Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7 Lens Review

Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7

For a lot of photographers, a fast 50mm will be the first prime lens they pick up. There are plenty of reasons why this is a good idea, as you can read all about here

However, it took me getting through a few other vintage primes before I got around to owning one. That changed when I bought this Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7. And now, having shot with it for a while, I can tell you all about it.

Spoiler alert: it’s a fine vintage lens. But you need more information than that. Luckily, this comprehensive review is full of it. And if it makes you want to pick one up for yourself, you can check their availability on eBay or at KEH Camera.

Find your KONICA HEXANON AR 50MM F1.7 today

History of the Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7

In 1973, Konica released an SLR called the Autoreflex T3 as the successor to the T2.

Fixed to the front of this was the Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7. It was a lens that quickly gained a reputation for its optical performance; particularly its sharpness.

The Autoreflex T3 did well. It was fully featured for its time and very sturdily built.

However, after 3 years in production, Konica needed to freshen things up. The workhorse-like T3 was being left behind by smaller and lighter new offerings from elsewhere.

In response to this, they released the Autoreflex TC in 1976, which came with an updated version of the Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7 lens.

The lens was made smaller and lighter to match the new camera. However, this meant the closest focal distance became a little longer (55cm from 45cm) and aperture half stops were removed.

Thankfully, and I my opinion most importantly, the optical quality was said to remain the same.

How old is my Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7?

Production of the second version of the Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7 continued until 1979.

At this point, Konica released the FS-1 camera, which came with the 40mm f1.8 pancake lens. Any Autoreflex TCs sold thereafter also came with this new glass.

This means if you’re looking to buy a Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7, or you already have one, it will date from one of the following:

  • 1973 – 1976
  • 1976 – 1979

And there’s a very easy way to tell which it is.

The early ones have a serial number on the front, next to where it says Lens Made in Japan. The later ones, like mine, do not.

The adapter needed for your Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7

To use a Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7 on your digital camera, you’re going to need an adapter.

Exactly what kind of adapter that is depends on your camera but if you use a Sony mirrorless camera like I do, you’ll need a Konica-NEX adapter. They’re readily available on Amazon.

If you have a different camera with a different mount, you’ll need a different adapter. It will still be Konica-, which may be labelled as AR- or KR-, as that’s the mount on the lens.

The second part of that code depends on the mount on your camera. If you know what that is, you should be able to find the one you need on Amazon.

Before we go on, I must say this: if you have a DSLR, especially a Nikon, the Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7 might not be compatible with it.

This is down to the distance between the lens and the sensor in your camera. The adapters need to make this the same as it was to the film in the original Autoreflex cameras.

I’ve read that because of the design of some DSLRs – again, Nikon in particular – this is impossible to achieve. If you have a mirrorless though you should be golden.

Using a Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7 on a digital camera

Using a Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7, just like any vintage lens, on a digital camera will mean focussing and changing the aperture on the lens itself, as there’s no electronic communication between the lens and body.

Don’t let this worry you or put you off trying old glass if you haven’t done so before.

First off, most new and new-ish cameras have built-in manual focus aids. If you’re in the market for a new body for your old lenses, I recommend a mirrorless. You can learn which will best suit your needs in this guide here.

As for controlling the exposure, I shoot in aperture priority mode and recommend you do too. I wrote a post explaining in more detail how you can do that.

As well as opening up the doors to vintage lenses for you, it’s a skill that will benefit you as a photographer regardless of whether you ever try them or not.


Build and image quality of the Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7

When I first physically picked up the Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7 I wasn’t sure if I wanted to actually buy it.

Not because it felt poorly made, though. Quite the opposite.

Every vintage lens I’ve ever bought has been older than me and I wanted this to continue. Standing in the camera market and having done no real prior research, I wasn’t sure the 50mm Hexanon in my hand was vintage enough.

The little block of metal and glass looked and felt too new – and that’s testament to its build quality.

Everything about it tells you it’s well-made. The focus ring is still smooth and the aperture ring is still satisfyingly clicky. Of course, none of that would matter if the image quality was bad.

Thankfully, it isn’t.

In fact when the Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7 was first released it was lauded as one of the very sharpest lenses on the market.

While it would be unfair to compare that sharpness with modern lenses, it’s still regarded as one of the sharpest vintage 50mm lenses commonly available.

I can only agree with that, and add that colour and contrast were very good too.

You can take a look for yourself in these sample images.

Street photography with the Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7

Shooting street photography with the Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7 took me back to the days when I shot a lot with the Super-Takumar 55mm f1.8 or the Yashica Yashinon-DX 45mm f1.7 – in both cases because of the focal length.

