This is a Konica Z-up 100w. Don’t be surprised if you’ve not seen one before; I hadn’t when I bought it for a few pounds. It’s a 35mm film compact with a 28-100mm zoom lens and multi-zone auto-focus. Possibly made in the early 1990s, there’s virtually no trace of it on the internet. Nobody seems to have reviewed or commented on it, perhaps because there aren’t many around, or maybe it’s so forgettable it’s not worth the effort. However, I did find a photo on flickr of the camera helpfully resting on a couple of pages of the instruction manual and I could read the main specifications.
I don’t know the country of manufacture or how much it cost new, but the Konica Z-up 100w has most of the features you would expect in a mid-range plastic compact of this period. These days, we’re so used to picking up used cameras of this type for pocket money it’s easy to forget that, back in the 1990s, people would pay surprisingly large amounts for compacts from a respected company. The Konica Z-up range of cameras, and there were several, covered various focal lengths and designs. For all I know you might have had to hand over as much as £200/$250 for this particular model…?
The Konica Z-up 100w lens has five groups of five elements and is f/5 at 28mm and f/10.9 at 100mm. Shutter speeds are ¼ to 1/500. Closest shooting distance is 0.6m. DX reading is ISO 50-3200 and defaults to ISO 100. There’s no option to manually input ISO. On the top there’s an LCD showing battery level, frame counter, and the various modes set by two little buttons. There’s the usual selection of flash settings available plus landscape mode, self-timer and red-eye reduction. It takes a CR2 battery and has auto-load, auto-wind/rewind and mid-roll rewind if you need it. It also has a plastic slider on the top of the viewfinder for diopter adjustment.
Using the Konica Z-up 100w
When testing an unknown camera there’s a temptation to slot in a roll of expired or low quality film to save money, but it makes sense to give the camera a fair chance with good film – so as I had some Kodak Portra 400, that’s what I used.
The first thing I noticed when shooting the Konica Z-up 100w was that your eye has to be exactly in the right position for the small viewfinder, otherwise it blacks out. Secondly, whilst the zoom is noisy, it gets you to 100mm in a couple of seconds. If you don’t use the zoom, it’s a quiet camera. Sometimes I wasn’t even sure the shutter had operated as it was so quiet. That said, it has a bright red AF red illuminator which activates in dim conditions which you have to be aware of if trying to be discrete with it. The viewfinder shows distortion of the image when at wide angle, and straight lines were worryingly bent. I could only hope the lens itself didn’t suffer the same problem.
The Konica Z-up 100w not a large camera – although it’s quite a bit bigger than say an Olympus XA2 – so you have to watch your fingers don’t get in the way of anything important at the front. I wouldn’t say ergonomics are a strong point. On the plus side, it powers up rapidly and shoots a frame almost immediately, and it only takes a moment to disable flash using the left hand chrome button on the top. Alternatively, you can just press the mode button once which puts the camera in a landscape/no flash/no AF illuminator mode.
Undeniably, it has a slow lens which is a limitation, so I needed to help it along with the reasonably fast Portra 400 and the generous lighting offered by a bright afternoon in Oxford. It does have flash but it seems pretty weak.
For me, the intriguing thing about trying an obscure and forgotten 35mm compact is that you don’t know how the lens is going to perform. I was hoping I wasn’t wasting a perfectly good roll of Portra 400, but I didn’t count on the Z-up 100w being anything special.
Having received the negs back scanned by the lab, and I’ll stick my neck out and say I think the results are good for a superficially rather ordinary if well-made compact zoom with 28mm wide angle. And not just at the wide end, looking again at the shot of the boathouse across the river it copes well at 100mm too.
Before seeing the results I was prepared to write that in normal day-time conditions it will be satisfactory for the sort of general family photography it was designed for. Actually, it does better than that – to my eyes the overall quality of the images the camera produces is attractive. Yes, the edges do go soft at 28mm but I don’t mind that too much, and it’s not like this isn’t very common of zoom compacts. The latitude of the Kodak Portra helps of course, but it seems that in reasonably illuminated conditions you can be confident about taking shots with this Konica Z-up 100w.
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