Rangefinders (Fixed Lens)

The Konica Auto S3 – Guest review by Mike Caputo

Konica Auto S3

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.

 

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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.

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23 Comments

  • Reply
    Hamish Gill
    August 30, 2015 at 5:44 pm

    Thanks Mike, some really great photography there!

    • Reply
      Mike Caputo
      August 31, 2015 at 6:50 am

      Thank you for having me! I really enjoyed doing my first review and I look forward to reading many more. I’ve been keeping up with past reviews and find them enjoyable and always informative.

  • Reply
    Gábor
    August 30, 2015 at 6:45 pm

    Wow, these images are really really cool. Very exotic places (to me), great subjects, composition and image quality. Also the camera is a beauty. I really like the first photo when it is placed on a bunch of flowers. I also like to put my cameras for review shoots into some unusual environment. This idea is really creative.
    Anyways, great post. Gábor

    • Reply
      Mike Caputo
      August 31, 2015 at 6:47 am

      Thank you, Gabor!

      Hawaii makes for some beautiful scenery. The camera on the flowers was shot with Velvia 100F. Can’t beat slide film in my opinion! I’m glad you enjoyed the review,

      Aloha,
      Mike

  • Reply
    Donal
    August 30, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    Great review. The Konica Auto S3 has to be one of the great cameras from the film era. I don’t own one myself but I was able to purchase its cousin, the Revue 400 SE. Everything you listed as a functional attribute of the Konica is also true of the Revue. However, I have read that the Konica has the better lens. Both cameras are absolute gems of quality engineering. Scarcely a millimetre of plastic in sight other than the rewind lever. Someday I hope you will be in a position to do a comparison of both ‘cousin’ cameras. In the meantime enjoy the wonderful and ultra-cool Konica Auto S3.

    • Reply
      Mike Caputo
      August 31, 2015 at 6:43 am

      Aloha, Donal ~

      I remember awhile back before I purchased the Konica hearing of the Revue. I’m always interested in trying new cameras so perhaps I will do a comparison someday. I have the urge to hunt on ebay now! The lens is why I bought the Konica. Such nice contrast and pop to the photos.

      All the best,
      Mike

  • Reply
    Lester
    August 31, 2015 at 7:44 am

    Great write up and photos.

  • Reply
    J-BO
    September 4, 2015 at 11:19 pm

    Enjoyed your review! I have a soft spot for Konica :). I bought my Auto S3 a month ago of some guy who inherited it and couldn’t tell me if it was still working, but turns out it was brand new and in perfect working condition. I immediately took it on a trip to Iceland and shot 5 rolls with it. A perfect and compact bring along camera. I love it and I’m keeping it!

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      September 7, 2015 at 2:53 pm

      I’d like to see those photos

      • Reply
        J-BO
        February 5, 2016 at 8:36 pm

        Hey Hamisch, I bought myself an Epson and got them scanned now. I could try and write a post to go along with a selection of the pictures if you’d like. I’m still learning though 🙂

  • Reply
    Matthew
    September 28, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    When the camera is set to B mode, is there a way to control the aperture or is it always fixed at a certain f stop?

  • Reply
    Michael Dominic K.
    December 22, 2015 at 4:44 pm

    Hey,

    After reading this review around 6 weeks ago I went straight to eBay and bought this camera from a guy in France who specialises in Canonets and similar small rangefinders. It was 250€, mint condition, CLA’ed, calibrated + some spare mercury batteries.

    It’s one of my most satisfying gear purchases so far, I absolutely love this camera. Few points:

    – The quality of the lens is truly great. At typical apertures 2-2.8 it’s sharp and shows none of the (color) fringing arficacts I sometimes get with my classic Nikon SLR lens at wide apertures. Compared to my Voigtlander 40mm f1.4 (on digital) it has much more pleasant rendering and higher contrast. It’s amazing.

    – I love this camera for it’s tiny size/weight and the beautiful pictures it produces. The size vs. power factor here is the key. I wear it on a very short leather strap around my neck and you can easily just walk around all day like that without feeling it and without looking like a dork. I kind of see it as a part of my “wear” rather than “equipment”. It’s almost a fashion statement.

    – Rangefinder design + weight make it a perfect handholdable camera. I’m shooting sometimes at 1/30 or even 1/15 and I never got a pictured blurred because of camera shake.

    – My major gripe with this camera is the lack of lock/poweron switch (the light meter always works). This means I have to keep the lens cap on when not in use, otherwise it’ll drain the battery quickly. I don’t use lens caps on my cameras (especially when wearing them) so this annoys me. It’s extra effort to remove it and the camera looks much more honest without it.