I’ve been shooting with 38mm and 28mm lenses more recently, and going back to a longer focal length has meant changing up the kind of street photographs I’ve been making.

You soon adjust your eye, though. And once I did, I realised the 50mm Hexanon is plenty good enough for what I want to do.

Actually, it’s more than good enough.

I enjoyed shooting with it noticeably more than with some of my other vintage lenses. This probably goes back to the build quality and image quality.

The focus and aperture rings were satisfying to play with and the results on the LCD screen were inspiring to look at.

And, for some reason I’m not quite sure of, I was getting better results at f11 than my usual f8, which meant nailing focus was not an issue.

All in all, once I’d got used to the focal length again, the Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7 was a pleasure to shoot street with.


Shooting wide open with the Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7

I never actually shoot wide open with my vintage lenses. Most of my street photography is done at f8.

However, if you’re buying a Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7, or any fast prime lens, you might want to play around with shallow depths of field and blurred backgrounds.

For the best results, my advice would be to not actually shoot wide open. You’ll lose some of the sharpness you enjoy at one or two stops up.

These test shots were taken at f2.8 – an aperture the 50mm Konica seemed to do well at.

The areas in focus are very sharp, as you’d expect with this lens, and the blurred areas are suitably, well, blurred.

Should you buy a Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7?

Buying a Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7 doesn’t mean you’re getting a rarity or an unusual piece of glass.

What you are getting is a very good, fast 50mm lens for a very good price. Seriously, these things are not expensive.

They’ve always had a reputation for their sharpness, and it’s a reputation I’m not going to argue with. When you nail the focus, the image quality is fantastic.

So should you go to eBay or KEH Camera and buy a Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7?

If you’re looking for a good 50mm lens, don’t want to spend too much money and don’t mind using manual focus, I’d urge you to do so.

Get yourself over to Amazon and pick up an adapter too, and maybe a shiny new Sony Alpha mirrorless camera if you need to, and you’ll be loving shooting with the 50mm Konica in no time.

I certainly was. 🙂

Find Your Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7 Today

If you enjoyed this post or found it useful and want to learn more, dig into some more lens reviews and helpful guides below: 

  1. Buying a mirrorless camera for your vintage lenses
  2. How to use vintage lenses on digital cameras
  3. Check out all the other vintage lens reviews
  4. See all photo essays shot with this Konica 50mm f1.7

And if you think others will enjoy this Konica Hexanon 50mm f1.7 review too, help them find it by sharing or pinning.  😀

17 thoughts on “Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7 Lens Review”

    • Focus peaking definitely does. Don’t have a camera with zebra mode myself but I’m sure it will work if focus peaking does. 🙂

      Reply
  1. Hi.
    Nice report.
    There are 3 versions of this lens.
    You have one of the last two.
    Version 2 has a minimum focus distance of 45mm and half clicks.
    Version 3 has a minimum focus distance of 55mm and full clicks.
    Which is the one you reviewed?

    Reply
    • Hi Mario. Thanks for that. Have just checked and mine is the version 3. Good additional information, thank you! 🙂

      Reply
      • Hey Aminur. The first version has a serial number on the front. The second and third versions don’t.

        To tell the difference between those, as Mario said above:

        “Version 2 has a minimum focus distance of 45mm and half clicks.
        Version 3 has a minimum focus distance of 55mm and full clicks.”

        Thanks. 🙂

        Reply
  2. I have a bunch of old lenses…Super Takumar, Konica AR, and the Helios lens. What Sony mirrorless do you recommend for old lens aficionados like myself?

    Reply
    • Hi Mark. I can’t really advise on specific new Sony cameras since I still use the NEX-5N I’ve had since like 2013. 🙂 If you’re after one just for your vintage lenses then I feel like I wouldn’t get too hung up exactly on which one. A lot of the features will be redundant anyway.

      Having said that, if I was buying now I’d probably go for a full-frame, which I think all the newer models are? And I’d go for as small as possible, but that’s just me. They’ll all have focus peaking which is a huge help, I’ve found. Overall I’d maybe look more at ergonomics and how comfortable it is in the hand than technical features.

      Reply
      • I thought about something like the A6000, but the crop factor is something I would rather stay away from. I’m glad you brought up full-frame. Thank you for your help. I enjoy your website.

        Reply
  3. I have the following:
    Minolta MC 28 2.5, Hexanon 28 3.5. Canon FL 28 3.5, Nikkor 28 3.5, Tak 28 3.5. “all” render uniquely and why wouldn’t they? Choosing which you like best is a personal taste thing and the very reason for which I have all these? Not holding a candle in rendering? Pure taste call, not factual at all.

