Camera Geekery: Konica C35 FD Review
A nice long guest review for you all to enjoy. Johan Van Huyssteen shares his experience with one of the great fixed lens rangefinders. Sit down with a nice drink and enjoy.
It’s too heavy!
My first 35mm film camera was a properly banged-up Fujica ST605N, paired with a surprisingly sharp, macro-enabled Vivitar 28mm f/2.8 MC lens. The whole story set me back ten pounds sterling, but the pleasure it begot me was second only to the innumerable number of shutter actuations.
As an opponent of digital gear-junkies, I swore my first film camera purchase would be my last, but that changed when I moved to the unending metropolis that is Seoul, Korea. I soon realized that camera weight would become a physical hindrance I could not ignore. Enter the void that is: finding the world’s most compact, shutter-priority, rangefinder… with a fast lens!
Is my lens sticking out too much?
The population density in megacities like Seoul and Tokyo simply defy belief. Ergonomically, this means you will bump your protruding lens into every metro door, groin and Ryan Kakao cellphone cover imaginable. Good luck hauling around a Nikon F4.
I oscillated from one extreme to the other. I needed to cut weight and find a camera with really tiny dimensions. The Nikon EM seemed to check the weight box, but it still had a prism. Even with a pancake lens, it was going to bump into too many objects for my liking.
I was starting to really like the idea of owning a Pentax System 10, but the smaller negative did not sit well with me, as it was one of the main reasons I ditched digital cropped sensors for casual shooting. I knew about the Olympus XA, but so many people seemed to have one, that I became an obnoxious snob.
After months of choking on my own ignorance, I finally made the move to get the XA and was completely blown away by its image quality, size and the unthinkable, 225 grams of weight. It’s still the only camera I can comfortably slip into the front pocket of my denims and take to the beach without a worry. Thank you Maitani san!
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows though. I remember once scanning a roll of very special New Year’s Eve memories and being horrified as I realized each of the 36 exposures rendered streaky lights rather than people’s faces. I loved running and gunning the XA during the day; but f/2.8, aperture priority and lack of manual override made it impossible at night. I needed something that was almost as compact, but faster.
Is f/1.8 fast enough?
Luckily, a few years and cameras later, I stumbled upon an excellent Yashica Electro 35CCN 35mm f/1.8, which as of 2018, still produces some of my favourite images. It adds an inherent warmth and creaminess to photographs, similar to how cinematographers choose Cooke lenses for their warm properties.
The Yashica was dirt cheap, the shutter was completely silent and the camera body looked amazing. The film advance lever and rangefinder patch were prone to mechanical issues, but I learned to live with it, because of the pictures. My first real gripe though, was the ASA being limited to 500. This meant I couldn’t push ASA 400 film to 800 as I usually do.
Some labs really bitch about pushing film, as their ‘machine dependent’ workflows don’t allow any sort of customized timings. In central Sydney for example, none of the 8 labs I visited offered pushing/ pulling. Now imagine trying to ask them to push it by one third of a stop!
Lucky for me, the lab I use back in Johannesburg had no issues pushing by odd timings like a third of a stop, because they develop by hand. Just be mindful of these things when deciding on a camera purchase.
A theme started creeping into my pictures. As much as I loved the Yashica, every time the sun dipped below the horizon, the aperture priority mode would default to crazy slow shutter speeds, between 4 and 8 seconds in dark scenes! The increase in lens speed, still wasn’t nearly enough to convince the meter that acceptable-looking images could be produced at night. I never touched aperture priority again.
Now I was facing a dilemma. I didn’t like SLRs, because I could never guarantee focus like a rangefinder. My mind ventured in the direction of a fully manual Yashica Lynx 14e with f/1.4 lens, however; only when holding one in your hands do you realize how massive that lens really is. That amount of light comes at a price: weight. Full circle.
It’s too heavy! (but the pictures are pretty)
For a year or two I shot only the Olympus 35 SP. What a machine! It’s very hard to take a bad picture with its coated G.Zuiko lens, program auto exposure and full manual override. Olympus went bonkers with this camera and even chucked in a spot meter. Take that Leica!
I seriously want to dedicate at least one sentence to how gorgeous the 42mm focal length is. There are many articles one can read online about it being a perfect ‘normal’ and a 50mm being too ‘long’, but honestly; just buy one right now from eBay. I cannot believe the prominence the 50mm focal length has in the marketplace, when a 42mm is aesthetically so much more pleasing.
