Konica FS-1 and FT-1 review – The Shape of Things to Come

Konica produced Sakura film (later simply rebranded to ‘Konica’). They were the second-largest film producer in Japan after Fujifilm. As well as their own films, they produced films for lots of third parties. They had every good business reason to encourage rapid winding and exposure of their product.

In 1979 Konica produced a landmark camera with a winder.

It was not the first SLR with a built-in winder (that was the unmetered Minolta SR-M), but the FS-1 was the first automatic SLR to feature the winder integrated into the body (rather than bolted on the bottom). It also eliminated the manual wind-on lever. With a generous grip for the right hand to house the alkaline batteries required, It had a profile that was ahead of its time, but which now seems rather familiar.

Get a grip! The earlier Autoreflex TC also used a red dot in association with the metering. However in the case of the TC it showed that the meter was on, and the shutter release was unlocked. On the FS-1 it means the opposite…

The upside

The result was radical. It led a trend. Ergonomically it was lovely. It used motors in the body. Not just to wind the film. There was a separate motor to drive the mirror up and down, rather than relying on sprung tensioners. It had no manual wind-on lever: without batteries the camera would not work in any case. The rear of the shutter speed dial falls against your thumb and is easy enough to turn that it almost works like a modern control dial. It had a genuinely easy-to-use automatic loading system that just required you to lay the film across the camera and close the rear door.

Automatic film loading. The winder motor is inside the take-up spool. The film door is removable, but Konica never produced an alternative. Note the film counter on the rear of the camera and shutter speed dial overlapping the back of the camera.

The FS-1 had LED indicators in the viewfinder. They showed speeds for an electronically controlled shutter as determined by a Gallium Arsenide Phosphor sensor. It had a shutter release with minimal travel and an electronic remote socket connection on the left of the body that took a wired remote release.

Under a threaded connector on the left of the camera is the connector for the electronic releases

In a blow struck for minorities, it also had an accessory that fitted into the remote socket to allow left-handed operation. It has to be said that I’ve never actually seen one of these left-handed releases, but they do seem to have existed and may have been a boon to some photographers. It is a shame that the FS-1 provides so little body to grip with the left hand through.

The downside

Unfortunately, the baby got thrown away with the bathwater.

When this camera was first released, I had just got a regular job and was looking to add a second body to go with my trusty T3. I went to a photographic exhibition at Kensington Olympia and tried out the FS-1. I loved it. It made all the right whizzy autowinder noises to appeal to a guy in his late teens. There was a problem that I noticed straight away though. I found it very difficult to take just one shot.

There was no single/continuous switch. There was also no exposure lock. It didn’t feature an exposure compensation dial. The only way of catering for backlight was to adjust the set film speed.

It was an engineering and ergonomic marvel, but a bit disappointing for a photographer. Contax released their 137 the next year. The Contax had a built-in winder with a single/continuous switch, exposure lock and compensation dial.

My meagre wages were not able to support running through film at the rate that I would have with the FS-1. I ended up buying an Autoreflex TC.

Conventional backup

Konica covered their backs by producing a sister model the following year. The FC-1 had a conventional wind-on and the option of an autowinder that bolted on to the bottom of the body. I’ve never used one, but it seems to me that it shares much that is wrong with the FS-1 with fewer of the ergonomic saving graces. Another follow-up was the FP-1 program which was pretty much the same camera, but without any control of the exposure system.

A saving grace

In 1983 Konica discontinued all of their current SLR models and introduced the FT-1 Motor.

FT-1 Motor top-plate controls. The silver button near the pentaprism operates the self-timer, the power switch is to its right. If you hold down the little tab with the orange dot you can move the switch to the AE L(ock) position. A selector for single or continuous drive is also present.

You could have a large grip with AA batteries, or the smaller standard one fitted with AAA batteries. The FT-1 fixes a lot of the issues with the FS-1. It has a switch for single or continuous drive. As well as an exposure lock, it has a compensation dial. It is the camera Konica should have produced four years earlier.

Over on the left, controls for setting ISO values and exposure compensation

It still didn’t have depth of field preview or speeds in the viewfinder, and although they had done programmed exposure in the FP-1, they didn’t offer multimode exposure here.

The FS-1 and FT-1 motor in practice.

Ergonomically these are lovely cameras and with its extra controls the FT-1 Motor is a highly capable photographer’s camera. The lack of a depth-of-field preview is a shame. I can only guess that the complications of dealing with a new metering system and an autowinder was seen as an adventure too far. The tripod bush is way off the line of the lens, but is quite acceptable in use.

Note the difference in profile of the grip. A larger grip to take AA batteries was also available for the FT-1 Motor. The rewind crank for the FS-1 is positively monumental.

