This Old Camera: Konica Hexar RF… Inevitable really.

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Alternate title:

Hey. Who put an M mount on a Contax G camera?

Konica Hexar RF

I have a weird history with rangefinders. I do like them. But not all rangefinders are created equal. The rangefinders to have are usually out of my grasp budget-wise, unfortunately. Or more accurately they typically cost more than I am willing to pay.

For me, there are three tiers of rangefinders.

1. Awful, often fragile things, that are still capable of producing a decent image.

On the awful end this would include old, odd ducks like the brick and son of brick Argus C3

Argus C3
Double exposure Argus C3 w/ Agfa Vista 200

…and C4.

Argus C4
Testing Argus C4 to see if it works

On the fragile side, and still kind of awful, you have your Russian knockoffs like the Kiev 4, FED 2 (For which I wrote a tongue-in-cheek comparison with the Leica M3 for KEH.)…

FED 2
FED 2 w/ Industar 10
, and FED 5c.
Jupiter 9 on Zenit E
FED 5C w/ Industar 61

I actually like the FED 2, but I do not use it often because of its fragility. It is fairly stout so I am not talking about the feel in hand. As many of you know, just one absent minded episode of cocking the shutter and adjusting the shutter speed out of order can quickly brick these cameras. And I have done so on one occasion with my first copy of a Kiev 4. No big. I just bought another for peanuts with a different lens and kept it moving. But I never warmed up to the Kiev so I let it go. But I actually like the FED 2 so I would rather look at it, with its full half case ensemble, than possibly breaking it absent-mindedly. So it makes a great shelf trophy currently. I keep the FED 5c because I got it as brand new old stock with all new packaging and everything. And as I stated recently I really like brand new old stock.

There is also the hard for me to say the name with a straight face Petri 7S.

Petri 7S
Petri 7S w/ Expired Fujicolor 200

Dirt cheap. Decent looks and build. Can take a picture, but I never warmed up to it. But bought it for so little there is no harm in keeping it around.

Next up…

2. Much better… but they aren’t a Leica M.

This is where I have lived most. Trying to find something that scratches my Leica M itch without costing Leica M money. (Not possible by the way.) These are my close but no cigar cameras. The would be good enough if I were a reasonable man cameras. But I am not reasonable it seems since they all exited stage left eventually.

The long in name but small in size Canon Canonet QL17 GIII.

Canon Canonet QL17 GIII ready for day and night.
img475

A fine camera. Other cameras have better rangefinders, but this camera is far from bad. Again, I just never warmed up to it.

There was the very good Voigtlander Bessa R2.

29018305958_f60033b2a5_o

A great camera. Many will point out the narrow effective base length as an issue with longer or brighter lenses, but with the copy I had there were no problems focusing the 7Artisans 50mm f/1.1 (More on this lens later.).

img276

Shooting was not really an issue with this camera. So nice I actually bought it twice. Had great fun with it and the Voigtlander Heliar 15mm f/4.5 also.

Cinestill Df96

And the Voigtlander 40mm f/1.4.

Voigtlander Bessa R2 w/ Nokton 40mm f/1.4 and (Expired) Fujicolor 200

Thank goodness someone purchased it from my local camera shop or I might have gone for round three eventually. Some put the Bessa R2 down as being not much to look at but I rather liked it in Olive Green livery.

Why did I keep selling it?

In the end, feel did it in. The controls were fine. It did not feel as solid as I would have liked. The rubber backing offered greater grip than other cameras but did not feel great in hand. Squishy. That is it. That is all I have got. Reasonable? Not at all. But I have been irretrievably spoiled by other cameras. Nowadays Bessa prices have risen so much that I would not likely purchase one again. Recently saw a Voigtlander Bessa R3M listed for more than a Leica M3. That would be a nope for me.

This next camera landed very close to Leica M territory for me. The Leica CL.

img_20190910_172951

It shares narrow effective base length concerns with the Bessa R2. But even with the 7Artisans 50mm f/1.1 (That lens again.)…

#leicacl50jahre #leicacl @kehcamera @7artisansofficial #7artisans50mmf11 #ishootfilm #filmphotography

…I got on fine with it also. Here is one of my favorite photos with this pairing.

Leica CL 50 JAHRE

Did just fine with the Voigtlander Heliar 15mm f/4.5 also.

a6100
Leica CL - Lomography Lady Grey 400

But for me the perfect pairing for size, aesthetics, and performance was the 7Artisans 35mm f/2 (Or “Semicron” as I called it.).

