Advanced Compact (AF)

Picking a few holes in the untouchable – A Konica Hexar review

Konica Hexar

I’ve talked about the Konica Hexar a couple of times on this blog, it’s even been reviewed here by master musician Rob Mackillop, but so far, despite owning one for a while, I’m yet to write a full and conclusive review of all its features – I’m not going to write one either. This isn’t because I don’t think it’s a good camera, I think it’s a brilliant camera (sort of), I’ve just really struggled to make it work for me. As such, I thought I’d play devils advocate to the usual rave reviews and pick a few holes in what seems to be commonly seen as a bit of an untouchable classic.

A disinclination to shoot what I don’t like

I’ve recently found myself less and less inclined to force myself to use cameras that don’t feel right for me, and using the Konica Hexar quite strongly gives me that feeling. This isn’t to say that the Konica Hexar isn’t a great camera – in essence, it really is! Its 35mm f/2 lens is very nice, it has very good active autofocus, a nice bright parallax correcting viewfinder, and being a slightly bigger camera it handles very nicely. The story doesn’t quite end there though.

To me, the Hexar feels a little like a complicated camera trapped in the body of a simple one. If you use it in a simple way – much I think like Rob does – I suspect it can be very rewarding; Rob certainly seems to enjoy his, and gets great shots too.

Konica Hexar

My issue is with when you want to use it as something more than a point & shoot. Along side the automatic functions common to the genre of cameras the Konica Hexar best fits into, it features aperture priority and even a full manual mode. On top of this, it also offers a few extra options often lauded as “hidden” features that unlock its potential.

Unfortunately for the Konica Hexar, I don’t see it like that. It’s actually this raft of features that largely speaking have put me off using it. As I mention in this post, I find a preference in cameras that have clarity of function. To my mind, this is something the Hexar lacks. It’s a really nice fully automatic point & shoot, but, it’s also a slightly clunky fully manual camera with a bunch of features that are a little confusing to navigate – and this doesn’t sit well with my needs or desires for a camera.

Konica Hexar

The Konica Hexar’s “hidden” features

At this juncture, I just want to acknowledge a comment I received on my Instagram way back when I first got the Konica Hexar and posted a photo of it. The comment went something like this: “Please don’t just write another post about all the hidden features”. I said at the time that I had no intention of doing this, unfortunately, I’m going to have to go back on my response a little here.

That being said, I made the comment because I already had a fairly strong feeling about not wanting to talk about these features in the same way others have. I’d read a few reviews, and found myself a little irritated by all this “hidden” feature stuff. As someone with quite strong feelings toward good user interface design, the idea that a camera’s user interface would hide features from the user baffles me to the core.

The (not really) “hidden” features

The reality is of course, they aren’t really hidden, they’re simply unusually placed within the interface. What I can only assume has happened is that over the years since the Konica Hexar was released people have bought them second hand without the manuals. More specifically, I guess most people who see the features as hidden must have just not seen the quick reference guide that no doubt came in the box when the camera was new. If you haven’t seen it, here is a copy:

(courtesy of Mr. Butkus – go to his website, give him a quid, he’s done more for the film photography community than I suspect even he can quantify)

The PDF can be downloaded here.

As you can see, to access a lot of it, you have to go into various modes then press a combination of buttons. To me, this isn’t representative of hidden features, it just feels like slightly shit user interface design. Now, admittedly, some of the features are set and forget – or at very least preferential things that won’t have to be accessed often, but some aren’t.

Looking back at my review of the Contax T3 and its custom menu – something that I spoke about favourably in the context of that camera – I do feel I am being a little unfair to the Konica Hexar here. I just think it again comes down to the lack of clarity of function. With the Contax, it’s customisations are very much set and forget – major features are all available through clearer functions when the camera is switched on. With the Hexar, we are talking about some pretty major features that you have to fumble through the user interface to find.

As the quick guide shows, to get to exposure compensation you press ‘select’ in either auto mode, then used the two unlabelled up and down buttons to set it. To set the ISO manually you have to switch it into aperture priority, the press and hold ‘select’ for a moment then again use the unlabelled up and down buttons. Yet, it has a dedicated button just for the self-timer. If button space is as limited as it feels the designers felt, surely a self-timer could have been put in a menu along with these other features…?

Konica Hexar

Crap manual focus modes

Next on my hit list of frustrations is the crap manual focus modes. As you can see looking back again at the quick guide there are a whole bunch of manual focus modes. One touch infinity has its uses and is easy enough to access, but as soon as you want to set focus to a distance, you are into the world of button pressing. This isn’t usual for compacts with manual focus, but for a camera of this size, it feels a little impractical. It’s certainly a step down from the manual focus control of the Contax T2, which is a much smaller camera.

It also has a focus hold function that could be useful on a camera like this for the separation of either autoexposure or autofocus from the half shutter press. The issue is, you have to press two buttons at the same time to activate it. Quite often cameras include a button on the back of the camera for thumb activation of modes like this – this isn’t the case with the Konica Hexar.

In the case of the Konica Hexar, the button is on the top quite close to the shutter button. I’m sure with practice this comes easier, but I found it a right fiddle to press. I also found can result in accidental exposures if you try to press the button with the same hand as you’re pressing the shutter button.

That said, since the distance reading is only accurately shown on top of the camera, the only way to use it with ease and accuracy is to look at the top of the camera rather than through the viewfinder when activating it. And since you have to look at the top of the camera to use it, as a feature, it’s not that much more useful than just using the manual focus mode – and that’s despite how fiddly the manual focus is to set.

Konica Hexar

Viewfinder/LCD information

Another frustration I have is with the information the camera feeds back to you at the moment you half press the button. To start with, the most useful information is displayed on the top of the camera via the LCD. This is pretty pointless since you can’t see it with the camera to your eye, and even if you could see it, the information it relays is a little baffling. In program mode, it tells you either (not both) the set shutter speed or the aperture. There is a system that determines which it shows but can’t get my head around it in any way that it sticks in my brain. But as I say, it’s basically moot, since you can’t see the when you’re taking a photo anyway.

Inside the viewfinder, you do get a basic distance indicator, parallax correction and a few little lights that tell you useful information. But none of the information is nearly as useful as having a shutter speed and or set aperture readout display.

Silent mode

My final complaint is with the silent mode. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the silent mode – at least depending on the version you have – is that it might actually be the only truly hidden mode on the camera. The internet tells me (here) that it was only the earlier Konica Hexar’s that had a silent mode – after that they lost some sort of patent battle and had to take it off. The internet also tells me (here) that the later models did still have the silent mode, it just needs unlocking via a crazy combination of buttons akin to activating some sort of horrendous “finish him” move on Mortal Kombat…

Assuming you have either an early model, or you’ve entered the magic code you can active silent mode by turning the camera off, then turn it back on whilst holding the “MF” button (obviously!?). Of course, if you have set a manual focus distance, you will have to reset it again after you turn it on, but never mind that…

Konica Hexar

Silent Slow mode

This silent mode is actually just a slow mode. This camera is very fast, and in normal use, pretty quiet. It’s not silent though. Switching “silent mode” on doesn’t make it silent either. It’s hard to argue with the fact that silent mode does indeed make it slightly quieter, but all it really does is slow the autofocus and film advance down so the pitch of their actions is lower and therefore less obvious in a quiet room.

There are of course many other cameras that are just as quiet, though it’s fair to say that the Konica Hexar is at very least one of, if not the quietest autofocus auto-advancing camera I’ve come across.

Perfect program auto

That feels like a lot of complaining – it’s certainly more complaining than I anticipated writing. Despite all the complaints though, I do now want to draw your attention back to two things I said at the beginning of this review. The first is that I believe the Konica Hexar is in essence very good, if not excellent. The second is that I think it’s most good in program auto.

Program auto and “Critical speed setting”

The program auto on the Konica Hexar is much as you might find on most cameras. It sets an intelligent average of shutter and aperture to get the best average results in any given lighting. Where it has one significant advantage is in one of the “hidden” features: the “Critical speed setting”

This feature effectively stops the camera from choosing a shutter speed lower than the one you set the “critical speed” to. This only works in program mode of course, but it makes the program mode pretty much the best program mode I can think of in any camera that’s even remotely similar to this one.

In simple terms, if you set the cameras critical speed to 1/30 – even if the light meter in the camera determines that there isn’t enough light – it won’t use a slower shutter speed. Of course, it does mean you risk under exposure in more extreme lighting, but if you’ve ever used a compact camera that favours slower shutter speeds over wider apertures, you might appreciate just how useful this feature is.

This feature can also allow a shooting experience that’s akin to how I enjoy shooting cameras like the Olympus AF-10 Super (which doesn’t have the lower shutter speeds at all).

Connie's 5th

Skip to the end

As I guess I’ve made it quite clear that me and this camera didn’t entirely gel. I always try and give cameras I don’t gel with the benefit of the doubt, and quite often try to write reviews that talk through modes through the eyes of the sort of person that might find them useful. Unfortunately for the Konica Hexar, there are so many design decisions that I find confusing to use that in many ways I just can’t see how anyone could perfectly get on with every facet of this camera’s function. I also don’t buy the idea the hidden modes unlock the camera’s potential – the camera’s potential would be much better unlocked if it was simply less confusing to use. Modes being accessed through combinations of unlabelled buttons combined with important shot feedback that can only be seen on the top of the camera just doesn’t work for me.

That being said, I feel I have a growing awareness of my own pickiness. I’ve always appreciated clarity of function, but writing the post about the lure of the uncomplicated camera made me realise just how much of a preference I have toward simple design – so perhaps this is all just my issue, and there’s nothing wrong with the camera at all?

It’s certainly fair to say that I’m put off the Konica Hexar almost entirely because of the user interface. But perhaps more importantly, it’s also very fair to say that on paper what this camera offers the user is pretty much unique. If – unlike me – you can ignore the confusing stuff, and just get on with taking photos with it as a point & shoot, I suspect you’ll get on very well with it. The program auto mode with its critical speed function, the very good 35mm f/2 lens and impressive autofocus make for a combination simply not found on any other point & shoot. Setting aside my cynical attitude, even the silent mode is pretty damned impressive and brings another layer of unique function to this type of camera.

Ultimately, my point here was not to pull apart this camera entirely. I know I am becoming pickier, but in this instance, I just felt my pickiness might shed some light on a few caveats that seem to me to be often overlooked by those who favour it. The Konica Hexar is a great camera, but to my mind it’s not quite as untouchable as it is sometimes touted as being.

Cheers for reading,

Hamish

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44 Comments

  • Reply
    Carlos
    July 16, 2017 at 9:31 am

    These camera always comes in my way when thinking to change my setup, the problem is that looks “beautiful” and is really tempting. But if you just want to have a small package, similar to the Hexar in size and quality, a simple Nikon F75 and a 35mm f2D for 1/3 of the price. And leave the rest of the budget for film-developing. It doesn’t look as beautiful or slim, but it really gets your job done if you just care about the image more than the gear. 🙂
    Some data to see what I mean
    Hexar:
    Dimensions: Width 137.5mm, height 76.5mm, depth 64.5mm
    Weight: 495g without battery
    F75:
    (131 x 92.5 x 65mm).
    (380g) without lens, batteries or strap.
    + 35mm f2 (199.6g)

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      July 16, 2017 at 9:54 am

      I agree completely, in fact I have had very similar thoughts with regard to the Hexar and the Contax G1 and G2.

