Konica Auto S2 and FP4 plus
5 frames with...

5 Frames with Konica Auto S2 and Ilford FP4+ – By Kevin Ortner

August 12, 2020

Some people drive home from work, park their car somewhere on the street, go inside, do whatever they do, sleep, wake up, eat, and get in their car knowing it will turn on and get them to work again and again… Those people drive a Konica Auto S2. It’s a camera that will never be cool with the kids, never classic enough for the collector, but it will get you from point A to B.

OK, so it looks nicer than a Toyota Corolla or whatever other reliable car works with my car analogy, but I just wanted a cheap rangefinder camera to try out to see if I liked the experience. The lens is a bit wobbly and has been reported to be so on other reviews. The built in lens hood is missing (or maybe it was an accessory?). The viewfinder is bright, but not the brightest I’ve seen. The settings are a bit annoying to adjust individually. With all of these questionable qualities, I was wondering if I was getting a lemon. But… The lens. The Lens. The Truffula Lens! (OK so, I have a toddler and we quite enjoy reading The Lorax).

The lens is a 45mm f/1.8 Hexanon and  I have always been impressed with the results–sharp with good contrast. I believe the ad for this camera was along the lines of, “The lens alone is worth the price”. Of course, this would have been directed to the consumer market and probably cost $800+ in today’s money. I paid $40 CAD  two years ago and would gladly pay more if another came up near me. Maybe like $60?

I have only shot the Konica Auto S2 with manual settings, so I can’t speak for the Auto part of the name. The shutter is very quiet and might be one of the quietest I have used. That means nothing because I am biased. In fact, when I release the shutter, the camera whispers sweet nothings in my ear. Speaking of which, pressing the shutter always feels so inconsequential. If I continued with a car analogy, it’s like turning on an electric vehicle. The film advance lever is somewhere between good and bad. It does the job well, but I don’t feel emotions when using it… should I?  Finally, the viewfinder is enjoyable to use, but I suspect focusing would be much easier if I didn’t wear glasses as the eye relief is not optimal for my frames. When there is a sharp or contrasting line near or on the subject, focusing is a breeze.

Last year, we visited Long Beach, WA for the 4th or 5th time. The location is beautiful and charming, and a perfect place to fly a kite. I brought with me the Konica and some Ilford FP4+. This film is excellent for enlargements as it is quite sharp and has fine grain. The contrast is quite pleasing as well. Since I can’t access the darkroom to develop and enlarge during this pandemic, I am learning how to digitize film with my dSLR. Here are some of the first I tried:

men flying kites

Long Beach, WA or Kite Beach as my daughter would call it.

kites and beach

Long Beach, WA. There was even a Canada flag flying with the kites!

Cape Disappointment Light House

Cape Disappointment Light House.

kid on beach with kites

Registered flyers only beyond this point

Kid with Binoculars

I see a bird taking a picture of me!

Aside from the excellent lens, the camera is good. I would recommend the Konica Auto S2 to someone wanting a camera that they can grab, go, snap beautiful pictures, and not worry about it throughout the day. If it were lost, the thought should be, “crap, I lost my film somewhere”.

Thanks for reading!

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19 Comments

  • Reply
    John Collins
    August 12, 2020 at 10:37 am

    Almost identical in looks to the Minolta 7S rangefinder which I picked up recently from an antique shop for £30. running a b&w Ilford HP5 through it at the moment.

    • Reply
      Kevin Ortner
      August 12, 2020 at 2:32 pm

      Yeah, many of the rangefinders from this era followed similar design formats. There seemed to be more creativity in the look and sometimes functionality of cameras from the 50s. I suspect the Minolta will perform well if all is working. Happy shooting!

    • Reply
      Lee
      August 18, 2020 at 7:04 pm

      I have a Minolta HiMatic 7s and I was thinking the exact same thing. Camera is big, but not too big. Viewfinder is bright, but not too bright. Also has 45mm f/1.8 lens, which renders images beautifully. Definitely among the “Toyota Corolla” class of rangefinders.

  • Reply
    Terry B
    August 12, 2020 at 10:52 am

    Kevin, your article brought back some memories. Firstly, I acquired an S2 many years ago, probably late 1970’s or early 1980’s, and my perception of it is the same as yours, particularly regarding the somewhat sloppy lens barrel/shutter unit. I picked it up very cheaply as the shop thought that this was a faulty unit. And in those days there wasn’t an ebay selling faulty or repair items at silly (high) prices, so if a camera was perceived as being uneconomically viable for repair it either went into a bin or was sold off really cheaply. From what you are saying, this “fault” seems it could have been fairly normal. I never did use it, but still have it! I actually think it is a rather smart looking camera of its type with its quite simple lines.
    The second memory derives from your shots of the kite flyers. One year, returning to the port of Calais at the end of a holiday, we were driving the coastal roads northwards and happened upon Berck-sur-Mer. We didn’t know it, but it holds an annual kite flying festival and it was truly magnificent seeing all the different kites on display and the flying skills of their owners which were truly amazing. All the colour on a gloriously sunny, and windy day, was a joy to behold.
    I love your take on the lighthouse, a little different to a more usual straightforward shot of a lighthouse. The little bit of “nature” added to the scene adds interest and depth.
    Thanks for posting.

