Konica C35 Auto - My First Cheap Film Camera

 

Old film cameras in second hand stores tend to be dusty, fungus ridden, worn out pieces of junk. I never gave up on the idea of finding something interesting in one however and this summer it finally happened to me. I was visiting some family in a quiet little seaside town, in the UK, when I stumbled across this little gem. It was hiding right by the door of the shop, as I came in, sticking out of a terribly worn case. I'm guessing that the look of the deteriorated leather case put most people off. When I opened it I was met by this pristine looking Konica C35, I haven't cleaned it for the photo, it really looked this way.

Being mostly interested in film SLRs up to this point, I knew nothing about this camera. I didn't even know that Konica made a rangefinders... I know, I'm a terrible person! I had no idea about the spec or worth, I just wanted it. The lady in the shop told me that it was her husband's and he hadn't used it in a while. There was a sticky black tar-like substance on much of the interior, probably from the deteriorated light seals. Fortunately there wasn't much on the inner workings. The battery didn't work and was slightly corroded, but I was willing to take a gamble on that being fixable. The lens looked good back and front. It had no lens cap, but a decent looking UV filter. So, I decided that this would be my next project and handed over the £10 that the lady asked for it. 

RESEARCH & CLEANING

We brought the camera back home with us (UK to Sweden by train). When unpacking everything the camera got put in a corner and forgotten for a for few weeks. When I finally found it again I decided to try cleaning the interior. I removed the loose parts of the old light seals and did my best to clean away any sticky gunk from the mechanism, but I confess to getting bored and giving up at some point. I may try to finish that off and even put new seals in there one day, but for now I wanted to use it. The next hurdle was the battery. They don't make the mercury PX675 (1.3v) batteries any more, but I did have some LR44 (1.5v) laying around. These fitted in the C35 and made the light meter move, so it was good to go as far as I was concerned. I had read somewhere that the meter could give false readings with these batteries, but I didn't have much choice. Then I started looking at the camera's settings. As the name suggests the exposure is automatic so I started thinking about the ranges it had for exposure. Here's some specs:

  • Year: 1974

  • New Price: £50

  • ASA: 25-400

  • Lens: 38mm (46mm filter)

  • Aperture: f/2.8 - f/14

  • Shutter: 1/30 to 1/650th

  • Focus: 1m- Infinity

  • Battery: PX675 1.3v Mecury

  • Weight: 380g

SHOOTING

For my first roll of film to put through the Konica I chose a 'Rollei RPX 100', right in the middle of the sensitivity range. I took the camera with me to work for a few days, taking a couple shots here and there, but nothing was inspiring me. Then, one day we had some heavy rain as I was coming home from work. I was just about to get on the bus when I remembered the Konica was in my bag. Since I could hold the camera easily with one hand and the umbrella in the other I realised that this could be a great opportunity to get some shots in the rain.

I love bikes so I couldn't resist this one... but before I go on I wanted to point out the shape of the film-gate. These notches on the right reminded me of the twin V-shaped ones from the left of the Hasselblad's film gate. I don't know why these things exist, but artistically speaking - I like it. I tried scanning directly on the glass of the Epson V850 so that I could get the sprocket holes and film text as well, but I struggled to get a flat / sharp image and ultimately gave up. I switched to scanning only with the film holders from then on and that's what you'll see here, but luckily I could still just get the edge of the frame. This shows that I haven't done any cropping and couldn't fix any tilting.

Holding the umbrella while shooting was a challenge, but a lot easier than a manual focus SLR. Winding was made possible by pressing the left side of the camera to my chest, which gave me enough leverage to advance the film. Focusing was a little harder, but I managed it with my little finger when needed. I snapped away, using puddles for reflections, getting people with umbrellas and riding bikes, trams and busses from the roadside - it was a lot of fun. I managed to almost use up the whole film here! I got slightly uneasy when I remembered that the film might not come out well (or at all), but that was balanced by the thought of it perhaps looking more artistic with some light leaking. Despite costing me more to develop this one roll than the camera cost me (I am so developing my own films soon) I was thrilled to see that they not only came out, but there was no light leaking.

COLOUR ROLL

For my first colour film I chose to try out Kodak Ektar for the first time. I was really happy with the colours from this film. I think this might be my favourite colour film so far. The exposures might be showing up as a little overcooked on colour negatives (from the higher voltage battery), but if so it's not far off, just a bit more noticeable than with black and white. I also started shooting these city shots in the rain, but saved the bulk of the film for my visit to the Gothenburg Air museum (Aeroseum). This is an old military bunker, tunnelled into a mountain.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Using b&w & colour negative film in this camera has been a surprisingly joyful experience. The camera was good value, but so far the film and developing costs are not, so I wouldn't advise getting a camera like this because it's a bargain. What I think this camera offers is an unusually refreshing shooting experience. It's one that I didn't expect would appeal to me as much as it has. As well as giving me the opportunity to capture something I've wanted for a long time (moody rain shots), it also has a light but tank-like feel that I'm unafraid to take risks with. A lot could have gone wrong here and almost nothing did, so I appreciate how lucky I have been, but I still think this was and still is a great camera. Konica is fast becoming one of my favourite manufacturers. If there is anything from Konica than ended up in Sony cameras then perhaps that's one of the reasons they are doing so great today.

 

I've now put 5 rolls of film through this camera (currently waiting on the 5th to come back from the shop). I am loving using this camera although part of me want to upgrade to a similar model with a faster lens, like an 'Auto S3' or an 'Hexar AF', but I can't help wondering if they will have the charm that the C35 has?... 

Edward Noble

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