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

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View from a 15th-floor hotel window

View from the hotel window
Nikon F3, 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor
Kodak T-Max P3200
2018

I just love how much definition the T-Max P3200 delivered at night through our Chicago hotel window. Just look at the cars in the glowing parking garage! They’re so clear you can almost tell what make and model some of them are.

If you’re looking at this on a computer monitor rather than on your phone or tablet, you can see how even at this larger size the considerable grain doesn’t detract at all from the image.

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Film Photography

single frame: View from the hotel window

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Photography, Preservation

Welcome to Chinatown

Chinatown, Chicago

Our visit to Chicago included a ride on the L down to Chinatown. We just wanted to see it.

Chinatown Metra stop, Chicago

Our view of it began as we exited the train. It stretches out right there before you.

Chinatown, Chicago

Our visit consisted mostly of walking down and back up Chinatown’s main drag, Wentworth Avenue. We were surprised by how varied the buildings’ facades were.

Chinatown, Chicago
Chinatown, Chicago
Chinatown, Chicago

Ours were the only Caucasian faces out and about here this Sunday morning. While nobody appeared to give us a second glance as we walked and made photographs, I had a distinct feeling of not belonging.

Chinatown, Chicago

At least the Chinese Christian Union Church had a very kind word for everyone, emblazoned on the side of their building.

Chinatown, Chicago

Canon PowerShot S95

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Cathedral

Turbaned man passing a Catholic church by
Canon PowerShot S95
2018

Have you ever made a photograph and then, later, you noticed something in it that made the image? This is one of those times for me.

Margaret and I happened upon St. Peter’s Church, on W. Madison St. in the Loop in Chicago. It’s such a stunning structure that we had to pause for photographs. Madison St. is relatively narrow, and I couldn’t back up enough to capture the whole building. So I looked for interesting framing within what I could capture.

The building’s symmetry appealed to me — my goodness, but do I love symmetry — so I went for that. Then today, while reviewing these images, I noticed the man in the turban passing by. What a joyful juxtaposition!

Photography

single frame: Turbaned man passing a Catholic church by

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Preservation, Road Trips

A bridge over the Chicago River

Margaret and I enjoyed a long weekend in Chicago a couple weeks ago. We stayed in a lovely hotel in The Loop and walked all over to do a little Christmas shopping and enjoy the sights.

If you’ve never been, The Loop is bordered on the north and west by the Chicago River. Eighteen bridges span this river here, allowing traffic to flow into the rest of Chicago along every major avenue. Here’s just one of them, on Monroe Street a couple blocks from Union Station.

Bridge over the Chicago River

Many of these bridges are in the Beaux Arts design and this one is no exception. The bridges in place here now were built mostly during the first half of the 20th century; this one was completed in 1919.

Bridge over the Chicago River

Each of these 18 bridges raises or swings out of the way to let ships pass. The Monroe Street Bridge in particular is a drawbridge, more precisely a bascule bridge. The building on the right is where the operator lifts the bridge.

Bridge over the Chicago River

If found out in the country, each of these bridges would seem massive. But surrounded by Chicago’s high rise buildings they seem strangely small, yet impossibly sturdy.

Bridge over the Chicago River

The Monroe Street Bridge is dotted with these lamps, lighting the pedestrian walkways at night and, I’m sure, providing a lovely view from the neighboring bridges.

Bridge over the Chicago River

As you cross any of the Chicago River bridges in the Loop, you can see many of the others — and take in a great view of the city.

Bridge over the Chicago River

Canon PowerShot S95

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Road Trips

The Logansport City Building

Logansport City Building

Logansport’s City Building doesn’t look like much from the outside. I drove by it many times while exploring the Michigan Road without stopping for a photograph. You only get a clue that something interesting may lurk inside when you see the City Building letterforms over the doors.

Logansport City Building

I made these exterior shots on a Michigan Road day trip my wife and I made recently.

Logansport City Building

But in 2013 I got to go inside, for a meeting of the Historic Michigan Road Association, and I made a few photographs with my phone. I haven’t shared them before because my phone struggled with the low interior light and I wasn’t terribly happy with how they turned out.

Inside the Logansport City Building

But I’m unlikely to get inside again any time soon, and imperfect photographs are better than no photographs!

Inside the Logansport City Building

Logansport built its City Building in 1925, at a time when the city was flush with cash thanks to the railroads that ran through town.

Inside the Logansport City Building

My research revealed nothing more about the City Building. It’s too bad. It’s a lovely building, lovelier than you’d expect in a city the size of Logansport.

Inside the Logansport City Building

What I like best about the building is the stained-glass skylights on the top floor. You can see one through these doors.

Inside the Logansport City Building

There is more than one skylight, but this is the most prominent of them as it is in the center of the roof, visible as you enter the building and ascend the stairs.

Inside the Logansport City Building

I did my best to hold my phone level while standing directly below this skylight.

Stained glass, Logansport City Hall

Returning now to the present day, my wife and I stayed in Logansport long enough for darkness to fall and the decorations to light up.

Logansport City Building

Canon PowerShot S95, iPhone 5

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