Camera Reviews

Konica Auto S2

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!
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Camera Reviews

Yashica MG-1

If this camera looks like a Yashica Electro 35, it’s because it is. Sort of. It shares the Electro 35 body but not its name and not all of its features. But it undeniably has Electro 35 bones. Built from 1975 to 1980, the Yashica MG-1 ended the Electro 35 era, which began in 1966.

Yashica MG-1

The MG-1’s 45mm f/2.8 Yashinon lens, of four elements in three groups, is a little slower than the f/1.7 lens on all of the other Electro 35s. Also, while other Electro 35s automatically correct for parallax, the MG-1 doesn’t. And while later Electro 35s, namely the GSN and GTN, accept film of up to ASA 1000, the MG-1 holds to ASA 800. And unlike every other Electro 35, the MG-1’s shutter has no “bulb” setting for timed exposures.

But like the Electro 35, the MG-1’s CdS light meter, the little glass bubble above the lens, is coupled to an aperture-priority automatic exposure system. When you load film, set the camera to your film’s speed using the selector on the bottom of the lens barrel. Then to take a picture, first set the aperture by rotating the lens barrel’s outer ring. If you’re not great with the intricacies of f stops, just choose the symbol closest to your conditions: sunny, cloudy, or “window” (indoors and, I suppose, very overcast). Next, frame your shot and press the shutter button down part way. Here’s where things get clever. If a red arrow lights inside the viewfinder, or the Over light glows on the camera’s top plate, the MG-1 can’t find a shutter speed that won’t overexpose the photo; choose a smaller aperture and try again. If a yellow arrow lights inside the viewfinder or the Slow light glows on the camera’s top plate, the MG-1 had to choose a shutter speed so long that camera shake will be a problem; either mount the camera on a tripod choose a larger aperture so the MG-1 can choose a faster shutter speed. The red and yellow arrows even point in the direction you need to twist the aperture ring.

Yashica MG-1

Focusing the MG-1 is simple and works like every other coupled rangefinder camera I own. While looking through the viewfinder, twist the lens barrel’s focus ring until the rangefinder’s ghost image lines up crisply with the viewfinder’s image. The viewfinder is large and bright, and contains two sets of framing marks, one for closeups and one for all other shots.

Yashica MG-1

What sets the MG-1 and its Electro 35 brethren apart is its stepless shutter. It fires at any speed between 1/500 and 4 seconds. If 1/78 or 1/459 second gives the best exposure at the chosen aperture, that’s what the camera uses.

All this electronic trickery requires a banned PX32 mercury battery. You can use springs and cardboard to adapt other batteries or buy a same-size alkaline battery on Amazon. Or you can do like I did and order custom battery adapter from Yashica Guy, who is a devotee of all things Electro 35.

This, by the way, is a large and heavy camera and feels substantial in the hand. It’s about the same size and about the same weight as my Minolta Hi-Matic 7.

If you’re a Yashica fan, by the way, check out my reviews of the Yashica Electro 35 GSN, the Yashica Lynx 14e, the Yashica-D, and the Yashica-12. If you like big fixed-lens rangefinder cameras, check out my reviews of the Minolta Hi-Matic 7 and the Konica Auto S2. Or have a look at every camera I ever reviewed, here!

I loaded some Fujicolor 200 and took the MG-1 to explore New Augusta, Indiana, a former small town in what is now northwest Indianapolis. Funny story – the people who founded New Augusta had been living about two miles east, in a town called Augusta a mile or so to the east on the Michigan Road. I’ve written about Augusta before; an 1832 brick house and a log cabin still stand. When the railroad went in, residents left Augusta behind and built New Augusta on the railroad, hoping for better prosperity. Much of the town, including a small downtown, remains.

This is New Augusta’s Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church, completed in 1880. You will notice that the top of the building is cut off. I knew I wasn’t going to get all of the tower in the photo; I couldn’t back up any farther. But when I framed the shot I saw less of the street and the roof’s peak was in the picture.

Salem Church

The same goes for the top left corner of the brick building in this photo. It’s a real pet peeve of mine when a viewfinder isn’t accurate. The brick building was once New Augusta’s post office and the red frame building was Wagle’s Grocery, by the way.

Downtown New Augusta

A lawyer and an accountant hang their shingle from the brick building today. Look at how much sharpness that lens delivers.

Accountants and attorneys

The whole point of New Augusta was to provide a stop for the train. Here’s the station, confusingly called Augusta. Trains don’t stop here anymore and the station is private property now.

Augusta Station

I don’t live very far from New Augusta. These tracks run south from here to about a mile behind my house. Even though the main line looks well used, I hear train whistles only about once a month.

Tracks

These are almost all of the photos that turned out on my 24-exposure roll of film. The rest turned out blank. It turns out that hearing a click upon pressing the shutter is not enough — you have to keep pressing until you hear two clicks. The first click enables the film to be advanced and the second actually fires the shutter. I didn’t figure that out until late in the roll.

I didn’t get on well with the MG-1 and so I never managed to shoot it again. That’s how it goes with old cameras sometimes.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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