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Sunday, July 21

Why not start a Konica collection?

The esplanade at Arbroath as seen by the 21mm f4 Hexanon

I'm giving Konica a wee plug because there's a great opportunity to build a really fine collection or working outfit for very little cash. Since they were never the most popular cameras around, prices are still very low but finding good examples is the main problem. However, UK company MW Classic Cameras is offering a lovely range of cameras and lenses many of which look in really fine condition. I've no connection at all with MW Classic Cameras other than having been pleased with the Rolleiflex SL66E outfit I bought from them a couple of years ago and I occasionally check out their website in case they have a waist level finder for the SL66E.

But if you're new to film, want to know what a really well engineered camera feels like and can't afford a Leica M3 then a Konica T3 is a good place to start. It's as nice as a Nikkormat FTN which is saying something. The T3 is all mechanical and very reliable but watch out for a pre-fire issue. Sometimes, just after you've wound the film advance lever to its furthest extent and it's starting its return, the shutter will release. If you're thinking of buying one, then make sure you can check for this and return the camera if you're not happy.

Another Konica I like a lot is the FS-1 which has a built-in winder but also comes with electronic circuitry that is getting on a bit now. The best thing about it is the shutter release which is the smoothest one I've encountered on an SLR and helps a little to keep camera shake to a minimum. Hexanon lenses are often superb as well and in terms of performance per pound Sterling I don't think you can do better.

Just to whet your appetite, I've posted below something I wrote a few years back. I was using my Konica gear more often then than I do now and wanted to let others know about it. If you decide to check out MW Classic Cameras and buy something then I'd love to hear how you get on.

One of the great unsung heroes - at least in comparison with the major names - is Konica, a company that was as innovative as any other. It was the first marque to offer shutter priority auto - back in the 1960s! - autofocus and an in-built winder. However, outside of Japan, they never really sold in enough numbers to become a player in the 35mm SLR world. That territory belonged to the "Big Five" - Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Olympus and Minolta.

Konica lenses were known as Hexanons and they're some of the best glass around. That's what sparked my interest in these cameras. The range of either cameras or lenses isn't as extensive as those produced by the Big Five but they're available on Ebay at very reasonable prices and it doesn't cost too much to built up a useful outfit.

Shot with the 28mm f3.5 Hexanon, a lovely and light prime which makes very nice images.

Over the last few of years I've picked up an FS-1 and Autoreflex A along with 21mm f4, 28mm f3.5, 40mm f1.8, 50mm f1.7, 85mm f1.8, 135mm f3.5 and 200mm f3.5 lenses and there's not a bad one there. The photos on this post were all taken with this equipment and Fuji Superia Reala 100 that was scanned and then converted into black and white in Photoshop. These pics were all taken on the same day - the same roll of film, in fact - spread over about ten hours. I had a day off and the weather was constantly changing which made it quite interesting. The images captured by the Hexanons are very sharp. The scans were done by the same company that developed the film and, whilst they're not bad, I think they would have shown less grain if I'd been able to scan them myself.

A straightforward photograph nicely captured by the 40mm Hexanon pancake.

My favourite lens is the 21mm. I got it very cheaply with its original lends hood and leather case in perfect condition. There's a little loss of sharpness towards the extreme corners but it's a cracking lens. The other classics are the 40mm and 85mm. Some people claim that the 40mm is one of the sharpest ever lenses for the 35mm format. It's not. It's reasonably sharp wide open but doesn't set any new standards. Stopped down a couple though and it's very sharp indeed. This is a great focal length, particularly for street photography where it's just a little wider than a 50mm but has a bit more depth of field.. It's a great fit for the 1980s FS-1 whereas the older 21mm seems to be more suited to the older and heavier Autoreflex A.

The 200mm f4 handheld.

