The Konica Auto S2 – It’s an amazingly sharp rangefinder! Not a fan of fiddling with f/stops? Use auto exposure mode. Sure, it’s a bit bulkier than other rangefinders, but I think it will be hard to beat the lens if you like sharp photos.
When I saw that Lomography was looking for reviews of rangefinder cameras, I knew that I had to wax poetic about my current go-to 35mm camera, the Konica Auto S2.
The original ad campaign for the camera claimed that you could buy a top of the line lens and they’d throw in a free camera. Operating it now, it’s easy to see why that was the angle they went with. The 45mm f/1.8 Konica Hexanon lens is one of the sharpest lenses I’ve ever worked with. For Lomographers who actually prefer sharpness—and I know we’re the minority—it’s hard to not love this camera.
For those familiar with rangefinders, the Auto S2 might seem a little bulky, especially compared to something like a Canonet. Yet, the camera is nowhere near as bulky as an SLR camera, and I’ve even managed to cram it into a jacket pocket every so often. The chrome trim is a beauty, and I get compliments on it wherever I go. Of course, that may also be due to the fact that I replaced the original black leatherette with a blue snakeskin.
One amazing feature is the fact that the aperture and shutter speed controls are adjusted with concentric rings on the lens. If you shoot with the Sunny 16 rule, then it’s easy to check that f/16 is lined up with the appropriate shutter speed, even if you’re on, say, f/8 or f/5.6. Shutter speeds range from 1/500 to 1 second (plus Bulb) and of course the aperture ranges from f/1.8 to f/16. If you like working with flash, there’s a PC outlet right on the front. Sorry, no hotshoe. The focus range is infinity to 0.9m (3 feet)
This camera is fully mechanical, so no battery, no problem. But if you do find a battery for it, the light meter is always active, and you can set the aperture to Auto to take advantage of it. If there’s insufficient light, though, you won’t be allowed to fire the shutter. A very useful feature for those who are new to rangefinders and may not know that the lens cap is still on! The lens cap covers the meter too, so if you are on Auto exposure, you’re not going to waste who-knows-how-many frames before discovering your error.
One downside is that back in the day they were made, the lubricant applied to this model of camera was whale oil. And apparently time is not kind to it. When I got mine, I noticed that the aperture blades would not open up to anything wider than f/5.6. Apparently when I sent it in for a CLA, I also learned that the frame counter was sticky, and the rangefinder was off by about 10%. But you should always beware of secondhand cameras, no matter what model you get! As an added bonus, the man who repaired it was able to convert the light meter to accept 1.5V batteries like the 625-A rather than the obsolete 1.3-V batteries, meaning that my light meter is more accurate!
Back to the camera features, I have yet to mention my favorite. Beyond the quick and easy focusing that any rangefinder will give you, the Konica Auto S2 features a fantastically quiet leaf shutter. Press the button, and you hear a whisper-quiet “click.” Pair this with the fact that there’s no mirror slap like in an SLR camera, and you get a great camera for sneaking around and taking candid shots, especially if you like doing street photography. Frequently, I just guess focus, aim in a general direction, and shoot (the Lomo way!) and I can get some amazing shots
In short, I highly recommend this camera to any Lomographers who like having a sharp option in their camera bag. A very alluring option if you’re new to rangefinder cameras.