Down the Road

Roads and life and how roads are like life

Konica Autoreflex T3

17

It’s a shame, really, that camera collectors don’t love Konica’s 35mm SLR cameras from the 1960s and 1970s as much as they do those from competitors such as Canon and Pentax. If my Autoreflex T3 is typical, they were wonderful SLRs – well built and great to use.

Konica Autoreflex T3

It’s surprisingly not widely known that Konica was the first to offer autoexposure in a 35mm SLR, and that they did it in 1966 with the original Auto-Reflex. Konica chose a shutter-priority system: the camera selects an aperture based on the shutter speed you set. The Autoreflex T3 carried on the tradition when it was introduced in 1973. By then, most other SLRs offered a coupled through-the-lens light meter, but still made photographers set both aperture and shutter speed until a needle in the viewfinder indicated proper exposure.

I prefer aperture-priority shooting, but it’s academic as my T3′s meter is dead. A little searching of the Internet’s old-camera forums revealed not only that the T3′s number one failure point is the electrical connection between the battery and the meter, but also that repairing it is difficult.

Fortunately, the T3 otherwise all mechanical and, as far as I can tell, all metal. It shoots all day without batteries when you set exposure manually. But if you come upon one with a working meter, you can drop two zinc-air 675 hearing-aid batteries in and get shooting. (The camera was built for 675 mercury cells, which were banned long ago.) Two LR44 or SR44 cells, which are the same size as the 675s but have a slightly different voltage, would probably work just as well.

Konica Autoreflex T3

For 1973, the T3′s specs are pretty fat. Its metal focal-plane shutter operates from 1 to 1/1000 sec. You can set ISO from 12 to 3200. The T3 came with no accessory shoe, but the hot shoe attached to mine was a common add-on. When you attached a flash to it, the camera synched it to the shutter. The T3 features a self-timer, mirror lockup, depth-of-field preview, and (refreshingly) a multiple-exposure lever.

I had but one complaint with the T3: its focusing screen offers only a microprism. I prefer the precision of split-image focusing. Worse, my T3′s microprism is faint, making it useless to my middle-aged eyes. I was left to twist the 50mm f/1.7 Hexanon AR lens’s focus ring until the image looked sharp in the viewfinder. Typical of 50mm lenses, the focus ring has a long travel under 10 feet and a very short travel from 10 feet to infinity, making it hard to be sure of proper focus on far-away shots. To cover any focusing sins, I shrunk the aperture as much as I could to broaden the depth of field.

A T3 weirdness is that its lens is wide open until you press the shutter button, at which time the blades close to whatever aperture you chose. I think every other SLR I own (that doesn’t require you to stop down to meter) leaves the aperture blades at whatever aperture you set.

I had New Year’s Eve to myself, and it wasn’t too cold in the afternoon. So I loaded some Fujicolor 200 into the T3 and drove up to Zionsville, which is just northwest of Indianapolis in Boone County. An old highway bridge and a newer pedestrian bridge cross Eagle Creek on the east edge of town. Here’s the pedestrian bridge’s railing.

Rusty shadows

Graffiti covers the piers under the highway bridge. This self-confident lion was a delightful find down there.

Selbstbewuβter Löwe

A State Farm agent in town uses an old Ford fire truck to advertise his business. Here’s a detail shot.

Ford F-500 fire truck

A little snow fell the week before Christmas, but it had all melted. That’s the typical central-Indiana winter cycle. That’s why this winter shot finds a bare lawn in front of this cheerful green home.

Zionsville house

I moved in close to this chain and set the aperture wide to see how the Hexanon AR lens performed with shallow depth of field. Not bad.

Chain

See more photos in the Konica Autoreflex T3 gallery.

I like this camera. I’d probably like it more, and use it again someday, if the meter worked. If you come upon a T3 with a working meter, scoop it right up.

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17 thoughts on “Konica Autoreflex T3

  1. Mike

    That’s an impressive piece of glass and you made it perform very nicely. I never owned a Konica, but was always tempted by the raving praise heaped on the Hexanon lenses, particularly for the Auto S2 rangefinder. With prices dropping on everything but Nikon and Leica lately, I may yet get the chance to try a Konica.

    1. Jim Grey Post author

      I was very happy with the results from that Hexanon. If I didn’t have so many other enjoyable SLRs I’d look for an Autoreflex with a working meter and shoot this lens more often.

      I have noticed an upward trend in prices over the past month or so. But I’m looking mostly for funsies and for the occasional incredible bargain, as I’m focusing on my Nikon F2 this year plus burning through the cameras I bought last year but haven’t had time to shoot yet.

  2. pesoto74

    I am torn between wishing that there was more respect for cameras like the Konica T3 and benefiting from being able to buy such cameras cheap because of the lack of demand, What I remember from the time was that Pentax and Minolta were well-established with the advanced amateur while Nikon and to a growing extent Canon were the choices of the professional. Unless a maker came out with an extraordinary camera like the OM1 it was hard to shake up that market. I think that has carried over into the used market today. Which is too bad because there were a lot of great cameras made in the 60′s and 70′s. The T3 appears to be among them.

    1. Jim Grey Post author

      I’m very happy when I find an overlooked gem like this camera, and am not eager for others to know and thus jack up the prices. But I calls ‘em like I sees ‘em here at Down the Road!

    2. jack

      The OM1 never actually shook the market (in the sense you refer to), but it is true that people were (and still) are blind folded when it comes to brand love, from Apple to several others, for no reason other than hype.

  3. Christopher Smith

    Looks like a very nice camera I like your photos the lens seems very sharp the Hexanon lenses are very good.
    Don’t know where the cheap ones are though.

  4. Richard Adams

    I have enjoyed your blog for a while and was excited to see some Konica love. My daily shooter is the AutoreflexT. I have really fallen in love with this camera. Fortunately it’s microprism is still pretty bright. The meter works great but I had to send it in to be modified for the higher silver-oxide voltages. The old meters don’t have a voltage regulator and rely on the the cell voltage for accuracy.

    1. Jim Grey Post author

      Thank you, Richard! Glad you’re along for the ride. I would never have guessed when I bought this T3 cheap that I’d like it so much. Glad to know you’re out there shooting away with your T. May it ever be so.

  5. dehk

    They work pretty good. However, i dislike the sound from the shutter and the mirror, the shutter priority, and the size. I do use them though, Konica glass are one of the best.

    I don’t know If i get what you said correctly. Every auto reflex lens should be wide open at all times until you fire it, it stops down and return to wide open. That way you get the brightest image possible by letting the maximum amount of light in for focusing and viewing, as well as metering. . “Manual” lens are the one that would stop down as soon as you turn the aperture ring, which are older style. There are also a type called preset lens.

    Funny how I consider split prism screen useless for me :D

  6. David Buckle

    I enjoyed this write up. I have been a fan of Konica cameras for many years now. I have a T, T3, T3n,T4 and FT1. Along with a couple of rangefinders and P&S cameras.

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