[Online adventures] #6 – EBay – Konica Hexanon Zoom 80-200mm F3.5

I almost engaged in a bid war for this lens… who am I kidding, a bid war happened 😛

Back in July 2015, I had the opportunity of bidding on a mint Konica Hexanon Zoom 80-200mm F3.5. So mint that it was still in its box! However, I missed the bidding date, and lost it 🙁

Then this popped up

A near mint version of the same lens that I lost the chance to get a couple months ago. This time I was determined to obtain this lens 😛

Me (in black) vs mystery EBay bidder (in gray). Within 8 minutes we raised the price of this lens by 1100% and 2200% from the starting bid price. In the end, I am the victor!

EBay: 22.2USD + 15USD shipping (~50CAD total in 2015 CAD dollars)

The lens that I won is a Konica Hexanon Zoom 80-200mm F3.5 lens. Around 35 years old.

Sony NEX-5R + E-mount to AR-mount converter + Konica Hexanon Zoom 80-200mm

From Wikipedia – Mirrorless cameras are designed to have the advantage of smaller size, lighter weight, and lower cost than SLRs, while still allowing users to swap lenses, unlike most compact cameras.

I think I have successfully nullified most of the advantage of owning a mirrorless camera here.

This lens is 1200g and 28 centimeters long. IKEA cup for reference.

Using it:

I am using it with a NEX-5R, an APS-C camera with a crop factor of 1.5x. Meaning this lens will have a field of view equivalent to 120-300mm.

The weight is definitely a factor here. Trying to frame a shot with this lens kind of feels like aiming a shot with a bazooka. Similarly, pedestrians that see you shooting with this lens will stay out of your way as if you are armed with bazooka.

Stability is an issue as well. My hands are pretty steady. With a more typical zoom lens (like the SEL1855) at 18mm (27mm eq.) with optical stabilization I can get a clear shot at ¼ easy. This? At 200mm (300mm eq.) combined with the weight, 1/200 is as slow as I can go.

Thanks to its large f3.5 aperture, getting 1/200 is not that hard. Along with the fact that this lens does not have image stabilization, at 200mm (300mm eq.) I recommend 1/320 or faster if you are using an APS-C camera.

We solved the image stabilization problem, but that’s not all to getting a clean shot. Problem #2 focusing.

This lens is over 35 years old, manual focus is the name of the game. At 200mm (300mm eq.) we are looking at some serious shakiness. It is almost impossible to discern whether or not you are in-focus when everything is shaking. However, thanks to Sony’s peaking mode, I could safely assume something is in-focus as long as I see some red highlights on the screen. With this in mind, I generally stop this lens down to f5.6 for easier focus, at the cost of high ISO.

Personally, I would always use a higher ISO to solve image stability problems and focus difficulties.

Test shots!

Problem #1 – Chromatic Aberration. It is so pronounced it is almost like watching a 3D movie. However, this is an extreme case

Problem #2 – Soft. It is almost like I missed the focus (but I didn’t). This was taken at 200mm @ f3.5.

Same shot 200mm @ f5.6. Better, this gives us another reason to stop this lens down a little.

200mm @ f8

200mm @ f11

200mm @ f16 (smallest aperture)

At this focal length, we can achieve some sort of bokeh regardless of f-stop.

One might think, wow this lens is crap. However, once we take this lens out of the hard to handle situations into more conventional situations, this is where the Hexanon line starts to show its value.

200mm, 1/640 f3.5 @ ISO 800 – I was a solid five meters away

200mm, 1/400 f3.5 @ ISO 400 – at this focal length, you are almost guaranteed some bokeh

200mm, 1/1600 f3.5 @ ISO 400 – Colors are okay too!

Final thoughts

The lens is very well built, almost full-metal. It feels so well built that one would not have a problem in using it like a baseball bat (but please don’t!)

In edge cases it does very poorly, almost a complete fail if you compare it to modern lenses. However, in real life situations, you’ll find this lens does what it needs to do – providing a long focal length with acceptable quality at a low price.

At 50CAD, this is a great poor man’s zoom.

Understand your gear and use it where it shines. As the saying goes: If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.

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