I was sold on the 42mm, but the weight; as always, started working into my neck muscles on long days of shooting. The 35 RC did cross my mind, but it would mean f/2.8 territory again.
Enter the ‘Konica C35 FD’ (Japan only model). The identical, western model is called ‘Konica Auto S3’, but I wasn’t going to settle for something with the word ‘Auto’ printed distractingly large on the face of the camera. The far subtler typography and golden ‘FD’ of the Japanese model seemed more appealing to me.
I picked up a silver model on eBay for 200 USD. The black models are extremely rare and go for 300 USD. You can find them quite easily on auction sites.
After so many years of trying different cameras, I’m still not sure why this one escaped my radar. Being Japan’s oldest camera manufacturer, I probably should’ve taken Konica more seriously. Let’s skip the small-talk and go straight into the engine room.
- Hexanon 38mm f/1.8 lens with 6 elements in 4 groups. Dynamic Color Coating.
- Straight helical action focusing, 45 degrees. Close focus distance 0.9m.
- Copal automatic shutter using shutter speed priority, with speeds between 1/8 sec. to 1/500 and Bulb. Full stop increments. X-synchro flash contact, built-in self-timer.
- Automatic exposure adjustment, using a Cadmium Sulphide (CdS) operated Electronic Eye (EE) system. One 1.35V mercury battery cell needed.
- EE coupling range is EV 4.7 (f/1.8 @ 1/8 ) to EV 17 (f/16 at 1/500 sec.), EV 1.7 with ASA 800.
- Film speed scale ASA 25-800 (DIN 15-30).
- Bright frame finder, 0.55x magnification, close-up compensation mark, aperture scale, exposure warning marks, synchro mark indicator.
- Single eye, double-image rangefinder. Alignment type, colour compensation mirror, effective base length 14.2mm.
- Auto Flashmatic System with guide numbers 22, 32, 45, 64, 90, 128 and 180 (ASA 100, in feet). Cordless flash contact and female PC sync port.
- 49mm screw-in type filter thread.
- 112 x 71 x 61 mm. 410g.
The Konica C35 FD is the most underrated 35mm film camera I’ve shot in years. The lens however, is not. There are countless online forums, where techies froth over the absurdly sharp lens (again; to search online in English you’ll find it under the western moniker of ‘Auto S3’).
Many people refer to the ‘Modern Photography’ review which states “center values between 64 to 82 lines per millimeter of resolution providing Leica-class performance”, but I have yet to find this elusive article.
Some less esoteric sources have placed it above the Leica Summicron-C 40mm f/2 for sharpness. Even wide open, the lens shows almost no vignetting, chromatic aberration or perceptible falloff of sharpness. To avoid sounding like hyperbole wrapped in clickbait, I’m going to let a few images do the talking. They illustrate real-world sharpness, rather than resolving power from test charts (the images are compressed for web-reading purposes):
So why, you may ask, did I claim it’s underrated, if the lens is so highly rated? It’s because of the the guts of the camera. It shares roughly the same Cosina frame that was used for the Minolta Hi-Matic 7sII, Vivitar 35 ES and Revue 400SE.
There are wildly varying claims about the weight of each. I have downloaded the manuals of each. The closest competitor is the Hi-matic weighing in at 460g. The Konica weighs only 410g. In the compact rangefinder segment, 50g makes a lot of difference.
There are a few other cameras that share this frame, like the Prinz 35 ER. It’s also the only one with a lens as wide as the Konica. One reviewer claimed it weighs 370g, but I couldn’t verify this from the actual owner’s manual I have. Even if it were true, it has a slower f/2.7 lens.
The Konica is the lightest, shortest, narrowest, ASA 800, shutter-priority rangefinder in existence, with arguably the sharpest lens in its class. Surely then the only the closest competitor is the Hi-matic with its f/1.7 six element lens?
The Hi-matic sports the same exposure lock feature as the Konica. It even has a similar fill flash system to boot; but that’s where you’re wrong. The Konica has the best fill-flash system ever created for a compact rangefinder. It’s simply in a league of its own. Let me make a heading for it:
The Flashmatic System
The Synchro/Flash system of the Konica C35 FD balances fill flash with ambient light painlessly. In some ways, it can be called a predecessor to modern systems 40 years its senior, like Canon’s easy to use E-TTL. Remember, this camera is 45 years old! Don’t expect flash exposure compensation. It wants to give you 18% grey exposure all the time.
