Good morning awesome war torn camera geeks! Today’s #flashbackfriday post is from #2008 and this is from one of my #regret files 😢 A little bit of a long read but if you love Leica you may find it interesting 😎👍
Ok so in this pic, I’m holding a Canon EOS 30D which is an 8mp DSLR that you can get very cheap these days. It’s a very nice camera but nothing really special in today’s world. But that lens…
The lens is the rarely seen Leica 35mm f/1.4 Summilux in R mount 😍 This was the ROM version and I got it for around $800 in 2008
My R collection was nearly complete at this point but the M8 was calling me so I put this lens up for sale in 2010 I think I tried selling it for $1000 but there were no USA takers. It was a couple of days before the end of the auction when an overseas buyer in South Korea offered me twice the price at $2K!!
I honestly stay away from selling overseas due to high risk of fraud but this person was VERY persistent and everything checked out. I sold it to him and I’ve never seen another 35mm f/1.4 Summilux R that I could afford in fourteen years! 😢
The price of this lens on eBay now is ridiculous from like $8K and up. This was one of my camera selling mistakes 😢
Listen, I’m glad the new owner was happy with the purchase. I’m glad I doubled my original estimate and made some money. My only regret is I didn’t get to spend more time with this legendary lens before I sold it. But now you know how I was able to pay for my M8!! 😍 I gotta work, I gotta hustle man. It’s not like I have an endless bank account 😎👍
Oh one more secret just for you guys…I love Leica and I think the lens was good but not great for my purposes. It didn’t really stand out to me, that’s why I sold it! Not worth $8K maybe not even $2K 😂
So in that sense I don’t really regret it but again I really didn’t spend as much time as I should have with it. Please note, this is not the M mount version that I’m talking about.
Learn from my experiences and stop lens lusting for these ultra expensive or rare lenses👍
Do you have any camera gear related regrets? I’d love to hear about it! Have an awesome day guys! 😎📸❤️👍
Good morning you voracious and gracious camera geeks! A little cheap camera porn just because I haven’t posted here in a while. Here’s a camera I gave away to a friend…but I have a photo of it 😍👍
It’s the Canon EOS Rebel 2000 aka EOS 300 aka EOS Kiss III. It is a 35mm film slr introduced by Canon in the year 2000. Now here’s a great example of what happens when you’ve become “camera spoiled” as I call it 😂 Ok so it’s a decent camera and my friend is getting great results with it! I’m glad it’s in good hands 😍😎👍
Me personally, I never used it and never intended to. I got it in a box with other cameras and stuff. It’s a perfectly capable camera, but I’d be worried using heavy lenses on it due to the plastic lens mount. Besides that, to me it just looks real cheesy and it just wouldn’t inspire me to shoot. Somehow though it looks pretty nice now when I look at this pic 😂
At the start of my photographic journey, I’d probably drool to have a camera like this. Today, no. Even though the camera is technologically more advanced than my EOS 10s that I started shooting Canon with, the 10s would inspire me more with its better build quality.
I’d put up with the 10s’ three point AF over the Rebel 2000’s seven point AF just because the former would inspire me more, despite the fact that the latter would probably make getting good shots easier.
As I said, the experience of using “better” or better built cameras can spoil you! But it’s not just better build quality. It’s cameras I find “interesting.” They could be old or quirky. Or it could be a new camera. Just has to be interesting. I don’t find the Rebel 2000 all that interesting 😢 I’m sure many of you can relate. Don’t be like me folks, be content with what you’ve got whatever it is! 😎📸👍
That’s it for tonight! Hope to start posting more soon! Have yourselves an incredible week guys! 😎📸❤️👍
Good morning you awesome and voracious war torn camera geeks! Today we take a look at what time has proven to be one of the most unique and enduring digital cameras ever produced, the Epson R-D1.
The Epson R-D1 is a digital rangefinder camera introduced by Epson in 2004. It is the world’s first digital rangefinder camera.
The R-D1 sports a 6.1 megapixel, APS-C sensor with a 1.5x crop factor. The camera has a Leica M mount. The body was built by Cosina and is based on the Voigtlander Bessa R series of film cameras.
My Experiences With The R-D1
I bought my R-D1 in 2006. Before that, I had been using a Voigtlander Bessa R3a. While I loved that camera, it was also the first camera that I learned to repair in some way.
Specifically, the rangefinder was way off on my copy and while inquiring with repair shops about getting the rangefinder fixed, I decided to try and adjust the rangefinder myself. Credit should be given to all the great tutorials I found in the photo forums. Remember, YouTube was not around in 2005-2006.
Sadly I sold the R3a shortly thereafter to fund something else. Looking back now, I should have kept it, not only because I was really proud of how well I adjusted the rangefinder but also because the camera now commands twice the price on the used camera market.
Anyway on the the R-D1! When it was introduced in 2004, I remember that the introduction took the camera world by surprise primarily because almost no one saw it coming. Everyone expected that Leica, the company synonymous with the rangefinder camera, would be the first to come out with a digital rangefinder. As history has played out, Epson did it first and Leica came in second with the M8 in 2006. The R-D1 will always be remembered for beating Leica to the punch!
