The FS-1, introduced to the market in 1979, was a revolutionary novelty. As first 35mm SLR in the world it is equipped with a built-in motor drive for film transport. Today an ubiquitous feature, it was a sensation back in 1979.
In the late 70s, there was a strong trend towards electronically controlled cameras – they were much cheaper to manufacture and promised more exact shutter speeds and light metering. The FS-1 was the first Konica SLR with an electronic shutter – apart from the TC-X, that was built by Cosina for Konica, all later Konica SLR models were electronically controlled cameras.
With the introduction of electronics in the camera, much has changed in operation. The shutter speed dial is very easy to rotate and has no limitation in turning, as it does not have to move any mechanical gears. It can endlessly be turned in any direction. From B to 1/1000 s is just one click stop. Shutter release and self timer are not mechanical either, but electric buttons. The shutter release needs only a soft touch almost without pressure, so that the danger of camera shake caused by the shutter release travel is eliminated. On the other hand, these electric buttons do mean that there is no possibility to use a normal cable release on the FS-1 (and the later models apart from the mechanical TC-X). An electric cable release from the Konica accessory program is needed, that fits into the socket on the right side of the camera body (seen from front).
Much has changed in the viewfinder of the FS-1, compared to the mechanical predecessors. It is very bright and clear, the mat screen is equipped with split-image focussing and microprism collar. Indication of metered aperture values is no longer done with a needle on a scale, but with LEDs (light emitting diodes), the aperture indication has moved from the right to the left side of the viewfinder. The LEDs are only capable of indicating whole aperture values, but the light meter does work with intermediate values and sets these on the lens accordingly if the lens is set to auto exposure (AEC) mode. All warning indicators for over- and under-exposure, low battery, and manual exposure mode are done with LEDs as well.
With introduction of the FS-1, the exposure range coupled with the light meter was extended, so that a smallest aperture of 22 can be used. The mechanical predecessor models only had a smallest aperture of 16. Obviously, to use this feature, a lens with a smallest aperture setting of 22 is necessary. After introduction of the FS-1, all Konica Hexanon lenses were altered accordingly one after the other.
The FS-1 provides an early form of automatic flash control. With the dedicated flash unit Konica X-24, the camera automatically sets to a shutter speed of 1/100 s and to aperture 5.6 or 11, depending on the switch setting on the flash unit. Exposure is controlled by a thyristor in the flash unit, that switches off the flash when the correct amount of light for proper exposure has hit the thyristor. After exposure the camera changes to normal exposure mode until the flash signals that is is once again ready. Then the exposure control is taken over by the flash once more. 1979 this was a very advanced solution, but for demanding flash photography it is not sophisticated enough. Here you are better off with manual flash exposure control (without dedicated flash possible anytime), as that leaves much more possibilities to influence the result. For correctly exposed snapshots on a family reunion the flash control of the FS-1 is certainly good enough. A big draw-back of the X-24 flash on a FS-1 is that it is very close to the optical axis of the lens – causing red eyes in many shots.
The new film loading system introduced with the FS-1 is simply brilliant. Put the film cartridge in the camera, pull the film tip to the other side, close the back – ready. The camera takes the film tip automatically and transports the film to the first frame. No simpler and faster solution possible. Without any annoying fiddling. The system is quite fool-proof, you have to deliberately try to make a mistake if you want the camera not to load the film properly. This system was outstanding at the time the FS-1 was introduced.
The back of the FS-1 is interchangeable – but as far as I know, there were no alternative backs available in Konica's accessory line-up.
The FS-1 was available only in black.
Different from the mechanical predecessors, the FS-1 does no longer use mercury oxyde batteries. The power supply are four normal AA alkaline manganese batteries, that are quite cheap and easily availabe anywhere. According to Konica, one set of batteries is sufficient for 15 films with 36 exposures each, in practice I have exposed sometimes many more before the batteries were exhausted. Without or with empty batteries a FS-1 is doing nothing at all, no photos can be taken. Always remember to have a fresh set of batteries with you!
It should not be forgotten to take the batteries out of the camera's battery compartment when not in use. Exhausted AA batteries tend to leak, the corrosion caused by the fluid contained in the batteries can make the camera unusable.
Problems can occur when working in very cold environment: batteries lose quite a lot of power in cold temperatures and this can cause camera failure. To solve this problem, there was a nice accessory available from Konica – the Remote Battery Pack for FS-1. It connects a battery compartment with 4 AA batteries via a long cable to the camera, thus enabling the user to put the battery compartment into a warm inner pocket.
The weak spot of the FS-1 are the electronics – they are delicate and often FS-1 cameras with defective electronics are offered. A FS-1 with defective electronics is quite likely a complete write-off – new parts are no longer available, and repair is mostly not possible.
As far as I know, there were three different versions of internal electronics in the FS-1 over time. These versions are not distinguishable externally, they can only be guessed by the serial number – and there are some uncertainties concerning the numbers. As a rough guideline, on the Yahoo! KonicaSLR mailing list was mentioned:
- Up to 250,000: first, very delicate version. Electronic failure very common.
- 250,000 – 350,000: second, improved version. Still problems with defective electronics, but much fewer defects than in the first version.
- Over 350.000: third, further improved version. Defective electronics quite rare.
The electronics of the FS-1 are not very well protected – the FS-1 reacts very sensitive if wrong batteries are used. Beware of rechargeable batteries, especially nickel-cadmium (NiCd) rechargeables! They can cause complete destruction of the camera's electronics due to improper voltage and the strong currents caused by this. This is true for all FS-1, independent of the electronics version.
1983, the FS-1 was replaced by the imroved successor model FT-1.
The actuator for the coupling of the aperture mechanism is built differently on the electronic cameras of the »F«-series (FS-1, FC-1, FP-1, and FT-1), the mechanically stressed parts are weaker than those in the mechanical bodies of the »Autoreflex«-series. This can lead to strong wear of the parts in the camera body together with the Adaptall-2-mounts of Tamron lenses and can destroy the aperture coupling mechanism in the long run.
The reason for the heavy wear seems to be the rather strong tension of the aperture springs in the Tamron adapter, there is too much stress for the new mechanism of the »F«-series. Maybe the problem became evident only after the production stop of the Konica SLR boedies, because Tamron never changed their Adaptall-2 mounts.
With only once-in-a-while use of the Tamron Adaptall-2 mounts on the camera bodies of the »F«-series quite likely nothing will happen - I have taken a lot of photos with my FS-1 and Tamron Adaptall-2 lenses without having any problems ever. But beware: with regular use you could damage your camera.
On all mechanical Konica SLR bodies, theTamron Adaptall-2 mounts can be used freely without problems.
Changes over the predecessor model Autoreflex T4:
The FS-1 is a completely new design, that has technically nothing in common with its predecessor models and does also look very different from the Autoreflex T4. It has a built-in motor drive, electronically controlled shutter, slower shutter speeds up to 2 s, a smallest aperture of 22, and completely redesigned controls. Self timer and shutter release are electronic – unfortunately without the mirror lock-up function of the mechanical ancestors. The FS-1 and all later Konica models do not have a depth-of-field preview.