|Style, film format||35mm with coupled rangefinder|
|Lens, shutter||Coated 48mm f/2.0 Hexanon, Konirapid|
|Ergonomics||Very good; uses a two-stroke trigger to advance film and cock shutter|
The Konica III was the third model in a series of fixed-lens rangefinder cameras. The Konica III is a solidly constructed, heavy camera that is capable of producing excellent photographs.
It uses a left-handed two-stroke trigger to advance the film and tension the shutter, reminiscent of the older Zeiss-Ikon Tenax square-format cameras of the late 1930s.
The Konica III came in several body styles, some with meters and some with slightly different aperture/shutter rings.
The Konica rangefinder cameras are quite interesting, with successive models offering more features and being more refined.
The lens is a coated 48mm f/2.0 Hexanon set in a Konirapid shutter with M/X synchronization. There also is a self-timer, as can be seen in the photo.
The viewfinder is bright and contrasty, and the camera's finish is first-rate. In most cases, it will need to have the viewfinder cleaned and the shutter serviced, but probably not much else.
It's an excellent choice for those thinking about trying rangefinder photography.
The weight might dissuade some users, but in this case, the heavy camera lends itself to a more-stable shooting platform. The shutter release requires just the right amount of pressure.
One of the things that seems to happen a lot these days is that when people discover you still shoot film, they offer you cameras. I’ve already got the typical photographer’s problem of accumulating more gear than I can use all on my own; with the various cameras that people have given me, the collection is growing slightly out of control, and that’s with me plaintively (though half-heartedly) refusing some of what’s thrust at me.
But there are some cameras you can’t refuse. When my uncle told me he had several of my late grandfather’s old cameras that he wanted to send to me, I knew they were coming; but I didn’t know what I would be getting.
When they arrived, it was a typical mixed bag; about what you’d expect from someone who was buying cameras to take snapshots with between the 1950s and the 1970s. There were a couple of obsolete cameras: a Kodak Ektralite 10, a 110-film bar camera, and an Agfa Isomat Rapid that was designed for the long-gone Agfa Rapid system. But then there was the prize: a Konica III rangefinder.
Debuting in 1956, the Konica III followed the earlier (wait for it) Konica I and II, which were pretty traditional post-war Japanese fixed-lens rangefinders. The III was anything but conventional. Instead of the knob-wind of the earlier models, it used a double downstroke lever operated by the left thumb to advance the film and cock the shutter. A focusing tab was placed at the bottom of the lens barrel to facilitate focusing with the left index or middle finger. It’s an odd arrangement, but it does work once you get used to holding the camera in what feels like a slightly awkward position.
There’s no way around it: the thing weighs a ton. It’s not a particularly large camera, but it feels like it’s filled with lead. I’m sure it isn’t, but that’s what it feels like. Styling is very 1950s Japanese – think low-budget science fiction movies or metal wind-up robots. Nonetheless, quality of construction is very, very high, and the overall finish is excellent. My example lived in its original ever-ready case and looks essentially new.
The lens is a 48mm f/2.0 Hexanon, apparently a coated Planar-type design of six elements in five groups. It is quite capable, producing very sharp images and reasonably nice bokeh (why do I always feel slightly stupid using that term?) in the out-of-focus areas. Aside from a little haze – now removed – my example is flawless.
The shutter is a Konirapid, a Synchro-Compur copy offering speeds from 1 second to 1/500, plus B. Speeds are quite accurate by my testing. There is also a self-timer for those so inclined; mine is working fine, but I’m always a bit nervous engaging the timer on an old camera for fear it will lock up the mechanism in some inconvenient way.
I didn’t need this camera. I wouldn’t have gone looking for one of these, as I have plenty of other cameras that do more or less the same things. But it was my grandfather’s, and my uncle wanted me to have it. Turns out that it’s an excellent piece of machinery that happens to work perfectly. It’s really pleasant to use, and the images it produces exhibit a very nice character. I’m lucky it fell into my hands, and I’m more than happy to have it in my collection.
Konica III (1956)
What is it?
