Autoreflex TC (1976-1981)

The Autoreflex TC was Konica’s first attempt to make a compact SLR, following the example set by Olympus in 1972 with its now legendary Olympus OM-1, a camera which began a new trend in the industry. The Autoreflex TC is just slightly larger than the Olympus OM-1, but weighs the same.The Autoreflex TC's compact design also called for new materials. It was one of the first cameras in which certain parts are were of plastic. Contrary to widely held belief, there are only a few of these. The two major ones are the top of the housing and the plate around the lens mount. Other small parts include the tip of the film wind lever, the self-timer lever, the shutter speed selector dial, the battery housing cover. On later models, the brass bottom plate was replaced by a plastic one. The camera’s essential inner structural elements are made of metal, as with Konica’s previous models.

With the Autoreflex TC, Konica was also aiming to make a budget camera, one much more affordable than its other offerings at the time. To reduce costs, Konica decided to leave a number of features out. The slowest shutter speed of the Autoreflex TC is 1/8s and the decision to leave the slow-speed shutter gear mechanism out of the camera was probably the most important cost saving measure. Many other features to which one had become accustomed with Konica’s previous SLRs, such as a DOF preview, shutter speed display in the viewfinder, or multiple exposure capability, were also dispensed with. In addition, the Autoreflex TC’s film sensitivity range reverted to that of the earlier Autoreflex Ts, namely 25 to 1600 ISO. Such cost-cutting measures allowed Konica to sell the Autoreflex TC a full $200 cheaper than the Autoreflex T3N.

The Autoreflex TC was the world’s first camera to use the new Copal Compact Shutter (CCS). The Copal CCS shutter travels from bottom up and its reduced size was dictated by the need to lodge the upper curtain in the narrow space located just under the eyepiece. This was achieved by making a five-blade upper curtain which took far less space in its retracted position than the three-blade curtain of the older Copal Square shutters. The shutter of the Autoreflex TC was more dependable than that of other compact cameras available at the time, including that of the above-mentioned Olympus OM-1, which had horizontally traveling cloth curtains.

It is often said that Autoreflex TC was an entry level camera intended primarily for amateur photographers. Its technical limitations and price do seem to predestine it for this group of customers, but it is nevertheless a dependable tool in its own right. It’s an intuitive camera that’s light, uncomplicated and pleasant to handle. It was so popular, in fact, that it remained in production for nearly 6 years - longer than any other Konica SLR. Along with the Autoreflex T2, it is the most commonly found and cheapest Konica SLR today. There are still great quantities of them on the second hand market.

The Autoreflex TC is a somewhat simplified and much lighter version of the Autoreflex T. It is also the predecessor of sorts, along with the Autoreflex T4, of Konica’s electronic SLRs. Although this camera has a limited number of functions, it is this that made this camera so much more affordable and their absence will not be felt by a very large number of photographers. Its low price made it ideal for beginners or for those needing a back-up for a full-featured Konica SLR. One of the features that made it so pleasant to use was its viewfinder, which was unusually bright and contrasty for the day.

The TC came onto the market in very early 1976. The first production run can be recognized by fact that the Konica inscription on the front of prism housing is written entirely in capital letters. Starting from about September 1977 (approximate SN 380,000), this inscription was written with just a capital 'K' followed by small letters. A little later, some time in May 1978 (approximate SN 500,000), the brass bottom plate on the TC was replaced with a plastic one. Thus during about 8 months, some 120,000 units were made with a later form inscription on the prism housing and a copper bottom plate. Those are the most uncommon of the TCs.

In Japan, the Autoreflex TC was offered as the Acom-1. Starting in early 1978, some models of the Acom-1 were offered with a data-back. These models were named Acom-1D and were apparently only available on the Japanese market.

The looks of this model are often marred by the premature shrinking of its leatherette covering. At times, a change of garb is called for: home made red coat for the specimen on the photo. Ready-made camera covers can be obtained at Cameraleather, a veritable camera haute couture site specializing in the latest trendy fashions for a large number of cameras, including some Konica models.

The introduction of the Autoreflex TC was accompanied by that of Konica’s first compact Hexanon lenses. Many of them were simply streamlined versions of already existing lenses of identical or very similar optical construction, while others were entirely new designs. The manufacturing of some of these new lenses was entrusted to Tokina (see section 3).

Characteristic features:

a) The Autoreflex TC is the first Konica SLR with shutter speeds going from 8s to 1/1000s,
b) The Konica brand name on the first TC models (top) and later models (bottom),
c) Meter switch.