Pop on any electronic flash – preferably a Konica X14/ X20 for their cuteness – into the hotshoe and stand in awe as the camera automatically adjusts the aperture based on the meter reading and then simultaneously re-adjusts it based on the distance focused.
A third, overriding factor is the ability to slide the camera’s guide number lever (crudely put, the maximum flash distance) to match the flash’s. This helps the Flashmatic System know how by how much to reduce or increase the aperture. This can of course, also be swopped, to be the first step in the process.
It gets even better still. Fully manual operation is a feature only thought to exist with larger rangefinders such as the Olympus 35 SP, but the Konica has a hidden feature, not listed in the manual.
Sliding a flash (or coldshoe tripod mount, or a folded piece of cardboard) into the hotshoe provides metered manual control. A green synchro flash indicator bar pops up in the viewfinder. After shutter speed selection and focusing; turning the guide number lever now means the green synchro flash indicator is actually your selected manual aperture.
The main, black needle still shows meter-suggested aperture, so you can ignore that for long exposures and bulb. It’s still useful for daylight shooting, displaying suggested aperture so you can bracket or compensate exposures to your liking. I usually turn the flash off for this hack so I can take long night-time exposures. By the way, the flash sync couples at all speeds, 1/8 to 1/500 and bulb.
Now let’s look at some basic handling and ergonomics. Loading and unloading film is a breeze. I did have one roll that didn’t transport properly, despite the sprockets lining up with the perforations in the film. I was being lazy though.
The camera wants the film to be very tight. This can be accomplished by turning the rewind crank a few times when the back cover is closed. The film advance lever is silky smooth and despite needing about a 160 degree turn, it feels like an effortless half turn as your thumb’s position is so close to your palm. The frame counter is very legible and goes to 36.
The finder is the brightest I’ve ever shot and the rangefinder patch is super contrasty and large enough to read objects in very dim light. The finder window on the face’s side, does feel like it can possibly come loose with too much finger pressure, but mine is fine for now.
Focusing the helicoid is really smooth and fast. The rangefinder is nicely calibrated. I’ve never once had a shot out of focus other than selfies of me and my wife, which at 0.9m close focus distance isn’t quite close enough. It needs to be between 0.8m and 0.85m to be able to do that.
The shutter release sound is modest, but not nearly as quiet as the totally silent Yashica Electro 35 CCN. Shutter speeds are consistent with their markings, throughout the range, when viewed side by side with my serviced Nikon F4.
Bulb mode has a switch that must be pressed while turning the shutter speed ring. Speaking of bulb mode; long, night-time exposures work like a charm with any threaded shutter release cable. Oh, and handheld night-time shots are good up to 1/8 sec. but razor at 1/30 sec.
The lens’s legendary merits are mentioned above and illustrated with pictures, but a few additional things are worth mentioning. In bright light, the contrast is good, but not nearly as good as the mythical Nikon 28mm f/2.8 AI-S, which is very punchy (read better).
Colour rendition is too cool for my liking. You need to shoot warm stocks to get it to look neutral. I recommend Portra 400 for negs or Provia 100F (interchangeable with Agfa Precisa CT 100) for slides. There is to my perception, no visible vignetting as can be seen below:
Usually photos like the one above – with large areas of constant colour – show very heavy vignetting. I really abhor vignetting and chromatic aberration. The former is surprisingly intrusive in a few luxury compact film cameras like the Minolta TC-1, Contax T3 and even the Ricoh GR1v.
The lens has only a slither of barrel distortion in the extremities of the frame, as can be seen below. It is only visible on the bottom row of bricks.
Ergonomically the camera feels amazing in hand. The single-mold aluminium chassis feels like the glassy trackpad of a Macbook Pro. The leatherette is especially tactile and grippy to the touch. I can’t imagine someone dropping it easily.
It’s also hard to feel wrist fatigue with a camera this small and light, even when shooting one handed and showing friends how to pose with the other hand.
The focusing helicoid can be operated with one finger. The guide number lever is intentionally steppy. The shutter speed ring less so, with a nice ease-in-easy-out action between stops.