    The Hexanon 28 3.5 comes in no less than 7 versions, including a 7 element and a 5 element that are physically as different as it gets. There are multiple versions of the Tak 28 3.5, two different optical formulas. You read opinions “the Tak 28, my Konica 28″….? Somehow because a lens says 28 3.5 they are all the same lenses? No one says I have this version or that version do they? The “they” don’t know?

    It amazes to read these new imaginary definitions of these “legends” I used as if there is no variance or differences involved?

    Photodo (the old Photodo, not the current rendition) had measured the Hexanon 50 1.7 as the sharpest lens at F8 ever, surpassing the Contax 1.4 and 1.7 just slightly, and this was done with Hasselblad Test Equipment at that time, it’s what they usd ….however that was “only” at F8 ? This is where the legend of the Hex 50 1.7 was born out from and backed up by the 35 f2 M mount Hexanon supreme lens and it’s own legendary status. The Hex 50 1.7 out resolves many photographers no doubt about it, especially those who don’t read up enough?

    Reply
    • Thanks for the comment Old Geezer. I agree with what I think you’re saying. ‘Best’ lens can be subjective and is always down to the individual’s point of view. Its never definitive.

      I try to avoid absolute statements like ‘best’ on here. Everything I post is ‘in my experience’, which I hope leaves the freedom for the opinions of others to differ from mine.

      Reply
  4. Hey Lee, saludos!
    Muchas gracias por tu review, la verdad ha sido de gran ayuda en decidir si comprar este objetivo o no porque estoy en la oportunidad ahorita de adquirir uno y quería saber más acerca de él por lo que este post me ha ayudado bastante en despejar muchas dudas.
    Sin embargo, hay una última duda que no me deja decidir si comprarlo o no y a ver si puedes ayudarme.

    Tengo una camara Sony A3000 y como sabrás, la misma cuenta con un sensor APS-C lo cual multiplica los milímetros de los objetivos por 1,6 – por lo que en mi caso este objetivo terminaría funcionando como un 80mm en sí y no un 50mm naturalmente.
    Hasta ahí estamos claros, pero también hay que tomar en cuenta que ese objetivo solo funciona en Sony con un adaptador y es ahí cuando viene mi problema final.
    Qué distancia aproximada crees que terminaría teniendo al final sumando la del adaptador?
    Y
    Crees que es conveniente comprarlo al final?
    Teniendo en cuenta que cuento con el del kit que es 18-55mm, f/3.5.
    No le veo el sentido más que por la apertura del Hexa ya que lo quiero para portrait.
    Gracias de antemano.

    Reply
    • Hi Andrés. There’s a picture in the article of the lens with the adapter attached to my Sony NEX. You can see the size there, and bear in mind that my camera is smaller than yours.

      I’ve just measured the lens + adapter and they’re between 60 – 70mm, depending on where the focus ring is turned to. I don’t find this to be too big at all.

      Hope this answers your question? I had to put it through Google translate. 🙂

      Reply
  5. I got this lens as the kit lens for my first ever decent camera, a Konica Autoreflex TC, back in 1978. I was extremely impressed by the image quality of my photos of family, airshows and scenery generally. Over the years I have owned and still own numerous Hexanon lenses, but I still have a special liking for this 50mm F1.7. Now inevitably I have “gone digital” with a Sony A7ii mirrorless camera and use my Hexanon lenses almost exclusively. I would particularly recommend the 21mm F2.8 for landscapes, but I love the 28mm F3.5 too.

    Reply
    • Hey Sandy, thanks for sharing your story. 🙂 Never had a prime lens as wide as 21mm before so I might check it out next time I want to try something new.

      I have the Super-Takumar 28mm f3.5 which I really like, I can see how the 28mm Hexanon would be great too based on the quality of this 50mm. Thanks again for commenting.

      Reply
      • While the Hexanon 28/3.5 is a very good lens, it’s rendering in my opinion just doesn’t hold a candle to the Super-Tak, which is just in a class of its own somehow. But the Hex 50/1.7 is little bit of a legend and rightly so – it’s even a tiny bit better than it’s faster 1.4 cousin. The 40/1.8 isn’t quite as nice, but it’s half the size amazingly and 40mm is such a fun lenght. My favorites in that neighborhood are the Pentax FA43mm which mind-bendingly good, and the little 38mm Hexanons found in many of their compact rangefinders – the 40 is akin to those in many ways.
        Anyhow – nice write up of a cracker of a glass. 🙂

        Reply
        • Thanks Kevin. So many lenses, so little time. 😀 Thanks for the tip on the Pentax 43mm, will add that to my list. Haven’t shot exactly 40mm but I enjoy using the 38mm F.Zuiko and yeah, it is a nice length. Keep shooting mate!

          Reply

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