Konica Auto S-3

1973-1977 Konica Auto S3

The Konica Auto S3 is a versatile 35mm, shutter priority, rangefinder camera produced from 1973 through 1977. The S3 has a fast (f/1.8) 38mm, six-element lens that has.a reputation for producing extremely sharp and detailed images. Heralded by many as the standout compact rangefinder of the 1970’s; the Auto S3 provides amazingly high performance from a 6-Element, 4-Group lens as acclaimed in 'Modern Photography'; “One item on the S3 that passed our tests with flying colors is the lens – one of the best semi-wide angle optics of its speed we have ever tested. As you can see by reading the accompanying test charts, it exhibited excellent resolution, both centers and edges at all apertures. Unfortunately, the absence of a manual diaphragm control made it impossible to measure contrast especially at maximum aperture. Similarly we could only make optical bench observations wide open. Hence the following analysis weighs heavily on actual test slides shot at various apertures. ¶ Central Image Quality: Central color fringing was not visible at all on slides and only showed up slightly on the bench. The same was true of central spherical aberration, so we can classify central image quality of this lens as definitely superior. ¶ Edge image quality: Correction for lateral color fringing appeared excellent both on slides and the bench. Astigmatism appeared moderately large on the bench at f1.8 in the outer half of the picture area. On slides, slight tangential astigmatic streaking was observable wide open, but it disappeared at f2.8, leading us to conclude that astigmatism was very well corrected. Coma appeared well-controlled at all apertures.” The Auto S3 epitomized Konica's advertising claim from the '50's that proudly proclaimed, "...the lens alone is worth the price". 

Pht large 1966

1966 Auto SE Electronic - origin of the Auto S3's superb F1.8, 38mm lens

The Auto S3 was an upgrade of Konica's landmark C35 from 1968 using the superb f1.8, 38mm lens from the short-lived 1966 Auto SE Electronic and added an advanced flash system. As the Auto S3 exited production in 1977, the fixed-lens rangefinder market was rapidly contracting as SLR's dominated the global camera market.

They say that copying is the sincerest form of flattery and in 1978 Cosina Co., Ltd., an original design manufacturer (ODM) of cameras and lenses based in Nakano, Japan that had previously copied Konica's 1968 C35, began supply of Auto S3 copies for the photo marketing companies of Vivitar (35 ES), Revue (400SE) and Prinz (35 ER). The Cosina copies employed a smaller, darker viewfinder with obvious barrel distortion, a 40mm lens and did not include Konica's brilliant synchro-flash system. In 1983 the Auto S3 was copied once again by the Chinese company Jiangxi Optical Instrument Factory as its Phenix JG301; a blatant copy down to the Copal leaf shutter and 1.35V Mercury battery.

  • Manufacturer: Konishiroku Photo Industry Co., Ltd., Tokyo, Japan
  • Produced: 1973-1977 (≈211,000 cameras produced over 5 year term)
  • Model: Auto S3 in export markets, C35 FD in Japan domestic market
  • Finish: Auto S3 and optional finish C35 FD = Black Anodized Aluminum, C35 FD (standard finish) = Bright Chrome
  • Focusing System: Coupled coincident image rangefinder with fixed brightlines and parallax compensation marks. Lens uses helicoid focusing
  • Lens: f1.8 38mm, 6 elements in 4 groups with 49 mm filter thread
  • Shutter: Copal automatic leaf shutter 1/8 to 1/500 + B and self timer. X-flash sync at all speeds
  • Shutter speed: 1/8-1/500 sec.
  • Shutter priority automatic exposure with exposure lock feature (unusual for compact RF class) activated by partially depressing the shutter release.
  • Aperture: f/1.8- 16
  • Metering system: CdS photocell mounted above the lens inside filter ring. Shutter priority auto exposure, ASA 25-800. Needle in viewfinder displays current aperture
  • Flash: Flash hot shoe and PC socket with balanced daylight/synchro exposure. Guide numbers 7 to 56
  • Display in viewfinder: aperture, over/under exposure
  • Battery: 1.35v PX675 mercury-type
  • Size: 112W x 80H x 60D mm, 410g
  • Retail price: ¥33,000 (1973), $199.95 in U.S., £82.90 in Britain
  • Key accessories: Auto-Up 3, close-up device from 50 cm to 0.9 m (19.7” to 35.4”), X-20 Electronic Flash (MSRP $49.95)
C35 FD Silver

1973 Konica C35 FD

The Auto S3 was introduced to export markets in 1973 finished in a sleek black anodized aluminum chassis coupled with classic, clean styling that made it distinctive among compact RF peers. The Japanese Domestic Market model was badged as C35 FD, produced primarily in silver anodized body with rare black anodized C35 FD offered an an upgrade variant.

The sophisticated daylight Synchro/Flash system of the Auto S3 (the most advanced ever fitted in a compact RF), perfectly balanced flash and ambient lighting. The capabilities of the Auto S3’s unique daylight Synchro/Flash System could also be exploited to provide metered manual control.  Inserting a flash in the hot shoe activates a green synchro flash indicator bar in the viewfinder window tied to focus distance. After focus; turning the shutter speed ring until the primary meter needle in the viewfinder aligns with the green synchro flash indicator bar yields perfectly balanced, shadow-free lighting for flash photography. This advanced feature provides unprecedented versatility for fill-flash photography. Flash sync at all speeds, 1/8 to 1/500 + B.

Auto S3 production started as Konica celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding as Konishiya Rokubeiten in 1873 by Rokusaburo Sugiura VI. The company changed names several times through the years, merged with Minolta in 2003 and ultimately withdrew from camera and photo finishing businesses in 2006 with recognition that the film market was "shrinking astonishingly by the surge of the worldwide digitization”. Konica Minolta Holdings divested its SLR camera business to Sony where the Minolta 'A' lens mount continued as a basic building block of Sony’s 'Alpha' digital SLR systems for many years.

Konica Accessories

Auto S3 Accessories