The back-case locking mechanism is very secure and requires some exertion to close. This will never fall open, mid-shooting.
The film rewind button is the long, click-in type. The tripod socket is of the ¼ inch variety and the battery chamber screw is plastic. I would’ve liked an aluminium one, but it’s minor. The self-timer lever works flawlessly and is set for 10 second timings.
Just a note on lens hoods. Forget it. These aren’t really compact rangefinders so much as micro-rangefinders ala Olympus XA. A circular lens hood with a thin profile can possibly work, but will intrude the viewfinder. The badass-looking rectangular ones (even the ones with holed-out corners, see my 1st image) will block up to 30% of your view as the rangefinder and viewfinder are very close to each other.
The Electronic Eye metering system is located on the lens barrel, so it functions similarly to TTL metering. It means filter use is compensated for automatically. Over- and underexposure indicators are located top right and bottom right in the viewfinder respectively.
I can’t live without exposure locking, which is activated by half-pressing the shutter release. The meter is amazing in bright scenes and very dark scenes, but classic mixed scenes – like people inside a church with large windows – underexposes by slightly more than two stops. Again, the exposure lock can negate this problem if used properly.
Mechanically the camera can function without batteries, but the aperture and shutter speed will be locked at f/1.8 and 1/30 sec. respectively. I use regular 1.45V hearing-aid batteries in mine. They’ve lasted over a year now, as they’re only used to power the meter and hotshoe coupling, but I can’t help but wonder if the above-mentioned mixed scene metering would improve if I had the recommended 1.35V zinc-air battery (or possibly the mercury we all know is best?).
In closing I’d like to mention the focal length of 38mm. I am well aware that the obsessively sought-after Contax T2 also sports a 38mm, but I just don’t like it at all. It’s an ‘inbetweener’ focal length. Think of how a 50mm composition can so easily feel awkward, because it should be a 42mm (god bless you Maitani san). I feel that the very natural POV-look of a 35mm lens is missing from the Konica’s 38mm.
I personally find it a pain to frame anything, especially portraits. Maybe if it’s this hard I’m learning something useful, but still, I’m edgy about it. I’ve actually put gaffer tape on the finder so it forces me to frame like a 35mm lens. The camera seems tough too. I went hiking with it for 3 days in the Drakensberg recently, in constant rain and high humidity. The lens fogged, but only enough to still make the picture below.
I put it in an air-tight Tupperware container with rice for 3 days and the viewfinder’s never been clearer. Apart from the focal length, the Konica C35 FD is the most versatile fixed-lens rangefinder I’ve owned. It won’t replace my Nikon F4 with AI-S lenses for night-time cityscapes, nor my XA for the beach or my Olympus 35 SP for suave, train-riding luxury, but for everything else in-between, it’s a little champ.
*All images are taken by me and I am the sole copyright owner.
You can see some of my work here:
You can find high-resolution, unretouched samples of the images in this article here:
Thanks for the great review, Johan.
Comments and thoughts are of course welcome. Offensive comments will be moderated.
I have one too.
Some photos here
I have also a Minolta Hi-Matic 7Sii a great one.
I love the manual mode of Minolta and automatic mode of Konica.
When I want lighter and better I take my Contax T.
When I do not care about weight my M3.
Like you I love my AI-s nikon especially the 28/2’8 also 21/2’8, micro 55/2’8, 105/2’8 or 200/4 with a FA, also my Nikon 28 TI.
The Konica and Minolta are well balanced and dont give intrusive look.
I have also a Sony A7 RII, but I cannot adapt to digital. All I need is film !
This Konica is a top camera we have to care like a baby. I know a great repear man in Autralia who CLA them and fix them perfectly, a Japanese expert of course !
@Eric. Thank you for your great reply. It is a great little cam. I’ve never had the Hi-matic in my hands for longer than a day. I know they’re very different cameras, but how would you compare it to the Nikon 28 TI?
You must be that clumsy if all you did was knocking your camera to something while walking. (Kidding) Either way, this was some of the best writeup in JCH camera geekery section.
Now, I just being hopeful that the price of the Konica wont go up in the next few years. :V
Lekker om nog ‘n Suid Afrikaaner hier te sien, en ek het jou artikel baie geniet.
Waar laat jy jou film ontwikkel, btw?
