Unwanted and unloved. Lying in a tattered cardboard box at a local yard sale, I found a battered little ‘70s Konica rangefinder. It was ugly. There was some kind of black, tarry substance blotting bits of the top panel and the glass rangefinder window had fallen inside the camera body. I popped open the back and discovered, to my complete non-surprise, that the light seals had turned into sticky goo. Maybe — just maybe — with a good dose of restoration, this hunk of neglect could be transformed into a working camera. I wasn’t sure I was up for it, but I was willing to spend the $1 asking price to find out.
As the photos above show, the camera cleaned up nicely. All it took was a little (well, okay, a lot) of tender love and care and new light seals. Even better, once I installed a battery and ran a couple of rolls through it, I found myself really enjoying it. When I saw the results, I was doubly pleased. The photos appeared properly exposed and the 38mm Hexanon lens delivers nice and sharp results. I was impressed.
While many rangefinders from the 1970’s feature a blend of automation and manual control, the exposure system of the Konica C35 Automatic is, as its name suggests, fully automatic. It selects both the aperture (f/2.8 to f/14, oddly) and shutter speed, which ranges from 1/650 to 1/30. There is a bulb setting, but the camera defaults to f/2.8 when it is engaged. The camera has a 9EV range, but only if you choose the right film. ISO 200 and 400 are the best choice, but if you use ISO 100 you end up sacrificing one or two stops of exposure range by being able to cope with rarely seen exposure values of EV16 and 17, at the expense of those dimmer than EV 8.
The upside of having the exposure set automatically is that the C35 is very easy to use — just point, focus, and shoot. The viewfinder is nice and bright and the rangefinder patch is easy to see. The viewfinder display also tells you what aperture/shutter pairing is being used. Typical of the breed though, close focus is 1 meter. Weighing only 370 grams (13 oz), the Konica weighs 60 grams less than the similarly diminutive (but, more capable) Olympus 35RC.
So what’s not to like? At the risk of criticizing the C35 for being what it’s not, the lack of any manual control is something of a limitation. Aside from focus, the only controls you have are the half-press exposure lock and a compensation workaround via the camera’s ISO setting. Still, I have cameras that are more capable that I actually use less often than the Konica. It’s light weight is often more important to me than manual control. It’s never let me down and the photos I’ve gotten have been as good as the ones I’ve captured with more sophisticated gear. As an added bonus, the C35 isn’t as widely sought after as the 35RC or the various Canonets, so you’re much more likely to score one for a couple of bucks. And for that kind of money, there’s nothing to complain about.
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