Funny enough, when I had the Bessa R3a film camera, I thought it was a great camera but not something special like the Leica M bodies I had handled. Now even though the R-D1 is based on the earlier Cosina built Bessa cameras, the R3a is close enough to make this comparison. And what I can say is while the Bessa R series film bodies did not feel particularly special, somehow in the digital form of the R-D1, it feels extraordinary!
Perhaps this is because it actually feels like a film body with a digital sensor in it, which in essence is really what it is especially considering the R-D1 was introduced in 2004. At that time, some camera companies were still producing digital cameras built around or inspired by their film counterparts as opposed to later on in the decade when they started building digital cameras as pure digital cameras.
I got my R-D1 as part of a trade plus cash deal. I responded to an ad in photo.net one of the internet’s first photography sites. The seller had an R-D1 listed in excellent condition and I offered a trade with my Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS which was my first L lens.
I can’t remember exactly but I think the total value of the deal was close to $1600. The R-D1’s introductory price in 2004 was $2999. Thank goodness prices dropped sharply by the time I got my R-D1 in 2006.
As with many of the cameras I have bought over the years, the R-D1 was a camera I lusted for but never seriously thought I would ever acquire due to its high price tag. But somehow, some way I got the camera.
Also, contrary to several comments people have left me on YouTube, I didn’t actively seek out many of the cameras I’m reviewing now because they were legendary. Most of the cameras I have reviewed were the hot cameras of their day when I bought them, just like the R-D1. But in the case of the Epson, it should have been easy to predict this camera would be a future Camera Legend as it is the world’s first digital rangefinder.
For a much more dynamic experience here’s my 16 year in depth review video!
Epson R-D1 Key Features & Issues
While there are many things that make the R-D1 so appealing I would identify three key features as the most alluring. The analog dials, the film winder/shutter cocking mechanism and the large, bright 1:1 life size viewfinder.
The analog dials were made by Seiko, Epson’s parent company and they’re not just there to look pretty, they serve a purpose.
The large hand is the “shots remaining” indicator. It goes from 0 to 500. Please remember the R-D1 and R-D1s can only take 2gb SD cards. The R-D1x can take 32gb. Otherwise they are all the same cameras.
The “R-H-N” indicator on the right is for RAW, High and Normal image quality selection.
The area on the left that starts with an “A” and has symbols below is the white balance indicator.
The main issue I have seen on the R-D1 is the loose, peeling, or missing rubber grips. While it may not look pretty, it is purely cosmetic. You can always find some camera leather to patch things up, although I must say I could not find any pre-cut R-D1 leather.
On my copy, the rear LCD has begun to fail after sixteen years and the rangefinder has had to be fixed twice for going out of alignment. I sent it to Steve’s Camera out in California, a well known shop that fixes the rangefinder on the R-D1. I’m not sure if he’s still fixing them but here’s his contact if you want to investigate:
Steve’s Camera Service Center (310) 397-0072
Please check out my YouTube video for a visual accounting of these issues as well as the R-D1’s most alluring features.
The photos below represent just a small fraction of the images I have taken during my sixteen years with the R-D1 but hopefully they will give you an idea of the images the camera is capable of producing.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE R-D1, R-D1s, AND R-D1x
Epson produced a couple of upgrades to the R-D1. The R-D1s included a JPEG + Raw mode and a quick view function. The original R-D1 could be upgraded to have these features via firmware update.
Is It For You?
As cool as the Epson R-D1 is, recommending it as a good buy is harder than you might imagine. Why? Well, the reason is because of what I call the “Nikon D100 Dilemma.”
What is the Nikon D100 Dilemma?
The Nikon D100 Dilemma
What does the Epson R-D1 have in common with the Nikon D100? I know you hardcore camera geeks know this! But for those who don’t, these two cameras share the same 6.1mp Sony CCD sensor. The sensor is also found on the original Pentax *ist D and maybe other cameras? It apparently is not the same sensor as the D70 of 2004.
The Nikon D100 is a digital slr that was introduced in 2002. The 6.1mp APS-C sensor in this camera was considered very good in its day, but was arguably surpassed by the 6mp sensor in the Nikon D70.
So if the Epson R-D1 has the same sensor as the D100 what then is the problem?
Well, whether it’s a “problem” or not is up to you but the main quandary here is that the Nikon D100 can be found any day of the week with prices trending @ $25-50 USD. The Epson on the other hand is trending @ $1600-2500 depending on condition and on the model (R-D1, R-D1s, R-D1x).
Although as a bonafide hardcore camera geek, I would pick up another R-D1 if mine were ever to break and I had extra money laying around, but even for this camera geek who knows the specs and knows the risks, the price difference between these two cameras with the same sensor is hard to ignore.
The R-D1 is unique in everything else in comparison to the D100 except at its heart which is the sensor.
So What’s The Fuss About The R-D1?
