New YouTube Project

Sorry for my inactivity friends, I have been working on a new pet project which is the Camera Legend YouTube channel. Between that, the blog, and family, I’m burnt out!

It seems the next logical step to bringing a more dynamic experience to our readers.

I initially hesitated doing it…for a couple of years in fact! Afraid to take the plunge, but now we have already posted a couple of videos.

People wish me good luck and I thank them. I’m well aware that most YouTube channels don’t succeed. I’m going in expecting to fail! Starting from zero, got nothing to lose 😀

I view this blog as my model for the YouTube channel. I never expected it to go anywhere but it’s gone beyond my expectations!

It’s not the number of followers as much as people telling me they found the blog while Googling or researching certain cameras. The fact that we have become a tiny fabric of that internet search for the cameras we have profiled is a humbling experience. Very thankful to the viewers and readers.

The YouTube channel is just in experimental stage. I’m not sure if I should be reserved or show some personality so I’m trying different things. I personally think people don’t want to see a robot speaking! Anyway I’m open to your thoughts and suggestions.

I also have to admit, I’m a little shy for putting myself out there in front of the camera. There’s always the thought…”Oh, am I not who you thought I’d be?”

The production is decidedly low budget. As I’ve mentioned here many times, I’m not a video person, though I might have to start learning.

I’m a photographer who loves natural and available light. I don’t like setting up studio lights, though again, I might just have to learn.

I really wanted this to be more like you going into a camera store and chit chatting with one of the employees in there. I used to do that; go in and chat with the sales people and always had a good time talking cameras!

Anyway, please have a look, if you have the time. Honestly, the “meat” of the video, which is the camera talk, I think only true camera nerds could sit through! Thank you in advance and thanks for being part of this new venture!

Best, Sam

 

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Three Years Of Zay

“The Wild Child” 2015. Olympus OM-D EM-5, 45mm f/1.8 Zuiko lens. This photo was shot when the baby was around six months of age. Zay was blessed with a head full of hair as an infant! 🙂

Howdy folks, how have you been? Hope everyone is doing great!

I’ve always felt that as fast as life moves, it moves even faster when you have children. As they get older, you get older and all of a sudden you begin to feel your age creeping in more and more! Is it just me? 😊

Well, my baby daughter Zayda just turned three this week and even though I try not to make family specific postings, please allow me to indulge for today 😊

Now, in looking over Zay’s pics over the past three years, I noticed most of the photos of her are overwhelmingly digital using either digital cameras or cell phone cameras.

Ten years ago when my first daughter Zoe was born there was a more ecclectic mix of 35mm, medium format, and digital images.

“As In A Dream” 2015. Kodak Retina IIIC with 50mm f/2 Schneider Xenon lens, T-Max 400 developed in D76. Zayda was around two or three months in this photo. Due to the camera having issues with overlapping frames, you can see a framed photo of big sister Zoe on Zoe’s right shoulder. I actually loved the effect here, hence the title 🙂

Why such a big difference? No I don’t love one daughter more than the other! I don’t favor one more than the other, at least I try not to.

Upon self reflection I would say I’m getting older and now I’m just a product of the times we live in.

“Love Is In The Air” 2015. Canon EOS-1D 4.1mp, 50mm f/1.8 Yongnuo lens. Zayda was around five months of age in this photo. I was testing a Yongnuo 50mm f/1.8 lens, which is a clone of the cheap but capable Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 lens. The Yongnuo is even cheaper but quite a capable lens as well!

What I mean is that ten years ago, the birth of my first child was something I’ve never experienced before and I was eager to take as many shots of her early years as I could.

I was also ten years younger and had the patience to keep up with a baby and wait for the right moment to capture the images. I was also very eager to perfect my craft on film.

“Cheeri-O” 2016. Fuji Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic.

Flash forward to today. I don’t quite have the same endurance, mentally or physically, to wait for that right moment to capture that pose or expression. As most of you may know, photographing children requires a lot of patience. It will test your patience for sure!

“Smile For Me” 2018. Nikon D1 2.7mp, 50mm f/1.8 AF-D Nikkor.

One must also take into account that the cell phone cameras are much better today and their convenience has made me a lazier person. I’m openly admitting this!

“Bright Eyes” 2015. Canon EOS-1Ds 11.1mp DSLR, 50mm f/1.4 Contax Zeiss Planar MM.

But I’ve made a pledge to myself that in the next few months I will strive to capture the baby more often with my film cameras now that she is at an age where she’s more cooperative with posing or standing still for pictures.

If you’ll note the equipment used in these images, they are all made from cameras I’ve reviewed or spoken about.

“Softees” 2015. Ricoh GR1, Ilford Delta 400 in D76.

As for Baby Zayda herself, she doesn’t care if I photograph her with a film camera or digital camera or phone camera 😀

“The Baby” 2015. Nikon V1, 18.5mm f/1.8 Nikkor 1 lens.

In closing I just want to say Zayda, I love you very much! Perhaps one day you’ll read this and have a smile from it 😘

“Chicka-Dee” 2015. Nokia Lumia 1020.

“Eye Spy” 2016. iPhone 6s Plus.

The Incredible New Fuji X-H1

The Konica Hexar AF

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The Konica Hexar AF is a 35mm point and shoot camera introduced by Konica in 1993. The camera has a fixed 35mm f/2 Hexar lens.

Just as I stated about the Ricoh GR1 in my review, the Konica Hexar also came from the same unique era in the 1990s when manufacturers such as Contax, Nikon, Leica, Ricoh, Minolta, and yes Konica put out high end “luxury” point and shoot cameras, forever changing the way the lowly point and shoot camera was perceived.

The Konica Hexar is one of the greatest “cult” cameras of all time.

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“Sunday Girls” 2015. Konica Hexar AF, Ilford Delta 400 developed in D76. Some Z sister love 🙂

AS A CAMERA

The Konica Hexar is an all electronic autofocus camera and relies on one 2CR5 battery for all its functions.

