Rangefinder Accuracy & Practicality on Horseman's/Linhoff's

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I've used a Horseman VH 6cm x 9cm field camera for a couple of years and love it. I'm planning several trips to third world countries in the next few years and would prefer a camera that's quicker to set up and take down for street scenes and/or just to feel less exposed and vulnerable than I sometimes feel with my VH. After thinking about investing in a Mamiya 7, I came around to thinking about getting a VHR (with the built in rangefinder), which is less expensive and would also still allow me to use the ground glass and tilts. Does anyone with a VHR or a Linhoff with the built in rangefinder use the rangefinder a lot? Have you traveled with this camera abroad? What has been your experience about the accuracy of your camera's rangefinder? Is there a particular focal length range in which it's more accurate? At what f stops do you typically shoot with the rangefinder (f11? f16? f22?) How quick and easy is it to use a field camera in the rangefinder mode? Thanks in advance for your help. Howard

-- Howard Slavitt (info@naturelandscape.com), October 03, 2000


I shoot with a Linhof Tech III and love it. The thing you have to get are cams that are matched to the lens. Most of the time when I do use the range finder, it is for aerials and is just used for positioning. I use a 150mm or 180mm and have the camera preset with the locks in place at f16. Other than that, it is on a tripod using the ground glass. I would consider your thoughts on the M7 more!

-- Scott Walton (scotlynn@shore.net), October 03, 2000.

In years past I have used Linhof Technicas rangefinders with matched/cammed lenses. With these I have shot wide open to a few stops down doing sports & candid images as well as some wedding work, all in 4x5. I found the images sharp and satisfactory once I got the hang of using the framing wire at a 'correct' distance for composition. With the Schneider prime lenses I used I had sharp images at all apertures from wide open to stopped down and on a tripod.

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), October 03, 2000.

A properly adjusted range finder is extremely accurate at the aperatures you would normally use. A rangefinder is especially good at at closer distances and with wide angle lenses providing you have the proper cam and the bed stops are set correctly. It is also extremely fast. Once you get used to the wire frame or optical viewfinder, framing can be quite accurate, but leave a little room for cropping. The disadvantage is that is it not easy to change lenses, as you also have to change the cam. Some of the later graphics, such as the Super Graphic, had drop-in cams which speeded up the process. You will need additional bed stops for each lens if you intend to change lenses and cams easily. I would suggest you set up the rangefinder for the lens you will use most often, and use groundglass focusing for the other lenses. Incidentally, you can focus handheld using the groundglass quickly with a bit of practice.

Regards, Doug.

-- Doug Paramore (dougmary@alanet.com), October 03, 2000.

Howard, I just signed on to ask the very same question. Thanks for the head start. I'm also looking at the Horseman and Linhof models because of the frustration I'm having with my Century Graphic.

I can tell you this though. In terms of a reliable, dead on accurate medium format rangefinder camera (with a wonderfully accurate meter) and one of the finest lenses I've ever used-- The Plaubel Makina 67 with 80 2.8 Nikkor. This lens is magic and the camera folds to the size of a paperback (albeit a heavy paperback). It can be a little delicate so that you can't let everybody play with it. But there's always room to take it along after all the other cameras are packed. Especially if the 120 film is already coming along. I too like to have a ground glass option with my medium and large format shooting, the Plaubel is a fantastic 'ersatz' camera when needed.

Let's hope we get more positive feedback on the Horseman/Linhof rangefinder question.

-- Dennis Lee (CaptDennisLee@earthlink.net), October 03, 2000.

Howard- I have the VHR horseman and checked the rangefinder against the ground glass focus and found it too be extremely accurate. I still prefer to focus on the glass it is nice to have the option. I heard of a fellow who handheld his VHR horseman to take wedding photos and it worked well. I have used the Fuji 6x9 rangefinders and they are a nice camera, very easy to handle. However, I vote for the VHR.

-- Ray Fenio (rfenio@indiana.edu), October 05, 2000.

I have a Technika IV configured in hand-held mode. I have also travelled extensively in several Asian countries. For a preview see http://www.ai.sri.com/~luong/travel/vietnam/, and although this is off-topic, let me know what you think :-). I wouldn't rely exclusively on the Linhof on this kind of trip if I was after any kind of candid pictures. The camera would be OK for posed or preset pictures on a tripod, for which a GG camera would also be usable, but I'd also want another faster and hand-holdable camera. (1) The 2x3 Tech, although more compact, is not that much lighter than the 4x5. (2) I find my Linhof too heavy and cumbersome to hand-hold comfortably, practical shutter speeds are quite slow for handholding (3) Beeing all-manual, operation is quite slow for me. Rangefinder and viewfinder are quite far apart.

-- Q.-Tuan Luong (luong@ai.sri.com), October 06, 2000.

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