■ Versions and types
Hexanon AR lenses were manufactured for 22 years
and went through many modifications. Some of these (notably the switch from the 'EE' to the 'AE' marking between 1972 and 1974) were of no technical consequence and barely noticeable. Others (such as the decision to dispense
with the aluminum DOF ring on most lenses around 1970) were just as inconsequential technically
but greatly altered the lenses’ appearance. The evolution of Hexanon lenses over two decades followed the prevailing
pattern in the entire industry, in both technical and cosmetic terms: In the mid-1960s they had an elegant shiny black finish, by the end of the decade they were given a more toned-down mat finish and a uniform appearance; in the early 1970s they
were given a rubber covered focusing ring; in the second half of the 1970s they
became more compact and lighter while loosing some of their previous built
quality; and by the early 1980s, they had markedly better coatings than 10
From a dozen primes and 4
zooms in the late 1960s, the number of lenses in the Hexanon AR range grew two-fold by the mid 1970s. By the end of the decade, it comprised most lens types a professional photographer was
ever likely to need – from the 15mm fisheye to the 800mm super-telephoto, 1000mm and 2000mm mirror lenses, and nearly a dozen zooms. All-in-all, Konica introduced 96 different AR-mount lenses over a 22-year production span: 77 lenses in 20 different
fixed focal lengths, and 14 zoom lenses in 10 different zoom ranges.
The serial numbers of the lenses in my database suggest a total
production volume of nearly 4.0 million lenses during this 22-year
With the exception of the
three Hexars, all Konica-made SLR lenses are named Hexanon. This situation is not
unlike that of the Nikkor (Nikon), Rokkor (Minolta), Takumar (Pentax) or Zuiko
(Olympus) lenses. Konica's Hexanon SLR lenses, therefore, only come in one of
the company's two proprietary mounts – the F-mount (1960-1965) or the AR-mount
(1965-1987), and there are no Hexanon SLR lenses in Canon, Nikon, M42, Pentax, Minolta, or any other mount.
* * *
The variety of Hexanon lens models, types, versions and vintages
presents a challenge to anyone trying to categorize them. Over the years I
have come across several schemes but they didn’t seem
very convincing. Some were obviously put together in haste and covered
most Hexanon lenses while leaving out those that didn’t fit the
scheme for whatever reason. Others accorded version status to even the slightest
modification of no technical or cosmetic significance, and produced an
unwieldy number of categories.
Not to be left out, I also attempted to
categorize Hexanon lenses and their many variations. I sought to produce a
manageable number of lens types distinguished by either an entirely different
optical construction or differences that are visible at first glance. In this approach,
two lenses that differ by nothing more than the ‘EE’ vs ‘AE’ markings on the aperture
ring, and there are many like this, belong to one and the same version (for more on this issue, see “EE and AE 'versions'” in Section 6). The end result is a scheme dividing Hexanon lenses
into 5 basic lens types spanning the entire production period from 1965 to 1988 (75 lenses in all) and a group of 6 additional lens types, most of which fall within one of the five basic types (with the exception of the two mirror lenses), but clearly stand out on account of some technical and/or
cosmetic trait that no lens of any of the basic type has (25 lenses).
My attempt to create such a scheme was also motivated by the fact that Konica hasn’t produced any nomenclature to
set different Hexanon lenses apart and, therefore, naming their various versions and types
was a bit problematic. In the Konica community, the manner of distinguishing
lens versions has always relied on lengthy descriptive formulations, like "glossy-with-chrome-ring",“all-black-all-metal version” or “rubber-focusing-ring version”. The length of those formulations, and the fact that they usually refer to several traits, only one of which may change from version to version, makes them difficult to keep straight and often turns any discussion of Hexanon lenses into a rather labored affair. It seems to
me that short identifiers like FL/FD-type (Canon), MC/MD-type (Minolta) or AI/AIS-type
(Nikon) work much better.
