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 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.
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.
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!
This used bookstore has become one of my most-photographed subjects.
I found this lion painted on the pier under an old bridge leading out of town.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.