This is a Konica III, a 35mm rangefinder made by Konishiroku Photo Industries in Japan between the years of 1956 to 1958. As the name suggests, this camera is a third in a series of compact, solid bodied, 35mm rangefinder cameras made by Konishiroku. The entire Konica I, II, and III series was in production until around 1960 and was very popular both in Japan and export markets. The Konica III has a unique double stroke left hand thumb wind lever for advancing the film, which was thought to be faster than the traditional top or bottom mount wind levers.
Film Type: 135 (35mm)
Lens: 48mm f/2 Konishiroku Hexanon coated 6-elements
Focus: 3 feet to Infinity
Viewfinder: Coincident Image Coupled Rangefinder with 48mm Projected Brightlines
Shutter: Seikosha MXL Leaf
Speeds: B, 1 – 1/500 seconds
Exposure Meter: None
Flash Mount: Coldshoe and M and X Flash Sync
Weight: 737 grams
The Konica III was the third variant in Konica’s (then known as K.K. Konishiroku) line of successful fixed lens 35mm cameras which were sold between the years 1947 through 1960.
The original Konica I was based off a pre-war prototype that Konishiroku’s then subsidiary Rokuoh Sha had started to develop in 1938 called the Rubikon. The Konica I shared many of the same design elements of the earlier Rubikon including it’s angled corners, knob wind, viewfinder and rangefinder design, and collapsible lens/shutter tube. The Rubikon was never offered for the consumer market and only 2 prototypes are known to have been made. The image to the right is from Hishida Kōshirō’s 1986 book, “Konica history 10. Sengo no kamera.” and shows this same prototype with Compur-Rapid shutter and Hexar 5cm f/3.5 lens.
Work on the Rubikon would be halted around 1938 due to the Japanese military’s need for military aerial cameras, which Konishiroku had experience building. A variant of the Rubikon would be sold for X-ray photography using the camera’s same basic shape, but without a lens or shutter mount. This camera would be called the Rubicon (with a ‘c’) and although still extremely rare, does show up in private collections from time to time.
After World War II, Konishiroku would resurrect the pre-war Rubikon and make subtle changes to the bottom plate, adding a tripod mount, and offering the camera with Japanese built Konirapid shutters instead of German Compurs. The camera’s name would be changed to “Konica” which was an amalgam of the name “Konishiroku Camera”. In the first half of the 20th century, Japanese manufacturers had great admiration for German camera designs, often employing German designers to help build their own cameras. It was common for these Japanese camera makers to give names to their camera’s that took a cue from German brands like Leica who shortened a part of the companies name and added the -ca suffix to the end.
The original Konica was released in 1947 and was an entirely Japanese design, which was a departure from other Japanese makers at the time like Canon and Nippon Kogaku (Nikon) whose models were highly influenced by German models.
The Konica was very popular in the Japanese domestic market and was a source of pride as the world’s first Japanese designed and Japanese made camera. The camera received several minor upgrades over it’s first few years, including faster f/2.8 Hexanon lenses, better shutters, flash synchronization, and general build quality improvements.
In 1951, a heavily redesigned model called the Konica II was released which offered upgrades such as a fixed lens mount, top plate shutter release, double image prevention, and an accessory shoe. The base lens on the Konica II was a 5-element f/2.8 Hexanon lens that compared favorably to similar lenses made in Germany at the time.
The Konica II was available in a couple of different variants depending on the lens and shutter combination of the camera, in the ad to the right from the November 1954 issue of Modern Photography, the price of the top level Konica II was $119.75 which when adjusted for inflation is a little over $1100 today, making it one of the more expensive Japanese cameras of the time.
In 1954, an experimental prototype called the Konica FR was shown based off the Konica II, but with an interchangeable front lens element. The design was reported to be similar to Kodak’s Retina series in which the rear lens grouping would remain fixed in the camera, and the front could be removed and swapped out for a wide angle or telephoto lens, changing the effective focal length of the camera. The camera never went into production, likely because of the cost of the system and the increasing popularity of the SLR which was quickly gaining popularity around this time.
The Konica II series was in production until at least 1957, a year after it’s successor, the Konica III was released. The Konica III offered a significant improvement to the Konica II and was sold as a premiere camera both in Japan and for export.