So, for the sake of ease and simplicity, I gave each Hexanon basic lens type a letter of the alphabet in
keeping with that specific type's order of introduction. As for the
additional 6 lens types, I found they can all be identified by one
self-explanatory term. Of course, I make no claim for either originality or authoritativeness
with this scheme, but I think it is simple and comprehensive – it produces a manageable number of categories, and takes
all lenses and all significant variations into account.
The information in the tables below and in the rest of this section is based on Konica literature in conjunction with – especially as dating and time frames are concerned – a database of 12,000 Hexanon lenses I have compiled over the past 6 years (see Section 5).
And, last but not least, the color scheme introduced in the table below in connection with different lens types is used throughout the site.
Basic lens types:
High-gloss black finish and aluminum DOF ring (1965-1967, to 1969 for the preset lenses) – The
first Hexanon AR lenses include automatic and preset lenses, produced until 1967 and 1969,
respectively. They have a high-gloss black finish, an aluminum DOF ring, and a metal focusing ring with splines. Their technical
specifications are engraved on the front ring in large bloc letters while the
depth-of-field and aperture scales are indicated in very small and thin
characters. There is no automatic exposure lock on the aperture ring of the
automatic lenses and the ‘EE’ mark is most often preceded by a little dot (• EE). The very first automatic lenses of this version had a dot on the
aperture ring instead of the ‘EE’ indication. As the
Auto-Reflex is a camera without TTL metering, the flange next to the
aperture linkage originally had no notch on it to transfer the lens’ largest aperture
value to the body, but most were later modified by Konica. The preset lenses have 12-blade
apertures that close down to f22. Some lenses of this version can have a
distance scale in meters only.
Flat black finish with aluminum DOF ring (1967-1970) – Lenses of the
second version are commonly associated
with the first version of the Autoreflex T. While they still have the aluminum DOF ring and the all-black focusing ring with splines, the finish on their black
parts has a mat and more discrete finish. The
fine and narrow letters of the aperture and depth-of-field scales have been
replaced by larger and fuller lettering. The aperture ring was provided with
an automatic exposure lock and a little round unlock button. The earlier lenses of this version still have the
large block letters on the front ring, but the later ones were given the smaller font common to later versions. As it became necessary to
transfer the largest aperture value of the lens to the body with the
introduction of TTL metering with the Autoreflex T, the flange next
to the aperture linkage on these lenses has a notch whose width corresponds to that
value. Sometime during the time of this lens version, Konica introduced its new Color Dynamic Coating, which turned the
dominant hue of Hexanon lenses from gold-amber to blue-purple. This change may coincide with the change of character font on the lenses' front ring to a smaller block type.
are early and late B-type lenses. On the
early ones, the inscriptions on the lenses’ front ring are in large block
characters; the inscription “Made in Japan” is located on the aluminum DOF ring;
the splines on this ring reach across its entire thickness; there is often no
AE lock button on the aperture ring; distances on the focusing ring are given
in “meters” and “feet” (not ‘m’ and ‘ft’); and they usually have Konica’s older,
amber/straw anti-reflective coatings. On the later ones, the inscriptions on
the lenses’ front ring are in much smaller font, and include the inscription “Made
in Japan”; the splines on the aluminum DOF ring reach only 1/3 of that ring’s
thickness; there is an AE lock button on the aperture ring; distances on
the focusing ring are given in ‘m’ and ‘ft’ (not in “meters” and “feet”); and
they usually have Konica’s later, blue/violet Color Dynamic Coating (CDC). The
change seems to have taken place over several months in 1968, soon after the
introduction of the Autoreflex T. For some B-type lenses (the exceptions being
the 21/4.0, the 85/1.8, the 100/2.8 and the 135/3.5), the change from early to
later type usually coincides with a change of serial number series: 706 to 716 for
the 28/3.5; 705 to 715 for the 35/2.8; 748 to 780 for the 52/1.8; 732 to 750
for the 57/1.2; 734 to 760 for the 57/1.4; and 743 to 746 for the 200/3.5. It
is interesting to note that the B-type 21/4.0 and 135/3.5 had an aluminum DOF
ring of the first type for their entire production period, with only the “Made in
inscription being relocated to the front ring. The 200/3.5 in turn lost its
first stage aluminum DOF ring when it became a Hybrid lens (see below).
