The Konica C35 EF was the world’s first compact camera with built-in flash. In the 1970s it was one of Andy Warhol’s favourite cameras and now, 35 years later, it’s mine.
The Konica C35 EF, nicknamed Pikkari in Japan, was the world’s first 35mm compact camera with built-in flash. The C in the name stands for ‘compact’, the 35 for ‘35mm film’ and the EF for ‘electronic flash’. Famously, Andy Warhol used this camera for taking snapshots at exhibition openings, glitzy premieres, wild nights at Studio 54 and after parties at The Factory. “I love the new, small, automatic 35mm cameras like Minox and Konica,” Warhol said. Apparently he loved Konica so much, that he owned three.
The Konica C35 EF was introduced in 1975, at a suggested retail price of USD 149,95. Two years later it was updated, but it kept the same model number and the modifications were minor. The focusing symbols on the lens barrel were framed – I personally find the symbols on the first model more stylish, but that’s a matter of taste – and instead of black and chrome, the flash release button was now orange. The new model featured a third shutter speed of 1/250, whereas the previous one had only 1/60 and 1/125. The biggest distinction was the self-timer, operated by a lever next to the lens.
I own both versions. The first one I bought at an online marketplace for 3 Euros. According to its owner it was in working condition, but as it turned out the flash wasn’t. After cleaning out the corrosion from the battery compartment, the flash did fire. However, as something was wrong with the pop-up mechanism, it kept charging continuously, draining the batteries. The only way to shut it off was by taking the batteries out. If you need to do that after every single photo, it becomes a hassle. So it’s been sitting on a shelf, gathering dust.
The second one I bought for 10 Euros. It came with the same problem: corrosion. After swapping the small battery compartment door with the other camera, everything worked fine, including the flash. This camera is in near-mint condition, as if it was hardly ever used, and came complete with UV filter, lens cap, neck strap, leather pouch and multilingual and Dutch manuals. At 400 grams it’s quite heavy, because it’s all-metal, but that also means it’s sturdy. I like the retro look, with the big orange ‘C35’ just under the old-fashioned Konica logo.
The test roll was shot at my friend Flo’s birthday party, who is a comic artist and coincidentally also a Lomo Amigo. The flash is incredibly bright – perhaps a bit too bright, leaving the partygoers blinded for minutes after their photo was taken. Instead of the original 1.35V mercury battery, which has been banned, I used a 1.45V hearing aid battery to power the CdS cell, which probably causes slight overexposure. While I was busy socialising, some of my friends shot most of the pictures, but I forgot to mention to them this is a zone-focus camera, so most pictures are out of focus. Still I like how the pictures turned out.
This winter I took my Pikkari along on a trip to Seoul, Korea. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time for picture taking, but I did manage to snap some shots at the big royal palaces and at British sculptor Anish Kapoor’s exhibition at the Leeum Museum. Shot on a precious roll of Fuji Sensia 100, expired in 2006, they turned out all pink and dreamy – Seoul seen through rose-tinted glasses.
The Konica C35 EF is easy to operate: just focus, point and shoot. The lens is capable of taking clear and sharp photos, which have a nice vintage feel to them – or as the 1977 ad said: No wonder people say: “The lens alone is worth the price.”. Until something else comes along, this is my favourite compact camera. Just like Andy.
- Lens: Hexanon 38mm, f/2.8
- Film speed settings: 25-400 ASA/ISO, set manually
- Auto-exposure via CdS metering cell
- Shutter speeds: 1/60, 1/125 (and 1/250 on 1977 version)
- Focus range: 1m (3.5ft) to infinity
- Manual loading, advancing and rewinding of film
- Built-in pop-up flash, recharge time: 5 to 7 seconds
- Self-timer on 1977 version
- Power: 1.35V mercury cell for the light meter, 2 AA batteries for the flash