other Konica cameras in my collection
Konica Autoreflex A [1968 - 1971] & A2 [1971 - 1972]
Between 1965 and 1979, Konica made a series of
Autoreflex SLRs. The Auto-Reflex was the world's
first auto-exposure 35mm SLR with a focal plane shutter. There was a meter-less companion model - the Auto-Reflex P. The two cameras were the
only SLRs to offer a choice of full or half-frame exposures, switchable mid-roll between 24×36 landscape and 18×24 portrait.
The Auto-Reflex had an external, direct measurement light meter, but the next model - the 1968 Autoreflex T - was the first 35mm SLR with TTL auto-exposure and a focal plane shutter. The Autoreflex A is a stripped-down Autoreflex T and lacks; a self-timer, mirror lock-up, depth-of-field preview, meter on/off-switch, battery check, and has a top shutter speed reduced from 1/1000th to 1/500th sec.
Subsequent Autoreflex models were upgraded versions of the T and the A. In 1971 the A was rejuvenated as the A2. The differences between the two models are modest, and the A2 remained badged as an A model. The outward changes are the shutter speed dial; the A had one row of grooves around the edge, while the A2 has two. Also, the speed markings and viewfinder scale had larger leading digits on the A, while all characters are the same size on the A2. The A2 was superseded by the A1000 in 1972 (with a top shutter speed of 1/1000th), which in turn became the A3 in 1973.
The lens mount is the Konica II bayonet - also known as the AR-mount (Auto-Reflex), and compatible lenses have a fully automatic
EE (Electric Eye) aperture setting with a lock system to prevent accidental disengagement. Lenses stop-down to a meter determined f-number at the moment of exposure, and then automatically return to fully open.
According to Ivor Matanle's 1997 book,
Collecting and Using Classic SLRs, the auto-exposure system is unusual in that finger pressure on the shutter release button provides the energy that stops-down the lens diaphragm. Therefore, the shutter release is heavy, and has a very long travel - some 6mm on the Autoreflex T. I assume Ivor's observations apply equally to the A?
In EE mode, metering is open aperture with shutter speed priority: a viewfinder needle points to the aperture the camera will automatically select. This f-stop scale spans f/1.4 to f/16, but automatically adjusts to the maximum aperture of the lens fitted, via an articulated red filter and courtesy of a switch mechanism on the mount and lens.
Konica's design intention was that the disengagement of EE accommodated the use of lenses lacking an automatic diaphragm. Accordingly the metering system operates in stop-down mode for any aperture settings other than EE (but see
My Camera further down the page). The viewfinder pointer needle has to be matched to an indexing mark (alongside f/1.4) by adjustment of the shutter speed and/or aperture. There is an
M indicator in the viewfinder which displays to show when the camera is in manual mode, and so reminds the user that they should be match-needle metering, and disregarding the aperture the needle points to.
Like most SLRs of the period, the metering range is limited, but Konica dealt with this simply by assigning orange colours to shutter speed times below 1/15th, as these fall outside of the meter's sensitivity.
The Autoreflex A was sold with one of three Hexanon lenses: 57mm f/1.2 (7-elements in 6-groups), 57mm f/1.4 , or 52 mm f/1.8 (both 6-elements in 5-groups). Hexanon lenses have a good reputation for performance and build quality, but commentators disagree as to whether or not they were as good as Leica/Nikon. The distance between the lens mount and the film plane is short at 40.5mm, while most SLRs are around 44 - 45mm. This made it possible to mount other lenses using adaptors (but they are probably hard to find today).
In comparison to later SLRs, the Autoreflex A is large and rather weighty. The metal Copal focal plane shutter is noisy and the meter requires those dratted mercury batteries. Konica seemed to be good at designing innovations, but extremely poor at marketing their products. I haven't been able to establish a UK price for the Autoreflex A/A2: indeed, I have failed to find a single dealer advertising Konica SLRs in my small collection of vintage camera magazines.
Lens mount: Konica II bayonet (AR-mount) with lock.
Focus: Matt screen with central micro-prism spot and ground glass outer collar. Magnification and viewfinder coverage unknown. No DOF preview switch.
Shutter: Vertical travel metal bladed Copal Square S. Speeds 1 - 1/500th plus B. No self-timer.
Meter: Slightly centre weighted, average brightness, 2 CdS cells, TTL. No off switch.
Exposure: Manual stop-down match needle or shutter priority open aperture auto exposure.
Film Speed: 25 to 1600 ASA.
Flash: X-sync at 1/125th. M-sync at all speeds. X and M PC sockets but no accessory shoe.
Film Advance: Single stroke wind lever with 154° advance angle with 20° offsett.
Frame Counter: Automatic count-up and reset.
Rewind: Via crank and bottom release button.
Size: 146 x 95 x 42mm (W x H x D).
Weight: 945g with f/1.8 lens.
Battery: 2 x 1.35v PX625 Mercury type.
I can recall from my youth, that Konica SLRs were exotic and well respected, but I didn't know much more about them. I've been on the lookout for an early model for a while, but they tend to be pricy. Original Auto-reflex and T models are rare, and sellers expect to receive three figure sums. The later 1976 TC is abundant and affordable, but significantly different from the early models and no where near as unique.
My camera was advertised as an A, but is actually an A2. It was an absolute bargain at £6.38, including a 52mm lens (December 2018). It suffers from the usual total degradation of seals and the mirror damper, plus there are a few little impact depressions in the top-plate, but the Konica seems to be built robustly enough to have weathered these knocks. Everything appears to work as it should, with the one exception of stop-down metering. When the lens is off the camera, and set to an aperture value (i.e. not EE), the diaphragm stops-down as expected, but on mounting the lens, the camera body's actuating arm re-opens the diaphragm. I cannot see what's wrong, unless the diaphragm actuating arm on the lens is supposed to lock when out of the EE setting? Anyhow, it doesn't matter because the camera's purpose was to open aperture meter, and the stop-down facility is there, primarily, for use with lenses that don't have an auto diaphragm.
The Konica doesn't feel big in the hand, and has a solid and robust quality. The shutter release button is neither heavy, nor is its travel peculiarly long. The viewfinder is pleasant, but for the fact the needle pointer is intuitively up-side-down, with under exposure at the top of the metering scale and over exposure at the bottom. I don't like the absence of a meter off switch, but all things considered, it's a very nice camera offering a high level of sophistication for the time: the Spotmatic couldn't even open aperture meter until 1973.