    – The extremely short rangefinder baselength can be tricky when shooting close at wide apertures. It’s definitely possible to focus a portrait at ~f1.8 but it can be inconsistent. I tend to shoot 2-3 images when I feel that the focus can be a challenge. This is true especially indoors. In general, it’s more a daylight camera.

    I run few rolls through it so far, put some pics here:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeldominic/albums/72157662629952755

    All in all, it’s a great walkabout camera, exactly what I was looking for.
    Thanks for the excellent review.

    • Reply
      Mike Caputo
      December 24, 2015 at 6:10 am

      Right on! I’m glad you enjoyed the review and camera. It’s my favorite walk-about and pocket camera (I don’t wear skinny jeans haha).
      It was cool to hear what you think about the Konica. I’ve been shooting it indoors with a flash and B&W lately and results are pretty cool.
      One thing about the lens cap and battery, I lost my over 6 months ago and the the battery is still going. I think I’ve had the same battery for a year already. I use the hearing aid battery.
      Anyway, nice to hear the feedback. I’m going to check your Flickr to see now!

  • Reply
    Fernando Filipe
    January 10, 2016 at 10:37 pm

    excellent review. and superb pictures … I was born with 35mm (1957 ) and my first camera Halina , lol then came the Yashica Electro tl , Canon AF program … and digital this year bought the Fuji X100 and was KO’d with the quality . two months after I bought the X100T … the heavyweights were in the closet. Fuji did return the spell of analog and started buying small 35mm (Olympus mju II, Olympus 35 RC . Minolta Hi MATC E and now this Konica Auto S3 …. beautiful, prrta as X100T … even smaller . .. excellent buy € 60 … a miracle , I sent do a scan and am willing to put up rolls … b & w slide !!!! parabens for its review.

  • Reply
    [ Konica ] Konica Auto S3
    April 5, 2016 at 7:31 pm

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  • Reply
    Marcin
    April 30, 2016 at 8:11 pm

    Tks for reminding me why I love this tiny beauty.
    I have never shot a slide film with it but I definitely will try after having seen some lovely pics of yours.
    Cheers

  • Reply
    Weldon Poapst
    September 10, 2016 at 11:47 am

    Thought I should chime in, I’m a Konica guy, I have collected everything I can get my hands on. But when it’s time to fly out the door and I need a camera, front and centre of the shelf is my Auto S 3.

    Love it!

  • Reply
    Chanon
    September 20, 2016 at 7:01 pm

    I’m currently making a decision on purchaing either canonet ql17 giii or konica auto s3. May you give me some advices according to your opinion on these 2 camera? Since i’m still a student i couldn’t afford both. Thx u so much for doing such an enjoyable-to-read review. 🙂

  • Reply
    andrew
    March 15, 2017 at 4:26 pm

    Hello. Can you help me with something? I have a copy of this camera( a Revue 400 SE) and I dont know how to set the ISO…Can you please tell me how to set the ISO, because I can shoot nothing and I really need to know. Thank you

    • Reply
      Donalq
      March 16, 2017 at 7:07 am

      It is very easy. Turn the camera over and you will see the ISO ratings along the underside of the lens barrel. There is a small metal lever protruding with a notch in it. With your finger depress this lever slightly and move the lever left or faith so that the indicator notch rests underneath the desired ISO rating. That’s it! Remember that the REVUE 400 SE is, like the Konica, a shutter priority camera. In almost all respects the camera is identical to the Konica.

  • Reply
    Mike Caputo
    March 18, 2017 at 5:22 pm

    Welp, after a few years of heavy use my Konica S3 broke. I went to eBay immediately!

    • Reply
      Michael
      April 5, 2017 at 3:25 pm

      Hey Mike,

      Quick question. What modern battery should I use for this camera? I’ve read that the replacements for the PX675 are either the alkaline LR44 or Silver Oxide SR44.

      However, I’ve heard the LR44’s don’t have a stable voltage and will cause inaccuracies with the meter.
      The SR44 on the other hand has a stable 1.55V. This still causes meter inaccuraces over the original mercury 1.35V but at least the compensation of stops will be constant.

      Any advice would be helpful!

      • Reply
        Mike Caputo
        April 6, 2017 at 9:26 pm

        Howdy Michael, I always just put in the hearing aid battery. Never noticed exposure being off even when I shot slide film. My Konica finally broke. Fell off my harley. What a bummer. Enjoy yours!

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