Eric L. Woods

This Old Camera Face-Off: Konica Hexar AF vs. Contax G1

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How quickly things change. Fell quick for the Konica Hexar AF. Then after a bit more information, I fell out with the AF. What happened?

Sure the Hexar has obvious weak spots like the 1/250s maximum shutter speed and the rising price of entry, but neither of those were the issue here. Looking at the Hexar only:

  • Known shutter issue
    • While testing the black copy Wilson shared with me that the shutter on his Hexar AF copy quit and he had to ship it off to be repaired. That concerned me a bit, but it did not remove the Hexar haze I was in. This will come up again.
  • Newer not better.
    • Silver model is a looker… But I do prefer the all-black model if I am honest.
  • Disabled feature set.
    • Due to copyright issues or some other thing stealth mode is disabled on the silver model. I did find the steps to reprogram the Hexar, but they were lengthy, pedantic, and ran the risk of bricking the camera. Pass.
    • Multiple exposure is available on the silver where it was not on the black model, but I would rather have stealth mode.
  • Prices are all over the place.
    • The copy I tested was priced approaching Contax T2 crazy. Found a more reasonably priced copy but…
  • Shutter issue revisited.
    • Dang shutter. Seemed fine on half-press. But on full press one of three things would happen:
      • Maintain the half-press focus as desired and take the shot as expected.
      • Restart focus acquisition, grab focus again, and take the shot. No bueno.
      • Do nothing. No bueno.

The last bullet was the last straw for me. The Hexar haze lifted and it is going back.

But the Hexar has had another issue from the start. The Contax G1 has been looming in the shadows vying for the crown of the best AF rangefinder all along.

Contax G1

More than once I have wondered why I am even messing with the Hexar. No need for an answer because photography is the wrong hobby if you need it all to make sense.

Sidebar: Some may wonder why I do not compare the Hexar to the Contax T2. True program all auto is available on both, but otherwise not a fair comparison since the T2 would wipe the floor with the Hexar in my opinion. The Hexar offers little value advantage and loses to the T2 on near every other count in my book:

  • Lower top shutter speed (1/250s compared to 1/500s).
  • Significantly larger.
  • Flash built-in.
  • Better and more intuitive manual overrides across the board.
  • That T2 lens.
  • Build and feel.

Having both the Hexar is much more reminiscent of the G1 in my experience.

So how do the Hexar and G1 stack up in a direct comparison?

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Closer than things would seem actually.

Form Factor:

As seen in the picture the two cameras are roughly the same size.The G1 is a bit heavier w/ lens, but not prohibitively so.

Verdict: A wash.

Aesthetics:

Both are lookers in their own way. I am a sucker for both the look of the G1’s titanium body and the simplistic Hexar.

Verdict: A wash.

Feel:

Titanium beats plastic and metal on paper, but the Hexar is impressive in hand.

Verdict: A wash.

Ergonomics/Operation:

Used purely as a point and shoot they are equals. But when you wish to impose your will on the camera a bit the G1 pulls ahead. Hexar controls are a well documented odd affair while the G1’s controls are rather reasonable.

  • Manual Focus
    • Hexar: You press the MF button and then toggle buttons back and forth. Focus distance is indicated on the top plate and there is no in viewfinder confirmation while toggling focal distance.
    • G1: Odd top plate focus wheel does have distance markers on it and you also get focus confirmation in the viewfinder.
  • Manual Exposure
    • Hexar: Set camera to M, set the aperture dial, and use the toggle buttons to adjust the shutter speed. You do get in viewfinder exposure confirmation, but the only shutter speed indication is on the top plate.
    • G1: Set top plate shutter speed/exposure compensation dial to the desired shutter speed. Wheel does have shutter speed markings, which are duplicated in the viewfinder along with exposure confirmation.
  • Auto Exposure Lock
    • Hexar: Exposure locks on half-press along with AF.
    • G1: Simply flick the power switch one more detent to lock the exposure. Will remain locked until you set it back.
  • Focus Lock
    • Hexar: Two ways:
      1. Focus locks on half-press along with AE until you release the shutter. Unless the shutter packs it in that is.
      2. Half press while framing through the viewfinder and then lock it in by looking at the top of the camera and holding down the MF button. Will lock until you press the MF button again or turn the camera off.
    • G1: Half press.

Verdict: G1

Contax G1

Features/Flexibility:

  • Autowind and Rewind
    • Both have.
  • Silent Mode
    • While neither is noisy to me the Hexar is quieter in normal operation. Invoke stealth mode where available on the Hexar and it is the quietest film camera I have ever used and bests most digital cameras in this regard.
  • AF Speed
    • Equals in my experience.
  • Manual ISO
    • Both let you manually set ISO.
  • Exposure Compensation
    • Both let you set exposure compensation to +/-2.
  • Exposure Modes
    • Hexar offers Aperture Priority and full Program mode while the G1 offers Aperture Priority but the aperture is always a manual affair, but…
  • Shutter Speed
    • Hexar: Program mode is basically needed outside in daylight with the Hexar since it is very easy to top out the exposure since the shutter speed tops out at 1/250s.
    • G1: With a top shutter speed of 1/2000s and lower ISOs you need not worry much about not having P mode with the G1.
  • Drive Modes
    • Hexar: Silver adds multiple exposure feature that earlier models do not have. Self-timer by a top-mounted button. No continuous mode.
    • G1: One button toggles Single, Constant, Self-Timer, and Multiple Exposure modes.
  • Focal Length
    • When there is little or no size advantage interchangeable lens wins over fixed lens.
  • Metering Type
    • Hexar: Meters from the front of the body and not through the lens. With no TTL metering that means you need to compensate manually if you use ND filters to offset the 1/250s top shutter speed in daylight. You also have to be careful not to block the sensor.
    • Uses TTL so you get automatic ND filter compensation. And since it has a rangefinder style viewfinder you can frame with ease unlike when using a dark ND filter on an SLR.

Verdict: G1

Feel:

The Hexar feels nice, but the G1 is a wonderful all-metal titanium brick zombie apocalypse melee weapon in a pinch.

Verdict: G1

Value:

While the Black body G1s and G2s and silver G2 prices are climbing the silver G1 is considerably less expensive than the Hexar. Surprisingly the G1 with the excellent 28mm f/2.8 Biogon still costs less than the Hexar. Pair it with the also excellent 45mm f/2 the G1 matches the Hexar’s aperture and is still priced competitively.

Verdict: G1

IQ:

The Hexanon 35mm f/2 is a great lens,…

Konica Hexar AF - Kodak Gold 200
Konica Hexar AF - Kodak Gold 200
Konica Hexar AF - Kodak Gold 200

but the Zeiss name is legendary. Functionally equals in actual use, but you cannot dismiss the Zeiss pixie dust.

Film - 20200101 Durham Photo Walk
Fujifilm X-Tra w/ Contax G1
Film - 20200101 Durham Photo Walk

Verdict: G1

Will miss the Hexar, but not too much with the Contax G1.

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