■ Konica FR (1961)
The Konica FR is one of several Konica prototypes that reflect the company’s innovative prowess and creative energy. It was a 35mm interchangeable-lens rangefinder camera that sought to combine two highly innovative technical developments: Konica’s Hi-Synchro vertical-travelling metal shutter and the company’s outstanding viewfinder which incorporated a parallax and field of view correction system coupled to the focusing mechanism and which had initially been introduced with the Konica IIIA rangefinder of 1957 (described earlier in this section).
Photo: Kamera Rebyu: Kurashikku Kamera Senka, No. 10, Sept. 1987, p. 82. (M)
The Hi-Synchro shutter found in the Konica FR’s is a simplified version of the famous metal shutter found in the Konica F SLR of 1960 (described earlier in this section). The simpler version’s fastest speed was 1/1000s, which made it cheaper to build and more reliable. Its 1/125 flash synchronization speed remained the same, however. The same shutter was also mounted in the Konica FP, the first SLR to follow the Konica F.
This camera has a very sophisticated viewfinder, which is very large, bright, and with a magnification ratio of 1:1. This makes it possible to view the scene through the viewfinder with the right eye while keeping the left one open. A very bright illuminated frame within the viewfinder shrinks and extends during focusing, thus providing automatic compensation for parallax and reduction of the viewing angle. The viewfinder also has four illuminated dots in the corners setting out the taking angle for the Hexanon 60/f1.2 Konica had introduced a few months earlier. The standard lens on the Konica FR was a Hexanon 50/f1.8 with a M39, Leica type, thread mount (LTM). The LTM mount made the camera usable with a multitude of existing lenses made by other makers.
The Konica FR was never publicly announced and Konica abandoned the project before it could reach full production. Several factors spoke against the introduction of the Konica FR. Firstly, it was a period when SLRs were becoming increasingly popular with photo amateurs and professionals alike, at the expense of the more traditional rangefinders. Furthermore, the camera’s shutter and viewfinder arrangement made it taller, wider and, especially, heavier than competing models in this market segment. It is said that in the end, only 5 prototypes were made. The Konica FR was exhibited at the Konica-Minolta exhibition organized by the JCII Museum in 2005.
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