Konica C35 AF 1977 -- The "Fool Shoot Camera"

Discussion in 'Modern Film Cameras' started by jdm_von_weinberg, Dec 30, 2012.

  1. The "Fool Shoot Camera"

    The story is fairly simple. Autoexposure of cameras was already well underway. Only auto focus remained as the last achievement in making film cameras completely automatic.

    Or as Google Translation put it from a Chinese language article on the camera: "The fool shoot camera" (a translation of Jimmy Yen's page).

    Fool shoot indeed. This was what the old-timers characterized as the ultimate degeneration of photography. First it was dry plates, and then everything went to hell thereafter.

    "The Horror, the horror" (Colonel Kurtz).

    So an American company named Honeywell worked on the problem and came up with something called the Honeywell Visitronic autofocus system. Unlike some efforts to have autofocus by infrared or sound echoes ("active" systems), this system basically measure contrast in the light from the camera, which culminated in sharpest contrast at the point of optimum focus. (see "Electronic Focus for Cameras", by N. Stauffer and D. Wilwerding March, Scientific Honeyweller, Volume 3, No. 1 March 1982 - quoted in Camerapedia)
    http://camerapedia.wikia.com/wiki/Konica_C35_AF. There is also an article about this from Popular Mechanics of May 1976 ( books.google.com/books?id=ReIDAAAAMBAJ )

    The Konica company was the first to use this principle (now pretty much universal) in late 1977. Another early adopter was the Minolta company, but unfortunately for them, without acknowledging the debt. According to one on-line article Leica invented the system -
    "However, the head honchos of the company believed that their customers knew how to focus and preferred focusing themselves, so they decided to sell the patent rights to Minolta." ( http://www.petapixel.com/2011/04/15/leica-first-invented-autofocus-but-didnt-see-its-value/ ).​
    But, in fact, any confidence that they had covered themselves thereby was misplaced.
    (1991: Minolta's autofocus design was found to infringe on the patents of Honeywell, a U.S. corporation. After protracted litigation, in 1991 Minolta was ordered to pay Honeywell damages, penalties, trial costs, and other expenses in a final amount of $127.6-million
    (source: NY Times - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minolta ).​
    So here is the Konica C35 AF
  2. The Camera

    35mm Autofocus & Auto exposure compact camera
    Lens: Hexanon 38mm f/2.8, 4 elements in 3 groups
    Shutter: Programmed Leaf shutter with 3 speeds - 1/60s, 1/125s & 1/250s
    Exposure: Fully automatic - 25-400ASA
    Meter: CdS
    Sensitivity: EV 9 - EV 17 with 100 asa film
    Viewfinder: Bright Line 0.41 Magnification
    Indication: Underexposure warning light, Parallax Correction Mark, Focus measuring square
    Flash: GN14 - Exposure determined by range measured by autofocus
    Film Winding: Manual - Lever wind + rewind crank
    Features: Lens cap obscures viewfinder to prevent errors!
    Dimensions: 132x76x54mm
    Weight: 375 grams
    Batteries: 2 AA

    I thought I had finished up with AF cameras with my recent summary ) http://www.photo.net/modern-film-cameras-forum/00b7pQ ), but I was looking over another of those attempts by other people who didn't know what they were talking about, and I found a discussion of the Konica C35 AF camera, the "first production autofocus camera".

    Hmm. Musing turns to searches on the internet, which reveals the very thing on eBay, and no one bidding on it. I bid, and won it for about the price of a cheaper pizza. It came some days later, had obviously been in storage in a dusty place, but in cleaning it up, I found that the rewind lever on the rewind know was broken off. I contacted the vendor who apologized and offered to make things "right", but since it was a snowy weekend here, I though that at least I would see if it worked. It does, sort of, and I'll keep it. It was after all more expensive to ship than it cost.

    So how is it?

    I can't escape a feeling that this one may not be working as it did when it was new, since no one in the contemporary discussions mention the great "deliberateness" which I found. Put in batteries, nothing happens to indicate that the camera is 'alive'. Press shutter release, and the front of the lens goes "whirr" and turns, presumably focusing. Then after a considerable lag in time (subjectively about half an hour, in objective time maybe a second) the shutter trips. I decided to risk a film on it, so I loaded it, and over a couple of days shot up the roll. In the process, I was kicked out of the local Barnes & Noble for taking pictures (not just asked to stop taking pictures, mind). I finally wandered and wondered around and finished up the short roll. Started to rewind (without a level, rather tedious). Felt the film come loose, I thought, opened the camera to discover not. Went ahead and rewound the rest, this time checking the film advance level to make sure no film was still engaged, and went to my Walgreens who did the developing as I waited.

    Well, both exposure and focus were OK, not great, but OK.
    Here are some of the images. I have adjusted exposure and white balance from the rather bluish day (not just the film, but the actual day). [That's funny, it didn't look blueish"]

    Here is a picture of my own personal rune stone in front of my house. The AF seems to do fairly well with things in fairly close to the camera. It is, of course, a snapshot camera.

  3. As the subject matter is farther away, there is a little less precision to the AF - natural enough on a fairly low contrast day where contrast is the basis of the AF system. Like the singing dog, to some extent, it wasn't that it was "singing well", but rather that it was "singing" at all.

    Here is something I don't recall seeing before. The snow was wet enough that it was trapped by the net over the cages at the city sports complex.

