State of the Art

Me, Mamiya C330f, Leica M6TTL, Biogon 35 F2

Photo courtesy of headsticks.com

It’s been about nine months since I’ve done much blogging. In that time, I’ve moved to DC, sold my car, started a new job, been promoted twice, been to lots of museums and a few plays, bought an iPhone, ate some good Korean food, updated to WordPress 3, wrote a new theme and shot almost 100 rolls of film. It’s been busy, and I’m not going to spend my whole day off going into the details, so here’s the current state of the art in brief.

Cameras and Lenses

I still carry my M6TTL almost everywhere, usually with just a single lens, most often the CV 35 1.4 SC, but also the Biogon 35 F2 or the Hexanon 50 F2. The 28 and the 90 mostly stay on the shelf.

On the weekends, I sometimes shoot with the Beast, a Mamiya C330f with an 80mm F2.8 lens and a sticky shutter. I wish it had a built in meter, but I’m getting better at guessing exposures or using the M6TTL for metering. I saw someone carrying a Mamiya 7 II the other day; those have meters in them, right?

I also shoot occasionally with an Olympus OM2 and 50mm F1.8. The OM2 replaced a dead OM1 with a sticky mirror. I like it enough that I often think of buying an OM4 and that ridiculously over priced 40mm F2.

Tamrac straps on everything, the kind with leather pads and quick release buckles.

Film & Developer

The last three to four months I’ve mostly been shooting TMY2, about 30 rolls of it so far, but I’ve also shot a couple of rolls of Provia 100 and other odds and ends that have been at the bottom of the film bin for too long. I’m developing with XTOL stock almost exclusively. TMY2 developed in full strength XTOL forgives many exposure errors and scans with very little apparent grain. XTOL is pain in the ass to mix up, but a batch stored in eight 600ml Nalgene bottles lasts 16 rolls of 35mm, so mixing it up is at least an infrequent chore. There’s half a bottle of Rodinal on the shelf for emergencies.

DC’s tap water doesn’t leave hard water stains on negatives, so I’m not even using filtered water anymore except for the final dunk in PhotoFlo.

Scanning & Post

I’m using a Nikon Super Coolscan 9000, still the most expensive piece of photo gear I’ve ever purchased. I’m scanning to 16 bit greyscale tiffs using Vuescan’s Tmax 400 Pro preset. Crucial detail; the crop buffer is set to 10%.

Some quick curves, sharpening and adding a border completes the post work. A flickr pro account gives me unlimited space, so I export a jpeg large enough of to make a 6X9 print and archive to flickr for safe keeping. Near-line storage goes onto a pair of mirrored WD drives. Working files get backed up with Timemachine.

Printing

My Epson R2400 died from neglect months ago. I’ve replaced all the inks, but the magenta stills says it’s empty. I’ve considered getting it fixed or just replacing it, but I never printed that much anyway apart from infrequent bouts of misguided discipline. As an alternative to home printing, I’ve just assembled and ordered my first blurb book. We’ll see how that goes.

Some Notes on Currently Available Digital Cameras

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Really, these are for my own benefit, so don’t take them too seriously. The nearest sizable camera store is 2.5 hours away in Chicago, so while we were in Portland, I stopped at a couple of camera stores just to check out what some of the newer digital cameras are like. My last digital camera was a Nikon D80, purchased almost three years ago now, and sold not that long after. It seems like things must have improved since then, and so they have.

Canon & Nikon

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The Canon and Nikon APS-C models seem like really pretty decent cameras now. I was primarily looking at the low end models as I don’t want anything as large as D300 or 50D. The D60, D5000 and Rebel models all sport totally usable viewfinders and highly evolved user interfaces both physical and on screen. The Nikon models seem to have slightly better viewfinders, but on all of them I could manually focus the fairly slow kit zooms with little problem, so good news there. Bad news, the grips on these things are all beyond pointless. I don’t understand the fascination people have with molded grips in general, but on a camera this small, those grips force you to hold the camera in such a way that your knuckles knock against the lens barrel.

I also played with the 5D II and the D700. Yep, those viewfinders are big, but not really all that bright compared to something like an OM-1 or an FM2. AF performance on both seemed snappy-ish but not really all that great, although both were mounted with fairly slow zooms. They were solid seeming cameras, but ridiculously big. You’d have to pay me a lot more than most pro-photographers make to carry one of these things, but I thought the same of the big, pro level Canon and Nikon film bodies of yore. Many pros must have felt the same then given how many used to carry FM2s or F3s.

