The Konica Genba Kantoku is a tough guy: a basic point & shoot, wearing hard hats, boots and safety gloves. Built for Japanese foremen, these chunky cameras used to document progress on construction sites.
I bought the Konica two years ago as a birthday present for my girlfriend. At around 15 Euros, I would consider it as a bargain today. The camera had seen lots of use. If Japanese sellers apply the term “near mint” to highlight a very fine condition, I would rank my example “far, far mint”. Although I had to glue the rubber seal of the shutter and mode button back into place, my Genba Kantoku otherwise works perfectly. “My” Genba Kantoku? Well, as I mentioned before, I gifted the camera to my girlfriend. Of course, this hasn’t stopped me from borrowing it…
What I Like About the Genba Kantoku
One of the few features the Genba Kantoku provides are four little cross markings in the finder. They are located close to the frame corners. I appreciate them as they help tremendously in aligning the camera with your subject. Sure, for organic subjects like people, animals or plants these markings are negligible. However, in the city with its many edges and right angles, they are worth their weight in gold. (I’m exaggerating here a little bit; I’m also sure the markings don’t have any measurable weight.)
Another cool “feature”: the bottom plate exhibits a hint which battery is needed (a 6V 2CR5). The hint doesn’t come as a sticker, which would quickly wear out in the rough environments the camera is intended for. Instead, the hint is deeply recessed into the plastic. And there is not just the type of the battery mentioned. There is also a little sketch of the battery’s shape – in a perspective view, the way it would look when you insert the battery!
Shooting with the Genba Kantoku
After a two-month period of shooting exclusively black & white film, I’m slowly rediscovering color. As with many photographers, Kodak Portra is the material of choice. I have the policy that any camera deserves any kind of film – so no “expensive film in expensive camera only” kind of attitude.
I took the Genba Kantoku with me on my usual strolls through the neighborhood. It sits in the pocket of my rain jacket. If I need a camera, it’s there. If not, it doesn’t matter. Limitating gear liberates yourself – see Daniel’s thoughts. As a result, my frames don’t derive from thoroughly planned photo trips. These images rather belong to the “take along” type. Or, simply: snap shots. In appreciation for the film loaded, I preferably looked for subjects in appealing colors.
Inspiration: Eggleston’s Dunkerque
While I was preparing this article, I stumbled across an interesting photo book: Spirit of Dunkerque by William Eggleston. In 2005, the city of Dunkirk invented the famous photographer to create a portrait of the city. Eggleston delivered 50 color photographs, mostly showing details or narrow views of industrial landscapes. A pile of tubes, a rusty overseas container, road signs in front of a fuel depot, hills of iron ore.
Typical of Eggleston, most of his images provide intense colors. Sure, Kodak Portra doesn’t produce screaming tones – especially under an overcast sky. However, I felt so inspired by the photographs that I ran two more films through the Genba Kantoku. Hunting the spirit of Eggleston, I explored several industrial zones around town. In the end, I found out that Eggleston’s nonchalant and easy looking photographs aren’t to obtain easily at all. The true masters: they let you believe their profession can be achieved with greatest ease.
Finally: the Five Frames
Please check out the other piece on this blog that deals with a Konica Genba Kantoku (in this case with the 28mm version, mine has got the 40mm lens).
Thanks for reading!