Although the Konica III offered better lens and shutter combinations, a larger and brighter viewfinder, and a self-timer, it’s most distinctive feature is the left handed “thumb wind” film advance on the front of the camera. The Konica III is the only camera I know of that uses a film advance like this. Around the time of the Konica III’s release, many manufacturers were experimenting with alternative ways to wind the camera. Many had bottom film advances like Kodak and Canon, others chose a trigger wind system like Ricoh and Leitz, but Konishiroku’s thumb wind system was unique.
The idea behind this system was that by using the photographer’s left thumb to press down on a lever, the camera could be wound without ever having to remove the camera from the eye. The thumb wind system was a double-stroke design, which means that in order to fully advance the film and cock the shutter, the photographer needed to press down on the lever twice. It’s a polarizing design today, with some people loving it and others hating it. Although I could not find any period reviews of the camera, I have to guess that people felt just as polarized about it back then.
At a price of $124.75, the Konica III was one of the most expensive fixed lens rangefinders on the market. When adjusted for inflation, that is like $1147 today, putting it out of the price range of the non professional. The advertisements below are all from 1956 and 1957 and show how the camera was marketed.
After it’s release the camera would receive two pretty significant upgrades, one called the IIIA and the last the IIIM. The IIIA had a much larger viewfinder with projected frame lines and a 1.0x magnification factor allowing the camera to be used with both eyes open for super quick composition. The IIIM added a unique flip–up coupled selenium exposure meter and half frame capability.
Although very capable and well built cameras, the IIIA and IIIM were the poorest selling of the entire Konica series likely due to the expensive price and the continued rise in popularity of the SLR. While rangefinder cameras would remain a viable product for at least another decade, they were increasingly offered as entry level cameras for novice photographers. Professional and advanced amateur photographers were less and less interested in rangefinders, no matter how good they might have been. The Konica III series ceased production sometime in 1960.
Today’ the entire Konica rangefinder series is popular with collectors with the later versions being the most desirable. It is not unusual to see good condition IIIA and IIIM models selling for a couple of hundred dollars. Even poor condition IIIs can approach $100 in questionable condition. A combination of excellent optics and build quality, along with the unique thumb advance make for a desirable model as shelf queens and shooters alike.
All of the Konica III models had been on my watch list for quite some time. The IIIA with the larger viewfinder and the IIIM with the flip up meter are some of the more desirable cameras in Konica’s lineup, so finding one of those for a good value was likely not to happen. So when I stumbled upon this Konica III in really nice cosmetic shape in it’s original box and with all of the original literature for a great deal, I had to snap it up. There was just one problem, it didn’t work.
I was prepared for what I assumed would just be a shutter flush, but when I got the camera, I had noticed that one of the iris blades was damaged and I couldn’t get it to close. I still flushed the shutter with naphtha to get it working correctly at all speeds, and for the most part, everything was working smoothly and by design, except now I had a “teardrop” shaped iris. It became more of an issue at smaller apertures, but wide open and near wide open, you couldn’t even tell.
I didn’t take any photos of the repair, so I have nothing to show you, but once I got the shutter cleaned up, everything worked fine, and I put the camera in the queue for it’s first roll of film.
The first thing that likely anyone notices when they pick up a Konica III is how heavy it is. If there ever was a “heavy metal camera” this is it. Whenever I hold the Konica III, I feel like I should listen to Pantera’s “Fucking Hostile” or maybe some early Machine Head… “let freedom ring with a shotgun blast!”
Edit:As I typed the above paragraph, I had the Konica III in my hands and it’s weight had left a constant impression on me. But then I pulled out my trusty kitchen scale and found it’s weight to be 737 grams which is nearly identical to a Yashica Electro GS at 735 grams and less than an Argus C3 Standard at 766 grams. I realized that this camera’s weight was really not that unusual.
I started to wonder why this camera seemed heavier than most others, when in reality it wasn’t. Perhaps it’s the compactness of the camera. Although I did not open up the camera, it feels like there is no wasted space inside of the body. The top plate is shallower than other 50s rangefinders like the Aires or pretty much everything made by AGFA. It seems the high build quality and compact size of the camera gives the illusion of the camera feeling heavier than it really is.
