Introduced in 1977, Konica manufactured the first auto-focus 35mm camera, the C35 AF. It was followed by the C35 AF2 in 1980, which really only differs cosmetically, with all features being the same. I picked this camera up from a box of cameras that my brother-in-law gave to me in July. All of them had been purchased at an estate sale by him for about $25, and he only wanted the Minolta AF lenses. There was a variety of cameras ranging from a Nikon F to Instamatics, and all had been stored in a garage, with lots of accumulated grime. This Konica C35AF2 was fairly cruddy, and had a severe battery corrosion problem. At first I was going to toss it, but after a while I sat down with it, cleaned it up, and was able to remove the corrosion and battery gunk. I was pretty surprised that it started working, and after a few months, shows no signs of unreliability.
About the C35 AF and AF2:
Considering that this camera broke new ground in compact 35mm cameras, the price reflected that. In 1981, B&H listed the Konica C35 AF2 for $115.95 Compare that to a Pentax K1000 with a 50mm f/2 Takumar lens that was listed by B&H for $139.00. [January 1981 Popular photography]
The Konica C35 AF is an auto-focus auto-exposure 35mm camera with built-in pop-up flash
• 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 - 400 ISO, ISO set by turning ring around lens.
• Meter: CdS
• Sensitivity: EV9 - EV 17 with 100 asa film
• Viewfinder: Bright Line 0.41 Magnification
• Underexposure warning light, Parallax Correction Mark, Focus measuring square
• Flash: GN14, Exposure determined by range measured by auto-focus
• Film Winding: Manual lever-wind + rewind crank
• Dimensions: 132 x 76 x 54mm
• Weight: 375 grams
Of the many AF point and shoots that I have used over the years, the Konica C35 AF stands out as bridging the gap between the manual focus automatic exposure cameras such as the Minolta Hi-Matic G, and the auto-wind, auto-focus, auto-exposure cameras such as the Nikon L35 AF. It was the first AF camera, and focuses from 1.1m to infinity. It really does fit comfortably in the hand and is very quiet, due to the manual film advance lever. If you are in a low light situation, a red led lights up in the viewfinder to alert you to use the flash. I like that the pop-flash requires one to manually select it. The viewfinder is bright with easy to see frame-lines and parallax correction markings. I like that the body is sturdy metal and it has a bit of heft to it. The filter ring on my camera is dented, otherwise I would use a skylight filter or a yellow filter with b&w film. It normally takes 46mm screw-in filters, and since the CdS photo cell is within the front lens bezel, it would accurately meter with filters in place.
Okay, so how has this 40 year old camera worked for me? I’ve shot two rolls of film with it -- a roll of Tasma NK-II 100 ISO b&w film, and a roll of really expired Kodak Royal 400 rated at 80 ISO. Every image came out quite satisfactory, even the old Kodak Royal 400 (though I had to adjust the color for fade correction). It’s not as full featured as one might hope, with only 3 shutter speeds, but under most situations it would work just fine, and the 38mm Hexanon lens is quite good. Right now, I have a roll of expired Kodak Plus-X in it. It’s definitely a camera to have as an extra in the bag, and yes, it could be a pretty good street camera. The only downside is that there is no automatic override or B setting. However, it does what it is supposed to do quietly and competently.
The going eBay price for this camera is fairly low -- from $25-$85, depending on condition and whether or not it’s from Japan sellers. It’s 40+ years old, so seals may need replacing (I did that, too). If it comes with the original lens cap which blocks the viewfinder, that’s a plus. That’ll keep you from shooting with a lens cap still attached.
I am glad that I took the time to get this camera working. It’s easy to use, images are in focus, and the lens is great.