I've heard on and on about the different "gestalt" of rangefinder photography: the non-retrofocal lenses, the finder where everything is in focus.. Ken Rockwell has ditched his Canon 5D and now proclaims the Leica M9 to be the best full-frame digital camera in the world, bar none.
Now if I had $9000 burning a hole in my pocket, an M9 might be vaguely of interest. I got to touch (!) and take a few shots with an M8.2 but I did not get what all the fuss was about.
A few days ago I was able to score a sweet deal on the ClubSnap buy and sell forums: a Kiev-4A Soviet rangefinder (the seller described it as a Kiev-IIA but I don't really care).
It cost all of S$ 50, not including the MRT ride to Novena station, and came with the Jupiter-8, a Russian copy of the 50mm f/2 Sonnar. I've had my share of shoddy Communist workmanship (an old Praktica MTL-5) but for S$ 50 I could hardly complain.
Slow shutter speeds are way off, seller's description notwithstanding: I calculate about two stops too slow. Which is not a huge deal, I'm not going to be hand-holding this at 1/10 or 1/25 anyway. Rangefinder seemed properly calibrated, and the minimal fungus on the lens was far less than on lenses I've successfully rehabilitated from the 'bay.
The seller kindly included a roll of Fuji film, so after picking the antique up I walked around near the Esplanade and took some pictures. Most of them were way off. The Kiev-4A has no meter, and with ISO 200 film you should be using f/16 and 1/200, but I foolishly combined the "sunny f/11 variation" and used 1/125 second since there is no 1/200 speed. Still, C-41 is quite forgiving so all my shots turned out usable.
Usable, but appallingly pedestrian:
I see no rangefinder magic, or Zeiss magic. Then again I have a bunch of Zeiss SLR lenses and see no magic. Still, having a completely meter-less, antique camera has proved amusing.
I should get my Fujica ST-605N (another meter-less relic) and Pentax P3 next time I go back to Manila.. for the complete retro experience.