Leica
Leica CL / 7Artisans 35mm f/2

While more of a struggle to focus than I would have liked it did ok with the 7Artisans 75mm f/1.25 as well.

Leica CL - 7Artisans 75mm f/1.25 - Rollei RPX 400

Felt good in hand. Took a solid pic. Was very compact. But yet again. It did not quite scratch that itch.

And lastly we have…

3. Leica M or daggone near.

First we have a camera that I had before the Bessa R2 or Leica CL above. The mighty Leica M3.

Leica M3

This is the camera that planted the Leica M mount flag in my brain. Amazing when paired with the Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5. It is so good that it quickly put my “Not a Leica lens.” concerns to rest. In fact, I took one of my favorite photos ever with this combination. Classic rangefinder stuff. Focused on my wife as she walked into frame, called her name and…

Leica M3 w/ Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 and Ilford XP2

Got over the no built-in metering by picking up the handsome as it is functional Leicameter above. A wonderful pairing.

Leica M3

Once borrowed a Leica Elmar C Macro 90mm f/4 from my local camera shop and had a great time with it.

Leica M3 w/ Elmar M 90mm f/4 & Fuji 200

So “What gives?” you may be asking. Why did you not stop here? Well…

Had to admit that I really liked saying, “I have a Leica.”. But due to the lack of an inbuilt light meter or, even more preferably, aperture priority I would often reach for other cameras. Saying I own a Leica was not good enough for me if I do not find myself using it as often as I thought I would.

I will admit that there are other non-Leica branded contenders that I obsessed a bit over. Ok. One contender until recently. The Zeiss Ikon ZM. M mount. Zeiss name and lenses. Great looks. Sounds perfect. Auto exposure mode. So why not get it? Easy. Near Leica money. At the end of the day, I land on if I spent this much I might as well get a Leica.

So what is the main Leica target. Easy. The Leica M6. Why not get one? As much as I would like to have one I am not built to spend thousands on a 35mm film camera. I have nothing against those who do at all. In fact I salute them. As Zero Mostell said…

I personally can’t do it. Maybe it would have helped if it had an auto exposure mode like the Leica M7 but that costs even more to obtain? Two plus thousand or three plus thousand dollar 35mm film cameras won’t do for me in a universe where the less expensive Pentax 645N and 645D medium format cameras exist. What also helped me here was that another camera system filled the high fallutin’ camera gap for me.

Contax G1 System
Contax G1

Technically a rangefinder but not a direct competitor, of course, since it is an AF affair. But I like it just the same. It hits me in the feels looks, in hand, and image quality wise.

Christina and Manu Wedding
Brought it along on a recent wedding shoot.

A stop gap measure that happily keeps me occupied more than an M mount solution. There is still the little “A proper rangefinder would be nice.” drum beat in the background. I will rehash my past purchases and near purchases and land in the same spot. Stand down. What you want costs too much.

Then it happened. A clean Hexar RF showed up on KEH. The price struck me as extremely reasonable and stayed in the back of my mind. Had a close cousin of it for a little while but it did not work out. The Konica Hexar AF.

It took a fine picture and all.

Konica Hexar AF - Kodak Gold 200

Worked well and all but similar to some cameras above it did not feel as “special” to me.

Not bad, but a bit plasticky. Some balk at the 1/250s top shutter speed, but I got on fine with it. I just felt that the G1 I already had was a better fit for me.

But admittedly the last nail in the coffin was the fact that the copy I had was one that had shutter issues that seem quite common. In the end, I let it go.

Largely due to the two cameras carrying such similar names I did not consider the Konica Hexar RF. This was a mistake. Even though they share very similar names I later found that they were not as much alike as I had thought. Of course, there is the obvious M mount MF vs inbuilt AF lens situation. But it goes further than this.

For the first time, I started reading some Hexar RF reviews. The first review and video

…I watched were by Hamish Gill of 35mmc. (Have written a few posts there myself.)

What first struck me in Hamish’s reviews was:

  • Other than the general form factor the Hexar RF looks nothing like the Hexar AF. Looks to be made of far better materials.
  • I heard no real downsides other than…
  • This camera will be a doorstop or a shelf ornament if the electronics fail. Having already made peace with this elsewhere this was not a big deal for me.
  • Camera will not work without a battery. See conclusion of above note.

