Konica Pop Review – The Prettiest and Worst Camera I Own

Konica Pop Review – The Prettiest and Worst Camera I Own

2560 1440 James Tocchio

The Konica Pop is a 1980s point-and-shoot that was released in eight exciting colors. I bought the green one. I then spent every day of my latest vacation shooting my green Konica Pop. Five rolls of film; 180 photos. That’s 180 chances for the Pop to make a picture so good that I’d be motivated to write about it. I’ve just gotten those 180 shots back from the lab, and I can confidently say that the Konica Pop… looks good in green.

Aside from that, there’s not much that I care to write. That’s because the images that this camera made are, in a word, disappointing. They have a certain charm, yes, but they’re not sharp, not clean. They’re distorted and heavily vignetted, variably under-exposed or awash in destructive light leaks. My Konica Pop made the kind of muddy, washed out shots that certain fans of film tend to love. And that’s fine. The wild flares and light leaks (and even the best-kept Pops will leak light) will delight people who live for the Lomo aesthetic. For these image-makers, the Pop will be a great camera.

But if, like me, you don’t like unpredictable lenses and wasting film and lots of light leaks, the Pop is nothing more than a gorgeous design piece. It’ll look great on a shelf, and remind the viewer of the heady days of Bubble Japan and the high-design Walkmans (Walkmen?) of the ’80s, the ones that the designers actually gave a damn about. It’s a great looking camera that I really enjoy looking at, but one that I don’t want to shoot ever again.

What is a Konica Pop

Manufactured in 1982 by Japanese camera-makers Konica, the Konica Pop (also called the EFJ in Japan) was a low-price, low-feature, easy-to-use camera marketed to potential buyers so casual about photography as to be nearly uninterested. It cost approximately $39.95 when new in 1985, which roughly equates to an inflation-adjusted $110 in 2019. It was sold over a span of ten years in three very slight model iterations. The first model, made between 1982 and 1985, is identified by Konica’s high-tier lens branding, “Hexanon,” on the lens surround. The second model drops the Hexanon designation but adds a faster flash recycle time. And the third is the “Autodate” model, which allows for imprinting of the date onto the negative.

All three models are incredibly simple devices. One shutter speed (1/125th of a second), a 36mm fixed focus lens, manual film advance and rewind, manually-set ISO values of 100, 200, and 400, and a manually-deployed pop-up flash. The Konica Pop is essentially as advanced as any disposable film camera. The big conceit to hi-technology is the inclusion of a CdS light metering cell which, when sensing under-exposure, causes an LED next to the viewfinder to illuminate.

But this sparsity of features didn’t hamper the Pop. From 1982 to 1985, Konica sold an astounding 1.5 million units. And then they kept selling the new Pops for another five years, adding more colors to the mix – eight total during it’s almost ten-year-long production run. The full range of colors included green, blue, silver, yellow, red, pink, black, and a bronze/brown color.

Would the Pop have sold as strongly were it not for the flashy colors? I doubt it. It’s a pretty paltry camera that looks stunning in photographs, and it’s easy to imagine the marketing team at Konica raising ochoko and thanking the heavens for their good luck. Selling this thing in the 1980s would’ve been a cakewalk.

Shooting the Konica Pop Today

The Pop is a compact and lightweight camera, and powered by two AA batteries. These factors make it an excellent machine for casual users, for traveling, and for family or friend situations in which more than one person will be making photos (for example, those who may be less familiar with photography than others). It fits in a pocket with ease, and the use of common batteries keeps things simple and inexpensive.

The few controls that do exist are positioned well enough. The thumb-powered film advance lever is light and its range of motion is concise. The shutter release is exactly where it should be, and the flash-activation button is operated with a single left-hand index finger. A wrist strap attaches to the right-hand side of the camera and this does its job. There’s also a tripod mount on the bottom, in case you’re interested in shooting long exposures, or using bulb mode with a soft release cable, or making a selfie with the self-timer – but wait, none of these things are possible with the Konica Pop. Why does this camera have a tripod mount?

Knowledgable photo geeks will easily imagine what it’s like to shoot a Konica Pop. The back of the machine opens like any other film camera, film is loaded, and off we go. Set the ISO, wind the film, frame the shot through the small viewfinder, and press the shutter release button. If the under-exposure warning LED in the viewfinder lights up, pop the flash or figure out how to get a brighter scene. Luckily the flash does, in fact, balance low-light photos remarkably well, assuming the subject is within 1.5 and 2 meters away from the camera. And that’s all there is to it. There’s literally nothing else we can do.

