Guest Reviews Point & Shoot

Konica AA-35 Reporter Review – By John Furlong

I’ve always been attracted to the half-frame format and have examples of the Russian variants and the Canon and Olympus models. I was particularly interested in the Konica AA-35 due to its very compact format – truly ‘pocketable’ Measuring 112.5mm x 77mm x 30mm (4.4” x 3” x 1.2”) and weighing about 300gm with its 2 AA batteries, it compares very favourably with many of its analogue brethren – not to mention some digital P&S cameras.

The camera first appeared on the market in 1984 and was offered in two finishes – black with a grid pattern printed on it or a gold metallic finish (‘champagne’ according to the brochures!) There are no exposed controls sticking out to catch on the pocket or exhibit vulnerability to damage as is apparent from the illustrations above. Accidental exposure is prevented as it’s necessary to slide the case open before the shutter button becomes active.

The sliding case cover can’t be moved until a spring loaded catch is held down. With the cover slid away to the left, the film speed setting switch on the back of the camera and the film rewind switch on the base are revealed.

The lens and various sensor windows are revealed on the front. There’s also an LED located on the back which indicates film rewind – this is visible through a small hole in the sliding cover even when the cover is in its closed position. A woven wrist strap is very securely attached to the body on the righthand side of the camera.

Guided Tour

The viewfinder is bright and clear – there’s only a framing rectangle and an LED which serves as a low light indicator. The low light warning kicks in at EV10 – but it’s just a warning. Unlike some of the Olympus Pen series, the shutter isn’t disabled so you can go ahead and make an exposure. Also, unlike many other half-frame cameras, the viewfinder and frame orientation are in landscape format.

The top of the camera has a flash ready indicator, the frame counter window (with a magnifying lens – nice touch!) and the shutter release. The frame counter resets when the film compartment is opened. As regards the shutter release, a right-handed user will have no difficulty in using the camera in either landscape or portrait orientation. For a left-handed user, it’s possible to access the shutter button if the camera is turned ‘upside down’ – i.e. with the viewfinder at the ‘bottom’ of the camera.

A word of warning is necessary here. As the viewfinder is at the ‘bottom’ of the camera then the greater (and heavier) part of the camera is now at the ’top’. This may make the camera little more uncomfortable and awkward to hold and there’s also the possibility of placing a finger over the flash and auto exposure/focus sensors.

It’s an ‘auto-everything’ camera – auto wind/rewind, auto exposure and auto focus. Exposure is measured with a CdS cell, so should be pretty reliable with a camera of this age. The exposure and two auto focus sensors windows are revealed when the sliding cover is opened. I must confess to being skeptical about the auto focus part of the specification – despite the presence of the auto focus sensor windows! I reckoned it was a bit of advertising hype and any ‘auto focus’ ability was due to the focal length of the lens (24mm) rather than any sophisticated electro-mechanical system. However, on closer inspection my skepticism was proved totally unwarranted…the lens does actually move when the shutter button is depressed. Pretty impressive to get such a mechanism into a space which can’t be much more than about 15mm deep! Focus range is 0.9m (3 feet) to infinity.

Aperture settings (f/4 – f/16) and shutter speeds (stepless from 1/60th to 1/250th) are controlled by the autoexposure system . Film speeds (100, 200 and 400ASA) are set by means of a switch on the back of the camera. The switch has well defined click stop positions – no chance of an intermediate film speed setting. I have found some descriptions of the camera which state that it uses DX coding. I can’t find any sensor tabs in the film compartment on my camera and there’s no mention of it in the manual.

The flash (GN12 @ 100ASA) is controlled by a slide switch on the left hand side of the camera. This switch, in common with the case slide lock and the film compartment catch are all very positive in operation, thus reducing the chance of embarrassing errors! Flash range is 0.9m (3 feet) to 4.5m (15 feet)

Sample Images

Elliott Hall, Hatch End (HP5+ in Rodinal)

Redbourn, Hertfordshire (HP5+ in Rodinal)

The Natural History Museum, South Kensington – Earth Galleries entrance (HP5+ in Rodinal)

Exhibition Road, South Kensington (HP5+ in Rodinal)

Overall Impressions

Some caution is necessary when changing the batteries as the cover on the compartment must be slid forward fully – otherwise it could easily break. Several of the ‘spares or repairs’ examples of the AA-35 currently on eBay seem to share this problem…
Apart from that, it’s a very solid, well engineered camera – in short – a delight to use.

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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Terry B
    April 15, 2018 at 11:35 am

    This is a camera that I find incomprehensible to understand why people like it. And this is why it is even more incomprehensible to understand what people are allegedly prepared to pay for it. But this is what Japan Camera Hunter said in concluding a 2012 review: “If you get the chance to shoot with one of these little gems you should certainly try, you will not regret it.”

