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Before the development of the Konica FR, Konishiroku had released the Konica S 35mm fixed-lens rangefinder camera, and the Konica F 35mm SLR. The Konica F introduced a vertical metal focal-plane shutter, whereas the Konica S provided fully automatic correction of the parallax and field of view with the distance, a feature introduced on the earlier Konica IIIA and called "living finder" (生きているファインダー) at the time.
The Konica FR was an attempt at combining these two features into an interchangeable-lens rangefinder camera. The project was directed by Kurita Yoshikazu (栗田善一), chief of the design department, and the rangefinder, lens mount and lens barrel were designed by Yamada Yutaka (山田豊). The camera was built around the Copal Square I shutter module, the same that was adopted in 1960 on the Konica FS 35mm SLR.
The Konica FR was never announced to the press and never went into full production. Konishiroku seems to have thought that a rangefinder camera such as this could not compete with the increasingly popular SLRs of the time.
The Konica FR has a very large body (155×87×36mm), looking oversized when placed side by side with a Leica M3. This was needed to accommodate the first generation of Copal Square shutter, but was one of the reasons for the camera's abandon. It is said that Konishiroku repeatedly asked Copal to make a smaller version of the shutter, which became the Copal Square S; when this was ready, it was mounted on the Konica Autorex but did not fit the FR, and the company probably decided that too many modifications were needed to revive the project.
The camera's viewfinder is large and the design emphasizes rectangles, combining to make the FR look rather like a precursor of Cosina's much later Zeiss Ikon. The rangefinder is combined with the viewfinder in a single rectangular eyepiece at the far left (as seen by the photographer). The viewfinder has an illuminated bright frame for 50mm focal length, and four dots indicating the field of view for 60mm lenses — certainly for the Hexanon 60mm f/1.2 released by Konishiroku some times earlier. It provides automatic compensation for parallax and reduction of the field size with the distance.
The film is advanced by a lever, containing a film sensitivity reminder. The exposure counter is visible through a window placed in front of the lever, certainly automatically reset when opening the back. The rewind crank is situated underneath the camera, next to the tripod thread, and is geared to the film axis — it was placed that way to leave space for the viewfinder. The rewind unlock button is on the bottom too, underneath the sprocket shaft. The back is hinged to the right, as seen by the photographer, and is retained by a sliding bar on the left. There is a cut-out on the bottom plate at the left, to make insertion of the film cartridge easier, because the film axis is fixed.
The shutter is a focal plane Copal Square I unit (B, 1—1000), with vertically travelling metal curtains. It allows flash synchronization at 1/125. The control dial, placed next to the release button, is black and has evenly spaced settings, certainly with click stops. The self-timer is actuated by a lever at the front. Two PC synch sockets are provided nearby, with an M or X label indicating the synch mode. The camera has an accessory shoe at the top, and strap lugs at both ends.
The name KONICA FR is inscribed on the top cover, above the viewfinder. There is a film plane indicator next to the accessory shoe, and the serial number and the mention MADE IN JAPAN are engraved on the rear of the top cover. The words MADE IN JAPAN are also embossed in the synthetic covering, on the back's bottom right corner.
Surviving cameras Edit
At least two surviving examples of the FR are known, with serial numbers 123453 and 123455. It seems clear that only the last digit is meaningful, and this indicates that at least five prototypes were made. Both cameras were the property of the Konica company in the early 2000s, and one was exhibited in the JCII Museum in 2005. They are perhaps still owned by Konica Minolta, or have been transferred to Sony.
- ↑ Hishida, p.82 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Hagiya, p.80 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.58.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Hagiya, p.81 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.58.
- ↑ Picture in Hagiya, p.80 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.58.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Hagiya, p.83 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.58.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 Hagiya, p.82 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.58.
- ↑ Examples reported in Hagiya, p.82 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.58. Pictures of no.123453 are displayed on pp.80–2.
- ↑ Hagiya, p.82 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.58, says that they were stored in the Konica Plaza at Shinjuku, today the Konica Minolta Plaza.
- Hagiya Takeshi (萩谷剛). "Konika FR" (コニカFR, Konica FR). Kamera Rebyū: Kurashikku Kamera Senka (カメラレビュー クラシックカメラ専科) / Camera Review: All about Historical Cameras no.58, March 2001. ISBN 4-257-13032-6. Tokushū: Raika bukku '01 Raika kenkyū (特集:ライカブック'01・ライカ研究, Leica book '01: Leica research). Pp.80–3.
- Hishida Kōshirō (菱田耕四郎). "Konica History 11: Maboroshi no kamera to tokushu kamera" (幻のカメラと特殊カメラ, Phantom cameras and special cameras). Kamera Rebyū: Kurashikku Kamera Senka (カメラレビュー クラシックカメラ専科) / Camera Review: All about Historical Cameras no.10, September 1987. No ISBN number. Konishiroku kamera no rekishi (小西六カメラの歴史, special issue on Konishiroku). Pp.81—2.
- Konika-Minoruta-ten (コニカミノルタ展, Konica Minolta exhibition). Exhibition catalogue. Tokyo: JCII Camera Museum, 2005.