One sentence review of the Canon G10; that interface is better thought out than any other digital camera out there.

Sony & Pentax

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No one seems to carry the full line for either of these manufacturers. One store had the A900, the other the A300. Neither seemed as highly evolved as the Canon and Nikon competition. No one had the Pentax K7, a camera that certainly sounds good in the online reviews. Wish that I could have seen it.

Olympus

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Nope, no one had an E-P1, but I wasn’t really looking for one of those anyway. It’s the E620 and E450 that I’ve been really curious about. No one had the E450, but the E420 seems like a nice little camera, and a lot smaller in practice than the Canon or Nikon APS-C bodies, particularly with a lens mounted. That pancake 25 is a tiny little thing. The viewfinder of the E420 was better than that of the A300, but not quite up to the current Canon and Nikon APS-C cameras.

The E620, while really only slightly smaller than the Canon and Nikon cameras, fit much more nicely in my hand. The abbreviated grip makes a lot of sense, and my hand just naturally fell into position. Other controls worked just as you expect them to by this point. The rotating screen seems like an interesting idea, but it’s hard to tell how it would out in practice. It does make the camera a bit fatter. The viewfinder, while larger than the E420, is still not quite as nice as those on the Canon and Nikon, but I was able to manually focus the slowish 12-60 F4 without any problems. That’s quite a lens, btw, and if I knew what to do with all those focal lengths, it would be the ticket.

And it’s on that question of lenses where Olympus still seems to be ahead of the curve. I like an angle of view equivalent to something between 35 and 50. Anywhere in there will do. Right now, the Olympus E series is the only thing offering a compact, moderately fast lens in that range. The Sigma 30 F1.4, while a fine performer, is a beast, as is the new Nikon 35 1.8. The Canon 28 1.8 is similarly sized. That Oly pancake 25 is tiny though, so small, in fact, that it makes the slightly larger E-620 a very appealing camera. If anyone at Olympus headquarter is listening, make a 20 F2.8. It can be a bit larger than the 25, but not too much. Come on, you know you want to hearken back to the 40 F2 for the OM line.

What I’m Buying

I’m not buying anything at the moment. My pennies are accumulating for a medium format camera, I think a Yashica-Mat 124G, which seem like a good entry point for me. Not sure how I’ll handle the world being reversed, but I don’t always know my left from my right anyway, so I’m sure I’ll figure it out eventually. I’ll be keeping my eye on that E-620 though. I think I could have fun with one of those, and with a 25MM lens, extra battery, CF card etc, the whole kit would be less than I’ve paid for any of my three previous DSLR bodies alone, and that’s a real consideration at the moment.

Am I here yet?

M6TTL, 50 Hex, TriX, Xtol

The post-trip film processing continues. I’m down to four rolls to develop. Lots of scanning remains, but I’ve got enough of it done to resume more regular posting. With the bulk of the processing done, I’m just now starting to feel like I’m back from vacation even though I’ve been back at work for a couple of weeks. The post travel readjustment always takes me a bit of time, but this one is taking longer than usual. More on that later, perhaps.

M6TTL, 50 Hex, TriX, Xtol

Everything from this trip was shot on TriX with the M6 and the 50 Hex, processed in Xtol 1+1 for 9 minutes @ 68F (or the equivalent time/temp depending on how cold the water was) and scanned on the trusty Scan Dual IV. No major equipment troubles, but it looks like I had a shutter problem for half a dozen frames on one roll, with vertical streaks marring the frames. A cla might be in order. I suspect that my M6 spent most of its former life on a shelf, so the shutter may need some attention.

I was mostly happy with just the one lens. I could have gone wider at times, but for every wide shot that I wanted, there were plenty of opportunities for a tighter view. A second lens probably wouldn’t have killed me, but we spent a lot of time on our feet, so I was glad to have little to carry. Maybe next time I’ll just take the 35 for the sake of variety.

