Konica FS-1 : The best camera you’ve never heard of.

Konica has been making cameras and photographic materials since 1873 and was Japan’s oldest camera company until it merged with Minolta in 2003. During that time they produced dozens of camera models ranging from 110 film cameras to large format field cameras many of which are very memorable, such as Konica Hexar.

The Konica FS-1 was introduced 1979 marking the first time a 35mm SLR had a built-in motor-drive capable of shooting 1 frame per second. In addition to the motor-drive the FS-1 was also the first all electronic film camera from Konica, so unlike some of Nikon equivalents of the day there was no mechanical backup if your batteries died. Konica also had the forethought to use standard AA batteries to power the FS-1, creating a delightfully useful and feature rich camera. Production ran through 1983 when the FS-1 was replaced by the FT-1.

The battery compartment was built into the hand grip making the FS-1 comfortable to hold and not any bigger than a standard 35mm SLR of it’s age. With the inclusion of a built-in motor and accommodations for 4 AA batteries, the FS-1 is likely one of the heaviest cameras of the time (at least for 35mm cameras) coming in at just a bit more than 2 lbs; quite a bit more than the Nikon FM which is an all mechanical 35mm of the same time period. Also unlike many of the FS-1’s competitors it was only available in black.

Konica FS-1 dial

The FS-1 is simple to operate since it doesn’t have any presets to speak of. The main configuration dial allows you to adjust the film ASA and shutter speeds. Shutter speeds range from 2 seconds to 1/1000, bulb setting, 10 second self-timer and a cable mount for a remote shutter release. The FS-1 has a hot-shoe, pc socket and TTL metering. The metering is a shutter-priority system and you can lock that in by moving the aperture to the “AE” setting. The metering indicator is pretty simple and shows whether your in Shutter priority or manual. It focuses like you’d expect with the split image circle in the center of the viewfinder. It’s surprisingly bright as well making it very easy to see the subject and get the focus right. Konica also made some improvements to how the film is loaded and it’s a very welcome addition. They refer to it as the Konica Autoload System and it’s really easy to get right, so loading the camera is quick and auto-advanced once the door is closed. The film door on the FS-1 is also removable but I haven’t been able to figure out why. I mean, other than for ease of repair or for replacing the light seals. I haven’t found any accessory doors for it, so it could be that the door is interchangeable with some other models.

Using the AR lens mount gave Konica a solid platform for creating an excellent variety of zoom, telephoto and prime lenses. With a width of 47mm, the AR mount is wider than the previous F mount which was only 40.5mm. So naturally I took advantage of this and added a 50mm f/1.7 to my collection of lenses. The AR mount first showed in 1965 with the Konica Autoreflex and remained in use until 1988 so there is no shortage of lenses available for the FS-1.

I used the Konica quite a bit given that it was my first real camera. In addition to the 50mm I also have a decent zoom lens which made it very enticing to drag along with me pretty much everywhere while I was in the Corps. The FS-1 has been a real workhorse over the years but I after a little research finding information talking about the cameras electronics to be somewhat iffy didn’t come as a surprise. I’ve run into problems with the motor on more than one occasion. In fact it goes kind of like this, based on serial numbers:

  • 100,000 – 345,000: v1 was pretty delicate and electronic failures were common.
  • 345,000 – 420,000: v2 was better, but issues persisted but far less frequently.
  • 420,000 and on: v3 was the charm. At this point the FS-1 is a solid, reliable camera.

Besides motor issues, I don’t really have too much to gripe about until I get to the metering. I can’t fault the meter it has always seemed very accurate, but the exposure indicator in the viewfinder isn’t the greatest, but it is easy to read. The exposure indicator is simple with 2 red leds. The first one indicates if your in Manual or Shutter Priority and the second one indicates which aperture you need to be set to for a normal exposure. The Gallium Arsenide Phosphour TTL light meter is very accurate as I have never really run into an issue where the exposure didn’t come out how I was imagining it.

As with many Konica cameras, you can get into the FS-1 for next to nothing, getting a body and a few lenses could easily be had for less than $100 on eBay. Konica’s lenses are built well and they did a good job of covering the primes and zoom lenses with a good variety of affordable zoom lenses and very wide, very fast prime lenses. The trick with the FS-1 however is getting one of the later models that isn’t quite as buggy as the first 2 versions. Mine is luckily one of the v3 models so it’s the most stable of the 3 versions.

All things being equal, the FS-1 was a good starter camera. It’s in expensive, pretty reliable with a solid feature set. With it’s shutter priority mode, hot shoe, pc socket and remote cable releases it has everything you need to just take pictures and not have to mess with fussy configurations. It’s too bad that they couldn’t work in a classic, mechanical style shutter release, but that’s minor. While there are a lot of other cameras out there that I would choose over the FS-1 that doesn’t take away from the fact that this was cutting edge in 1979. Konica made some really lovely cameras over the years and the FS-1 deserves to be mentioned as an outlier and I’m happy to have it in my collection.


Konica FS-1 frontKonica FS-1 sideKonica FS-1 backKonica FS-1 top
Konica FS-1 battery trayKonica FS-1 shutterKonica FS-1 dialKonica FS-1 aperture ring
Konica FS-1 camera and features

Specifications

General:

Konica FS-1
Production: 1979 – 1983
Film: 35mm
Shutter: Focal plane
Weight: 2lbs 2oz
Flash: TTL
Mount: Konica AR
Battery: AA Batteries (4)
Shutter speed: 1 sec – 1/1000
Exposure rate: 1 frame per second
ASA range: 25 – 3200

10 second self-timer
Hot shoe
PC Socket

Remote shutter cables available

Download the FS-1 manual.

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