Film Friday: The Konica Hexar RF

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

“Are you telling me you built a time machine out of a DeLorean?…The way I see it, if you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style.”—Back to the Future.

Konica introduced the Hexar RF rangefinder cameras on October 13, 1999 and at the time was the first new M-mount camera body since the Leica M6 was launched in 1984. Alas this wonderful camera was discontinued October 2003, a victim of the Konica-Minolta shotgun wedding.

Here’s what CameraQuest had to say about the Konica Hexar RF: “Imagine starting with a Leica M6, adding AE exposure with AE lock, motorized film advance and rewind, a great finder shutter speed display, and an electronic metal shutter with a wider shutter range: that’s the Konica Hexar RF — more or less. The Hexar RF is an excellent camera. With some features that no Leica M had until the introduction of the Leica M7 in 2002.”

The above banter between Marty McFly and Doc Brown was going through my head when I picked up my Konica Hexar RF camera and went out to photograph an Halloween costume contest for dogs a few years ago. The Hexar is a manual focus, rangefinder film camera and about as far away in design from any camera I’ve used, with the exception of my much heavier Leica M6 TTL. On this sunny October day I decided to play Cartier-Bresson and mounted a 35mm f/2.8 Hexanon lens with its slotted lens hood onto the camera and set out to capture a few doggy decisive moments.

I was searching to reignite that most special part of a photographer’s life; that first magical phase when each print or slide you saw from a roll of film was a pleasant surprise. The Hexar RF provides no instant feedback; no LCD screens, not even autofocus but it’s a finely crafted instrument and just plain feels good in your hands. What’s more its understated looks make it the ideal stealth camera for capturing truly candid moments where people (the dogs are always at their best) don’t put on their “photo faces” because I was photographing their pets and not them. Working with the Hexar was a great experience but…

PS: In my rush to digital, my Hexar RF is long gone sold along with my Contax G-series cameras, I really miss all of those cameras and never should have sold them. Sigh.