The Konica, or Konica I (also known as the Konica Standard or just Konica) is the first in a series of rangefinders that come at the beginning of a company that would go on to produce quality cameras for generations. As a mechanical 35mm film camera, the Konica I is a fine example of the high level of craftsmanship common in the photographic industry.
The origins of Konica trace back to 1873 when Rokusaburo Sugiura, a pharmacist, began selling photographic materials and equipment from his shop in Tokyo for many years. In 1882 Konishi started to put together a plan to build and sell photography equipment and materials in Japan, in a time when most photography equipment was imported. By 1902 Konishi was selling the Cherry Portable Camera through the Konishi Main Shop and eventually new products would be sold here as well.
It was some time before the company became known as Konica however. Even as late as 1921 the company was named Konishiroku, a combination of abbreviations of Konishi and his eldest sons name. Finally in 1948 with the release of the Konica I, they would begin to use Konica as the company name.
Konica continued to sell photography equipment and film (the Konica Infrared film was phenomenal) well into the 2000s. In 2003 Konica merged with Minolta and finally exited the photography business in 2006.
The Konica I was produced from 1950 to 1954. It had a relatively short production life but still managed to get by with a few variations along the way. It came with a rangefinder coupled 50mm Hexar f/3.5 lens. The shutter was built into the front of the extending lens, with speeds ranging from Bulb, and 1s to 1/500s. The Hexar lens is sharp and capable with fast shutters speeds and apertures ranging from f/2.8 to f/22. It also has a really short rotation span to focus with. The focus lever corresponds to the hyper-focal scale just above it and focus from 1 meter to infinity in a 1/4 turn. I don’t know if this is a plus or a minus but you can very easily create multiple exposures with the Konica I. The shutter isn’t linked to the film advance mechanism at all so you have to remember to advance the film after every shot.
Throughout its production life the Konica I had a couple of lens changes. It was launched in 1950 with the 50mm Hexar f/3.5. From 1951 to 1952 it came fitted with a 50mm Hexar f/2.8 and from 1951 to 1954 it came with a 50mm Hexanon f/2.8. I’m not sure what the differences are between those lenses though.
The Konica I is an easy camera to use. It is super basic and completely mechanical.
Loading the Konica I isn’t any different than many other similar cameras, except the Leica, compared to those cameras the Konica is super easy. The film cartridge loads on the left and fed into the take up spool on the right. To advance the film you to press the small chrome button on the bottom of the camera. It’s a bit odd since usually that’s a rewind button, but not here. You have to get used to how much to rotate it as well – I think 1 full rotation should be enough. But honestly I’m not sure, as I can’t locate a manual either.
The next step is to extend the Hexar lens, then rotate it to lock it into place. There are markings on the lens barrel that indicate direction, it’s pretty simple. Don’t forget this step, if you do everything will be blurry, and not in a cool way. The shutter cocking mechanism is on the shutter at the end of the lens. The shutter speeds are adjusted by the knurled ring around the lens while the aperture is adjusted by a small tab on the left side of the lens.
Like I mentioned before it’s really easy to create multiple exposures, so if that’s not your thing, make sure to advance the film. The film counter is on the advance knob as well, and it should be automatic one you set it when you put a fresh roll in.
If you need a lens hood or like to use filters, you can get around the fact that the lens has no filter threads. I found a press-fit lens hoof, Series 6 filter holder that happens to fit perfectly. As it happens, this setup works on several of my cameras so it isn’t another one-off solution. Series 6 filters are pretty inexpensive these days so it won’t cost much to get a yellow, orange, green and red with the holder.
I love rangefinder cameras and the Konica I is a great example of early rangefinders. It’s simple to use, sturdy and has an excellent lens. Unfortunately the oddities of this camera keep firmly in the realm of a collection piece rather than a user camera. There are several other cameras, even the Konica II that I would pick up this one, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go for it. For around $100 it’s a fun little camera, and its collapsible lens make it an easy camera to just stuff in a bag or to keep in the car. The Konica Hexar and Hexanon lens are sharp lenses so you don’t have to worry about that.
It may not be a daily shooter these days, but its still a well-made mechanical camera that’s a worthy inclusion to any collection.
Type : Rangefinder
Lens Mount : fixed/collapsible
Shutter : Leaf Shutter
Shutter Speeds : B -1/500s
Remote Shutter Release: Mechanical
Self Timer : no
Mirror Lock-up : No
DoF preview : No
Flash Mount : Cold shoe
Flash Sync : 1/50s
Multiple Exposure : Yes
Filter Size : Series 6 press-fit
Strap Lugs : No
Battery : N/A
Production : 1950 – 1954
Weight : 601g
Download the Konica 1 manual
Lens caps : plastic, press-fit for each lens.