The thing that makes the Epson R-D1 so compelling even now in 2022 is the user experience.
The Seiko made analog dials are pretty and they serve a purpose (check out the video for specifics). The analog winder serves to cock the shutter. The 1:1 viewfinder is large and glorious and sort of makes up for the R-D1’s short rangefinder base. The ability to use Leica M mount lenses from Leica, Voigtlander, and other manufacturers is topping on the cake.
All these factors add up to the most film-like experience one can get from a digital camera! And I’m saying this from the perspective of someone who grew up on film and has used digital cameras since the dawn of digital. Even today, with all the great digital cameras out there, no other digital camera gives such a unique film like experience when using it.
My Nikon DF may look retro but I will admit before doing a review that it does not really feel like a film camera to me the way the R-D1 does.
Note, I didn’t say the images from the R-D1 were inherently film like. Sure you can get film like images out of its 6.1mp CCD sensor but it would be disingenuous of me to hype it up and make it more than what it is. If it was the most film like sensor then everyone would be saying the Nikon D100 or the Pentax *ist D produces “incredible film like images” but no one says that about those two cameras.
The R-D1 can make film like images, but it’s more likely the result of the post processing skill of the user and the lenses used, rather than the sensor which is not unique to the Epson.
Is The Epson R-D1 Worth It In 2022?
Whenever someone reviews an older camera, especially on YouTube, the “in” question is “Is It Worth It?”
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that for at least 90-95 percent of the people shooting digital cameras today, the answer would be NO.
A 6mp digital rangefinder from 2004 with a 2002 era sensor with no modern amenities such as live view, focus peaking, or 4k video is hard to recommend, especially when it will cost you nearly $2000.
In a 2022 world where gas prices are sky high, with inflation, with a war in Ukraine, with people starving, etc, etc, where the same money could get you a used Leica M8 or M9 or add a little more and get an M240 or a Sony A9 or Nikon Z7 it’s damn hard to recommend the R-D1 to the general photo enthusiasts.
If it had a unique sensor, that would sway me towards a recommendation.
However, the R-D1 was never about the sensor alone. What makes it unique is the user experience.
If you are a true HARDCORE camera geek who knows the risks and are willing to take it and you know a little something about the R-D1 or if you are an old school film fanatic shooting digital then I can heartily recommend the camera!
In my opinion it is a unique camera and one of the most fun digital cameras, if not the most fun digital camera in my collection.
The Epson R-D1 was an anomaly when it came out. In 2004, no one ever expected Epson, a company known for printers and scanners, to come out with a digital rangefinder. They beat Leica to it. Today, it’s still an anomaly. In my opinion it is one of the greatest digital cameras ever made yet most of the general public and even some photo enthusiasts don’t know it, thus making it one of the greatest cult cameras ever.
But there’s are reasons why it commands high prices on the used market. Many many photographers and camera collectors love this camera! Its uniqueness sets it apart.
Even now, nearly twenty years after its introduction, I feel it’s still the most film like experience one can get from a digital camera.
The Epson R-D1 is a digital Camera Legend that, while having a good but not unique sensor, offers the user a unique experience in the digital camera world.
The experience, the fun factor makes me want to shoot it. That is something that can’t be said for so many of the digital cameras I have used.
And if a camera inspires you to shoot, then it’s a good camera in my book. But the Epson R-D1 is not just good, it’s great!
Since Epson never came out with another R-D series camera, the R-D1 will always be unique as the world’s first digital rangefinder sporting the Epson name and for some people that may be a good enough reason to get it.
Good morning you awesome camera geeks! Here’s a recent shot with the Nikon DF and vintage 58mm f/1.4 Nikkor, not the new version. I really love the look of this old Nikkor for portraits!
The DF has a beautiful 16mp sensor that I feel lends itself well to portrait work. Even though it’s an older sensor now (same sensor as D4), it’s still an amazing performer. A smooth sensor. Not so digital looking but not quite film like either. Almost unique. It’s like the D3 sensor but even better!
Here’s another photo to whet your appetite! I used an action to create a chrome like look. I’m not sure I’m ready to do a review yet but hopefully soon! Still got a lot to learn about the DF but it should be fun!
Good morning you awesome camera geeks! A couple of years ago I posted a video on YouTube called “Benefits Of A Cheap Camera.”
Now in that light hearted and cringe worthy video, which was filmed very badly on an old iPad, I went on to jokingly point out why using a cheap camera could be beneficial.
Before YouTube began hiding dislikes, I recalled that video get quite a fair number of dislikes although there were, fortunately, more likes than dislikes.
I chalked it up to people not “getting” my light hearted, comedic style of camera reviews. I truly think some of my best ad lib camera jokes are on that video! 😍😂
This video was one of the reasons why, for a long time, I viewed the audience on YouTube as “stiffs.” Meaning, I felt they couldn’t take a joke, they couldn’t read between the lines because if they did, they would see that I was actually offering some solid advice!