Controls fall easily to hand, with the shutter speed selector on both cameras being easily operable by the thumb of the right hand. Operation of the exposure lock on the FT-1 Motor is more awkward than it was on earlier trap-needle Konica SLRs, but after its omission on the FS-1, I’m just glad to see it reappear.

The automatic film loading really works well. Flash synch is lower than earlier cameras; limited to 1/60 for most flashes. The camera will automatically set synch to 1/100 when certain dedicated Konica flashes are attached and ready to fire, but those flashes are going to be hen’s-teeth rare 40 years on.

There is less overlap of the shutter speed dial on the FT-1 Motor, but the dial can still be turned easily with a thumb. Both cameras feature a little ‘safely loaded’ LED, but it switched from the left to the right of the body. The FT-1 Motor gained a mechanical film travel indicator built into the rear door. Note that Konica were still using a cut-out in the base of the camera for loading.

On the whole these are well-built cameras, and you get a real feeling of solidity.

These were, however, relatively early electronic devices and it shows.


The electronics of the FS-1 are very sensitive to voltage. It is possible to ‘fry’ the circuitry by using batteries that produce less than the optimal 6v. This sounds a bit counter-intuitive, but apparently some components will work at a lower voltage, but others won’t. If they are not all working together, it can over-stress the system. There is a clear warning in the battery compartment to avoid 1.2v NiCd batteries. There is also the possibility over time that the dropping voltage curve of alkaline batteries will damage the camera. The camera should shut itself down before it gets to this point, but a lot of FS-1 cameras seem to have fried meters.

Under the hood of the FS-1. Not a cog, cam or pully in sight, but WOW, that looks complex! Lots of soldered wires. It is a bit of a wonder that any of them ever worked… Perhaps this is why they didn’t go for extra exposure controls…

I have three FS-1 cameras. Only one has consistently working LEDs in the viewfinder. The motors can also be an issue. The FS-1 was produced in three main batches. Each became more reliable. Serial numbers below 345000 are regarded as most delicate, while those over 420000 are supposed to be the most reliable. Perversely, my best FS-1 is an early one…

Much simpler under the base-plate. Note that the ‘mini-motor’ for the mirror and shutter (which is where the tripod bush would normally be) appears to be a Copal component.  The motor assembly for winding film on is beneath the white polythene gears on the left.

FT-1 Motor

Twenty years ago I was shooting a wedding for a family friend and both my normally reliable mechanical Konica SLRs developed faults. My father saved the day by handing me his FT-1 Motor. Now that camera has come to me, and I’m sorry to say the meter no longer works. It also seems to need a definite rest between exposures. It is sad that my dad’s old FT-1 Motor seems to have succumbed to age.

There are reports that, due to corrosion and the breakdown of gaskets, the connections between flexible circuit boards used under the top cover of the FT-1 Motor can deteriorate. The internet suggests that the gaskets can be replaced and that the connections can be cleaned up. I haven’t tried it yet. In the interim I’m using the FT-1 Motor as a manual exposure camera.

Under the top-plate of the FT-1 Motor: much better laid out than the FS-1, with far less soldered wires. The arrows show the location of the clamps where the gaskets break down and contacts may need cleaning. Two of them are reasonably accessible, but the other is under the green circuit board, which needs to be removed to access it.


Please note that lenses used are from memory (how we come to rely of EXIF…)


Burning some rubber at a practice day at Brands Hatch. Hexanon 200mm with Vivitar x2 converter.
Foot passage under the south bank side of Westminster Bridge. This arch always makes for a good frame, but because of that you sometimes have to wait for film crews to finish up… Hexanon 40mm.
Twin-seat Spitfire at Duxford with propeller spun up and ready to taxi out. Heaxanon 200mm.
The Thames is supposed to be one of the cleanest metropolitan rivers in the world. Not sure about playing on the sand at low tide though… Hexanon 40mm.
The London Eye. Originally intended as a temporary attraction for the Millennium, it is still going strong 23 years later. Hexanon 40mm.
Sightseeing boats moored-up mid-river. The weird (and occasionally wonderful) buildings of the City of London can be seen beyond Blackfriars Bridge. Hexanon 40mm.

FT-1 Motor

The Eastern end of the Great Hall at Eltham Palace. The Great Hall is the oldest inhabitable bit of Eltham Palace, having been built in the 1470s in additions commissioned by Edward IV. Hexanon 40mm.
Steps up from the Moat/Garden area up to the entrance level for Eltham Palace – this would be part of the 1930’s renovations. Zenitar 16mm fisheye on AR2 ‘Praktica’ adapter.
Gate into the gardens at Eltham Palace. Hexanon 40mm.
Bridge over the moat on the north side of the palace. Hexanon 40mm.
Stained glass at the west end of the Great Hall. Hexanon 40mm.
Tulip Staircase, Queen’s House at Greenwich. Vivitar 28mm.


