I wanted to take up film photography as a hobby for some time now. Probably what stopped me the most was my excessive digging and the long list of choices. Not to mention, as the price of film cameras has grown, some of the options have turned out to be simply insane. For example, I rejected Nikon and Pentax almost immediately, although I was very interested in the latter option. Their prices were higher than those of other manufacturers. I guess various top 10 35mm film cameras lists didn’t help, as well as the huge following these brands have.
My focus was mostly on various mechanical and manual film cameras (Pentax MX, KX). I wanted to hold a solid piece of equipment, something that showed class. I didn’t care about it being too heavy, even the opposite, I liked the feeling of cold metal in my hands. I wanted to feel something substantial, which I have to hold onto. Needless to say, cameras from the 80s disappeared from my options almost immediately, even though I considered getting Canon T70 for a while.
So what was the best first film camera for me? The quest continued…
After a while I saw a bunch of local advertisements. One guy was selling a handful of mechanical film cameras – they were bought a while back, during a trip to Germany. Most of these cameras were untested but among them I saw Konica Autoreflex T3N. This model, as I understand it, was considered to be the best Konica had to offer. I decided to check it out, as I read only rave reviews about Konica and their vintage Hexanon lenses. Although, as with anything these days, I tried not to get carried away and to keep my expectations reasonable.
The seller said that the Konica Autoreflex T3N works, however, after inspecting it further, I encountered a defect where the mirror goes up but doesn’t go down, and the handle gets stuck. I solved these problems, but the same issues kept repeating. Naturally, I didn’t want to buy a mechanical camera that might throw a fit in the middle of a roll. Especially since it was supposed to be my first SLR. I wanted a fully functioning camera. This brought me great disappointment since Konica T3N was almost in perfect condition with minimal signs of wear.
And yet the same person had more to offer. I noticed Konica Autoreflex TC – a somewhat newer and smaller model, with Hexanon 50mm f1.7 lens. Although I didn’t even consider it at first, mainly because of its plastic body, I changed my mind as soon as I picked it up. It was very pleasant to hold, and it was neither too light nor too heavy. The shutter sound was also very substantial. Even the leather cover was in a pretty good condition and didn’t need replacement. For these reasons, I decided to pick it up. I even managed to negotiate a better price.
Not being sure if the light seals need replacement, I bought a budget film for testing – Fomapan 400 film with 24 shots. To my delight, all of them came out perfectly and I was very pleased with the results. Especially since this was one of my first attempts to use a film camera (the other being Zenit ET, which almost immediately broke down, discouraged and delayed my journey into film photography). Konica Autoreflex TC encouraged me to photograph more.
Overall, I’m very glad I chose Konica Autoreflex TC as my first 35mm film camera because I’m slowly falling in love with it. It’s really nice to hold and use. On top of that, whenever I put it down, I can’t wait to take it into my hands again. Even when I’m busy with other things, I periodically take a peek at it on the table. Brings me a very nice warm feeling. It’s even funny to consider that very recently I was looking into other more serious models, as well as more famous camera manufacturers.
Here are my favourite shots from the first roll.