The Konica Autoreflex TC: Compact, Entry-Level SLR

Posted: 03/19/2012

I found my Konica Autoreflex TC languishing in a second-hand shop. The poor thing was in deplorable condition, looking for all the world like it had been bouncing around in the city dump for a while. Worse, the lens appeared to be supporting a thriving algae bloom. I rescued it though and, to my delight, the body cleaned up nicely. The “algae bloom” that concerned me so turned out to be nothing more than a benign oily substance that cleaned-up easily.

Konica AutoTC PlusX--005
above: Tea Jars. Farmer's Market, Los Angeles, CA. Kodak Plus-x film.

The Konica Autoreflex TC (called the “Acom-1” in Japan) is a single lens reflex camera that shoots 35mm film. It was manufactured between 1976 and 1982. It was designed as a compact SLR,  and indeed it is fairly diminutive; it’s certainly smaller than its predecessors in the Konica Autoreflex family.

Designed to satisfy an entry-level niche in Konica’s sales line-up, the TC featured a shutter-priority, automatic exposure system powered by a pair of 1.35v batteries. (A decal on the bottom plate of my camera recommends Mallory PX-13 or PX-625, or Eveready EPX-13.) The ASA values range from 25 to 1600.

A Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7 was the standard-issue glass for the TC, while available shutter speeds were 1/1000 to 1/8, plus B.

KonicaTC Delta 100--033
above: Ethereal Boy. The Getty Center, Los Angeles, CA. Ilford Delta 100 film

The viewfinder—the “Control Center Viewfinder” as Konica called it--provided a match-needle exposure indicator (showing aperture only), a manual exposure indicator (indicating when AE was not in use) and focus through a combination of split screen and microprism.

The TC is a mechanical camera. Film winding and rewinding is manual, and the shutter release is locked until the film winder lever is set to the “ready” position (i.e., pulled slightly away from the body), which also activates the meter.

A hot shoe is mounted on the top of the prism if you want to use on-camera flash, but there is also a PC cable link for off camera flash. A self-timer is provided too if you want to be in your own picture or for reducing vibration at slower shutter speeds.

Konica AutoTC PlusX--036
above: Ghost on the Promenade. Signal Hill, CA. Kodak Plus-x film.

Using the TC

The first thing that got my attention—once I got it cleaned up, that is--was the sound and feel of the shutter. It has a very satisfactory and meaningful clunk that seems to transmit a sense of quality to the ear and also through the hand. Call me nuts if you like but that kind of tactile stimulus keeps me coming back to this little camera,…that and the image quality.

KonicaTC Delta 100--012
above: Viewing Deck at Sunset. The Getty Center, Los Angeles, CA. Ilford Delta 100 film.

The viewfinder, with it’s split image and microprism focusing, is big and bright, and although I wear glasses, which force my eye further from the viewfinder than I’d like, I have no trouble seeing the meter’s match needle inside on the right, or the manual exposure indicator on the top left.

Since entry-level users were the target demographic for the TC, Konica recommended to simply set the lens on the AE mark, adjust the shutter speed to 125 (distinguished from the other speeds by being marked in red) then fire at will so long as the viewfinder’s match needle was anywhere in the “white” area. This, the engineers at Konica reasoned, would cover most lighting condition and film speed combinations.

Since the recommended batteries are no longer available—and I haven’t bothered to seek alternatives—I can’t say how well the AE system works on the TC.  I can say, however, that shooting “Sunny 16” can provide very satisfactory results.

KonicaTC Kodak BW400CN Exp 05-09--004
above: Dining at the Getty. The Getty Center. Kodak BW400CN (exp). X-pro in Rodinal.

Unfortunately the TC lacks a depth of field preview capability. The fast f1.7 glass is plenty capable of impressive bokeh, but you’ll need to use your imagination to visualize it when setting up a picture.

1st Test Memories 200--012
above: Mr. Jelly Belly is a Swinger. Memories brand 200 ASA film.

The film transport lever has a fairly short “throw” so rapid manual winding is quicker than with some other cameras of the era.

The TC’s compact form-factor along with its black with white and red paint scheme make for a handsome little camera. But its aesthetic appeal can be marred by an unfortunate tendency for the leatherette to shrink.  It’s a known problem on the TC and mine suffers from it. In my camera, though, the shrink is only a bit unsightly at the moment; it would have to get much worse for me to take action.

KonicaTC Delta 100--009
above: Stairwell. The Getty Center. Ilford Delta 100 film.

I’ve read several recommendations that the TC is not ideal as a primary SLR but might be a good choice as a back-up camera. I would agree with that. On the other hand, it’s small and light enough and, in today’s market, cheap enough, to throw over your shoulder in relatively carefree fashion and lug just about anywhere.

More importantly, however, the Autoreflex TC is a decent little camera with a fine lens, so if it were to become my primary shooter for a while, I couldn’t be terribly unhappy with it at all.

KonicaTC Delta 100--027
above: Walkway. The Getty Center. Ilford Delta 100 film.

All images shot on the Konica Autoreflex TC by Brian Moore


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