■ Autoreflex T (1968-1970)
With the introduction of the Autoreflex T, Konica went one step further in relation to the Auto-Reflex. It became the first camera maker to offer a focal-plane shutter SLR equipped with both TTL metering at full-aperture and fully-coupled automatic exposure. As in the case of the Auto-Reflex, the words ‘focal-plane shutter’ should be borne in mind when making this statement, because the Topcon Auto 100, an interchangeable-lens leaf-shutter SLR, had offered automatic exposure with TTL metering in 1964. As I pointed out on the previous page, however, the technical limitations and relative fragility of leaf-shutter SLRs made them unsuited as a platform for a full-fledged SLR system. For this reason, the Autoreflex T was the first SLR with full-aperture TTL metering and automatic exposure that made an impact on the market of serious amateurs and professional photographers. Such was also Konica’s declared ambition.
Of course, automatic exposure in a focal-plane shutter SLR had been available since 1965 with the Auto-Reflex. TTL metering, in turn, had been around for many years, having been offered by several makers, notably Topcon (RE Super, 1963), Pentax (Spotmatic, 1964), and Minolta (SRT-101, 1966). With the Autoreflex T, however, Konica combined this superior feature with full-aperture metering and fully automatic exposure in one body. Many of Konica’s competitors, not excluding some of the industry leaders, would remain at the match-needle or stopped down metering stage for another decade.
The Autoreflex T is an entirely different camera than the Auto-Reflex. In contrast to the latter, which looks a little quirky, Konica gave the Autoreflex T a thoroughly modern look, with a flat top deck, a shutter-speed selector dial placed on top of the body and the film rewind crank on the same axis as the film cartridge, without the gear linkage. The Autoreflex T is no less sophisticated than the Auto-Reflex – an elegant and robust camera that was intended for professionals and serious amateurs. The introduction of the Autoreflex T was accompanied by a sustained promotional campaign that led to great commercial success. The camera's build-quality and many features made it one of the best SLRs on the market at the time.
Stylistic differences aside, the most significant technical difference between the Autoreflex T and its predecessor is that the Autoreflex T has full aperture TTL metering. Combining automatic exposure with TTL metering at full aperture required that the flange next to the aperture actuating cam on Hexanon lenses be provided with a notch. This notch is designed to engage a little lever protruding from under the mirror within the camera and its length is indicative of the largest aperture of the lens in question. This mechanism conveys the mounted lens’ largest aperture value to the camera and couples the lens to the camera’s exposure meter and AE system. Older lenses introduced with the Auto-Reflex did not have this notch and were usually modified by Konica free of charge so they could be used with the Autoreflex T and subsequent Konica SLRs. With the Autoreflex T, the AR-mount took on the form that it would retain until Konica withdrew from the SLR market in 1988.
The viewfinder of the Autoreflex T resembles that of the Auto-Reflex, but Konica gave it a few improvements: The over-exposure warning zone is in fact a movable tab whose position changes with the largest aperture of the lens mounted on the camera; the ground glass ring surrounding the field of micro-prisms on the focusing screen is twice the thickness of that on the Auto-Reflex; an index mark for correct exposure in manual mode has been added; and a manual operation indicator in the form of a large letter ‘M’ has been provided.
As usual with technical firsts, the Autoreflex has a number of design flaws, minor ones for the most part: The travel of the camera’s shutter release button and the force required to depress it are not as great as on the Auto-Reflex but still greater than on other SLRs available at the time; although the range of the camera’s film speeds was shifted one stop upwards in comparison with the Auto-Reflex, the range of its exposure meter remained unchanged and the Autoreflex T also has an light-meter override button, making the operation of the camera a bit tricky in more extreme lighting situations (this button looks very much like the multiple exposure lever that was provided on the Autoreflex T3 in 1973 and many people erroneously think it is in fact a ME button). The change of the meter switch on the back of the camera from a little lever on the Auto-Reflex to a tiny round button on the Autoreflex T makes it a bit cumbersome to operate when one has large fingers. It is the only technical step backward in relation to the Auto-Reflex that I can think of. All these shortcomings were remedied in whole or in part with the Autoreflex T’s successor, the so-called Autoreflex T2.
Other changes in relation to the Auto-Reflex include the battery test button, which was moved from the meter switch lever on the Auto-Reflex to the camera’s bottom plate on the Autoreflex T; the frame counter, found between the shutter release button and the prism housing on the Auto-Reflex was placed on the film-wind lever axis on the Autoreflex T; and a brighter viewfinder. Other features of the Autoreflex T, also present on the Auto-Reflex, include a depth-of-field preview button, and mirror pre-fire (using the self-timer). The Auto-Reflex’s quite unique claim to fame – its ability to take pictures in half-frame and full-frame mode – was unfortunately abandoned with the Autoreflex T, as interest in half-frame photography had been on the wane for some time by the late 1960s.
The Autoreflex T was offered on the Japanese market as the Konica FTA and was sold in Germany by Foto-Quelle, a mail-order house, as the Revue TTL.
a) Shutter release button without lock and shutter speed dial with a single row of splines.
b) Light meter override lever at the base of the shutter speed dial.
c) Meter switch to the left of the viewfinder.
Variations:Autoreflex A (1968) is the same camera as the Autoreflex T, but without self-timer, without mirror pre-fire, without depth-of-field preview button, without meter switch and with a maximum shutter speed of 1/500.
● KONICA ●