Those of us who have been around for a long time (don't call us old) are often a little discouraged by the physical size of current gear. For sure, modern composites and plastics have resulted in extremely light, but very capable equipment, but the bulk is pretty daunting. Back in the day, you could easily slip your OM-1 or Pentax MX mounted to a fast normal lens into your a jacket pocket. Life was simple.
As such, I was feeling pretty smug about my wise choices in vintage gear. My mainstay 35mm SLR for the last several decades has been a Ricoh XR7 mounted to a Pentax-M 50/1.7 normal lens. The combination is light, fast, and very compact. May I also brag that I last replaced the batteries about two years ago and those cells are going strong? That smugness was given a severe jolt this last week when I took delivery of two FSU (Former Soviet Union) rangefinder cameras. Now you can say what you might about my Zorki 4K and Kiev 4AM. They are what they are and my expectations were not particularly high.
While the cameras are interesting in their own right, I was mostly astounded by the physical dimensions of the normal lenses that came with them. Both the LTM Jupiter-8 50/2 and the Contax-mount Helios-103 55/1.7 are absolutely tiny. I felt pretty stupid at that point in that while I have been doing photography since the late 60s, I have never handled or seen an interchangeable lens rangefinder up close. I have owned a couple of fixed lens Japanese rangefinders, but those with faster glass (f/2 and wider) are generally in the same size and weight range as a compact SLR. So here they are for you to compare:
|Pentax-M 50/1.7 on the left vs. KMZ Jupiter-8 50/2 on the right|
So, why should this size discrepancy be? The answer that I have read is that these rangefinder camera lenses are not burdened with the bulk and weight associated with the automatic aperture mechanism. More importantly, while the rangefinder optical designs are every bit as sophisticated, the SLR lenses also have to support the long registration distances required by the mirror box. The result is larger elements and more complex designs.
I will be sharing more on my adventures in FSU rangefinder land in future posts. For now, I will have to wait until both cameras get back from the shop. Yep, both had fatal issues that required some attention from the repairman.