Another Return? Konica C35 EF

I mentioned previously how I seem to be entering into the “reacquire cameras I got rid of” phase of my film obsession. Last week I talked about picking up a Pentax IQZoom 150SL, a camera very similar to the IQZoom 170SL I had last year. And now it’s time for another reacquisition!

On a whim last April I picked up a Konica C35 EF. It’s an autoexposure zone-focus camera from 1975, the first 35mm camera to have a built-in electronic flash. I enjoyed using it for a bit, as the Hexanon lens was nice and sharp. It fell in between my big rangefinder, the Minolta Hi-Matic 7s, and my smaller compacts like the Olympus XA2. But then I found a Ricoh 35 ZF, a smaller rangefinderesque camera1 that had manually adjustable exposure. Even though that camera turned out to be a dud, I was impressed by its heightened functions. So I gave the Konica to my friend Steve as a “going away” gift of sorts.

And now it’s almost a year later, and I have another Konica C35 EF. Why? It’s not like I needed to fill a niche again, as the Olympus 35RD which replaced the Ricoh fulfills the need of small rangefinder-esque machine. No, it was another whim. I found an untested specimen on ye olde eBay for cheap and decided to take a chance.

This was another of the “first generation” C35 EFs, as it lacks the self-timer that came with the second gen. This also tells me that it has only two shutter speeds, 1/60 and 1/125. (The second gen added 1/250). Besides that, the first and second generation C35 EFs work the same: Zone focus with four settings, manually adjusted ISO up to 400, zone focus and aperture shown in viewfinder, a half-press of the shutter to lock the aperture setting, and oh yeah, the built-in flash. Just like the previous one I had, the flash doesn’t work, the two AA chamber copiously corroded.2 The meter uses a separate 675 button battery so no big deal if you are shooting with natural light.3

The Konica C35 EF is a fascinating camera. It could be considered the first true point-and-shoot 35mm camera.4 Before 1975 most 35mm cameras required some small amount of knowledge of photography. The C35 EF pretty much eliminated that need. The only other thing the photographer had to remember to do was focus. In two years that need would be eliminated when Konica introduced the first autofocus camera, the C35 AF.

The Konica C35 EF was a pretty luxurious camera for its time, attracting the admiration of Andy Warhol. Yet the build quality is somewhat lacking. It doesn’t feel cheap but it doesn’t feel nice either. Take for example the rewind knob: The previous one I owned lacked the lever, making rewinding a chore. I thought it was because of people yanking the lever, thinking it’d open the film compartment.5 My current one still has the lever, but it’s a pretty flimsy piece of aluminum, making me think that fatigue was the more common culprit. Such luxury.

And while many people say this camera is “ugly” I don’t think it looks that bad. It definitely has rangefinder roots. I think the bulby compacts of the 90s have the lead in unattractive camera design.

I put both a color (Ultramax 400) and black and white (Agfa APX 100) roll through it to test it out. Everything worked fine, and the results I got back were good. That four-element 38mm f/2.8 lens is nice.

Yet I’m not going to hold on to this camera. It just doesn’t “fit in” to my collection anymore. As mentioned above, the Olympus 35RD fulfills the role of compact rangefinder, a machine with either semi-auto exposure or full manual. I can use the exposure lock to make the Konica C35 EF a pseudo-aperture priority camera. But it’s a clumsy way to go about it. It wasn’t a big deal when it was the only camera I had like it, but why bother now? My other Olympus cameras (XA2 and Pen EES-2) are handy and more compact zone-focus machines. I do like the fact that the C35 EF has the “read-out” of aperture and zone focus in the viewfinder. But it’s not enough to win me over.

I’m still glad that I tried out another Konica C35 EF. It’s fun to go back to an old camera after using a bunch of other cameras in the interim. It’s still a decent camera that takes good pictures and is easy to use. But I have other cameras that make me feel the same way. It’s just not different enough. I’ll keep the Pentax IQZoom 150SL since I don’t own another camera like it, even though I don’t foresee using it that much. But the Konica C35 EF should move on to someone who can appreciate it.

Want it? I’d like to see it move on to someone who has either never shot film or hasn’t done it in awhile. Do you fit that bill? Do you currently lack a film camera and want to give film photography a shot? I’ll give it to you for free, though I would love it if you could cover the shipping cost if you are not local. Heck, I’ll even throw in a roll of color film! Please get in touch. UPDATE 5 June 2021: This camera was claimed, and is off to its new home.

As you can see below in the dynamic flickr album, this camera takes good shots. (Click here if the album isn’t working.)

Kitchen time. 11 May 2021

1 It used zone focus rather than a rangefinder, but looks and operates like a compact rangefinder in all other ways.

2 Man, remember when leaking batteries was common?

3 You will need that 675 battery, though, as this is an automatic exposure camera.

4 Okay, the Olympus Pen EE (introduced in 1961) had autoexposure and a fixed focus lens, meaning the photographer only had to “point and shoot”. But the Pens and other similar cameras lacked built-in flash. Having the flash with you all the time was a revelation, and ten years later pretty much every compact 35mm camera had a built-in flash.

5 Some cameras use this method to open the door, others have a latch. The C35 EF has the latch.

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