The camera features Aperture Priority, Program, and Manual modes. The shutter speed range is 30s to 1/250s plus T.

The 35mm f/2 Hexar lens is a fixed 35mm f/2 that closes down to f/22.

IS IT A RANGEFINDER OR A POINT AND SHOOT

Though the Hexar AF resembles a rangefinder camera, it is indeed a large point and shoot rather than a true rangefinder like a Leica M6 for example.

Don’t forget, back in the 1990s, point and shoot cameras were still considered “lowly” by elitist photographers. But even these folks knew what a great camera the Hexar was so they had to have it. So for those folks calling the Hexar AF a rangefinder probably made them feel better 😊

The Konica Hexar RF, a different camera, is an actual rangefinder. So remember…Hexar AF, point and shoot. Hexar RF, rangefinder.

IN THE HAND AND THE CONTROLS

While technically a point and shoot camera, the Konica Hexar AF is actually quite large in the hand. It’s roughly the same length as say a Leica M8 and almost as thick, but not as bulky as the M8.

The relatively large size of the camera may also be a contributing factor to it being perceived as a traditonal rangefinder.

Back in the mid to late 1990s when I used this camera most, I considered its large size an asset because I’m sure most people then saw it as a large, almost goofy point and shoot camera with the name “Konica” on it. This is mostly true for the black version. Surely it must be a cheap and “harmless” camera right? 🙂

That was back in the 1990s. Today, I believe people are even more camera savvy thanks in no small part to the internet and the resurrgence of interest in cameras and photography. In some ways it was better in the 90s wasn’t it guys? We had this thing all to ourselves 🙂

Ergonomically, I think the camera is excellent with a nice heft to the body. From the shooter’s perspective, the large dial on the top right hand side of the camera controls the aperture in half stops from f/2 to f/22.

Also on the top plate are from the Off/A/P/M mode dial, the up and down buttons, the self time button, the Select and MF buttons, and the tiny rewind button.

The body can be held in one hand if need be thanks to a nice right handed grip molded into the body. I’d take care that a strap is around your neck or hand if you do this because the camera can slip from your hand and drop, and you wouldn’t want that would you?

MY EXPERIENCES AND IMPRESSIONS OF THE HEXAR AF

I got my first Hexar AF in 1996 after reading an excellent and extensive review of the Hexar on a once great website called Photo.net but for some reason I can no longer find this review when doing a quick search for it.

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“Meditation” 1997. Konica Hexar AF, Fuji Reala. The Hexar AF is capable of brilliant color capture, especially with a film like Reala.

Photo.net was one of the first sites on the internet truly dedicated to photography. They had great articles and forums. I would contribute once in a while, but mainly decided to stay a lurker.

The reason I say Photo.net was “once great” is that sometime in the past few years, Photo.net has gone through a complete renovation and is almost unrecognizable.

To be fair, it may still be great, I don’t know, but I no longer visit. Just like being used to the low budget Craigslist layout, I was used to the old school Photo.net platform. I don’t know if they have new owners or not, but the new platform does not, to me, have that down home feeling of the old Photo.net and is harder to navigate.

I know there are “crazy passionate” (as I like to say) people out there to whom saying anything sounding remotely negative will set them off. One person got angry because I called a camera he apparently liked a “brute.” What I actually wrote was that it was “an awesome brute of a camera” 🙂

So to avoid that let me say, yes I understand if I took a little time Photo.net is probably as great as it always was. However, I haven’t had the time to expolore it.

Anyway, I’m drifting off topic here, so let’s get back to the Hexar AF. As I said, after reading that excellent review on Photo.net, I had to have it!

When I got it, I truly had the feeling that I had something special in my hands. Much like the way I suppose that someone in today’s world feels when they hold a Sony RX1 or a Leica Q, etc, etc. Twenty two years later, I still get a special feeling when I hold the Hexar and use it.

HOW I USE THE HEXAR

The Konica Hexar AF is a purely electronic camera that relies on a battery for all its functions and uses dials and lots of buttons for its controls. Generally a no-no for me, but the great thing is I use the Konica as it was intended, which is that I use it as a point and shoot.

So if you’ll forgive me, I will not delve much (if at all) into some of its more complex controls. For example, you can set up the Hexar for manual focus or hyperfocal focus or what have you, but for that you need to rely on pressing a bunch of buttons all of which you need a manual or look up online on how to do it.

It’s not that it’s so hard, but for me, I don’t or never needed to bother with that because I never intended to use the Hexar in any other way but point and shoot 🙂

I don’t mean that in a negative way. The fact that the Hexar is a point and shoot allows me the freedom to concentrate on the light, subject, composition, etc, etc.

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“Mr. Kodak” 2003. Konica Hexar AF, Kodak Ultra HD 400. The Ozarks, Arkansas. The Hexar AF’s autofocus worked well for this shot.

The great thing about the Hexar is that while it relies a lot on electronic buttons for a lot of its extraneous functions, it couldn’t be simpler to use, if you do as I do. Just turn it on, put it on A for aperture priority and control that nice large aperture dial, or (dare I say it) just leave it on P for Program mode, then it’s simple as pie. Just point and shoot folks, don’t overthink it!

AUTOFOCUS

The Hexar AF relies on active-infrared focus. In general, the AF is adequately fast and accurate. In low light situations, it may struggle if there’s no definable subject for the AF to latch on to.

Other times, it may seem like the AF is hesitating but this usually happens when the camera develops the dreaded “sticky shutter button” problem which we’ll discuss in “Issues” below. In general, the autofocus in the Hexar is very reliable even when the user themselves might be unsure it got the shot.

THAT LENS AND IMAGE QUALITY

It’s been widely said on the web for a very long time that the 35mm f/2 Hexar lens on the Hexar AF is a close copy of the pre Asph Leica 35mm f/2 Summicron.