In terms of ergonomics, the most obvious starting point for this review is in the left handed film advance lever. Unlike other cameras like the Ihagee Exakta or Ricoh 519M that use left handed wind levers, the Konica III has a very unique lever system that is most naturally activated by the photographers left thumb. The camera can be held in both a landscape and portrait orientation with your left thumb on the advance lever, but only if you rotate the camera counterclockwise with your thumb on the bottom.
Strangely, the Konica III’s user manual has two images showing you their recommended way of holding the camera, except when held in a portrait orientation, they do it with the advance lever near the top, requiring a mangled mess of fingers to properly grip the camera. I can honestly say, never in my life have I held a camera like in the second image on the right. I can see no logical reason to hold the camera this way, especially when it is far more comfortable to hold the camera like in the next image.
Had a camera like the Konica III came out today, or even in the decades that followed it’s release, the position of the film advance would have been seen as a gimmick. Before making any final judgement however, it’s worth noting that in 1956, the placement of controls on 35mm cameras was not yet cemented in stone. Manufacturers were still experimenting with what worked and what didn’t. Companies like Canon, Ricoh, Pentacon, and even Leitz would release bottom and left hand wind cameras well after the Konica III, so doing something different certainly wasn’t bad, but unlike cameras like the Ricoh 519M with it’s “Trigger-Matic” bottom wind lever that works remarkably well, I feel the Konica III’s implementation leaves a lot to be desired.
I won’t go as far as to say I hated the position of the wind lever, but it took a lot of getting used to, and even after shooting 2 rolls of film in the Konica III, I never had that “a ha” moment like I did with the Ricoh where I saw the benefit of it. I can certainly give Konica credit for trying something new, and I am sure there are those out there who will disagree with me, but I think the fact that after the Konica III series, Konica, and no other manufacturer ever released a film advance like this, more people agreed with me than didn’t.
Moving beyond the wind lever, the camera is very handsome. The pebbled black leatherette body covering is perfectly applied with absolutely no sign of shrinkage or peeling which is so common of other cameras of the 1950s and 60s. There are no visible gaps between the top or bottom plates, and there is absolutely no play in the lens or any of it’s rings. The camera does not creak or make any noises suggesting of cost cutting somewhere inside of the camera.
The rest of the controls on the Konica III are pleasant and well thought out. The lack of a wind lever on the top plate means that there is more room for a large and elegant Konica III logo. From left to right is the film rewind knob, accessory shoe, shutter release, and automatic resetting exposure counter.
The bottom of the camera has the rewind button, tripod socket and the door release which requires a bit of explanation. The Konica III has a similar “Leica” style rotating lock that was common on many cameras from the 1930s through the 1950s in which photographers would load their own film into reusable film cassettes. Upon turning these dials to open the camera, they would rotate the film cassette closing the opening to prevent it from being exposed to light. Unlike other cameras however, when you fold open the lock and rotate it 180 degrees, you must then fold it back town again to activate the door release which you can see in the image to the left. It is possible to shove your fingernail in there without rotating the lock and still open the camera, but that wasn’t how it was designed to work. I think this system helped minimize the chances of the camera being accidentally opened with film it, but I also predict that this stumped many a user of these cameras who didn’t have access to the manual or instructions on it’s use.
The film compartment is typical of other 35mm cameras with the film traveling from left to right, but unlike other mid-50s cameras, Konica designed the take up spool to have 4 different notches to ease loading. Simply slide the film leader into the most convenient slit, wind the camera and close the door and you’re done. It’s not quite as simple as the auto loading systems that would come decades later, but it worked really well.
The viewfinder of the Konica III is on par with many other 1950s rangefinders, but not as gloriously large as the Leica M3 or the later Konica IIIA or M that would follow it. I had no problems seeing the whole image with projected frame lines while wearing prescription glasses. The rangefinder patch has a purple “contrast” patch that surrounds it, boosting contrast compared to the main part of the viewfinder. I find these types of contrast patches used by companies like Konica, Minolta, and others to be a huge help and wonder why everyone didn’t do it back then. The viewfinder is not parallax corrected and only offers parallax hash marks for close focus composition.
