Konica Auto S2 rangefinder photos and review

Front view of Konica Auto S2
A head-on view of the Konica Auto S2 rangefinder camera. (Daniel J. Schneider)

The Konica Auto S2 is a large and slightly fiddly 35mm rangefinder camera with a nice feature set and a really stellar lens. I love it!

In a thorough guest review for Japan Camera Hunter that I found while Googling “Konica Auto S2,” Soren Rosenberg complains about weight, focus creep and a wobbly lens. Like me, Rosenberg lists the super-sharp 45mm f/1.8 Hexanon lens as a big pro.

I’d agree with him that it’s not the lightest rangefinder, but while it is heavier (and larger) than my Konica EE-Matic, it’s still lighter than my Olympus 35SP despite being a bit larger. It’s considerably lighter than most of my SLRs with anything but a pancake lens. It’s a comfortable weight for carrying, and it balances nicely on either the body-mounted strap hooks or the strap mounts on the leather case.

On my S2, the lens is built quite solidly and while it moves fluidly and easily when I focus, it has little to no focus creep when walking around. I don’t usually walk around with my camera in my hand, though. I prefer to show off my collection of colorful vintage camera straps from thrift stores.

Speaking of thrift stores, that’s where the Auto S2 came from. I found it, with the original leather case in great condition and a lovely vintage strap, for $7.99 at a Goodwill in the northwest Denver metro area. I didn’t care that it didn’t seem to work.

As a result, it became my first real experience in camera repair. Following some advice I found online, I disassembled to front half of the lens and used tiny drops of lighter fluid to dissolve and/or re-liquify the lubrication on the leaves of the Copal shutter. I put one tiny drop on each of the five leaves (just enough to see a very thin coating throughout) a couple times a day for about a week, letting them soak in until all the gummed up leaves were free.

Side angle view of Konica Auto S2
A side-angle view of the Konica Auto S2 rangefinder camera. (Daniel J. Schneider)

Once the blades were nominally free, it was simply a matter of actuating the shutter a few thousand times while watching movies and TV shows in the evenings. After a couple days, it was functioning smoothly and perfectly. Everything else worked just fine except the light meter.

The light meter was designed to use a PX625 mercury battery at 1.3 volts. I tried replacing it with a Wein air cell replacement battery, but no soap. Without that, the automatic mode doesn’t seem to work, either. That’s okay, though — shooting black and white with sunny-16 rules has yielded pretty good results.

Some more tech specs: The shutter has setting from bulb to 1/500th sec., the film speed setting go from 25 to 400 ASA, maximum aperture is f/1.8, it has a cold shoe and PC sync socket, a self timer, and infrared correction marks included with the depth of field scale. The rangefinder is super bright and includes handy parallax-correction lines.

The camera is a little fiddly — everything is on the lens which means looking away from the finder to adjust knobs and rings depending what you’re adjusting. It’s not hard, though, and really, I make up my mind on my settings before bringing the camera to my eye since I’m shooting sunny-16.

Since I got it working I’ve shot 5 or 6 rolls of film with the Konica Auto S2, and very few shots have been duds. The lens is really unbelievably sharp, all the way to the edge of the frame. I haven’t tried it for portraiture specifically, but I imagine this lens would take a really fantastic portrait. Here’s a dozen or so examples from my test rolls.

Street musician on 16th Street Mall
An unnamed street musician plays classic Country and Western tunes for tips on the 16th Street Mall in Denver. (Daniel J. Schneider)
Sidewalk on East Lawn of Colorado State Capitol
Looking north toward Colfax Avenue from near 14th Avenue along the sidewalk bordering the East Lawn of the Colorado State Capitol in Denver. (Daniel J. Schneider)
Japanese Garden in Sakura Square
A lamp in the Japanese Garden in Sakura Square at 19th and Larimer Streets in Denver. (Daniel J. Schneider)
The North Building of the Denver Art Museum
The Denver Art Museum’s North Building distinctive tower shape has 24 sides, and the shiny tiles were designed by Dow Corning. (Daniel J. Schneider)
Colorado State Capitol north entrance
The towering north entrance to the Colorado State Capitol building, facing 14th Avenue, in Denver. (Daniel J. Schneider)
St. John's Episcopal Cathedral tower
One of the two towers of St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral on 14th Avenue in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. (Daniel J. Schneider)
Mark Rhoads plays guitar
To bridge the gap while waiting for to complete his disability application process, Mark Rhoads, who has lost nearly all his eyesight, plays guitar for tips on the 16th Street Mall in Denver. (Daniel J. Schneider)
Denver Art Museum North Building
The North Building of the Denver Art Museum, designed by Italian architect Gio Ponti, opened in 1971. (Daniel J. Schneider)
Mochi ice cream at Pacific Mercantile
Mochi ice cream in a display case at Denver’s well-known Asian market, Pacific Mercantile Company, in Sakura Square at 19th and Lawrence Streets. (Daniel J. Schneider)
Closing Era statue at Colorado State Capitol
This statue, entitled “Closing Era,” depicts a Native American standing over a dying buffalo on a plinth in the East Lawn of the Colorado State Capitol in Denver. (Daniel J. Schneider)
Colorado State Capitol East Lawn
A view of the pathway through the East Lawn of the Colorado State Capitol building in Denver. (Daniel J. Schneider)
Ford Galaxie 500 on Cinco de Mayo
Car guys gather to show off their shiny creations, such as this shiny, red 1965 Ford Galaxie 500, on Colfax Avenue during the annual Cinco De Mayo celebration in Denver. (Daniel J. Schneider)

Thinking back to Soren Rosenberg’s review, with so much to like about the Auto S2, perhaps he marked weight down as a con just to keep that column from feeling empty. Weight notwithstanding, if you want for a great rangefinder for street photography and general walking around, I highly recommend the razor-sharp Konica Auto S2.

Most of the photos above were taken with Kodak Tri-X 400 and developed in HC-110E (1+47) for 8 minutes. The two from Sakura Square were taken with Efke KB100, developed in HC-110E (1+47) for 7:30 min. All were scanned on my Epson V600, and as always, the only Photoshopping was dust removal and slight exposure corrections (never more than a stop or two).

Review Summary
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Konica Auto S2 rangefinder camera
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  • Jim Kenty

    Thanks for this excellent story and photos. I would disagree with one point in the story, however. You stated that the Konica S2 is lighter than the Olympus SP. In my case, it is just the opposite — my SP weighs 22 ounces, while my S2 weighs 27 ounces.

    • Thanks! I admit, I didn’t put them on the scale, and I no longer have them available to do so now, but my recollection of the SP was that it was a lot heavier than that. I would’ve guessed more than two pounds, could it be model variations?