I’m Kreativ

M6TTL, 50 Hex, TriX, Xtol

In other news, I’ve been presented with a Kreativ Blogger award by Amy Sakurai. Many thanks Amy. Per the rules of the game:

Six things that make me happy:

  • Kate
  • the three major food groups: beer, coffee, pizza
  • econtalk let’s just leave that at the complexity of the world and the appreciation thereof
  • the Sunday paper and 3 hours to kill
  • seeing eye dogs
  • waking up at four a.m. to develop film – really

Six other bloggers who are Kreativ:

Well, that was fun 😉

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Returned from the Dead: OM1 Revived

OM1, 50 Zuiko, TriX, Xtol 1+1

After months of sitting on the shelf with a dead shutter, my OM1 returned from the dead last week. While aimlessly fiddling with it, the self-timer became unstuck, thereby freeing the stuck shutter. The first roll through it turned out fine, so the self-timer seems to have been the extent of the problem.

OM1, 50 Zuiko, TriX, Xtol 1+1

I’m glad to have it back, as I’d forgotten how enjoyable this camera is to use. As much as I like my rangefinders, a good SLR can be a joy to use. I wish that more modern SLRs were more like the OM1.

OM1, 50 Zuiko, TriX, Xtol 1+1

OM1, 50 Zuiko, TriX, Xtol 1+1

Notions Unsought and Other M6 Miscellania

M6TTL, 50 Hex, XP2 @ 200, Rodinal Stand

“These things give you notions unsought.”

Nothing organized here, just some wandering observations:

  • The RF patch on the M6TTL is slighter bigger and sharper edged than that of the Hexar RF. If it’s easier to focus, it seems mostly down to the higher magnification.
  • Because of the higher magnification, for a left eye dominant glasses wearer the 35mm framelines on the M6TTL are not as comfortable to use as those on the Hexar. I’m not sure what this implies long term, but at the moment, I’m finding that I use the 50 a lot more than previously.
  • The ease of using the 50 on the M6TTL has me thinking that this might be a one lens camera for me, which makes me wonder what I should do with the 28, the two 35s and the 90.
  • While I’d hoped that the higher magnification would make using the 90 easier, it doesn’t. Focusing is easier, but those vestigial corner-less framelines are just as hopeless as ever. Oh well.

M6TTL, 50 Hex, XP2 @ 200, Rodinal Stand

  • The M6TTL is a calmer camera than the Hexar. It’s slower in use and fussier in loading, but I suspect the source of that serenity is that big, bright rangefinder, which is just a tad warmer in tone than the Hexars. You just keep wanting to look through it.
  • That slower pace has got me thinking about what I want to do with my photography. As that’s an incredibly difficult question to answer, I’m deferring it by thinking about gear. Maybe a medium or large format camera is in the works for me. An old Linhoff or a press camera might be a good place to start.
  • Can such a tiny camera lead to a 4×5 behemoth? Or does the Leica just mark the high water for 35mm, the point at which all other emendations are just the polishing of turds? The next logical step can only be a bigger negative.

M6TTL, 50 Hex, XP2 @ 200, Rodinal Stand

  • If you ask Leica customer service nicely, they will send you a black dot to replace the M6TTL’s standard red dot. The black dot is ever so much more discrete . . . and it just looks cooler.

1pt4 Photography Goes to a Wedding

M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TMY, Tmax Dev
M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TMY, Tmax Dev
M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TMY, Tmax Dev
M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TMY, Tmax Dev
M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TMY, Tmax Dev
M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TMY, Tmax Dev
M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TMY, Tmax Dev
M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TMY, Tmax Dev
M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TMY, Tmax Dev
M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TMY, Tmax Dev
Of course, my mom has her eyes closed . . .
M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TMY, Tmax Dev
M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TMY, Tmax Dev
M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TMY, Tmax Dev
M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TMY, Tmax Dev
M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TMY (New TMax 400), TMax Dev

On the 4th of July, my cousin Brian got married on a veranda over looking Lake Michigan. The M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC and a couple of rolls of the new TMax 400 (TMY) performed admirably. Tents over looking lakes on bright sunny days make a lovely setting for a wedding, but all that backlighting can bedevil the flashless photographer. The new TMY seemed to handle the wide luminance range well, though. I’ve always liked TMY despite its reputation as a difficult film. It was the first film I developed on my own, so I’ve been using it off and on for 15 years. The new TMY seems to be just as forgiving as the old. Just give it generous exposure to keep the shadows healthy. It probably would have done even better pulled to 200, but these were my first rolls with the new film, so I didn’t want to experiment too much. For those who care, I shot the TMY at 400, developed in TMax Developer and followed Kodak’s new developing times. This worked out to 5.5 minutes at 75 degrees with a dilution of 1+4.