There is a lot to like with the Konica III. I would love to one day have the opportunity to shoot a Konica IIIA or M, but just because it’s the “base level” III-series, doesn’t mean this model is somehow lacking those later variants.
While not as large as the later models, the viewfinder in the III is more than adequate. The rangefinder patch is bright and easy to see. The 6-element Hexanon lens is as good as anything else out there. The build quality is second to none. This is a great camera that offers you absolutely everything you need to shoot amazing photographs in a compact and easy to use form factor. Simply, the Konica III is every bit as good as it’s later variants, and should in no way be seen as a lesser model.
My first roll of film through the Konica III was slow speed “Mr Brown” black and white film rated at ISO 6. This film is described by the Film Photography Project as a high contrast and low grain film that is very thin and easy to scan. I had never shot a roll of film with a speed of 6, so I used Sunny 16 with the Konica set to a shutter speed of 1/60 and the iris with 3 stops of overexposure.
Since there was a chance these shots might not have come out, I split a roll of Fuji 200 color film between this and another camera that I can’t remember what it was! The gallery below represents some of the better shots from both rolls.
I really like the look of these old bricks covered in moss.
This was shot wide open to show off the out of focus details of the Hexanon lens.
Nothing terribly special here, but a nice image nonetheless.
The Mr. Brown film had a strange effect on Caucasian skin tones. Otherwise a nice image.
Another bokeh image.
I like the look of the metal lock boxes on black and white film.
Abandoned houses and black and white film go well together.
This shot was over exposed and I tried to save it in Photoshop.
I “re-staged” this shot after seeing these girls make this exact same pose on their own.
Anyone interested in a fixer upper? Cheap!
This was shot indoors with the camera on a table and the shutter held open in B mode for about 2 seconds.
This simple shot of leaves shows off the sharpness of the Hexanon lens.
I haven’t had as many opportunities to shoot with Konica cameras as I would have liked given their reputation as a quality Japanese maker in the 20th century. To date, my only Konica branded camera I have reviewed was the horrible Konica AiBorg which has the unfortunate distinction of receiving the lowest rating of any camera I’ve ever reviewed (or likely will ever review as I can’t image anything worse). I know that the AiBorg isn’t representative of Konica’s legacy, so it was with welcome arms that I was able to review this Konica III.
As is the case with most other premiere Japanese makers, you expect outstanding image quality from the 6-element Hexanon lens. As expected, the images produced by this camera are outstanding. They’re sharp across the entire frame with no vignetting, color fringing, or sharpness fall off near the corners. These images could have been shot by any other number of quality Japanese or German camera makers and you’d never know the difference simply by looking at the images themselves.
Obtaining accurate focus was a breeze as every image shot on both rolls of film came out properly focused as I had intended them to. Exposure was easy despite this being a fully mechanical camera and that I shot two very different kinds of film.
Up to this point, I have what seems to an excellent camera that I should be looking forward to shooting again, right? But I’m not, and even more frustrating is that I cannot put my finger on why.
The Konica III is a technically excellent camera with a high level of build quality, and one that I had no problem getting great images from, but there was something missing from the shooting experience that left me indifferent to it after putting it down. The two different rolls of film in the gallery above were both shot in the summer/early fall of 2017, yet as I type this, it is March 2018 and this review has sat in draft form for months.
I’ve spent quite a lot of time trying to decide what it is about this camera that I didn’t love. Maybe it’s the awkward double stroke thumb wind film advance. Maybe it’s that on paper, I should have loved this camera and it’s reputation left me wanting more. Maybe that God-awful Konica AiBorg tainted me so deeply that I couldn’t look past the Konica name.
