Point & Shoot

A review of the Konica Z-up 100w compact – by Charles Higham

Konica Z-up 100w

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.

Konica Z-up 100w

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…?

Konica Z-up 100w

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.

Konica Z-up 100w

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.

Keble Road

The Ballroom Emporium

University College boathouse

College boathouses

Double scull

100mm zoom to boathouse on the other side of the river

Hertford College boathouse interior

Grandpont House

New building at St John’s College

Someone important seems to be taking a close interest in this urban nature reserve.

Punts from Magdalen Bridge

Conclusion

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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11 Comments

  • Reply
    Terry B
    October 9, 2018 at 3:56 pm

    Charles,
    When I read your opening comment about not being surprised if, we readers, hadn’t seen one before, and neither had you, I initially put this down to perhaps you weren’t around at the time when Konica Z Up cameras were myriad and plentiful. So a quick search on ebay reveals not a dicky bird about it. All the others, yes, with model numbers both below and above the 100, but of the 100 itself nary anything in sight! Really odd. Hopefully some readers may be able to shed some light on it. But now that you’ve published this info, watch them come out of the woodwork at silly (inflated) prices! :D)
    But the good news, based on the series of images that you’ve posted here, and despite its having a simple optical construction, is it seems it would have been more than capable of producing excellent 6″x 4″ prints (and even 7×5), a family staple back then. It could well suit someone wishing to put a toe in the water of film photography without having to spend too much, and knowing that the camera won’t, for the most part, let them down. Yes, the lens is slow, but used as a fair weather camera (remember the days when the family camera only came out during the summer holiday on trips to the seaside?) then it could be a winner.

    • Reply
      Charles Higham
      October 9, 2018 at 11:04 pm

      Thanks Terry. Yes indeed it’s odd that so little has been written about this particular model. And yes, in decent light the camera is perfectly capable and versatile. Most people will produce good results with it.

  • Reply
    Swapan PURKAYASTHA
    October 9, 2018 at 5:25 pm

    What is the sensor size….. Is it 1″ or APS – C ??

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      October 14, 2018 at 8:48 am

      Full frame!

  • Reply
    Nathalie Porter
    October 9, 2018 at 5:34 pm

    There are tons of such cameras out there, nothing wrong with them for what they are but for whatever reason not finding any love from the film community these days. All the hype revolves around certain cameras while other, really not that much worse, are completely forgoten.

    • Reply
      Charles Higham
      October 9, 2018 at 10:55 pm

      Thanks Nathalie. Yes, there’s a lot of hype for some cameras and consequently they shoot up in price. But as you know you can find cheap ones like this Konica and have a lot of enjoyment.

  • Reply
    Ivan B. Palli
    October 9, 2018 at 10:44 pm

    Charles, great review and very welcome as I’ve been looking for an example of this model for some time, always looking for a compact with a 28mm to-whatever zoom range. Very scarce it is, only seen three others come out on the auctions site over the past 18 months or so. There’s one currently on offer for 40 quid! No, thanks! It seems very capable, even though I’ve read the article on my phone, I’ll check the photos again on the computer. I’d say this one’s a keeper, lucky find!

    • Reply
      Charles Higham
      October 9, 2018 at 10:53 pm

      Thanks Ivan! Yes they’re pretty rare and, as mentioned in my post, very little coverage of the model online. It’s a nice little compact, but, like you, I think £40 is a lot to pay. Hope you find one.

  • Reply
    Malcolm Myers
    October 13, 2018 at 11:49 am

    An enjoyable review. At first I thought your estimate for the cost of the camera new was a bit high. However, I have a copy of Amateur Photographer from November 1996 and they have a review of the Konica Z-up 140 Super. So slightly different and perhaps a bit more upmarket. But the cost? £250. So your estimate of £200 for the cost of your camera brand new is probably not far off.

    • Reply
      Charles Higham
      October 13, 2018 at 6:18 pm

      Thanks for your comment and that interesting info Malcolm. Just shows how much people would pay for a good compact camera. Funnily enough I also have Konica Z-up 150 VP which I put some film through the other day. It has a sharp lens but once you zoom towards 150mm you get flare in the corners.

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