The Konica Hexar AF is a 35mm point and shoot camera introduced by Konica in 1993. The camera has a fixed 35mm f/2 Hexar lens.
Just as I stated about the Ricoh GR1 in my review, the Konica Hexar also came from the same unique era in the 1990s when manufacturers such as Contax, Nikon, Leica, Ricoh, Minolta, and yes Konica put out high end “luxury” point and shoot cameras, forever changing the way the lowly point and shoot camera was perceived.
The Konica Hexar is one of the greatest “cult” cameras of all time.
AS A CAMERA
The Konica Hexar is an all electronic autofocus camera and relies on one 2CR5 battery for all its functions.
The camera features Aperture Priority, Program, and Manual modes. The shutter speed range is 30s to 1/250s plus T.
The 35mm f/2 Hexar lens is a fixed 35mm f/2 that closes down to f/22.
IS IT A RANGEFINDER OR A POINT AND SHOOT
Though the Hexar AF resembles a rangefinder camera, it is indeed a large point and shoot rather than a true rangefinder like a Leica M6 for example.
Don’t forget, back in the 1990s, point and shoot cameras were still considered “lowly” by elitist photographers. But even these folks knew what a great camera the Hexar was so they had to have it. So for those folks calling the Hexar AF a rangefinder probably made them feel better 😊
The Konica Hexar RF, a different camera, is an actual rangefinder. So remember…Hexar AF, point and shoot. Hexar RF, rangefinder.
IN THE HAND AND THE CONTROLS
While technically a point and shoot camera, the Konica Hexar AF is actually quite large in the hand. It’s roughly the same length as say a Leica M8 and almost as thick, but not as bulky as the M8.
The relatively large size of the camera may also be a contributing factor to it being perceived as a traditonal rangefinder.
Back in the mid to late 1990s when I used this camera most, I considered its large size an asset because I’m sure most people then saw it as a large, almost goofy point and shoot camera with the name “Konica” on it. This is mostly true for the black version. Surely it must be a cheap and “harmless” camera right? 🙂
That was back in the 1990s. Today, I believe people are even more camera savvy thanks in no small part to the internet and the resurrgence of interest in cameras and photography. In some ways it was better in the 90s wasn’t it guys? We had this thing all to ourselves 🙂
Ergonomically, I think the camera is excellent with a nice heft to the body. From the shooter’s perspective, the large dial on the top right hand side of the camera controls the aperture in half stops from f/2 to f/22.
Also on the top plate are from the Off/A/P/M mode dial, the up and down buttons, the self time button, the Select and MF buttons, and the tiny rewind button.
The body can be held in one hand if need be thanks to a nice right handed grip molded into the body. I’d take care that a strap is around your neck or hand if you do this because the camera can slip from your hand and drop, and you wouldn’t want that would you?
MY EXPERIENCES AND IMPRESSIONS OF THE HEXAR AF
I got my first Hexar AF in 1996 after reading an excellent and extensive review of the Hexar on a once great website called Photo.net but for some reason I can no longer find this review when doing a quick search for it.
Photo.net was one of the first sites on the internet truly dedicated to photography. They had great articles and forums. I would contribute once in a while, but mainly decided to stay a lurker.
The reason I say Photo.net was “once great” is that sometime in the past few years, Photo.net has gone through a complete renovation and is almost unrecognizable.
To be fair, it may still be great, I don’t know, but I no longer visit. Just like being used to the low budget Craigslist layout, I was used to the old school Photo.net platform. I don’t know if they have new owners or not, but the new platform does not, to me, have that down home feeling of the old Photo.net and is harder to navigate.
I know there are “crazy passionate” (as I like to say) people out there to whom saying anything sounding remotely negative will set them off. One person got angry because I called a camera he apparently liked a “brute.” What I actually wrote was that it was “an awesome brute of a camera” 🙂
So to avoid that let me say, yes I understand if I took a little time Photo.net is probably as great as it always was. However, I haven’t had the time to expolore it.
Anyway, I’m drifting off topic here, so let’s get back to the Hexar AF. As I said, after reading that excellent review on Photo.net, I had to have it!
When I got it, I truly had the feeling that I had something special in my hands. Much like the way I suppose that someone in today’s world feels when they hold a Sony RX1 or a Leica Q, etc, etc. Twenty two years later, I still get a special feeling when I hold the Hexar and use it.
HOW I USE THE HEXAR
The Konica Hexar AF is a purely electronic camera that relies on a battery for all its functions and uses dials and lots of buttons for its controls. Generally a no-no for me, but the great thing is I use the Konica as it was intended, which is that I use it as a point and shoot.
