Konica F (1960)

The Konica F is one of the most important SLR history landmarks, thanks to its absolutely revolutionary technology at its time of introduction. Until 1960, the words “focal plane shutter” shutter meant a Leica-type cloth shutter made of two rubberized curtains mounted on rotating drums and travelling horizontally across the film gate. Shutters of this type were to be found in all SLRs until the Konica F. The Konica F incorporated the world’s first metal blade shutter, on which the company had worked for 7 years (see Section 6 – Technical Questions).

Image reproduced from the old Konica Minolta website. (W)

In developing this shutter, Konica sought to achieve two things: A higher shutter speed and higher flash synchronization speed. Two traits of the new shutter made it possible to attain those goals: The first was that the shutter blades were made to travel across the film gate vertically, reducing the distance to covered by 1/3 (from 36mm to 24mm). The second was that the blades were made of very thin metal and had very low inertia, allowing the shutter to be more responsive. The end result was the Konica Hi-Synchro, the world’s first SLR shutter with a speed of 1/2000s (the Konica F came out approximately 8 months before the introduction of the Canon R2000). Its flash synchronization speed of 1/125s would remain unsurpassed for about 20 years. For more on this shutter, see Metal shutters in Section 6.

The Konica F also offered a very advanced level of automation for the time. It was the world’s first SLR with built-in meter (an OTL selenium cell with a match needle system coupled to the ISO setting dial, to the shutter speed dial, and to the lens aperture ring for easy setting). The Konica F also had features such as a viewfinder that displayed shutter speeds and apertures and had a split-image focusing aid (not seen again as standard equipment on a Konica SLR until the Autoreflex TC), a removable prism and an accessory waist-level finder (the only Konica with this option) and a pressure plate that lifted during film advance and rewind so the film wouldn’t be scratched (!). Those features, combined with the revolutionary Hi-Synchro shutter, made the Konica F the by far most advanced SLR in existence at the time.

The Konica F was offered with four lenses, the 35mm f2.0, the 52mm f1.4, the 85mm f1.8, and the 135mm f2.8. All but the 135mm were dedicated to the Konica F and had an aperture ring with an arm that coupled to the light meter following cam on the camera body. With the exception of the 52mm f1.4, those lenses are even harder to come by today than the body for which they were intended.

A limited number of units of the Konica F were produced (estimations range from 600 to 1500 units). Its rarity and importance for SLR history make it a highly prized camera 45 years later. The price of a Konica F in excellent condition with a 52mm lens can easily attain 4,000 USD (in July 2007, a unit was sold on the world’s largest auction site for the round sum of 3,560 USD).

The Konica F was the first of a number of SLRs collectively known as the ‘F’ series, which lasted from 1960 to 1965. It was followed by three other SLRs, the Konica FS (1962), the Konica FP (1963), and the Konica FM (1965).

- The Konica FS (1962) is a SLR without meter, equipped with a shutter with a fastest speed of 1/1000s, that seems to have represented an intermediary stage between the Hi-Synchro shutter of the Konica F and the Copal Square shutter found in the cameras that followed.

- The Konica FP (1963) is a revamped FS of sorts, but also without meter. It is equipped with the Copal Square shutter, as is indicated in gold lettering on the shutter itself. This was the world’s second camera (the Nikkorex, made by Mamiya was the first) to be equipped with this revolutionary shutter. It was also offered as the Wards SLR 700 by the Sears chain in the USA, and as the Revue SP by the Photo Quelle mail order house in Germany.

- The Konica FM (1964) was introduced in 1964, just a year before the introduction of the Auto-Reflex. It is one of the first 35mm SLRs to be equipped with a CdS meter. 

Lenses ranging from 35mm to 800mm, as well as extension rings and a bellows for macro photography, were available for the Konica FS, FP and FM. The lenses for these three cameras and the ones for the Konica F are not interchangeable.