I've simplified my 35mm rangefinder kit. It's down to two classic bottom loaders. My Zorki Standard is a Zorki 1 minus the rangefinder. My grandfather bought the Leica IIIc in 1949.
Normal and long focus
I started out with a rangefinder and prefer them for many types of shooting. The are compact, making them easier to slip into a coat pocket, as well as easy to focus in low light, actually all light. They are not good for photographing close up or with long lenses. But there are other options for that.
As a cheap camera goes, this is sort of cheating, although you can get a nice one for under $250 if you are patient. This Leica IIIc (1949) was given to me by my grandfather years ago but needed new shutter curtains, which I couldn't afford. A couple of years ago, while waiting for the money to fix the Leica to appear, I found a little former Soviet Union made FED 2, which was derived from on an ancestor of my Leica — the Leica II. At one time I thought I would have two or three FED 2 bodies but then found out that I could get my Leica rebuilt in Russia for relatively little — $60 at Oleg's. So I did and it's a sweet, sweet shooter. The 50/2 Summitar isn't actually ready for prime time. It needs a CLA and some haze removal. I had been using a lovely 50/2 Jupiter 8 from the former Soviet Union but I wanted an earlier tabbed version. Unfortunately, I screwed up a tabbed one and then I got another but the body was great but the glass was bad and then I tried to combine the two. It was getting to be too much effort so the plan is to get the Summitar cleaned as soon as I can. I really do like the J8 but the Summitar does have it's fans.
Until then I'm using a collapsible Industar-50. When collapsed it will fit on an inside coat pocket. I paid $17 for this lens. It's a copy of the classic Leitz Elmar 50/3.5. The consensus is that the I-50 compares very favorably the the ELmar. I find tabbed lenses easier to focus. You can tell where it is focused just by feel for those quick street shooting situations. I've got it labeled for use on the Zorki Standard. It's a little slow at f3.5 but it's sharp and contrasty.
The III series Leicas are a joy to use. Like taking pictures with jewlery. Check out what Stephen Gandy has to say. There are many fine lenses for the Leica Thread Mount (LTM).
I've not used this 85/2 Jupiter 9 very much yet. It's a Russian copy of a pre-war Zeiss Sonnar. I traded the J9 for $14 worth of film. It needs relubing. Otherwise it's a sweet lens.
Normal and wide angle
There never was a Zorki Standard. I made my own. The original Leica I, and later Leica Standards, had no rangefinder. I had been seeing pictures of them and was really attracted to their simplicitiy. Two of my favorite photographers used these early Leicas: Ben Shahn and Henri Cartier-Bresson. Estimating distances isn't that hard if you are stopped down at all, even with a 50mm lens. A rangefinder was added to the Leica Iin 1932 to make the Leica II. It was the Leica II that the Russians copied to make the FED 1 and Zorki 1. It had a rangefinder that can be removed, unlike the IIIc. So, I thought, why not take a Zorki 1 and remove the rangefinder to make a Zorki Standard. Hence the Leica Standard clone project. Oleg had a nice Zorki 1for $56 but I thought I might get a better price if he had one with a good shutter and a bad rangefinder. He did and I got it for $25. It was a Zorki 1d with a Zorki 1b body shell.
While the Zorki Standard will be primarily for wide angle lenses, I want to use the I-50 on it. I have a turret finder but that is too large and it's a little squinty for my eyes so I made the Gordodot wireframe. It's a copy of the Ikodot. It works quite well and for all lenses. Check out the Ikodot site for how it works. (If you have the money it's a lot easier to buy one than to make one!) I put little markers on the lenses so I could quickly set the distance after estimating. I also have an Akameter hand held rangefinder if I need to get more precise. The wireframe does add a little visual bulk to a discrete camera. However, the makers of the Ikodot claim that, with experience, you can eliminate the wireframe. I tend to believe that. The trick is aiming the camera so that it is not pointed too high or too low. The beads on the Ikodot/Gordodot aid in aiming. Just line them up. The empty accessory shoe also works well for aiming. I will have to give some viewfinderless shooting a chance. I still want a couple of the new Voigtlander brightline viewfinders. I made the mistake of looking through a 25mm Voiglander brightline. Very nice.
Right now I'm using it with the 35/2.8 Jupiter 12, another FSU lens which was copied from a pre-war Zeiss Biogon, and a Swallow 35mm view finder. (There have been so many wars lately it's best to clarify that pre-war refers to WWII.)
The Zorki 1 body doesn't have strap lugs so I use a tripod mount strap, or no strap at all. (All straps are made by me and are at gordy's camera straps.) It's a very compact and light camera and travels with me all the time in a coat pocket. I also carry the I-50 and the Gordodot. Some day I want to get a Cosina Voigtlander 25/4. It would be perfect on this camera. It's not rangefinder coupled and has click stop focusing for three distances.
Gone but not forgotten
The lovely FED 2 with a 50/2 Jupiter 8. I paid $27 it. It was my first FSU rangefinder and it was a great camera to use but with the repair of the Leica IIIc and the addition of the Zorki 3M it wasn't being used so I gave it to my daughter Katie for a birthday present. The red leather is not standard. It is from Aki Asahi. More expensive, but more variety, coverings can be had from CameraLeather. Recovering is fun. The Zorki 4K was purchased just for the tabbed J8 lens and went to my son Robby with a nice FSU 50/2.8 Industar 61 on it. The story of the birthday presents and how I screwed up two lenses in two minutes is here. I miss the little FED 2 but I have a broken one I'm hanging on to. Maybe someday I will get it fixed. Until then I can look at a series I did of the FED 2 when I first got it when it was still covered with black vulcanite. Here are pictures of it with the I-50, J8, and J12. FSU heaven. Maybe I really need to get that FED 2 fixed.
This is a FSU 50/2 Jupiter 8 on my FSU Zorki 3M. The J8 is wonderfully sharp and contrasty. It's hard to ask for more and I paid $35 for this minty example. The Zorki is a classic from the FSU. This one was made in 1955. You can get them for $80 to $120. I got mine for $15. Someone had started taking it apart to repaint it and lost interest in the project. Oleg put it back together and installed new shutter curtains for $34. A lovely shooter with a big viewfinder. The J8 went with the Red FED 2 to Katie. I still miss this lens. And while the Zorki 3M replaced the FED 2, the Zorki 3M was destined to be replaced.
I really like the collapsible Industar-50. It makes wonderful photographs. I liked it enough to want one just like it for my Pentax SLRs. It has the same lens elements on a shortened body. It's a rangefinder lens put on an SLR. You have to focus wide open and manually stop down to shoot. It makes a very compact package, for an SLR, when on the Pentax H1a. Compact enough that it will fit in my coat pocket and I was carrying it around instead of my Zorki 3M. The 50mm I-50 on the Pentax H1a complimented the Zorki Standard with the 35mm J12 very nicely. So the Zorki 3M has been sent of to a new owner in Ontario, Canada. Gone but not forgotten.
A Cosina Voigtlander 25/4 lens and 50mm and 35mm Cosina Voigtlander brightline viewfinders. The CV 25/4 comes with it's own viewfinder. Otherwise I think this is it for my 35mm rangefinder kit. And I could get along without the 25mm lens and Voigtlander viewfinders just fine if the money doesn't present itself.