Konica F

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The Konica F is one of the most sought-after of all classic 35mm SLRs. It was Konica's first 35mm SLR, and a groundbreaking camera in its day. The F was produced in very small quantity, estimated between 600 and 1500.[1]There are no records to tell us exactly how many cameras were made, but it's believed serial numbers are sequential and numbers up into the 1400s are known to exist. On the other hand, top covers of the camera bear the imprinted serial numbers and spare parts including the camera's top appear to have been part of that numbering sequence.[2] Because of this, it's likely not all the examples manufactured were assembled and sold.


KonicaFlex prototypes of this model were displayed in 1959, perhaps as early as 1958. Perhaps due to the similarity of this name with earlier Konishiroku models (such as the Koniflex medium format twin lens reflex), or possibly because of the 1959 introduction of the Nikon F, the name was changed to Konica F for actual production of the camera.


With its introduction in February 1960, the Konica F was the first 35mm SLR to achieve 1/2000 shutter speed and did so with a Konishiroku High Synchro shutter that can be considered a progenitor of the Copal Square shutter.[3] The metal blades and vertical run of the Copal made for a very durable and accurate shutter that became the norm for 35mm SLRs during the 1970s and 1980s. Most modern digital and 35mm film cameras still use shutters that are similar and might easily be considered descendants of the Konishiroku and Copal shutters.


Most cameras of the day offered top shutter speeds of 1/200 to 1/500 at best. And most synced flash at 1/30 to 1/60, tops. So the 1/2000 speed and 1/125 sync offered by the Konica F was pretty astounding for it's day. [4]


Since the early 1950s, Konishiroku had been developing a vertical running, metal bladed shutter. Later in the decade they entered into a cooperative arrangement with Copal and Mamiya - both of whom were working to develop similar designs - and somewhat later Pentax (then Asahi Kogaku). The result was the Copal Square. Even though Nikon was not part of the consortium developing it, the Copal Square actually made its debut in a Nikkorex camera [5] This occured only because the manufacture of that camera was out-sourced to Mamiya. Konica FS is believed to be the second camera to use the shutter, though it's not clearly marked or documented as such. A clearly labelled version of the Copal Square was used in Konica FS and FM. An improved Copal Square S was introduced in 1965 and went on to be used in Konica Auto-Reflex and many other cameras from various manufacturers.


The very early Konishiroku shutter tended to be a bit more finicky and delicate. So following models and the Copal shutters in other cameras were slightly downgraded to 1/1000 top shutter speed. This was still very competitive and remained so until the late 1970s and early 1980s, when electronically controlled and more precisely manufactured shutters were again able to offer faster shutter speeds.


The F has fully cross-coupled, selenium-cell metering system with a match-needle method and provides linkage to the interchangeable lenses to make exposure setting and focusing easy. Both the aperture and the shutter speed appear on the dial on top of the camera. The metering system was one of the most advanced of its day. The camera has an instant-return mirror, and automatic aperture stop-down (that is, the aperture is stopped down by the camera, a moment before exposure, allowing focusing and framing to be done at full aperture; this is not auto-exposure). These were advanced features in 1960.

Lenses

Only four, premium-quality lenses were offered with the F during its approx. one year of production:

  • Hexanon 35mm f/2.0
  • Hexanon 52mm f/1.4 (49mm filter thread)
  • Hexanon 85mm f/1.8
  • Hexanon 135mm f/2.8 (preset: that is, requiring manual stop-down)

All have the same 40.5mm bayonet mount flange diameter as later Hexanons sold with the FS, FP and FM. What sets the F lenses apart from later lenses is the linkage with the metering system of the camera body. F-specific lenses can be difficult to fit on the later cameras, and vice versa.[6] The ability of the F and later models to work with the many lenses intended for the Exakta, thanks to an adapter sold by Konishiroku was touted as a sales point of the camera.[7][8]


The F has an interchangeable viewfinder. It is the only production Konica SLR to ever offer this. An accessory waist level finder was listed as available in the instruction manual. In addition, a chimney/magnifying finder is known to exist, but isn't mentioned in any known documentation. The focusing screen was not interchangeable but included a split image focus assist, not offered again on another Konica camera until around 1970. The F also has depth-of-field preview and Konishiroku offered a line of accessories such as macro extension tubes and bellows, filters and lens hoods, and more for use with the camera and its lenses.

In the photograph above, leatherette is missing from the door latch cover on the side of the camera. A lens cap for an F-specific lens such as the 52mm f1.4 would be matte chrome finish slip on cap with "Hexanon" embossed on it, not "Konica" like later caps. Similar cap is used on the 35/2 and 85/1.8 lenses. The 135/2.8 uses a black plastic cap. Note, too, on the side of the camera, just above the door catch assembly, there is a slot to attach a cold shoe to mount a flash. The cold shoe fixture for the F appears to be completely unique to the camera, it looks a bit like a golf divot repair tool.


