Konishiroku’s investment in shutter technology pays off.


Konica FP with Hexanon 100mm f/2.8

The innovation that was the vertically-travelling metal-blade shutter for SLR cameras was very much down to research and development conducted by Konica in the 50’s, and then in collaboration with Mamiya and Copal in the early years of the following decade.

Why is the Konica FP a Landmark Camera?

1: The first Konica camera to use the Copal Square shutter.
2: The world’s second SLR to use the Copal Square shutter.

The User Experience

The Look

The Konica FP is a weighty, understated camera with a typical leatherette and satin chrome body. The appearance is softened with a rounded prism housing, arch shaped viewfinder and gently curved film advance. The top deck has a glossy chrome film advance and rewind crank that contrast nicely with the satin chrome.

Konica FP in the hand.

The camera marque and model are in a distinctive serif font featuring curved lines in some of the letters that give it a hand written appeal. The only evidence of colour is a red dot marking the lens registration point, the 1/125th second marked in orange on the shutter speed dial and the film speed reminder dial that show speeds in red and blue (red for colour positive and blue for monochrome or colour negative).

Konica FP top view

The Feel

The word that springs to mind when handling the FP is quality. Nothing jiggles or creaks. It is tight, which probably adds to the sense of heft. There’s a feeling of confidence when cradling the camera; it will get the job done. This feeling extends to the shutter speed dial and film speed reminder dial, which turn with solid and satisfying clicks. There’s also reassuring resistance in the shutter release button and the film advance lever.

There’s a feeling of confidence when cradling the camera; it will get the job done.

The shutter is quite loud and a smooth ‘ding’ sound resonates for a second or so after release. It’s quite distinctive and no doubt at least partly due to the new square steel Copal shutter with a vertical action.

Konica FP lens cap

Copal Conjecture

There is some debate as to whether the FP was the first Konica SLR to use the Copal Square shutter. There is an argument for this camera’s predecessor, the FS, having the Copal shutter. I do know for certain that the FP was the first Konica to actively display its shutter pedigree. You just have to pull the film door catch down and look at ‘Copal Square’ printed on the back of the shutter blades.

Copal Square shutter
The legendary Copal Square shutter

The Konica FS instruction manual mentions the High Synchro shutter, which was first seen in the near mythical Konica F, although that camera had an astounding 1/2000th second shutter speed whereas the FS had a ‘mere’ 1/1000th sec shutter speed. Mamiya, Copal and Konica were collaborating on shutter design, so there is a possibility that it was either a Copal in all but name, or a development of the original Konica designed High Synchro. I think the latter is more likely as I am certain Copal would have wanted their name on a shutter that was their own.

Konica FP from the front

It does seem somewhat a shame that Konica did not attain the kudos of bringing the first SLR with the Copal shutter to market, considering all the research, development and investment the company had put into high speed, vertical travel shutters. That prize went to the Nikkorex F of 1962, which Mamiya built for Nikon.

Konica FP rear

In Use

I have two Hexanon lenses for the FP in the so-named Konica F bayonet mount; a standard 52mm f/1.8 and a surprisingly compact 100mm f/2.8. Both balance well on the camera body. The view through the finder is uninhibited by metering information (there isn’t one, but an external meter can be coupled via a notch in the shutter speed dial). I find the view a little on the dim side, but focusing is easy with the central “microdiaprism” ring and Fresnel screen. The focus and aperture rings on the 52mm are distinctly freer than on the 100mm, aiding rapid focusing.

Konica FP with Hexanon 52mm f/1.8 and Hexanon 100mm f/2.8

Konica FP Viewfinder
Konica viewfinder showing microdiaprism and Fresnel screen.

Film test

I spent an enjoyable couple of hours in a dreary, litter infested corner of Teesside, where the magnificent and famous Transporter Bridge idles and slowly rots. It is a scandalous and sad state of affairs.

I exposed a respooled 30 exposure cassette of Kodak Double-X motion picture film at ISO 200 and developed in Rodinal 1+20 for 5 minutes. Double-X does not have a lot of exposure latitude, so I am pleased with the results shown here.


FURTHER READING:

The Konica AR System
Konica Collector
Camera Wiki