    • Reply
      Kevin Ortner
      August 12, 2020 at 2:44 pm

      Thanks for your comments and I am happy to bring up some positive memories. These photos were also at an annual kite festival and I completely agree with your feelings to the one you came across. For anyone out there reading this… attend a kite festival!

      I’d recommend giving the Konica a go if it is still working!

  • Reply
    L.C.
    August 12, 2020 at 10:57 am

    Nice pictures

    • Reply
      Kevin Ortner
      August 12, 2020 at 2:45 pm

      Thanks!

  • Reply
    Justin Compton
    August 12, 2020 at 11:27 am

    Hi Kevin,
    Nice article and photos . I’ve been using the Ricoh 500g which seems quite similar aside from lens, the Ricoh has a 2.8, i love it but i might look to pick up one of these for those occasions when an extra stop would be useful.
    I love a cheap but quality camera and don’t care for fashion!
    Thanks for posting

    • Reply
      Kevin Ortner
      August 12, 2020 at 3:07 pm

      Thanks, Justin.

      If you see a good deal on the S2, I’d say go for it. The true beauty in these “cheap” cameras is that they yield the same results (more or less) as with high end film cameras when you use the same film. You’re just stuck with a fixed lens that may wobble a bit!

      • Reply
        Justin Compton
        August 12, 2020 at 4:47 pm

        The Ricoh also has a fixed lens that wobbles a bit so no bother there!

  • Reply
    Jonathan Leavitt
    August 12, 2020 at 12:10 pm

    Your article brings back memories… More than 50 years ago, my dad gave me a Konica Auto S2 when I first got interested in photography. I didn’t use it very long before upgrading to a Nikon F. But the leaf shutters have a lot to recommend them, and the price we paid in vibration and retrofocus lens design for reflex viewfinders in the Nikon F no longer seems worth it to me. It would seem the market could use a simple leaf rangefinder like the Konica.

    • Reply
      Kevin Ortner
      August 12, 2020 at 3:24 pm

      There is much to be desired with the Nikon F, which is probably why it had one of the longest running lines in SLR history if not camera history. I think in the professional world, the focal plane shutters are more versatile for speed and for even exposure.

      However….. I agree that the leaf shutters are worth recommending for many reasons. My favourite cameras are leaf shutters and cameras like the Konica S2 will always win in my book for the simplicity you mention. (Also because it is a fixed lens and prevents me from wanting to buy lenses!)

  • Reply
    Mike Shall
    August 13, 2020 at 2:00 am

    I bought a Konica Auto S2 in 1966 at Central Camera in Chicago. Yes, the same Central that was just looted and burned. I had several issues with mine. First, the film advance gears broke and had to be replaced. Then, the entire internal focusing mechanism came apart inside the camera. I gave up and bought a Nikkormat. The Auto S2 took fine pictures when it worked properly.

    • Reply
      Kevin Ortner
      August 13, 2020 at 3:28 pm

      After looking up Central Camera, it is great to see the kindness pouring out towards the shop owner.

      As for the Konica, I am happy mine is still working properly. I suspect the previous owners rarely used it given the condition it came in.
      Do you recall if the lens hood was built on or an add-on purchase?

      • Reply
        Michael Shall
        August 14, 2020 at 1:42 am

        Lens hood was an integral pull out on mine. You could not remove it from the camera. By the way, I bought the camera new.And it’s true-the lens alone was worth the price. I think I paid about $110.00 for the camera, hard leather case and a flash bulb attachment.

  • Reply
    adventure!
    August 13, 2020 at 7:31 am

    I second the opinion on how similar the Konica Auto S2 and Minolta Hi-Matic 7s cameras are! I own the 7s so I guess I’m biased.

    And ironically enough, I just visited the Long Beach Peninsula and Cape Disappointment with my Hi-Matic 7s last weekend! (Though I used Kentmere 400 instead.) I’m eager to see how the shots came out.

    • Reply
      Kevin Ortner
      August 13, 2020 at 3:15 pm

      It’s such a beautiful place and the town has lots of character. Feel free to share your images if you get scans!

      It’s also good to be biased towards a camera as it slows the desire to want more cameras a bit. Except, I keep seeing 7s this and 7s that…now I want one.

      • Reply
        adventure!
        August 13, 2020 at 7:56 pm

        Hey Kevin- I don’t know if there’ll be much difference between the S2 and the 7S. But it seems like that Hi-Matic 7S is still fairly affordable. If you are looking, I’d also keep my eye on the Hi-Matic 9, which is essentially the same camera with a slightly faster lens.

        • Reply
          Kevin Ortner
          August 13, 2020 at 10:11 pm

          I’m always looking. It’s a curse!

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