When the Konica Auto-Reflex was introduced in 1965, it was a sensation: one of the world's first 35mm SLRs to provide automatic exposure control. With this feature, the Auto-Reflex was far ahead of its time – some other manufacturers could not provide automatic exposure control until a decade later, up to the end of the 70s automatic exposure control was nothing that could be taken for granted. Only the Topcon Auto 100 provided fully automatic exposure some months ahead of the Auto-Reflex; the Topcon even had TTL metering, the Auto-Reflex did not.
There were different versions of the Auto-Reflex for several local markets. Technically, all versions are identical, only the engravings differ.
In Japan, the Konica Auto-Reflex was sold as Konica Autorex – the only difference to the international version being the brand and type engravings on the front of the prism housing.
The Auto-Reflex was distributed in Germany by Foto-Quelle under their own brand Revue, these specimen carry the designation Revue Auto-Reflex on the prism housing. Some other engravings have been changed on the German market version as well. The on / off switch is marked in German language instead of English as with the other versions. The frame size switch on the Revue version is marked with 24x36 and 18x24 instead of Full and Half. The override switch on the shutter speed dial is only marked by an arrow on the Revue variation, the word override shown on the other versions is missing here. The Revue versions came with 52 mm / F1.8 or 57 mm / F1.4 standard lenses, which were engraved with Hexanon only (without Konica). These lenses always had metric distance scales only, none in feet.
The Auto-Reflex was the first Konica SLR to feature the new AR bayonet – not yet in its final variation, though. Because the Auto-Reflex does not meter through the lens (TTL), it is not necessary to couple the widest aperture of the mounted lens with the meter. All later Konica bodies apart from the meterless Auto-Reflex P have TTL metering, therefore the bayonet was supplemented with a respective coupling around 1968, with the introduction of the Autoreflex T. Later lenses already providing this coupling mechanism can be used without problems on the Auto-Reflex. Early lenses made for the Auto-Reflex, which do not have the coupling mechanism, can only be used on later bodies in automatic mode after a respective upgrade, because the meter does not give correct values without it. Further informations on this topic you find in the section about the AR bayonet on the lens page.
The Auto-Reflex has a very special feature: the image size can be changed between normal 24 x 36 mm and half size 24 x 18 mm at any time with the flick of a switch – even mid-roll. The smaller size is accomplished by two metal sheets being brought before the film plane, the transport travel is adjusted accordingly. The film counter travels every second image only when the camera is set to half size. The boundaries of half size images are indicated permanently in the viewfinder by two vertical lines on the focusing screen. With half size, up to 72 exposures can be made on a standard 36 exposure 35 mm film, but due to the smaller negative size, the possible maximum size of prints is more limited. The half format images have portrait orientation, for landscape orientation the camera has to be tilted by 90°.
When changing image size mid-roll, you have to follow a specific sequence of actions to avoid overlapping images on the film. Rule of thumb: do the transport always with the camera set to bigger image size. So when changing from full to half format, transport first, then switch the size – when changing from half to full format, first switch the size, then transport the film. On some Auto-Reflex cameras, there is a respective sticker to remind you of the correct sequence. However, if you don't develop your own films, you should avoid changing the image size mid-roll if you do not want to upset your photo dealer – such films with different image sizes, changing mid-roll, can not be treated properly by automatic enlarging equipment.
There even is a lens specifically designed by Konica for use with the half format, the Hexanon Zoom Lens Size 24x18 47-100 mm / 1:3,5. In half format, this lens covers a range from light to medium telephoto, image angle is roughly comparable to a 65-135 mm lens with full-size 24x36 mm image format. There are some limitations for use with full-sized 24x36 mm, because the image circle is too small and the light fall-off in the corners is too strong for proper exposure at some focal lengths.
Like all its successors from the big Autoreflex series, the Auto-Reflex is extremely sturdily built and takes abuse well. The Copal metal focal plane shutter works reliably even under extremely cold conditions and after a very long time of use. As everyday camera, I would not recommend the Auto-Reflex, however – the meter with its external sensor is not as exact as the through-the-lens (TTL) meters of all successor models, especially under difficult lighting situations. The handling is more complicated, and the viewfinder indications are not as informative as on later Konica SLR models. Additionally, from today's point of view a hot shoe for flash photography is missing, the flash operation via PC synch cable ist quite cumbersome for snapshooting – although for demanding exposures the fitting of the flash on top of the camera is usually not the best position anyway.
The Auto-Reflex is a well-equipped SLR. Beside the automatic exposure control with shutter priority, it provides a depth-of-field preview, a bright viewfinder, and a mirror lock-up function (with the self-timer).
Like all the successing big Autoreflex cameras, the Auto-Reflex is quite big and – especially by today's standards – quite heavy. The Copal metal focal plane shutter is quite noisy, the sound can be disturbing on some occasions.
Like many other cameras from this era, the Auto-Reflex uses a mercury oxyde battery for the light meter (1pc. type PX625). These batteries are not being manufactured any more for environmental reasons and become more and more difficult to obtain. The usage of silver oxyde or alkaline batteries of the same size (V625U) causes incorrect meter readings, because these batteries have different voltages. There are several possibilities to fix this problem. You can find more information on the subject of mercury oxyde batteries if you follow the link.
You'll find a detailed overview over technical data and features if you follow the link.
In 1968, the Auto-Reflex was superseded by the new Autoreflex T, the world's first 35 mm SLR camera to combine through-the-lens (TTL) metering and fully automatic exposure control.