So if you’ll forgive me, I will not delve much (if at all) into some of its more complex controls. For example, you can set up the Hexar for manual focus or hyperfocal focus or what have you, but for that you need to rely on pressing a bunch of buttons all of which you need a manual or look up online on how to do it.
It’s not that it’s so hard, but for me, I don’t or never needed to bother with that because I never intended to use the Hexar in any other way but point and shoot 🙂
I don’t mean that in a negative way. The fact that the Hexar is a point and shoot allows me the freedom to concentrate on the light, subject, composition, etc, etc.
The great thing about the Hexar is that while it relies a lot on electronic buttons for a lot of its extraneous functions, it couldn’t be simpler to use, if you do as I do. Just turn it on, put it on A for aperture priority and control that nice large aperture dial, or (dare I say it) just leave it on P for Program mode, then it’s simple as pie. Just point and shoot folks, don’t overthink it!
The Hexar AF relies on active-infrared focus. In general, the AF is adequately fast and accurate. In low light situations, it may struggle if there’s no definable subject for the AF to latch on to.
Other times, it may seem like the AF is hesitating but this usually happens when the camera develops the dreaded “sticky shutter button” problem which we’ll discuss in “Issues” below. In general, the autofocus in the Hexar is very reliable even when the user themselves might be unsure it got the shot.
THAT LENS AND IMAGE QUALITY
It’s been widely said on the web for a very long time that the 35mm f/2 Hexar lens on the Hexar AF is a close copy of the pre Asph Leica 35mm f/2 Summicron.
In my limited time with the Summicron, I’d have to say I didn’t see it. Perhaps it was my copy of the Summicron but the Hexar lens appeared slightly sharper (probably more contrasty) than the Summicron, the bokeh less funky, which kind of makes sense since it is of a much newer vintage than the Leica. The Leica had more of a “look” to the images it produced though.
It’s also said that the Hexar lens may be closer to the 35mm f/1.8 Nikkor rangefinder lens. I don’t really see that either and I have the Nikkor. The Nikkor, like the Leica, has their own unique signature. And the Hexar does too.
For example, I would say the Hexar’s bokeh leans more towards neutral. Not bad, not great. Not unpleasant for most situations. The Nikkor has funkier bokeh that’s not exactly pretty, but adds to its “character.”
I’m totally convinced all these great old lenses earned their reputation as a result of the abberations and imperfections inherent in them, secondary to being a product of their time. In other words, a lens from the 50s or 60s as great as they were, will simply lack something an equivalent modern lens has, with all the advances made in coatings and computer design or corrections for optical errors.
But, and this is a big BUT friend…these abberations or “errors” are what make those old lenses produce such great images!! Whether it’s a look you love or a look you hate, these old lenses produces images that catches the eye. And again, I’m convinced it’s from their imperfections.
That said, the Konica Hexar AF lens is truly great! It’s sharp from f/2 and very sharp stopped down slightly. There is some barrel distorion in the near focus range, but it’s generally not a problem for me.
The lens exhibited excellent tonality and reproduces colors superbly especially with a good color film like the old Reala or Velvia. I generally prefer b&w when using older cameras, but the Hexar is one camera I wouldn’t mind using with color film.
My subjective impression is that the 35mm f/2 Hexar lens has a much more modern signature than the lenses it’s usually compared to. And it kind of makes sense considering the Hexar AF is a child of the 90s.
The fixed 35mm f/2 Hexar lens has a nice nifty pull out metal hood built in. Nice touch!
THE FAMOUS SILENT MODE
The Konica Hexar AF had one other thing beside that fabulous lens that made it famous. It was the stealthy “Silent” mode. Though I told you I hated using those electronic buttons, this one is so easy I’ll tell you how to do it.
Keep you hand on the MF button, turn the camera on, you should see a letter L on the top LCD. If you do see that “L” then that’s it! You’re in the silent mode.
In this mode, the camera is amazingly quiet when advancing film. In the 1990s used to take the camera with me to college downtown for night classes and sometimes I’d used it to take photos of friends making wacky faces in the classroom. I used to have to look twice at the film counter to make sure the camera actually took the shot. That’s how quiet it was.
You might say, why were you taking your camera to class anyway? Just to take photos of your friends making wacky faces? No friend, I actually took it with me because after class was over, I was free to walk around the streets of New York City. The wacky faces arose out of classroom boredom 🙂
Of course, in a truly quiet “you could hear a pin drop” room you may hear it, but for the majority of the shooting situations you may be in, the Hexar’s silent mode will impress.