Dankie Brent! Ek ontwikkel by RGB pixellab in Johannesburg. Hulle is eenvoudig net die beste in Suid Afrika. Hulle is ok die enigste lab wat E6 ontwikkel in SA. Feit. Ek scan self though. (For English speakers I just gave him the name of my lab is all).
Fun article, but the Hi-Matic has full manual control without needing a piece f cardboard. If you don’t use on-camera flash much, it’s the winner.
@JL Williams: Please don’t misquote me. You list here, the article’s third (and in brackets) way of doing a manual override. It’s misleading. Maybe you should read the full article next time?
We cannot compare Hi-matic and Nikon 28 TI :
– not same lense
– manual camera RF, electronic camera
– build the Nikon is a titanium camera
– lense Nikon awesome lense
– street photo Minolta better
– beauty, Nikon better
2 great cameras
For slides go for Nikon
For BW go for Minolta
I own a Konica S3 (the same camera actually) and It’s probably my favorite ever : light, precise with its proper bokeh. This camera is always in my bag and often (even it’s not a compact…) I prefer take it with me rather than my Ricoh Gr1v.
Great review Johan! I love my little Konica C35, and it’s cool to see a real expert break it down piece by piece like this.
@ Amina. Thanks for the read. Keep shooting! If you ever find someone who mods them, please let me know!
An excellent review overall where you’ve captured the nuance of the camera and appreciate how it provided metered manual control. A key point is the Auto S3 was the ONLY compact FLRF of the day to do so. Competitive FLRF’s that permitted manual control were unmetered. There are a couple points about this camera that your review repeats well-worn and endlessly repeated saws copied from other reviews that were incorrect the first time and are still incorrect every time they’re repeated. The first is how Modern Photography described the Konica lens performance. The quote that the lens provides “center values between 64 to 82 lines per millimeter of resolution providing Leica-class performance”, was not a statement ever made by Modern Photography. It’s a conclusion made by an early reviewer that has been copied in turn by every subsequent review for the Auto S3. At least you advised that you hadn’t seen the article. I’d attach it for your review if I were able to add an attachment to this e-mail. Here’s what Modern Photography actually said in their May 1975 review on page 115 is as follows: “One item on the S3 that passed our tests with flying colors is the lens – one of the best semi-wide angle optics of its speed we have ever tested. As you can see by reading the accompanying test charts, it exhibited excellent resolution, both centers and edges at all apertures. Unfortunately, the absence of a manual diaphragm control made it impossible to measure contrast especially at maximum aperture. Similarly we could only make optical bench observations wide open. Hence the following analysis weighs heavily on actual test slides shot at various apertures. ¶ Central Image Quality: Central color fringing was not visible at all on slides and only showed up slightly on the bench. The same was true of central spherical aberration, so we can classify central image quality of this lens as definitely superior. ¶ Edge image quality: Correction for lateral color fringing appeared excellent both on slides and the bench. Astigmatism appeared moderately large on the bench at f1.8 in the outer half of the picture area. On slides, slight tangential astigmatic streaking was observable wide open, but it disappeared at f2.8, leading us to conclude that astigmatism was very well corrected. Coma appeared well-controlled at all apertures.”
While the lens resolution that Modern Photography measured with the Auto S3 was comparable with Leica’s best and it was a fair conclusion for the review to reach, Modern Photography never stated the Auto S3 “provided Leica-class performance”.
The second is the endlessly- repeated saw concerning common Cosina origins for the Auto S3, the Minolta Hi-Matic 7sII, Vivitar 35 ES and Revue 400SE. (the Prinz 35 ER should be included in this group as well). I’m curious what evidence you found that would cause you to make this statement as though it was based on factual evidence? Let’s take a look at the observable evidence:
1. Konica launched its popular C35 in 1968 that took the market by storm and spawned countless copies including the Cosina Compact 35E, Porst 135 S and the Voigtlander VF 135 that came to market in 1970. (The Cosina, Porst and Voigtlander were cosmetically identical. Cosina wasn’t a camera innovator, they were an original design manufacturer (ODM) that knocked off cheaper copies of popular cameras they contract built mostly for camera marketing companies like Porst, Vivitar, Revue and Prinz)
2. The Auto S3 followed the form factor of the C35 upgraded with addition of an advanced flash system and a more capable Hexanon lens. In fact the home market Auto S3 model was called C35 FD to indicate C35, Flashmatic, Deluxe. The Auto S3 was significantly more expensive than the C35 so the US marketer felt the camera needed a new ID to avoid confusion with the cheaper C35 family.
