Ever since I started collecting cameras again, the Konica C35 has been on my must-buy list. I was influenced by collectors all over the Internet; everybody seems to really like this little autoexposure rangefinder 35mm camera.
Because the C35 is popular, it often sells for more than my soft $50 limit. Patience over several years paid off recently when I came upon this C35 for about 30 bucks. It was icing on the cake that I found one of the all-black models; the C35’s top plate is more commonly chromed.
This is actually a C35 Automatic, a 1971 successor to the original 1968 C35. It added automatic flash synchronization, which fires an attached flash in time with the shutter setting for greater flash versatility. When you attach a flash to a non-Automatic C35, the shutter fires only at 1/25 sec.
The C35’s specs are solid. The lens is a four-element Hexanon, 38mm at f/2.8. The Copal B mat programmed shutter fires from 1/30 to 1/650 sec. Aperture is set by the shutter blades, which means that this autoexposure camera matches lower shutter speeds with larger apertures, and higher shutter speeds with smaller apertures. At the extremes, f/2.8 fires at 1/30 sec, and f/14 at 1/650 sec. The C35 reads light with a CdS meter above the lens. The lens focuses from 3.3 feet. The camera takes film from 25 to 400 ASA,
The C35 is all metal. It weighs under 14 ounces and stands about 4.75 inches wide, 3 inches tall, and 2 inches deep. It’s smaller and lighter than any Canonet and larger and heavier than an Olympus XA, but it’s still plenty light and easy to carry. The protruding lens makes it hard to slip in a front pants pocket, but I had no trouble carrying it in my coat pocket.
The C35 takes a dreaded, banned 625 mercury battery. Mine came with an unmarked battery of the wrong size. It made contact and moved the exposure meter, so I shot with it.
To shoot, press the little button on the bottom of the lens barrel and twist until Auto on the focus ring lines up with any of the numbers on the guide number ring. If a flash is attached, line up Auto with the flash’s guide number. Then twist the little ring right around the lens until your film’s speed appears in the little bubble window below the lens. Wind, frame, make sure the exposure needle inside the viewfinder isn’t in a red zone (indicating over- or under-exposure), twist the focus ring until the rangefinder patch lines up with the subject, and press the button.
Sunny days are few and far between during Indiana winters, yet I wanted to use my C35. So I loaded some Fujicolor 200 and went looking for colorful scenes despite the overcast. I got a lot of oversaturated reds in my test roll.
I drove out to Terre Haute to visit my old friend Michael. This great billboard has stood on the outskirts of town for decades now. The conditions and the camera worked together to make the yellow really pop. I’ve photographed this sign before with far less dramatic results.
However, the C35 really washed out this shot, making the yellow wall a dingy white. So I rescued it in Photoshop.
I stopped by Terre Haute’s wonderful Indiana Theater for a few snaps. It was built in 1922 in the Spanish Andalusian style. It seats 1,674. Alas, it shows no sign of being in operation, though its Web site is up with photos of this theater’s stunning interior.
The C35’s lens is said to be very contrasty, but I wasn’t getting great results from it on this overcast day. In the photo above, everything under the theater awning is a touch underexposed. For the photo below, I stuck the C35 to the door glass to shoot inside. The highlights all blew out. Thankfully, a little Photoshopping lessened the effect.
I saw plenty of movies at the Indiana when I lived in Terre Haute. I’ve never enjoyed the moviegoing experience as much as I did there. This is a detail from around one of the doors.
The cold stiffened my hands, which curtailed my photography. So I picked up my friend Michael and headed to Sonka’s, a favorite watering hole. We sat in a front corner by two big windows where the light was sufficient to get this shot. You may remember Michael as the friend who sold me his delightful Pentax KM.
I loved the C35 Automatic’s easy usability but my test roll returned mixed results. (Check out my entire Konica C35 Automatic gallery here.) People on the photo forums generally say they like 400-speed film in the C35; I shot 200. Maybe the mystery battery that came with my camera wasn’t doing my exposures any favors. And maybe the C35 is simply a better sunny-day camera. I am intrigued enough by this little camera to fiddle with these variables and give it another tumble.
Do you like vintage cameras? Then check out my entire collection!