I’m a sucker for a fast lens. Whenever that magic f 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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