  • Reply
    Rob MacKillop
    July 16, 2017 at 9:47 am

    Haha. Clearly you’re not a proper photographer, Hamish 🙂 Proper photographers set the camera to auto and P mode, and get out and about shooting great shots! Seriously, though, I agree that if you want 100% control, then the Hex has a very poor interface. But what it does in a basic auto mode is so good, well, it does for my needs. I’m glad you linked to my review at the start of yours. I admit at the outset to be a non-technical shooter, and I still rate this camera as my favourite. It’s good to have both views on this brilliant website 🙂

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      July 16, 2017 at 9:52 am

      Cheers Rob, I hope it didn’t sound like I was either denigrating you work or approach? I’m sure you know that would be far from my intention. Before I bought the camera I was convinced I could make it work for me, but after trying it I found that to be far from the truth. I just don’t find what I see as flaws talked about that much online…

  • Reply
    Blinx
    July 16, 2017 at 10:10 am

    A friend has a Hexar he hasn’t used since digital arrived, and I’ve thought of making him an offer. However it seems like one of those cameras that make sense if you shoot them exclusively, but aren’t in any way instinctive to operate occasionally. Like a bike computer with two buttons and 80 functions, depending what combination are pressed and for how long. The next time I ride it I’ve forgotten how anything works so I left in on Auto. That’s how my Hexar would finish up.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      July 16, 2017 at 9:37 pm

      Exactly like that!

  • Reply
    Anil Mistry
    July 16, 2017 at 10:14 am

    Apart from my Nikon FM3a, i still haven’t found a film camera that does everything I want it to in a straightforward easy and intuitive way. I just don’t expect cameras from past eras to be great interface wise. Once the race began to make film cameras more feature packed and “automatic”, cameras got very weird (which is something I love about 80’s – 90’s p&s cameras)- I get the feeling that the desires of the manufacturers were coming up against technical limitations of the time. Just looking at those instructions reminds me of endless frustration when trying to set up a digital watch! This was the era of crap user interfaces and poor instructions- so to flip it on its head I almost want to celebrate their ingenuity for adding so much to the camera with so few buttons , albeit in such a ridiculously arcane way!I use my Hexar as a point and shoot- just leave it on autoand enjoy what’s great about it. To expect anything more would be asking for trouble!

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      July 16, 2017 at 2:48 pm

      Ha, yeah, the Minolta “talker” comes to mind! 😉

  • Reply
    The Konica Hexar AF - Guest Review by Rob MacKillop
    July 16, 2017 at 10:42 am

    […] For another opinion about the Konica Hexar, see here for Hamish’s review […]

  • Reply
    Nigel Raby
    July 16, 2017 at 12:09 pm

    Thankyou for your write up, for nostalgic reasons I’d like to buy a Konica rangefinder type of camera as my now departed Father turned me on to photography around 50yrs ago with his Konica C35/Auto (I can’t remember the exact model) which I loved to use. I love the look of the Hexar but I hate complicated menu’s so I now know its not a camera for me. I think I should just keep my eyes open for a nice C35. Cheers….

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      July 16, 2017 at 2:51 pm

      I think it sounds like you’re on the right track with the c35! Nostalgia is a great reason to buy a camera like that I think!

  • Reply
    JJ
    July 16, 2017 at 2:32 pm

    I mainly use mine as a point & shoot with the benefit of full manual controls whenever I need them. And you’re right: the way of ‘unleashing the hidden potential’ (or: simply trying to use the manual functions in a sensible way) is completely unlogical most of the time.

    But I love it anyway. There is no other camera like this, and the results it delivers are simply beautiful. It’s a unique piece of tech with some quirks that make it absolutely irresistible to me.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      July 16, 2017 at 9:41 pm

      It’s quite relieving to read – I was half expecting to read from fans of the camera “no, you’re not using it right” etc..