Seriously, in that review, I mentioned that the Vivitar V3800n (which was the featured camera), was a very affordable, all manual film camera that uses the very popular and iconic Pentax K mount which opened the doors to an abundance of great and affordable lenses.
All this started because a friend had asked about getting into film photography and was asking if he should get a Leica, Contax, or Nikon? Which led me to the thought…why does a film beginner need to spend a lot of bucks?!
Now I’m not here to tell anyone how to spend their money but having been down this path before I felt it wouldn’t hurt to try and help someone save some money!
Another factor is the real likelihood of someone like my friend, who has been shooting digital exclusively, will end up giving up on film and be stuck with a bunch of expensive gear that he’d have to try to eventually sell. And guess who he’d come to, to help him sell it? 😂
THE CHEAP CAMERA CHALLENGE
I’ve seen a bunch of “cheap camera challenges” and although entertaining, I never thought of doing a video on it until now.
Part of the reason is that, as someone who has admittedly been spoiled by using Leica, Contax, Nikon, etc, it was very hard for me to contemplate “wasting” a roll of film on a cheap camera. Now I know that sounds elitist but honestly with the rising prices of film these days, I really only want to use this precious commodity on something I’m interested in.
So with that kind of thinking, I realized I had lost my roots. I started photography with a Minolta X-700 and a cheap Vivitar point and shoot in the 1980s. I have documented this fact many times here.
So considering that I had only used the Vivitar V3800n once or twice in all the years that I’ve had it, I figured this would be a good time to use it again and document the results with you guys here and on YouTube!
So I put in a roll in early January and just finished the roll near the end of last month and here are the results.
All photos in this set were taken with the Vivitar V3800n, 50mm f/1.7 Vivitar lens and shot on Ilford HP5 Plus and developed in Xtol.
PRICE & AVAILABILITY
The Vivitar V3800n is cheap and still easily found on the used market. Prices can range anywhere from $10-40 USD for the body only and same for the Vivitar 50mm f/1.7 MC lens. Sometimes you might even be able to find them for free! 😍
If you can’t find the V3800n, any of the V series bodies will do for basic shooting.
The V3800n was made by Cosina and uses a Pentax K mount so lenses are plentiful and can be very cheap. You don’t need to use a Vivitar branded lens if you do not want to.
The Vivitar V3800n and 50mm f/1.7 Vivitar lens were the most fun I’ve had with a film slr in a while!
It’s not perfect, I’m not going to lie. It feels cheap and there are some issues that might be detrimental to beginners. I explain all that in the video.
But once you learn how to use the camera you will see that it’s capable of taking good pictures. And there’s just a “cheap thrill” (pun intended) to getting satisfying results on cheap equipment, like you got more than your money’s worth!
I’ll even go out of my way to say that it’s perfectly capable of taking pictures as good as any equivalent combo. By that I mean, for example, a Pentax K1000 with 50mm f/1.8 or Canon AE-1 with 50mm f/1.8 FD lens or Minolta X-700 with 50mm f/1.7 MD lens. These are just some examples but you could add your own and as long as you’re being fair, I can say the Vivitar will match up to it! No it will not beat a $5000 Leica or Zeiss 😀
In conclusion, my main point of doing this cheap camera challenge is to show, especially beginners, intermediates, or anyone wanting to get into film photography that it doesn’t have to be expensive. You can have a lot of fun with film photography without paying a lot!
Good morning you awesome camera geeks! Usually I create a post and link a video but due to lack of time, I’m just giving you guys the link! 😍
In today’s video, you will see Olympus legends such as the Pen F film camera, the E-1 Digital, as well as the rare M-1, progenitor of the OM-1, a camera many of you read about right here in my 2015 review.
I’ve been working very hard creating content for the Camera Legend YouTube channel but I haven’t forgotten my home base here ❤️
Once the YouTube channel goals are accomplished, I hope to be back here writing full time! Thanks always for your support! 😍🙏👍
Good morning you awesome war torn camera geeks! For your Flashback Friday here is a camera I was surprised to find out recently that some people consider “one of the most important cameras in film camera history.” It’s the Lomo LCA from 1984.
I’ve had this camera for about five years and you guys know I do my research before buying any camera. I’ve never heard anyone call it one of the “most important cameras” until recently when I came across this in Dpreview and from reading the forums there, it seems that other people were surprised too!
Now it’s a cool, funky little Soviet era camera that takes decent pics, at best, but one of the most important cameras? Am I missing something guys? I respect the people who wrote the original article and as I’ve said, I don’t claim to know everything so I’m looking to you guys to fill in the blanks! 🙏🙏
This camera is based off the Cosina CX-1 which I don’t think is considered one of the most important cameras in history. I’m guessing maybe it’s because the LCA might have started the Lomography thing? This is really a curiosity for me! You tell me guys!! I’d be very grateful to learn what made this camera so important! Thanks! 😎🙏🏻👍🏻
PS: For you hardcore camera geeks, I got the wide angle adapter on it! 😍👍🏻
For Flashback Friday, Travis is back! And today he gives you the dish on government cheese and GE digital cameras! 😂👍🏻
Good day awesome war torn camera geeks and if I haven’t said so already Happy New Year 2022!! I hope your New Year is going to be the best so far.