Whatever the case, I don’t expect many people reading this will agree with me, so I’ll stop rocking the boat and end this review with the words I had hoped I would have said all along. The Konica III is a well built example of a 1950s rangefinder with an excellent lens, an adequately large viewfinder with an easy to use and contrasty rangefinder, and a shutter that is dependable and capable of perfectly exposed pictures shooting Sunny 16. The IIIA and IIIM models are more expensive and slightly more desirable, but as long as you can live without a larger viewfinder or a selenium cell light meter, then the Konica III represents a heck of a bargain.
|My Final Word|
How these ratings work
|The Konica III is a great camera. It has an excellent lens, the fit and finish is outstanding, the viewfinder is bright and easy to use, and although I didn’t love the unique film advance, it clearly did not impede my ability to get great images from it. I am sure there are those out there who will tell you that this is one of the greatest cameras ever made, but I am not one of those people. I felt the shooting experience left a bit to be desired, and after shooting my first two rolls in it, I have never felt that sense of excitement like I have with many other cameras where I look forward to shooting it again. Still, don’t let my general ambivalence towards this model stop you from trying one out yourself. When you have a collection as large as mine, you can’t love them all!|
|Images||Handling||Features||Viewfinder||Feel & Beauty||History||Age|
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It’s been a few weeks since I retrieved my Konica III from BP-ES where it’s sticky shutter was repaired and rangefinder calibrated. I’m carrying the III with me daily, slowly working my way through a few rolls of Tri-X as I come across interesting scenes in my life.
I have only owned one other Konica product, a totally busted Autoreflex TC that I used to practice repair on. Konica, as a brand, has never appealed to me much. In my mind, they always came off as a second-tier camera manufacturer despite having a few fabled products like the 40mm Hexanon 1.8, the Hexar AF rangefinder, the original Autoreflex SLR that can switch between full and half frame 35mm and the ubiquitous but good C35 budget rangefinder. Their later association with Minolta, another, what I consider, less than glamorous camera-maker only helped to solidify my disinterest in Konica.
My viewpoint began to shift one fateful day last March. A friend and coworker dropped by my home with a backpack full of vintage cameras that he’d gathered over the years. When I saw the Konica III there on my living room table, I was immediately drawn to how handsome and small a camera it is. I was astonished by its density when I picked it up. I looked at the lens, expecting to see some slow f3.5 disappointment that is common with 1950’s German cameras, but again, the Konica III surprised me with its zippy 48mm f2! And have a look at that sizable distance between the rangefinder windows that hints at a healthy base length for accurate focusing of that fast prime lens! The final surprise, of course, was that I was holding a Konica body with excitement.
The layout and shape of the body have that no-nonsense manly austerity of a Leica M but with, dare I say, smarter, sharper lines. A brightly chromed round screw head punctuates the lens plate like a proud beauty mark. The self-timer is situated just millimeters away from the lens plate and screams “Warning! Close tolerances inside!” The classic black pebble grain leatherette on my copy is absolutely immaculate; perfectly trimmed, fitted and after over half a century is still so tightly adhered to the brass body that it looks like it could have been sprayed on like paint. The frame counter is attractive and easy to read while echoing the circle of the rewind knob. The rewind knob is thick and nicely milled with both a matte finish atop and sheen on the knurls. A beefy rewind crank extends from the knob, feeling unbreakable even under speed, driven by the greatest of excitement to reload.
Attention to detail is just phenomenal folks. What brand camera is this thing again? What?! And it’s Japanese?!
Okay, so the film advance lever is a little Lost In Spacey and the vertical cover over the film door locking mechanism could have been sculpted into the body more elegantly, but overall, I find the Konica III to be a strikingly handsome little machine. And if you’re not smitten with the look of it, pick it up. The sheer heft of it will break your heart. Crush it in fact. Under the III’s serious weight!
So let’s stop talking about cosmetics and talk about how it works!
A few quirks that even a seasoned classic camera shooter may miss upon picking up the camera the first time:
—The film advance is a double stroke; meaning you have to wind the advance lever twice in order to fully charge the shutter and advance the film. The only noteworthy camera I know that works this way are some of the early Leica M’s. There, a more positive association for Konica!
—The shutter release button, as it turns out, actually contains a miniature soft shutter release screwed tightly into it. All the greatest camera-makers leave their shutter releases with their threaded sockets wide open for accessories or just debris. Konica was classy enough to fill this socket on the III with a tiny, well-machined mini soft shutter release button. I was amazed the first time that I unscrewed what appeared to be a permanently fixed piece of the camera.