In my limited time with the Summicron, I’d have to say I didn’t see it. Perhaps it was my copy of the Summicron but the Hexar lens appeared slightly sharper (probably more contrasty) than the Summicron, the bokeh less funky, which kind of makes sense since it is of a much newer vintage than the Leica. The Leica had more of a “look” to the images it produced though.

It’s also said that the Hexar lens may be closer to the 35mm f/1.8 Nikkor rangefinder lens. I don’t really see that either and I have the Nikkor. The Nikkor, like the Leica, has their own unique signature. And the Hexar does too.

For example, I would say the Hexar’s bokeh leans more towards neutral. Not bad, not great. Not unpleasant for most situations. The Nikkor has funkier bokeh that’s not exactly pretty, but adds to its “character.”

I’m totally convinced all these great old lenses earned their reputation as a result of the abberations and imperfections inherent in them, secondary to being a product of their time. In other words, a lens from the 50s or 60s as great as they were, will simply lack something an equivalent modern lens has, with all the advances made in coatings and computer design or corrections for optical errors.

But, and this is a big BUT friend…these abberations or “errors” are what make those old lenses produce such great images!! Whether it’s a look you love or a look you hate, these old lenses produces images that catches the eye. And again, I’m convinced it’s from their imperfections.

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“Snow Heart” 2015. Konica Hexar AF, Ilford Delta 400 developed in D76. The Hexar AF is capable of excellent sharpness and lovely tones in black and white.

That said, the Konica Hexar AF lens is truly great! It’s sharp from f/2 and very sharp stopped down slightly. There is some barrel distorion in the near focus range, but it’s generally not a problem for me.

The lens exhibited excellent tonality and reproduces colors superbly especially with a good color film like the old Reala or Velvia. I generally prefer b&w when using older cameras, but the Hexar is one camera I wouldn’t mind using with color film.

My subjective impression is that the 35mm f/2 Hexar lens has a much more modern signature than the lenses it’s usually compared to. And it kind of makes sense considering the Hexar AF is a child of the 90s.

The fixed 35mm f/2 Hexar lens has a nice nifty pull out metal hood built in. Nice touch!

THE FAMOUS SILENT MODE

The Konica Hexar AF had one other thing beside that fabulous lens that made it famous. It was the stealthy “Silent” mode. Though I told you I hated using those electronic buttons, this one is so easy I’ll tell you how to do it.

Keep you hand on the MF button, turn the camera on, you should see a letter on the top LCD. If you do see that “L” then that’s it! You’re in the silent mode.

In this mode, the camera is amazingly quiet when advancing film. In the 1990s used to take the camera with me to college downtown for night classes and sometimes I’d used it to take photos of friends making wacky faces in the classroom. I used to have to look twice at the film counter to make sure the camera actually took the shot. That’s how quiet it was.

You might say, why were you taking your camera to class anyway? Just to take photos of your friends making wacky faces? No friend, I actually took it with me because after class was over, I was free to walk around the streets of New York City. The wacky faces arose out of classroom boredom 🙂

Of course, in a truly quiet “you could hear a pin drop” room you may hear it, but for the majority of the shooting situations you may be in, the Hexar’s silent mode will impress.

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“Sunday Girls” closer crop. My eldest would usually mess up my attempts at taking a candid shot of her by making silly faces but here she had no clue that I took the photo 🙂

Again, I always like to put it in today’s perspective and in the age of high quality cell phones and point and shoot cameras, the Hexar’s silent mode is kind of a moot point. Yet, when compared to some of today’s cameras, especially the DSLR cameras with their mirror slap, the Hexar in silent mode may be more silent and that’s impressive, especially for a film camera.

THE COOL FILM REWIND CATCH

One really cool thing I like with the Hexar is that when the camera rewinds the film down to “1” it gives you quite a pause, not sure how long, maybe a second more or less, but just enough time that you can twist the back door key open and catch the film before it goes into the cannister.

This is an awesome feature for me as I love to shoot half a roll in one camera and one roll in another.

ISSUES

The Konica Hexar AF has a top shutter speed of 1/250 which some may find limiting. How would this be limiting for you? Well, let’s say you want to shoot a model outdoors in bright sunlight. Let’s say you want to shoot wide open to get some background blur. The top shutter speed of 1/250 severely limits your ability to do the above.

It also limits the use of faster film in bright daylight. It’s almost impossible to get bokeh in bright sunlight with this camera, even with slow film as the lens begs to be stopped down in bright light.

In bright light, many cameras will already be begging for more than 1/250th of a second so you really have to use slower film and find a way to work around it, maybe use some ND filters.

For me, it’s not a problem because I’m not shooting in those conditions. I’m usually doing the opposite which is shooting in low or subdued light so the camera will rarely ever need to go to 1/250 for me.

The main issue I have seen with the Konica Hexar AF is that they tend to develop what’s known as the “sticky shutter problem.”

Let’s say you press the shutter button. Nothing happens. You press it again. It may focus or not. Eventually it focuses. Maybe not. Either way, you’re not sure what happened.

You most likely have the sticky shutter problem if you experience this. I know I have. In fact, my Hexar does this now.

From what I can gather, it seems most people think it’s a matter of the parts being worn from time and use and apparently there is a simple fix for it which will require you to disassemble, clean and reassemble parts of the camera. It’s said to be easy but I haven’t tried it yet. The tutorial can be found easily on YouTube.

But…

Be forwarned. Some say it’s just a temporary fix and eventually the problem comes back and that you do eventually need to have it professionally repaired as some of the parts may need replacement. With Konica out of the camera business, I’m not really sure if there are many parts to be had.

Since mine is working intermittently, I’m living with it as is for now.

Some people have also complained of faulty electronics, ie camera dying for no reason but I’ve not heard much of this and have not experienced it myself. I’ve had two of these cameras. But that’s not to say it couldn’t happen. These cameras have been on the market for more than twenty years and if they’ve never been maintained, something is bound to happen sooner or later.

