This amazing little camera is a Konishiroku Pearl, better known as the Konika Pearl I. The company, which would later be known as Konica, came out with three more versions of the Pearl, adding some super useful feature such as a coupled rangefinder!
This particular beauty came to me from a family member who bought it new in the 1950s when he was in the US military deployed in the Korean war.
The camera came to me with its original case and strap, which were both beginning to show signs of dry rot. The camera itself seemed to be in overall good condition, although the opening mechanism was slow, and clearly the shutter times were quite off. The bellows seemed to be in good condition, but with the timing being so off, I didnt trust putting film through it.
I eventually bit the bullet and sent it off to the highly regarded Jurgen Krekel at Certo6 for the full CLA (clean, lubricate and adjust) treatment. After about 4 weeks, my Pearl came back to me in absolutely gorgeous condition. Jurgen gave my bellows a clean bill of health – for a 60 year old camera to still have its original bellows in good shape is nothing less than amazing to me. The opening mechanism now snaps smartly open, and all of the timings seem reasonable. A faint odor of machine oil now emanates from the mechanism, which now operates smoothly and without the staccato motions it previously had.
Out in the field I found it an insanely easy camera to carry around. Honestly, when folded up it’s about the size of my huge smartphone, though about 3x thicker. In practice, the uncoupled rangefinder and lack of an exposure meter are both enlightening, and minor pains. After I take an exposure reading and transfer my desired settings to the camera, I then use the rangefinder to get a distance to my subject, and them manually transfer this setting from the top of the camera to the lens. The time consumed in this process exceeds most human patience for people accustomed to quick cell phone selfies. Yet the fixed lens is probably more appropriate for portraits, and not so much for landscapes.
All in all I’ve had fun carrying this camera around since getting it back for Jurgen.
I can’t wait to get my first developed roll of film back!
- Konica Pearl I folding medium format 645 camera
- Uncoupled film rangefinder, 6×4.5 (645) Medium format 120 (15 frames)
- No light meter – requires an external lightmeter or some awfully good guessing.
- Made in Japan
- Acquired: August 2016, gift from a family member
- Spring 2017 – in active use, just finished my first sample roll
I’ve shot one roll of film through this camera. I love the look, but I am NOT happy with what appears to be irregular scratches in the emulsion. Not sure I’ll try again until I figure that issue out. On an unrelated note, it turns out this roll of TMAX was from a bad batch and Kodak’s name showed up in all of my negatives – some kind of transfer from the backing paper.