Konica Auto S1.6

If you are into traditional photography and have frequented literally any of the main forums around you would have heard of the Konica Auto series of 35mm rangefinders. The Auto S2 is by far the most popular and features an f/1.8 lens. The whole range is fairly popular due to their good looks, functionality, bright finders and the fact that their relatively easy to work on if something breaks.

The Konica Auto S1.6 is a slightly rarer beast, it’s main point being the ever so slightly faster f/1.6 Hexanon lens. Now let me point out that the lens sharpness among the Konica Auto’s is widely debated online, I’m not much for arguing about very slight differences in sharpness but let me assure you this lens is incredibly sharp. It’s a tiny bit soft in the corners wide open but let me point out that wide open is quite wide and no one expects it to be a flat field lens so lets move right along.

Konica Auto S1.6

The S1.6 was introduced in 1969 and has the same features as some of it’s brethren, It’s a fixed lens 35mm Rangefinder. It features a built in metering ring arount the lens and while this is only a CDS meter it’s position is clever, it allows the use of filters without having to calculate filter factors. Just meter and shoot. Easy!
The S1.6 features shutter speeds from 1 – 500 + B. Apertures from 1.6 – 16. All the camera controls are around the lens which makes adjustment relatively easy. The focussing ring has a thumb knob so focussing is as fast and accurate as a Leica.

That brings me to my next point. The build quality of this RF is fantastic. The first time I picked it up I was amazed at the quality. It has enough weight to make it feel solid and sturdy but not too much to compromise. The film wind is ratcheted and feels very smooth and accurate, It snaps back into place very fast. No other film wind turns me on as much to date! The viewfinder feels like it came straight out of the Leica factory, it’s huge and features bright framlines that adjust automatically for parallax correction, coupled to focus.

I picked up this camera from a well known Konica seller and aficionado on eBay. A fellow film shooter on flickr was also bidding and by chance we ended up chatting about the auction, He gave me loads of info on Konica rangefinders and all sorts of links to places that detail how to pull them apart and fix them. Fortunately this one was in almost pristine condition, I did have to make one small repair. The CDS light meter was no longer functioning. I removed the lens ring and meter and found a wire that had become disconnected. Easy! A quick job with the soldering iron and she was back working as good as new!

Now lets talk about the lens, It’s a Konica Hexanon 50mm f/1.6 lens. The hexanon lenses are known to be of very high quality. The optics are coated and are reputed by many to be some of the sharpest lenses for 35mm around. There’s some talk online about the 1.6 having a soft lens in comparison to the S2. Let me just say that sharpness is an effect born of many different variables and lens construction is but one of many. Technique, choice of developer, agitation method and other factors come into play as well. See below – The Shot Tower Museum in Melbourne, Tell me that isn’t sharp!

Melbourne Central Shot Tower

I haven’t yet had a chance to shoot too many portraits with this camera or had much of a play with it’s ability to drop the background out of focus at the very large apertures. What I have shot was some portraits in a park with nice afternoon light. This example is shot on Fuji Neopan Acros 100. follow through to flickr for the rest.

Andrew and Sasha

I feel this camera is really a great street photography tool, it gets out of your way. The leaf shutter is super quiet and with the built in meter this camera shines on the street. I spent a day walking around with 100iso films and found I could get in and out of crowds catching quick shots here and there.

Melbourne Laneways 1

Beat the rush

If you have a 35mm fixed lens rangefinder spot to fill I would seriously recommend you look into the Auto S series. Lightweight, Durable, Easy to fix, great lens. Who needs any more reasons than that!

10 thoughts on “Konica Auto S1.6

  1. Michael Ernst

    Great article I was wondering if you could elaborate a little more on the focusing mechanism I have this particular Konica and when compared with the focusing on my Minolta slr it seems to be different. I understand the viewfinder is offset but is focusing a guessing game?

    1. neal

      Hi Michael.

      The SLR achieves focus through the lens, by utilising either a split image or micro-prism on a ground glass. What you see is what you get through an SLR.
      The Rangefinder uses a semi-transparent mirror and beam splitter to overlay 2 images in the centre part of the viewfinder. once the two images are aligned you have achieved critical focus. Rangefinding mechanisms use triangulation as a way to determine distance, therefore the wider the rangefinder base the more accurate the focussing will be.

      There should be no guessing at all, once the two images are overlayed you have focus. if you are finding it’s not working its possible that your rangefinder is out of alignment and will require a service. Test this by setting an object at a known distance from your camera and then setting focus, if the number on the distance scale is correct for the subject distance you are on the money! if not then there is an alignment issue.

      Hope that helps.

  2. Suzanne

    I have a Konica Auto s1.6 I need to buy a battery for it. Will the shutter click without a battery in it? I bought it at a yard sale for 10cents. So I’m not holding my breath that it will work. But figured I would ask before I go buy a battery.

    1. neal

      Hi Suzanne.

      The shutter is fully mechanical, it will work at all speeds without a battery, the battery is just there for the light meter.
      A common problem with these is that the shutter blades stick. if you know a bit of camera repair it’s not to hard to get them going again.

      they are generally very robust!

      Hope you have fun with it.


  3. roy

    Hi I have one of these. I’ve yet to develop my rolls for it. I’ve noticed when reading your write-up you said the framelines adjust automatically for parallax correction error. Does this mean the framelines inside moves when you adjust focus? Mine doesn’t seem to do so.

    1. neal

      Hey, yes my framelines move slightly as you focus closer, if yours are not moving then you may need to take it for a service.

  4. johan

    Great read. Loving all Konica rangefinder cameras and hope to get my hands on the S1 eventually. Would you mind sharing some of the sites where I could get some advice eon how to repair an S3? Its shutter seems to be oily and doesn’t give the right shutter times at all times. Thanks!
    // Johan

    1. neal

      No worries !

      Some tips on those pages that should get you started, the konicas are easy to work on, once you have the lens elements out you can directly apply a small amount of naptha or lighter fluid to the shutter blades to get them working again, you can use a cotton-tip (q-tip) to gently wipe clean the blades but make sure no cotton fibres get caught in the blades! best of luck!

  5. Larra Denise


    It’s actually my first time buying an SLR film camera and I saw this Konica auto s1.6 available and planning to score one. They told me that this type is actually fully mechanical with or without the battery since the battery really is for the light meter which can be found in the viewfinder. Is it still possible to not have battery regardless if my light meter won’t light up or is it better to have batteries in it?

    1. steve Post author

      hi Larra, the Konica is a rangefinder not a SLR. But welcome to the fun that is film photography. If the lightmeter isn’t working or you don’t want to use the builtin lightmeter there is no problem with not having batteries in. Actually not having batteries in might be better, no chance of them leaking.


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