Konica Hexar AF

Discussion in 'Rangefinder Forum' started by thebanana, Apr 10, 2006.

  1. thebanana

    thebanana Subscriber

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    I'm seriously considering buying one of these babies. I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who has experience with them. What should I be looking for when kicking the tires? Cheers,

    John
     
  2. craigclu

    craigclu Subscriber

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    I've had one for a number of years. I like it and it's very capable. I bet I haven't put a dozen rolls of film through it, though. It seems that I will grab a medium format rig more often and a 35mm slr when I need a sports or long lens gear. I've got a couple of trustworthy pocket cameras when I truly need compactness for snapshot sort of duty so it seems I'm never in just the right situation to be using it. This might be completely different for you and if you can see yourself putting it to more use than I have, I would guess that you'll like it. If I used it more, it would also be more intuitive to use. The controls are a bit unique and it will pay to have one of the little prompter cards in your bag that Konica had for them.

    Read up on the net about some of the issues with them. One that I'll mention is the need for a spacer if you are going to use standard filters as the front element of the lens will strike the filter at close focus distances and jam the AF system, giving you an error code. This happened once to me and I was able to get it working again by removing the battery for awhile and then repowering it. There is a key sequence code for programming the silent mode into models that don't have it. I have it somewhere and its floating around the net. It's a great little stealth rig, especially in silent mode.
     
  3. micek

    micek Member

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    I had one for a while as well. It is an excellent street camera with an outstanding lens. It is very quiet, though with somewhat fussy controls. A kind of überp&s. But for no rational reason I never warmed up to it, I always tended to pick up my OM1n or the M4 ahead of it.
     
  4. DrZ

    DrZ Member

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    I have been using this camera for many years and it's one of my favorite cameras. I own the original version "stealth".
    The Hexar has a good size, excellent lens and good handle.
    This camera can be full manual for exposure and focus. You need to spend some time to learn all the controls. Most of them are very intuitive.
    My favorite film is Delta 100 developed on FX39. Contrast, sharpness and exposure are top. Recently I went to India and shoot some Provia 100. The slides were very sharp with excellent colors and well exposed.

    One of the best reviews is here: http://www.photo.net/equipment/point-and-shoot/konica-hexar
     
  5. Loose Gravel

    Loose Gravel Member

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    I have several. I think it is a fun camera for snapshots. I don't put filters on it so I don't worry about that part. I has some very good modes and I don't ever try to set it manually. As mentioned, the controls are tricky and you will need to rewrite the instructions to your own liking. It is the quietest camera out there, the lens is 35mm/2. Sharp as can be. If you get a silver one, it is easy to convert to stealth mode. I did this no problem and also bought a new non-data back for it. Mostly use it to take pix of the family and friends while on travel or holiday. It is my happy snapper. My wife likes using one, too.
     
  6. Ryuji

    Ryuji Member

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    I have original Konica Hexar (black) and love it for anything that 35mm format can handle. If you can read Japanese, here's the report written by the Hexar design team:

    http://konicaminolta.jp/about/research/technology_report/1993/pdf/8.pdf

    Seriously, if Konica ever published an English report describing these technologies, sales of Hexar would be a bit larger... It's a really impressive camera even today, although the buttons could be improved with use of more dials, etc.

    The biggest complaint I have about this camera is the loops for camera straps. They are not standard size, and I had to go to craft store to buy nylon straps to make the end loops that go through the camera strap loops. It's a very common problem.

    If you read the report, you'll learn that the lens is undercorrected for spherical abberation to secure good contrast at wide open. Usually, in rangefinder cameras and SLR cameras, this causes a problem in focusing error because the best focus shifts when the lens is stopped down. Hexar deals this sort of problems by calculating the focus shift according to the aperture value used and compensate for it. The lens is a new design, but very similar to W-Nikor 3.5cm f/1.8 described here (in English):

    http://www.nikon.co.jp/main/eng/portfolio/about/history/nikkor/n03_e.htm

    (Note: in this page, you'll see a phrase "Alert readers will have noticed, however, that new lenses built on this basic type are appearing recently." and this is referring to the 35mm f/2 of Konica Hexar. The Japanese original was written in 1999 and this sentence is written in past tense in the original.)

    I wish the camera division of Konica merged with Fujica to make a new Hexar with 24mm f/1.9 lens!
     
  7. jimgalli

    jimgalli Subscriber

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    Ryuji, I'd always heard that the lens was a Leica 35mm f2 copy. Is that a myth? Always read that these were a cheaper solution to the mythical bokeh of Leica 35 f2. Also myth?
     
  8. argentic

    argentic Member

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    I have one for years and I really love it for what it's designed for : street photography. For special subjects I take my Nikon F4 with different lenses, a Rolleiflex SL66 or a 4x5 inch.

    But for street photography or as a photographic notebook the Hexar AF is unsurpassed. The camera is well sized (not too small for my big hands, but still small enough to take anywhere). It has so much possibilities that I don't even know them all. And most important of all : the lens is really excellent.

