We all love cameras and film. Most of us spend hours searching for detailed reviews of a prospective camera we might be interested in purchasing, searching for a specific need or function, e.g., size, lens, control, ergonomics, etc. A decent camera review is usually the determining factor on wether we buy the camera or not. The single most important factor determining a purchase, for me, is image quality…and we all know image quality is determined by the glass. I always look at the photo a camera makes for the last word. Enter the Konica Auto S3.
The Konica Auto S3 makes my favorite images of any camera I have ever used in 35mm format. The S3 has a fast f/1.8, 38mm, six-element four-group lens, and to quote Modern Photography, “One of the best semi-wide angle optics of its speed we have ever tested. All apertures demonstrated center values between 64 to 82 lines per millimeter of resolution providing Leica-class performance.” Now, I have no idea what that means, and I don’t really care. All that matters to me is how the photo looks when I’m looking at it, and every photo from the Konica Auto S3 is damn pretty. Since they mention Leica class performance with the glass, I’m glad the Konica costs about $1000 less than a Leica. The Konica goes for around 200 bucks.
Now that we have the most important factor settled, I’ll tell you about the guts of the Konica Auto S3. My user experience. It’s a black anodized aluminum body that feels solid. It’s small. One of the smallest rangefinders around. I was able to shove it in my front jeans pocket. It bulged quite a bit, but I’m a happy-to-see-you kinda guy. I mentioned it’s a rangefinder. It doesn’t have the brightest finder, but it does the trick. I’ve never had an issue finding focus. One interesting thing is the shutter priority mode the camera is forever at, hence Auto in the name. This might be an issue for people who prefer to shoot in aperture priority or require full manual control. The viewfinder shows an analog needle of your aperture. It’s a breeze to get used to and control the aperture by adjusting shutter speed which is a ring on the lens. Since it’s a leaf shutter you can handhold it down to whatever your steady hand can handle. I shoot it at 1/8 hand-held and photos are still sharp. One feature that is a must for me is exposure lock. The Konica has it. Just half press the shutter button and your exposure is locked until you push it the rest of the way. The meter is accurate enough to shoot slides. You can take a picture with the lens cap on, but you’d have to be blind to do it – the analog meter in the viewfinder will be in the red, well below the 1.8 aperture marking. Even though the meter is not TTL, the meter is located on the lens barrel just above the glass so you don’t need to compensate for filters. This also saves battery power. I’ve had the same battery for the last two years. If the battery goes the camera can shoot, the aperture stays fixed at f/1.8. Even with the quirks of a shutter priority camera, the Konica is lightning fast to compose and shoot. Speed is good.
I have over 50 film cameras. Many of them I sell off to try new ones out. The Konica Auto S3 will never be sold. I always have it with me. It’s an excellent travel camera and street shooter for its size and stealth. The shutter is a whispery click you can hardly hear. I love this camera and rave about it all the time to my friends. People are usually impressed when they see the images it makes. If you are looking for a small camera with excellent glass that packs a huge punch, check out this Konica Auto S3. It’s pretty tough – I even carry it in my bunker pants when I’m firefighting.