      • Reply
        JJ
        July 17, 2017 at 4:30 am

        You’re just lucky I didn’t have my pitchfork on me 😉

  • Reply
    Gary
    July 16, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    I agree it’s best used as a point and shoot and if you can forget about everything else being there – it’s a fantastic point and shoot.
    Think of the the other stuff as there to avoid having to carry another camera to get the difficult shots.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      July 17, 2017 at 6:35 am

      I suppose as long as the difficult shots aren’t fleeting – which is I suppose probably core to my issue now I come to think about it in that context.
      Is that a fair sentiment do you think, or with experience do you find it a lot less of an issue to use?

      • Reply
        Gary
        July 18, 2017 at 12:22 am

        I use it as a quieter, quicker stylus epic or yashica t5 – with a better viewfinder and faster lens. Bonus: you don’t have to always turn the flash off (lol).
        Short shutter lag — unlike the yashica.
        It’s bulkier- but consequently easier to hold.
        A few quick buttons pushed – easily becoming muscle memory– and you can have the lens out and pre focussed at hyperfocal distance and it’s like the Ricoh GR’s snap mode.
        I think the real issue is to forget about the other modes and just enjoy it as a point and shoot. If you commit some time to it the commands become second nature and so no fleeting moments are lost.

        • Reply
          Hamish Gill
          July 21, 2017 at 8:50 am

          It sounds like you take the glass half full equivalent of my perspective, Gary 🙂

  • Reply
    JR Smith
    July 17, 2017 at 12:37 am

    Ok, good. This camera was on my list to try some day. Maybe I’ll pass. You just saved me money!

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      July 17, 2017 at 6:36 am

      Always a good thing

  • Reply
    Earl Dunbar
    July 17, 2017 at 1:22 am

    So if it’s designed as a kickass P&S, why be chuffed at “hidden” features. Full disclosure, I haven’t held one, much less shot it. And if I wanted a Hexar (Hexanon lenses are BRILLIANT) I’d probably buy the RF.

    But I’ve used totally auto cameras that were excellent and never felt slighted that the other features weren’t as brilliant. Such as “Ehere the hell us the autofocus button on my CL?!” Yes, I know that’s not completely analogous, but you get the idea.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      July 17, 2017 at 6:41 am

      If I do follow, this is kind of the point I’m making in the final few paragraphs – maybe this is all just my problem. Perhaps it is a great camera with a few foibles that most can ignore. For me though, the foibles make it feel broken, or at least somehow incomplete. The poor implementation of focus hold being a particular frustration. I could never feel quite happy with a camera that annoyed me through being such a bear miss…

      • Reply
        Earl Dunbar
        July 17, 2017 at 10:02 pm

        Yes, I get which you’re saying. I guess I may just be a tad envious that you’ve actually worked with a Hexar and I haven’t. 🙂

  • Reply
    Jim Grey
    July 17, 2017 at 3:21 am

    It’s refreshing to read a meh review of a camera that reviewers usually fawn over. I’ve noticed that the more a person pays for a camera, the more inclined they are to review it positively. I have a bit of reverse prejudice, I freely admit: a very expensive film camera has to pretty much walk on water to get a glowing review from me. But a cheap camera that does middling work will usually get positive words from me.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      July 17, 2017 at 6:43 am

      It’s fun to be a contrarian sometimes eh?! 😉
      You’re right though, a cheap camera that’s good beats expectations, an expensive camera that’s anything less than amazing falls short of expectations. I’m not sure that’s reverse prejudice – more just a desire to get value for your money…?

  • Reply
    Ian Saldanha
    July 17, 2017 at 5:16 am

    Hamish, it was one of the best reviews I was expecting to read about it. It feels like those cameras were the bridge between analogic and digital era. Brilliant and complicated algorithm of data. It made me really inspired to talk about the Nikon 35ti. The last photo is beautiful.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      July 21, 2017 at 8:54 am

      Hi Ian, yes, I’m no big fan of the Nikon either… 😉

  • Reply
    levee
    July 17, 2017 at 7:58 am

    This is my favourite camera for shooting on the streets. Though, I understand your problems with it, but still the lens performance only worth the price for me. I’ve made astounding images with this little guy without selling my liver for a decent Leica! 🙂

    I agree with some of your comments, the menu design is absolutely terrible. I think I’ve read somewhere that Konica contracted a designer and this was his last work for the company (or something like that) before fulfilling his contract. It was not really marketed the way other cameras were marketed in the 90s. So maybe Konica didn’t know what to do with it. Interestingly, Konica serviced the Hexar for a long time, they stopped servicing it a few years ago, simply because there were no more parts available to keep fixing them.