3. The Auto S3 utilized the 38mm F1.8 lens that debuted in 1966 on the premium-priced Konica Auto SE that was only sold for one year in the US. The Konica Auto SE was a premium quality (read expensive), landmark camera with a completely unique feature set. Features included an unusual spring-wound drive for automatic film winding, SEIKO ES electronic leaf shutter, AE-only program exposure mode, the first Konica with a hot shoe, and the stellar 38mm f/1.8 Hexanon lens (6 elements in 4 groups). Prior to the release of Minolta Hi-Matic 7sII, Vivitar 35 ES, Revue 400SE and Prinz 35 ER, none of these marques offered a comparable lens. Of all the marques listed, only Konica and Minolta were camera manufacturers. Vivitar, Revue and Prinz were all camera marketing companies that bought cameras from ODM’s. Cosina was in fact the primary ODM that supplied these three marketers although they bought product from other ODM’s including Konica in the case of Revue.
4. The Auto S3 was introduced to the market in 1973 and was produced through 1977.
5. The Minolta Hi-Matic 7sII, Vivitar 35 ES, Revue 400SE and Prinz 35 ER all came to market in 1978; AFTER the Konica was already OUT OF PRODUCTION.
6. The Auto S3 was a couple millimeters smaller length by width, a couple millimeters taller and lighter than the other cameras. If they’d all been built by Cosina, why would Cosina have abandoned the Auto S3 chassis tooling and retooled the chassis to marginally change the basic dimensions and increase weight to build these other cameras?
7. The Auto S3 had black anodized aluminum top and bottom caps and a plastic battery cover. The other cameras had black painted brass caps and cast aluminum battery cover. Why would Cosina have abandoned the Auto S3 tools and retooled the caps and battery cover for a lesser specification?
8. The Auto S3 was fitted with a large, bright, contrasty viewfinder with separate lens elements. The other cameras all had the same smaller dim viewfinder with glued pair lens and significant barrel distortion. So after the Auto S3 was out of production, Cosina abandoned the tooling that yielded the great Auto S3 viewfinder to retool the lousy viewfinder on these other cameras?
9. In 1976 production, Konica made several detail changes to Auto S3 including modifying the film roller on the back cover from a straight roller to a waisted variant that only touched the film along it’s edges to avoid film scratching. Another obvious improvement was the addition of a metal stop in the flash hot shoe to control the flash engagement in the hot shoe and prevent flashes from skittering across the surface of the top cap. When the other cameras came to market in 1978, these improvements were missing. Why would Cosina have reverted to earlier unimproved designs when they supposedly would have had the tooling for the improved parts?
Now I have no direct knowledge that Cosina didn’t make the Auto S3 for Konica but looking at the reality of the KNOWN FACTS, it doesn’t make much sense because the following would need to have occurred:
1. Cosina would have to retool Konica’s existing 38mm lens from its 1966 Auto SE
2. AFTER the Auto S3 went out of production, Cosina decided to retool the camera’s chassis, top and bottom caps, battery cap, and all fittings for focus lever, rewind knob, viewfinder et al to make the camera marginally larger, heavier and have poorer viewfinder performance? Not only did the other cameras have a metal battery cap compared to the plastic of the Konica, they also had a different thread. The thread of Auto S3’s plastic cap was the same as the thread of the metal caps used in Konica’s original C35.
3. Cosina would have to have abandoned all improved components like the film roller to return to the unimproved executions. If Cosina was the original manufacturer, they OWNED all this tooling. Why revert to unimproved parts?
What is the evidence that caused the ‘common basis’ speculation by the original internet reviewer? Similar size, similar features, similar lenses, same wobbly lens helical and same shutter, ergo they all must have been built by the same manufacturer. Cosina was Vivitar’s primary ODM and a known ODM for Prinz and Revue, therefore all cameras had to be made by Cosina. Simplistic but when you look at documentable evidence I’ve outlined, it doesn’t make sense. The common basis evidence is based on someone’s supposition that was repeated a hundred times on the internet. That is the genesis of how rumors propagate.
