Meet the Lens: Konishiroku Hexanon 50mm f/1.9 LTM

Recent months saw me using my two Konica cameras – the Konica III and the Hexar AF – and finding myself impressed with the quality of their respective lenses, as I’ve noted here before. While this might seem like nothing more than a harmless observation, it quickly morphed into an obsessive need for a similar lens that I could mount on my LTM cameras. This presented a problem, in that Konica produced few lenses for Leica mount, and the ones that are out there aren’t cheap.

After looking into the quite modern 50/2.4 and the 35/2.0 (the latter is the Hexar lens in an LTM mount), I came to my senses and decided that their prices were simply too high to warrant serious consideration. This led me to the older Konishiroku (Konica’s predecessor) options, which basically boil down to the 50/3.5 collapsible Hexar and the 50/1.9 Hexanon. Both of the cameras I have have f/2 lenses, and the 50/1.9 LTM is supposed to be quite similar to the 48/2 in the Konica III, so I decided to go for the faster lens, in spite of greater rarity and higher cost.

I found very little information out there on either Konishiroku lens. What I was able to determine is that the f/1.9 Hexanon is a coated six-element, five-group Ultron derivative, making it fairly unusual in the LTM 50mm world. The body is brass and heavy, as is typical of 50’s lenses, with excellent build quality and machining. The aperture stops down to f/22 in full-stop clicks, which are nice and positive. It takes common 40.5mm filters, which was actually a considerable plus in my deliberations, as I have an extensive collection of filters in this size.

What made the lens worth seeking out and paying for (to me, at least) is the rendering. My Konica III produces really special images, sharp even wide open and with a nice three-dimensional look that stands out. It’s distinct enough from other lenses in my collection that I wanted the opportunity to get it with the cameras I tend to use most often. Though the Konica III is a fine (if quirky) camera in its own right, I know that I work best with my screwmount Leicas and Canons, and I have the accessories to get the most out of the LTM 50/1.9. I briefly considered finding a Konica IIIA, which differs from my III in that it has a large 1:1 viewfinder with projected framelines, making it much easier to use, but in the end I decided it was worth the extra cash to just get the LTM version.

All that remains is to put it use. A quick function test on my X-E1 suggests that my expectations are in line with what the lens can produce, but the real test is film, of course (a full-frame digital camera might do as well, but I don’t have one, so film it is). When time permits I will get it out and into service…

(Fast forward a week or so)

…and now I can show evidence that my interest in the Hexanon was not misplaced. As expected, it exhibits the same character traits as the 48/2 version. This shot was around f/4, if memory serves.

Obviously, more extensive use will be necessary to get full measure of the thing, but the initial indications are that this could easily become one of my most-used 50mm lenses. I don’t say that easily, considering my fondness for some of my other 50s. It’s not compact or light, but on days when I don’t mind carrying something a bit more obtrusive I think it will be hard to resist reaching for the Hexanon.

 


2 thoughts on “Meet the Lens: Konishiroku Hexanon 50mm f/1.9 LTM

  1. This is something of a secret that some people like David Duncan Douglas knew back in the day, but recent photographers are just catching on to.

    I have found similar with the (admittedly) more well known W-Nikkor 50’s. I have an LTM version of the F2 and an S mount version of the F1.4 (and recently an adapter), both of which I have been using with the 5th version of the Leica 50 Summicron for comparison purposes, on my M4.

    The f2 is easily the nicest, followed closely by the f1.4 which is as good as the f2 when it gets to f2.8, but is not as nice to handle with the adapter.

    The Summicron which cost me more than three times the sum of the other two is good, but not as good as its price.

    Reading up on the F2, it seems that it came into existence after the Zeiss factory was “liberated”… Somehow the designs of the Zeiss lenses found their way via America, to the Nikon people, who did Zeiss, only better. What they have built is a bullet proof 50mm Sonnar with some very good coating and beautiful rendering.

    1. Yes, the Leica-mount Nikkor lenses are quite well-regarded. I’ve so far resisted getting a 50, as I have a Canon 50/1.5 Sonnar LTM, but don’t think I haven’t been tempted; I’m very happy with my Nikkor 85/2 and 135/3.5, which are also Sonnar-formula lenses. As far as I know, DDD used the earliest 50/1.5 Nikkor for his Korea work, with the 50/1.4 an improved version coming out a bit later.

      Without a doubt, there are many older lenses that come very close to modern ones at a fraction of the price. Only in terms of contrast and absolute sharpness do modern lenses tend to surpass the earlier models, but these qualities are important only in academic discussions, as they have no meaningful impact on the vast majority of photos.

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