  4. More of the same thing closer in at an abutting private sports club.

  5. Again, the best operation was in the closer-in view:

  6. Ironically, the picture that got me kicked out of Barnes and Noble was spoiled when I opened the camera, so I don't have a flash image to show.

    As an afterthought, In the last burst of Soviet please-to-call-it innovation, not plagiarism, a Soviet near copy of the original Konica C35 decided to add AF. Thus came the Elikon 35SM (always in Cyrillic) = "ЕЛИКОН 35СМ". As you can see the resemblance down to the layout is remarkably close to the Konica C35 AF:

  7. Happy New Year, everyone!

    [Will the Faux News wage a retaliatory "war" on New Year's?]
  8. Sorry a victim of "auto correct" in my text editor in the above. It was the lever that was broken not the "level". The knob, not the "know" and so on...
    My Elikon is actually the post-Soviet version marked "Made in Belarus" in Roman characters on the bottom. It doesn't work because it has a broken battery door.
  9. My father had one which he bought having sold the Yashica 635 in the late 70's. It shot a lot of family pictures and worked fine until around 1989 when the pictures would come out blurred. My father lost his interest in photography by this time as the family sort of disintegrated. He later bought an Olympus zoom some time in the mid 90's. He was complaining it not taking good pictures any more around 2011. So I looked at the lens and noticed fungus.
  10. Nice trip down memory lane, JDM. We sold a fair number of these at the family camera store. Of course, the 38mm f2.8 Hexanon was the same as used in the rangefinder Konica C35 that dates back to the late 60's (which is a good thing). The C35 autofocuses in steps (some critics called it "auto zone focusing", but when the focus combined with good depth of field is correct the results are nice as sharp as you photos confirm. Early AF compacts didn't truly reach infinity focus, but DOF masked that nicely. Thanks for posting.
  11. Also, the C35 held its own for a while against the competition, at least until more focus zones and more sensitive detectors were utilized. Of course by then Konica had improved models as well.
  12. I first saw this camera while working one of my college summers at Camera Barn in NY. Most of the customers who bought them got very good results. With this type of system you were trying to increase the number of "keepers" on each roll and make the customer happier. As small AF cameras improved they took sales away from non-AF SLRs. The typical low end SLR, by that time, was being sold with very slow short range zoom lenses which people found very difficult to focus. When I see cell phone videos where the person in the video is completely out of focus while the bookcase behind him is sharp I think it's 1978 all over again.
  13. Our most popular AF P&S was the Konica C35 MF. It had the same 38mm f2.8 Hexanon, but with a wider range of programmed shutter speeds, more focus points, and auto wind and rewind. I don't think it was DX coded though. We sold a large number of them. As consumers wanted lower prices, Konica (and other P&S makers) cut back on specs. The 38mm f2.8 Hexanon gave way to f3.5 and f4 versions. Also later models had reduced shutter speed ranges. The next P&S Konica that had good specs was the AF. Although it was an f3.5, the lens was a good performer and it would fit in a pocket. Also it could close focus.
    But remember, the C35 AF started it all.
  14. I had one of those C35MF's. Got it cheap at a yard sale long ago from someone who found it too complicated (???? yes, that's right) . It worked pretty well, though never seemed really great. I kept it around for years as a throw-in-car special, but then it stopped working. Never worth fixing. Still have the carcass somewhere.
  15. Bad mouthing "old timers" shows no class at all. I know grizzled, hard-edged old time news photographers who used Speed Graphics for years who embraced autofocus the moment it was available -- light years earlier than that piece of junque you are touting. Your research is strickly from cloud-coo-coo-land.
  16. Nicely put Wayne. Perhaps the concept of "irony" escapes you?
    As for earlier production model AF cameras? I'd love to hear what they were. Check out the urls I give above in the meantime.
    Not that it matters, but since we're on the subject of accuracy, light year is a measure of distance, not of time.
  17. Nice thing about the Konica C35 AF is no autowind/rewind to speed up battery drain. IIRC, advancing the film also moved an internal ratcheted wheel or gear (or something) back to either the closest or most distance focus (don't remember whiich). When the camera determined correct focus it would move the lens in the correct direction and the ratcheted part would lock focus at the determined setting. That's the best I can do without finding the actual issue of Popular Photography that detailed the camera's operation. Still an amazing acheivement for its day.
  18. I should have said; the film was Kodak ULTRAMAX 400. The Konica's highest ISO setting, by the way. Scanned on my Canoscan FS 4000US using VueScan software, working for the scanning on a 400MHz G4 Mac tower.
  19. Still one more post, one after the other......
    This on the first Canon SLR AF lens - the Canon FD 35-70mm f/4 AF
    which worked on most later model FD cameras.
  20. Hmm. I started to send a note to Wayne to ask him if he was thinking autoexposure rather than autofocus, and also asking again, just what actual autofocus cameras he knew of that predated the Konica C35 AF that everyone else says is the first production model AF camera.
    Apparently, Wayne is no longer among the active members of this site, however.
  21. I also wonder if Wayne was referring to me when he talked of badmouthing old timers. The person who could not operate the C35MF was not particularly old, just more geared to a disposable camera. A lucky day for me to have ten bucks to spare.
  22. I see Wayne is back on P.net.
  23. Much, much later
    I just got a copy of the April, 1979, issue of Modern Photography - where there is a review of the "first auto-focus camera" - this one

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