The Swiss are known for producing precision mechanical instruments, and you can count Alpa cameras as being among that group.
The Alpa has always stood apart from other cameras. To me, they always have been the camera with the funky film advance. That is, you pull the film advance from front to back.
||35mm single-lens reflex|
|Meter||Match needle, CdS|
|Ergonomics||Unusual and quirky|
The Alpa 9d is a large camera. People with tiny mitts will find this to be a real handful, pun intended.
The camera is decidedly old school. It uses a stop-down metering method, which requires that the shutter be tensioned and a small slide switch enabled that prevents the shutter from being released.
The viewfinder has a diagonally split image set in the middle of a ground-glass screen. There is a meter needle and indicator eye but nothing else. The viewfinder image is a bit dim but usable. The diagonal split is very useful, and I wish that more cameras used it.
The shutter release is mounted on the front of the body, like an Ihagee Exakta, except it’s on the other side of the lens mount and is operated by the right hand. And like an Exakta, most lenses have a plunger that is part of the lens that makes it easier to release the shutter.
The shutter speed dial is either a piece of mechanical genius or Swiss Machevellian nightmare. On the 9d, the shutter speed selector is part of the film advance, set below a translucent disk. The shutter speeds are divided into two groups with 1/60 sitting between them. The two groups of speeds go from fastest to slowest as they move away from 1/60. Except B sits between 1/30 and those speeds controlled by the escapement. Look at the photo to see what I mean.
To select a speed, push down on the collar with the beveled serrated edge and turn to the desired speed. It’s best to do this after you advance the film, because the shutter speed dial moves when you advance the film. It’s possible to set the shutter to intermediate speeds. You simply move the selector to the little hash marks between the marked speeds. However, there are some stops where there aren’t any hash marks, so maybe you get an intermediate speed or maybe you don’t.
What isn’t always easy to see is the frame counter. It’s a small plastic covered arc under the shutter speed selector dial. Between its proximity to the selector and the faint markings, figuring out what frame you’re on can be tough to see in good light and nearly impossible to see in low light. Oh well, just do your best.
The camera back is removed for loading and unloading film. It’s held in place by a large single locking lever on the base. The film is rewound by a very clever crank that when pulled out sits diagonally and works perfectly.
Let’s get down to brass tacks, as they say. How are the photos? They’re beyond excellent.
This is the first camera that has given me photos that actually have a 3D quality to them. I’ve was in awe of the results. After shooting with more than 150 different cameras, that doesn’t happen often, if at all.
I will declare here and now that the Macro-Switar is the best 50mm lens that I’ve ever used, bar none. It’s that good.