Again, I always like to put it in today’s perspective and in the age of high quality cell phones and point and shoot cameras, the Hexar’s silent mode is kind of a moot point. Yet, when compared to some of today’s cameras, especially the DSLR cameras with their mirror slap, the Hexar in silent mode may be more silent and that’s impressive, especially for a film camera.
THE COOL FILM REWIND CATCH
One really cool thing I like with the Hexar is that when the camera rewinds the film down to “1” it gives you quite a pause, not sure how long, maybe a second more or less, but just enough time that you can twist the back door key open and catch the film before it goes into the cannister.
This is an awesome feature for me as I love to shoot half a roll in one camera and one roll in another.
The Konica Hexar AF has a top shutter speed of 1/250 which some may find limiting. How would this be limiting for you? Well, let’s say you want to shoot a model outdoors in bright sunlight. Let’s say you want to shoot wide open to get some background blur. The top shutter speed of 1/250 severely limits your ability to do the above.
It also limits the use of faster film in bright daylight. It’s almost impossible to get bokeh in bright sunlight with this camera, even with slow film as the lens begs to be stopped down in bright light.
In bright light, many cameras will already be begging for more than 1/250th of a second so you really have to use slower film and find a way to work around it, maybe use some ND filters.
For me, it’s not a problem because I’m not shooting in those conditions. I’m usually doing the opposite which is shooting in low or subdued light so the camera will rarely ever need to go to 1/250 for me.
The main issue I have seen with the Konica Hexar AF is that they tend to develop what’s known as the “sticky shutter problem.”
Let’s say you press the shutter button. Nothing happens. You press it again. It may focus or not. Eventually it focuses. Maybe not. Either way, you’re not sure what happened.
You most likely have the sticky shutter problem if you experience this. I know I have. In fact, my Hexar does this now.
From what I can gather, it seems most people think it’s a matter of the parts being worn from time and use and apparently there is a simple fix for it which will require you to disassemble, clean and reassemble parts of the camera. It’s said to be easy but I haven’t tried it yet. The tutorial can be found easily on YouTube.
Be forwarned. Some say it’s just a temporary fix and eventually the problem comes back and that you do eventually need to have it professionally repaired as some of the parts may need replacement. With Konica out of the camera business, I’m not really sure if there are many parts to be had.
Since mine is working intermittently, I’m living with it as is for now.
Some people have also complained of faulty electronics, ie camera dying for no reason but I’ve not heard much of this and have not experienced it myself. I’ve had two of these cameras. But that’s not to say it couldn’t happen. These cameras have been on the market for more than twenty years and if they’ve never been maintained, something is bound to happen sooner or later.
Other than that, and the odd off focus shots which happens with any camera, the Hexar is generally very reliable, but then again it IS an over twenty year old camera from a manufacturer who no longer makes cameras for general consumption so be forwarned.
The Konica Hexar AF is one of the greatest cult cameras of all time and justifiably so. It’s got a great lens and great ergonomics if used as a point and shoot.
The camera does rely on a lot of dials and tiny buttons if you want to delve into more of its feature set, but if you’re content to focus on getting the picture and letting the camera do the work, it’s the simplest electronic camera to use. And it delivers excellent, sharp images beautifully and easily.
The photos on this page do not illustrate all that the Hexar is capable of. I do have a ton of photos from this camera that sit in photo albums that I just haven’t had the time to scan, but I will continue to add photos to this review as time allows.
The Konica Hexar AF is a Camera Legend that is still very much in demand by photography enthusiasts and I wholeheartedly endorse it. It brings me back to a great time in life and won me over by delivering great photos time after time. Even today the Hexar continues to produce wonderful results and it’s a keeper in my book.
PRICE/AVAILABILITY/WHERE TO BUY
Though the Hexar AF has been long discontinued, it’s still relatively easy to find. Prices are trending from $450-800 US Dollars.
The Hexar was made in several different fits, Black, Silver, Classic, Rhodium. They’re all the same camera, just a different trim. The Black model appears to be the most common. The Classic and the Rhodium seem to fetch more on the used market.
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MODERN DIGITAL ALTERNATIVES
So you say you’d like a camera like the Konica Hexar but you prefer digital? Well, they never made an equivalent of the Hexar AF in digital form, so you’re out of luck there.
The closest modern equivalent I would say is the Sony RX1 series. Though I’m sort of bias towards my film cameras, I would say the RX1 and its reiterations are superb.
And since Sony bought out Konica/Minolta oh so many years ago in 2006, you could say the Sony carries that Hexar lineage, even though the lens on the RX1 is a Zeiss lens. But hey, that ain’t a bad thing is it? 🙂
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