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Celebrating film photography, gear, and artists. Check out gear talk and interviews in the blog!

27 Oct '16

Konica Hexar RF Video Review

Posted by Mike Padua in 35mm, Gear, reviews, videos

 

Usually, I like to own a camera for at least a few weeks and shoot 5 or 6 rolls through it before I do a full review. But there was something about this camera that really made me feel at home with the way it operated, so much so that I had to do a review on it after owning it for 3 days and shooting 2 only two rolls of film through it. Check it out this video review of the Konica Hexar RF 35mm film rangefinder camera!

 

14 Jun '15

Gear Review: Konica C35 AF2 35mm Autofocus Film Camera

Posted by Mike Padua in 35mm, Cameras, gear, Gear Reviews, konica, reviews

The Konica C35 AF2 is the successor to the original C35 AF, history's first production autofocus camera. It uses the "Visitronic" passive autofocus system invented by Honeywell, which detects contrast inside the autofocus frame to achieve optimum focus--to put it simply. There's a lot of other science-y talk about it all over the internet so you can find that stuff elsewhere if you're interested.

The main difference between the original AF and the AF2 are said to be only cosmetic, and in use that seems to be largely true. The lens is a 38mm f/2.8, with a programed leaf shutter using three speeds: 1/60, 1/125, and 1/250. Exposure is fully automatic, and ISO sensitivities range from ISO 25 to 400. ISO speeds are set by turning a ring on the front assembly of the lens, and the set ISO speed will show in a small window at the bottom of the lens. The nice thing about being able to set ISO manually is that you can manually rate films differently from their DX codings.

Other more modern cameras will rate film automatically based on their DX codes--the silver/black patterns on the film cassettes. This can be useful if you're shooting with expired film, as I did in this test. I shot a roll of Kodak Max 400 expired in 2004--11 years beyond it's expiration date. The general rule is to overexpose one extra stop over the film's box speed to compensate for loss of sensitivity for every 10 years past its expiration date. So even though the film is rated at 400, I manually rated it at 200, and the results came out great. The negatives are a bit more grainy than fresh film, but this is to be expected with expired film.

The viewfinder has brightlines, and features an underexposure warning light (a red light visible in the upper right hand corner of the frame), parallax correction lines to correct for subjects that are closer than 1.1 meters (3.6 feet) It has a flash that is activated by a switch that pops up the the flash unit. Turning off the flash is as easy as popping the flash back down into place. The Guide Number of the flash is 14.

For some reason there is a warning inside the battery compartment warning against use of rechargeable Ni-Cd batteries, although when I tested the camera, I used rechargeable Ni-Mh batteries which seemed to work fine. I guess use Alkalines to be safe, and Alkalines will recycle the flash faster anyway. There is a self timer. It's about 14 seconds long. Not much more to say about that. So the exposure is automatic, the focus is automatic, and the two things keeping this from being a fully automated camera are the manually-set ISO speeds (discussed above) and the film advance and rewind mechanisms. The film is advanced by the classic lever that sits in the top corner of the camera that you ratchet with you right hand thumb. I personally love the tactile feel of manually advancing film. The lever is metal and feels sturdy, not like it's going to snap off when you ratchet it. The film chamber door is opened by a switch on the door with an indicator arrow of the direction to push the switch--simple.

Cosmetically unique in this camera is the film rewind lever--it doesn't have the protruding "wheel" dial as seen on many cameras with a manual rewind--the lever is recessed into the body and flips out to be turned when you're finished with the roll. It makes the top profile of the camera look fairly sleek, as far as late 70's design goes. The flash exposure works quite well, and I shot a few flash pictures that exposed nicely. Despite being new technology in it's day, the autofocus works quickly and accurately.

My one main nitpick about the camera is that there is no focus lock feature--you can't grab focus on something then recompose the frame. Focus will always been on what is inside the center autofocus frame. I show a picture in the test gallery that shows the background is in critical focus--but my daughter in the foreground, who is not centered in the frame, is slightly out of focus. It was daylight and the camera used a fairly small aperture, so most of the shot was in fair focus, but you can still tell where the camera chose to focus right in the center of the frame. The camera I found came with a full leatherette fitted two-piece case and was in great condition, overall a very nice thrift store find. It's fun to use and for folks interested in the history of what is, these days, technology that we take for granted like autofocus, it's a nice piece to have in the collection.