    I second Ryuji on the 24/1.9 lens for Hexar.
     
  9. tony lockerbie

    tony lockerbie Subscriber

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    I have used one on and off for about 4 years and find that the lens quality is everything withthis camera. The size is about right too and it makes a great go anywhere family camera. Autofocus is always a problem with grag shots though and I have trouble with the manual focus mode. The catch that releases the back seems a bit flimsy though I must admit that it has'nt caused any problems. I'm selling mine on ebay because I have purchased a CV bessa R as I have rediscovered manual focussing and my wife won't let me buy a Leica! Tony
     
  10. Ryuji

    Ryuji Member

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    Bokeh of Hexar's 35mm f/2.0 is excellent. The image quality is also very good from wide open, although the character changes from 2.0 to 4 range rather drastically, which is why this lens is very interesting.

    The Leica lens is actually a W-Nikkor copy. If you don't like the word "copy" replace it with whatever you like, but the W-Nikkor is the pioneer of this type of design.

    Konica engineers adapted this design but also made sufficient modification to make enough room between the front and rear groups to accomodate electronic shutter and diaphragm units. It's explained in the above PDF document, although it's in Japanese. Nikon documents also acknowledge that the Hexanon 35mm f/2 is derived from W-Nikkor design.

    I would not say that Summicron 35mm f/2 is unrelated, because both it and Hexanon were derived from W-Nikkor.
     
  11. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    The Mandler Summicron is a copy of the W-Nikkor ?

    :surprised:
     
  12. Ryuji

    Ryuji Member

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    I didn't say that. Summicron f/3.5 lenses are a different story.

    I said that W-Nikkor 3.5cm f/1.8 was the originator of this type of Xenotar-derived semi-wide angle with large aperture (f/2 or less), completed in mid 1950s. Sumicron 35mm f/2 was sold a few years after the W-Nikkor was sold. A version of Summicron (1979) similar to W-Nikkor was sold only after the Nikon patent expired. Hexanon 35mm f/2.0 is a modern example of W-Nikkor type design, sold long after Nikon patent expired, and also after Leitz Summicron of 1979. I think the similarity is overemphasized in popular press and weblogs, because Hexanon was redesigned to fit the dimensional constraints from the camera design.

    But none of these affects the image quality of Hexanon 35mm f/2. Konica had excellent optical engineers who were very good at picking the best design and further optimizing to their design goal. People generally know Konica as the pioneer of all sorts of radical/strange new things, but this was not all they did. (Unfortunately we see many of these examples in compact cameras, especially after they went the wrong direction in their SLR product lines.)

    I should add one very unique point of the Hexanon 35mm f/2 built in to Hexar AF. Spherical aberration of this lens is undercorrected to ensure high contrast image from wide open. Usually, when this approach is taken, there is shift in plane of best focus as the aperture is varied. This is unacceptable for rangefinder cameras and SLR cameras, as focus and aperture must be controlled orthogonally. However, Hexar is an autofocus camera with a built-in computer that calculates the shift in focusing based on the aperture value, and adjusts the focusing scale on the fly. So the optics designer had more freedom in the design approach with Hexar AF (It's described in the Konica technical report linked above.)
     
  13. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    The 35/1.8 W-Nikkor was designed by Azuma in 1955 ( according to Nikon ) and hit the market in 1956. It is a 7 element lens using a Lanthanum element. Wonderful lens.

    The 35/2 Summicron appeared in 1958, 6 elements. Looking deeper than the largely irrelevent block diagram, it is an evolution of the double-gauss experience of Leitz that dates back to Berek's work in the early '30s.

    The Summicron's 6 element design had 3 iterations, and was replaced in 1980 by Mandler's 7 element design. Mandler's appreciation of the double-gauss design was revolutionary, as had been Azuma's, and his designs are not evolutions of Leitz tradition nor any potential influence from 20 years before.

    The design era from 1950 to 1980 saw the double-gauss design go through astonishing developments. It is poetic, and probably accurate enough, to view Azuma and Mandler as bookends of the period.

    Here are diagrams ( largely irrelevent ) of the 1956 W-Nikkor and the 1978 Summicron:
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 28, 2006
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  15. Ryuji

    Ryuji Member

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    I don't really agree that Mandler wasn't aware of and uninfluenced by the Azuma's design, which made the world's first lens of that specification.

    W-Nikkor and Summicron 35/2 of 1979 differed most obviously in the last two elements, where one recognizes the originality of W-Nikkor design. But the additon of the elements after Xenotar-type lens improved coma, spherical aberration and field flatness in both designs.

    W-Nikkor and Hexanon 35/2 of Hexar AF differed in the 2nd and 3rd elements. While the 2nd and 3rd elements are cemented in W-Nikkor, Hexanon separated them to increase the negative power in the front group, which was necessary because they had to increase the distance between the front and rear groups.

