A range finder is an electronic surveying device used to measure distances between an observer and a target. Since its invention, the device has enhanced focus in numerous photography processes. In addition, it has enhanced perfect shots in the field of ballistics.
The device has an inbuilt technology, which constitutes of sonar, laser, radar and trigonometry. These aspects facilitate accurate measurements of the distance of a target from an observer. All these technologies have facilitated the measurement of targets’ distances or sizes and have been in application since18th century.
The first range finder device, named telemeters, was invented in the 19th century. It was not until 1916 that Kodak unveiled them into the market. In history, Kodak became the first company to include this device in 3A cameras. In 1925, the Leica I camera extensively incorporated range finders and as a result popularized the technology.
In the preceding years, Leica II and Zeiss Contax I cameras were developed as 35mm rangefinder cameras. Between 1930 and 1970, rangefinder cameras became considerably popular. During this period, range finder devices were manufactured in various sizes. In the early 1960s, the devices were actively fitted in the most expensive cameras.
As result, several manufactures, among which were Japanese companies including Canon, Minolta, Olympus and Ricoh, focused on the production of the 35mm rangefinder camera. Although more sophisticated auto-focus devices later outnumbered the range finders, some of these cameras are still in use today. In 2004, digital imaging technology was incorporated into the first rangefinder camera (Epson R-D1) reviving their use.
Unlike SLRs, range finder devices are prone to parallax errors. Thus, during close-up photography, rangefinder cameras are ineffective. Nonetheless, range finder devices outshine the SLR devices in some features. In contrast to the SLR devices, range finder devices do not have moving mirrors.
This eliminates momentary blackout of the subject under focus. Similarly, range finder devices, as compared to SLRs, are quieter, smaller and less conspicuous. Coupled with these features, rangefinder cameras are more suited for theatre photography, street photography and portrait photography.
In addition, these cameras are most preferred in applications where portability is a matter of concern. Likewise, with the absence of mirrors, rangefinder cameras’ rear lenses project deep into the device’s body resulting in superior wide-angled lenses.
As compared to SLRs, rangefinder viewfinders have a wide field of view allowing the user to observe actions outside the frame. Similarly, the color filters in SLRs make it difficult to focus, view and compose using SLR cameras. However, these processes remain unaffected with the application of range finders.
Since their invention, rangefinder devices have found numerous applications in various fields. These include ballistics, photography, forestry and virtual reality. Rangefinders were first used in the field of ballistics by military snipers in calculating the distances between them and their shooting targets.
However, during ballistic operations, snipers should avoid the use laser rangefinders as the option sends out light sources that might indicate their positions to their enemies. In photography, rangefinder devices have allowed photographers to take focused and clear photographs by measuring the distance between them and their subjects.
With improvements in this technology, forestry surveys have considerably used range finders. During these operations, special devices fitted with anti-leaf equipments are employed. Furthermore, virtual reality systems use range finders as they help in indicating the position of objects.