Note: This post was obviously started earlier in the month but just posted yesterday! I should have said Happy Belated New Year! 😍
As many of you readers know, I’m quite a nostalgic fellow. Even as a younger man I had always thought fondly of good times and memories in my past. Now as I grow older the nostalgia has gotten more intense, if anything.
Where is this leading to? Well, it’s leading to today’s Camera Legend, the Bronica RF645.
THE BRONICA RF645
The Bronica RF645 is an interchangeable lens, medium format rangefinder camera manufactured by Bronica of Japan. It came to market in the year 2000 and was discontinued in 2005.
At the time of the Bronica RF645’s production, Tamron had already taken over Bronica since 1998.
Tamron is a Japanese manufacturer known mostly for their production of 35mm lenses which they made for a multitude of camera mounts, including Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Minolta, and more. They were and are known as a third party manufacturer and supplier of lenses and accessories.
The RF645 shoots 6×4.5 images on 120 film. The lenses available for the camera were the 45mm f/4, the 65mm f/4, the 100mm f/4.5, and the 135mm f/4.5 lenses.
For a more dynamic experience check out my Bronica RF645 YouTube review. To spice it up, there are some sample photos on the video that are not here and vice versa. If nothing else, check out the “Image Analysis” segment. It will show you what you cannot see, or might miss when viewing sample images straight on 😎📸👍🏻
Most of the samples here are from my early days with the RF645, circa 2010-2015. The latter images are from last month, December 2021. All images taken with the Bronica RF645 and 65mm f/4 Zenzanon RF. Due to a mix up, some scans may be lower in quality than they should be and due to the time constraints of trying to post the video and publish the article at the same time, I haven’t been able to update it.
Please check my YouTube video for a couple of color samples, a double exposure, and most importantly the geeky “Image Analysis” segment. That, you don’t want to miss! 😍
BRONICA RF645 ESSENTIALS
The Bronica RF645 is a manual focus rangefinder medium format camera that takes 6×4.5cm images on 120 film.
The Bronica RF645 is at its heart an electronic camera and it runs on two CR2 batteries.
There are four lenses made for the camera. The 45mm f/4, the 65mm f/4, the 100mm f/4.5, and the 135mm f/4.5 Zenzanon RF lenses.
The RF645 has a dedicated flash unit, the RF20 flash.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH THE RF645
I first came across the Bronica RF645 in 2010. It was not actually a camera on my radar of cameras to get but I had seen some great photos from a photographer friend who spoke highly of it.
I had also read many great threads on this camera on rangefinderforum.com a very nice and close knit community for rangefinder photography enthusiasts.
As always, I was more of a lurker than a contributor. I love looking at the photos and soaking in the knowledge of the great photographers there!
I was too shy really to contribute. I may have once or twice, I can’t remember but I was not a prolific poster. Some of the folks there are prolific! I could mention a bunch of names but I don’t want to out anyone 😍
They must be shy too though. I’ve never had an rangefinder forum member comment here or on my videos, at least not that I know of. Don’t be shy guys and girls! You cats on RFF are da bomb! You own this genre. Open up and say hi! 😎📸👍🏻
Anyway I ended up buying a Bronica RF645 body and 65mm lens kit used for $700 in 2010.
I DID NOT EXPECT TO LIKE IT BUT…
Although I first bought the RF645 in 2010, I didn’t expect to like it. Why wouldn’t I like it? Well I was not too keen on the vertical format although I figured I’d get used to it. It’s not that I don’t like vertical shots, I mean portraits are mostly vertical. It’s that as someone used to 35mm where horizontal framing is the norm, it may take some getting used to.
I was also concerned about the slowish f/4 to f/4.5 lenses. Also knowing the 6×4.5 is not all that much larger than 35mm, relatively speaking, well that also gave me reason to pause.
In 2010, I was really into the bokeh phase of my photography. I had been a bokeh whore for years already with lenses like the Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AIS, the Canon 85mm f/1.2L, but the Canon 50mm f/0.95 “Dream Lens” that I got in 2009 really set me off!
But isn’t the Bronica RF a medium format camera? Shouldn’t it give better bokeh effect because of the larger film format you might ask?
Well, yes the Bronica is a medium format camera but not all medium format cameras were created equal or for the same purpose.
For one thing, remember the slowish f/4 and f/4.5 lenses which on 6×4.5 would translate to roughly f/2.5 and f/2.8 respectively as far as what you might get in shallow depth of field or its bokeh “look.” However you must remember that f/4 and f/4.5 is still f/4 and f/4.5 in its light gathering abilities.
Secondly, rangefinder cameras, whether 35mm or medium format never focus as closely as their SLR counterparts so you can’t recreate or enhance the bokeh effect by just getting closer like you can with many SLR lenses.
So why buy it in the first place? As I said, I saw some great images and my photographer friend, who I met on Rangefinder Forum, kind of pushed me over on it although I didn’t buy it from him. His wasn’t for sale!
