Advanced Compact (AF)

A Letter To The Konica Hexar AF – By Ong Sien Hong

Dear Konica Hexar AF, many have penned their thoughts on you, loved and parted with you. I am writing you this letter because I know you deserved more.

First came to know you through Kai’s video on Youtube many years ago when you went against the photography giant (then) Leica M9, and you stood your ground. You, like David versus Goliath, fought and produced images worthy of a camera that cost many times your perceived value.

From then onwards, I read so many wonderful things about you that further piqued my curiosity on what we could do together. I remembered the day I picked you up. It was a Saturday. The instant your ex-partner decided to leave you, posted a cold sale advertisement, I called and picked you up the very day.

What are You?

You are not quite a rangefinder, are you? You looked like one but you behaved entirely autofocus. Should I call you a rangefinder-styled point and shoot camera? No, that somehow belittled the impact you made on my photography journey.

I never associate a rangefinder with autofocus, yet you, the Konica Hexar AF is just that. You truly are an oddball. A camera many fondly remembered but wouldn’t take you seriously. Maybe they were deceived by how plasticky you are. But you are not a toy.

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You performed when tasked.

The results from you were out of my expectations. Perhaps I didn’t expect a lot. Surely your outdated autofocus function cannot compete with the modern digital cameras. And you can’t do zone focusing either.

Yet it was fun being with you. I went as far as getting a Rhodium version of you from Japan. And we took wonderful photos together. You captured some of the best moments I ever took with any camera. You will always have a place on my photography journey.

Sien Hong
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12 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    eric
    May 11, 2019 at 11:05 am

    Great pictures.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Sien Hong
      May 11, 2019 at 11:06 am

      Thank you Eric.

      • Avatar
        Reply
        James Evidon
        May 11, 2019 at 10:34 pm

        I agree with Eric, but have you ever tried the Contax G1 or G2? All metal and high quality build. Has AF and manual focusing that is pokey and time consuming. But the VF is wonderful and parallax correcting and has the greatest lenses ever conceived by Zeiss, IMO. The Hexar is probably harder to find in ex. condition, but the G1 and G2 are still plentiful.

        • Avatar
          Reply
          Sien Hong
          May 11, 2019 at 11:04 pm

          Hi James, thank you. No, I have never tried the Contax and I saw there are still plenty of Hexar Af around too @ ebay too. However in my local scene, you don’t see Hexar AF turning up often in the second-hand market.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Nick Berkeley
    May 11, 2019 at 2:42 pm

    lovely shots – the last is a beauty. What have you moved on to on your journey? thinking of going down the Hexar AF path myself.. Very young boys makes AF useful! Nick

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Sien Hong
      May 11, 2019 at 2:56 pm

      Hi Nick, thank you! You will have lots of fun with the Hexar AF, however bearing in mind how advanced today’s autofocus is, have to manage a little expectation on this oldie. I am currently using a Zeiss Ikon and a Voigtlander 35mm F/2 Ultron. Wrote a piece on the lens (pics taken with the set up). I always prefer zone focusing, so if you are familiar with that, to me it is as fast as any autofocus cam (may not be as sharp depending on how well you gauge your distance).

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Nick
    May 11, 2019 at 5:16 pm

    I saw that piece and it looks like a great lens with the sort of character and rendering I love. I have recently got the f2’s brother the 1.7 ultron which I took out today for the first time. Amazing sharpness and fairly good bokeh but may lack some of that classic rendering. Works very well on the A7III though so no complaints. Incidentally the Zeiss Ikon is on my to buy list as the next purchase (its been in contention with the hexar and contax T2/3) primarily because I want to use the ZM glass (28 biogon, 35mm 2.8 and 50 1.5) all of which (other than the 50mm) have issues on the A7iii.I am also wanting to increasingly simplify my lens collection and I find the zeiss lenses just work for me (as well as the look of some of the recent voigtlanders like your f2). Just hard to find a decent condition black Ikon on sale… I agree on the zone focusing. The thing that appeals with the Hexar is the simplicity of the one lens set up, it is light and its lens is beautiful (and has an afterlife through MS-Optical) but I wonder about the limitations – AF, 250 max speed and the fiddly buttons _ perhaps your response has made me realise that I am probably better off saving my pennies for the Ikon or even an M7 at the right price if I cannot find a good Ikon… Decisions..! Keep up the great work…

  • Avatar
    Reply
    dave tada
    May 11, 2019 at 5:30 pm

    The Hexar AF has been probably my most used film camera, ever. The “outdated” autofocus is probably the most accurate AF i’ve used of virtually any camera too. It’s 290 steps i believe(?) It doesn’t have things like face/eye detection, but i’ve shot in super dark clubs/bars, wide open and every shot is spot on with the focus. The lens is definitely no slouch too 🙂 Tbh, the biggest gripe i have with the camera is the 1/250th top shutter speed 😛

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Nick
    May 11, 2019 at 7:30 pm

    That is encouraging. with 1/250th speed, how do you overcome this in the sunshine other than shooting closed down where you lose some of the magic… Do you use filters and/or very fast film..?

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Sien Hong
      May 11, 2019 at 8:09 pm

      filters alright but I don’t use them, I shoot with iso100/200/400 film and its still good to go.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Julian Love
    May 12, 2019 at 11:36 am

    If you are looking for the Hexar AF magic on a true RF body, Konica released a 35mm f/2 UC lens in Leica thread mount, so will fit on any Leica with an adapter as well as Zeiss Ikon, Hexar Rf etc. They are tiny, beautifully made black painted brass lenses and sell used for around £1000 these days.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Sien Hong
      May 13, 2019 at 2:28 pm

      OH yes, I have never tried the Konica Hexar 35mm f/2 but it does look beautiful (aesthetically). Would love to try one but even at 1000 pounds, it’s still pretty costly considering one might be able to get a used Leica 35mm f/2 at that price range too… so I have not pulled the trigger on it. Having said that, I always get excited about seeing one appearing in the used market.

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