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Thread: "Is the RF concept in itself a viable solution?"

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    "Is the RF concept in itself a viable solution?"

    Having been reminded of Erwin Puts today, I went to his blog and reviewed some of his past articles. In February, 2008, he posted this one, titled "The question no one dares to pose." Now 2 years on, the Leica rangefinder world continues it's evolution. Maybe this is a time to go back and look at his conclusion:

    Like it or not: the RF concept is in danger of becoming an obsolete object: more lenses and a bigger sensor do not change that conclusion.

    Leica has to convince new users that the RF concept is exciting and a true alternative to the dSLR concept in terms of image quality and image production.


    Is the Leica RF in less danger today than 2 years ago? Is it being accepted as an exciting and true alternative to DSLR?

    This forum is a small community of fanatics, please take no offense. Is our enthusiasm just a failure to read the handwriting on the wall? My sense is that the M9 has brought many more on board using both the M8 and the M9, but I have no objective data to support this. And even if it is true, will it be enough for the M line to live and improve?

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    Re: "Is the RF concept in itself a viable solution?"

    Hi!
    Most people see only two worlds:
    - Leica RF
    - dSLR
    That is big mistake!

    There is third group - u43 plus recent Samsung NX10. Systems allowing to change lenses, but without mirror.
    Biggest benefit of Leica is that it has full frame body in offer, M bagnet and RangeFinder.

    Mirror world will be shrinking soon as mirror is only legacy heritage. It does not increase IQ. It causes lots of issues, like front focus, back focus, need of calibration etc.

    With each day - more u43 users and Leica users can be found than dSLR and Lecia.

    For me RF concept is great. But in parallel I expect LV supporting and solving all weak parts of RF and allow people with weaker eyes to stay in the system. I do not need AF. But LV would be very good complimentary.

    Best Regards!

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    Re: "Is the RF concept in itself a viable solution?"

    I think it will in the same way that a Porsche 911 , a set of forged irons or a Rolex Sub continue. There is something about the design that makes it both challenging and fun to work with. I don t know if you saw the posts by Seal over on the LUF....his key take away (and this was from the S2) but applies to the M9 as well....he just enjoys the hell out of using the camera. Thats the way I feel about my Leica M s....today I will visit the South Florida Fair (if the rain stops) ..this is the stuff of American Color-Manos....so I need the light. I am really looking forward to 2-3 hours of M shooting.

    On a more technical side ... when I use the M s frequently ...I develop a level of hand eye coordination I can t match with my Nikon s . I can square up and frame without looking thru the finder or the viewfinder....this is really only relevant for street shooting . You can do this with the manual focus Zeiss lenses on a Nikon but its not discrete enough for many situations. These things aren t much talked about in camera reviews(except for Sean Reid) and certainly reflect my bias toward street work. You get a totally different perspective if you work a lot with flash,enjoy macro work,need tilt shift or telephoto lenses.

    Puts is right though that we are reaching the limits of the CRF because focus accuracy is becoming the most visible element in IQ and CRF is limited .

    The one push back I would have is that AF has limitations as well and Zeiss just issued a white paper indicating that Focus Confirmation wasn t accurate enough for the zeiss zf when used wide open.

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    Re: "Is the RF concept in itself a viable solution?"

    Regarding RF, we only have Leica, while there are so many DSLR camera makers. So the question is specifically not whether RF design will survive, but rather whether Leica will survive.

    Surely Leica will survive all the competition, but not just because it is an RF camera, but rather, it gives better or as good photos like the best DSLR cameras, because it has a very special sensor. That is the actual difference. For photographers, this is probably more important than all other considerations.

    Furthermore, the backwards compatibility of the camera with the older lenses is a big advantage for Leica. At least it guarantees replacement camera sales. The lens inventory is more valuable than the camera body for many users.

    As Jerry R. mentioned, M4/3 is also a new system that gains in this competition. Well, it's good because it's more portable than the other systems, and I had to buy that for this reason. But with a 2X multiplier, it can never replace either the DSLR or the Leica RF. Each system has its own use.

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    Re: "Is the RF concept in itself a viable solution?"

    Tom - The great advantage of Leica rangefinder cameras for me has traditionally been quietness, compactness, and the design advantages of rangefinder-system lenses. For a long time I've thought that the half-century-old image framing arrangement is by far the weakest part of the 'M' system. The 'M' dioptre and magnifier solutions are lamentable and inefficient consumer taxes, the badly broken-up framelines are a poor way to isolate one's intended photograph and are hopelessly inaccurate, and twinned framelines can be an irritatingly unwelcome distraction. I'm not decrying the 'direct' part of the viewing system, just the means whereby I isolate what I'm trying to photograph.

