Another new-old camera: Konica C35 EF

You’re addicted now.

Paul R., SE Belmont St.

Last time we checked in, I was at three film cameras: the Minolta Hi-Matic 7s (the first), the Pentax IQ Zoom 170SL, and the Olympus XA2. Three cameras should be a good number to have, right? I didn’t need another camera. I had no desire to keep on acquiring and acquiring, and yet here we are, me with another camera. Lemme explain…

I love my Minolta Hi-Matic 7s camera. It’s a beautiful 60’s Japanese fixed-lens rangefinder with a sharp 1.8 lens. But it is definitely a bulky camera, not the easiest to transport while biking. And since I didn’t have a case for it, I had one incident where the lever that opens the back caught on something, exposing the film.* (Thankfully most of the roll was fine.)

I wanted something that was a bit lighter than the Minolta, easier to carry around. Something that would probably see a lot of black-and-white film, as my Olympus XA2 is usually loaded with color. I thought, maybe another XA camera? The second one could be the dedicated black and white unit, just like Andrew at Shoot Film Ride Steel does it. But let’s face it, I’m extremely lucky that I got one XA at all, and especially for free. Used XAs aren’t cheap.

I started to dig deeper, and one camera intrigued me: The Konica C35 EF. It was a zone-focus camera introduced in 1975, which happens to be the year I was born. The C35 EF has the honor of being the first 35 mm camera with a built-in, battery-powered flash. (Cameras before that either used bulbs or a separate flash.) So it has some notoriety behind it because of that, and oh yeah, because Andy Warhol liked ’em.

You can see the mentioned camera in Andy’s right hand. Technically he has the C 35 EF2, which added a self-timer, a faster shutter speed, and more orange detailing. But otherwise, the same camera.

The prices for the C35 EF were all over the place, but I spotted one on eBay that was pretty cheap. It was being sold as untested/as-is, with a very undetailed photo. But the seller wanted only $10, which included the shipping. Ten dollars is a risk worth taking, so I bought it. On April 18 it was delivered to my door.

Upon inspection, I could see one very obvious flaw: The rewind lever had broken off. This seems to be a common occurrence with these cameras. It still turned, though. It just means a slow rewind. The advance lever also had a little play, but still worked. I couldn’t get the flash to work, but I don’t mind. Yeah, ironic, since the big deal about this camera is the flash. But I wasn’t buying this for the flash, instead I was buying the C35 EF because it looks rangefinder-ish (but isn’t) and has lugs so I can put a strap on it. The shutter worked, the meter gave a reading when I put a battery in it. I loaded it with some color film (Kodak Ultramax 400) and took a photo-walk around the neighborhood on a damp Wednesday (April 22) to test it out.

I was really relieved when I got the pics back. Most shots were properly exposed, and there were no light leaks. The camera worked A-OK. And the sharp six-element Hexanon 38mm, f/2.8 lens produced great results. From the looks of the shots from the first test roll, I’d say they’re as sharp, or maybe (gasp!) sharper than shots that I got from my XA2! Blasphemy!

Like the XA2, the Konica C35 EF has zone (or scale) focus. It’s the sweet-spot between the manual focus of a rangefinder or SLR and either autofocus or fixed focus. The C35 EF has four focus zones from 3 1/2 feet to infinity. It means I have to guess a little bit, but can still get a pretty accurate focus.

And like the XA2, the C35 EF has autoexposure: the meter in the camera determines the correct exposure via shutter speed and aperture. But unlike the XA2, the viewfinder will show you what aperture it will use, so that’s handy. Even handier: half-pressing the shutter locks exposure. So, you can “trick” the camera to get the aperture you want by pointing the lens at an appropriate light or dark object to get the desired f/stop, lock exposure, recompose shot, and fully press shutter. So you can have some control over the exposure. Call it a pseudo-aperture-priority camera.

Alas, there’s no real control over shutter speed, and the shutter options are limited: 1/60 or 1/125. I’m guessing that wider apertures (f/5.6 or larger) get the 1/60 speed, and smaller apertures (f/8 and smaller) get the 1/125 shutter. (The later EF2 version adds a 1/250 speed). So, this is probably not a great low-light camera (sans flash), and I’ll most likely stick to faster films. The shutter release has threading for a cable, so I can take a self-portrait that way.

The color did good, now the big test was black and white. The other benefit to this style camera is the threaded lens area, designed to take filters. Black and white photography works best with a yellow filter (or orange or red), so I found a threaded 46 mm yellow filter, loaded the camera with Fomapan 400, and took the Konica with me on some adventures. Some shots seemed underexposed (I blame that on the minimum 1/60 shutter speed and the moodiness of Fomapan), but I got back some choice pics.

So yeah, this one’s a keeper. I scored good when I got this Konica C35 EF. Smallish and lightweight (about 12 ounces), great lens, some manual control. This will definitely be a good companion for around-town bike rides, when I want something loaded with black and white slung around my shoulder (and the Olympus XA2 loaded with color in my bag). It’ll augment my camera collection just nicely.

Journal Comic, 27 April 2020: New (to me) camera.

*Of course, since then, I managed to score the right case, so the accidental opening shouldn’t happen anymore.


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