Camera Reviews

Operation Thin the Herd: Konica Auto S2

Church entrance

Some old film cameras have become very popular on the used market. Just try buying an Olympus Stylus Epic or a Canon Canonet QL17 G-III for bargain prices anymore. Yet plenty of highly capable cameras never catch on among modern film photographers and languish in relative obscurity. Like the Konica Auto S2.

Konica Auto S2

This 1965 camera has everything you need to make lovely photographs today: a 45mm f/1.8 lens set in a Copal leaf shutter with top speed of 1/500 sec, a coupled CdS light meter driving shutter-priority autoexposure, and a rangefinder. You might consider it a limitation that it accepts films up to only ISO 400, but I don’t; that’s as fast as I normally go. It returns lovely results, as here on Kodak Gold 200.

The Pyramids

For this camera’s turn in Operation Thin the Herd I chose Kodak T-Max 400. I found a fresh PX625 battery in my stash, loaded the film, and got busy.

Bird is the word

I started Downtown in Indianapolis one chilly, slightly snowy day. I have been getting my hair cut at a barber shop on Delaware St. and then walking about with my cameras after. These electric scooters litter the street corners.

Indianapolis Public Schools

The Auto S2 nailed this gray-day exposure every time. The only thing I had to do with these photos in Photoshop is straighten them, as I proved unable this day to hold the camera level.

Firestone

The more I shoot Downtown Indianapolis, the more I want to capture routine street corners and get as many buildings in as I can. The architecture here is varied and, while common, still interesting.

Indianapolis Musicians

I took the Auto S2 on a sunny-day photowalk in downtown Zionsville. Bright reflections off light-colored surfaces and deep shadows did trip up the Auto S2 a little bit, but generally not so much that a little tweaking in Photoshop couldn’t help considerably.

Black Dog Books

The Auto S2’s controls generate no feelings of pleasure. You know that camera you want to use because everything feels so good under your fingers? That’s not the Konica Auto S2.

Zionsville home

But the Auto S2 isn’t unpleasant to use. It’s neither clumsy nor cumbersome. Everything falls to hand and works well enough. The winder is a little grindy but winds surely. The shutter button doesn’t have too much travel (a common affliction, I find, among fixed-lens rangefinders). The focusing lever is about where your finger needs it to be. Still, the overall tactile experience manages rises only to “meh.”

Zionsville home

What makes the Auto S2 remarkable is its lens, which really drinks in detail. The lens is why I put T-Max into it this time — its minimal grain promised to show me what this lens could do. It didn’t disappoint.

Building

I didn’t shoot anything remarkable on either of these photo walks. I made no art. But every photo on this roll came back properly exposed and bursting with detail. The Auto S2 would make a wonderful companion on one of my road trips.

Main St. Zionsville

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

I’m surprised that I like the Konica Auto S2 best of the fixed-lens rangefinder cameras I have shot so far in Operation Thin the Herd. What it lacks in refinement it makes up for in consistent, solid results. The question is, do I need a camera like this? Would I shoot it often enough to justify keeping it? Because it never lets me down, I’m going to let time tell.

Verdict: Keep

Standard

30 thoughts on “Operation Thin the Herd: Konica Auto S2

  1. As you say, some very detailed images. I think Konica are still overlooked as a brand, I’ve had some fantastic results with their cameras and lenses, from SLR 50/1.7 and 50/1.4 lenses to the C35 EF3 compact with its, I think, five element 35/2.8, which has given me probably as good results as any compact I’ve used.

    Despite the results, I thought it was going to be “goodbye” on the basis of user experience for this one… Your description reminds me to a great extent of my experiences with a Yashica Electro 35 GTN. Fantastic lens, but the camera was heavy, bulky and fiddly to use, and ultimately for me not worth the final images.

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    • The Electro 35 was clumsy and cumbersome. So was my Hi-Matic 7 to a lesser extent. The Auto S2 wasn’t. Matter of fact, I updated the text above to say so. It’s only that the feel of the controls does not in any way transmit luxury. Everything works, but that’s it.

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  2. The lens certainly has a certain look. But besides that, these images are some of the best I have seen here. The camera and you work well together. It also encourages me to give Tmax 400 another chance.

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  3. I love this series, Jim… and not only for the fact it continually reminds me that I have to prune down my own stash of gear. I don’t have the Auto S2, but my Auto S3 is a dream with its 38/1.8 lens. Definitely a keeper.

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      • Just my opinion, but I’ve had a few older Konicas like your S2, and some of the AutoReflex ones, and an Auto S3. The S3 was nothing like the same build quality, very cheap and flimsy in comparison. Of course this means it weighs a lot less, and it is pretty small, I just didn’t like the feel of it at all and didn’t keep it very long. It was a real disappointment after the Konicas I’d had up to that point. In fact I’ve had three of the later plastic bodied C35 EF3 cameras and they feel far more robust, and are smoother and more fun to use, albeit they are viewfinder rather than rangefinder cameras, but they have cracking lenses. It would be very interesting to hear your thoughts if you every tried an Auto S3, or indeed a C35 EF3.

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  4. susanJOY Hosken says:

    Jim, just another comment of praise for your wonderful photos. I have such a similar taste in subject matter as you do. I don’t read all about the cameras but enjoy the photos

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  5. Wayne S. says:

    Hello Jim,
    Very nice images and interesting around town architecture-i especially liked the musicians union and person in the window reflection.
    The Konica Auto S2 is a fine camera and at a reasonable cost to get involved with-truly an underrated classic rangefinder.
    The lens is spectacular and the little focusing knob on the lens is kinda neat to work with.The meters inside these underrated gems are enclosed in a very well designed,protective plastic housing and the meter is made by Sekonic so it is built well and typically the meters are still working on many of these cameras .
    I like the solid feel of these S2s and the pull out O.E.M. lens shade is a nice and useful touch.
    Your images nicely showed the Konica Auto S2’s capabilities and your excellent photographic skills,as always,added the finishing touches!

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    • Wayne, the Auto S2 might well hit that sweet spot of performance and low cost on the used market. Maybe we should keep it quiet so there will be plenty to choose from should ours falter and die!

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  6. Hi Jim:
    I have one of these too and completely agree about the lens–it really is very good. I don’t use my S2 very often, but I’m glad I have it in my collection. It’s a solid performer.

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  7. Pingback: THE READING ROOM – NEWS & THINGS YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED (WEEK 25: 18TH -24TH JAN 2019) - Canny Cameras

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