    But still, in silent (or slow) mode the Hexar is doing an awesome job. Mostly I just set it to hyperfocal and just shoot. For more precise shots I’ve used the manual mode. There’s a quick setting for M mode (spot metering!) if you don’t want to mess with all the settings:

    “To set immediately the exposure time corresponding to the selected aperture value, you have to press the release button half way down and press the up or down button at the same time (one step). The exposure time will be kept in memory until you explicitly set another value or switch of the camera. The light reading is made for an circular spot area of 4 degrees.”

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      July 17, 2017 at 7:44 pm

      I’m not surprised there is another mode that I didn’t know about, not at all! An Easter egg, as has otherwise been commented…
      Its really interesting what you say about the guy who designed it – makes me wonder what he’s doing now…? I wonder if he works for Sony … … …
      Feel free to post a link to some photos you’ve taken with it – always interested!

      • Reply
        Terry B
        July 27, 2017 at 9:34 am

        Hamish, did you mean “curate’s egg”? Easter eggs are delicious, if one likes chocolate.

        I fully get you feelings about using this camera and I suspect users who have a wide technical knowledge of photography might be expected to have knowledge about what its features would allow them to do and then get frustrated when trying to access a specific feature in a hurry. I suspect the “because we can do” rather than the “why” got the better of Konica’s designers and why accessing its functions is so obfuscating.

        Just out of curiosity as to where traditional cameras had moved, recently, as an example, I got hold of a Minolta 800si very cheaply to add to my collection. Another in your Hexar category; try using it without its user manual! And even worse, trying to then remember how you did it! A nice feature, though, it can store exposure data for up to 9 films of up to 40 exposures each.

        • Reply
          Hamish Gill
          July 30, 2017 at 7:35 am

          That really is at the fringes of useful though isn’t it – 9 films?
          “curate’s egg” – I’ve not head that before… sounds about right!

  • Reply
    pentermezzo
    July 17, 2017 at 9:01 am

    What a handsome camera. But it should really be a point and shoot. No matter how fiddly all the modes are, of course we want to try them all. But too many button combos make Jack throw the camera across the room, or at least put it in a drawer.

    Absolutely right; in camera design, “hidden features” is a nice way of saying “crap design”. Cameras should *not* have Easter eggs!

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      July 17, 2017 at 7:45 pm

      Very well put!

  • Reply
    Jöran
    July 17, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    “[…] it just needs unlocking via a crazy combination of buttons akin to activating some sort of horrendous “finish him” move on Mortal Kombat…”- sometimes, your reviews just make me laugh!
    Cheers Jöran

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      July 17, 2017 at 7:46 pm

      Thanks Jöran, I well remember the days mashing buttons on my snes – I guess I’m not the only one 😉

  • Reply
    Peter Rokeby
    July 17, 2017 at 3:24 pm

    The Hexar is one of the, if not the, fastest cameras for grab shots. I’ve probably only shot 20 rolls in mine but it is a keeper. And all the points are valid 🙂 Don’t care 😉

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      July 17, 2017 at 7:49 pm

      And so you shouldn’t! 🙂

  • Reply
    Filmosaur
    July 17, 2017 at 8:28 pm

    I got one of these recently (didn’t plan to, it just sort of happened). It is certainly not in line with my normal camera preferences – I prefer my cameras to have come from the pre-battery era – but I’ve used it some and I really don’t find it that objectionable. On vacation a few months ago I used it to shoot some slide film because of the auto-exposure, and it did well. I wouldn’t want one as my only camera, but paired with a manual camera (I had it and a screwmount Leica with me, color in the Hexar, B&W in the Leica) it offered a nice balance.

