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.
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.
[Some of the links in this article will direct users to our affiliates at B&H Photo, Amazon, and eBay. By purchasing anything using these links, Casual Photophile may receive a small commission at no additional charge to you. This helps Casual Photophile produce the content we produce. Many thanks for your support.]