Welcome to the fifth in my series of quick compact 35mm camera reviews. Over the coming weeks, I’ll be publishing a total of 12 of these articles as part of an upcoming 35mm compact camera mega test spanning cameras made from 1990 to 2003 – arguably the golden age of these pocketable beasts. You can find the full list of cameras being tested here.

I’ll be comparing image quality, durability, speed and overall performance for cameras ranging from the very high end of the 35mm compact camera world to the very low – or close to it. The final mega test will cover my criteria and scoring in full. at over 12,000 words in total, this approach seems a little saner than trying to cram everything onto a single page!

You can check out the reviews that have already been published over on this tag page.


The Konica Big Mini
The Konica Big Mini

Imagine the scene: one night in Tokyo, some Konica employees are drinking in a hostess bar. One of them looks through the bottom of his glass and has a brainwave. ‘Hey!’, he exclaims, ‘Let’s make a camera with a clear lens cover!’

Many beers later and the result is the Konica Big Mini, unique among compact cameras in not having a lens cover, but instead having a clear filter in front of the lens. Unless you remember to be careful, the filter gets smudged or scratched. However, as long as you take care of the filter, the Konica Big Mini is a very good compact camera.

Konica Big Mini - Test Shot
Konica Big Mini – Test Shot

It looks nice, it works well, it does the job. I like it. It doesn’t really have many features, so I don’t have a lot more to say about it. Well, one annoying feature is that the power button is right next to the shutter button. That means you could find yourself turning off the camera just when you meant to capture that once-in-a-lifetime shot of Taylor Swift in your local supermarket.

The Konica Big Mini is reasonably quick to use and produces very good results. The 35mm lens is a simple 4-element lens, like the Mju II, but half a stop less bright (f/3.5 instead of f/2.8). I hoped the Konica lens might be sharper than the Mju II lens. However, testing revealed no difference that I could see. I know some other people feel the Big Mini’s lens is sharper than the Mju II’s lens, but for me, they seemed to produce identical results. They are both very good, but they are not going to put the Contaxes to shame.

Overall, I like the Konica Big Mini. It does a solid job and if you see one for a good price, I recommend it as a decent point-and-shoot option. I guess you might ask whether you should choose a Konica Big Mini or an Olympus Mju II. To me, they seemed to perform identically, but since they look quite different, I suggest you go for whichever one you prefer the look of.

By the way, there is also a rather rare Konica Big Mini F, which has an f/2.8 lens that is rumoured to be a fraction sharper than the f/3.5 lens. If that is true, it would make the F a strong contender.

~ Ray

Konica Big Mini technical specifications

ManufacturerKonica Corporation
Release date1990
Camera nameKonica Big Mini (BM-201)
Camera typePoint and shoot
Format35mm
Image size24 x 36mm
LensKonica Lans 35mm f/3.5
(4 elements in 4 groups)
ViewfinderBright frame albada finder with AF frame, parallax marks, AF/AF Lock light, Close-up light, Flash on light
ShutterBetween-the-lens shutter, electromagnetically controlled

3.6 sec -1/800 sec
FocusingInfrared non-scan active focusing from 0.35m to infinity
MeteringAperture priority, center weighted (EV 2 - 17)

DX-coded films, auto ISO (50 - 3200)

Non-DX defaults to ISO 25
FlashBuilt-in flash (auto set as default), 3.8m flash distance at ISO 100
LoadingAuto advance to first frame, auto rewind at film end, manual mid-roll rewind.
Date/time stampOptional model
WeatherproofingMinimal
Power1 x 3V CR123 or equivalent
Weight188g (without battery)
Dimensions
(appx)
115 x 34 x 63mm (WxDxH)
AccessoriesSoft case, strap

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3 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve owned two Big Mini Fs previously and I can say it’s quite a bit sharper than the f3.5 Big Minis. I’d say it’s just as sharp as the Yashica T4 but with an even better flash balance, a greater tendency to shoot wide open, and a more accurate autofocus. I currently own a Contax T2 and the original Klasse but I still hope to one day get my hands on the darker grey Big Mini F. Its light weight and slightly smaller build makes quite the difference in everyday use. It does feel a bit flimsy though, more so than the regular Big Minis.

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