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
That’s a balanced and comprehensive look at the S2. I have an Auto S3 and it’s a completely different animal. Small, efficient, unique flash exposure balancing.
I am in agreement with the reviewer. I have an Auto S2. A gift from a friend. It is a delight to use. Results are excellent. Photos taken with it are on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/sets/72157632396051112/
Hi, i was wondering if you could tell me what film this camera takes, as my uncle gave me his one from the 60s but i have no idea what to do with it and what film it takes. if it is some hard-to-find film a website link would be much appreciated. thanks
It’s a 35mm camera so it takes 35mm film – you won’t have any difficulty finding this! :)
Great review. I also have a couple of these and they are great walkabout cameras. One correction though: The lens on the Auto S 1.6 is also a 45mm, not a 50mm.
Good revue although some of the negative points you make about the camera are specific to your particular one. I have two of them and although one has the wobbly lens you talk about the other one is very firm with no movement at all. Also the top plate on both of mine is perfectly tight. I have never experienced focus creep on either of them. They are a really great camera producing stunning images at a fraction of the price of a Leica M6 or whatever the closest comparative model is. One negative remark often made about the S2 is the bulky size of it but this is a good thing IMO. If you need to get inside to clean the glass or adjust the rangefinder there is space to get around and clean things. Also I find it easier to hold a big camera steady to use slow shutters speeds in low light conditions.
I picked up an Auto S2 at a Tokyo thrift store sometime in 2002. It was in beautiful condition and I was attracted by the retro style and size. I was previously a Canon “fan” but the Hexanon lens on this camera made me a complete convert to the Konica brand. I went on to pick up a couple of Autoreflex cameras and lenses and now use those lenses on my Sony A3000 camera.
Pleased to say that my camera never seemed to exhibit any of the problems reported in the review. My light meter is also still working and is very acurate. In fact, the Auto S2 ended up as my all-time favorite 35mm film camera, mostly because of the Hexanon lens and the IQ is delivers.
The Konica Auto S2 was my first serious camera (prior to this, I had a Kodak Hawkeye Instamatic 126 and a Polaroid Swinger). I learned photography on the Auto S2, bought almost 45 years ago. Mine also never had focus creep nor a wobbly lens. I do agree that the meter is oriented toward shutter priority operation, rather than manual operation, and the aperture ring could be easier to set manually, but those are nits. The meter and shutter were accurate. The camera has a superb lens, and a superb coupled auto parallax correcting bright frame-line range-viewfinder. Both the lens and the range-viewfinder were Leica-quality 1 tenth of the price. To this day, the lens stands up to anything in the 40-50mm focal length range. I still have 2 of these cameras (I used to load one with B&W, and one with color slide film) I don’t shoot 35mm film anymore, but if I did, I’d be as likely to trot out one of my Auto S2s as any of my 35mm SLRs. It was a great camera, and if 35mm film is still your medium, it still can serve as a great camera.
nice review. have you ever come across a Konica MT-11 lm trying to buy but they are like hens teeth none on eBay can you help me please?
My bigger wish is it had longer rangefinder base and focusing throw for more accurate focusing. Yeah the lens on my S2 is a little wobbly too but the camera body, like you said, feels very sturdy. I like the build quality overall. The best thing is, of course, the lens; what an amazing performer it is.
As other have eluded to, there should be no focus creep listed as a general con of the camera. That is a defect in the writer’s copy, and likely a focus helicoid that needs to be lubricated again. I’ve had three of these and none have had focus creep.