All-black mat finish with no aluminum ring (from 1970 to
1974) – Lenses of
the third version were produced from 1970 to 1974 and are associated with the
second version of the Autoreflex T (the so-called T2) which was introduced at approximately the same time. From 1970 on, most
lenses became entirely black as the aluminum DOF ring was replaced with a black one.
The lenses kept the focusing ring with splines and the yellow ‘EE’
indication. All lenses of this version have the newer smaller character font introduced on lenses of the previous version. With this version, Hexanon
lenses were progressively stamped with a production code showing the
year and month in which they were made. The coding of lenses was introduced over a one-year period, starting in early 1972. Roughly half the lenses of this version do not have such a code.
All-black mat finish with rubber focusing ring (1971-1988) – This
version is often associated with the introduction of the Autoreflex T3 in 1973, largely because Konica introduced many new lenses that year and they were all D-type lenses. In fact the very first D-type lenses were those that initially had both an aluminum ring AND a rubber focus ring (see about Hybrid lenses below). In
1973, the yellow ‘EE’ indication on some lenses began to be replaced with a green one.
By the end of the year Konica decided to replace the 'EE' indication by 'AE' (automatic exposure), also in green, so lenses with a green ‘EE’ indication are fairly rare. The
introduction of this version coincided with the introduction of many new
lenses that extended the Hexanon range considerably. Most importantly, the
previous 52/1.8 and 57/1.4 standard lenses were replaced by the
50/1.7 and the 50/1.4, respectively. This
version represents the last ‘stylistic stage’ for the Hexanon AR lens range,
as the rubber covered focusing ring would remain on all Hexanon
lenses, including E-type lenses, made until 1988, when Konica withdrew from the SLR market.
All-black finish with rubber focusing ring, compact
size (1976-1988) – The introduction of Hexanon lenses of a new compact form is usually associated with the introduction in 1976 of Konica’s first
compact SLR, the Autoreflex TC, even though at least one of the new lenses, the 300/6.3, first appeared in 1973. Lenses of this version have barrel parts that are thinner, smaller and lighter while their optical formulas call for smaller and, often, fewer elements. In many cases the
optical formula remained the same but the coatings were more advanced.
The manufacturing of many compact lenses, especially those introduced in 1978 or later, was contracted out to Tokina. These have a thin aperture
ring with a rectangular lock button and an aperture closing down to f22.
Their introduction coincided approximately with that of the FS-1. The compact versions of the 28/3.5, 50/1.4, 50/1.7,
and 135/3.5, as well as the 200/4 and 300/6.3 were manufactured by Konica, however. The serial number on all lenses of this version was placed
on the lens barrel, opposite the DOF scale.
Other lens types:
5 professional grade
lenses - 3 primes and 2 zooms (1975-1982) – In early 1975, Konica began to introduce a line of new lenses of professional-grade lenses with the
designation of UC, standing for ‘ultra-close’, ‘ultra-compact’ and
‘ultra-coating’. The line came to include the 15/2.8 fish-eye, the 28/1.8, the 400/5.6,
and the 45-100/4 and 80-200/4 zooms. All of them focus much closer than comparable lenses available
at the time. They all have superior coatings with a greenish tinge, although occasionally one can see a UC lens with the blue tinge coatings of regular Hexanons. The
‘ultra-compact’ designation doesn’t really hold true for the 28/1.8 or even the
80-200/4 zoom. They were made from early 1975 to late 1982. The three primes
are among the most expensive and sought-after Hexanons, while the 80-200/4 is the most common and least expensive of the UC line.
