Classic Fixed Lens Rangefinders:

Konica Auto S3

by Karen Nakamura


Overview and Personal Comments

The Konica Auto S3 is a coupled-rangefinder, leaf-shuttered 35mm camera with shutter-priority automatic exposure and a very innovative Guide Number (GN) based system for automatic flash exposures.

Some have classed the Konica as one of the best compact rangefinders of the 1970s, along with the Canon GIII QL17. There are many simliarities between the two - they share the same extremely high quality 6-element, 4-group Double Gauss lens design. The QL17 slightly has the upper hand because it can be operated in full manual as well as aperture-priority.

Everyone praises the Hexanon lens which reportedly gets between 62 and 82 lpi, which is amazingly high performance (Leica-class) for a compact rangefinder.

The nicest thing about the Konica though is that it only came in black paint. In comparison, finding a black paint Canon GIII could cost you over $800.


Interesting quirks

The Konica shutter ranges from 1/15 to 1/500 sec. It's not TTL metering as the CdS cell is located right above the taking lens, but it still does a great job.Since the CdS cell is on the lens mount itself, a handy feature is that if you forget to leave the lens cap on (a common mistake with rangefinders as the viewscreen doesn't go black as with SLRs), the meter will tell you you can't take a picture. And you can use filters (such as polarizing filters, or red/green filters for B&W work) without having to dial in a filter compensation.

The Konica uses the much maligned PX675 mercury battery that is no longer available in the U.S. An alkaline or silver-oxide 375 battery will also work but the meter will read slightly fast, so you have to compensate using the ISO dial.


Technical Details

Camera Name
Auto S3 Canonet GIII QL 17 
Konica Canon, Inc.
Place of Manufacture
Japan Japan
Date of Manufacture
  1972 ~ 1982
Focusing System

Coupled coincident image rangefinder

Lens use helicoid focusing

Coupled coincident image rangefinder with parallax compensation
0.6x magnification

Lens use helicoid focusing


38mm, f/1.8, Hexanon lens (6 elements in 4 groups)

Minimum focusing distance = 1.0 meters (~3.3 feet)

xxx focusing (infinity on xxx side)
Filter Thread: 49 mm

40mm, f/1.7, Canon lens (6 elements in 4 groups)

Minimum focusing distance = 0.8 meters (~3 feet)

Right focusing (infinity on right side)
Filter Thread: 48mm


Copal shutter 1/8 - 1/500

X-flash sync at all speeds

Copal shutter 1/4 - 1/500

X-flash sync at all speeds

Metering System

CdS cell mounted above lens on lensmount
Shutter priority auto exposure

Needle in viewfinder gives current aperture

EV x- xx(at ISO 100)

CdS cell mounted above lens on lensmount
Shutter priority and full manual exposure.

Needle in viewfinder gives current aperture

EV x- xx(at ISO 100)


f/1.7 ~ f/16 manual


External hot-shoe
PC Connector

Hotshoe has extra pin for dedicated Canolite D flash

Film type / speeds

Type 135 film (35mm standard)

ASA 25 to 800

Type 135 film (35mm standard)

ASA 25 to 800

Battery type
1.35v PX675 mercury-silver (675 silver-mercury willl read 1 stop high) 1.35v PX625 mercury-silver (PX625A alkalineOK)
Dimensions and weight
115 x 77 x 60mm , 410g 120 x 75 x 60 mm, 620 g
Retail price
  ¥29,000 (~US$94) in 1972
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About Konica

Konica is Japan's oldest camera manufacturer. It was founded in 1873 as the Konishi-ya and it sold photographic supplies. It was renamed the Konishi-honten in 1876. In 1902, they built their own factory called the Rokuoh-sha. The company was reorganized in 1921 and called the Konishiroku Honten.

In 1936 they incorporated as the K.K. Konishiroku, then in 1943 they became Konishiroku Shashin Kogyo K.K.. In 1944 they merged with Showa Photo Industries.

The first Konica brand camera was the Konica I which came out in 1948. It was a coupled-rangefinder 35mm camera with a 50mm f/3.5 non-interchangeable-lens.

Konica's heyday as a camera manufacturer was during the period 1950-1970s when it came out with quite a few 35mm rangefinder cameras and their own line of 35mm SLRs. Wedding photographers in the 1970s fondly remember the Koni-Omega. However, despite electronic SLRs such as the FS-1 and FT-1, Konica did not successfully make the step up to auto-exposure, auto-focus SLRs in the 1980s. In the last two decades of the 20th century, they were reduced to mainly making point-and-shoots (the Hexar and Hexar RF were the two exceptions).

In Japan, Konica is famous as a film manufacturer. They started making film in 1929. However, most of their films were not exported or extensively marketted outside of Japan.

In 2002, they merged with Minolta and became the Konica-Minolta Corporation.


On the Net


Cult of the QL17:


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