Help me take pictures with Dad's 1967 rangefinder camera
February 22, 2012 9:18 AM   Subscribe

I've inherited my father's 1967 rangefinder camera. The metering doesn't work anymore. Help me take pictures with it again.

It's an Olympus 35 LC, with a beautiful f/1.7 lens (yay!). The metering doesn't work anymore as the battery died and, I've read, no replacements are sold. I've read about alternatives or modifications but due to my location (Peru) and priorities those are not options right now.

Reading a bit, there's this idea of using my current digital camera as metering aid. That is, let it calculate the exposure/aperture and use that on the rangefinder.

My digital camera is a Canon Powershot S5 IS. Lens is equivalent to 36-432 mm and it's f/2.7-3.5. Shutter speed range is 15 seconds to 1/3,200.

The Olympus rangefinder is a fixed 42mm f/1.7. Shutter speed range is 1 second to 1/500. It also has bulb mode.

I guess I won't have problems metering in the range of the digital camera, but what if I want to stop to f/1.7? Can calculate the correct shutter speed taking the digital camera's reading as a starting point?
posted by jgwong to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: .Sunny f16 rule
posted by spicynuts at 9:25 AM on February 22, 2012

Best answer: also, if you shoot enough thinking about the conditions you can eventually look at something and sorta guess. Use your digital to practice this, write some notes out for yourself, and then shoot a roll of film with careful notes on the setting for each frame and shoot manual exposures to match. Base your settings on shots with the digital. I do this with a '77 Konica 35 with a wildly inaccurate meter.
posted by th3ph17 at 9:28 AM on February 22, 2012

Why not just get a handheld meter? Its another thing to pack and hold onto, but they're pretty compact and I've always thought very cool looking anyway.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 9:30 AM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

and also, my '77 belonged to father, and it is the thing i'd grab if there was a fire. For things like that it doesn't matter if your exposures are perfect.
posted by th3ph17 at 9:31 AM on February 22, 2012

Seconding the Sunny 16 rule.

Also, you could purchase a hand-held meter like this one, or go to a used camera shop and look for a manual light meter there. They're far cheaper, but obviously, don't meter as well.

If you're considering learning the ins and outs of creative multi-flash photography, the light meter will be incredibly useful there, so its a bit of an investment.
posted by teriyaki_tornado at 9:31 AM on February 22, 2012

Best answer: I guess I won't have problems metering in the range of the digital camera, but what if I want to stop to f/1.7? Can calculate the correct shutter speed taking the digital camera's reading as a starting point?

Yes. Maybe you know this, but shutter speed and aperture are linked as both control how much light is permitted into the camera. Opening up the lens by one stop lets twice as much light in, so the shutter should be open for half as long (that is the shutter speed should be twice as fast). If your digital gives you a shutter speed for, say f/2.8, you can "convert" that to the appropriate speed for f/1.7 by making the shutter speed three times as fast, if my math is right. f/1.7 is (I think) a stop and a half wider than f/2.8 so you need the shutter to be three times as fast, but someone please correct my math if I'm wrong.
posted by The Bellman at 9:46 AM on February 22, 2012

There is a workable replacement battery available, here is one ebay listing (not a recommendation of this seller, just an example with a picture of the packaging):

With the Sunny 16 rule, with color negative film (or black and white negative), whenever in doubt, give a bit more exposure not less. Open the aperture a half stop or use one step slower shutter speed. But with some use and experience the rule will become mentally automatic for you.

Great camera, have fun!
posted by caclwmr4 at 9:47 AM on February 22, 2012

Best answer: You can use Sunny 16, you can cheat and grab an incident meter (chromes for me and there's not much room for mistake there) or you can use the ultimate exposure computer.

(Seriously, read that last link.)
posted by Brian Puccio at 9:52 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: So fast, I love Metafilter.

Never heard of the Sunny f16 rule, thank you spicynuts. I've also found this (pretty long) article, which is interesting so far.

th3ph17: Great idea about practicing with the digital camera. Learning and taking notes is always fun to me.

No handheld meters as I don't plan to use this camera a lot but don't want it to collect dust either. It's more about honoring Dad with his very own camera.

The Bellman: I didn't know that, hah. Never late to learn, thank you.

caclwmr4: No budget for buying a replacement right now, but thank you!
posted by jgwong at 9:55 AM on February 22, 2012

There are light meter apps for iOS and Android.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:26 AM on February 22, 2012

Response by poster: Sticherbeast: Yep, unfortunately none works on my old iPhone 3G with iOS 3.
posted by jgwong at 1:59 PM on February 22, 2012

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