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 a friend 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, who all love this black-and-silver rangefinder camera. Produced 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, and heavy, though not unbearably so when it’s strapped across your shoulder.

If you like big, heavy rangefinder cameras also check out my reviews of the Yashica Electro 35 GSN (here), the Yashica Lynx 14e (here), and the Minolta Hi-Matic 7 (here). You might also enjoy my reviews of the smaller Canon Canonet 28 (here) and Olympus 35 RC (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

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

What a great landmark these buildings are on Indianapolis’s far Northwestside. I wrote about their history here.

The Pyramids

I hadn’t visited New Augusta in a while, so I drove over there with the Auto S2. My subjects ended up being ho-hum, but the photos at least 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 blurred backgrounds.

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

On a later outing I shot Kodak T-Max 400 in the Auto S2. The camera and film performed flawlessly.

Zionsville home

I shot the Auto S2 around downtown Zionsville (above) and downtown Indianapolis in the early winter. Some 50+-year-old cameras don’t like the cold but the Auto S2 functioned fine.

Roberts Park Church

I had a great time with the Auto S2 on this chilly day. My litmus test for a camera is to answer the question, “if this was the only camera you could keep, would you cry?” Answer: nope.

Old house

dd

Indianapolis Public Schools

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

I liked the Konica Auto S2 a little better than my Yashica Electro 35 or my Minolta Hi-Matic 7, but not as much as my delightful Yashica Lynx 14e with its outstanding f/1.4 lens. In a fast-lens contest, that Yashica wins hands down. But either of these cameras is a great choice.

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.


Comments

33 responses to “Konica Auto S2”

  1. Dan Cluley Avatar
    Dan Cluley

    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.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks for explaining! I wonder how often this is switched. This track gets so little use.

      1. Dan Cluley Avatar
        Dan Cluley

        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.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          I figured as much. The trains are always short and slow. Thanks for doing the sleuthing!

  2. Dan Cluley Avatar
    Dan Cluley

    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.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I have a C35 and it’s a lot smaller and lighter. In many ways, the C35 is a nicer camera to use.

  3. Sid Davidowitz Avatar

    My Dad had a camera shop back then. I remember Konica’s slogan in the 60’s was “The lens alone is worth the price”
    Here’s a vintage advertisement for the S2:
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/1965-Konica-Auto-S2-Camera-Ad-Components-/401103810051?hash=item5d63a66e03

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      What a cool ad! Thanks for sharing it. Must have been fun to grow up around a camera shop.

  4. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    One of those cameras I bought with the best of intentions, but never got around to trying. I am pleased you did.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It’s a very nice rangefinder and would have been competitive with the other similar ones from other makers at that time. Thanks again for donating it!

  5. ambaker49 Avatar
    ambaker49

    Konica is one of the few I have not had the opportunity to shoot. Thanks for sharing your experience with this one.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I find it not to be a terribly common brand on the used market. I have a C35 and an Autoreflex T3 but that’s it for Konica.

  6. Joe shoots resurrected cameras Avatar

    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.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      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.

  7. Joshua Fast Avatar

    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.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks Joshua — I’m getting the impression around the Net that I got lucky to land a fully working S2.

  8. Sam Avatar

    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!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      “Great and cheap” is a big part of why I keep buying old cameras!

  9. Richard Novak Avatar
    Richard Novak

    Jim, I can’t figure out how to remove the sliding lens hood on my S-2, and I need to remove it to attach the “Auto-Up” close up lens that was made for the camera. Can you advise?

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m sorry, Richard, I’m afraid I won’t be any help. I didn’t know about the close-up lens or that the hood was removable! I wouldn’t know where to begin.

  10. Szilvia Virag Avatar

    Given this is the cheapest rangefinder I can find that can be used in manual mode (because if I used your camera quality litmus test, if I could only keep one camera, one that only allowed auto exposure would definitely make me cry!), would you recommend this over a Canon ql17?

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I made that very choice when I sold my QL17 and kept this. The only downside is that the Auto S2 is larger – not as convenient to carry.

      1. Szilvia Virag Avatar

        Thanks. I’ll see what I find at a market where they sell a lot of vintage stuff in case I end up pleasantly surprised and find something that’s both very nice and cheap (and not have to resort to Ebay). Just need to pick a quiet time to go when there hopefully won’t be a lot of people… for obvious reasons. So far we’ve been pretty fortunate in Australia, but we are starting to have more covid-19 cases in Victoria, so we all need to be sensible.

  11. Sam Warner Avatar

    Great review! I recently picked one of these up, but the rangefinder patch isn’t visible and the aperture doesn’t change when I move the dial. It was only $17, so I figured I’d risk it. Maybe I’ll get it repaired, as it’s in beautiful cosmetic condition.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Consider looking on eBay for a replacement — these go for under $50 frequently. I’ve owned a bunch of rangefinder cameras of this size and this is the one I kept over them all — it’s a good one to use.

  12. Kent Teffeteller Avatar
    Kent Teffeteller

    Superb camera, excellent view/range finder. I used to own one, years ago. Miss it much. I am thinking I’ll buy another one.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I have film in mine now!

  13. Kent Teffeteller Avatar
    Kent Teffeteller

    I now own another Konica Auto S2. I paid $45 for my excellent example on eBay. Complete with case and does have the lens shade. For me, the best rangefinder/viewfinder on a fixed lens rangefinder. Parallax compensated, very snazzy.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Excellent. I just got done using mine and am reminded why I kept it — it’s great.

  14. Kent Teffeteller Avatar
    Kent Teffeteller

    That Konica Auto S2 I bought had a film transport issue. I just acquired another example for $30 and it’s shutter works fine, and film transport is fine. I ran a roll through I have for testing camera film transport. Will load a test roll for real tomorrow, and shoot some photos, and get the film processed and scanned. Look forward to this.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      This camera is a peach. I hope your second one works flawlessly.

  15. Lyn Whiston Avatar
    Lyn Whiston

    I bought an S-2 new in spring 1966 to take on a post-graduation six week trip thru Europe. I put about 30 rolls of Kodachrome thru it. The meter worked perfectly and I had wonderful slides. I found the camera easy to use and comfortable to carry. Years later I had some fogged negatives, which is how I learned about foam sealing decaying. I now have Konica S, S2, and S3. The S3 is objectively the best of the lot, but the S2 still has my heart.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve eyed the S3 for a long time, but prices have kept me away. It looks terrific.

Leave a Comment

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

Sign up for my newsletter!

Sign up for my monthly newsletter,
Back Roads, and be the first to know
what I'm working on!

%d bloggers like this: