Why haven't DSLR cameras completely replaced rangefinder cameras?

Most film fans use SLR cameras. The four great cameras in the past are also SLR cameras. Since the 1960s, SLR cameras have almost become synonymous with professionalism, and both 135 and 120 are called mainstream cameras for professional users. Both Nikon and Canon started out by making rangefinder cameras, and eventually gave up rangefinders. Zeiss was also a rangefinder in ZEISS IKON before the war. Both the folding machine and the Contax rangefinder were classics. After the war, they also turned to SLRs. Although Leica did not give up the rangefinder, it still insisted on SLR. Don’t forget, Leica has always had the R series in the film era, and the S series in the digital era.

However, SLR cameras have never completely sent rangefinder cameras to museums. On the contrary, when entering the post-digital era, SLRs have been eliminated by mirrorless cameras, while Leica M11 has survived, and even shouted that they are mirrorless cameras.

The rangefinder has never really withdrawn from the stage of history. Indeed, in the 1970s and 1980s, the professional interchangeable lens rangefinder system gradually disintegrated and was replaced by the SLR system. The Contax system and the L39 system have withdrawn from that stage of history. But single, non-interchangeable-lens rangefinder cameras are still common.

For example, PETRI COLOR35 in 1968, Olympus 35SF in 1969, Yashica 35GT in the same year, Konica 35FD in 1973, Canon DETALUX in 1977...etc.

Compared with the 35 fields of portable machines, the 120 fields are dominated by reflex cameras. Hasselblad's SLR, Rollei's SLR series, and classic dual-lens reflex cameras are famous all over the world. For example, Japanese manufacturers, BRONICA focuses on SLR cameras, and MAMIYA's flagship products are 645 and 67 two types of SLR, PENTAX launched the 67T SLR, and Fuji has been out of rangefinder. Even the P6 produced in East Germany is an SLR.

The reason for the existence of the 135 Domain Rangefinder is fairly simple: portability.

SLR cameras can also be made very small, but the lens of SLR cameras is difficult to be small, and the volume is much larger than that of rangefinder lenses at the same aperture and focal length. Although the shape of the pocket-type small rangefinder is also irregular, the overall volume is still smaller than that of an SLR, and it is more convenient to operate.

In contrast, since 120 is mainly used for commercial photography and professional photography, portability is often not the content of its consideration. Even if it is outside shooting, there are assistants and cars. It is impossible to say that fashion blockbusters need photography at that time. The teacher himself carried a carload of things and ran all over the street. On the other hand, 120 cameras are often bulky and often do not meet the needs of journalists and humanistic photographers, except for dual-lens cameras~

Not everyone needs a DSLR because most people don't have such high requirements for photography. Just as most people don't use cameras at all, but use mobile phones, in those days, there were a lot of people who used plastic lenses to shoot with disposable cameras.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the system of rangefinder cameras reappeared, whether it was 135 or 120.

Compared with the Leica M and L39, which have various types of large systems with the same focal length and multiple apertures, this round of rangefinders basically use small systems, that is, a limited number of lenses are sold, and there is no grade allocation of lens apertures. This is true whether it is Fuji's TX series, CONTAX's G series, or the three 120 rangefinder series. Konica's RF camera and COSINA Voigtlander's BESSA camera were originally closed systems. Although they both used Leica M-mount, they only launched extremely limited lenses at the beginning, and COSINA Voigtlander was released later.

The reason why rangefinders came together in the 1990s is quite complicated, and the driving force that cannot be ignored is the result of camera automation. Most of this batch of rangefinder cameras are automatic cameras. There are fully automatic cameras like CONTAX G and Fuji GA series, and semi-automatic cameras like TX.

The fully automatic operation first appeared on the Fuji GA camera, and its portability makes it more widely used in fashion photography and photojournalism.

After 20 years of commercial photography practice, it turns out that commercial photography still requires a lot of handheld operations, and 120 SLRs are really difficult to complete this task. Professional 120 rangefinder can indeed enable photographers to shoot many angles and pictures that are difficult to shoot with an SLR.

Moreover, the full automation of the rangefinder is easier than that of SLR, and the emergence of a series of portable card machines has enhanced the status of the rangefinder.

The retro fever in Japan is also a key point that cannot be ignored. In the 1990s, the development of automatic cameras, especially fully automatic SLRs, was quite rapid, but Japan was hanging on the wind of retro portable.

The retro trend in Japan started with the hype of old German lenses. The supreme legends you see now, the legend of eight jades, and the myth of APO-LANTHAR are all products of that era. The concept of the rangefinder camera is even hotter.

In order to comply with this wave, CONTAX launched the G series rangefinder. The G series itself does not have many selling points. Automation is very primitive. Its selling point is to revive the long-disappeared HOLOGON and BIOGON. The advertisement is also like this. , and this kind of symmetrical ultra-wide-angle lens cannot be found on SLR cameras. Just look at how many M holes have been changed in the lens of the CONTAX system, and you will know how accurate Kyocera's pain point is.

Konica simply built an M-mount camera, you can plug in whatever you want. Fuji TX is playing with dislocation and playing with wide format. In our opinion, this is a trick that Fuji has tossed out to sell more films. Why did Fuji launch a 6X9 rangefinder camera? Logically speaking, 6X9 can be used on landline phones, but such a sloppy solution with a rangefinder? In fact, it's not difficult to understand. Isn't the super-automatic GA series and the huge plastic series all for the film?

COSINA Voigtlander once produced an M42 SLR called BESSAFLEX. This camera fully proves that the SLR and the rangefinder are actually different viewfinder systems. The other functions of the camera are the same. Parts are different, other shutters, operations, filming, and rewinding are the same, and the operations on the lens are the same. In short, a rangefinder can be very different from a DSLR, or it can be mostly the same.

In terms of the basic functions of camera framing, rangefinder cameras are of course inferior to SLR cameras, especially in terms of manual focus. SLR cameras also have a more accurate advantage (provided that your eyes are good enough), while the focus area of ​​rangefinder cameras is too large. limited. And in terms of the versatility of the lens, it is difficult for the rangefinder to use a lens with a focal length above 135mm, which is fatal in news photography. Moreover, it is difficult to use a zoom head for rangefinder cameras, although there are, the use feeling cannot be compared with that of SLR. Anyone who is really engaged in professional photography knows that high-quality zoom lenses are very easy to use and can save a lot of trouble.

Due to the reflector, the SLR camera artificially increases the distance from the rear of the lens to the focal plane, which makes it difficult to implement some wide-angle lens designs and some targeted aspheric lens designs. In the film era, it was mainly impossible to use a symmetrical wide-angle, because the rear group of such lenses was generally relatively large, and the rear group was close to the focal plane. In fact, the SLR can also produce a wide angle with a large angle, but the distortion control is not as good as this type of rangefinder lens.

But in the past, it was considered trivial to not be able to use this type of lens. Lenses with an angle greater than 28mm (135 standards) were rarely used. Just imagine, do you use 24, 21, or even 18, 15 in our daily photography? This kind of rangefinder head can achieve very small deformation, but because the angle is too large, the perspective deformation will also become very severe, which is a problem that the lens itself cannot handle.

In fact, without this distance, lens development can indeed enter a new era, just like the current micro-single lens with excellent performance. In the past, however, only the Leica M lenses in the 90s took full advantage of this feature.

For a long time, people who play photography have felt that rangefinder cameras are more stylish than DSLR cameras, rangefinder cameras are cameras, and DSLR cameras are more like tools. So when you look at Elizabeth II, all of them are Leica rangefinders, Rollei dual-reverses, Rollei 35, and she has never seen the queen use a Japanese camera. But from another angle, the queen really has a Nikon F3 in her hand, and it's just like taking a photo of her reporter below, how funny.

Many people think that in terms of the style and shape of the camera, it is impossible for an SLR to replace a rangefinder with a regular and atmospheric shape. In fact, many SLRs are also very atmospheric, such as the pointed Nikon F2, Pentax LX, and so on.

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