As with most of my photographic purchases, I figured I could sell it if I didn’t like it.
So why did I end up liking the camera, or more correctly, loving the camera so much?
Well it’s the combination of really quite impeccable sharpness, contrast, and at times, even bokeh from the 65mm f/4 Zenzanon RF lens that won me over. And these virtues worked well for me, especially for portraits where the vertical orientation of the framing works perfectly.
WHAT THE BRONICA RF645 TAUGHT ME
The Bronica RF645 and especially its 65mm f/4 lens taught me how to better appreciate subtle bokeh.
Yes I’ve seen subtle bokeh from other lenses many times before but they always got overlooked especially if I’m using a camera where I can swap out the lens and use a fast 85-90mm portrait lens. But since I’ve only used the 65mm f/4 on the RF645, I don’t have any of its other lenses to swap out so I’m stuck analyzing every frame. That’s how I came to appreciate the qualities of the 65mm Zenzanon RF more.
My two favorite forms of photography are portrait and street. The RF645 is an excellent camera for both! Just as long as you understand, the 65mm is not going to give you the classic head and shoulders portrait. The best you can get is a half or full body. It’s great for environmental portraits of people in their surroundings, which in turn makes it a great lens for street portraits.
When you’ve used lenses like the Canon 50mm f/0.95, the 85mm f/1.2L, the Leica Summilux 80mm f/1.4, or the Hasselblad 110mm f/2, you get really spoiled with that “in your face” bokeh look.
You’re not going to get that with the 65mm f/4 Zenzanon. What you get is subtle bokeh that accentuates and complements the subject rather than overtake the subject.
For a lot of the bokeh lenses I mentioned, ie, the Canon 50mm f/0.95, many times the “look” created by the unique characteristic of the lens becomes the subject. In other words, people are drawn to the look created by the Dream Lens first, then to the actual subject second.
The Bronica 65mm with its much more subtle bokeh helps to draw the viewers to the main subject first.
Sometimes people worry that this means the lens itself has no character but that really depends on the viewer and how one sees it.
For me, the Bronica 65mm f/4 Zenzanon RF, especially with a film like Tmax 400 gives me images with the kind of character I like!
It mixes excellent “modern” sharpness from a lens built in the late 90s or early 2000s with just the right amount of contrast that gives me a kind of look I like. Images can look vintage and modern at the same time.
I can’t pinpoint it but black and white images from the 65mm Zenzanon reminds me of black and whites from the Twilight Zone tv series but at the same time, not! Confusing ain’t it? 😂
Don’t be confused, it’s all in the eye of the beholder 😍👍🏻
BRONICA RF645 PROS
1. Portability. The biggest pro for the Bronica RF645 would probably be portability. It’s not a small camera by today’s standards but it is portable for a medium format camera. It will fit nicely into most camera bags that could hold a DSLR and lens.
It is hefty but light enough to carry around all day without feeling its weight too much.
2. More Shots Per Roll. Another pro is the fact that 6×4.5 gives you more shots per roll. What the RF645 loses in negative size, it makes up for in shots per roll and you’ll get about 16 shots
3. Handling & Ergonomics
I find the RF645 to have excellent handling and ergonomics. The viewfinder is nice and bright and the viewfinder lcd display is green and easy to read.
The controls are well placed. The shutter speed dial has nice, distinctive clicks and doesn’t move out of place too easily. The shutter speed range is 1/500 to Bulb.
The camera has a very competent set of controls on its back door, which includes the ISO settings, a self timer, and multiple exposure capabilities. Please check my YouTube video for a closer look.
Before I get to the Cons, here’s a quick look at the lenses…
BRONICA RF645 LENSES
Although I can only speak to the 65mm f/4 because it’s the only lens I’ve used on the RF645, I can say that if the other three lenses are consistent with the 65mm, then you can be assured of top notch optical performance.
The 65mm f/4 has a field of view equivalent to 39 or 40mm on 35mm film cameras.
The 45mm f/4 is a wide angle that has a field of view equivalent to roughly a 28mm (27.9 to be exact) on 35mm film. There is no frame lines for it on the RF645 so you either have to use the optional external finder or do without the finder.
The 100mm f/4.5 is usually seen as a telephoto but it corresponds to roughly 60mm on 35mm film making it more like a longer “normal” rather than a telephoto lens.
The 135mm f/4.5 is roughly 80mm on 35mm film which puts it in the classic portrait category.
As far as I know, the 135mm is very hard to achieve precise critical focus due to the RF645’s short rangefinder base.
Early RF645 cameras came with the viewfinder mask in the finder for the 135mm but apparently Bronica offered a free upgrade to anyone wanting to send the camera in for the 100mm viewfinder mask “upgrade.” Apparently they had heard complaints of focusing difficulty with the 135mm and tried to shift customers towards the 100mm.
1. Repairability. The main con of the Bronica RF645 is the possibility of expensive or hard to find repair service should your camera need servicing.
