Why Rangefinders Are Overrated

In praise and a critique of rangefinders:

Rangefinders are great. Personally I have a lot of fun shooting rangefinders (f8-f16) both on digital rangefinders (Leica M digital) as well as on film rangefinders (Leica M6, film Leica MP). The experience of shooting with a rangefinder is unique in photography … but is it the best experience? I say no.

Avoid the hype and mystique

I’m quite certain 99.99% of the appeal of shooting with rangefinder cameras are mystique, hype, and overglamorizarion of the “retro”, past and “design”. Many people consider the Leica M rangefinder as the apex of camera design (I think it is, that and the RICOH GR design). But does the best design mean the best camera to make the best photographic artwork? No.

Not a price issue

For Leica cameras made in Germany, the quality, craftsman, and construction are apex. The price of Leica cameras are proper. They are not “overpriced”.

Close focus

Ricoh GR3 is a superior camera for shooting when compared to Leica M cameras, even the Leica M10. Why? Macro functionality. Most Leica lenses are only .7 meters for close focus.

When are rangefinders good?

I say:

If you’re out shooting literally all day, during the day time, and focused on street photography.

Don’t shoot wide open

Rangefinder cameras were not designed to be shot wide open. This seems to be a silly thing.

“I want to be like Henri!”

We love the photos of Henri Cartier-Bresson, and we desire to use his camera in order to make photos that emulate his. Just like how we buy Jordan sneakers to emulate Michael Jordan.

But this is silly. It is like using the same pencil as Albert Einstein in order to get his same mathematical insights and thoughts. Or like buying the same iPhone as Kanye West in order to make raps like Kanye West (apparently Kanye raps into his iPhone microphone when recording when he has thoughts on the go, and these audio files make it into his final mastered songs!)

Too big and heavy

Contrary to popular belief, rangefinder cameras are both heavier *and* bigger than expected. Thus to get a rangefinder camera in order to ‘always carry it with you everywhere you go’ is not an effective strategy. If you want a ‘carry with you everywhere you go’ life camera, RICOH GR III is supreme.

More innovative angles and compositions and perspectives with LCD screens and live view

I’ve been able to make more interesting compositions with cameras with LCD screens (live view). For example, the ability to hold out your RICOH GR III (or other point and shoot camera) with more unique angles and perspectives. When you shoot with a rangefinder, you can only really shoot with your camera to your face. This means, your ability for compositions are far more limited, unless you plan on lying on the floor with your rangefinder to your eye, or perhaps shoot with holding your rangefinder camera high in the air, pointing and looking down.

Yes it is possible for the new digital Leica rangefinders to do live view, but the problem is that it is far too slow, and a bit cumbersome to use that way.

Just try it for yourself!

I say:

You never know whether you will like the rangefinder experience or not, just test it out for yourself and see if you like it!

Test it out in person at a Leica store, or perhaps just order one on BHPHOTO (or Amazon) and try it out, and return it if you don’t like it.

Also another option:

If you really like the rangefinder experience, buy a used Leica M9 or for film cameras, a used Leica M6 with a Voigtlander Color-Skopar 35mm f/2.5 P II Lens.

As for me, RICOH GR III is king.



There is no “perfect” camera. Don’t fall into GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) and falsely believe that buying a new camera will make you a better photographer.

If you’re not feeling inspired in your photography, I recommend you to buy books, not gear. Also check out these 75+ Inspirational Photo Books You Gotta Buy. You can also download my free books.

Equipment Articles >


Digital Medium Format Photography

Smartphone Photography >

Film Photography 101 >

My favorite camera: RICOH GR III


Currently my favorite camera is the RICOH GR III:

Best Equipment by ERIC KIM

This is a list of my personal favorite equipment in photography, computers, and life:

Of course, this list probably won’t apply to you — but this is advice I would give myself (if I needed to buy stuff):

Film cameras

If you’re new to shooting film, pick up a copy of FILM NOTES.

eric kim melbourne benjamin thompson
Portrait by Benjamin Thompson // Leica MP + Henri Neck Strap + SF 24D flash + Leica 35mm f/2 Summicron ASPH lens

Best film rangefinder

Leica MP + Leica 35mm f/2 Summicron Lens

Best affordable film rangefinder

Leica M6 + Voigtlander 35mm f/2.5 Lens

Best compact film camera

Contax T3

Best medium-format film camera

Hasselblad 500-series

Best black and white film

Kodak Tri-X 400 (pushed to 1600): $5

Best color film

Kodak Portra 400: $8.50

Best film scanner

For medium-format/35mm: Epson v800: $800

For 35mm: Plustek OpticFilm 8100: $270

Camera accessories

eric kim street photography gfx fujifilm medium format digital-7340

Best camera shoulder bag


Best camera backpack

Fits 13” Laptop and Camera: Thinktank Perception 15 (black): $120

Best photography neck strap

Best photography wrist strap

Best photography inspiration website


Best photography news blog


Best photography software

Adobe Lightroom

Best video editing software

iMovie (free) or Final Cut Pro X ($300)



See all my free books.

Best educational photography book

Magnum Contact Sheets

Best black-and-white photography art book

“Exiles” by Josef Koudelka

Best color photography art book

“The Suffering of Light” by Alex Webb

Best photography handbook

Street Notes

Best philosophy book

On the Shortness of Life – Seneca ($8) // 10 Lessons Seneca Has Taught Me.

Best digital tools

Best laptop

Maxed-out 13” MacBook Pro (Refurbished)

Best phone

iPhone SE

Best Mac Apps

Best writing app

IA Writer (for writing)

Best screen recorder


Best image resizer

JPEGmini Pro


eric kim hanoi street photography-0012663

Best earbuds

In-ear monitors


Cindy Project Monochrome-3

Best underwear

ExOfficio Men Boxer Brief (black): $26

Best T-shirt

Outlier NYC Merino Wool T-Shirt

Best socks

Outlier NYC Black Merino Wool Socks

Best pants

Merino Wool Leggings (black)

Best glasses

LINDBERG – Titanium


eric kim street photography x100f fujifilm-7232

Best bank


Best entrepreneurial tools

Best blogging platform

WordPress.org + Genesis theme

Best paid online services

eric kim street photography gfx fujifilm medium format digital-7360

Best cloud storage

Dropbox (Pro)

Diet & Nutrition


Intermittent fasting — with one big meal a day (only dinner)


Deadlifts (one rep max) + squats + dumbbell press + chin-ups + pushups


Of course this is just a list of stuff that work for me. It probably won’t work for you.

But I got inspired to make this list– because it took me about 10 years to figure out the best equipment for me. And this works for me, and I hope it can help simplify your purchasing decisions (at least in photography and some other details).

I’ll continue to do articles and videos related to equipment– because I do believe (up to a certain degree) having the ‘right’ equipment in life makes life easier. But the problem is falling victim to GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) where we are buying stuff for the sake of it (has happened to me).

If you already have a bunch of equipment that works for you– stick with it. But if you need some help, I hope this list helped you.