A Photographic Journey

Rangefinder vs digital SLR

Rangefinder versus DSLR is a debate that has been raging for as long as the first film SLR cameras came out and there is no doubt that the battle fought over the last twenty years have shown that the DSLR has come out top dog. Lucky for me I don’t really have to make the choice, I would much rather have both as they both serve a different niche in my camera arsenal. But if I had to go with one and only one camera, it would undoubtedly be the DSLR. Their versatility is just unrivaled at the moment. (I think the mirror-less digital camera will probably outclass the DSLR in the future, but only time will tell there.) With a DSLR I can use it for every situation I can imagine and I think it would be easier to list the things that the rangefinder is lacking.

The rangefinder isn’t good at macro photography, fast subjects such as children, pets, birds., super-telephotography such as wildlife & birds, digital rangefinders are less reliable than their DSLR counterparts and not weatherproof. The latest DSLR sensors are simply heads and shoulders ahead of the Leica M9, M8 or the Epson R-D1, especially if you factor in the cost of a digital rangefinder. No autofocus can be a big disadvantage in many situations. The 100% accurate viewfinder of the professional DSLR and being able to see filter affects directly is also a boon for any photographer. The battery life, metering and high ISO performance of the latest crops of DSLR is nothing short of amazing.

So why bother with a rangefinder at all?

For me there are several reasons, I love the vast quantities of quality and nostalgic lens options available for the rangefinder, especially for the Leica M and LTM mounts, a similar thing can also be said about Nikon rangefinder cameras. These lenses produce a dazzling array of signatures and you can spend a whole life in exploration.  Rangefinders are also very compact compared to professional or semi-professional DSLR, which means they are much easier to carry around. A camera that is left at home isn’t going to take any good photos. For some there is also a level of prestige and pride in using a Leica camera and even though this isn’t a rational reason, it doesn’t make it any less valid in this materialistic and capitalistic world. The other advantages of the rangefinder are the quiet shutters of the older film Leica cameras and the bright and always visible viewfinders that isn’t blocked by a flipping mirror and allows for peripheral vision. The lightness and ergonomics and low vibration of the rangefinder can often mean less camera shake, so a photo can still be taken at lower ISO.

So each to their own and in my camera life I can’t see myself being handicapped with having to make the choice!

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