    Fighting with the manual modes is only going to make the user experience worse. Mine is set up one way (P, AF, f/2 or f/8, depending on the sort of thing I’m shooting) and that’s pretty much how it stays; the only real change I make is to fix focus at 3m and aperture at f/5.6 for street shooting. The Program Mode (which is really an intelligent Aperture Priority mode with an over/under exposure safety net, if you look at the charts in the manual) is the only setting that matters in my world – they could have just built it with that and called it a day, as far as I’m concerned. If you want to make adjustments for every shot, this is not the camera you’re looking for. Move along.

    For another assessment, my initial impressions are here: https://filmosaur.wordpress.com/2017/04/26/meet-the-camera-hexar-af-rhodium/

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      July 21, 2017 at 8:53 am

      Cheers for the thoughts (and nice to hear from you!) 🙂

  • Reply
    George Appletree
    July 18, 2017 at 6:09 pm

    Yes, Leicas are more hard to perforate, but they neither resist an objective criticism

  • Reply
    Aivaras
    July 19, 2017 at 4:54 am

    As most of people here I was also considering Hexar in past, well it just looks magnificent… But as Carlos noted there is no sense unless you are in love with thing. No sense I mean there are simpler, almost same compactness combos that are simpler to operate.
    For example lets take my fax Pentax MZ-3, put on it Pentax 43mm limited and you get super compact solution with almost perfect controls.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      July 21, 2017 at 8:49 am

      I bought a Nikon F90x to play with a while ago, it’s too big … I’m looking at an f75 now. Combined with 35mm f/2 I’m interested to see how close I can get to this, but with a user experience I can get on board with

  • Reply
    Terry B
    July 28, 2017 at 10:46 am

    Hamish, since your original post I’ve been thinking about about cameras having truly hidden features. It seems to me that what many talk about as “hidden” are simply “hidden from view” and thus buried in a menu structure, or owners just failing to read the instruction manual, a point you’ve already made. Based on the aforementioned, it is difficult to see that any camera can have a hidden feature, it just means the user doesn’t know enough about how to use all the camera’s features that are there anyway. As I said, it set me thinking.

    To any reasonably knowledgeable photographer some cameras don’t need much thinking about to operate them. One such is the Leica M3. Operationally, the M3 is about as basic as it gets. Loading film isn’t as easy as hinged back designs, but is easily mastered. Thereafter, lens changing, setting aperture, shutter speed and winding on is about as difficult as it gets! So virtually anyone getting their hands on an M3 can use it straight out of the box, so to speak. But without an instruction manual one will not be aware of a “hidden” feature concerning the shutter.

    Now with manual FP shutters, it is generally the norm that intermediate shutter settings between the click stopped standard speed settings can’t be set. However, the M3 shutter, and no doubt later M models, has an infinitely variable shutter, EXCEPT between 1/8 and 1/15 sec. Now there may be other FP 35mm camera shutters that can do this, but none of those I’ve owned or used can. So, whilst not exactly a hidden feature, I do wonder how many users know this?

    My second choice, and one that does have a hidden feature as it is not mentioned in the user manual, is the Olympus XA. Only recently, and if it is to be believed (I’m relying on a comment in dpreview) the meter readout in the v/f and the shutter setting are independent. Thus if the v/f readout malfunctions and appears not to be working, the camera may still expose correctly and still be usable as an aperture priority point-and-shoot. A simple test will show if indeed the shutter speed is varying.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      July 30, 2017 at 7:41 am

      Some M3s have markings on their rangefinder patch that need to be learned to be used, and I’d guess most don’t know what they are for. It’s easier to excuse a camera that is 98% perfect, than one that’s 80% confusing though…
      As for the XA, I would call that contingency, rather than a hidden feature 😉

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