Konica Autoreflex TC 35mm SLR Camera

Konica Autoreflex TC 35mm SLR Camera

Konica Autoreflex TC 35mm SLR Camera

'Camera Review - A look at the Konica Autoreflex TC, highly recommended as a good starter 35mm SLR camera'


Introduction and Overview

Konica was one of the avid producers of consumer level camera in Japan, with a history that goes back to 1882 when they launched a project to produce photography related materials in Japan, to 1902 when they began selling Japanese made 'Cherry Portable Camera' before forking out to the release of the Konica 'I' in 1942.

Konica's range of 35mm rangefinder and viewfinder cameras included the highly acclaimed C35 series, while their foray into SLR systems includes the F-mount series, before coming up with the AR-mount series SLRs. These SLR cameras were matched to Konica Hexanon lenses, which were regarded as having superb optical qualities of their own.

Konica Autoreflex TC and lenses

Konica Autoreflex TC

Slated towards the middle of the production run of the Konica AR series, from the Auto-Reflex in 1965 to the TC-X in 1985,  was the Konica Autoreflex TC (1976–1982).

Known as Acom-1 in Japan, the TC comes with a compact plastic body and is a scaled-down version of the Autoreflex T (T, T2, T3, T3n) series.

Konica Autoreflex TC, View, Left Front

Just like the others in the series, the Autoreflex TC can function in both full manual or EE auto exposure modes. Shutter speeds on the TC, however, are limited to B (Bulb), and 1/8 to 1/1000 second.

Highly recommended as a good starter SLR, the Auto reflex TC is often seen in the company of a 6-element in 5-group Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f/1.7 lens, acknowledged for its excellence, which was then the standard issue for the camera.


Basic Camera Features

Konica Autoreflex TC, Front
The Autoreflex TC is a mechanical camera with a shutter-priority, automatic exposure system powered by a pair of 1.35v batteries.

Film winding and rewinding are manual, and the shutter release is locked until the film winder lever is set to the 'ready' position when it is pulled slightly away from the body.

This action also activates the meter. The film transport lever has a fairly short 'throw' and this enables rapid manual winding to be 'quicker' than with some other cameras of the era.

Konica Autoreflex TC, Top
The front of the camera is rather plain with only the self-timer mechanism showing, and a small chrome knob lens release button sits on the left side of the lens mount housing.

The top comes with the film rewind mechanism on the left of the top plate, while the right of the top plate is occupied with the shutter-speed / ISO dial combination, the shutter release button, film frame counter, and the film forward crank. A hot-shoe mount sits on top of the pentaprism.

Konica Autoreflex TC, Back
The back of the camera is equally plain, with only the On/Off switch located just below the film forward crank. The bottom plate has the film rewind knob, the tripod socket, and the battery chamber.

Opening the film back, however, is not done by pulling up the film rewind crank. Instead, it is managed by a pull-down latch mechanism that is fitted as part of the film-back mechanism. The X-sync socket sits on top of the mechanism on the left of the body edge.
Konica Autoreflex TC, Film Box

The film box is equally as utilitarian but is fitted with what Konica called the 'Fast Load' take-up spool to ensure that film loading is correct and proper.

Exposure Info

Konica Autoreflex TC Viewfinder display
The viewfinder is big and bright, Konica called it the 'Control Center Viewfinder', comes with a match-needle exposure indicator showing the aperture setting for the lens, and a manual exposure indicator for when the AE mode was not in use.

Focusing is a combination of center split screen and microprism.

Viewfinder readout is, however, somewhat different from other cameras. The needle reads not correct but actual exposure on a scale that shows the f-stop appropriate to your shutter and film speed, something you might need to get used to.

The vertical scale display is wide open at the top to stop-down at the bottom, and the setting will automatically (and mechanically) adjusts its range to the aperture range of your AE lens. The meter turns on when you bring the wind lever to its standoff position. To turn off the meter and bring the lever back home to rest you press a little ‘off’ switch under the film forward crank. An LED in the viewfinder indicates non-AE function.


Recommended Shooting Mode

Konica Autoreflex TC, recommended shooting mode.
Since the Autoreflex TC is primarily targeted for entry-level demographics, the recommendation by Konica to these users is to simply set the lens on the AE mark, adjust the shutter speed to 'red' 125 mark, frame your image, focus, and shoot away at will as long as the viewfinder’s match needle was anywhere in the 'white' area of the vertical bar. This, the engineers at Konica reasoned, would cover most lighting condition and film speed combinations.


Depth of Field Control

One item that is quite unfortunate about the Autoreflex TC is the lack of the depth of field preview capability. With lenses like the fast f/1.7, and the equally sharp f/1.8, which are both capable of impressive bokeh, to resort to both your experience and the use your imagination to visualize the framing od the image you are setting up.


Mirror Lock-Up

When shooting landscapes or low-light images using a tripod, for example, use the self-timer to activate the shutter. When the self-timer is activated, the mirror will flip-up to its lock position, and in the seconds before the shutter trips, reduces any vibration that might have been caused by the mirror. Your images might just be a tad sharper here.


Batteries

The Autoreflex TC was designed to be powered by a pair of 625PX 1.3v mercury batteries. Since these batteries are not available anymore, a pair of 1.4v hearing aid batteries might be a good source of replacement, or even a pair of LR44 1.5v batteries, with which you should adjust the film ASA setting on your camera by half to account for the voltage difference.


Leatherette Form Shrinkage

The camera is marred by the fact that the leatherette skin form has a tendency to shrink. This is a known problem and could be the reason why many an enthusiast shy away from adding a copy of the Autoreflex TC to their collection. With the camera I was using, which still looks almost new, the shrink is hardly noticeable. I am sure that there are plenty more that looks just as divine on the market today, and if you care to look for one, at the low prices it's being offered, you are in for a surprise.


Using the Camera

Konica Autoreflex TC, View
The Konica Autoreflex TC's compact form-factor along with its black with white and red paint scheme is actually quite appealing. It fits snug in your hands with all the controls easily easy reach. Shutter sound was a solid reassuring clunk.

The unit I was using, however, does not come with the standard AR 50mm f/1.7 lens. Instead, it was fitted with a Hexanon AR 50mm f/1.8, which I found out later, is not without its own cult followers.

Another lens I had the opportunity to test the camera with was a super stellar Hexanon AR 40mm f/1.8 'Pancake' lens, another acknowledged Hexanon lens, renowned for its sharpness and compactness.


EndNote on Konica Hexanon Lenses

It is a well-known fact that the optical quality of most Hexanon lenses is regarded as truly superb, particularly the older fixed-focal primes. While other camera manufacturers of interchangeable lenses do come up with a gem or two within their production line, Konica is said to have managed near excellent qualities over a broader range of focal lengths in tests conducted by past photographic publications. It was also said that Hexanon lenses were used by the Japanese government as the standard against which all other lenses were measured.

So there you go, a very affordable camera on the auction market today, with plenty of equally affordable primes to get your adrenaline pumping ...



Resource Links:
The Konica Autoreflex TC: Compact, Entry-Level SLR - The Film Photography Project
Konica Autoreflex TC - Matt's Classic Cameras

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