The film winder is a potential weak point. I have heard of people breaking the winders when used over enthusiastically. Mine has never broken in the five years that I had it but I always wind the film gently because the winder always had a bit of a fragile feel to it.
Another commonly reported problem is an out of alignment rangefinder window.
Now both of these problems could probably be fixed by a competent camera repair man but the problem really comes from availability of parts, or lack thereof.
Also one must remember that at its heart, the RF645 relies on electronics and as with all things electronic things are bound to fail as age and time takes its toll.
2. Increasing Prices. Another con for the RF645 is the increasing prices on this beautiful camera and its lenses.
Just like all the great Camera Legend cameras of yesteryear, prices have been increasing steadily over the past few years.
It’s still not as bad as the price increases on other legends such as the Mamiya 6 or 7, or the Leica film cameras but it’s getting there!
Keeping all these cons in mind, should you still decide to get one I can say that it is a great camera system that will produce exceptional results!
PRICES & AVAILABILITY
The Bronica RF645 and its lenses can still be easily found especially on eBay. The bodies come and go on sites like Keh or UsedPhotoPro.
If you are looking for the RF645, prices are trending at $1000-1500 USD for the body in good to excellent condition.
The 45mm and 65mm Zenzanon are easiest to find and trending at $500-750 for the 45mm and $450-650 for the 65mm.
The 100mm and 135mm are harder to find and prices are trending at $900-1400 for the 100mm and $1600-2000 plus for the elusive 135mm.
Some people think the 135mm is a unicorn because they have never seen it for sale but I have seen it on eBay and more recently on Keh where they were asking $1700 plus for it in Excellent condition. It was on their site for a couple of weeks.
I’d love to try one but the price for the 135mm was way too much for something I know I’d use once or twice.
I nearly bit the bullet on the 100mm many times but didn’t. Only a year ago I saw the 100mm in the $600-800 range. Now it’s probably too late for me to buy one because I’m not willing to spend over $1000 for it. Remember my favorite quote that I borrowed (stole!) from Steve Windwood? “While you see a chance, take it!” Well sometimes I don’t take my own advice and now it’s too late for me 😢
Everyone has different needs but for me, honestly, the 65mm is probably the only lens I need for the RF645. It’s a very sharp, high resolution lens that’s perfect for environmental portraits and street work. Check the “Image Analysis” segment of my YouTube video for a clear demonstration of its resolving power.
The Bronica RF645 is an amazingly brilliant camera that puts great handling and sharp optics into a highly portable package.
Brought to market in the year 2000, it represents the best of what can happen when a lens legend like Tamron and a Camera Legend like Bronica work together.
It also represents the climatic end of Bronica. A great camera manufacturer that started out trying to compete against medium format giants like Hasselblad and Rollei only to find themselves always underrated and underestimated.
Pros and enthusiasts always knew how great Bronica cameras and lenses were but it’s hard to compete when you’re up against not only Hasselblad and Rollei, but also Mamiya Fujifilm and Pentax, all of which have greater name recognition from the general public.
The RF645 was their last medium format camera and in terms of ease of usability, perhaps their best.
It also didn’t help that the RF645 was introduced during the dawn of the digital era. Had it been introduced a decade earlier, say around 1990, perhaps it would have stayed on the market longer than five years, which in all honesty is already longer than you might have expected!
Anyway that’s all pure conjecture now. The Bronica RF645’s story is history but this Camera Legend lives on in the hearts, minds, and eyes of photographers like myself and many others. In my opinion, it’s the most fun 645 camera I’ve ever used and more importantly, it produces consistent results that I love!
IS IT WORTH IT? IS IT FOR YOU?
Due to increasing prices and possible repairability issues, I would say NO for most people.
But for you HARDCORE camera geeks, I’d say YES!! Get it now before prices go beyond its worth!
What is a HARDCORE camera geek? Camera Legend definition: A camera geek who knows the risks but is willing to take it 😍👍🏻
Over the past few months, and indeed over the years some of you have reached out to me here, on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube asking me basically something that sounds like this:
“Sam I really want a Contax T2, or a Konica Hexar, or a Nikon 35ti, or a Ricoh GR1 but the prices on those cameras are insanely high. Can you recommend a low cost alternative that delivers the goods?”
Now if you’re one of those people who asked, or if you echo those same sentiments then I would ask you…why do you want those cameras?
For some, it’s most likely because those premium cameras are among the most wanted on the YouTube playlist. In fact, the YouTube reviews by young millennials might be the driving force to why these cameras have skyrocketed in price. Kendall Jenner was just a catalyst with the T2 but the YouTube reviews thereafter took the prices into the atmosphere!
Now for you guys who are really into photography, you may have wanted one of those premium cameras for street photography. By and large, the premiums like the T2, Hexar, 35ti and of course the Ricoh GR1 have a deservedly good reputation as street cameras.
But the insanity of the high prices on those cameras keeps the thinking man from jumping in. Can you really get comparable quality from cheaper cameras?