It’s a moot point that all these camera’s used the same Copal leaf shutter or even the same lens helical. Japanese camera manufacturers in the 1970’s bought shutters from a handful of shutter suppliers and the same could be said for many other common components that were shared between cameras from every manufacturer. For a certain configuration and specification of FLRF, there were few components for manufacturers to select from. A longstanding clear fact is the amount of behind the scenes cooperation that has taken place for many decades among direct Japanese competitors across many industries. The interchange of camera bodies, shutter, lenses or even complete cameras in the Japanese industry among direct competitors is remarkable.
I would maintain that what makes more sense was that Cosina knocked off the Auto S3 just as they had the C35 and many other popular Japanese cameras in the day to sell to other camera marketing companies. I don’t doubt that Minolta might have bought the Hi-Matic 7sII from Cosina even that they could have easily built it by themselves. The Hi-Matic 7sII shared nothing with the Minolta rangefinder cameras that preceded it and by 1978 the Japanese compact FLRF market was rapidly declining and Minolta was fully focused on its burgeoning SLR product.
Konica was a camera manufacturer and innovator having built their first camera in 1880. Cosina was an ODM manufacturer who only made their first camera in 1966. Cosina innovated nothing, they were a market follower. Cosina saw what was hot in the market, knocked it off and vended it to whoever wanted to buy it.
Based on the evidence, I would speculate that the Auto S3 was strictly Konica’s innovation.
In 1981, enter the Chinese with the Phenix JG301.This camera is in fact a completely reverse-engineered copy of a Japanese-market C35 FD that was released to market by the Chinese in 1981. The JG-301 was commissioned in 1978 by party leadership of the PRG to demonstrate that China was capable to produce advanced products. It was gifted to all party officials to commemorate the founding of the PRG.
Phenix cameras were sold throughout distribution in Europe (it was far too expensive to sell in the Chinese home market) and can be found there today in secondary markets although I understand that few have survived due to substandard Chinese plastics used that simply dissolved.
If we were to follow the logic of the Cosina-crowd rumors, then the Phenix also HAD to have been made by Cosina because it uses the same parts including the Copal leaf shutter. (Actually the Chinese were forced to buy the shutter from the Japanese because they couldn’t make a shutter that could go as fast as 1/500th of a second, but they actually made the optics by themselves which was a source of great pride because they had never made such an advanced optic previously).
I admire that you did a remarkably thorough job with your review that is the result of some real dedication that I respect.
I just think you do yourself and your readers a disservice by jumping onto the herd mentality band wagon concerning a common Cosina basis for the Konica camera because I don’t think this supposition is supported by the evidence.
Dear Frank. I massively appreciate your effort in that response, I am humbled by your factual evidence.
May I ask what is your background that you know these things? I completely understand if you don’t feel like disclosing that info.
“If we were to follow the logic of the Cosina-crowd rumors, then the Phenix also HAD to have been made by Cosina because it uses the same parts including the Copal leaf shutter. (Actually the Chinese were forced to buy the shutter from the Japanese because they couldn’t make a shutter that could go as fast as 1/500th of a second, but they actually made the optics by themselves which was a source of great pride because they had never made such an advanced optic previously)”
Lol, The Chinese could manufacture ICBM’s but couldn’t add a 1/500 sec spring to a shutter? Who’d ya hear that one from?
Bravo, Frank. You’ve done it again, sir!
Johan, I was (haphazardly at best) involved in a lovely email conversation 2 or 3 years ago with Frank and Mick which ensued when this issue was covered (rumor repeated) in a review of the Vivitar 35ES at Mike Eckman’s lovely site. Frank has covered much of that conversation’s detail here, in the same staggeringly wonderful detail that also humbled me then. If repeated more often (and it should be) it might finally put the Cosina myths to bed and under internet covers once and for all. I can only add that the *only* camera Cosina ever produced for Konica is well known, the rather shoddy TC-X which was their last (Konica’s) final entry into the SLR market.
Cheers Johan, a good summary (putting Cosina-mill aside) of this fantastic little shooter. I too own the C35FD, but my reasoning for choosing it was simpler than yours: I like the bright-caps better, and it’s cheaper to get ahold of (for now). Cheers!
I loved the review, I was not aware that it is essentially the same as an S3, which I own. I for one was fascinated with the metered manual control tip. It was a good read.
You’re most welcome David.