When you mix an aerial camera and a press camera, you will get something very unusual – like the Koni Omega Rapid series. Now we take a look at just how unusual this camera really is.
How I got it
My first camera when I started with film photography was a Yashica Electro 35 GSN. And it started my love of rangefinder cameras. You shoot different with them as you would do a SLR, you can be more quiet, less intrusive with them. Well most of them anyway.
When I got into medium format, I wanted a medium format rangefinder. But that wasn’t easy. A Mamiya 6 or 7 was my dream back then, but that dream comes with a price. The Fuji 690 „Texas Leica“ was cheaper, but back then still not that affordable. There were a few folders but they were either to expensive (Bessa III) or of questionable quality.
Talking with a friend, I discovered the Koni Omega – rangefinder, medium format and at least in the USA, affordable second hand. I bought mine on eBay for about $200 (~ 150€ back then) with shipping.
While it looks like a normal camera – big body, viewfinder on top, lens poking out in the middle – on second glance you notice that almost non none of the controls are where you expect them.
The shutter button is on the left – one of the few cameras where you use your left hand for taking a photo – and while it seems awkward to press, the very ergonomic (and also adjustable) hand grip make that actually quite easy.
Focusing is quite unique as well – see the knob top left? Yep, thats for adjusting the focus. It comes with a scale for the various lenses that were available for the system – sadly only in feet. The rangefinder itself on the other hand is what you expect, it is fairly bright and comes with moving frame lines for all lenses.
But the most unique feature by far is the film advance. While many cameras have a thumb lever, and some medium format have a crank on its side, this one has a pull/push action that for all accounts looks and sounds like you are using a shotgun.
Another thing you won’t see on many other cameras is the amount of flash shoes – it has three (yes, 3!) cold shoes. One might be for the meter, the center one for the wide angle viewfinder for the 58/60mm lens and the third one could be for a light meter.
Typical for medium format cameras, the Koni Omega System was quite modular. It offers, depending on who you ask, 4 to 5 different lenses, namely the
- 58mm f/5.6
- 60mm f/5.6
- 90mm f/3.5 (Standard lens)
- 135mm f/3.5 (rare)
- 180mm f/4.5
Some people claim the 58mm and the 60mm are the same lens, but more show that its two different designs – with the 58mm the later model and supposed to be with higher image quality.
The 90mm came as standard with the camera, and for telephoto you had the option between the 180mm (common) and 135mm (rare). While you need a auxiliary finder for the 58/60mm, the finder has frame lines for all the other lenses and also shows distance for all 3 common lenses on the focusing knob.
And of course, the backs are exchangeable (not all models), but they are noticeable larger than backs for other medium format cameras.
When you are out with the Koni-Omega, you quickly notice the weight. It is no light camera. It also feels quite inusuall, that the weight is in your left hand – we are used to have the camera in our right hand when we just carry it along. While the ergonomic grip makes it quite comfortable to hold, the strap makes it a bit more difficult to put it on and off quickly.
After a while, you get comfortable with the unique control setup of the Koni-Omega, the big controls make it also easy to grab them without looking, you can easily distinguish the different controls by feel.
The big viewfinder does help with framing and focusing, but I sometimes feel the frame lines are less accurate than they are on other rangefinder cameras – not sure if that’s a user error or I just expect to much.
For street photography, the camera is a mixed bag. While taking photos, the camera is extremely quiet thanks to its leaf shutter. But the film advance is quite loud – you can delay it since its manually operated, but people nearby will hear it and they will look, thanks to its quite unusual sound (for a camera).
For landscape stuff, the camera is great, expect my problems with accurate framing. Image quality is excellent, and the weight makes sure the camera stays still during the exposure. Image Quality, at least with the 90mm, is nothing short of excellent and the other lenses also have a reputation to give Hasselblad a run for their money.
What I like
Despite the unusual approach, the controls are actually very good once you got used to them and allow a very fast operation of the camera. You clearly see the origins of the camera as a press camera – its sturdy, its fast to use and (after some warm up time with it) very intuitive.
You get excellent image quality and looking at your other options for medium format rangefinders with interchangeable lenses, it’s a bargain.
What I dislike
This was sadly never a mainstream camera, and specially in Europe it is quite the rare bird. That means, accessories and lenses are often hard to come by, but are at least are not very expensive – that is if you don’t factor shipping in. I’m still searching for an affordable spare back.
I sometimes wish the rangefinder patch was a little brighter, but I blame my Hexar RF and Bessa R for setting the standard to high. And for street photography, I wish film advance would be more quiet. But that’s nitpicking, there is not much wrong with this camera.
Want a Mamiya 6/7 but don’t have the money? The Koni-Omega is perfect for you. You get a good rangefinder with excellent lenses for a fraction of the cost. Sure, it is not nearly as refined and the lenses on the Koni-Omega aren’t as wide as what you can get for the Mamiya’s. But you do get a great system and a very interesting camera – one that sure will give you great results.
A few favourite photos – you can find the rest of my Koni-Omega Rapid 200 photos on flickr.
|Camera name||Koni-Omega 200 Rapid|
|Camera type||interchangeable lens rangefinder|
|Format||120/220 Film (6×7)|
|Lens||standard lens 90/3,5|
|Dimensions||23 x 14 x 14 cm (with 90mm)|
|Weight||2.080 g (with 90mm)|
Koni Omega Manual @ butkus.org
Koni-Omega @ camerapedia