Not that I've had much popular acclaim for such a page, but I figured that if I'm going to hang on to the camera for more than a month, I ought to haul it out and use it once in a while, eh?
The camera is big, but not awe-inspiring like the big Speed Graphics of yesteryear. In fact, it's about the same size and weight as my F2/MD-2/MB-1 combination. Granted, the Koni won't feed film through at better than 3 fps, but if you worked on your technique, I'm fairly sure that you could get a top end of 1 fps with the Koni. In fact, I find it remarkable that you can get a negative four times the size (area-wise) of a 35mm neg in such a relatively small space. The Koni is also very sturdily built -- at least the equal of the aforementioned F2, from what I can tell. Of course, I haven't used either of them as hammer- substitutes, so your mileage may, of course, vary. Because the Koni does use a combined range/viewfinder, the view is certainly more crowded than what I'm used to -- frame lines (that move to correct for parallax -- neat!) for the 90 and 180, along with dots for the corners of the 135 lenses.
Using the Camera
The grip on the left side of the camera is actually quite nice -- you can change the angle and the size of the handstrap; it fits my (admittedly small) hands perfectly. I wish sometimes that there was a better support for the right hand, because the camera, while being fairly light for a 6x7, still puts a fair amount of torque on your left wrist when using it one-handed.
I also wish sometimes that there was some way to interlock the camera from taking beautiful pictures of the darkslide. I guess with time, you gain the experience and wisdom to stop doing so, but I have yet to do so. One feature that I didn't know about is that there's actually a nice little slot on the bottom of the back to store the darkslide in when you're actually taking a picture. Shaun Kelly alerted me to the fact that on the 200 model, at least, there is an interlock to prevent the darkslide pictures. Probably the best way for me (since my interlock seems to be broken) to deal with it is to lock the shutter release (something that Shaun told me about, too) using the collar around it -- when the shutter doesn't release, I'll (try to) remember that the darkslide is in.
Opening the back reminds me why photographers find assistants invaluable at some times. The control to open the back is kept safely covered by a small plastic window that flips up when you release a catch. To actually open the back, you have to fold up a key and turn, much like how my F's back slips off. The main problem that I find is that I'd like to just put the little window back down into place so that it doesn't get in the way, but I have to put the open/close key in the closed position. When the key is closed, the back won't go back onto the camera -- I guess that the solution is to either rip off the little window, be a little more patient, or see if I can trick innocent bystanders into loading 120 for me. The back design is a little irritating because it's so fiddly.
I find that the rangefinder on my model is a little bit hard to focus in dim light -- probably a complaint that one could apply to certain kinds of rangefinders -- the one on the Contax T is nearly impossible to focus even in the best of conditions. Then again, since I wear glasses, I could be getting too much stray light into the eyepiece, which certainly doesn't help. When I tried throwing my shirt over my head to give myself a pseudo-hood/focussing cloth, it seemed to help my view a bit.
Actually, though, I like some of the nice little details that the designers put into this camera. Take, for instance, the design of the shutter-speed and aperture controls: they're laid out so that you can get equal exposures just by grabbing both rings and twisting them in the same direction (i.e., if the exposure was, say, 1/60th at f/5.6, 1/30 would be lined up with f/8, 1/15 with f/11, etc.). The wind/shutter cock slide is also a great idea, although somewhat unwieldy -- compared to having to wind a knob, though, it's much faster and far more convenient. Peter Kotsinadelis was kind enough to let me know why the Koni design incorporates three accessory shoes:
The one above the viewfinder is for a viewfinder eyecup. The center one is for the viewfinder attachment when using the 58/60 lens (they are the same lens). The one on the right can be used for other reasons such as a shoe mounted flash when using the 58mm viewfinder in the center shoe.
Overall, I'm pleased with the design. It doesn't take much thought to ruin your pictures, but it also doesn't take much care to take pictures, either. After a couple of rolls of film, I feel quite comfortable with the camera. Of course, that's all probably going to change once I get the rolls back from the developer, but I'll wait until then.
Based upon what I've heard, I should be getting breathtaking photographs and beautifully-toned shots. I'm not. I can't honestly blame the camera, though, as this is the first time I've used such an idiot-maker of a camera (i.e. it makes me look like an idiot -- "Sir, your darkslide is in."). I've run exactly two rolls of Tri-X through it, guessing exposures and getting all-right results but nothing I'd be willing to sell. Now that I have a hand-held light meter, I should be able to take care of the guessed exposures. 120 film isn't too hard to get, either, so I should get off my butt and get a bunch more, and burn film (between naps at my desk -- er, that's meditation, sorry). After all, if it's just a matter of practice, there's no reason why I can't get plenty of that.
I'm honestly not concerned about the optical quality. I've talked to a clerk who uses his Koni with the 58mm lens instead of a 'blad with its $2 000 50mm Carl Zeiss T* CF-FLE lens -- and he says that no one can tell the difference. This agrees with testimony I've heard on the Medium Format Digest (this particular one is from MFD Vol. 4 No. 21).
From: email@example.com (Robert Smith) Date: 30 May 95 16:01 EDT Subject: Re: Koni-Omega Rapid
>From: firstname.lastname@example.org (David Olson)
>Date: Tue, 16 May 95 12:49:44 -0400 >Subject: Koni-Omega Rapid
> >I'm thinking of buying a Koni-Omega Rapid. Does anyone have strong >feelings, one way or the other, about this camera? What's the >difference between the 100 and 200 series? Thanks.
When I decided to move to med format in 1992, my mind was set on a Hassy - why?
Because that is what I had heard was the ultimate in medium format from the likes of Ansel Adams and NASA and etc...
A local photographer did my daughter's wedding with a Koni-Omega Rapid which he said he preferred over the Hassy. After due consideration I "found" a Koni for sale. I paid $500.00 U.S. for the camera body in almost mint condition, the 80 mm (normal) and 150 (tele) lenses, Vivitar light meter, flash cable, and two 120 backs. The rig came in a beautiful black leather case with green plush lining.
Last fall, a friend of mine, with a Hassy 501C, and I made a comparative test at the church in Cismont VA. I provided two rolls of PXP and developed both rolls later in D76, 20.0 deg C. normal procedures of agitation, 5.5 minutes. The camera settings were identical and the same tripod was used. The results were startling: As judged by three professional photographers, the Koni negative exhibited better contrast, acuity, and gray-scale graduation. I arranged the negatives on a light box with tape so that the formats were not obvious. The pros were surprised when, after their selection, the tape was removed revealing the 6x7 Koni-Omega format.
I regularly employ both Mamiya 330Cf and Nikon FE2, but I believe that the Koni - Omega is my favorite for most outdoor shots.
Some features I like are:
# No batteries
# Superb optics
# No vibration on shutter release
# Excellent parallax correction for all lens systems
# 6x7 format - allows me to concentrate on in-camera formatting
Some drawbacks for me are:
# Rather heavy to haul around - though no more than the Mamiya
# left hand shutter release is not too handy for me - a *LONG* throw is necessary as the shutter release is used to set the film pressure plate
# no depth-of-field markings - I have to think!
The only thing that really disturbs me about the camera is that the frame registration tends to be inexact. Either something is wrong with the back or advance mechanism, because some thing is overlapping the last 3mm of each frame with the succeeding frame quite beautifully. Since I have another (somewhat tattier) back, I'll give that a whirl and see how it goes.
The negatives I got back showed that some light leaked in along the bottom edge of the roll -- either a handling problem (blame myself) or a processing problem (blame others). I need to shoot more rolls to be sure of either. The other exposure problem can be traced mostly to me, or to a too-fast shutter (but that's not too likely, although I'm a little bit dubious of the few fastest shutter speeds -- I guess I need to adjust that, as well): my pictures came back fairly (1-2 stops) underexposed. Please supplement my banal comments with comments of your own.
(Robert Monaghan Medium Format Megasite)