    I actually think that a modern alternative to the current 'M' framing system is long overdue and would be welcomed by a new generation of rangefinder camera users. At the very least the M9 should have been introduced with built in dioptre corrections and a zooming facility to isolate the frameline in use. Alas, I think that Leica has shown it's hand by pouring resources into the S2 rather than invigorating the 'M' line with a modern, accurate, non-distracting image framing presentation in the viewfinder.

    I want the digital rangefinder camera to survive but fear it won't without substantial improvements to the viewfinder framing. Making strong photographs is hard enough without having to fight the camera; when I'm successful with my M8 it's in-spite of the viewfinder framing not because of it. Other than the crappy noisy shutter they stuck M8 users with [to placate 1/8000 second bokeh perverts], and the bad gritty shutter release I have [even after a Solmes holiday]; it's a camera I like a lot. But there are times when I hate it's warts and crap-design impositions.

    I'm hardly a 'Leica fanatic', and despite many years use of rollfilm rangefinder cameras; the M8 is my first Leica. The 'M's' 'classic' image framing needs to be far less distracting, and a good design solution to the poor image framing would, I feel, guarantee new customers for the line.

    Tom posed a question; my answer is that rangefinder concept is indeed a viable solution and potentially a fabulous one, but the 'legacy' viewfinder arrangements are not.

    ........... Chris

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    Re: "Is the RF concept in itself a viable solution?"

    :

    "The 2000s were the DSLR decade. Those days are over. DSLRs are about as relevant today as dial-up modems and SCSI-conected scanners,

    The 2010s are the decade DSLRs died.

    In 2019, DSLRs will still be used for sports, news and action, but the rest of us will be using far more compact Powershots, M9s or Panasonic GF-1s for digital."

    http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/00-new-today.htm

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    Re: "Is the RF concept in itself a viable solution?"

    I'm with Jerry here.
    A film M was a beautiful piece of engineering, and useful for photojournalism, street photography, candids and not a great deal else.

    A digital M however is a multi purpose device, great for landscape, wedding and almost anything else you can think of. It's somehow become a jack of all trades, and one that is sometimes almost MF quality and (at a pinch) you can stick in a coat pocket. "The smallest full frame digital camera"

    I feel that Mr Puts is rather like a film M

    I think that the reception of the M9 is enough to prove the point, together with the proliferation of M mount lenses since the introduction of the M8.

    By the way - I'm NOT knocking film, or film M's (just bought an M7 to play with).

    all the best

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    Re: "Is the RF concept in itself a viable solution?"

    Quote Originally Posted by jonoslack View Post
    A digital M however is a multi purpose device, great for landscape, wedding and almost anything else you can think of. It's somehow become a jack of all trades, and one that is sometimes almost MF quality and (at a pinch) you can stick in a coat pocket. "The smallest full frame digital camera"
    Weddings?

    I'm not a wedding photog, but don't you need flash? And can one really focus quickly enough? Of course, manual focus was the only way for many decades.

    Also just as a general reminder (to all, not directed at you, Jono), please read Puts' full essay and remember this was written 2 years ago. The digital world has moved rapidly since then. I wonder if he feels the same today. He does make a huge point about the M focusing system which still has not been improved.

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    Re: "Is the RF concept in itself a viable solution?"

    I would say as someone who would love a small and light system for his non wedding work but for whom the tiny viewfinder within framelines (who ever complained about crop DSLR viewfinders are in for a nasty shock) and for whom the rangefinder system and lack of TTL viewing and composing is a problem - If only Leica had put a decent screen and LIVE VIEW. Then the camera, for all the expense of the system, could really have been born again, a choice for landscape/macro/architecture, all the things that the M line has traditionally given way to the DSLR, they could have captured it back.

    An M9 with Live View and a 50mm lens would pretty much be all I could ever need for a tiny one stop solution for my Jerusalem/Safed project. A GF1 just doesn't come close unfortunately. Such a shame they didn't go just one step further...
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    Re: "Is the RF concept in itself a viable solution?"

    Riccis Valladares (who I think posts here- tho may have this forum confused with somewhere else) shoots weddings with Leica M7 rangefinders. Interesting interview with him on Scott Shephard's Inside Analog Photo podcast a while ago if you're interested in how he does it

    http://www.riccisvalladares.com/

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    Re: "Is the RF concept in itself a viable solution?"

    Marc Williams (fotografz) also uses Leica's for weddings from film through to the M9. Depends on your style of shooting. I know of certain wedding shooters who couldn't begin to shoot RF style but produce award winning work. I personally do enjoy Marcs perhaps more contemplative style of wedding shooting and it is what I have tended to aspire to. A more timeless approach than much of what is being shot nowadays while still being far from 'traditional' static wedding photography as embodied in most of the past centuries weddings.
    Last edited by Ben Rubinstein; 18th January 2010 at 12:57.
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    Re: "Is the RF concept in itself a viable solution?"