Apart from the disposable cameras on the tables, I was the only person shooting film. A couple of people commented on this with a mix of bewilderment and awe. The pro was shooting a D3 and a D300, but I was more interested in his foot gear, a pair of black reverse heel shoes. I’ve got to try those out.

Rodinal

I’ve been playing with Rodinal again lately. This TriX @ 200 in Rodinal 1+150 for something like 30 minutes.

M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TriX @ 200, Rodinal
M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TriX @ 200, Rodinal

I’ve also tried it rated TriX @ 400 in Rodinal 1+50 for whatever time the box said.

Hexar RF, ZM Biogon 35 F2 , TriX @ 400, Rodinal

I can handle the grain, but shadow detail doesn’t seem great. Contrast seems really high in general. Somewhere on the web I found a formula for a split a Rodinal/Xtol. You get Rodinal’s acutance and Xtol’s smoother tonality. That sounds interesting, but I need to mix up some more Xtol first. And finish the rolls of Adox 50 that I shot @ 125 for Diafine. And try out FP4 at 250 in Diafine. Did you know you can soup XP2 in Diafine too? So many films, so many developers. Who needs digital?

Astute blog readers will notice from the properties of the images above that the first two were shot with an M6TTL. Yes, I bought one. It turned out that I did want a Leica, just not an M8. More on the M6 later . . .

Nikon Digital RF

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See all those scratches? That’s the life of a film photographer.

Rumors of a Nikon Digital RF resurfaced this week. The source seems to be an Aussie CV dealer. Details are sketchy – M mount, 6-7 MP, shipping in kit form with a redesigned pancake 45MM 2.8 – but the available details are more interesting than the ridiculous frankenstein-like feature set of last September’s rumor (here and here). At first glance, 6-7 MP seems a bit off the mark, but there may be good reasons for that low MP count. The 45mm 2.8 suggests that this will be a full frame camera; who would ship a kit with a fixed length lens equivalent to anything longer than 50mm? If it is full frame, perhaps lowering the MP count helped them solve the problems of vignetting and color shift in the corners. Maybe micro-lenses are easier to work with when they aren’t quite so micro. A low MP count would certainly give good noise performance, which might mean that you could just handle all the vignetting with software. Or, perhaps the low MP count means it isn’t a bayer pattern sensor. Perhaps it’s a monochrome only sensor, or something foveon like. Or, perhaps it’s a Fuji sensor. That might be interesting, because it might mean that the camera isn’t even a Nikon, but actually a Fuji. Their DSLRs have never really taken off, so maybe Fuji is looking for a different way into the market for higher end digitals. Hey, if they think they can make money on a new 6X7 RF, why not a digital RF?

Setting aside the Fuji angle for a moment, let’s think about why Nikon would bother with a digital rangefinder. Nostalgia? Could be. They did design some pretty kick ass rangefinders back in the day, and they keep reissuing them too. There’s a certain stubbornness in doing this, an insistence that things of quality are worth making, logic be damned. The profits on the SP 2005 can’t have been much, if anything. A digital rf would seem to take that stubbornness to a whole new level. Is Nikon that nuts? Well, they have brought out a new film camera more recently than even Leica (F6=2004, MP=2003). That’s pretty nuts.

Setting aside the general quirkiness of Nikon for a moment, there maybe sound financial reasons for doing something like this, particularly if the camera isn’t really a rangefinder at all. Maybe it’s more like a digital Hexar AF. There would be some logic in this. Canon has shown with the success of the G9 that photographers want a sophisticated compact digital camera. A fixed lens, fixed focal length full frame digital compact might sell, particularly if the low MP count meant that the cost was not stratospheric. Sure, it would cost more than a G9, but a big sensor would let many photographers take it a lot more seriously. Heck, keep the build quality high and the controls simple and put in a good viewfinder and you might even get a few of those folks still hanging onto film.

I’m interested in these rumors of a Nikon digital rf because I’ve nearly decided to buy a digital M after this year’s Photokina. Why wait? If an M9 or, more likely, an M8.2 is coming anytime soon, Photokina seems the logical time for Leica to make the announcement. If they do, and it doesn’t appear to suck, I’ll buy one. If the presumptive successor shows signs of sucking, I’ll buy a used M8 at what will hopefully be somewhat slightly discounted prices. I’m not holding my breath for a digital ZI or the rumored Nikon, but Photokina would seem the likely place to announce either of those as well.

Why am I’m interested? I love film, but there are days when the thought of scanning another negative makes me want curl up in the corner and forget about photography. I don’t expect digital to be any less work or any less frustrating, but it might be time to give myself the opportunity to experience different kinds of frustration. It’s been almost two years since I bought my last digital, so I’m about due. I’d like to be able to take a break from film, and I also have some ideas about working in color. A few project ideas that have been percolating in my head would also benefit from the higher fidelity of digital. I can’t get on with any of the current crop of DSLRs though. The controls give me fits and the viewfinders just aren’t designed for glasses wearers, so it’s gotta be a rangefinder.

Update: Between this interview over at PopPhoto and the Economist article linked in the comments, something like a digital CL sounds more likely than a revamped M8.

Konica Hexar RF: Iconoclastic RF

The Three Year Anniversary Review

Hexar RF Review Pic 1, Konica Hexar RF & 50mm Hexanon
Raxeh is Hexar spelled backwards!

I bought my first Hexar RF in March, 2005. I’d just sold back to KEH the Canon 10D I’d bought a few months earlier. I’d also sold them both my Nikon FM2s and a number of lenses for a ridiculous pittance. I’d decided that what I really wanted was a rangefinder, but even with the money in hand from the sale of the Nikons and the Canon, a Leica was out of reach. Ah, but the Hexar RF, that I could afford. I already owned a Hexar AF, and Dante said the RF was a fine camera, so I gave KEH $889 for a Hexar RF and a 50 Hexanon. I was so excited that I skipped worked the day the UPS guy was schedule to bring them. A few short minutes after he left, the box was open, and I was nearly heartbroken. The shutter was too loud, so much louder than the Hexar AF was even in its ‘loud’ mode. That would have been the end of it if I hadn’t been too poor to buy the Leica. I could have sent the Hexar back, but I knew that I would just be tempted to buy that Leica that I couldn’t afford. So I kept the Hexar out of self-defense.

Fast forward three years. I’ve now got two Hexar RF bodies, three of the Hexanon lenses, but still no Leica. I could afford that Leica now, but I’ve grown to appreciate the Hexar. It’s an entirely unique camera, combining modern materials and technologies with one of the oldest focusing systems around. It’s a combination that for me works better than either an entirely manual camera or one of the button and dial encrusted monstrosities that now populate the B&H catalog.

An Iconoclastic Design

The Hexar RF’s appeal has a lot to do with the iconoclastic nature of its genesis. If the admittedly excellent Zeiss Ikon was an attempt to make evolutionary improvements on the Leica M6, the Hexar RF was an attempt to make an entirely new species of camera by crossing the unique focusing system of the M6 with the automation and controls of the Canon T90 – for those not up on their history of the modern SLR, the T90 was the ergonomic inspiration for the auto everything SLRs or the 90’s and, eventually, every DSLR you’ve ever fondled. The result was something like learning Zen archery by doing industrial time-motion studies. The Hexar RF abandoned all the ancient conceits of the Leica – clumsy film loading, peculiar metering, limited shutter speeds – while hanging onto the small size and excellent rangefinder. Along the way, the automation and modern materials led to improved ergonomics and handling. It was, and still is, a revolutionary design, which is perhaps why it ultimately failed to find a place in the market. It turned out that the photographers who still appreciated the rangefinder’s benefits also happened to be in unhappy but ultimately faithful marriages with the all of the Leica’s shortcomings.

Hexar RF Review Pic 5, Konica Hexar RF & 28mm Hexanon
serial photography courtesy of the motor-drive

Commercial failure aside, the Hexar RF’s unholy marriage of rangefinder focusing and modern features actually works as a photographic tool. To understand why it works, it’s first necessary to understand what the contemporary Leica did and did not offer. The Leica has always enjoyed a reputation as the fast working camera for the discrete, natural light photographer. The lack of shutter vibration – a feature of it’s mirror free design – meant that you could hold it steady at much slower shutter speeds. The rangefinder itself made it possible to focus in much lower light levels than an SLR. The quiet shutter and small size allowed photography in places that larger and louder cameras would not be appropriate. The ability to see around the edges of the frame had serious compositional benefits. What you traded for all this was ease of use, a certain amount of framing inaccuracy, a minimum focusing distance of .7m and maximum focal length of 135. The last three are inherent to rangefinders, but there wasn’t much reason for all the usability oddities of the Leica. The Leica’s cumbersome film loading, slow and inaccurate shutter, lack of AE or integrated winder were all design choices specific to the Leica.