A rear view of the F gives a clue to another interesting feature of the camera. The film door protrudes slightly in the middle. This is because the film pressure plate is designed to retract temporarily while the film is being advanced, allowing the film to move more freely and to reduce the chance of scratches. This appeared in much later cameras (such as certain Contax SLR models).


Precautions in use

Herz provides four "important cautions" specific to the F.[9] These are:

  1. "When changing lenses never touch the manual aperture control" [i.e. stop-down lever, depth-of-field preview lever].
  2. "Do not operate the cocking lever [i.e. film advance lever] while the shutter mechanism is in action at B or while the shutter is working at slow shutter speeds."
  3. "Do not touch the focal plane shutter or the instant return mirror."
  4. "When the rewind lever at the bottom of the camera is set at the R position, it cannot be moved back by hand. It resets itself automatically when you operate the cocking lever."


Possible use by Ansel Adams

In his 1958 inventory list, Ansel Adams notes a "Koniflex 35". It would not have been at all unusual for a manufacturer to put a prototype camera into the hands of well known photographers for testing. Konishiroku certainly did so with Norman Rothschild and others; but it would have been unusual, although not entirely unknown, for Adams to use a 35mm film camera (most of his work was done with medium and large format cameras). A video was been posted on YouTube, associated with the George Eastman House collection regarding Ansel Adams and his work, which includes the 1958 inventory mentioned above. The old black & white film briefly shows the camera mentioned above and again calls it a "Koniflex". However, close examination of some screen grabs from that film do not seem to show a Konica F, but perhaps a Zeiss Ikon Contaflex Beta (see [1] and [2]). It's known that Adams used a Zeiss camera in his teens, which might support this.


Notes

  1. sn#10 1480 seen in online auction January 2017.
  2. Source here is a spare parts catalog for the F — a catalog made up of actual B&W photographs.
  3. Later in the era of the T"2" and T3 models, the 1970s, there was a Copal Hi Synchro shutter, referenced in Konica literature.
  4. Canon also produced a 1/2000-capable camera, the Canonflex R2000, offered later in 1960. It uses an older-style, horizontally running cloth shutter, 1/60 flash sync.
  5. Earlier Nikkorex models had a bad reputation for shutter reliability. A fix was sorely needed.
  6. Herz has no comment on this. However, several Konica F owners have made the observation.
  7. See e.g. Herz, pp. 62–3. Herz says that the adapter "opens up to your Konica FS almost all the lenses and accessories made for the Exakta camera" (62). He does not discuss the exceptions, but adds that "A complete listing of lenses made by different manufacturers to fit the Exakta camera is obtainable on request from Konica. All lenses listed will fit your Exakta adapter. In addition, the listing indicates whether these lenses will work on your FS or F semi-automatically, preset, or manually" (63).
  8. Camera-wiki.org editor Alan Myers writes; The issues regarding interchangeability of lenses made for the F and lenses made for use with the later cameras are observations of current Konica F owners, including myself. The F is a very rare camera, and its specific lenses were even more rare, except for the normal 52/1.4 which was probably produced in equal numbers, so documentation such as the Herz booklet - which I'm also familiar with - are primarily based upon the later cameras and lenses. Neither the F instruction book nor the later models' instruction books or lens catalogs make any mention of the differences. While it's true that all the lenses shared the same bayonet mount, other differences are easily seen in the aperture control linkage of the F and three of the lenses used with it (35mm f2, 52mm f1.4 and 85mm f1.8 Hexanons), as compared to the relocated, smaller and simplified aperture control linkage of the three later camera models. In the FS documentation, the 35/2, 85/1.8 and 135/2.8 sold along with the F continue to be mentioned. Only the 135mm f2.8 Hexanon that was originally sold with the F was shown in literature that accompanied any of the later cameras, as an optional lens. This particular lens was manual operation only, so did not engage the aperture control linkage on either the F or the later cameras, and so is more interchangeable. I suspect that once existing supplies of the 135/2.8 Hexanon were exhausted, no further copies were produced. Later lens catalogs and literature only list a more common 135mm f3.5 Hexanon lens. - Alan Myers, 2008.
  9. Herz, p. 38. These are copied from page 2 of the Konica F instruction manual.

Further reading

  • Herz, Nat. The Konica FS and Konica F: A Guide to Better Single-Lens Reflex Photography. Bound together with Konica Pocket Handbook. New York: Verlan Books ("A Universal Photo Book"), 1960. A detailed 64-page guide to the Konica FS with a little that's specific to the F; the main part of the book deals with the Konica IIIA and IIIM and Konica S, as well as photography in general. It is not clear whether all copies of the Handbook have this supplement.
  • Konica F owners manual can be seen online here at the Konica Collector website of Urs Brunner, in Switzerland.

Links

  • JJ's French language page on the Konica F and other F series SLRs