Other than that, and the odd off focus shots which happens with any camera, the Hexar is generally very reliable, but then again it IS an over twenty year old camera from a manufacturer who no longer makes cameras for general consumption so be forwarned.

BOTTOM LINE

The Konica Hexar AF is one of the greatest cult cameras of all time and justifiably so. It’s got a great lens and great ergonomics if used as a point and shoot.

The camera does rely on a lot of dials and tiny buttons if you want to delve into more of its feature set, but if you’re content to focus on getting the picture and letting the camera do the work, it’s the simplest electronic camera to use. And it delivers excellent, sharp images beautifully and easily.

The photos on this page do not illustrate all that the Hexar is capable of. I do have a ton of photos from this camera that sit in photo albums that I just haven’t had the time to scan, but I will continue to add photos to this review as time allows.

The Konica Hexar AF is a Camera Legend that is still very much in demand by photography enthusiasts and I wholeheartedly endorse it. It brings me back to a great time in life and won me over by delivering great photos time after time. Even today the Hexar continues to produce wonderful results and it’s a keeper in my book.

PRICE/AVAILABILITY/WHERE TO BUY

Though the Hexar AF has been long discontinued, it’s still relatively easy to find. Prices are trending from $450-800 US Dollars.

The Hexar was made in several different fits, Black, Silver, Classic, Rhodium. They’re all the same camera, just a different trim. The Black model appears to be the most common. The Classic and the Rhodium seem to fetch more on the used market.

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MODERN DIGITAL ALTERNATIVES

So you say you’d like a camera like the Konica Hexar but you prefer digital? Well, they never made an equivalent of the Hexar AF in digital form, so you’re out of luck there.

The closest modern equivalent I would say is the Sony RX1 series. Though I’m sort of bias towards my film cameras, I would say the RX1 and its reiterations are superb.

And since Sony bought out Konica/Minolta oh so many years ago in 2006, you could say the Sony carries that Hexar lineage, even though the lens on the RX1 is a Zeiss lens. But hey, that ain’t a bad thing is it? 🙂

The Sony RX1R II

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Photo Of The Day: “Don’t Worry Be Happy”

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I said to Baby Girl here…Hey, could you at least TRY to look happy for the photo? 🙂

This photo was taken with the Nikon D1, 2.65mp DSLR from 1999. The lens was the even older 35-70mm f/2.8 AF-D Nikkor. I was out testing some new equipment, but the best shot I got that day was from this old school classic.

Looking on some of my own postings, I could see where some may think I lean more towards Canon, but in fact, I’ve always swayed equally between the two giants, Canon and Nikon.

I’ve loved the D1 since I first read about it in 1999. Since then, I must’ve had about five of these bodies! Nuts!

No, it’s not going to beat your 36mp or 42mp cameras, I’m not that crazy. All I’m saying is I have a soft spot for the D1. It is a true digital Camera Legend and I love it! Maybe one day I’ll do a write-up on it. Hope you enjoy the extra hour this weekend. Happy Sunday!

Classic Cameras: The Rolleiflex 2.8C Xenotar

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The Rolleiflex 2.8C  is a medium format, twin lens reflex camera introduced in 1952 by Franke & Heidecke, aka Rollei GmbH of Germany. The camera produces 6×6 square format images on 120 film.

Although the last remnants of Rollei as we know it vanished completely in 2015, it was and is considered one of the greatest names in photography. Rollei made many, many great and iconic cameras, but their TLR cameras are where they made their name. Today we look at one of their many standout models, the Rolleiflex 2.8C twin lens reflex camera.

UPDATE: One of our readers kindly pointed out that “Rollei” still makes digital medium format cameras.

https://rolleiflex.us/blogs/news-tech-tips-updates/factory-visit-summer-2016-yes-they-are-still-in-business

I’m glad to know this, although I do stand by my statement of the Rollei “as we know it” being gone. However, if the folks running Rollei now can return it to its glory, I’ll be the happiest guy here! Thanks for the information!

ROLLEIFLEX 2.8C INTRODUCTION

If I could only have one camera, it would probably have to be my venerable Rolleiflex 2.8C with the Schneider Xenotar lens. Introduced around 1952-1953, it was the first Rolleiflex model to feature either the Zeiss Planar or Schneider-Kreuznach Xenotar f/2.8 lenses.

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“Red-e-Flex” 2008. Rolleiflex 2.8C, Kodak Portra 400 UC. The Rolleiflex is always ready to shoot…and it’s going to drive you insane man! 🙂

As far as I can tell, the very early versions are known as Type I and only offered the Xenotar lens. The latter version known as Type II offered either the Planar or Xenotar. Keep in mind that “early” and “late” for this camera was only from 1952-1955. I’ve read different accounts that the Planar was offered first and the Xenotar was just a “replacement” lens that were used when production of the Planar was in short supply. I really don’t know and at this point, does it really matter?

It might matter for camera historians, but for shooters either lens I think would be plenty fine regardless of which one came first on the 2.8C model.

Before I go further, I should say that Rolleiflexes have a large and passionate following around the world with many, many Rollei experts out there. I do not consider myself one of those experts. I am just an enthusiast who loves Rolleis and Rolleiflexes and have enjoyed using and collecting Rollei items over the years and doing so “under the radar” (until now I guess!) like I’m sure many of you out there.

The camera is over sixty years old and I think there are already some fine reviews out there. In fact, I’ve decided that I have much more fun giving you a “review” through my impressions and experiences rather than writing a long, formal review. I do try to give you everything I think you might need to know, but I might miss a thing or two. As always I encourage my readers to do more research if they’re really interested. That “search” bar will do you wonders 🙂

With that said, if you are new to TLR photography then I suggest you go and try one out. It doesn’t need to be a Rolleiflex. I could try and explain it, but it will be nowhere as helpful as actually handling a TLR.

This article focuses on the 2.8C model specifically. You will be fine with any of the Rolleiflex 2.8 series, A/B/C/D/E/F…you have lots of choices!

AS A CAMERA

Back to the Rolleiflex 2.8C…Why do I love it? Simple, it always delivers the goods. It’s got a great lens and doesn’t need batteries to operate. I got it used, in bargain condition in 2008. It has never had a CLA, though I think a CLA is long overdue. Keep in mind that the Rollei has a mechanical shutter and that is always going to be less accurate than an electronically timed shutter, so if you feel the speeds are way off, get a CLA.

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“Morning Fuel” 2009. Rolleiflex 2.8C, 80mm f/2.8 Xenotar. Can’t remember the film though it’s most likely Tri-X or Neopan.

The Rolleiflex 2.8C is well built, as are all the top tier Rolleiflexes. The camera weighs roughly 2.5 pounds. It will probably be heavier than a mirrorless with lens, but would weigh less than your mid-level or pro Canon/Nikon body with pro lens. The Rolleiflex is NOT pocketable 🙂

The focus knob is on your left side and the film wind crank is on your right side when the camera is in use. The shutter automatically cocks when you turn the winding crank and pull it back.

Right near the lenses, the aperture control dial will be on your left hand side and the shutter speed control dial on your right hand side. You depress in slightly, then turn. The Rolleiflex 2.8C does not have an EVS system and I consider this an advantage because you need not worry about those dials moving together and you’re free to choose whatever aperture/shutter speed combo you like.

The waist-level finder (WLF) is used for focusing and it snaps into focus nicely. As far as I know, this model is not compatible with the Rollei prism finder, though I never felt the need for one on a TLR. I suppose a skilled technician could modify this, but why bother? The waist-level finder is one of the thrills of TLR photography as far as I’m concerned. If you’re new to TLR photography, the WLF will probably have the biggest initial impact on you.

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A view through the Rolleiflex waist-level finder.

The camera feels good in the hand with a nice heft to it. I prefer it to the smaller Rolleicords. The camera is sure to get you some looks and maybe start a conversation if used in public enough, it is not unobtrusive or inconspicous in any way 🙂

The camera has a shutter speed range of 1 sec to 1/500 plus Bulb.

NO METER? NO PROBLEM

The 2.8C lacks a meter and I don’t miss it. Truth of the matter is, sticking to ISO 400 film and using meterless cameras for years now, I’ve instinctively come to figuring out the exposures I need without much thought. I do not say this in a braggadocious way. It becomes second nature with time and practice as many photographers can tell you.

I am a firm believer that practicing on a meterless camera will make you a more proficient photographer. Plus black and white film is very forgiving, so unless you’re way off, you should be alright. All of the photos in this article were taken with on the fly metering, without the use of a light meter.

But you can certainly use a handheld meter or download a light meter app on your smartphone. I’m not against meters by any means. I use them on any camera that has one. But if a camera has no meter, I don’t bother using one, it adds to the fun and I learn. I generally do find that many times, manually metering old cameras yields better results for me. Just remember the reading from a meter is just your starting point, not the end word to your exposures.

I have tried the phone apps to check against my digital cameras and they work great. In fact, if you’re used to using a meter, get a meterless camera body, start out with a handheld light meter (old school or phone is ok) and then ween yourself off the meter.

THE XENOTAR LENS 

While I hope you can tell from all the cameras profiled here that I am no brand loyalist, you might and probably rightfully so, imagine that I would have preferred the Zeiss Planar. The Zeiss Planar is very well known and quite popular with the masses. In fact, the first Rolleiflex I got years before I got the 2.8C was the 2.8F with the Planar lens, based on reputation of the Zeiss Planar alone.

The truth of the matter though is that while I have used both the 2.8F Planar and the 2.8C Xenotar, I actually prefer the Xenotar.

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“Tickle Me Elmo” 2008. Rolleiflex 2.8C, 80mm f/2.8 Xenotar lens, Kodak Portra 400. The lens was probably stopped down in between f/3.5-5.6.

The above photo of Elmo may seem a silly way to demonstrate the Xenotar lens, but I think the image shows the vibrant colors and high image definition the Xenotar lens is capable of. Check out Elmo’s nose for a little bit of that micro detail/contrast. The image also shows a little bit of the Xenotar’s bokeh in a disadventageous situation. The Xenotar generally delivers pleasing bokeh, but this may seem a tad busy due to those alphabet tiles. In that respect, it’s actually pretty smooth. I know of many other lenses that would not do as well with that background.

One note, I would love to post larger versions here, but the server here no longer supports that. I did try linking a Flickr account to do that, but it ended up being a tedious process of me editing  the links for them to show up correctly. But maybe I’ll try again.

Anyway, while I love the Xenotar, I’m never going to hate on the Planar though so let me just say this was a personal preference based on the two camera samples I had as opposed to something technical about the performance of the lenses. But since I know we all love to read these things, let me say that with these two Rolleiflexes I’ve used, the Xenotar exhibited better perceived sharpness and contrast.

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“Mom’s Kitchen” 2009. Rolleiflex 2.8C, 80mm f/2.8 Xenotar lens, Kodak T-Max 400 in T-Max developer. This was shot in 2009, but looks like it could be a scene from any NYC kitchen from the 1950s and up. As a vintage photo fan, the Rolleiflex and b&w is vintage photo heaven.

The Planar was probably just as sharp, but showed lower contrast. This could have been due to sample variation or defects in the lens, ie, cleaning marks, haze, bubbles, separation, etc, though I did not detect any of this by eye inspection. Keep in mind though that both cameras were already at least fifty years old when I compared them.

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“Fall Back” 2007. Rolleiflex 2.8F, 80mm f/2.8 Planar, Kodak Portra 400 UC. Just a sample shot from the Planar. I would never hate on the Planar, I just like the Xenotar lens better based on my experiences with both lenses. But the soft out of focus areas from the Planar here look quite lovely I think.

