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Konica 35/2 UC-Hexanon (v.2, September 2001)

Left: Beautiful product photo of No. 0000 courtesy of Fujisawa-Shoukai (used with permission); Right; Other Hexanon-L lenses: in this picture, again courtesy of Fujisawa-Shoukai you can see the other members of the Hexanon-L LTM family. Left to right: 1st version 35/2L Hexanon (not that it has a knurled focusing ring instead of a tab); 50/2.4L collapsible Hexanon; 60/1.2L Hexanon; 35/2L UC-Hexanon (shown on M6).

Overview - Low-production (1000 units), modernized elaboration of the 35/2 4th-gen Summicron, but in LTM. Descendant of the Hexar AF lens. Black enamel finish, heavy as hell for such a teeny lens, beautiful machining; the finish on the focusing cam and lens mount simply gleam. The hood is vented and machined and black-painted (putting this one away). Even comes with its own leather case. I guess you get something for your 114,000 yen. Focuses to 0.9m; 43mm filter size.

Lens Construction - The UC-Hexanon is not like the M-Hexanons (or current Leica lenses), in several different ways. -- First, the UC is lacquered brass, rather than enameled alloy. You can see this by looking at the aperture numbers, which shows signs of having been stamped from a malleable metal rather being than die-cast into a nonductile alloy. -- Second, the "feet" scale is filled in a yellow-orange color (like Leica), rather than the orange used with the M-Hexanons. -- Third, the aperture control is oval, just like Leica, rather than the round ones used on M-Hexanons. -- Fourth, there are incidentals, such as the lens cap reading "Hexanon" and not "Konica," a real leather lens case, and a vented lacquered hood (which is safely in the box. -- Finally, there is no red dot. This makes mounting the lens interesting.


Block diagrams: Left, 35/2 UC-Hexanon; Right, 35/1.8 W-Nikkor rangefinder lens. Hmm.

Live or Memorex? Left, 35/2 Summicron-M; Right, 35/2 UC-Hexanon

Mechanical comparison to a Summicron - Sorry about the lousy digital picture above

-- In terms of size, the lens is almost exactly the same as the 35/2 Summicron, even down to the dimensions of the Leica-style focus tab (which you really need when the lens is this small). The overall barrel diameter is smaller, and the "ears" on the aperture ring are smaller on the Konica.

-- The only mechanical difference is that the lens stops at 0.9m in the close range, instead of 0.7m, as on the Leica

-- It has a 43mm filter size, and takes a lot more effort to turn the aperture control (feels a lot like a Canon 35/2 aperture ring, except that it has half-stops).

-- Damping is slightly heavier than the Summicron (and smoother).

-- Coatings look identical, except that the front element on the Konica reflects green a la Nikon Integrated Coatings

-- The rear element is significantly flatter and does not protrude as much into the camera. No shroud is needed to protect the rear element, as it sits inside the focusing cam, even with the lens at infinity

And now... to the pictures -The first thing that is striking about the UC-Hexanon is the bokeh magic (this much you can see online): http://www-personal.umich.edu/~dante/bokeh.jpg (it is from a small print, so it is soft) The blur of out of focus objects goes well beyond the pale of the original Hexar lens and even past what I have been able to do with the Summicron. The new lens manages to achieve very clean disk-bokeh (not the donut-bokeh highlights characteristic of modern lenses).

“Can you identify this coastline? Given time, yes.” Bokeh at f/2

But stop down to f/5.6, and the lens becomes a super-sharpness machine.

Cranbrook Art School, f/5.6

When I shot both the UC-Hexanon (on a Leitz adapter) and M-Summicron (1979-1997 version) at f/5.6, I was stunned to see that there was no readily identifiable difference in equalized color prints. On close inspection, there were two differences: -- a tiny bit more snap in the Hexanon (and we are not talking a very tiny amount) in the shadow separation -- less flare from specular highlights (sun reflection in car windshields) in the Hexanon I then checked the negatives with a 15x loupe and could not identify any difference whatsoever in sharpness at center and edge. This is not much of a surprise because comparison to the Summicron at the Photodo site shows identical MTF graphs for both lenses (at f/2, and identical when the Summicron is at f/8 and the Hexanon at f/5.6). Human eyes probably aren't good enough to see any really subtle resolution differences.

Upshot - I think that if someone wanted a screw mount version of the 35/2 Summicron pre-ASPH, this is it. The lens has some promise, since it can be mounted on Leicas, Hexars, Canons (finally, a pleasant-bokeh lens that fits a the Canon P...) and Bessas (this actually makes a nice package). These will no doubt be hard to get (given the low quantity), but even listing at $1,000, they are cheaper than the Leica screwmount-ASPH, which is chrome only, a lot bigger, and to some, less desirable from a bokeh standpoint.