Innovative and reliable are not necessarily natural bed-fellows. If you pick up either of these cameras without them having been film tested, be aware that there is potential for issues with the electronics.

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12 thoughts on “Konica FS-1 and FT-1 review – The Shape of Things to Come”

  1. I specifically bought a FT-1 to add to my collection of cameras with the knowledge it might not work. However, I had read about the gaskets. So when it arrived it was alive but not functional. Took the top off and went about changing the three gaskets. Two are easy and the third requires you to start lifting a circuit board to get to that third one under. Still on a scale of 1-5 in difficulty I’d put it at a 2. The camera now works normally.

    1. Since I wrote this piece, I did have a go at the gaskets.
      My dad’s old FT-1 had two issues – one that the metering was not working and secondly that the camera would need a few minutes between taking each exposure.
      For any third parties reading this, the gaskets turn to mush, but what causes the problem is corrosion between the copper contacts which are clamped together under the gasket. It isn’t the greatest method of connection, and these days would be done with a zif (zero insertion force) connector, but this was 40 years back. Basically the clamps need removing, the gunge and verdegris needs to be cleaned off and then the contact needs to be re-made with pressure from the clamps softened slightly by replacement gasket material.
      I started off tackling the two ‘easy’ gaskets and later on did another ‘dive’ for the more inaccessible one. There is a Youtube video which was very helpful, but it shows a wire (the blue one in my picture) being un-soldered at the front edge of the green board- I was glad to be able to get to the last gasket without needing to do that. Given that I didn’t need to unsolder anything, I’d not disagree with your ‘2’ rating (but I’d place it maybe at the higher end of 2…)
      My FT-1 now meters fine in the viewfinder, and the shutter no longer requires a rest between shots, but the camera stops the lens down fully regardless of what the meter shows – so I think something else has gone.
      I’ll keep the camera purely for the sentimental value.

  2. Castelli Daniel

    Hi Bob,
    I never used Konica cameras, but in 1981 I grabbed my ideal job: I was hired to teach both graphic design & photography at a small high school in Connecticut. The school system had purchased Konica TC cameras w/50mm lenses. They were great student cameras! Tough little buggers. I recall one student having the TC-1, he shot lots of skate board action. I remember him because he went on to shoot freelance for Newsweek magazine after serving in the US Army as a filmmaker. The Konica was more of a user friendly camera; it took over 5 years of hard student wear/abuse to kill them off.

  3. I own the rare Pro Half version of this camera. They used to give them out on staff meetings (not even in Konica catalogue).
    Mine is in absolute mint condition. Works flawlessly for 4 years I own it now. The copal shutter of this camera is amazing… best of the best. Other electronics desire better. Exposure tend to under-expose… But otherwise for me – a gem of a camera…if you can find it in better condition.

    1. I’ve heard of it, but never seen one. Does it use a full-size mirror?

      My understanding was that Konica released these special edition versions on significant anniversaries for the company – and that they were generally for top salesmen… it is not impossible that that was for 100 (or 110?) years.

  4. I read this blog one thing I really like it is, you are doing your job well. If you keep working like this, your side will get traffic and DA million😍😍

  5. I have a complete collection of Konica SLR bodies, including a working FS-1 and a (repaired) working FT-1. I’ve read that these newer bodies were actually manufactured by Cosina.
    The construction of these bodies and shutters lives almost to this day, in Voigtlander Bessa cameras…

    1. I know that the TC-X was manufactured by Cosina and I have seen suggestions that the Auto S3 and the 40mm f/1.8 standard lens that was introduced with the FS-1 were also produced by Cosina.

      I’ve not seen any reports that the FS-1 and FT-1 were produced by Cosina though. I’d be quite surprised if they were, as companies tend to want their new and top-line products in-house at least at the start of production. It is notable that the TC-X was a very differently designed camera from the Konica ‘norm’ while the FS-1 carried lots of design features (stuff like the catch for the back and the cutout in the camera base). There was also the FC-1 and FP-1…

      The shutters were all made by Copal as far as I’m aware. Konica had passed Copal some technology/patents back before the Copal Square shutter was first produced, but although Konica got good access (they had the compact version of the square shutter first for the original TC), the shutter was widely used by other companies as well.

      That said there would be no shame in being manufactured by Cosina, who were/are a highly capable manufacturer and grinder of glass.

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