Once we’ve shot through a roll of film, all that’s left is to manually rewind the camera by pressing the wind disengage button on the bottom and rotate the lever to rewind the film.

Image Quality and Sample Shots

I’ve already mentioned everything I dislike about the images that I made with the Konica Pop. In truth, the shots are as unappealing as I’ve alluded to. At least, they’re unappealing for someone like me, who enjoys the high-quality yet characterful rendering of classic lenses from Minolta and Zeiss and Leica. I prefer sharpness, and micro-contrast. The Pop does not deliver these things. Its images are lo-fi and a bit flat. But then again, it costs one-tenth the price of an R-Mount Leica lens. Maybe this comparison isn’t fair. And there are at least a few things that I enjoy about the images I made with the Pop.

They’re unpredictable, which is interesting when it’s not infuriating. Properly exposed shots come out punchy and vibrant, but with a single shutter speed it can be exceedingly difficult to get properly exposed shots. Users will need to select their film carefully and hope the day’s light doesn’t change. Or fiddle unscientifically with the ISO control to cryptically change the lens’ aperture, after which we can push or pull our film during development. I’m too lazy AND stupid to do this. My methodology with the Pop was instead, true to the designers’ intent, to point it and then shoot it.

I’ve been staring at this page for about fifteen minutes, alternating between the blank space and blinking curser to poring over the images in the file folder full of sample shots. I’m desperately looking for something useful to tell my dear readers. But there’s just nothing there. The entirety of the value of this camera can’t be explained through examining its specifications or the images it makes. Look at the samples I’ve provided. If you like this look and you like the style of the Pop, buy it.

Shooters who want images that exhibit the traditionally accepted notion of quality, however, should not buy it. Unless you love its pretty face. Those who fall in that last segment might be better off asking me for a print of the product photo I made to head this article. You’ll own everything good about the Konica Pop while avoiding the unpleasant feeling of having to use one.

Final Thoughts

When I showed the product shot of the Pop that I made for this article to the team here at Casual Photophile, Charlotte summed up in a single sentence what I knew I’d write in this review before I’d started writing it. “No camera that bad has any right looking that good.”

Charlotte was right. The Konica Pop is a bad camera if you’re someone who cares about making good photos. Its lens isn’t very good, Hexanon or not. And its notorious proclivity for light leaks means it will inevitably ruin frames of film even when the photographer’s done everything right. For users who want a point and shoot that makes amazing images, images that rival SLRs and rangefinders that cost ten times the amount that a point and shoot costs, there are plenty of much better choices.

For users who love the lo-fi look of cheap lenses in bad cameras, who want film photos that “look vintage,” the Pop may be the best camera in that class. And before you roll your eyes, there are plenty of people who love this style. I receive nine or ten emails per week from people asking to buy a camera that makes “old looking photos,” (which I take to mean, low quality). And that’s perfectly fine. It’s all good.

All the caveats and cons noted, there’s no denying that the Konica Pop is a gorgeous product, and I love it for that. But just because I love it, doesn’t mean I’ll ever shoot it again. Rather, I think I’ll just look at it every now and then as it sits on my shelf of keepers, and feel nostalgic about the things I love about Japanese design from the 1980s. Hell, I may even buy a few more Pops in different colors. I am, after all, an idiot.

Get your own Konica Pop on eBay

Or from our own F Stop Cameras

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

All stories by:James Tocchio
21 comments
  • Wonderful.

  • “Traditionally accepted notion of quality.” I have to find a way to sneak that into my next photography conversation.

  • I’m a child of the 70s and so automatically deride the look of the 80s on principle, but I have to admit it’s visually arresting….

  • ……and I bet you paid more for your duff green Konica than I did for my surprisingly good Yashica Zoomate AF 110W compact film P&S (£8 from a charity shop for a perfect boxed example).

  • Definitely a product of its time. Pity about the intermittent fogging, but otherwise it seems it performs to the standard many were happy with, with 6″x 4″ prints.
    It did seem to do a good job, overall, with exposure. With climate change being a hot topic, at least your Pop comes with green credentials.😊 “Walkman” is a trade mark, so plural is “Walkmans”.