    So my point is in response to jimgalli that Hexanon 35/2 is derived from W-Nikkor, to which it is much more similar than Summicron. But all these three lenses share the same line of techniques. People often believe Hexanon 35/2 to be a close copy of 1979 Summicron, where Hexanon is in fact closer to W-Nikkor design and is better viewed as a variation of the W-Nikkor. If anyone argues that Hexanon is a copy of Summicron, then Summicron is a copy of W-Nikkor.

    Again, my view is that the similarity is overemphasized in popular press and online commentary.
     
  16. ampguy

    ampguy Member

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    Hi John

    I've had mine for a few months and love it, it's larger than I'd like, it's about the size of an m6 or so, and the lens is fixed, but the lens is superior, I doubt you can find a lens of this quality for the price of a hexar with lens. The autofocus and metering is also excellent.

    Note that in "M" manual mode, the metering goes to spot, so keep this in mind. A mode is great in that it will always take the picture, and use your preset aperture, even the P mode is great in which it will always attempt to use where you set your aperture, but will not take a photo if it decides shutter speed is too slow or fast. Note the highest shutter speed is 1/250, I haven't run into a problem yet, but can easily foresee this in bright daylight with fast film. You can override the auto-DX.


     
  17. tim atherton

    tim atherton Inactive

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    I had one for quite a while - very nice camera. You can usually turn the "stealth" mode back on in most of the later models yourself as well
     
  18. deebel

    deebel Member

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    Tell me about my lens

    Interesting thread. I really enjoy using my Konica Auto S2 rangefinder circa 1965 vintage . It has a 45mm Hexanon 1.8 lens with CopaL-sva shutter.

    What can you tell me about the lens design?

    deebel
     
  19. Ryuji

    Ryuji Member

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    I have two of those myself and I love them. But I haven't seen a diagram for these lenses. I took apart lenses and looked at individual surfaces; it's 6e 4g design, with 3e 2g in each side of the shutter. I've heard that the design is similar to Ektar 45/2 or 47/2, but I haven't confirmed this myself.
     
  20. craigclu

    craigclu Subscriber

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    The S2 was an impressive image maker and compares favorably to modern day optics. The amazing little rig to me was the S3. I was recently printing some old negatives that included some S3 on FP4 images and I just can't imagine asking for more from 35mm. The camera had a very clever GN/fill light metering system and though the lens felt a bit loose by virtue of its attachment design, I never felt that it impacted the image. The Hexar, in some ways, is a polished up, complicated method to a similar result. I very much like my little Hexar but because of periods of time elapsing between uses, I'm always just a bit muddled when getting used to it each time. If it was my primary camera, it certainly would feel more intuitive from more consistent usage. Hexanons were the "sleepers" among the makers and I greatly mourn their passing!
     
  21. Ryuji

    Ryuji Member

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    Don't take this as anything more than speculation at this point, but this has been bothering me for some time. I have no diagram or design episodes for Hexanon used in Auto S2. But comparing my sketches to known good (and cheap) designs of 40-50mm f/2 at that time, it became very obvious that most of them are Planar design with minor variations from Rudolph's design. Examples include Rikenon 45mm f/2 (used in Ricoh 35 Delux L, f/2 model, lens made by Showa optics).

    There is one difference between Rudolph's design and modern Planar's of 6e4g construction, such as 45mm f/2 used for Contax G, etc. The difference is in the cemented surfaces. Even among 6e4g constructions, there are variations. (And there are 6e5g type where the front group is uncemented, and more variations with 7 or 8 elements, and then...)

    I tool the lens apart to find Hexanon 45mm f/1.8 in Auto S2 was 6e4g but I didn't uncement the elements to determine the cemented surfaces. We need more information in this area.

    My bet is that the lens is similar to Rikenon 45mm or original Planar.
     
  22. 35mmDelux

    35mmDelux Member

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    DO NOT BUY IT UNLESS ITS CHEAP. It has some nice features but you may want to consider a Leica M4-P, a far superior camera for around the same cost.

    What I didn't like about the Hexar are its dials which are extremely whimpy IMHO. My xpan blows the socks off the Hexar RF. The AF has a problem w/ its slow 250 max speed. This limits the shooter to slow speed film during daylight.
     
  23. ampguy

    ampguy Member

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    S3 lens?

    Ryuji,

    How would you compare the lens performance of the S2 with the smaller body S3?

     
  24. raizans

    raizans Member

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    an m4-p over a hexar af? no thanks!
     
  25. butterflydream

    butterflydream Member

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    Hexar AF and Hexar RF are quite different animals. Neither can be compared to M4P, fully manual without meter. Each has different talent with its own superiority.

    Leica's counterpart for Hexar AF is Minilux.
     
  26. frank

    frank Subscriber

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    I have both a Hexar AF and Leica Minilux. The Hexar is a much better camera in terms of build quality and functionality. Quite different cameras!