How to Focus a Rangefinder Camera

Over the last few decades, single lens resolution (SLR) cameras have become the most popular on the market. It’s easy to see why, as they require little in the way of lens adjustment. You just point your camera at an object, check the viewfinder, and snap away.

But what about those of you who want to go the more traditional route? Up until the 1950s, rangefinder cameras were all the rage. Though nowhere near as popular today, some manufacturers still make them.

Rangefinders differ from SLR cameras in several ways, so let’s examine what a rangefinder is, before looking into how to focus a rangefinder camera.

Rangefinder Camera

What is a Rangefinder Camera?

Rangefinders differ from modern SLR camera because they don’t have present single images in their viewfinders. Instead, they show you a dual image, which you need to adjust until the shot is in focus.

Many older rangefinder cameras bear some similarities to the old disposal cameras you may have used before cellphones came on stream. You look through a viewfinder on the top-right hand side of the camera, while using a small dial on the left to line up the two images you see.

You should also find that your rangefinder camera has a third window in the center. You don’t need to worry about how to focus a rangefinder camera with regard to this window. Its purpose is to collect light to make the lines you see in your viewfinder clearer. Any rangefinder camera lacking this window makes taking accurate pictures much harder.

How do You Focus a Rangefinder Camera?

You’ll see some clues on how to focus a rangefinder camera above, but let’s go into some more detail. It all comes down to the two images you see in the viewfinder. At first, these images don’t align, so you’ll see a slightly garbled version of the photo you want to take.

Using your camera’s dials, you need to adjust these images until all of the frame lines meet up, and the image is in the center of the viewfinder. This can take quite a lot of time, so patience is key.

Some modern rangefinder cameras come with large viewing screens, much like those you’d see on a digital camera. These make it much easier to align your frame lines, so you’re less likely to find yourself screaming about how to focus a rangefinder camera.

The Benefits of Rangefinder Cameras

Now you know how to focus a rangefinder camera, let’s look at some of the perks of using them.

Chief among the rangefinder camera pros is the ability to take much better pictures. You should find blur and vibration become less of a problem, as rangefinder cameras have far fewer internal parts than SLR cameras.

This lack of prisms and focus screens also makes rangefinder cameras lighter than their counterparts. Again, you’ll feel the benefits of this whenever you take a handheld picture.

Finally, have you ever noticed how an SLR camera blacks out at the moment you take a photograph? That’s due to the flipping reflex mirrors inside. An SLR camera needs to rotate these mirrors to take a picture, resulting in the momentary darkness. Rangefinder cameras don’t need these mirrors, so you experience no blackouts when taking your pictures.

You’ll see some clues on how to focus a rangefinder camera above, but let’s go into some more detail. It all comes down to the two images you see in the viewfinder. At first, these images don’t align, so you’ll see a slightly garbled version of the photo you want to take.

Using your camera’s dials, you need to adjust these images until all of the frame lines meet up, and the image is in the center of the viewfinder. This can take quite a lot of time, so patience is key.

Some modern rangefinder cameras come with large viewing screens, much like those you’d see on a digital camera. These make it much easier to align your frame lines, so you’re less likely to find yourself screaming about how to focus a rangefinder camera.

The Benefits of Rangefinder Cameras

Now you know how to focus a rangefinder camera, let’s look at some of the perks of using them.

Chief among the rangefinder camera pros is the ability to take much better pictures. You should find blur and vibration become less of a problem, as rangefinder cameras have far fewer internal parts than SLR cameras.

This lack of prisms and focus screens also makes rangefinder cameras lighter than their counterparts. Again, you’ll feel the benefits of this whenever you take a handheld picture.

Finally, have you ever noticed how an SLR camera blacks out at the moment you take a photograph? That’s due to the flipping reflex mirrors inside. An SLR camera needs to rotate these mirrors to take a picture, resulting in the momentary darkness. Rangefinder cameras don’t need these mirrors, so you experience no blackouts when taking your pictures.

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