    HI Tom
    Quote Originally Posted by tom in mpls View Post
    Weddings?

    I'm not a wedding photog, but don't you need flash? And can one really focus quickly enough? Of course, manual focus was the only way for many decades.
    I shot three weddings with an M9 this summer - not JUST with an M9 you understand (the rest was mostly shot with an A900 135mm/24-70 zoom Zeiss and a flash).
    Yes, one really can focus quickly enough!

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    Re: "Is the RF concept in itself a viable solution?"

    Hi Ben
    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Rubinstein View Post
    I would say as someone who would love a small and light system for his non wedding work but for whom the tiny viewfinder within framelines (who ever complained about crop DSLR viewfinders are in for a nasty shock)
    I've just done a comparison between my M9 viewfinder and my A900 (which really is considered one of the largest and brightest dSLR viewfinders).
    The A900 has better eye relief for glasses, but the M9 is just as big . . . and about 4 times as bright.
    It's huge and very very bright compared to a cropped DSLR rangefinder (just do the comparison)
    As for the framelines - you like 'em or you hate 'em, for me, especially at weddings it's great to see what's just outside the picture - makes composition so much easier. That kid on the sideline sticking out it's tongue - you never knew you missed it with your DSLR, with the rangefinder you got it!

    As for live view - of course it would be great . . . but NOT instead of the rangefinder!!!!!

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    Re: "Is the RF concept in itself a viable solution?"

    Quote Originally Posted by jonoslack View Post
    As for live view - of course it would be great . . . but NOT instead of the rangefinder!!!!!
    Absolutely not instead!

    It is additional tool for special occasions. Like an aircraft pilot today has several tools delivering him the same functionality - depending on situation.

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    Re: "Is the RF concept in itself a viable solution?"

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris C View Post
    Tom - The great advantage of Leica rangefinder cameras for me has traditionally been quietness, compactness, and the design advantages of rangefinder-system lenses.
    Chris
    First off, I don't own and have never used a Leica rangefinder camera. My first camera was a rangefinder (Canon), but at the first opportunity, I moved on to SLRs and have never looked back.

    My question, and it is a genuine question, is it possible that most (if not all) of the attractive design features of a rangefinder camera and lenses could be implemented with a micro four-thirds type form factor and design? I don't know enough about camera design and optics to know whether this is the case, but it has been alluded to here and I'd be interested to know if this is in fact possible.

    Personally, I'm still quite happy with my SLRs (including the Leica R8) and see no reason to buy a rangefinder, whether Leica, Zeiss, Voigtlander or others, but I do enjoy the small size, quiet operation and interchangeable lenses of my Panny G1. Now if only Leica would build a world class micro four-thirds camera......with Leica glass.

    But before they do that....please Leica, a digital R10.

    Gary
    Last edited by bensonga; 18th January 2010 at 20:44.

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    Re: "Is the RF concept in itself a viable solution?"

    Quote Originally Posted by jonoslack View Post
    Hi Ben

    I've just done a comparison between my M9 viewfinder and my A900 (which really is considered one of the largest and brightest dSLR viewfinders).
    The A900 has better eye relief for glasses, but the M9 is just as big . . . and about 4 times as bright.
    It's huge and very very bright compared to a cropped DSLR rangefinder (just do the comparison)
    As for the framelines - you like 'em or you hate 'em, for me, especially at weddings it's great to see what's just outside the picture - makes composition so much easier. That kid on the sideline sticking out it's tongue - you never knew you missed it with your DSLR, with the rangefinder you got it!

    As for live view - of course it would be great . . . but NOT instead of the rangefinder!!!!!
    Point is though that the part of the viewfinder you use for composing, for seeing what will be in your image is infact the size of the framelines and at 50mm that is smaller than the smallest crop viewfinder. I shoot with both eyes open most of the time so I probably see more anyway than can be seen outside of the framelines which only give you up to about 28mm worth of view extra and only if you happen not to be using a 28mm lens

    I'm not knocking the rangefinder focusing system but live view could make precise composition on a subject where you need to see plenty detail within your chosen FOV and the use of things such as polarisers, etc - possible. So much of what the M cameras are steer them towards street/wedding work. It's a shame that they can't be used, easily, for so much more in that size of a camera.
    Last edited by Ben Rubinstein; 19th January 2010 at 00:24.
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    Re: "Is the RF concept in itself a viable solution?"

    Personally I have used M-cameras for a very long time and allways liked them better than SLRs (besides for Tele and Macro work).
    Maybe some of the reasons I still like them so much have changed, but I still see many advantages over SLR and also over micro 4/3.

