In my glass cupboard there are a few Konicas already. There’s an old TC SLR (ok, there are two. One with a surprisingly sharp 40mm f/1.8 Hexanon lens) and small carry-around point-and-shoot C35. I must admit I always thought Konicas were historical pieces mostly for display. Lately I have had to revise that view: Enter the Hexar AF!
The Hexar AF (called “AF” to distinguish it from it’s rangefinder sibling, the “RF”) has gotten some pretty rave reviews on the net. Apparently the lens is considered extremely sharp – comparisons to Leica lenses has been made… It is also known as a quiet camera. Or very quiet camera. In fact it is an extremely quiet camera.
Usually I do not link to other sites but if you need to know anything, and I mean anything, about the Hexar then johanniels is the place to visit. I shall not duplicate what he already has written here but rather give my first impressions after using the camera for about five months.
So what about it then? Why the positive reviews? Well, it is a stellar performer. It has Program (P), Aperture priority (A) and Manual (M) modes. While the A and M modes perform as expected the P-mode is a bit peculiar – in a good way.
In the viewfinder window only a few led’s indicate under/over exposure. For details one has to watch the LCD-display from the top (insane really!). The buttons are really small but the firing button has a nice feel to it.
In P-mode you set your preferred aperture. If the meter says this aperture is OK with any of the shutter speeds, it will fire at that speed and that’s that. But if it is dark and the shutter speed will be slower than 1/60th (the exact value is programmable) it will adjust the aperture to try to keep this slowest speed. It is actually hard to miss a shot with it in the P-mode. If it is too dark overall then you would need a tripod anyway, so it really does its bit as long as there are realistic chances for taking a photo.
Update and warning: The camera runs on one 2CR5 type battery. If you use rechargeable batteries beware that the camera may not work! When newly and fully charged the battery voltage is somewhere around 7-8 volts. The Hexar will not boot with this voltage! (All segments of the display light up but it is unresponsive in any other way.) Letting the battery rest for a few minutes the voltage goes down a bit but not to an acceptable level for the Hexar. I had to drain the battery with 100 mA for an hour or so to make sure the battery was below 6.5 volts before the camera started normally. I find it strange that such a modern film camera has such low tolerance for the input voltage, surely a low drop out voltage regulator could have been used?
Update again: After the unfortunate temporary demise of the Hexar and subsequent resurrection I acquired a new Duracell 2CR5 battery. It turns out that a new battery has a (unloaded) voltage of 6.5 V. So using rechargeables but draining them to 6.5 V would be ok. Just charging to 6.1 V hardly pushes any charge into the battery so it runs only for dozen images:(
The camera is not heavy on batteries. I purposefully left the camera in the ‘P’-mode and never turned it off for weeks, and it run on happily anyway. There is an automatic sleep mode after an hour or so and that of course helps.
Looking at the negative strips after developing I was instantly surprised at how even the exposures were. Usually at least a few negative squares turn out too light or too dark, but not so with the Hexar. The entire strip has an unusually constant contrast of all the 37 frames. Yes, I can squeeze 37 shots out of an ordinary 36 exposure roll.
As it turns out I have used mostly Kentmere 100 at ASA 50 in it. For the winter season it appears that HC-110 diluted 1+60 and developed for 7 minutes seems to be just about right. As the days got lighter a full 7 minutes is a wee bit too long so I shall try 6 minutes in the next runs. I find that the extra stop of exposure lifts the shadows in a pleasant way also on this film. My normal film is Fomapan 100 which I bulk load from a 30m spool.
This is a scan of a A4-sized paper print. The resolution is better than my scanner can get from a negative and surprises even more regarding the image quality from the Hexar. I am particularly pleased by the birch’s details. All this from type 135 film?
And silent? Quite so in normal mode but there is an even more silent mode (turned on by pressing the MF button while powering up, it signals “L [xx]” in the display if the silent mode has been enabled) which is so silent I thought the entire camera had turned nuts when, in fact, it was suddenly rewinding one of my home-loaded cartridges. Because I had loaded it with an unusual amount of film there were just a dozen shots on it and I was surprised when the numbers suddenly decremented in the display! This happened while being outdoors but with no extra noises I could not hear the rewinder motor running. It is silent! Update: Now that I know what it sounds like I can hear it but it is still very silent.
The buttons are way too small! My fingers are not that big but the minute buttons are hard anyway. I am thinking of adding a small drop of glue on top of each button just to make them stand out more for better tactile sensation.
This far I cannot really say that I have noted any special difference between the Fomapan and the Kentmere. The next few rolls in new light will perhaps tell of a difference?
Hand held in bad sombre light the camera’s later excellent sharpness does not come through. Probably these are at f/2 which would explain the vignetting.
The weather up here in the North during the winter is persistently foggy/icy/cold/freezing and to add pain to injury the sun almost disappears. Last November was one of the least sunny months ever recorded around here! So photographic activity is of course very low. Lately, when having carved up all of April and going steady for May, we have had some lovely sunny days and under this conditions the Hexar really shines!
First out are however three colour shots from this winter. As usual devved in the kitchen sink and then scanned from the negatives:
I generally like B/W better so here are some of these too.
Personally I find the amount of detail striking in a few of these. I was under the impression that medium format was the way to go. Now I am not that certain any longer… And developing prints of these will be way better still!
No it is not going back to the glass cupboard in the near future!