—A really clever film door release latch. Most D-ring film door releases simply pull up and rotate to unlock the film door. But Konica could not stop there. In addition to pulling the D-ring up and rotating it, you must then press the D-ring back down in order to press a release button. Pretty much every other camera I’ve handled has either a D-ring OR a release button but not both. It’s a pretty fast, secure, clever and elegant way of doing things.
The Konica III is a 35mm fixed lens rangefinder camera sans light meter but it is equipped with an early autoexposure mechanism that uses an EV or Exposure Value system like a Hasselblad. The aperture and shutter speed rings are coupled in such a way that the aperture can always be selected independently of the shutter speed but the shutter speed, as adjusted, changes the aperture with it. It sounds complicated and annoying but is actually a nice way to bracket your depth of field. Only thing I don’t like is that I can’t adjust the aperture by feel, the camera must be tilted back toward me so I can see the bottom of the lens, then adjust it. Between this and the double stroke advance, you’re not going to win any speed contests with the III.
If you want a meter, the Voigtlander VC or VC II will slip into the III’s accessory shoe nicely but is a tad close to the shutter release button. The coupled exposure settings make the III a great Sunny 16 camera though. Why? Sunny 16 dictates that we use f16 in broad daylight. Well, newsflash, most 35mm size lenses aren’t great performers at f16 due to diffraction. So if you are burning 100 ISO and set your III to 1/100th of a second and f16, this puts you at EV 15. To reduce your DoF and squeeze some more beauty out of your lens, simply max your shutter out at 1/500th and the III automatically opens up to f5.6 like a shutter priority mode. No need to do the math. Very cool.
Now let’s talk about focus. The focus ring is completely smooth and finished in a complimentary matt black enamel with a contrasting engraved, white paint-filled hyper- focal distance scale. A sort of milled ball protrudes from the focus ring similar to smaller Leica lenses for adjusting focus. As with the rest of the camera, the control is solid and instills confidence. Focus damping on my copy has a good amount of drag to it but moves smoothly. There is a bit more drag moving towards 3 feet than towards infinity but in practice, this hasn’t bothered me and may simply be a characteristic of my particular copy.
The rangefinder focusing patch itself is a bit quirky. Rather than being an off-color rectangle in the center of the frame, the viewfinder is clear AND the patch is clear, but there is a blurry violet border around the clear RF patch. This border doesn’t move but you do see a split image within the patch. It’s reminiscent of the effect of putting a spot of tape on the front of something like an Olympus XA to increase RF contrast on an aged/cloudy RF. The violet border is a rectangle, slightly larger than the RF patch, printed on the beamsplitter. I don’t recall any other rangefinders that work this way but it works just fine. It’s accurate and not unpleasant to look through but not spectacular.
The viewfinder is large enough and not squinty but not exceptionally bright and is prone to reflections and flaring as much as any cheaper combined rangefinder/viewfinder. The violet border probably combats potential white-out issues from flaring as I haven’t come across any situations where white-out occurred. I’d say that the quality of the rangefinder in terms of brightness, enjoyment, and accuracy is about on par with something like a Minolta 7s, a Kodak Retina, Yashica Minister or a Canonet. The Konica’s RF is nicer than an Argus C3, Olympus XA or a Barnack Leica (I love them but you know what I mean!). It’s not quite up to an Olympus 35, Voigtlander Bessa or of course a Leica M.
So here are some shots from my first roll. Note that the 48mm f2 Hexanon lens is as sharp as the one would expect of any popular 50/2. That slightly wider angle adds a little more perspective that I really like. Not as dramatic, of course as a 45 or 35mm but just a HINT of barrel distortion at close distances which worked really nicely in this automotive shot. By the way, there’s no parallax correction but as you can see, the lens and finder are situated such that at about 4 feet away, I had no problem perfectly centering this old Pontiac.
The Hexanon 48/2 appears to be single coated, as was the norm in the 50’s. It’s contrasty enough in bright sun but in this example of a low but contrasty lighting situation at full aperture, we can see some of that dreamy character that is also common of single coated optics.
Shooting stopped down in bright sun with Tri-X of course yields rich contrast and high resolution.
I underexposed this shot a bit so it came out with more tonality
And this was from a more overcast day. Plenty of detail here at a middle focusing distance and middle aperture.
Good stuff! Time to load another roll!