Then I went back to KEH fully expecting it to be gone. But it wasn’t. After a bout of “What is wrong with it?”, “Why is this so much less than an M3, Bessa R3M, Zeiss Ikon ZM, and M6?” and “Why is it still there?” I went ahead. And I am glad I did. Felt very familiar from the start. From the moment I opened the box I immediately went from being concerned that:

This is not a proper Leica M replacement.

or:

This is a Hexar AF with the lens removed.

to:

Hey. Who put this M mount on a Contax G camera?

I was sold immediately. Not better but a different kind of solid than the M3 I had. Where the M3 feels hewn from solid granite solid G1 and now Hexar RF are melee weapon in a pinch dense without feeling too heavy. And as much as I like the Contax G2 it sat just on the other side of a bit too large and heavy for my liking. That is one of the reasons I kept the G1 and let the G2 go. Personal preference.

Right away all of my apprehensions went away and I was like, “If this thing exposes properly and can focus a lens properly I am in.”

Ran the first roll through of Ilford HP5 at dusk and I am happy to report that this thing exposes properly and can focus a lens properly.

To really test its focusing I decided to shoot with the 7Artisans 50mm f/1.1. My go to bang for buck M mount lens and the first one purchased anytime I purchase an M mount film camera. Affectionately called “Knock-off-ti-lux” while not as technically proficient wide open it is great fun and actually behaves itself rather well if you stop it down a bit… Flare-a-palooza background blur fun fest at f/1.1 and sharpens up flare bids farewell by f/2.

7artisans 50mm f/1.1 at f/1.1
f/1.1
7artisans 50mm f/1.1 at f/2
f/2

But what fun is that.

7artisans 50mm f/1.1
f/1.1 through a fence

Most shots were taken wide open and the few out of focus shots were down to user error as were the ones that were not properly exposed. In both cases, I was either rushing because the sun was dropping fast on me or shooting in near darkness because I lost the race with the sun. My favorites from the first roll.

Konica Hexar RF
Konica Hexar RF
Konica Hexar RF
Konica Hexar RF
Konica Hexar RF
Konica Hexar RF
Konica Hexar RF
Konica Hexar RF
Konica Hexar RF

And this is a camera that is easy to shoot.

  • AF is easy. Large and easily seen patch when looking straight on. As Hamish Gill accurately points out it is easy to tell when you are not seeing the patch correctly and adjust.
  • Exposure values are displayed clearly on the left in the viewfinder.
  • Shutter and advance are not cloth shutter quiet but not what I would call noisy at all.
  • The rewind at the end was so quiet that light background traffic noise in the distance was louder.
  • Just like my G1 37 exposures thank you very much.

Warning. If you have not caught on by now this camera is right up my alley and I will likely start blathering a bit… Well. More than usual anyway, which is saying something.

Let’s see. What can I ramble about next? How about a tedious camera by camera walk down (Run down seems unnecessarily aggressive.) of Hexar RF advantages compared to the cameras mentioned above. Many of these cameras have their advantages also admittedly. My opinion. Your mileage may vary.

Will lump all of the cameras that are mentioned in category one above.

  • Everything. Not fair to the grouping to compare them.

Canon Canonet QL17 GIII

  • Interchangeable lens.
  • Preference for the size of the larger Hexar.
  • Much better build and feel.
  • Aperture priority in addition to internal metering.
  • 1/4000s shutter speed.
  • Better viewfinder.

Voigtlander Bessa R2

  • Much better build and feel.
  • Aperture priority in addition to internal metering.
  • 1/4000s shutter speed.
  • Better viewfinder.

Leica CL

  • Better build and feel.
  • Preference for the size of the larger Hexar.
  • Aperture priority in addition to internal metering.
  • 1/4000s shutter speed.
  • Easier film loading.
  • Better viewfinder.

On to group three.

Leica M3 (Remember. Personal preference.)

  • Aperture priority as opposed to required (admittedly snazzy looking) Leicameter.
  • 1/4000s shutter speed.
  • Easier film loading.

Zeiss Ikon ZM

  • 1/4000s shutter speed.
  • Significantly lower price.
  • Lower price.

Leica M6 (…personal preference.)

  • Aperture priority in addition to internal metering.
  • 1/4000s shutter speed.
  • Easier film loading.
  • Significantly lower price.

Leica M7 (…personal preference.)

  • 1/4000s shutter speed.
  • Easier film loading.
  • Significantly lower price.

On to the cousins.

Contax G1

  • Interchangeable lens.
  • 1/4000s shutter speed.

Konica Hexar AF

  • Interchangeable lens.
  • 1/4000s shutter speed.
  • Better build and feel.

So we are good feature wise. What about this camera getting over the “special” hurdle that a few above failed to clear? It does.

Not only does it look the part but in hand, it feels every bit as solid as the G1. Not Leica like, but solid feeling in its own right just the same. And like the G1 it has a great control layout.

Konica Hexar RF
DX capable as well as being able to manually set the film speed.
Konica Hexar RF
Straightforward exposure compensation adjustment.

The controls and switchgear are where you start seeing the aesthetic similarities between the Contax G1 and Konica Hexar RF.

Contax G1
Konica Hexar RF
Konica Hexar RF
Manual shutter speed controls in addition to AE and half press AEL aperture priority modes.
Konica Hexar RF
Quick and easy auto film loading.
Konica Hexar RF
Fantastic viewfinder.
Konica Hexar RF
Battery level and shot count.
Konica Hexar RF
Shutter cable socket and film back opening switch.
Konica Hexar RF
Rewind button.
Konica Hexar RF
Frame selector lever.
Konica Hexar RF
Off, single, continuous, or timed delay shot switch.

Just a great looking camera. A few more pics.

Konica Hexar RF
Konica Hexar RF
Konica Hexar RF
Konica Hexar RF
Konica Hexar RF
Konica Hexar RF
Konica Hexar RF

Before I close I will revisit some questions I had asked myself early in the purchasing decision.

What is wrong with it?

Nothing.

Why is this so much less than an M3, Bessa R3M, Zeiss Ikon ZM, and M6?

I still have no Earthly idea. As I mentioned above the Voigtlander Bessa R3M is a fine camera but having owned a Bessa R2 twice I cannot work out why the R3M is currently going for many hundreds more than the Hexar RF. As much as I enjoyed the Leica M3 I would go for slightly less spend, forgo legacy (<cough> personal preference <cough>), and added features with the Hexar RF. Same goes for the Zeiss Ikon ZM, M6, and even the M7. All cost more than the Hexar RF. Some balk at the battery required all electronics of the Hexar RF but its upscale, also fully electronic AF cousin the Contax G2 also costs more currently.

Why is was it still there?

Again. I do not know why. But I am glad it was.

As I stated earlier before I looked into it I had thought this was a Hexar AF with the lens removed. But it was like getting a rangefinder version of a camera I really like. The Contax G1.

This camera is in a completely different league than the unassuming but better than other Konica cameras I have used like the humble, but impressive pic taking Konica C35 AF2 and the awful, surprisingly capable, and lovably quirky Konica AiBORG. Whatever got into Konica engineers I am glad it did.

Konica Hexar RF

Below are some additional sample photos taken with the 7Artisans 50mm f/1.1 set to f/1.4 for another post I am working on.

Konica Hexar RF - 7Artisans 50mm f/1.1
Konica Hexar RF - 7Artisans 50mm f/1.1
Konica Hexar RF - 7Artisans 50mm f/1.1
Konica Hexar RF - 7Artisans 50mm f/1.1
Konica Hexar RF - 7Artisans 50mm f/1.1
Konica Hexar RF - 7Artisans 50mm f/1.1
Konica Hexar RF - 7Artisans 50mm f/1.1
Konica Hexar RF - 7Artisans 50mm f/1.1
Konica Hexar RF - 7Artisans 50mm f/1.1
Konica Hexar RF - 7Artisans 50mm f/1.1
Konica Hexar RF - 7Artisans 50mm f/1.1
Konica Hexar RF - 7Artisans 50mm f/1.1
Konica Hexar RF - 7Artisans 50mm f/1.1
Konica Hexar RF - 7Artisans 50mm f/1.1
Konica Hexar RF - 7Artisans 50mm f/1.1
Konica Hexar RF - 7Artisans 50mm f/1.1

This second roll made it official. I am good.

All of the cameras are good and I would fault no one for purchasing them. The Konica Hexar RF fits in a rather large M mount inbuilt light meter gap. Better yet it has aperture priority mode. It fits between the relatively affordable Voigtlander Bessa R2 and the Leica M6. Better yet I do not feel compromised at all for not getting one of the more expensive options.

Let me be clear though. I am not questioning the value of these other cameras or anyone who chooses to purchase them. They are fantastic cameras. But for me, this Konica Hexar RF is the feature to build quality to aesthetics to price balance that I have been looking for. I only wish that I had taken a closer look at it sooner.

Konica Hexar RF

Well done Konica.

-ELW

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