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Konica FC-1 vs the Konica Autoreflex T4

The Konica T4 is the last in a line of Konica mechanical SLRs that stretches back to the Autoreflex in 1967. It replaced the T3N, which was the last full-sized Konica SLR.

The T4 is built on a Autoreflex TC frame (the TC preceded it by two years), with the following upgrades:

– Slow speeds down to 1 sec (as opposed to 1/8 sec)

– Depth-of-field preview

– Double-exposure capability

– Provision for autowinder

– Battery check

– Brass baseplate (as opposed to plastic on the late TCs)

– No chrome trim

– Brighter focusing screen than the TC.

This essentially made it a very small T3N, except that it has no viewfinder blind. Although some call the T4 and TC a small plastic camera, the T4 actually has no plastic structural or exterior parts.

The T4, like the TC and the Nikon FM, has the Copal CCS-M shutter, which is a refinement of the Copal Square S, thought by many to be the most reliable metal focal-plane shutter ever made. The CCS-M is a mechanically-governed shutter with two options for geartrains. One goes from B to 1 sec to 1/1000 sec; the other has B and 1/8-1/1000 sec (TC). The synch speed is 1/125 sec. The camera is not dependent on batteries, except two PX-625 for the meter. The T4 carries forward the same shutter-priority AE that the previous models (Autoreflex T, T2, T3, T3N and TC) had. The shutter travel is shorter. The meter is a variable-pattern type that changes with the lens's angle of view. Wideangles meter a barbell-shaped spot lower than center; normals take about the middle 50% of the frame, and teles take almost the entire frame. In use, the T4 is a very solid camera, very compact camera that is extremely rugged. The only drawback is that it is very loud.

After only three years, the T4 was discontinued in favor of the FS-1. The only mechanical SLR that followed the T4 was the TC-X, which was a plastic-fantastic job from Cosina that has no design heritage with the older models. The TC-X ran one one AAA battery and had DX capability. And that's it. Interestingly enough, the TC/T4 design reemerged (in plastic) as the basic Cosina SLR. The resemblance between the shapes and basic arrangement of the Cosina Bessa-R bears an uncanny resemblance to the T4/TC. It looks like Cosina obtained the rights to the Konica body.

The Konica FC-1 occupies a strange place in the late Konica SLR lineup. In the last days, the sequence was the T3N, the TC, the T4, the FS-1, the FC-1, the FT-1 and the TC-X. The FC-1 is similar to an FS-1 ("(F)uture (S)yestem," for the CPU-controlled exposure), but without the integral motor drive. You can add an external motor later if you want.

The FC-1 loads differently from any other Konica manual-wind camera because it has the FS-1/FT-1 rapid-load takeup spool. Instead of finding a slot, you just pull the leader across. Instead of advancing and firing to get to frame 1, you just advance until it stops. There is a small spinning wind indicator on the back. Unlike the TC/T4, the FC-1 has a one-piece (but still ratcheted) wind lever and an exposure counter mounted to the right of the advance. The rewind knob is unique in that pulling up on it releases the camera back. The TC, T4, FS-1 and FT-1 have separate latch mechanisms.

In terms of controls, the FC-1 has some interesting departures from the TC/T4. The shutter speed dial is larger and turns all the way around, from 2 seconds to 1/1000 sec, with a 1/60 sec synch. The self-timer is a button on the front of the body. The ASA dial is now coaxial with the rewind crank. The shutter release is now electromagnetic like on the FS-1 and FT-1. Accordingly, there is no cable release socket and you have to get in line for the special cord. The release itself is in the center of the shutter dial.

The viewfinder is straight FS-1/FT-1: there is an aperture scale on the right with LEDs showing the aperture settings, over/under and matched (for lenses on adapters). Like both of those cameras, the focusing screen is a split-prism with microprism collar, about a stop brighter than the T4 (which itself half a stop brighter than a TC). It is very easy to focus using this finder.

The exposure system/shutter control is powered by 4 1.5v alkaline or silver button cells. These go into a rectangular carrier that slides into the bottom of the body. This creates a total voltage similar to the FS-1 or FT-1. Thankfully, the 1.5V cells are legal (and easy to find) everywhere.

The tradeoffs. In use, the choice between an FC-1 and a T4 is purely personal. The FC-1 has the following advantages over the T4:

The shutter does not make any noise during slow-speed exposures, its shutter travel is much shorter, and the feel during shooting is not much different from a Minolta X-700.

Benefit of the FS-1/FT-1 dedicated flashes (X-24 and X-36). These are flashes which when switched on will cause the camera to select the right aperture (in AE mode) and the 1/100 sec synch speed.

An electromagnetic shutter release with short travel.

Ability to use the interval timer, cable switch, etc., from the motor-driven cameras.

On the other hand, the T4 has its own charms:

Regular cable release

Ability to run without batteries

Two-piece wind lever

Depth-of-field preview

Double exposure capability.

All of this may be academic, however, given the difficulty of finding an FC-1.