5 frames with...

5 Frames with a Konica Genba Kantoku and Kodak Portra – by Christian Schroeder

November 4, 2020

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

old scooter captured with a Konica Genba Kantoku on Kodak Portra film

garage doors in a faded green color

STOP sign captured with a Konica Genba Kantoku on Kodak Portra film

old truck trailer

black pipes captured with a Konica Genba Kantoku on Kodak Portra film

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!

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  • Reply
    November 4, 2020 at 5:33 pm

    I just love the photo of the moped. It’s perfect.

    • Reply
      Christian Schroeder
      November 5, 2020 at 7:04 am

      Thanks, Huss! Funny story: While on a walk, I spotted a nice out-dated scooter, ruby-colored. Unfortunately, I had no camera with me that evening. So I returned a few days later, hoping the ruby-colored beauty would still be standing there. Indeed it did, but a few meters short to it I stumbled across the pale yellow moped. Of course, I took pictures of both – in the end, I liked the yellow moped way better.

  • Reply
    November 4, 2020 at 8:58 pm

    Very nice colors and tonality! The lens looks good too. How big/heavy is this thing, like a brick?

    • Reply
      Christian Schroeder
      November 5, 2020 at 7:04 am

      Thank you! Mhmm. The Konica is very similar to other typical point-and-shoots from the 1980s and early 1990s. A small-ish brick, pocketable for a jacket but not for pants. Though rugged, it does not weigh significantly more than regular cameras of this class (my kitchen scales tells me 400 g whereas my Ricoh TF-900 is around 360 g). The Konica’s grippy body makes it nice to hold the camera, you don’t have to fear something could break easily.

  • Reply
    D Evan Bedford
    November 5, 2020 at 2:57 am

    They are very cool cameras. I keep one at work (I’m a civil engineering tech), and when someone asks about it, I’ll grab it, purposely drop it on the floor, pick it up and take a random photo. I have another at home, and it has the little cartoon person with a pick-axe, and a space beside him/her for the owner’s name. I received mine with the name of “KATAYAMA” neatly printed in the space. So I often wonder what sights and sounds Katayama saw and heard when carrying around the camera at his/her various work sites on the other side of the globe a few decades ago.

    • Reply
      Christian Schroeder
      November 5, 2020 at 7:05 am

      Interesting story, Evan! I really like cameras with a history. However, there are often scarce to none hints regarding the camera’s former life. Leaves us more space to dream. 🙂
      By the way, mine came with the name plate blank.

  • Reply
    December 5, 2020 at 7:34 am

    Christian these are lovely shots! I love the colour rendition. Did you send this to a lab or self scanned? If the former what lab did you use?

    • Reply
      Christian Schroeder
      December 6, 2020 at 6:35 pm

      Hi RJ, thank you for your feedback! These are lab scans, made by MeinFilmLab in Germany. Although I’m pretty happy with the colors too, I recently changed to Carmencita lab in Spain. They offer scans of the whole negative, including the black frame edges – something I prefer.

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