30 May '15

Gear Review: Yashica FX-3 35mm Film SLR

Posted by Mike Padua in Cameras, gear, Gear Reviews, reviews, yashica

The Yashica FX-3 35mm Film SLR is the first film SLR I've ever owned. I've had a bunch of point and shoots before and since, but this model was the first all-manual, all mechanical film SLR that has ever come into my posession, and it was very special because it was given to me by my sister, who used it in her photography classes in high school in the 1980s.

I had been shooting digitally for many years, shooting exclusively digital since getting my first digital point and shoot in 2002, graduating to a Digital SLR in 2004, and never looking back. Knowing that I was doing photography and spending more time on it, and even making some money at it, she decided to give me her old Yashica.

Though with digital, I knew how to expose a frame completely manually and had been doing so for years, the Yashica felt somewhat alien to me in it's all-manual workings, but at the same time I felt connected to a heritage and history of photography, to a time and craft that came many years before. I was instantly drawn to it and intrigued by it, and after fiddling with the knobs and levers for only a few minutes, I had a solid understanding of how it worked--which was not difficult, because this is a dead simple camera model that was sold and marketed to students!

The body is quite a common model seen in the 80s, as it was actually designed and manufactured by Cosina, and branded and marketed by Yashica, using the Zeiss-designed Contax-Yashica Mount, also know as the "C/Y" mount. The Yashica FX-3 is essentially the least expensive way one can get into using the highly desirable Zeiss T* optics that were created in the C/Y mount, although Yashica and many other third-party manufacturers created lenses in this mount as well. Other companies such as Vivitar also marketed the same body manufactured by Cosina in other mounts, such as the Pentax PK mount, as a way to attract beginners, students, and photographers on a budget into the camera market as a less expensive alternative than buying the "bigger" manufacturer's bodies.

The FX-3 is known to be very durable and dependable camera, owing a lot of that to it's dead-simple, all mechanical design. While it has a light meter that requires batteries to operate, the camera can still expose a frame without batteries, since the shutter is mechanical and requires no power source to fire. It has a metal chassis with a plastic top, and while it feels nice and solid, and fairly heavy, it is quite small and I certainly wouldn't have too much confidence in it holding together if I were to drop it, especially onto its plastic top portion.

Yashica FX-3 - Top

Yashica FX-3 - Top

The film advance lever is plastic and does feel like given enough force, it might snap off, but I've used mine plenty with no issues. Making the top and advance lever metal certainly would have added to the cost of this model, so it's only natural that some corners are cut in construction to keep it as a budget model, but I've never had any real issues with those things in practical use when shooting with this camera.

The camera does have some widely known weak points. The leatherette covering was known to flake off after some years; when my sister gave me this camera in 2010 the leatherette covering could be brushed right off, leaving behind some gooey adhesive that has broken down over the years. It's best that this stuff get removed and replaced. I bought a great, easy-to-apply kit from Aki Asahi. Also, like virtually any camera of this age or older, the light seals got gummy and and left an oily, black residue that is potentially damaging to the internal chamber of the camera were it to fall off and get in the shutter curtain--not to mention possible light leaks with poor seals.

It's advisable to replace the light seals right away, either by doing it yourself (here's a great guide to do that) or by having a camera repair shop could do it. It can be a laborious task but can be considerable savings over having a repair shop do it; at the time, I didn't have the confidence to replace the seals myself, so I had a repair shop do it at a cost of $60. Doing it yourself can cost you an hour or two of your time (most of that time spent removing the old light seals) and about $9 to $12 for a replacement kit from Ebay.

My final nitpick would be that the meter is a + or - LED readout in the viewfinder, not the more helpful match needle type found in other manual SLRs.

The Yashica FX-3 is a spectacular camera considering it's budget/student model origins and a fun, simple camera to use. The fact that it fires completely mechanically without the need for a battery, and the fact that it has a built in light meter makes it a great all-around package for someone looking for something cheap and reliable. Any FX-3 you buy on Ebay or wherever will very likely need a little bit of TLC in the way of a replacement covering and light seals, but once you take care of those using better materials than originally used in manufacturing, you'll likely never need to do it again. Because the shutter is a metal-bladed curtain, it is a little loud and can introduce some camera shake a lower shutter speeds. It doesn't have mirror lock-up but again, that's not what this camera is for. Oh, and it's small. It's not Olympus OM-system small, but it's tiny compared to the Canons, Nikons, and Minoltas of the same era. Many of these can be found with it's commonly paired "kit" lens, the 50mm f/2, and while it's doesn't have the sexy-fast f/1.4 aperture, it's still plenty fast and very sharp, even wide open.

Find one, shoot one, you won't regret it--and keep it around to pass on to your kids.