    Rangefinder vs DSLR:
    -M9 much smaller and less obstrusive if you want a full frame sensor (this was different in film times because you could get pretty small SLRs and would have the same negative size as a Leica M)
    -Lenses much smaller
    -wide spectrum of very nice and good lenses
    -personally I prefer to focus a rangefinder over a manual SLR focus (however I admit that a good AF is faster and can be even more precise); Specially if you use lenses which are not superfast the rangefinder is great.
    - I do like to see the area around the frame
    -I like the simplicity of the Leica M user interface and functions (while this has nothing to do with rangefinder vs SLR there is just no DSLR with such a simple and plain approach regarding user interface and functions)
    -another thing which has nothing to do with rangefinder vs SLR but VERY important to me: the sensor of the M8/M9- CCD with thin AA filter or for whatever reason the images look to me more natural/film like/more micro detail/great tonality than DLSRs (including my D3X).


    Rangefinder (M9) vs micro 4/3:
    -for me most important I (still) do not like EVF very much. It looks like a slow motion delayed dispay of the reality. If I use an optical viewfinder I feel I am in reality, with an EVF I feel I watch TV. (I know others here feel different though)
    -sensor size
    -lenses - yes you can use Leica/Zeiss etc primes on the micro4/3 but than you have a) the crop factor of 2 (in some cases maybe nice but overall not so nice) and you loose all kinds of functions and you have to handle the f-stop manually (I dont know how the EVF looks if you stop down the lens to F8?)
    -again user Interface; you get the loupe for focusing but that means that you do not see parts of the image during that time; with the rangefinder I can focus and still see the whole frame (and a little more); other than that to many buttons and functions for my taste on micro 4/3; I am not saying I dont like micro 4/3 I say I prefer the Leica M

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    Re: "Is the RF concept in itself a viable solution?"

    Quote Originally Posted by t_streng View Post
    Rangefinder (M9) vs micro 4/3
    As much as I like the 4/3 concept, the much smaller sensor is a problem. In order to achieve the same FOV on the sensor, you must of course use a much wider lens which introduces a much deeper DOF. Even if they introduced some sort of optical viewfinder, the DOF problem will remain.

    BTW, I am using a GF1 with 20mm/1.7 and Voigtlander 40mm viewfinder as my "little P&S".

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    Re: "Is the RF concept in itself a viable solution?"

    You couldn't pay me to buy into the 4/3 system. The 2x multiplier. The tiny sensor. Bah! No thanks.

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    Re: "Is the RF concept in itself a viable solution?"

    Here’s a synopsis of my reasoning behind returning to a RF.

    I stopped shooting landscape with a 35mm dSRL a couple years ago migrating to MF then fully to digital medium format. I made yet another migration just 14 months ago when I started shooting with a technical camera and sold all of my medium format dSLR gear (the majority of them here). What I’ve been shooting these past 14 months is full blown manual “old-school” (okay not quite old school as I’ve given up film). My lenses are all manual the camera body a Cambo WRS1000 is for a lack of a better term fully manual. To me these are old school; the only new technology is the Phase One P45+ digital back.

    I add all the above as a way to prove my point. Tech cameras have been around in one form or another many years longer than rangefinders and yet people still use them. Yes there are many more makers of tech cameras than rangefinders however I believe Leica will continue on. One of the major reasons I choose returning to a RF and Leica as my “complementary” camera is the similarities the two systems use; manual lens and manual focusing to name two.

    I feel that the only way we’ll see the death of rangefinders is if Leica so completely bungles up their manufacturing or distributing or quality control. Keep building a quality product and stand behind it then everything else will work out. Then again maybe I’m just too old school.

    As always this has just been my 2₵…

    Don


    Additional thoughts: I firmly believe switching to a manual image capture has made me a better landscape photographer as it’s taught me to slow down and plan what I want to achieve from my captures. Much the same way a RF does. Some people will not like the idea and want to use a shotgun approach to capturing images while others will always see the wisdom of slowing down.
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    Re: "Is the RF concept in itself a viable solution?"

    Quote Originally Posted by tom in mpls View Post
    As much as I like the 4/3 concept, the much smaller sensor is a problem. In order to achieve the same FOV on the sensor, you must of course use a much wider lens which introduces a much deeper DOF. Even if they introduced some sort of optical viewfinder, the DOF problem will remain..
    Ah . . . but sometimes it's a bonus - I use an Olympus EP1 together with a panasonic/leica 45 (90 equiv) for macro work and also some portrait. It has lovely bokeh, and the extra depth of field can be a positive bonus in lots of situations (macro being one of them).

    An M8 with a 50 'lux and a 28 'cron and and EP1 with a 45 panaleica makes a very small bag, with lots of flexibility.

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