Camera Reviews, Film Photography

Konica Autoreflex T3

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.

Konica Autoreflex T3

I like it when my camera helps me with exposure, 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. So I did something unusual for me: I bought another body.

Konica Autoreflex T3

But even with a dead meter, 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. I put a roll through the first body that way before buying the second.

But if you come upon one with a working meter, drop in two LR44 or SR44 button cells and away you go. The camera was built for mercury batteries rather than those silver-oxide and alkaline equivalents. The T3 is calibrated for the mercury battery’s slightly different voltage, but most films have enough exposure latitude to cover you.

For a 1973 camera, 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.

Advertisements

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.

By the way, if you enjoy all-metal, all-mechanical SLRs, also see my reviews of the Canon FT QL (here), the Nikon F2AS (here), the Miranda Sensorex II (here), the Pentax K1000 (here), and the Pentax KM (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

I shot the body with the dead meter on an unusually warm New Year’s Eve. I loaded some Fujicolor 200 into the T3 and drove up to Zionsville, which is just northwest of Indianapolis in Boone County. I found an old fire truck parked in a lot. Just check out this color!

Ford F-500 fire truck

This used bookstore has become one of my most-photographed subjects.

Black Dog Books

I found this lion painted on the pier under an old bridge leading out of town.

Selbstbewuβter Löwe (wide)

I moved in close to this chain and set the aperture wide to see how the 50mm f/1.7 Hexanon AR lens performed with shallow depth of field. Not bad.

Chain

I tried again in late spring with the new body. It was lovely to be able to shoot shutter priority. The T3 is large and heavy (though not as much as some other mechanical SLRs of the era), but its controls are all in the places you expect and work fine.

Japanese maple leaves 1

Both bodies could have used a CLA to make the controls work more smoothly. But these are robustly built cameras. The meter is likely to be the one weak spot.

Pink flowers

I shot most of this roll of Fujicolor 200 in my front yard, aiming at late-spring flowers. My tulips were past their peak, but this lens really delivered sharpness, color, and bokeh.

Spent tulip

See more photos in the Konica Autoreflex T3 gallery.

I like this camera, and I love this lens. If you come upon a T3 with a working meter, scoop it right up.

Advertisements

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
To get Down the Road in your inbox or feed reader, subscribe here.

Advertisements
Standard

30 thoughts on “Konica Autoreflex T3

  1. 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.

    Like

    • 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.

      Like

  2. 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.

    Like

    • 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!

      Like

    • jack says:

      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.

      Like

  3. Christopher Smith says:

    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.

    Like

  4. Richard Adams says:

    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.

    Like

    • 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.

      Like

  5. 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

    Like

  6. David Buckle says:

    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.

    Like

  7. Tom Higgins, Florida says:

    I too am an avid Konica T-3 person. Matter of fact I have four that I have scooped up over the years, knowing full well that prices would soar someday. Over the years, I have also acquired half a dozen of their best lenses as well. By carefully watching ads, I was able to even get NOS lenses and sell the less pristine ones. Most of my life, before switching to 35mm, I shot only 6×6 with a Rolleiflex TLR. By far, my best 35 is a Nikon F3HP which I love, but my real true love and companion is still my Konica T-3. It just feels and shoots great. Luckily, my other hobby is collecting and repairing vintage cameras, and you are correct, the light meter wires usually need replacement.

    Like

    • I was astonished by this camera — how pleasant it was to use and what excellent results it returned. I would very much like to find another with a working meter. It would go into frequent rotation among my favorite cameras. I lean on a Pentax ME and a Nikon F2AS as my other two primaries.

      Like

  8. Today I got my new old baby, the Konica Autoreflex T3! I auctioned it for quite cheap money (30 Euro) at eBay’s and at once I felt in love like 1973 when I bought it with my first earned money, jobbing while studies. It’s perfekt: clean and bright viewfinder, clear lenses, no scratches or dents and best of all, there are Batteries inside and it’s working! The camera is still awesome, heavy und beautyfull. It seems to be so massive that you could beat nails into the wall. I just shot two dozen pictures while twilight, no problem with the f/1,8 Hexanon and ISO 400 film -.and now begins the wait for the result. Do you develope yourself?

    Like

    • I just recently bought another T3 body, one with a working meter. I love the lens on the reviewed T3 so much that I wanted a fully working body to go with it. This is a real gem of a camera and it’s a shame it is not better known!

      I don’t develop my own film. I will someday — just too busy right now.

      Like

  9. Gary says:

    There is lots of internet advice for fixing the battery wire in the T3, sometimes resoldering is all that is required, but often the whole wire must be replaced. To do that the mirror box must come out, not too difficult, but set aside a free weekend.
    The AR 50mm 1.7 is a great lens, but try 85mm, a fantastic lens!

    Like

  10. Jasmin Bouchard says:

    I have one working! I’ve learn to take photo in the digital world and like to play with 35mm sometime. The T3 was given to me in college, still in working condition, new battery (with some compensation for the voltage.) I’ve use it really recently! Here’s the scan i’ve made of some: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10209635968519091.1073741850.1325226951&type=1&l=81f516d486 (all c-41 some convert to black and white for fun.) Only have the default 50mm f1.4 lens with it. My friend where really septical that i’ll beat their cellphonewith the old tech until they’ve seen the final result :)

    Like

  11. Dave Luttmann says:

    Simply a superb camera. My father gave me his T3n after his stroke. I have the 50 f1.7 and the 35 Hexanon. Built like a tank. Mine is 40 years old now.

    Like

Share your comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.