Camera Geekery: The Konica Auto S2
In another guest review, Soren Rosenberg has been kind enough to share his review of the Konica Auto S2 with JCH. Over to you Soren…
The Konica AUTO S2 is a japanese 35mm rangefinder camera from the mid 60’s. It features a fixed 45mm f/1.8 Hexanon lens and a built in light meter.
The Konica AUTO S2 is the second camera in the Konica AUTO series, the first being Konica AUTO S from 1963. The Konica AUTO series were some of the first cameras to put high quality rangefinders in the point and shoot market, with their auto exposure options, competing with Canons first Canonet coming out a few years earlier.
The Konica AUTO S2 was produced in 1965, followed a few years later (1969) by the Konica AUTO S1.6 which featured a 50mm f/1.6 hexanon lens. They were later followed by the more well known Konica AUTO S3, bringing a big improvement in size.
On the fixed 45mm f/1.8 Hexanon lens we find all of the controls for this camera. There are 2 dial rings, shutter speed dial and aperture dial. In between those are a couple of smaller settings; the self timer and the flash bulb/electronic flash setting. The aperture goes from AUTO into f/1.8 all the way to f/16. It’s a fluid aperture ring with no stops in between.
The shutter speed dial goes from
Bulb – 1 – 2 – 4 – 8 – 15 – 30 – 60 – 125 – 250 – 500.
On the bottom of the lens we find the ISO setting. The ISO settings are
25 – 50 – 100 – 200 – 400.
On the bottom of the lens we also find the writing “COPAL-SVA” which is the name of the very quiet leaf shutter located inside the lens.
The focusing lever and the DOF scale is on the closest to the camera part of the lens. The DOF scale also features an infrared correction marker.
On the front, top of the lens is the light meter cell. It’s behind the filter mount, so filters can be used without having to adjust for it.
Next to the lens is a PC Sync cable connection. The Konica AUTO S2 does not feature a hot shoe flash mount, so this is necessary for flash triggering.
On the bottom of the camera we find the usual film release button and tripod mount. We also find a battery chamber and a battery check button. The original batteries used are the PX625 mercury batteries. Mercury batteries have since been outlawed so you have to use replacement batteries. There are a couple of different kinds, you will however find that all but silver oxide batteries, will drop in voltage when being decharged. Since the light meter reading is based on the battery voltage, this will resolve in different wrong reading over time as the battery decharge.
I prefer using silver oxide batteries, but alas they are not perfect either, since they only come in 1.5 volts where the old mercury batteries were 1.35 volts. This again causes a slight misreading. You can however use an MR-9 voltage reducing adapter to force the voltage down to 1.35 volts.
I just use the 1.5 volts batteries without the adapter. The difference in the light meter reading is not that apparent when shooting black & white, also I mostly just use the sunny 16 rule or an external light meter, ignoring the internal one.
The battery check button indicates battery charge by moving the light meter indicator.
On the top of the camera we find the usual, rewind knob, film cocking lever, shutter counter window and shutter release button. We also find a cold shoe flash mount. Interestingly we also find a light meter indicator window.
We do have a light meter indicator lever inside the viewfinder as well, in the top part of the viewfinder. The viewfinder also features parallax error correction lines, something not often found on cheaper rangefinder cameras.
• Weight and size
With a weight of 750 grams this camera is not exactly light for a rangefinder camera. In size comparisment the Konica AUTO S2 is even a bit taller and just as thick as the Canon AE-1 – and the AE-1 even has to pack a mirror in there as well. It can be a bit exhausting carrying the Konica AUTO S2 around in your hand all day.
Since all the controls are mounted on the lens it can be very fiddly to operate this camera. Especially the aperture dial is very thin and it doesn’t help that the dials mostly are slippery chrome.
• Build quality
Especially the lens feels very wobbly. With everything supported by the focus ring and all the controls interrupting what could’ve been a solid construction this camera doesn’t feel like the solid machine I’d like. It doesn’t impact image quality in any way but it does impact the feel of the camera. Also on my Konica AUTO S2 the top plate feels a bit loose. It might be because of a couple of dents in either side that it came with though. The build quality of the body itself is very good though.
• Battery problems
Not having a perfect modern day battery replacement can be a bit annoying.
• Light meter
The light meter indicators are geared towards the camera being used in shutter priority mode, where the camera choses aperture for you based on the light meter reading. Due to this the light meter only tells you what aperture it’s going to use. Nothing else. When you’re shooting manual this is a bit annoying, since you now have to manually check if you’ve actually put the aperture on the setting the camera suggests. This involves taking your eye away from the viewfinder, wasting precious time.
• Focus creep
By far my biggest problem with this camera is the focus creep. Since the entire lens is resting on the focusing ring closest to the camera it becomes inevitable that the lens is going to creep outwards when walking around with the camera in your hand, lens facing down. This makes zone focusing impossible. I could’ve been less annoyed by this of only the focus setting had creeped towards infinity, since I often walk around with focus on infinity, but unfortunately this is not the case.
• Cheap rangefinder
The Konica AUTO S2 is not as well known as some of the other more sought after rangefinder cameras and because of this you can easily find one fairly cheap.
• Very quiet
The very quiet leaf shutter located inside the lens makes next to no noise when you’re taking a photo.
• Sharp Hexanon lens
The best part about the Konica AUTO S2 is the amazingly sharp and contrasty 45mm f/1.8 Hexanon lens. I’d say it’s worth getting this camera purely for this amazing lens.
While the list of cons might look overwhelming don’t be fooled, this is a very nice camera and if you happen to come across one I’d recommend it. What matters most to me is the feel of the camera, and to me the feel of this camera is knowing how well the lens will perform, while I walk around shooting by the sunny-16 rule, quickly focusing using the focusing lever and knowing that I can count the parallax error correction lines in the great viewfinder. Alright so if I need to shoot with a flash or if I need a more compact camera for some casual shooting I’d probably bring another camera. But when taking a walk round town wanting to feel some inspiration this is currently my go-to camera.
You can read more of Soren’s reviews on his website sorenrosenberg.com