Today I have an alternative for you that I believe is an excellent choice, and at perhaps at 1/10th the price of most premiums.
And that camera is the Yashica 35CC. It is a camera I believe to be Yashica’s hidden gem.
The Yashica 35CC/CCN is a compact, 35mm rangefinder with a 35mm f/1.8 Color-Yashinon fixed lens.
The camera has a shutter speed range of 8 seconds to 1/250 and a flash synch of 1/30th of a second. The camera runs on one 6 volt 544 or equivalent battery.
For those who are interested in this camera, this video review may have the answers to your questions. It’s a pretty deep dive into this camera!
IMPRESSIONS OF THE ELECTRO 35CC AND IN USE
While I’ve used several Yashica Electro models over the years, the 35CC was a late addition to my collection and I got it around 2018-2019.
My first impression is that the camera is much smaller than more well known models like the Yashica Electro GS/GSN.
According to the Camera-Wiki, the Yashica Electro 35CC is “wrongly” thought by some to be part of the Yashica Electro family. However as I show on my YouTube video, you can’t blame people for “wrongly” thinking that when it actually says “Electro 35CC” on the top of the camera! 😀
But the thing that stands out right away and the thing that is indeed the star feature of the Electro 35CC/CCN. It is that bright 35mm f/1.8 lens!
Traditionally, rangefinders from this era have fixed lenses in the 40-45mm range. Think the Olympus SP, the Canonets, or even the aforementioned Yashica Electro GSN.
And even premium compacts like the Contax T2 has a 38mm f/2.8 lens. So the lens on the Electro 35CC at f/1.8 is a stop faster than the 2.8 on the Contax T2, Nikon 35ti, Leica Minilux, and marginally faster than the Konica Hexar’s 35mm f/2.
What does that extra speed buy you? The ability to shoot in lower light conditions and hopefully getting a good shot. And even though the 35mm focal length has never been known as a bokeh monster, the extra fast f/1.8 might help coax out that extra bit of bokeh.
What doesn’t it have that the premium compacts mentioned above does? It doesn’t have autofocus for one thing. It doesn’t have a Carl Zeiss lens or a Ricoh GR lens but without those brand labels, the prices can be kept low. That’s a positive thing!
The Yashica Electro 35CC is small and compact and feels good in the hand. It’s a little on the thick side so it’s not exactly pocketable for the usual pant pockets.
The rangefinder patch on my copy is nice and contrasty making it easy to focus. There are dual focus tabs on the lens which is a nice touch.
The controls are sparse. The camera is basically aperture priority. You select the aperture via the markings on the lens and the camera selects the shutter speed. The shutter speed range is a whopping 8 seconds to 1/250th for the top speed.
The camera gives no indication of what speed it chooses. The only indication is a + or – for over or underexposure.
On my particular camera that indicator no longer works. I can’t see anything indicating over or underexposure. The battery check on my camera is also not working. However, that did not stop the camera from producing mostly well exposed images.
If you run out of batteries there is a default mechanical speed. Some sites say it’s 1/250th but others say it’s 1/30th. In my opinion, based on usage, it seems the default shutter speed without a battery is 1/30th.
All images below were taken with the Yashica Electro 35CC and Kentmere 400 film developed in Xtol.
Based on my own tests, I believe the 35mm f/1.8 Color-Yashinon DX lens to be excellent.
In the above images, I can see that the lens is really only held back by the film (Kentmere 400) and/or my developer Xtol.
At f/1.8 there is a touch of softness (as are most lenses wide open) but it’s actually sharper at f/1.8 than I expected so I’m perfectly fine with its performance.
From f/4 to f/11 you can expect excellent sharpness and good contrast, assuming the camera chooses a fast enough shutter speed.
PRICES, AVAILABILITY & WHERE TO BUY
The prices for the Yashica Electro 35CC are trending from $80-130 USD.
I’ve read that this camera is hard to find but I don’t think it’s that hard to find. I got mine from KEH in 2018 or 2019 for around $100.
In fact, while working on this article I saw one last week, again at KEH for $133 in EX condition.
It is true that you don’t see them too often from USA dealers. However they are plentiful on eBay, from sellers in Japan.
As mentioned before, I have bought many times from Japan without issues. However, you must do your research on the seller, as always, no matter what country it comes from.
The Yashica Electro 35CC is a hidden gem! It may not be as well known or as desirable as say a Contax T2 or Nikon 35ti, but especially for street photography I find the images it produces just as satisfying.
And the fact that you can find these cameras for about $100 USD on average, well, that adds incredible value and enjoyment to using this camera!
The Yashica Electro 35CC/CCN may never go down on its own as a true Camera Legend (but it might!), but there is no doubt that the Yashica Electro series as a whole are Camera Legends that have made memories for people for decades.
In my opinion, the Yashica Electro 35CC is one of the best that you can get from this series, even if Camera-Wiki doesn’t consider it part of the Electro family 😀
If you see one at the prices I mentioned, buy it! And tell ‘em Sam sent you 😎📸👍🏻