Hexar RF Review Pic 2, Konica Hexar RF & 28mm Hexanon
hexar rf, 28mm hexanon, neopan 1600

The Hexar RF discarded many of those design choices. The rangefinder was retained, but pretty much everything else went. In the place of a mechanical cloth shutter with a max speed of 1/1000th was a titanium bladed electrically controlled shutter capable of 1/4000th of second. In place of the silky smooth manual advance was a an automatic winder capable of slightly better than two frames a second. In place of manual metering with a semi-spot was a center-weighted meter and shutter priority AE. In place of bottom loading and manual rewind were an automatic loading and rewind system. In place of brass and leather were titanium and synthetics.

Wine, Beer and MD 20/20

For many Leica users, these were not improvements, and I’m not such a zealot that I can’t see why. There is something immensely satisfying about photographing with a precision mechanical instrument like the Leica. It taps into some lower part of our brain, the part of our brain that recognizes that small and heavy and full of springy bits is a very good thing. The Hexar RF is still small and heavy, but it doesn’t hit the same part of the brain. If the Leica is a fine wine, the Hexar is just a really good beer (by extension the average DSLR is some sort of cheap swill like Mad Dog).

Perhaps I’m revealing my middle-class, mid-west roots, but I drink a lot more beer than I do wine. By the same token, I like my cameras to have some limitations, but not quite as many as the Leica has. I regularly use 1/4000th to keep my aperture wide in bright light. I can load my Hexar one handed while walking. The auto winder means that I’m ready when Kate’s expression changes. The auto-exposure keeps me from doing dumb things like leaving the shutter at 1/8th of second. I’m convinced I make more successful photographs because of the Hexar’s enhanced features.

Lenses and Other Lenses

Hexar RF Review Pic 4, Konica Hexar RF & CV 35 F1.4 SC
hexar rf, CV 35mm F1.4 SC, TriX

Yes, the Hexar RF can focus Leica lenses and Cosina lenses and Zeiss lenses too; I know because I’ve successfully used lenses from all three manufacturers. Despite that, the Hexar’s KM mount is not entirely compatible with other manufacturers lenses. For an explanation of why these two statements are not mutually exclusive, see Hands off my flange!. This also explains why the M8 can’t focus the Hexanon lenses.

Hexar RF Review Pic 4, Konica Hexar RF & 90mm Hexanon
hexar rf, 90mm hexanon, provia 100f

The Konica Hexanon lenses are excellent. The 50mm in particularly is a sleeper of a lens although prices do seem to be climbing. The 35 remains somewhat rare, but I’ve never talked to someone who didn’t love it. The 90 is grand portrait lens, although framing is a bit tricky with the Hexar’s gestural 90mm frame lines. The 28 is a 28 and nobody seems to get excited about 28mm lenses. If you never used anything other than the KM lenses, you wouldn’t be missing much, but if you do want to use that Sumilux, you can as long as you are up to the challenge of focusing a fast lens on an rangefinder. It isn’t exactly an easy task, so don’t be surprised if it takes practice.

The Future of the Rangefinder of the Future


Hexar RF, CV 35mm F1.4 SC, TriX

As of this writing the Hexar RF has been out of production for five years. Konica no longer makes cameras, having sold its camera line to Sony in the great digital shake down of the last few years. There are rumors of a Sony warehouse in Germany full of Hexar spare parts, but as far as I can tell, spare parts are nearly unobtainable. I harbor no illusions that anyone will be able to repair my Hexars. That said, I’ve been able to do little things myself. When I lost the eyepiece lens on one of mine last year, I was able to replace it with an over-sized lens purchased from an optics warehouse. I’ve also repaired a sloppy winder mode selector dial and recalibrated one of the rangefinders. Neither was too painful, but eventually something is going to break that I can’t fix. I’m betting that the shutter release button will be the first thing to go; the similar shutter release on the Hexar AF has a troubled history. The only reasonable option is to stockpile Hexar RF bodies, but prices have been going up. The last one I saw at KEH was listed at $800, I think. That’s better appreciation than a Leica, but it doesn’t bode well for my future use of Hexars. When the day comes when both mine die and no replacement is available, I probably will break down and buy that Leica, likely an M6TTL – I like the that the shutter speed dial turns the wrong way. By that time I may also be drinking more wine, so perhaps its limitations will appeal to me.

Other Hexar RF Reviews and Resources: