this week.

Now on La Gallerie !

Black Swans Video” & “Cygnus Atratus

The photo gallery of Open Source Photography, Olympus micro 4/3 system, Vintage Lens Photograpy, Film Simulation, PictureFX, HDR – Photographer : Marc R.

Published by Marc R.

Belgium Based and Retired Photographer, IT specialist, Technician and Bushcrafter - not necessarily in that order. A few years back I got a message on my PC : "The box said 'Required Windows 11 or better'. So, I installed Linux Kubuntu" :-) My Photography software : Linux Kubuntu 22.04 LTS, RawTherapee, Darktable, Digikam, Luminance HDR, Hugin, Gimp and many other. My camera Gear in 2023: Olympus E-M1 Mark III & II with Olympus 300mm Pro and Leica 100-400mm. Olympus E-M5 MK III with Olympus 12-200mm. Olympus 40-150mm Pro, 12-40mm Pro and many other lenses. Development on Dell Inspiron 15-3520 - 12 gen. i7 - 16gb -512gb

One thought on “Rangefinder or Not – that is the Question

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: