Rangefinder


I admit it – I am smitten by the black models of the old metal bodied manual cameras. Why black? In the old days BP (before plastic) black was the color of the “professional” model cameras. Why? I’m not exactly sure, since there are so many contradictions here… perhaps the black was less conspicuous than the shiny chrome bodies, perhaps they reflected less light. (but then, some of the BIG lenses were made in a white finish, ostensibly to keep them from heating up too much in the sun.)

The fact remains that black became associated with the “pro” as opposed to the chrome “consumer” models. Now some cameras were made exclusively in black, pro or not, but that’s an exception. For some reason, fewer black models seem to have been made as well, and that adds to the mystique.

Consider this… the black was usually enamel paint on the brass body, which did not hold up as well as the chrome finish – consequently, the likelihood of the black enamel wearing off and showing the metal underneath was high, as seen from the ubiquitous ‘brassing’ that is common on black body cameras. A black camera with a mint (read as no brassing) finish usually fetches a much higher price than its chrome counterpart because of its relative rarity.

I am not sure what the production ratios of chrome to black models were in the manufacturing mix – there are probably more black-bodied cameras out there than we realize. Taking the OM line for example – the OM-1 to OM-4 are considered the professional bodies, there are far more chrome versions than black, which gives the lie to the notion that black = professional.

Now consider the consumer version of the OM bodies, viz, the OM-10 through OM-40/PC). Since they are for the regular Joe Amateur, they should be all be chrome, right? But no – it turns out black versions were made for these cameras as well. The OM-40/PC

was made ONLY in a black version with rubber armored bodies, so we won’t take them into consideration.

Looking at the all the OM-10 cameras that regularly show up on eBay, I was lulled into thinking that they were only made in chrome – then Bam! I came across a BLACK OM-10. Never saw one of those before. It was in great condition too – not a bit of brassing.

Sheer chance plays a big part as well. The first Olympus camera I purchased was a black OM-1.

It wasn’t because it was black or anything. I was looking at manual cameras in a pawn shop one day, it was just that the shop had 2 Olys, an OM-1 and an OM-PC and I picked the OM-1. At that time I did not not know anything about the Olympus OM System, it was cheap, and looked much more sturdy than the OM-PC with its rubber body. That’s all.

Most of the old manual lenses were black. The black lenses looked great on black cameras and looked good on the chrome versions, since the leatherette on the chrome was black as well, the black lenses blended right in. Lots of AF lenses were made in chrome/silver plastic bodies though. They look fine on the chrome bodies, but look hokey on the all black bodies. But that’s just my opinion.

All the lenses I have for my Minolta Dynax 800si (late 90’s manufacture, so naturally, big black plastic body) are black. I resisted the impulse to purchase the silver/chrome Maxxum AF lenses. Anyway, the only Maxxum lenses I purchased new were a nice Maxxum AF 50mm f/1.7 when I bought the camera. The other new lenses were a black Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5-6 and a black Phoenix 28-105mm f/2.8-3.5. The rest of my Minolta AF lenses were bought used off of eBay and Craigslist. Hey, I’m Joe Amateur, remember? I have to go Cheap.

Now for anyone on the trail of a black body camera, please watch out for touched up or repainted ones. That is a strict no-no. Besides, they look so fake and terrible. I’d rather have a heavily brassed black camera than one which had a mint looking refinished paint job.

I’ve heard that Nikon had a program years ago where professional photographers working for the leading pictorial publications of the 70’s could send in their battered camera bodies (hey, they were out in the Amazon, Siberia, Australia, Sahara, the Himalayas… what can you expect?) to Nikon, and they would refurbish them and send them back. Even repaint them. I suppose that if the factory did the painting, one could not complain.

However, I have never heard of any of the other manufacturers having such a program, so I’d consider a new paint job on an OM as fake as a $3. bill. That said, an individual collector may decide to have one of his many bodies refinished with glossy black enamel and some jazzy leatherette. More power to them. A little brassing and paint loss, even a small ding or two never hurt a camera. Besides, they ARE from 30 years ago. And if one plans on using them as real shooters, a little wear and tear is to be expected.

Everything changed as manufacturers realized that they could make the bodies much more cheaply in plastic. One small glitch though – back then, the coating technology was not so advanced as now, and “chrome finish” on plastic looked awful and wore off really quickly. It was far easier to make all the bodies in black plastic. That became the new norm, and has stayed with us ever since.

Things changed again in the late 90’s – it became possible to make “chrome look” plastics, and lots of the later consumer model SLRS changed to the chrome/satin finish. Some point and shoots were even made in a “champagne” colored plastic body. With the coming of the digital point and shoot cameras, hard-wearing chrome plastic came into its own. So did colored plastics. But that’s another story.

Anyway. The ‘black’ bodies extended to the point-and-shoot cameras and the rangefinders as well. I have a black Olympus Trip (I love this one)
and a black Olympus 35 EC.

Recently, I found a black Yashica MG-1, a black Ricoh 500G (this is one case where the silver one looks cooler, but that just me). Rounding off the Black cameras are a Honeywell-Pentax Repronar Camera body with bellows,

and a black Ricoh CR-5.

I also have a black Yashica Dental Eye

( an FX3 type body, I believe).

The black models usually cost an average of 3 times the price of a regular chrome (and in some cases, where the camera is in excellent condition, much more.). Rounding off my black collection is an excellent Olympus OM-2n.

Keep in mind that the coating is just skin deep. Black or Chrome, it’s still the same camera. Don’t go out of the way or way over your budget to get one, unless you are comfortable with the price. Above all, make sure it’s a shooter. What good is a camera that’s only fit for a display case?



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This work by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

text and images © 2008 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting olympuszuiko.

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First roll off my Olympus 35 RC. I finally got around to changing the seals on this old mechanical beauty – the Olympus 35 RC was one of the last mechanical Rangefinders that Olympus made. The RC has an Auto mode – it’s a shutter priority system. You set the shutter speed, and when the camera is on Auto, it will set the Aperture. I prefer using the Sunny 16 rule, and was glad that the RC offered a manual override that allows me to set the aperture as well.

I was very curious about this particular camera – it’s very similar to my Ricoh 500G, and I had been looking for an Olympus rangefinder for a long time. The camera is a joy to use.. the operation feels smooth and precise, and feels comfortable in the hand. The Olympus RC details are in the in the Olympus Cameras page along with a description.

All of these pictures were taken near my brother-in-law’s house in North Potomac, and in the grounds of the park adjoining the neighboring Dufief School. As can be seen, the lens on the Olympus RC is outstanding. I love the way it renders the Fall colors. These old cameras had single coated lenses, and that did something magical for the color and bokeh given the right lighting. This is something that I feel the new multi-coated glass/optical plastic lenses cannot replicate. But again, maybe it’s just my imagination.


Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC

Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC

Photographed with an Olympus 35 RC rangefinder camera, Fuji Super 200. Exposure was 1/250 at f/8 and f/11


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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I attended a conference in Baltimore in early October, and since I was there for almost a week, from early in the morning to late evening in the waterfront area, I took the opportunity to capture the inner harbor at different times in the day. The meetings were held the Waterfront Marriott which has an awesome view of the harbor from the 5th floor balcony.

The historic buildings all around the inner harbor area are well preserved, and the old shipping warehouses in the Harbor east area are being torn down one by one to make room for fancy new hotels and condominiums.. I suppose that in a few more years, the entire harbor area will be a vibrant commercial and tourist area. I always feel a twinge of regret when historic parts of a city are transformed so radically, but in this case, it will rejuvenate the city, and I am happy for Baltimore residents. Baltimore is a city of great charm, if you know where to look for it. It reminds me very much of Chicago, with all its neighborhoods.

Most of the neighborhoods are human scaled, as the buildings in residential areas are mostly one and two storys tall. Like Chicago, the large concrete, steel and glass towers are concentrated near the waterfront, with the rest of the city still zoned for normal sized buildings. I carried my trusty old Ricoh 500G manual rangefinder loaded with Fuji Superia 200 film.

I will be posting the Baltimore water front pictures in a series of posts in the next few days.


The Waterfront Marriott
Waterfront promenade seating
Waterfront Promenade
Waterfront Promenade

Scarlett Place
Pumphouse and Museum
Waterfront Hotels
Waterfront
Concert venue
Waterfront
Old Steam Roller

Photographed with a Ricoh 500G Rangefinder (fixed 40mm f/2.8 Rikenon) and Fuji Superia 200 film. I used the Sunny 16 rule – f/16 at 1/250.


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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I was on the road early, driving to Baltimore trying to beat the morning rush hour. It was unusually foggy on the drive in and I was hoping that I’d get to the harbor before the Sun was high enough to burn the mist off. I was lucky – I managed to get in by 8 am, parked at the Pier V Garage, and rushed out with my Ricoh 500 rangefinder. I was using the Sunny f/16 rule, and it’s a little tricky with the changing misty conditions and fog. Here are the results.


Inner Harbor – Ricoh 500G
Inner Harbor – Ricoh 500G
Inner Harbor – Ricoh 500G
Inner Harbor – Ricoh 500G
Inner Harbor – Ricoh 500G
Inner Harbor – Ricoh 500G
Inner Harbor – Ricoh 500G
Inner Harbor – Ricoh 500G
Inner Harbor – Ricoh 500G
Inner Harbor – Ricoh 500G
Inner Harbor – Ricoh 500G

The Inner Harbor looks great by sunset too… these were taken from the 5th floor balcony of the Marriot Waterfront hotel

Inner Harbor – Sunset
Inner Harbor – Sunset
Inner Harbor – Sunset

Photographed with a Ricoh 500G rangefinder (fixed Rikenon 40mm f/2.8) and Fuji Superia 200 film f/5.6 at 1/250 second.


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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A few weeks ago, I took Sunny and her cousin Mahathi for a hike along the Potomac Heritage Trail in Washington DC. The girls had a great time watching the ducks and playing in the little riverside meadows, collecting dandelions and wildflowers.

The Potomac Heritage trail is hiker friendly – not a shared route that has you constantly jumping out of the way to avoid getting run over by a bicyclist… there is lots of wildlife on the trail, and lots of wild flowers.

The area around the Key Bridge is epecially nice, if you ignore the traffic a few feet away beyond a low barrier wall, and concentrate instead on the gentle murmuring of the Potomac river. The river seems so content there.

Most people who hike the trail are very conscientuous about cleaning up after themselves, so the trail is clean and trash free.. can’t say the same for the river bank though. It’s littered with beer cans and plastic trash.. some from the river, I suppose.. but as far as I could see, it was left behind by fishermen who congregate in a few choice spots.

I also spotted lots of fishing lines tied to low branches. The lazy fisherman’s idea of sport I suppose. The abandoned lines can entangle wildlife, especially waterfowl. I was able to collect a large plastic grocery sack full of cans and trash in just a few minutes, with the girls helping.

Since this was a short hike, I didn’t carry any of my regular equipment – just the every ready standby Ricoh 500. It’s either that or one of the Olympus Trip 35 cameras when I have to travel light and shoot in a hurry.

Potomac Heritage Trail #1
Potomac Heritage Trail #2
Potomac Heritage Trail #3
Potomac Heritage Trail #4
Potomac Heritage Trail #5
Potomac Heritage Trail #6
Potomac Heritage Trail #7
Potomac Heritage Trail #8

Photographed with a Ricoh 500G rangefinder f/16 at 1/250 sec on Fuji HQ Super 200 film.


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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I drive by Krider’s Church Road every day on my way to work. I usually take Md Rte 97 North (Pennsylvania Avenue in Westminster, MD) after I cross downtown Westminster. Krider’s Church Road is a insignificant little road near the intersection of MD Rte 140 and Rte 97 North, just before the Carroll County Regional Airport . No one would notice the little road leading west if it weren’t for the tall steeple of Krider’s Church which is visible for miles around. I’ve photographed Krider’s Church several times, in color and Black & White, in different seasons, and with several cameras. The Church is surrounded by a parking lot and a lush green lawn, both of which don’t reflect much light upwards to illuminate the brickwork. The snow pictures were different though… the overcast sky and snow and the ground acted like a giant lightbox in the winter photograph. The pictures with the OM2n and Ricoh 500G were taken just a few minutes apart, but the clouds moved in quickly, and I lost the blue sky by the time I took the photograph below.

Krider’s Church – OM-2N

Photographed with an OM-2n, 50mm f/1.4, Fuji Xtra 200 film, 1/250 sec at f/16, Hoya 81A filter

Krider’s Church – BW – OM-1

Photographed with an OM-1, Zuiko 50mm f/1.8, Ilford XP2 400 film, 1/250 sec at f/11; Tiffen Red 25 filter

Krider’s Church – OM-1
Krider’s Church – OM-1

Photographed with an OM-1, Zuiko 50mm f/1.8, 1/250 sec at f/16; Fujicolor 200 ASA

Krider’s Church – Ricoh 500G
Krider’s Church – Ricoh 500G

Photographed with an Ricoh 500G Rangefinder, (Fixed 40mm f/2.8 lens) 1/250 sec at f/16; Fujicolor 200 ASA


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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More pictures from the Cherry Blossom festival – these are from my backup camera. I had taken the Ricoh 500G along. It’s small and unobtrusive, and good for close quarters street photography. I was using Fuji Super HQ 200 film in the Ricoh, and I used the Sunny f/16 rule for the exposure – basically 1/250 second at f/16 for the most part.


Cherry Blossoms – Ricoh 500G
Cherry Blossoms – Ricoh 500G
Cherry Blossoms – Ricoh 500G
Cherry Blossoms – Ricoh 500G
Cherry Blossoms – Ricoh 500G
Cherry Blossoms – Ricoh 500G

Cherry Blossoms – Ricoh 500G
Cherry Blossoms – Ricoh 500G
Washington Monument, street photo- Ricoh 500G

Photographed with a Ricoh 500G Rangefinder (40mm f/2.8 fixed lens) and Fuji Super HQ 200 film. 1/250 sec at f/16



text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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