The Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7 has always had a reputation for sharpness. But what else does it bring?
Come find out in this comprehensive review.
For a lot of photographers, a fast 50mm will be the first prime lens they pick up.
However, despite going through a few other vintage primes, I’d never owned 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.
So here’s what we’ve got:
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.
Using a Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7 on a digital camera
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 it will most likely be Konica-XXX.
I use a Sony mirrorless camera (and I recommend you check them out on Amazon if you’re in the market for a new one too).
That means I need to use a Konica-NEX adapter – which is also available on Amazon.
Like all adapters, this adds some physical length to the set-up, but it’s still a perfectly acceptable size for me and my street photography.
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 vintage lens on a digital camera will always mean focussing and changing the aperture on the lens itself, as there’s no electronic communication between the lens and body.
My advice is to set your camera to aperture priority mode and set your ISO according to the light conditions. You can then control the aperture using the aperture ring on the lens and let the camera change the shutter speed to suit.
With practice this becomes second nature.
It has for me.
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.
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.
For some reason I was getting better results at f11 than my usual f8, so 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 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.
I certainly was.
All sample images taken with the Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7
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