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.
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.
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).