Thanks for reading and happy shooting!
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Iii review konica
Camera Speed Dating – Konica III Rangefinder
Those that know Nicole and I know that we have what appears to be an on going camera acquisition problem. To remedy this but continue to try out ALL of the cameras we have decided to start borrowing cameras from our fellow camera enthusiasts instead of trying to purchase or hoard them all to ourselves. Not all are winners though and some are just easier or more fun to use but you have to shoot with them first to find out! Thus, we decided if we run a roll through every camera we are interested in, not unlike going on a 5 minute date with a bunch of strangers at a singles night, we can quickly see which are worthy of being added to our collection (or put on our list of “must haves.”) Camera speed dating!
Here is most recent camera I had the pleasure of a quick date with…the Konica III Rangefinder.
A quick couple of facts about the Konica III rangefinder…released in 1956, the Konica III can be easily distinguished from it’s predecessors by it’s unique film advance (and shutter cocking mechanism) on the front near the lens. It features a 48mm f/2 Hexanon lens and max shutter speed of 1/500. Its other unique feature is how the back opens, which is with a D ring on the bottom that you lift and rotate and then lay flat again and press to spring the door open. This took a bit of fiddlying to figure out the first time and then again when I actually went to load it because of course I’d forgotten by then how it worked!
I was immediately taken by this camera, though in general I don’t give much thought to the Konica brand aside from my C35. For the most part I have just not seen any other Konicas that were enough to draw interest for my collection, whether it be because of aethestic or use. However, this little weighty rangefinder was different and I found its unique shape and mechanics to be very interesting. I was drawn in by its front film advance I will say, and while I’m also not a Leica lover, it did have that same certain appeal that perhaps allowed me a hint of why some find Leicas so special. This particular model needed alot of work to get running again, but right away it I felt it was worth it. Our skilled repairman Frank did his best and got it working again for me and I couldn’t be happier! It’s rangefinder view was dirty and I understand cleaning them is not easy as you must be very careful to not just destroy it completely. So unfortunately, while its viewer is cleaner than it was it is still definitely far from CLEAN, making it a bit difficult to see through – especially in low light.
Getting used to the special film advance was also certainly something new and I wouldn’t say I ever did quite get used to it – though I wouldn’t say I found it annoying either, just different. Getting the shutter to click over to 1/500 is also a bit of a struggle with this camera. I’m not entirely sure if that is indicative of all versions or just mine, but I found it to be quite stiff. At first I thought it was not possible at all until a nice regular customer of ours managed to make it work for me and we decided it just needed to be strong armed a bit. I know with many older cameras it is a different spring that releases the 1/500th shutter speed (a stronger spring, I guess!) and often it takes a bit more force to move the setting into that position. Once I’d done it several times however, it did seem to get a little bit easier. Much like many of these old cameras, I think it just needed to be exercised! In general I was quite pleased with the results from this camera and the lens was definitely nice and sharp. As with many older cameras/lenses the coatings are different than modern lenses and sometimes that doesn’t lend itself well to colour film photography. However, I was very pleasantly surprised with the color tone that came from this camera. Here are a couple of my favourites. Shot on Kodak 400 and developed and scanned by our friends at Rocket Repro. www.rocketrepro.com
This entry was posted by Meghan S in Blog Post, Film and Darkroom and tagged 35mm Film, 35mm Film Camera, Camera Speed Dating, Film, Konica, Vintage Film Camera.
The Konica IIIa is a 35mm film rangefinder camera made in Japan by Konica in 1958.
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The Konica IIIa is solid, durable, it weights and feels like a tank.
The thing I like the most about this camera is its finder. It's bright, big, and has a 1 to 1 ratio, so you can have both eyes opened while shooting, resulting in a better experience. With both eyes open, you can see the action coming and press the shutter at the proper decisive moment.
On the other hand, the advance lever is not on the right side, but on the left, near the lens. This is different and needs adaptation. I did not like the camera overall because of this.
If you want a big 1:1 ratio finder for cheap, the Konica IIIa is a nice contender.
You might want to try the Canon P too.
If you have a lot of money, get the king of the king, the Leica M3.
|Value for money||4/5|
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