The rangefinder is a type of camera that offers the photographer an apparatus through which
a) the photographer can roughly preview which area will be captured on film, and
b) the photographer can determine the distance (‘find the range’) to the object of interest.
While most SLR cameras offer some affordance (microprisms, split images etc.) to help focusing on the object of interest, the term ‘rangefinder’ is commonly reserved for viewfinder cameras that have an integrated means for determining the distance.
Importantly the rangefinders employed on cameras used to come in two varieties:
• uncoupled rangefinders (you could use the rangefinder to determine the distance to the object of interest, but you thereafter manually had to set the lens to that distance)
• coupled rangefinders (the lens was always set to whatever distance the rangefinder was indicating).
Viewfinder cameras differ from SLR cameras in that the photographer is viewing the scenery through a distinct contraption, not through the same lens the picture will be taken with.
Rangefinder cameras differ from viewfinder cameras in that viewfinder cameras offer no integrated way to find the range/distance to the object of interest.« Back to Glossary Index