The 85mm is a bit of a legend and is great for portraits and throwing backgrounds out of focus. My one has a couple of cleaning marks on the front element but they don't seem to harm it. The 28mm, 135mm and 200mm lenses are common enough and are also of good quality although they don't stand out as much as the others. The 50mm is probably one of the best value optics on the market. There can't be too many lenses as sharp as this that you can buy for around £20.

The best "classic" Konica is the T3 which is a very well made mechanical SLR and on a par with most of its peers. It has a quite noisy shutter but feels as if it could go on forever. It doesn't really break any new ground, though. The FS-1 did as the first SLR with a built-in winder. I really like using this camera but it has a poor reputation for reliability. It seems to suffer from electronic glitches as it gets older and just dies. Sadly, there's no known cure as the printed circuit boards that decay with age are no longer made. It's much more modern that the T3 but not built nearly as well. It has a great shutter release that's very predictable and easy to trip without jarring the camera and the motorised film advance is quite quiet.

Steam rising from hot, damp tarmac as an unusual
event - sunshine - hits Scotland. Hexanon 200mm.

The FS-1 was replaced by the FT-1 that is supposed to be more reliable. That's not been my experience, though. I've bought two of them and they've both been defective. I actually prefer the shutter release action of the FS-1 so I've stopped looking for the FT-1. Having said that, if you've got one you don't want then please give me a shout since my FS-1 is becoming more temperamental as times goes by!


Andrea Ingram said...

Don't tempt me. I'm already falling over old cameras at home. I also check MW on a regular basis just t be sure I don't need anything. I already have some old Minoltas!


The safest course of action, Andrea, is not to look at any camera websites at all!

morris1800 said...

Always thought the T3 was a lovely looking camera.Not sure why it wasn't popular. In 1974 you could pick it up for £127 with f1.4 standard lens. Its rivals Pentax ESII-£192 , Nikkormat EL-£218.50 Canon EF £254 . It was widely advertised as well . Only thing that comes to mind is Konica were well known for their 35mm compact cameras so maybe not taken as a serious system camera.

Anonymous said...

Here's another Konica fan. A friend of mine swapped something I didn't need for a good T3 with a mintish 28mm/3.5 lens. Since then I've added another body (TC) and a 40mm/1.8 and a 50mm/1.7 lens. The latter (early 50mm/1.7) must be one of the best lenses I've ever used. I also like to use my Konica Auto S3 rangefinder.

MP said...

I have both FS-1 and T3. I bought FS1 just because of the lens (50mm 1.7 Hexanon). It feels fragile - I shot a couple of rolls but then winding mechanism started to do funny things. So I went for T3 - build like a tank. Feels good in hands, but very heavy. Anyway - I really enjoy using it from time to time. I don't have any experience with other lenses, but 50mm Hexanon is an amazing lens...


The FS-1 is a nice camera when it's working but it's just not too reliable. I reckon the 50mm f1.7 Hexanon is as sharp as anything else out there and is all the "fifty" you're likely to need.

Jeff Adler said...

I have used and collected Konicas for many years. What has helped me keep my Konica equipment going was meeting Greg Weber []. Greg is located in Fremont, NE (USA). He can't do much with FS-1s but can fix any FT-1 and has Konica's parts and test equipment for them. The T3, T3N and A3 cameras have winding problems when they are used with some third party lenses. As the film advance lever is coming back to its resting place, the shutter fires again. The T, T2, TC and T4 models do not have this problem. I see that this thread is from last year. This year I have added another 105/4 Bellows/Helicoid Hexanon and another 55/3.5 Macro Hexanon, both at very reasonable prices. I still enjoy using my Konica cameras and lenses and hope to be able to do so for as long as film is available and can be processed. Jeff Adler

Nick Chan Abdullah said...

i own nikon v1, and plan to own only that, nikon 1 native lenses, and konica hexanons.
the images from my hexanon 50mm f/1.4 is incredible. looking forward to receive my 200mm f/3.5, which is apparently the sharpest 200m
prices are low because it's flange distance is not suitable for nikon or canon dslrs