Hexar AF Review
The Hexar AF is an interest-piquing rangefinder that seems to make waves in the film shooter community from time to time. I first learned about this camera in mid 2017 as I stumbled across a few frames posted online and Instagram. The image that the 35mm F/2.0 lens renders seemed to deliver solid sharpness, smooth contrast, and plenty of room for light to shine through. Through my browsing of forums, Flickr, and film blogs, some had mentioned that it was just as good, if not better, than the Contax G series and it's range of Zeiss glass. In a couple of other blogs, it was mentioned that it even rivaled Leica's 35mm F/2 Summicron lens. Full disclosure: I have not shot with either the Contax G series or Leica rangefinders so I cannot directly compare for myself. My next biggest attraction to it was it's price point, coming in at a fraction of the cost of the Contax G2 and Leica rangefinders, so I had to hunt one down to try out.
Hexar AF (Black)
Kodak Pro Image 100
Fuji Frontier SP3000 Scanner
The camera has a standard rangefinder shape to it; grip-able, boxy, and easy to hold. At first glance, it definitely doesn't seem like it offers much more than it's "Hexa" or six total features (shooting modes, aperture, shutter speed, self-timer, exposure compensation, and manual focus), but the more that I looked into it I was surprised to find out that it delivers a list of features beyond the six standard. Besides the 35mm F2 lens, the most impressive feature to me was its silent shutter, or "stealth" mode – a feature that the original and black Hexar AF came with. However, due to some sort of patent or copyright infringement, this feature was removed... or was it? Come to find out, Konica's engineers implemented the "stealth" mode even into the the later versions. This mode couldn't easily be accessed though. The later versions of the Hexar AF required a specific order of buttons to be pressed before silent mode could be activated (read here). A strange drawback of this camera, however, is its very limiting 1/250 shutter speed limit. So be sure to consider using lower speed films if shooting in bright day light. If you're a studio shooter using PocketWizards this limitation won't be an issue for you. As for some of the other features, I'll break out a few of those below.
STEALTH MODE: With the original and Black Hexar AF, press and hold the MF button and turn on the camera to any of the P, A, or M modes. Wait for the "L" to appear on the small LCD screen. "Shhhhhh." Stealth mode is now engaged. It remains in this mode until the camera is powered off, then you'll want to repeat the process again if you need to reengage this mode. For later models of the Hexar AF (Rhodium Edition, The Gold Edition, The Titanium Edition, and The Silver Edition), follow the instructions found on this page to enable "stealth" mode. It's so silent that I often find myself second-guessing whether the shutter was fired or not. For street photography this seals the deal for some of you.
MANUAL FILM SPEED CONTROL: The Hexar AF must be in A mode for this feature to work. Hold down the select button until the ISO range number appears. Using the + and - buttons, set your preferred ISO speed against the stock you've actually got loaded. A handy feature in any film camera is the ability to control the ISO setting at which the meter bases it's exposure. For example, if you prefer to err to the side of overexposure with ISO 400 film like Kodak Portra 400, you will want to set the camera's ISO setting to 200. This tells the meter that there is actually a lower speed or "darker" film loaded so it will need to compensate 1 stop overall, hence overexposing the ISO 400 film by one stop. This concept took me a while to grasp but it makes complete sense when you draw it out on paper.
4 OR 15 DEGREE SPOT METER: In "M" mode, the Hexar AF meter will utilize a 4 degree center-weighted area. In "P" and "A" modes, the Hexar AF will use a 15 degree center-weighted area. Especially useful if you're shooting with tricky lighting and require more manual control with exposure.
MANUAL FOCUS (SORT OF): The Hexar AF features a way to set your focus manually but it is sluggish and requires time to achieve. Half-way press down the shutter button to find the focus distance between the lens and subject, then press the MF button to lock focus to that distance. The LCD screen will display the distance that the lens is set to. To release the lens from manual focus, simply press the MF button again.
CONCLUSION: While I am still putting the Hexar AF through various scenarios, I can say that I am impressed. It's a solid camera for the shooter who simply likes to go out and make beautiful images. However, part of me has been struggling to truly enjoy shooting with it, but the other part of me feels like it has some sort of great potential that I haven't been able to fully find out. I will certainly update this posting as my time with the Hexar AF moves forward. It's a great camera with some handy features and a unique look to the images that it creates. I feel that it's worth getting your hands on one to try out at least once.