■ 2. SLR bodies - Introduction
Konica made SLRs from the late 1950s to the early 1980s. In that time, the company produced two SLR series distinguished by the lens mount. The first, called the "F" series, was in producton for only six years (for more on these SLRs, see Section 7). The second, called the "AR" series, was launched in 1965 with the introduction of the Auto-Reflex (note the hyphen) and ended in 1983 with the introduction of the FT-1. It is the AR mount that consolidated Konica’s reputation as an innovative SLR maker and it is the cameras and lenses of the AR system that are this site’s principal subject.
The production span of AR series cameras can be divided into two periods separated by a short transition interval. The first period lasted about a decade – it began with the introduction of the Auto-Reflex in 1965 and ended with that of the Autoreflex T3N in 1974. Konica essentially pioneered automatic exposure for 35mm SLRs during the first half of this period, and firmly established itself as the photo industry’s leading automatic exposure specialist in the second half. During this period, Konica improved each of its successive SLRs, a process that culminated in the introduction of the Autoreflex T3 in 1973 and of its second version, the T3N, in 1974. The latter is universally regarded as the most advanced of Konica’s traditional mechanical SLRs. All of Konica’s SLRs from this period share the same general appearance. They are sturdy, all-metal SLRs typical of that era – cameras whose general dimensions, style and weight had remained essentially unchanged throughout the industry since the early sixties.
Auto-Reflex and a number of period Hexanon lenses
Under pressure from rising production costs and consumers demanding less cumbersome and cheaper cameras, by the middle 1970s traditional mechanical SLRs were giving way to a "new wave" of lighter and more compact SLRs, a process that had been heralded by the introduction of the Olympus OM-1 in 1972. The entire photo industry began to experiment with synthetic materials and, in time, with increasingly complex electronic circuitry. This trend ultimately led to the emergence of a generation of cameras which were often more user-friendly but, more often than not, less sturdy and unusable without batteries. For Konica, the transition between the large traditional SLRs and the new electronic compact cameras was assured by two models – the Autoreflex TC, an extremely popular entry level SLR introduced in 1976 and made until 1981, and the Autoreflex T4, a semi-professional grade SLR introduced in 1977. Both models are streamlined mechanical cameras that look almost identical. Although their operation doesn’t differ from that of the SLRs that preceded them, in terms of appearance, they are from a different era.
Autoreflex bodies and some period Hexanon lenses
The second period began in 1979 with the introduction of the Konica FS-1, the first of Konica’s line of electronic SLRs. During the four years that followed, Konica introduced three other electronic models, ending with the Konica FT-1 in 1983. All have a number of features in common: a very bright viewfinder in which information is displayed by means of LEDs, an electronically controlled shutter and a precise metering system. On the other hand, they lack certain features that were present in the mechanical SLRs, such as shutter speed display in the viewfinder, a DOF preview button, and mirror pre-fire. With the release of the FS-1, Konica once again lived up to its innovative credentials and ushered a trend in design and electronics soon followed by the entire industry. Although with its line of electronic SLRs, Konica produced a series of compact and dependable cameras that were very pleasant to handle, the initial problems with the electronic circuitry of the FS-1’s first production runs marred the company’s reputation. It seems to be from that point that Konica’s fortunes as an SLR maker began to decline and the company steadily lost market share. As an ultimate gasp of sorts, in 1985 Konica released a last SLR, the TC-X, a mechanical camera made entirely of plastic by Cosina. Three years later, Konica withdrew from the SLR market.
Electronic bodies and some period Hexanon lenses
Konica SLRs, the Autoreflex mechanical models in particular, stood out for their modular and remarkably sturdy construction, their intuitive and uncomplicated design, their automatic exposure system, their highly accurate metering system, and their precise and reliable shutters. The following section describes all the Konica SLR models. The presentation of the main features of different models, as well as the most important differences between them is accompanied by a few images showing their most important external characteristics. The section ends with a comparative table showing the specifications of Konica's 17 SLRs.
For more detailed information about various technical aspects of the Konica AR system as a whole, see Section 6.
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