Whatever it was, the better sharpness and contrast on my copy of the 2.8C resulted in images with that extra bit of snap to it. This is probably micro details, micro contrast or whatever “micro” you might call it. It adds an extra “pop” to certain images and accentuates that medium format look.

The funny thing is that this “pop” is usually attributed to Zeiss lenses, but in this case it’s not the Zeiss, but the Schneider lens. But Planar fans need not sweat it as the Schneider-Kreuznach (don’t you just love saying that?) Xenotar has been said to be a Planar equivalent or design copy. I have used plenty of Planar type lenses as well as many other Zeiss and Schneider lenses over the years and I can only confirm what others have said…you can’t go wrong with either. Both companies make top notch, world class, and yes, legendary lenses.

NOTES ON BOKEH

One interesting note on the Rolleiflex 2.8C is that the Xenotar on this model has the highly desirable ten aperture blades. That is one of the reasons I settled on the 2.8C. This should result in more rounded, uniform highlights in the out of focus area.

Generally, the Xenotar’s bokeh is smooth and very pleasing. It won’t be super buttery smooth like a modern lens though. You will sometimes get some coma shaped “orbs” in the background, which you see in a lot of vintage lenses. It may not be completely perfect, but I think it actually adds some character to the images. Even modern lenses such as the Canon EOS 85mm f/1.2L exhibit similar characteristics in the bokeh.

The lens does not really do “swirly bokeh” but once in a while, depending on the background, etc, you might see something reminiscent of a swirl I guess.

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“Schwing” 2011. Rolleiflex 2.8C, 80mm f/2.8 Xenotar, Kodak Ektar 100. This man was super chill in Batangas, Philippines.

I’m not making any excuses for it, though it might sound like that. This is a superb lens, but it is an old lens. It has character and I like it the way it is!

One other interesting tidbit to this is that while the ten blades are indeed desirable, most of the time when people are thinking bokeh, they are also using their lenses wide open in which none of the blades are making an impact on the images. Keep this in mind!

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“Gwapo On Grand Street” 2012. Rolleiflex 2.8C, 80mm f/2.8 Xenotar, Fomapan 400 developed in D76. Note the “micro” contrast/details in the hat of this man captured on Grand Street, NYC.

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“Madam” 2011. Rolleiflex 2.8C, Kodak Ektar 100, Manila, Philippines.

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“Nam Tan Wan” 2011. Rolleiflex 2.8C, Kodak Ektar 100, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand. In Thai that means “Sweet Sugar” 🙂

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“Lots Of Opposites” 2009. Rolleiflex 2.8C, 80mm f/2.8 Xenotar lens, Kodak T-Max 400 in T-Max Developer. Baby Z holding one of her first reading books. My friends, boy how fast the time flies. Take plenty of pictures and enjoy life for it passes right before your very eye.

As with any lens of this vintage, it would benefit from a lens hood. Rolleiflex 2.8 models take Bay III filters, hoods, etc. I have not generally had too many issues with bad flaring on the Xenotar, but it’s good insurance to have a hood, especially for a vintage lens older than fifty years. Plus the Rollei hood for this camera is just so damn cool! 🙂

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“Serene” 2012. Rolleiflex 2.8C, Fomapan 400 in D76. Here’s a closer portrait using the Rolleiflex 2.8C with the Rolleinar II close-up lens. The film used was Fomapan 400. This is a wonderful setup for close but comfortable portraits.

BOTTOM LINE

In the 1990s I read a book called “Medium Format Photography” by the late great Lief Ericksenn and he stated Rollei claimed back in the days of the Rolleiflex: “A roll of film, and our camera and you’re in business.”

With all the camera choices we have these days, that may not ring true on specific terms. But relatively speaking, I still think they could make a case for it. With the 2.8C, you have a well built camera that needs no batteries and has an absolutely stellar lens. You have no gimmicks to get in the way or distract you from the joy of picture taking.

Especially when shooting film, medium format can produce results that are often superior to most 35mm film cameras and make images that are a pleasing alternative to modern digital cameras.

I have profiled many legendary cameras here on these pages, all of which are carefully chosen, but not all of them are true Camera Legends. The Rolleiflex series as a whole are without dispute among the most legendary and respected cameras of all time. Thus there is no doubt the Rolleiflex 2.8C is a Camera Legend. It is my favorite among all the TLR’s I’ve ever used and I absolutely love it!

The last remnants of Rollei disappeared in 2015, and they famously auctioned off whatever was left of their factory in Germany. A sad end to one of the true giants of 20th century photography. But the legacy of their cameras, especially the Rolleiflex, is very strong in the hearts, mind, and eyes of Rollei fanatics around the world. I have no doubt the Legend of Rollei will live on for a good long time to come.

Although I love all cameras, any time someone asks me to give my opinion of the greatest camera of all time, more often than not I will say…Rolleiflex baby! 🙂

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PRICE & AVAILABILTY

The Rolleiflex 2.8C is an awesome camera and the great thing is that it is not really a rare or super expensive camera so you can always find one if you keep an eye out.

I got mine in 2008 in BGN condition from KEH for a little over $400. From what I can see, bargains can still be had but prices are trending from $400-900 depending on condition, accessories, etc. Sometimes you may luck out and get one for less than $400, though I’ve never seen a legitimate sale for under $300.

Keep in mind though that, especially when buying from auction sites, the camera will likely be in need of a CLA so try to get one for the lowest price possible, factoring in that you will need to have it worked on, which could well cost you a few hundred more.

A very helpful and accurate way to check your Rolleiflex model is to look up the serial numbers which you can find on this great Rollei site.

http://www.rolleiclub.com/cameras/tlr/info/serial_numbers.shtml

Makes sure the shutter fires and everything that’s supposed to move actually moves. Check the aperture blades to see if they move and check the shutter speeds. The blades may have oil on them, but that should not be a major problem. You may even be able to use the camera for some time as is, even if it does eventually need a CLA. Also make sure whatever should not be moving, isn’t moving!

