#125 Old Tech Sweetheart
As my regular blog readers already know, I volunteer with Finger Lake Re-Use www.fingerlakesreuse.org an organization that promotes sustainable economies by re-using, re-purposing or recycling all manner of stuff from whole buildings deconstructed for reusable materials to computers, table ware, sports gear…and cameras.
I triage photographic equipment, much of it from the pre-digital film era because I believe that, despite some obvious advantages of digital imaging, analog silver photochemical photography has aspects which remain of value and is no more rendered obsolete by digital imaging than painted art was rendered obsolete by silver photography. The role of painting and hand draughtsmanship has dramatically changed thru historic periods, but great art still happens in these enduring media. So also with analog photography.
There is something of a glut in the current market for film cameras because the major American and European manufacturers have either found new business plans or bankruptcy. This means that there are genuine bargains available for those still interested in analog photography. I recently bench and field tested a very interesting 35mm film SLR camera which will soon be available at the Finger Lakes Re-Use store in Triphammer Mall, Ithaca.
Konica T-3 Outfit with lenses ©WEB
The camera, a Konica T-3 Autoreflex, is a very interesting piece of engineering. The Konica company’s Hexanon lens series are legendary quality 6 element designs derived from the classic Zeiss Tessar… lenses still hard to beat even in these years of computer optimized ray traced design. Konica took an interesting market risk and produced Hexanon designs for not one but two “normal” system lenses.
The normal lens focal length for 35mmm full frame cameras has been 50mm since the classic Zeiss and Lietz lenses determined the standard in the 1920’s and 30’s. In the 1970’s Konica decided to produce one “normal” lens that was slightly wider angle for use with broad subjects in general photography and made a fine 40mm f/2 design. (The theoretical “normal” is 43mm.) They also produced a narrower angle, faster, 57mm f/1.4 version for use under lower light conditions and when greater camera to subject distance produces more accurate perspective. Both are fine lenses.
Even more interesting than the lens options was Konica’s decision to engineer for shutter priority automatic exposure. Every other manufacturer opted for aperture priority automation to take advantage of then new technology of variable speed electronically controlled shutters where the photographer chooses the aperture and the electronic control determined how long to keep the shutter open. That system was easier to engineer and prevails in part to this day in almost all digital cameras. But…shutter priority, even if more difficult to engineer, is far more friendly to the human user, who wants to select a shutter speed dependent on subject motion or their ability to steadily hand hold the camera. I’m not a camera repairman, so have never looked in the physical details of the systems, but as a field photographer have been annoyed for decades at the need to reverse think aperture priority cameras to get them to yield to my shutter priority mind. Konica did it for me ! I get to choose the shutter speed and the camera picks the aperture and tells me if it can’t program a proper exposure. Yippee !
Finger Lakes Re-Use received the Konica T-3 Automat as a donation and after a full bench check I shot an entire roll of B&W film under a broad variety of lighting conditions. A number of other Konica mount lenses were also donated, so a “full house” lens suite from 28mm wide angle to an 80 to 200 f/4 zoom are available with the camera. There are also one each additional 40mm and 57mm Konica Hexanon lenses available.
The T-3 Autoreflex was produced from 1973 to 1975. The one offered is s/n 515867. The body is cosmetically good, but shows signs of extensive use and required considerable cleaning of the viewfinder optics. The base plate has evidence of being once dropped, but not operationally damaged. One long term concern to a potential buyer is that the light sealing foam on the mirror chamber is deteriorating. It shows no sign of leaking yet but may need replacement in the future, maybe years hence. Shutter, film transport, meter, hot shoe and PC contact flash contacts are all working properly.
The camera was field tested with a whole roll of B&W film under a variety of lighting conditions and with all of the lenses. The auto exposure is accurate within a stop… not perfect. Exposures of ISO 200 film at ISO 125, a normal allowance for error, were consistently overexposed. The buyer will want calibrate it to their own taste. ISO 200 may work best on this meter. The diaphragms of all the lenses work properly.
The 28mm F/2.8 wide angle lens is a Vivitar brand. It has noticeable edge separation of the front element. It looks ugly but is serviceable. 49mm filter.
I-776-23Vivitar28mmOvercast, flash off camera©WEB
The two genuine Konica Hexanons are in excellent condition with original caps. Both take 55mm filters.
The 80 to 200mm F/4 Tokina brand zoom lens was a surprising pleasure to use in the field. Usually aftermarket lenses of this category are poor, showing linear distortions, excess flare and low contrast. This Tokina is an exception; it performs very nicely. It focuses quickly and accurately with the T-3’s viewscreen and the image quality is high for this type lens.
The camera takes a pair of inexpensive #44 hearing aid type batteries. The user must train them self to turn the meter off when the camera is not in use to prevent draining them. The user guide for the camera can be downloaded from www.cameramanuals.org/konica/konicaautoreflext3-1.pdf
This camera with the entire lens suite would be very fine outfit for a student or serious artist wanting to work with analog film. It covers the same range of angular view as a 7X zoom. Fixed focal length lenses demand a more explorative and disciplined approach to composition than zoom lenses, and the cost of film and processing discourages machine gun shooting. It’s not a bad idea at all that a real cost is associated with each picture.
I have not field tested the other two Hexanon lenses…I can’t help but wonder if some company is making an adapter to fit these lenses on the new breed of 4/3 full size sensor mirrorless digital SLRs…now that would be an interesting hybrid !! If the possibility intrigues you, you’ll have to do your own research.
As with all offerings at Finger Lakes Re-Use good timing is crucial. The outfit will enter the pricing pipeline later this week. If you’re interested in this user classic, don’t show up too early…it will not yet be priced…but don’t let someone else beat you to it. Remember also that repairs services in the future will not be free. Konica merged with Minolta and neither are still in the camera business.
“Where’s Waldo ?” There are at least two bumble bees visible on the B&W negative of this plot of blossoms, an analog image equivalent to an 8.6 megapixel bitmapped file.
‘Nuff for Now…. Next Post: I’ll be occupied with a heavy construction project for several weeks and have no idea when I’ll next have time to craft a full fledged post.