This is not a vs as in this is better than that. This is meant as a compare and contrast focusing more on the positive attributes of both. Done for fun really.
One camera impresses with its looks and feel in hand.
The other impresses with its sheer competence, compactness, and performance.
Hand them to a photographer and they are typically impressed with both immediately. But for completely different reasons.
Konica Hexar RF
- What is this?
- M mount?
- This feels good in hand.
- Auto everything except focus and aperture control?
- It looks nice.
- Pentax asterisk-ist? What?
- This is so small!
- Wow it focuses fast.
- Built in flash?
- Screen on the back?
Both could be called what I have heard described as marmite cameras for many. Many either would love or hate them.
M mount adherents may dismiss the Hexar as wholly inferior to the vaunted brand of Leica. The electronics could fail without warning. It requires batteries to operate. It is louder than a Leica.
SLR adherents may, even with the automation available, scoff as the lack of AF for such a princely sum, even if it is on the lower end of similarly spec’d rangefinder options.
M mount adherents and SLR adherents alike may dismiss the *ist as an oddly named example of the worst of early 2000s plastic fantastic SLR design… that also requires batteries to operate with electronics that would fail.
How is it to use and can it produce a decent image?
That is all that matters to me.
And both excel at both even if for completely different reasons.
The Hexar is a wonderful mix of the therapeutic rangefinder experience and the best automation available. A contradiction admittedly. A manual focus rangefinder point and shoot. Just as was stated to me by Manu. Point, focus, and shoot more accurately.
The *ist is a no holds barred performance phenomenon disguised as an innocent little weirdly named SLR. Blazing fast and accurate AF. All the information you could want readily displayed by an illuminated back screen. Built in pop up flash for great fill flash. And as for looks I like the way it looks. And small. It is so small. While walking around taking photos back to back I would easily slip into my jacket pocket. And so inexpensive. Where the Konica Hexar AF is inexpensive for an M mount camera, the *ist is just plain inexpensive. I have spent more on a memory card.
So that speaks to experience. All fine and good but what of the images? Some housekeeping first.
Both are favorites of mine. Affordable, overachieving gems with lovely rendering and great for film or digital use.
Duke Gardens of course. The standard location for these comparisons.
Another affordable gem, Fujifilm Superia X-Tra 400. Available in three packs at a reasonable price.
This time around once again the rolls were developed at home with Cinestill CS41 in the same tank.
- Shot back to back as much as closely as is possible.
- Framing will be matched as close as possible but I did not take it that seriously.
- The Pentax is a more sober lens wide open than the 7Artisans so I will be closing the latter down to f/1.4 to even things up a bit.
- If I do not like a photo from either I will not post the pair and will put it down to human error rather than dinging the camera.
- …that is about it.
- I contemplated this comparison and took the cameras out, but quickly my interests drifted. Then Wilson saw the two cameras on me and said, “Doing a camera comparison?”, and that is all the push I needed.
- Shooting these two cameras back to back really shows how different these cameras are.
- Hexar: Hold onto the camera like the precious thing it is, bring viewfinder to eye take great care to match the rangefinder patch, focus with your other hand, reframe as needed, check focus again, push the shutter.
- *ist: Take camera of jacket pocket, look through viewfinder one handed, make sure a focus point lines up where you want it to, reframe as needed, push the shutter… or just aim the camera in the general direction intended, almost Sony mirrorless style, push the shutter and most likely something came out in focus even if it was not your intended target. Put the camera back in your jacket pocket. Case in point here is a shot of a squirrel on the move that I would never have tried to capture with the Hexar.
- Both are fun, but for entirely different reasons.
- Both missed focus occasionally but at completely different times. Busy scenes can trip up the human eye and phase detect AF it seems.
On to the pics. Pentax first, then Konica, rinse, repeat.
So. As should be no surprise I really liked them both. Of course, the images are very similar if not identical. While digital camera models are largely impacted by their sensors film cameras can match “sensors” at will by using the same film. This assumes that auto exposure will be similarly consistent, which happens to be the case here. After that, lens image quality will play the largest role. Here once again the lenses put in a similarly impressive performance. Surely one could do better with more expensive lenses, or that is always the assumption. But like my FED 2 vs Leica M3 comparison for KEH outlines, the difference between a very expensive Leica lens and a dirt cheap Russian knock-off lens may not be as large as one would expect with favorable conditions.
Which is good. In this case the Pentax lens and camera costs about what the 7Artisans lens alone. And this is an inexpensive M mount lens. And you could spend even less if you go for the almost as good Pentax 50mm f/1.7 variant.
Well. That about wraps it up. Both were fun to use for different reasons and both are capable of pleasing images. Neither are better to me. Simply different. There is little point in arguing about gear. Make images. Use what you have and have fun.