I’m SLR guy. I started to shoot film with one. They formed my habits of seeing and I appreciate the honest approach of the single lens reflex system with how it allows me to see directly through the lens and shows the scene as close to what the print will look like as is possible.
But still, the dark side of rangefinders tempted me for a long time. What do I know, I’m just weak human… no Jedi. I gave in. My first attempt shooting one was not successful. The problem was me, not the camera. I hunted down Voigtlander Bessa R3A camera and paired it with Lomography Jupiter 3+ lens. While this set was beautiful and capable of giving perfect results, it frustrated me because of an inability to see 50mm frame lines in viewfinder. I wear prescription glasses, and even I did my homework investigating if the R3A’s finder is suitable for glass wearers. It appears that we four-eyes are not made the same. I had to constantly push the camera to my face to perfectly calibrate my eye to the dead centre of the finder and still I had to roll my eye to see the frame lines. So, I parted with this camera and lens…
But then, about a year ago, the same spot in my mind began to itch. This time I started to investigate from the exact problematic point I stumbled upon last time. I had a minimal set of requirements I needed the kit to meet:
– Comfortably seen 50mm frame lines / high eyepoint finder
– Easy to see rangefinder patch
– In-built TTL metering
– Reasonable price
This list led me to one option quite quickly – the quirky and not very widely known, but nonetheless carrying a bit of legend status camera – Yasuhara T981.
This won’t be a review of this camera. I don’t think that world needs more reviews of it. If you want to dig deeper I’d recommend this review talking both about history of camera and the actual usage experience.
My 5 cents is as follows:
– The finder is good and bright and works for me
– The camera is simple and straightforward it gets out of the way and let concentrate on shooting.
– I like the design and old school build quality
OK, now I have a rangefinder camera. But I needed 50mm lens for it. Another list of personal requirements:
– Sonnar type LTM lens
– Clickable aperture ring
Now this is funny, even for me, but I’ll share it… you see, I had a 50mm f/2 lens depth of field scale tattoo on my wrist. So I thought that it’s good idea that my next 50mm lens would match it. Strong sane and wise argument, isn’t it…? (you can see my tattoo here)
I actually had a former acquaintance with Nikkor 5cm H.C. f/2 lens. The experience was good, so I decided to go for it again. One thing that I failed to take into account was its close focus ability. You see – Yasuhara RF is capable of a minimum focusing of 70cm, and this Nikkor can focus even closer to 50cm. But, the problem is that the lens is not rangefinder coupled to focus closer than 1 meter. So, basically, I got a 1 m minimal focus lens. But in practice this isn’t any trouble for me.
So, I got the set, I went through testing and “honeymoon” phases with it, and now I can state that its very enjoyable camera and lens to shoot. This set became my “mood” set – I take it when I’m in mood to have puristic shooting experience: simple WF, one lens, only manual controls.
After some time, I did notice that I tend to put only one film in Yasuhara T981 – a classic, Kodak Tri-X400. This film kind of belongs in this camera and lens combo. Both from idealistic point “classic goes good with classic” and both from more practical viewpoint – this Nikkor lens does its magic on BW pictures.
I can tell that this set could do perfectly fine and quite sharp color and black and white pictures, but I leave this kind of images to my other cameras. With this set I like to take only abstract impressions of fleeting moments where feeling is more important than tangible image characteristics. It’s my impressionists kit.