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.
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.
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.
Graffiti covers the piers under the highway bridge. This self-confident lion was a delightful find down there.
A State Farm agent in town uses an old Ford fire truck to advertise his business. Here’s a detail shot.
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.
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.
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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