What To Look For When Buying A Used Film Camera

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This is my short and somewhat informative guide to buying a used 35mm film camera. I am basing this article on used Yashica’s but you can use the information for any rangefinder.

How I Buy Used Rangefinders

1. Pick it up and put it to your eye. Play with it a little. Does everything seem right? If yes move onto step 2.
2. Play with the aperture ring. Depending on the type of lens and shutter you may actually be able to see the aperture ring get bigger and smaller. Most Yashica’s won’t let you do this but other rangefinders will.
3. With the rangefinder in your hand press gently against the film door. If the film door moves that probably means that the camera has light leaks which may be difficult to repair.
4. Open the film door and look inside. It should be relatively clean and there should be limited mold.
5. With the film door open put the camera in B and try to look through the lens. If the camera needs batteries that may not work but if it does, try to see if there is any mold.
6. Find where the battery compartment is and look to see if there is a battery. My basic assumption when picking up a camera is that the battery won’t work or is missing. If you in luck, the battery will be missing. Less lucky will mean there is an old battery corroded in place. I hate dealing with battery corrosion.

If you see a used rangefinder like a Yashica at a junk shop or salvation army, the first thing you want to do is pick it up and look through the viewfinder. Play with the focusing and makes sure it looks like everything is working somewhat well. If your instincts say something is wrong it probably is so put the camera down and move on. The next step is to play with the aperture ring. In some rangefinders you can actually look down the lens and see the aperture ring getting larger or smaller. Make sure they move and seem like they are working. With the rangefinder in your hand, press your thumb up against the film door and notice if it moves. If there is a little bit of give than there is probably an issue with the light seals on the back.

So Now What?

You bought your amazing rangefinder and now you want to play with it.

Battery Adapters

There is a pretty good chance that the original battery used in your rangefinder is not made anymore. Many original rangefinder batteries used mercury and you will need to find a substitute. Most new batteries will be a slightly different voltage so this will make it hard to expose slide film correctly. I’ve seen and made a lot of different devices for adapting a battery of a different size to a camera. The easiest is tin foil and I have that in my Polaroid Land Camera. I’ve also seen microphone springs and Yashica Guy’s excellent battery adapter.

Old Rangefinder Film

You will probably not want to use slide film an old rangefinder that has a new battery in it but you find plenty of negative films that will work well. Many old rangefinders really shine when you put a role of non-t grain film in them like Kodak TriX or Ilford HP5+. Film is becoming harder and harder to fine but there are still some great emulsions out there like Kodak Ektar and Fuji Reala.

Ok I’m Lazy and I Want To Buy A Rangefinder

If you want to buy a rangefinder ebay has tons of them for sale.
You can buy a new rangefinder like a Leica or Voigtlander.

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