6 prime and 2 zoom
lenses (1965-1969) – All Hexanon preset lenses have an aluminum ring, a glossy finish like all A-type lenses, and an aperture ring located away from the lens mount. They are the 28/3.5, 35/2.8, 100/2.8, 135/3.5, 200/3.5, 200/5.6 primes and the 57-400/4 and 70-230/4.5 zooms. All of the primes have 12-blade apertures and seem to have been designed in the F-mount era (1960-1965), especially the 28/3.5, whose filter ring is 58mm instead of 55mm as the automatic 28/3.5 introduced in 1965. They are very elegant looking lenses and most of them don't show up very often. The most common are the 35/2.8 and the 135/3.5. Of the to zooms, the enormous 57-400/4 is so rare that is seems to appear only in Konica literature from 1965-66. The 70-230/4.5 was also made in 1965-66, and may have been the result of a collaboration with another maker. It was the direct predecessor of Konica's own 80-200/3.5 zoom.
4 primes and 2 zooms
with both an aluminum ring and a rubber covered focusing ring (1970-72) – The most obvious trait of the lenses of this type is that they have both an aluminum ring (as do A-type and B-type lenses) and a rubber-covered focusing ring (as do D-type and E-type lenses). They are the 55/3.5
macro; the 135/3.2, 200/3.5, and 300/4.5 telephotos; the 35-100/2.8
Varifocal; and 80-200/3.5 zoom. None of them exist as a C-type lens. Only two of them, the 200/3.5 and 80-200/3.5 zoom, existed as a B-type lens and, in their case, the aluminum ring may have come from left-over stock.
As most hybrid lenses were
only produced for a couple of years, they are not very common. The 135/3.2 is the most
common by far and can be seen quite often. The 200/3.5 can also be
seen from time to time. The 55/3.5 macro and the 300/4.5 are seen very seldom. The rarest are the two zooms, especially the 35-100/2.8 Varifocal, which was the last of the 6 to be introduced and only a few hundred of which were made. These six lenses were also the earliest Hexanons to appear as D-type lenses, some as early as 1971, and were also the first D-type Hexanons to be given a production code, in early 1972.
1 prime and 1 zoom lens (1985-88) – Konica's only plastic Hexanons are the 50/1.8 prime and the 35-70/3.5-4.5 compact zoom. Both were made by Tokina and were introduced in 1985 with the Konica TC-X which was probably the world's first SLR made entirely of plastic. The 50/1.8 is a lens which had been made by Tokina since early 1981 but which was now given a plastic barrel. The 35-70/3.5-4.5 is the closest Konica ever came to producing a "kit" lens in today's understanding of the term. The TC-X was often "bundled" with it.
(mirror) lenses (1966-87) – Konica made two such lenses, the 1000/8
and the 2000/11. They are rather unusual, firstly, in that their
highest luminosity value (f8 for the 1000mm and f11 for the 2000mm) is
typical of mirror lenses half their focal length. Secondly, contrary to the
fixed luminosity value of most mirror lenses, the two mirror Hexanons have a
set of Waterhouse stops mounted on a rotating disk, making it possible
to dial-in the desired level of luminosity. The first of them was
supposedly manufactured from 1966 to 1987. It
is said that there are two versions of the 1000/8 and several dozen
are thought to have been made. The 2000/11 was only available on special
order in 1965-66. Two are known to have been made (one was on display during the Konica-Minolta exhibition held at the JCII Museum in 2005) and it isn’t known if any were sold.
prime lenses (1975-79) – The three Hexars, the 28/3.5, the 135/3.5
and the 200/4, most likely made by a third-party manufacturer,
were produced from 1975 to
1977 and, in the case of the 135mm, until 1979. They are entry-level
lenses, both in terms of optical performance and price. The two
telephoto lenses are much bulkier and heavier than their Hexanon
Even if their optical performance is less impressive than that of
Hexanon counterparts, they are very solidly built and are quite
respectable lenses. Interestingly enough, they sometimes cost more than
equivalents due to their relative scarcity and the fact that they bear the same name as the excellent Hexar RF lenses which Konica introduced in the 1990s and with which they are often mistakenly associated. It would seem they were not available on the Japanese market.
● KONICA ●