Konan - 16 Automat - introduction

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Konan Camera Laboratory was founded by Gakan Nishimura and his associate in July 1947. They initiated the design and test manufacture between 1947 and 1948, of a camera called the Mica Automat. A joint project with Chiyoda Kogaku Seiko Company Limited, which later became Minolta, resulted in the improved Konan 16 Automat launched in December 1950. Chiyoda Kogaku manufactured several cameras for Konan.

The Mica Automat used a Tessar 25mm f3.5 lens and had shutter speeds 1/25 to 1/100. The Konan 16 Automat uses a Rokkor with shutter speeds T, B, 1/25-1/200sec and is a lighter camera but otherwise very similar.

Similar to the Minox, the Konan 16 adopted "Push & Pull" operation to wind the film and release the shutter, means that pulling out the camera body caused the film advanced to the next exposure and also the shutter charged. Once the body is pulled out a photograph has to be taken before closing the camera body otherwise a blind exposure is taken. 

Made of brass, finished in a brushed aluminium (stainless steel?) the outer part of the case is locked to the inside of the camera. It has a mechanical crispness and indicates features that where modified for the later Minolta 16 series.


The unique film magazine employed on this camera has a light tight door which allows for mid-roll film change in daylight. The one piece cassette uses the same spool design as seen in the later Minolta 16 cassettes but should be classified as a different format as the later cassette will not fit the mechanism of the Konan. This design also establish the 10x14mm negative size.

Different colour finishes have been reported for the Konan 16 Automat, including an all black version used by the Japanese Police. In "Spy Camera", page 53,  Michael Pritchard and Douglas St. Denny report blue, green, red and chrome as well as a chequered or waffled design and one with a special gilt finish.

Information on reloading Konan cassettes is available from the SubClub (http://www.subclub.org/darkroom/rollkona.htm)

Shortly after the first Konan 16 Automat an improved version with flash synch was introduced. This is the most common variation. Some cameras are engraved "Konan-16", not "Konan-16 Automat", no serial number but have flash synch.

In 1952 a hand made stereo version was made in limited numbers. It used two cassettes at once, twin lens and twin settings.

In 1955 an improved prototype, the Konan 16 II Automat, was made by the Konan Institute. This model saw a shift of the shutter speed and aperture dials from the top, next to the shutter release, to the side. The dials can be set without opening the camera and risk loosing a frame and avoiding unintentional changes to the settings.

The Konan Camera Research Institute Inc. developed a variety of amateur use cameras and a special camera for data collection and established the company's strength in the compact camera field and cooperation with Chiyoda Kogaku Seiko Company Limited who also marketed the camera.

In 1957, the name of Konan 16 Automat was changed to Minolta 16 Automat with Minolta taking over the rights of the design, changing the cassette and so began the development of the most popular 16mm format series.

Many sellers of Minolta 16mm film cartridges include the name Konan as one of the camera using the Minolta double cassette format. This is certainly false for the Konan-16 and Konan-16 Automat. From the limited information on the Konan 16 II Automat it is possible that the change in design also included a new design of the film cassette and the Konan 16 II Automat being named the Minolta 16 when it was sold.

Lens Rokkor f3.5/25mm
Shutter T, B, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/200sec.
Aperture f3.5-f16
Viewfinder Newton finder
Film advance Push & Pull operation
Film 16mm, loaded in the magazine
Finish/colour brushed aluminium
Case dark brown leather with red velvet lining
Box dark blue velvet
Accessories leather strap, Yellow filter, Close up lens


Masaharu Saito at http://members.ytv.home.ne.jp/minoxfan/Camera/C-Konan.html includes a diagram of the Mica Automat and several finishes of the Konan 16 Automat and detailed samples taken with the camera. In Japanese.

Last Updated on 24th June 2007