    This is where I disagree. The chances are, having shelled out a substantial sum to get it, you will find its imaging capabilities sub-standard. No matter which way one wraps it up, or hypes it, 1/2 frame doesn’t cut it in the IQ stakes. This is not the fault, per se, of the camera, but the film format. Oh, haven’t I mentioned it, I do own one. I purchased it, used, about 25 years ago, put one cassette of Ektachrome through it, and having seen the results it was immediately retired to be a curiosity in my camera collection. But what of the camera itself?

    Pros:
    1. Easily pocketable, with not protrusions.
    2. Surprisingly comfortable to hold and shoot.
    3. Provides landscape format as standard when hand-held in normal position.
    4. Very good exposure accuracy, as evidenced by my slides.
    5. Easy to load film.
    6. Manual flash on/off. Reasonable GN of 12.
    7. Non DX coded, film speeds set manually. Using 200 ASA, gives +/- 1 stop of compensation.
    8. Doesn’t lock up at predetermined number of frames; uses all the film to maximise frame count.
    9. Uses readily available AA batteries.
    10. Looks good!

    Cons:
    1. Noisy motorwind, so not a stealth camera, although frame wind on can be held back until finger taken off the shutter release.
    2. Questionable focusing accuracy. I have a feeling that AF is not stepless, but selects from a series of pre-set focus points. I may be wrong, but with such depth of field from the 24mm lens, I couldn’t really detect an actual point of focus, so I suspect DoF is being used to camouflage or overlap.
    3. Slowest film speed is 100; 50 would have been nice.
    4. It’s 1/2 frame.

    • Reply
      John Furlong
      April 15, 2018 at 1:22 pm

      Thanks for your thoughts Terry.
      I’m sure we all have cameras in our collections which prompt the thought ‘…why the hell did I buy that ?…’ It’s the ‘curiosity’ element which so often prompt the purchase which ends up being filed under ‘buy in haste and repent at leisure’ !

      When writing the piece I was comparing the AA-35 to other 1/2 frame cameras that I have, so I’m accepting the basic limitations of the format. For me, it’s a useful ‘pocket notebook’ – far more pocketable (as we both agree…) than other 1/2 frame models.

      I’m very encouraged by your assessment of its exposure accuracy – reversal film is so much less ‘forgiving’ than colour or b/w negative.

      In terms of your ‘Cons’ I’m not too bothered about the noise factor or film speed limitations. I certainly share your reservations about the focus mechanism. As I noted in my piece, I was initially sceptical about the ‘autofocus’ element of the spec. I’m also cheered by the fact that your ‘Pros’ outweigh your ‘Cons’
      Give it reprieve – dig it out of the cupboard and put a roll of FP4+ through it.

      Cheers,

      John F.

  • Reply
    Terry B
    April 17, 2018 at 10:53 am

    Hi, John.
    As you realised, my issue with it is 1/2 frame and its lens. Other than this, it is a funky little camera and if one does accept this limitation, and to my mind, quite poor IQ, then I don’t have a good enough reason not to get this over competing 1/2 frame cameras, save cameras with good manual focus lenses, or for that matter, the much smaller and pocketable, Tessina 35, or a Pen F. I fully appreciate that these two cameras, particularly the Tessina on grounds of its collector status and hence price, are in a different ball park, but my Tessina does throw up an issue with the AA-35’s lens, and which I’ve been thinking about since my first post, and it may not only be down to its AF performance, but perhaps it’s not that hot a lens in the first place. So an issue not entirely related to the 1/2 format per se, however limiting this is in other respects.
    My Tessina is very much smaller and produced far sharper results from its f2.8/25mm lens. The same is true from my sub-min Rollei 16S which has an even smaller negative, just 17x14mm, but has a Tessar. Results based on my favourite medium speed film, FP4 and developed in Aculux (what a great shame this is no longer available) each show what is achievable from 1/2 frame and smaller, with careful exposure (don’t over expose) critical focusing, and proper development. Decent 6×4 prints can be the result.
    Thanks for the suggestion that I run some FP4+ through the AA-35. Sadly, IMO, a waste of a good film. :D) And knowing beforehand what roughly to expect, I don’t fancy the time taken to get through 76 or so meaningful exposures and then develop the film only to end up with what I knew would happen!
    I did buy another 1/2 frame job last May, a Meisuppi Half, to add to my collection, for just £4.75. Going by what people seem to be asking for them now, I nabbed quite a bargain it would seem. A very basic camera indeed, but I could just be tempted when the weather gets a lot better to give it a spin. I won’t expect much so can’t be disappointed.

    • Reply
      John Furlong
      April 17, 2018 at 3:20 pm

      Hi Terry,

      I checked the spec for the AA-35 in the manual. It claims to have a ’ 4 groups, 4 element’ lens, but no doubt there’s plenty of scope
      for quality variations (producing down to a price) when designing a camera that’s intended as a mass market item.
      The Tessina is a truly lovely piece of engineering – lucky man !

      I hope the Meisuppi exceeds your expectations ;0)
      Judging by the example currently on offer on eBay, you did EXTREMELY well to pick up one at £4.75

      Cheers,
      John F.

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