The main problem I see on these cameras are “shutter speeds not accurate” which may be not the end of the world, especially when using b&w film. Other problems may include dirty or hazy lenses with scratches, fungus, etc, which may affect picture quality. Film transport issues and overlapping frames have been reported, but I’ve never had that problem with the Rolleiflexes I’ve used. All these problems are actually things to watch for in any vintage camera, not just Rolleiflexes.

The good thing is that the Rolleiflexes are well built, durable, and many owners do take very good care of them because they inspire love 🙂

Anyway, if you do come across or own one of these awesome cameras I’d love to hear from you!

***HOT LENS DEALS***

From time to time our affiliates will pass along current deals to us and we decide to post them if we think our readers would benefit.

Today we have some special deals on the hot new Irix 15mm f/2.4 lenses. Irix lenses are high quality lenses designed in Switzerland and produced in South Korea. This ultra-wide angle is fast and (best, for me) is that it’s not a fisheye because I am not a fisheye fan! The few reviews so far seem to indicate excellent optical performance across the frame.

The lens comes in two choices of build quality, keeping economics in mind, while not compromising on image quality. The lower priced lens is called the “Firefly” and it cost $399. The lens is built from lower cost but durable high grade plastics. The “Blackstone” holds the same optics in a magnesium alloy and alluminum housing and goes for $599. I think this is a great notion to sell the same high quality lenses to meet different budgets.

You may check it the out here Irix Lenses

Just a note, if you are going to buy, please do so through our links. It helps to support Camera Legend grow and it helps me to give you the very best I can. Thanks.

Happy New Year 2017!!

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“Countdown To The Future” 2016. Samsung NX1, 30mm f/2 Samsung NX lens.

Just want to wish everyone a wonderful, happy, healthy and prosperous New Year 2017!

Just like the babies above, we’re just counting down the time. While waiting, I just want to thank all friends, fellow bloggers, and readers for their visits and support, really appreciate it! Yes, I know it’s been a bit of a slow drag at times, but I do appreciate you being there. Readership is up despite not doing daily postings.

I did state somewhere that my original goal was to make these pages like a book or something that people can come back to. I think it’s working out like that. I’ve notice our pages coming up more and more when searching for certain cameras. That was the goal and I have to thank all of you camera lovers for it. THANK YOU. Can 2017 be better? It sure can, but it’s a one man crew so we’ll see 🙂

See you in 2017 and bring your cameras and lenses good people!

Tuesday Titans: The Polaroid 180 Land Camera

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“Cat’s Meow” 2016. The Polaroid 180 Land Camera with Portrait Lens kit attached, is an instant film Camera Legend and to me, the Cat’s Meow! 🙂

I was debating to myself whether this camera belongs in the “Tuesday Titans” series. Half of my mind says no, but the other half says, well, this IS a rather big and awkward camera to use, once unfolded out of its protective shell. However, it is not heavy, where most of the Titans reviewed before are. Ah well, what’s done is done I guess.

I’ve wanted one of these for a long time. I’ve played with them, seen prints from them, but never owned one till recently.

I got one through a trade deal which involved me getting rid of some digital gear and a lens. Now it would seem perplexing, maybe even dumb to get rid of digital gear which I could use for a long time for an instant film camera whose main “food” is the recently discontinued Fuji FP-100C, which was the last remaining production instant packfilm made.

But most of you who follow this blog already know I have a habit of doing things that you, nor I, would ever expect. Not that this is something to brag about, it’s just the way I do things.

THE POLAROID 180 LAND CAMERA BODY

The Polaroid 180 is much like other Land Cameras that came before it. It’s a simple but delicate mix. The bellows is probably the most delicate part of these cameras.

I used a Polaroid 360 that was given to me by a friend in college many years back, but I never really liked it. The fiddly operation, the slow f/8.8 lens was disadventageous to me as someone used to 35mm, medium format, and digital cameras.

Plus I have to admit, I was never a huge fan of the Polaroid lo-fi look. I think it only works well for certain subjects, and for a select group of artists of which I am not one of them.

I started enjoying instant cameras more in the late 2000’s when I got myself reacquainted with the medium through the Polaroid 600SE which is probably one of, if not the most desirable packfilm cameras. I really enjoyed the prints I got with this camera and Fuji FP-3000B, also now discontinued.

The Polaroid 180 is also very high on the list of desirable Polaroid cameras. The camera body is genuine Polaroid unlike the 600SE which is really a Mamiya Universal clone, but with an incompatible lens mount to the 600SE.

The 114 f/4.5 Tominon lens on the 180 however was made by Tomoika of Japan. It is roughly the equivalent of a 35mm lens on  full frame camera. At f/4.5 the lens is one of the fastest available for instant packfilm cameras. Only the f/3.8 Tominon on the Polaroid 190 and 195 is faster. Needless to say these lenses are still no f/1.2 speed demons, but in the Polaroid world of f/8 and up, yes these lenses are “fast.”

While many see the 195 as the highest model, I prefer the 180 due to its integrated rangefinder and Zeiss finder. The 195 has separate viewfinder and rangefinder windows, much like the old Leica screw mount cameras, which to me makes it more inconvenient, certainly less speedy to use although I’ve heard some people say they prefer the 195’s arrangement because framing may be more accurate.

The 190 is probably the ultimate because it combines the 180’s finder with the 195’s faster lens.

All these cameras are fully manual and do not need a battery conversion, which a camera like the heretofore mentioned 360 Land Camera does.

The 180 offers aperture settings from wide open at f/4.5 to f/90, shutter speeds from 1 second to 1/500 plus bulb. There is a lever near the lens for M (bulb), X (flash), and V (self-timer).

IN USE AND ISSUES

As mentioned earlier, the 180, while well built has a bit of a delicate feel, but this is due to the nature of the beast, as with many folding cameras. To open the camera, you need to pull out and extend the top “arm” until it makes a noticeable click. You need to be careful not to poke or damage the bellows in any way or you will have light leaks.

