Friend In Need

Having found my old friend my Zeiss Ikon the other day, this put me in mind of another old pal I haven't seen in ages, my Konica Hexar RF. This is another M-mount rangefinder camera but with a little bit more automation in it.

The additional automation is twofold. Firstly is the film transportation system which is fully automated and enables for motorised winding in, on and rewinding of the film. Secondly is the automatic setting of the film speed (ISO) by reading the DX code on the film cassette. These appear to have been replicated from those in the Contax G2 in many ways. These are the positives.


The not so good relates to the viewfinder and its accompanying rangefinder. The finder is dull especially compared to the superb Zeiss Ikon ZM. Its magnification is low at 0.6x compared to the 0.74x of the Zeiss Ikon. Its base length is 68.5mm compared to the 75mm of the Zeiss Ikon. Thus the EBL of the Hexar RF is a miserable 41.10mm compared to the excellent 55.5mm of the Zeiss Ikon which, when you add in the viewfinder dimness too, has significant consequences for the Hexar RF's abilities to focus longer and faster lenses accurately. The Hexar RF's view/rangefinder system appears to be a near copy of that of the old 0.56x Leica M6 finder but not as bright.


Consequently, with the Hexar RF, you probably want to stick to using nothing beyond 50mm and avoid modern fast 50s as well unless well stopped down if you want to be able to focus them accurately which is restrictive. A 50mm f2, or a faster one stopped down to at least f2, is probably the practical limit for repeatably reliable accurate focusing in my experience unless using classic fast 50s where the characteristic lens softness of such optics when used wide open will help mask a bit of focus error on the rangefinder's part especially if the lens is not used close up.


What is bizarre is that the viewfinder of this camera contains, rather optimistically, frame lines for 28/35/50/75/90/135 lenses. Now you could use a 90mm from about f4 onwards but this a bit slow to be viable on many occasions and the 90mm frame lines in the low magnification viewfinder are challengingly small so its use is often impractical.


Provided you work within its limitations, though, this is a lovely little camera but... 


Having dug the camera out of the back of my equipment cupboard it did not engender sufficient confidence in its focusing capabilities with my fast primes at open apertures for me to want to pop a film into it to burn my way through 36 exposures with it. So, with a sigh, back it went into the cupboard unregarded - in need of a friend indeed. Aww!