What is The Difference Between SLR Lens And Rangefinder Lenses – Detailed Guide

To be able to choose the right lens for your camera, you need to understand the differences between an SLR lens and a rangefinder lens.

Let’s find out.

What is the Difference between SLR Lens and Rangefinder Lenses?

Rangefinder Lenses

  • They’re usually small because they don’t need a flip mirror for their optical design.
  • Wide and normal rangefinders have far more precise focusing than fixed focus SLR cameras.
  • Difficulties integrating zooming lenses

SLR Lens

  • SLR cameras capture images just like lenses. They capture the exact composition, the precise framing, the exact viewpoint, the exact perspective, the exact depth of field, and often the exact focus.
  • Regardless of how long or short your lenses are, or how far away from the subject they are, what you see is exactly what you’re going to end up with.
  • With SLR cameras, there are many different types of fish eye lenses available, whereas, with rangefinder cameras, you have to make do with a non-distorting (non-fish eye) 12mm focal length.
  • SLR uses Interchangeable lenses.

Rangefinder vs SLR Cameras: Main Differences Explained

Photography has been around a lot longer than people think. It was invented by the Chinese thousands of years ago and there were many different types of cameras before the rangefinder and SLRs became so popular.

There are some advantages and disadvantages to both types of cameras, but in general, they differ mainly in how the lens focuses onto the film/sensor and into the viewfinder.

What is Rangefinder Cameras?

The first rangefinder camera was made for the 35-millimeter film.


Because they don’t have moving parts, they’re usually smaller and quieter than SLRs.


The body of this particular camera is generally small and rectangle-shaped. Rangefinder lenses generally have several windows on their front which they use to focus.


To focus using this lens, look through the viewfinders on either side of the lens and align them.

What Are SLR Cameras?

Size and Weight

A SLR (or single lens reflex) and a DSLR (digital single lens reflex) style camera tend to be slightly bigger and heavier than rangefinder-style ones to accommodate the mirror and prism inside the camera.


The big bump on its upper right side is where the pentaprisms are located.


An SLR (Single Lens Reflex) camera focuses an incoming light ray by reflecting it back into the lens where it bounces off of a mirror inside the camera.

The light then goes through a pentaprism, which flips the picture upside down, and into the viewfinder at the rear.

When the shutter release is pressed, the mirror swings away from the lens so that the camera can capture an image.

Similarities and Differences Between Rangefinders And SLR Cameras

There are some of the most common questions about cameras that deal with the rangefinders vs SLRs debate. Once you take a close look at them, however, you’ll see that they’re not quite so similar after all.

How Are Rangefinders And SLR Cameras The Same?


Both the rangefinder camera and the SLR camera are capable of taking pictures with 35mm black and white or color negative films.


Both digital rangefinder cameras and digital SLR cameras can accept SD cards to store digital photos.


Most rangefinder and SLR camera models allow you to change their lenses.


Both cameras have lenses for composing and focusing an object, but only some are optically coupled while others are electronically coupled.

How Are Rangefinders And SLR Different?

These two camera types differ from each other in many ways, but they share some common features too.

Most of these differences occur on the outside of the camera and this explains why it is so important that you do product reviews on cameras before buying them.

Viewfinder Blockage

If you decide to use a larger lens for your camera, you might be able to obstruct your viewfinder.

A DSLR or SLR (single lens reflex) has no problem seeing through the lens because the light comes from behind the lens. However, a digital rangefinder doesn’t have this problem.

Lens Options

Most rangefinders use fixed lenses, which means they’re not designed to be used with zooms. However, there are some exceptions.

With viewfinder parallax, it wasn’t until the advent of digital rangefinders (and later DSLRs) that this problem was largely solved.

Wide-angle lenses tend to be smaller for rangefinders because the flange distance between the lens and sensor is smaller than for SLRs (or DSLRs).

Viewfinder Blackouts

A rangefinder’s optical system doesn’t need to be blacked out like a DSLR or SLR camera because the mirror doesn’t move out of the path of the light hitting the lens.

A rangefinder allows you to keep your eyes on your subject throughout the entire session.

Viewfinder Location

The viewfinders on rangefinders are located at the front and rear of the camera and either on the upper or lower sides of the camera. On single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras, the viewfinders are located on the rear and upper sides of the camera.


When using a rangefinder, be aware of the viewfinder parallax. If you’re shooting at close distances, film-type rangefinders may not be ideal.

SLRs and DSLRs don’t suffer from this problem because what you see in the camera’s viewfinder is exactly what the image sensor sees when you take the picture.

Size and Weight

Because of the size and weight of the batteries and the mirror in SLRs (or DSLRs), they’re generally much larger and heavier than a rangefinder.

These lenses are better at making images than others because they’re designed specifically for shooting photos in low-light conditions.

Field of view (FOV)

Rangefinder cameras generally have a wider field of view in the viewfinder than SLR cameras which allows you to see beyond the normal frame lines of the lens.

It allows the photographer to see the scene before it comes into the camera to help them anticipate a good shot.

what is the difference between slr lens and rangefinder lenses

What is The Difference Between Slr Lens And Rangefinder Lenses?

Best Film and Digital Rangefinders

You need to be careful when buying a camera because there are so many different types out there. Make sure you know which one is right for you.

Best Film Rangefinders

There are some people who want to keep their old camera because it reminds them of the good times they had when they used it. Also, film rangefinder cameras give off a certain feeling when the film is processed.

Some of the best rangefinder cameras include:

  • Canon Canonet QL 17 GIII
  • The Contax G2
  • Leica m6 TTL 0.85

Best Digital Rangefinders

There are several digital rangefinder options out there, including these three models.

  • Leica M Digital Rangefinder Camera
  • Fujifilm X100F Digital Camera
  • Olympus Pen F

Now that we’ve covered the best film and digital camera options, let’s move on to talking about the best SLRs available.

Best SLR Cameras

Rangefinder camera models are harder to come by than digital SLRs. Like rangefinder camera models, digital SLRs maintain an old-fashioned appearance which adds to their appeal.

Best SLR Film Cameras 

Because film SLRs look so cool, people think they’re old-fashioned. These are three of the best DSLR cameras for under $1,000.

  • Canon AE-1
  • The K1000
  • Olympus OM-1


There are different types of cameras for different purposes.

Rangefinder cameras tend to be smaller and lighter than SLR cameras, they’re easier to use when shooting fast-moving subjects, they’re less noisy and more discrete, and they’re best for people who want something small and portable.

If you’re looking for a camera that offers a large selection of lenses, shoots macro or close-up photography, and has long battery life, then an SLR camera is probably right for you.

If you have any additional questions, feel free to ask them in the comments.



  • Sarah Wilson

    Sarah is a content consultant at The Outdoor Stores where she is ready to guide you through the features of a good firearm for your outdoor activities and hunting hobbies. Her expert knowledge and intellectual skills have helped The Outdoor Stores greatly.

You Might Be Interested In...

Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors

Might Be Interested In!