The Polaroid 180 uses rangefinder focus and many of you are probably familiar with this, but for those who are not, you simply move the sliding focus bars on the camera until the image in the center is aligned to achieve focus. You cannot focus by physically moving the lens on this camera.

Especially if buying from eBay, you should right away upon receiving the camera, check the overall structure of the camera to ensure that there is no physical damage. Next check the rangefinder and see if it’s aligned. It should give you a good idea, although the real test is with some film in the camera. Check the aperture and shutter speeds, make sure they’re working properly. And check that bellows for any pits, holes, or wrinkles.

It’s a simple camera to use, although somewhat awkward at first if you’re not familiar with the Land Cameras.

As I completely forgot about the way these cameras worked, I lost a couple of shots due to film jamming in the camera back. That seems to be the main issue with this camera. If you run into this issue, this remedy works nearly all the time…

After you take a shot and pull the film tab, if there is a lot of tension, do not force it or you will most likely break the tab and lose the first and/or second shot. Instead, if you pull hard and it does not seem to be moving, open the bottom of the camera very slightly, then pull again until you feel it move. Once you do feel that movement, close the back again and pull until the film comes out. You need to close the back because the film has to come out through the rollers to “distribute” the chemicals that will develop the film.

Do not be afraid that you will ruin the film by opening the back slightly. If you do it right, there won’t be any issues. Admittedly, this requires some practice so be ready to lose a few shots. I know it’s not easy as packfilm is now so expensive! For extra safety measures, you can try to do this in the dark or subdued light if you’re really worried, but I’ve done it in daylight with no light leaks or film fogging.

The problem with film jamming apparently has to do with the metal clips inside the film back putting so much tension on the plastic that Fuji’s packfilms are encased in. Some have had success by pushing the clips in and in some cases, completely removing the clips. I really didn’t want to butcher the camera.

Also, when pulling out the film, I prefer to collapse the bellows back into the camera before proceeding as it keeps the bellows safe during a potentially “violent” experience of pulling out that film 🙂

A good practice is to clean the rollers with a napkin before loading each pack of film. No need for super wet cloth, just a dry or slightly damped napkin will do. This should keep film coming out smoothly.

When folded, the camera is very compact for a camera of this size, and it’s not a heavy camera the way the 600SE is.

IMAGE QUALITY

I’ve been shooting the 180 with expired FP-3000B. I have yet to put FP-100C in it. I find the lens quality of the Tominon to wonderful for what I want, probably very good to excellent if you want a more magazine friendly description.

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“Baby Is Here” 2016. Polaroid 180 Land Camera, 114mm f/4.5 Tominon wide open. I did add contrast to this image, perhaps too much. The original image is of much lower contrast, but this is just to give you an idea of how you can adjust contrast to your tastes.

The lens has a good soft/sharp quality wide open and becomes very sharp as you stop down, as with most lenses.

The Tominon seems to have lower contrast than many of you may want, especially when compared to modern lenses, but this actually works very well for black and white images. Plus you can always add more contrast during your post processing workflow if you’re planning on posting your images online or just like a higher contrast look.

The results on FP-3000B have that classic look that I’m a big fan of. Again, this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I fell in love with photography by seeing black and white prints from my parents photo albums back in the 70s and 80s and a camera like the Polaroid 180 is capable of giving me that look straight from the camera.

BOTTOM LINE

Why did I get rid of digital gear for the Polaroid 180 which could be a camera living on borrowed time? Because I have other digital gear which makes it redundant.

Plus, I have hope that even if packfilm goes extinct, these cameras are too good not to have someone come up with something to keep them running.

As many of you know, Impossible film’s co-founder Mr. Florian Kaps (who is no longer with the company) recently met with Fujifilm’s representatives in Japan trying to save Fuji FP-100C. While I don’t believe there is a definitive answer yet, I’m not really holding out for Fuji. I thinking of new companies and new films for the future.

The Polaroid 180 Land Camera is an instant film Camera Legend and as I said, this camera is too good to let die.

Just like the innovative Cubans who drive around in classic American cars of the 50s and 60s, I do believe someone will come along with a solution to keep these cameras running. Whether it’s new packfilm or modifying them for convenient use with Instax film, I believe it may take some time, but it’s going to happen. Fingers crossed, of course! 🙂

WHERE TO BUY

If seeking one of these prices are trending on eBay at $200-600, with $600 being on the high end, and $300 being average. On the low end of the price spectrum, it seems to be for body only. On the high end, it seems to be the complete kit with the add on portrait and close-up lenses, plus case and extras. I’m talking about a genuine Polaroid 180 Land Camera, not one of the many modified “tribute” clones you see on eBay.

The most abundant place for these cameras is eBay. You may also find them from time to time HERE.

The gear I traded for this camera comes down to under $300, and for that price I got the whole shebang, portrait/close-up lenses, case, so I’m very happy with this trade. I could easily make this money back if and when I sell it.

But make no mistake, this is not an easy camera to sell as it serves a niche, but very dedicated market. I know of camera dealers who slashed prices on these cameras the week that Fuji discontinued FP-100C film. On anonymous dealer told me: “It’s very hard to sell a camera that they don’t make film for.”

So unless you’re foolish and a hopeless romantic like me, this is actually a very good time to SELL your Polaroid 180. Even as I hold out for hope, there is still the very real possibility that there will be no film left for these cameras in the not so distant future.

If that happens, well, I got my stock of packfilm and I will use it with reserve until it finishes. That means no test shots of brick walls, no focus test on trees or nearby buildings. I will most likely use the camera for portraits of my kids because they are my most precious gifts in life and I would like them to someday look back on these prints and know their images were made on something classic and historic and hopefully relive the magic of instant photography. And if you’ve got one of these babies, don’t forget to stock up on that film before it’s all gone!