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Review

Konica FS-1

I was a poor graduate student and wanted to buy some sharp lenses. In 2017, I was shooting with a Sony NEX-6 paired with only an excellent Zeiss 32mm lens and a decent Sigma Art 19mm lens. Mirrorless cameras, especially full frame, are dominating the photography world. I enjoyed both of the lenses I owned, but one could never have enough lenses. Had I been slightly richer, I would have bought many of the new lenses released for the cropped or full frame cameras. But alas, I couldn’t justify the cost of acquiring new equipment, so I window shop without buying anything. That’s until I found out that legacy (film camera) lens are being adapted to modern mirrorless camera, That intrigued me as excellent lenses can be had for a few dollars. First on my list is the legendary Helios 44-2, and I was hooked. I made a list of cheap lenses that I should be on the look out, and started to pay attention. One day, by pure accident, we stopped at a used store (which I never does) and saw the Konica 40/1.8 lens attached to a FS-1. Going prices on Ebay was close to $50, whereas this untested set was $20. What the heck, why not gamble? And that’s how I ended up with the Konica FS-1.

Konica FS-1
Konica FS-1 Hexanon 40/1.8 X CineStill 800T

It was never the plan to shoot film. I didn’t even realize film still exist at that point. The only times we have any relationship with film is when we buy disposable cameras for our annual kayaking trip. At this point, I do not know how to load film, or read the meter in the camera. As I was waiting for the Konica adapter to arrive, I decided to take this FS-1 for a ride by buying 35mm film at the local camera store and begin shooting. I have no idea if the camera, shutter, lens, or even the film worked. I just shot, and found a lab via a subreddit to send these film for development. Surprisingly, the film came back with images – underexposed, but works. Time for more shootings!

Konica FS-1 Hexanon 40/1.8 X Fujifilm Superia 400

Konica is an underappreciated camera manufacturer. They made excellent lens but couldn’t make half decent camera bodies, at least that’s the general consensus. Konica’s top of the line lens go toe to toe with the likes of Leica and Hasselblad, which is still evident of the high prices they fetch. That also led me to the cheap Konica 40/1.8, which is given out as free candy for the purchase of most of their SLR in the 60s. But back to the camera, the FS-1 is the first motorized SLR ever made, but mine wouldn’t wind to the 1st frame automatically. The shutter is very soft without tactile feedback, but half pressing it will show you the aperture that the camera thinks you should shoot at, if you left the lens on manual aperture setting. Being designed and produced in the 80s, this design of the camera does not look funky and pretty similar to default camera of today, with a huge prism on the top of the lens but doesn’t have waist lever finder. Being fully metallic with (fake?) leather made the camera extremely heavy, and the 4 AAA batteries does not help at all – it will be a workout. Focusing is based on the split prism in the middle of the bright viewfinder.

Konica FS-1 Hexanon 40/1.8 X Fujifilm Superia 400

On one hand, this camera is capable of produce images similar to the best SLRs, since the camera body contribute absolutely nothing to image quality. On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to use a full electronic first edition camera that is probably about to expire at any moment. FS-1 is.. okay, but nothing more. By the time I ran a few rolls of film through this camera, the battery grip was falling apart. To truly appreciate the camera, I would have to spend more money on CLA than on the body. Instead, this body checked none of the boxes I wanted in a film camera. (sharp, light, small, mostly automatic) I ended up buying a point and shoot. Later on, I did get my hands on the next and last version of the Konica SLR line – the Konica FT-1, but that’s a story for another day. To anyone who wants to venture the “cheap” and easily accessible Konica SLR line, I would suggest the T3/4 (mechanical) or FT-1 (which seemed much better built compare to FS-1). Skip over the FS-1 unless you want an all black SLR – you aren’t missing anything.

Konica FS-1 Hexanon 40/1.8 X Fujifilm Superia 400
Konica FS-1 Hexanon 40/1.8 X Fujifilm Superia 400

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