    • You didn’t see all the pictures that didn’t come out at all. Totally under-exposed. Even with flash. I made about 180 photos, and it’s quite telling that I barely managed to squeeze twenty usable photos into this writeup.

  • I used to carry a red one to music festivals for years and the results always pleased me. I never had light leak issues and its unusual plasticky 80s look made it really easy to point it at strangers and always capture a smile.

  • While I thoroughly enjoyed the article, your chosen title may have given away too much.

    Perhaps “I am, after all, an idiot” would have left that door open a little wider… 😉

    What I don’t know, though I’m sure I could look it up, is what other colors did it come in? I would LOVE to have one to match my original Bondi Blue iMac.

    • I’ll add the available colors into the article. To the best of my knowledge they were offered in green, blue, red, pink, yellow, black, silver, and a sort of bronze.

  • It reminds me of the “throw away cameras’ that people would scatter at wedding receptions. The bride and groom hoping they would find the absolute awesome picture when developed. Often it was shots that they could blackmail people with….

  • Oh how I love this article! A few months ago I found one at a flea market – red – and was so tempted to buy it. It was so pretty and actually felt good in a hard dense glossy plastic kind of way. It even seemed to work. But but I couldn’t get over the fixed focus lens and the apparent lack of exposure control. It really is, as you put it so well, a glorified disposable camera.
    So I passed on it, and yet I still regret it because it was “only” $40. Which shows you how the designers nailed it, because I just bought a like new Pentax P30T 35mm slr with Pentax 28-70 lens for $20!! And (having just got my film back) the Pentax can make images which leave nothing wanting.
    But yet, I still wished I bought that Pop…

    • Forgot to mention, the product shot with the green background is outstanding.
      And the light leak pic of your daughter in front of the star mural is an amazing stroke of luck. That is a sweet image. I also like the one of the balloons, shame that you had over 100 unusable images…

      • Thanks very much. I’m reluctantly proud of the product shot, to be honest. It was sort of an exercise in “can I do it?” And it came out pretty nice. About an hour of Photoshop work to get the final product.

        I agree about the light leak in he shot you mentioned. Almost looks planned, but I can’t take credit.

    • The fixed focus issue really is a pain. They seem to have set it for about nine feet from the lens, which is fine. But it’s frustrating when shots of distant subjects aren’t sharp.

  • I love so much the quality of the photos, the colors, the uniqueness of them. Of course there are two downsides: this effect is nice for a limited type of photography (I’d love to shot abandoned buildings with it as hospitals, it would convey the idea of ghosts interfering with the equipment) but not for family trips when we want fidelity to our eyes; and the fact that some apps allow to have these light leaks in smartphones, and the image quality of poor lenses in compact film cameras is easily equivalent to the plastic lenses of modern smartphones.

    Not a very intelligent camera but definitively a gorgeous model, loved the composition in green : )

    • Always a true pleasure when you stop by Francis. You were among the first handful of commenters back when this site was a year old and I appreciate you coming by again! We should have you and your photos on the Featured Photophile segment some time.

      • Thank you for your kind words, James. I will be honored both as a reader and as a friend to have my part of the world in your blog : ) Still situation is a bit harsh to me to process correctly my negatives, but bit by bit I am getting a solution. Happy for the deserved growth in your readership, of course there is a professionalism of the essays and reviews, but mainly is because you transmit an authentic enthusiasm and, what is quite valuable, the honesty of your thoughts.

  • The 1980s looked better when they tried to be cheerful (as here) rather than macho and hi-tech, as in the interiors of cars from that period – or indeed the multiple buttons and LCDs on early autofocus cameras. And I do get the lo-fi aesthetic today, even play with it myself occasionally. But film costs the same whatever you put it in, and I’d rather put mine into something with a better hit rate than 20 in 180. So thanks for doing this, so that I won’t have to.

    Now, how about a look at a couple of my 80s design favourites: the Agfa Optima and the Mamiya U?

  • Clive I use the Agfa Optima 1535 (the one with the rf focusing) and quite frankly it is a superb camera. I much prefer it to the Rollei 35 series.
    Think of it as a mini Minolta CLE! But with cooler bauhaus design and one of the biggest VF.

    • Thanks Huss – that’s helpful and, erm, not helpful; because I may now be less equipped to resist the urge to buy one. It would be a nice thing to take on a walk through a German city, say – but I’m just going to try a bit harder to use the kit I already have. The picture’s the thing, right?

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

All stories by:James Tocchio