Compiled and written by Andrew Nemeth, Australia
URL:   <leica.nemeng.com>
Site last updated:  Thu, 14 Jul 2016

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What is a "Softie", "Rapidwinder" or "Rapidgrip"?

Softie

A "Softie" is the diminutive for a "Soft Release" button which screws into the threaded socket of a M or R shutter release. They come in a range of anodised colours and are used to make it easier to trip the shutter by giving you a bigger button to press.

Why $19 each?

Wondering why they cost $US 19 each, especially when they are just a little aluminium button? Tom Abrahamsson (their designer and manufacturer) remarked on this in March 2001 (when they cost $US 10):

I wish that the alloy used was cheap. It is a certified aerospace alloy that costs about US$ 15/kg and after that it is run on an automated turning center that costs about $200/hour to operate. I dont know if you know anything about machining, but the Soft Release is done in a single pass through the machining center and the program for running it, boggles the mind! Several people have said the same thing and gone to machinists to try to have the Softies duplicated. In all cases they have been told 'Can't even run them for $10 each". There are plenty of Soft Releases available in "cheap" aluminium but they suffer from one major problem. The threads are pressed in to the metal and they often break off in the cable release thread of the camera. Simple design is not necessarily cheap and high quality material never is!

Why the convex shape?

Why do they have a convex (dome) shape rather than the more typical concave (cup) everyone else uses? In October 2002 Tom A explained:

Over the years I tried a variety of release buttons on my Leica's and Nikon's. None did exactly what I wanted them to do. When I started designing my own, I experimented with a variety of "curves" on the top. The concave version tends to direct the tip of your finger to the center of the release and thus exert a "downward" push on the camera. This also "rocks" the camera slightly as it is very difficult to control pressure when you are pushing down on something. The convex or domed version allows you to hook the finger over the release and by squeezing down with the finger, using the "padded" part of the finger between the first and second joint, you control the pressure more precisely. […]

"Mini" Softies

In March 2002 Tom announced:

"… a smaller diameter version Softie for use on Cosina/ Voigtländer Bessa's (the current version is just a fraction too large for some models of these cameras) and also for the use on Rollei TLR's".

It is called the "Abrahamsson MiniSoftrelease" and is roughly half the diameter of the original "Softie". Because of its smaller size, it works beautifully with R series Leicas, mainly because the smaller button doesn't extend over the shutter speed numbers on the s/s dial surrounding the shutter release. And since the colour of the chrome mini-softie matches that of the chrome original shutter release, once screwed into place it looks like it is part of the camera and always belonged there.

Luigi Crescenzi "Soft Shutter Releases"

Same idea as Tom's softies, but made from stainless steel and available in dome and convex shapes. €12 Euro each. The black version is black-paint rather than anodised, simply because it is very difficult to anodise s/steel! For more information see the "Leicatime" website at:

<leicatime.com/a000-leitz_accessories.htm>

Tom vs. Liugi - which softie is best?

Practically they are the same size and price, so it comes down to whether you want anodised 7000-series aluminium or s/steel. The aluminium-alloy is much lighter with a specific gravity of 2.73, whereas s/steel is typically 7.8. But then again s/steel is significantly stronger with an ultimate tensile strength of @ 800 MPa, versus @ 500 MPa for al-alloy.

Realistically though, there isn't much difference. You're never going to break either softie and the weight difference is moot (1 gram?).

Rapidwinder

The "Rapidwinder" is a mechanical hand-driven film advance mechanism which replaces the base-plate of Leica M6s, M4-Ps or M2s. It is an updated and more robust version of a similar "Leicavit" released by Leica with the MP version rangefinder in the 1960s. See the separate entry in this FAQ for detailed notes.

Rapidgrip

The "Rapidgrip" is a new (Sep 2000) hand-grip which screws into the M-baseplate tripod mount. It is similar to the Leica M-grip or GMP M-grip, although the Rapidgrip features an internal space for the storage of spare batteries, along with a threaded socket for storage of spare Softies. To read Tom's detailed remarks on the grip prototype, see the following URL:

<LUG - v17/msg11896.html>

Also, see discussion elsewhere in this FAQ for a comparison of hand-grips.

Contacting Tom & Tuulikki Abrahamsson

The Softies, Rapidwinders and Rapidgrips are made and sold by Canadians Tom and his wife Tuulikki Abrahamsson (click here for contact details). You can find out more by visiting their www site at:

<rapidwinder.com>

A sad note though, in May 2001 Tom was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a form of bone marrow cancer. Because of this illness and continuing therapy, he had to suspend manufacture of Rapidwinders up to the end of 2001. Rapidgrips and Softies, because they required less physical effort to produce, weren't affected by this, but for a while Rapidwinders became hard to get, especially from 3rd party camera dealers.

In late Oct 2001 Tom had a Stem Cell transplant at Vancouver General Hospital. Years later the good news is that the operation appears to have been a success, with Tom's cancer in remission and the man himself on the road to recovery.

A note about possible broken links

This FAQ has over 900 external links. Over time it is inevitable some of them will break. If you are bothered by this, see this detailed topic elsewhere in the FAQ.

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