Camera Reviews, Photography

Konica Auto S2

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I’m a sucker for a fast lens. Whenever that magic number sinks below 2, I’m a goner.

And so I can’t believe it took me more than a year to shoot the f/1.8 Konica Auto S2 that John Smith donated to my collection. But at long last, this camera has come up in the to-shoot queue.

Konica Auto S2

I’d never heard of the Auto S2 before this one fell into my hands. But a quick Google search yields reviews by all the usual film-camera collectors — and they all love this black-and-silver rangefinder camera. Produced for a couple-three years starting in 1965, the Auto S2 succeeded the earlier, similar Auto S. The S2 bettered the S with a slightly faster lens (f/1.8 vs. f/1.9) and moved the meter’s CdS cell from the body to the lens housing, where it adjusts for filters. A dreaded, banned 625 mercury battery powers that meter, enabling shutter-priority autoexposure. Everything else about this camera is mechanical.

Konica Auto S2

The 45mm f/1.8 Hexanon lens is of six elements in four groups. It’s set in a Copal SVA leaf shutter that operates from 1/500 to 1 sec. The S2 supports films from ISO 25 to 400. In its day, f/1.8 at 1/500 sec on ISO 400 film was about as good as it got when you needed to shoot in low light or to stop motion.

Konica Auto S2

The Auto S2 has a couple super nice features. First, not only does the aperture show up inside the viewfinder, but it also appears on a readout atop the camera. But more importantly, the Auto S2 makes focusing and framing easy and accurate. You focus by moving a lever on the lens barrel. It’s easy to find your left index finger while your eye is at the viewfinder. The rangefinder patch is bright and large enough even for my middle-aged eyes. And then frame lines in the viewfinder adjust as you focus to show how the photo will be framed. They are pretty accurate. A pet peeve of so many viewfinder and rangefinder cameras I’ve used is that the viewfinder shows considerably less than the lens sees. That’s not a problem with the Auto S2.

This is a big camera, the same size as a Yashica Electro 35. And it’s heavy, though not unbearably so when it’s strapped across your shoulder.

I dropped in an alkaline 625 cell and some Kodak Gold 200, twisted the aperture dial to Auto so I could enjoy the autoexposure, and got busy shooting. And right away I found my two disappointments with the Auto S2: the flimsy feel of the shutter button and the ratchety sound and feel of the winder. I’d expect as much from a cheap point-and-shoot, not from a heavy camera otherwise so well built. But they worked reliably enough through my test roll, which began on a trip to photograph The Pyramids.

The Pyramids

I visited a post office on that trip, and something about this scene across the street spoke to me. I still like this shot, but I can’t put my finger on why, as nothing in it is terribly exciting.

Industrial park

I felt pretty uninspired during the time I had film in this camera. I hadn’t visited New Augusta in a while, so I drove over there with the Auto S2 and ended up getting the same kinds of shots I always get there. Ho hum. But at least they show you that the lens is sharp and contrast is good.

Green bench

I spent a while on the railroad tracks around which New Augusta was built. I’m more a roadfan than a railfan; perhaps you can tell me what the heck this thing is. But as you can see, the lens is capable of some nice, smooth bokeh.

Red and green thingy

I drive over these tracks almost every day on my way to and from work. Multiple times, actually, as they run diagonal to the streets in this part of town. Fortunately, they get light use. I’ve been stopped by trains on them only two or three times in the more than 20 years I’ve lived in this part of the city.

Tracks in Augusta

At the tracks, I wasn’t sure the Auto S2 was firing properly. This shot I dashed off to check the camera’s function ended up being another good example of the lens’s sharpness and ability to capture detail.

Knurled

But that was the last shot I got, even though the film counter read only 20. I couldn’t wind any further. But after I rewound the film, the camera operated fine. I don’t get it.

To see more photos from this camera, see my Konica Auto S2 gallery.

I liked the Konica Auto S2. But I liked my Yashica Electro 35 and my Minolta Hi-Matic 7 as much; they’re all similarly specified. And of course there’s my delightful Yashica Lynx 14e with its outstanding f/1.4 lens. In a fast-lens contest, that Yashica wins hands down. But any of these cameras is a great choice.


Do you like old cameras? Then check out all of my old-camera reviews!

 

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18 thoughts on “Konica Auto S2

  1. Dan Cluley says:

    The railroad thing is a switch stand. I controls the points of a track switch, which is what you show in the second picture. Moving the handle that goes out of the frame to the right, moves that rod that is half buried in the leaves, which in turn moves the inner rails of the switch.

    Currently the track is set up for a train to go straight into the distance. If the switch were lined the other way, that gap between the two rails at the right would be gone, and one would open up on the left, so a train would diverge onto the siding track at left.

    The red & green target on top of the stand rotates to indicate to an approaching train crew which way they are going, and that clamp thing in the foreground (and the matching one out of frame to the right) keep the handle locked in place so the switch can’t be tampered with.

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      • Dan Cluley says:

        From what I could find, it sounds like they run up there about once a day M-F to serve some of the industries just to the north. They probably use that siding to switch the locomotive to the other end of the train before heading back south.
        Years ago, it would have been much busier as that line was the New York Central’s route from Indianapolis to Chicago.

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  2. Dan Cluley says:

    I briefly had a Konica C-35 which looks similar, but it sounds like the S2 is quite a bit larger. I don’t remember what lens mine had, but definitely nothing that fast.

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  3. Lovely colors with Kodak Gold, the more I see the more I want to shoot some! So I get the thing that there’s not a whole lot of difference between this and the Hi-Matic or the Yashica Lynx, but what about in terms of compactness, or ergonomics? How is the pull on the winder compared to the Minolta? The Hi-Matic 9 I had had an outrageously long pull.

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    • You know, I’m just not warming up to the Kodak Gold. It’s not a bad film, it’s just that I’m used to the Fujicolor 200 I normally shoot. I’m just more used to its colors.

      As for ergonomics: this is a big and heavy rangefinder, like the Hi-Matics and the Electros. I found the winder pull on the S2 to be unobtrusive. I haven’t used my Hi-Matic 7 for a while but my dim memory says it’s got a surprisingly long pull.

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  4. I’m glad you had a somewhat pleasant experience with your S2. I’ve purchased two of them now on the big auction site for peanuts and neither have been 100% functional. The first one actually had the rangefinder mirror fall off inside the camera. The lenses are exceptional and your pictures are proof.

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  5. Excellent post and shots of the legendary Auto S2! As you mentioned, there are quite a few similar cameras from that era, I love my Olympus SP best, but they’re all great and cheap!

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