A kind of camera construction
that gives the photographer
a little window
near the lens
to look through for composing the image
. The lens system itself is very simple and straightforward, lens - shutter - film. Because this design doesn't try to put your eye between lens and the film (like a Single Lens Reflex) lots of engineering
A rangefinder just works.
So: they're light, quiet, fast and easy to use. There are very few moving parts in the camera so very few things can go wrong them. They make excellent cameras for anyone from the youngest novice to a professional photographer who specializes in fashion photography. But there's gotta be something wrong with them, right? Well, yes. You're not really looking at what the camera is looking at. Hell, you're not even looking through a lens. On especially cheap cameras (like those little disposable one-roll dealies) this can sometimes be disasterous. The rangefinder can be out of whack, discolored or just looking at the world in a different light from the lens. This last part is called parallax. It's a problem. As one would guess, the better (and more expensive) the Rangerfinder Camera, the better it solves the problems you're faced with. And here, is the other big issue people have with Rangerfinders... while there is a large range of Single Lens Reflex cameras spanning all sorts of price options, Rangerfinders tend to come in three prices ranges: ultra cheap/disposable($5), very affordable($100), and damn expensive($2000+). Did you see that jump? There is very little middle ground in price and very little middle ground in quality I'm afraid. But I promise you, once you use a Leica or a Mamiya 7 it's unlikely you'll be willing to go back to that thing you bought in KMart.