The Perfect Compact Film Camera for Less Than $600, Except for One Thing

Not quite a rangefinder but certainly very close, the Konica Hexar gives you a lot of camera for not very much money. However, that beautifully quiet leaf shutter does come with one huge drawback. Is it a dealbreaker?

In this video, photographer Barney Arthur takes the Hexar out for a day of shooting, and there’s a lot to love about this fixed 35mm f/2 lens camera. The lens is sharp and renders beautifully, and the camera comes with a smart autofocus system that, as Arthur explains, does have its limitations but performs exceptionally well given the price and age of this gem of a point-and-shoot.

There’s more than a few to be had on eBay at present, though you will probably have to fork out a little more than the $500 that Arthur paid (they seem to be cheaper in the U.K., strangely).

Some trivia for you: once in silent mode, the Hexar is said to be quieter than a Leica rangefinder. The Silver version of the Hexar had the silent mode disabled, but there is a means of overcoming this restriction through a series of arcane button pushes that seem almost reminiscent of activating championship mode in Street Fighter II on the Super Nintendo (ask your parents).

Is this the best sub-$600 compact film camera on the market right now? Let us know in the comments below.

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11 Comments

Ivan Lantsov's picture

i lern inglish slow
except mean it not perfect

Zobeid Zuma's picture

I was not aware of this camera. My only Konica experience is from a TC-X, 35mm SLR. It's cheap, reliable, lightweight, and a nice, very compact, match with the Konica Hexanon AR 40mm F1.8 lens. No autofocus, but it's a SLR, so the split prism and microprism screen makes manual focusing easy. And as a bonus, all those Hexanon AR lenses are easily adapted to mirrorless cameras, so they can pull double duty with both digital and film.

Dante Stella's picture

A detailed treatment of this camera. Originally written in 2001. https://themachineplanet.wordpress.com/2018/02/25/konica-hexar-af/

Alan Chang's picture

Agreed, except for this camera is famous for electronic problem. It is indeed one of my favourite cameras when it works. Mine decided to give in one day for no reason. Its shows a “E11” error code apparently means logic board error. I contacted a lot of camera repair stores around the world. They all said they can’t fix it because Konica don’t make parts for this camera anymore. I search around internet, a few people have successes if they can find a trusted electronic technician to chase the printed circuit board. It could be just a small corrosion or just a bad capacitor. But that is beyond my ability to do. Now it is a perfectly good looking props sitting on my shelf right next to my Leica M6

Nick Tropiano's picture

Great camera? By all accounts, yes. Would I spend $600 for one? Nope. Nor would I spend real money for any high-end point-n-shoot or rangefiner like the Contax T-2, Contax G, Yashica Ts, or Nikon 35 Ti for the same reason. Electronics. The decades old electronics or motors crap out, and they will? You gotch yerself the proverbial pricey paper weight. Instead I might suggest such things as the Konica Auto S3 among many, many "fixable, serviceable" other older more manual options. The REAL bargain in film cameras right now are the mid-2000 soccer mom silver mass market Nikon SLRs -- Nikon N70-90 series. 90% of the F6 (but shhhh, don't say that to photographers), plastic fantastic makes them light as a feather, easily as compact as the Hexar, cheap as chips, and take virtually all F-mount lenses with full functionality including AF and auto settings -- full PASM. Especially nice if you have a Nikon DSLR and a bunch of Nikon glass. They're much newer, should last longer, and if the electronics go? Spring for another $10-70 (last I checked) clams and pick yourself up another one. No need to hunt. Plenty available. Slap an nice vintage little Nikkor 50/1.8 or 35/2, whatever you prefer/have on-hand (if you're a Nikon shooter), and you got an extremely light, compact, up-to-date, highly versatile, extremely competent piece of kit with countless lens options -- some every bit as good as that Hexar's, for a 10th/20th/30th of the price. Perfect for film street photography. Not a rangefinder you say? Pffft, is my reply. SLRs (and any camera, really) are just fine for that purpose. In some ways better.

Karl Domning's picture

I would agree with this assessment. Although, it wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for the crazy insurgence of popularity around these cameras. These cameras are great, but not greater than using what was intended as a better tool (for the most part), the SLR. It's mind blowing to me that All the GR film cameras are as expensive, if not more expensive than a GR2. Some as expensive as the GR3 (looking at you contax).

That said, I think there is still a place for finding hidden jems in old point and shoots. They are just much harder to find.

El Capitan's picture

One such hidden gem is Chinon Bellami. Not as good as Hexar, but is very capable.

James Evidon's picture

While the Hexar may be a fine little camera, I think a better bet is the Contax G1 with the green label in the film chamber; a modification that vastly improved the G1. Smaller than the later G2, it has an excellent viewfinder and rangefinder as well as a small selection of interchangeable lenses that are so good that some consider them the best lenses ever made for the 35mm format with very creamy bokeh, brilliant colr rendering and excellent contrast.
I owned both G1 and G2. The G2 is a little fiddly while the G1 is my preferred version. Both cameras have a better rangefinder than the film Leica M's while the viewfinder is not quite a bright as Leica, but quite useable. I owned a Leica M4, so I was able to compare the cameras.

The two Contax G's and the Hexar sell for similar prices on EBay.

Ian Browne's picture

Many years ago we bought a new Konica minilab with a suggestion a Hexar should just happen fall in amongst all the little boxes. And one did :)
Great little camera that people didn't feel confronted like they did with bigger gear on a tripod . I was also so much more relaxed. However ; the best little camera for me was the Olympus Mju 2. . That little baby put some very good press photographers to shame.

El Capitan's picture

The only thing that's valuable in this plastic fantastic is a lens, which is what, 7 elements in 6 groups? It is only marginally better (maybe) than Konica Auto S1.6 that has faster 7 elements in 5 groups lens. The cost? Konica Auto S1.6 is about $80 on Ebay, it's all mechanical and is shutter priority auto with manual focus. Hexar Plastic Fantastic is roughly $500, is electronic, and it will fail at some point. What's the deal with these plastic toys that command such high prices?