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Forgotten Gems of Yesteryear: The Konica C35 FD

Compact rangefinders, anyone?

 

This is a post dedicated to all my rangefinder-buddies out there who dread the high price tag of Leicas and impurity rangefinder-esque cameras like the Contax G2. 

I love compact cameras, and I mean both AF and MF compacts. I see compacts like Robin to his Batman, friendlier, easier to interact with, but almost just as powerful as the big boys.

I first got to know these compact cameras from Mr. Suzuki's book "Time For Lenses" (both Vol. 1 & 2 are spectacular!), and specifically in Vol. 1 in which it introduced to me high speed MF compacts. From the long-selling Canon Canonet QL17 GIII to the lesser known Yashica LYNX14, these compact cameras, to me, represent small rangefinder cameras at their best, combining light-weight and high performance.

I was fortunate enough to try out 3 of the many compact RFs introduced by Mr. Suzuki in top-condition, namely the Yashica Electro 35 GL, Olympus XA, and the main character of this post, Konica C35 FD. All three of them are great. I am choosing to focus on the Konica only because it stayed with me for the longest period of time.

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The Konica C35 FD is a great film camera with a good balance of performance and usability.

 

To be honest, I was drawn to the Konica mainly because of its Hexanon 38mm F1.8 lens at first. It was a love at first sight when I processed my first roll of film from the C35 FD. Unlike the non-FD versions of the C35, the 38mm lens on this camera can reach an aperture speed of F1.8. A Nikon lens equivalent of such focal length and aperture-combo doesn't exist, but the NIKKOR 35mm F1.4 and F2 both cost higher than buying a C35 FD in top condition! I have been looking for a good 35mm-ish lens for a while now. Reluctant to buying the NIKKORs, a C35 FD seemed to be the perfect match for me. Oh, and it certainly is.

There are others like the Yashica Electro 35 CC that has a similar lens, and the LYNX14 that has a 45mm F1.4, but the LYNX14's lens I found to be too similar to a 50mm, and the Electro 35 CC was eliminated due to personal taste of pictures taken. Anyway, this is not to talk trash about other cameras, but that's how I ended up with the Konica.

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Powered by electronics, the C35 FD cannot be operated without its battery. It has a electronic shutter, which is super quiet, and can only be shot in shutter-priority. The major downside of cameras like this was that due to its small size, most, including the Konica, were made with a shutter speed that topped out at around 1/500s.

Obviously this will make shooting wide-open very difficult in broad daylight, and you can also forget about getting super-shallow DoF because the closest focusing distance is only 0.9 meters due to parallax.

 

The way I use my C35 FD is now as a backup to my Nikon F3HP. I carry the Konica with me almost everyday. It fits into my bag's side pocket, and sometimes even my jacket pocket if I decided to wear a large coat.

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One major upside of compact cameras is certainly its stealthiness. Although some people would argue that what you are shooting with on the street won't matter, compact cameras are, nevertheless, really unobtrusive. The C35 FD is small, light-weight, and quiet, which makes it easy to shoot under various conditions.

Focus is a breeze with this camera. It has a nob on the lens, just like the Leica lenses, and the focus throw is pretty short, just how I like it to be. I like lenses that have short focus throws so I can shoot fast.

Using the C35 FD you'd probably be shooting at small apertures during daytime anyways, so focusing won't be that difficult due to a deeper depth of field. It is, in many ways, a point-and-shoot type of camera.

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I ran a couple of different color negative film stocks over my C35 FD.

Kodak Portra 400, Fuji Pro 400H, and even some LOMO films. Most turn out just superb. The Hexanon lens on the C35 FD renders a nuetral tone while keeping colors saturated and contrasty. Images come out pretty clean with no haze or whatever.

Like many old lenses, it will suffer during extreme backlit situations, but personally I love shooting this camera against the sun to create ghosting and flaring effects. Sure constrast will decrease and flare won't always be pleasing, but who cares. I like it anyways.

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The following were shot with Fuji Neopan 100 Acros. Just some samples showing the rendering of this lens in B&W.

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In the end, the C35 FD is like many MF compact rangefinders out there, overshadowed by later AF compacts and more flamboyant rangefinders.

At under 10,000 Yen, you really can't fault yourself purchasing a little gem like this. It's so easy to use, so cheap, and so damn good.

 

Even now, I still can't get over the fact that these babies are only selling for under 10,000 Yen... Geez.

 

Camera: Konica C35 FD

Film: Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros / Fujifilm Pro 400H / Kodak Portra 160/Lomography Color Negative 400

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