Konica Big Mini BM-201 review
The Big Mini is a compact 35mm point and shoot camera launched in 1990 by Japan’s oldest camera company, Konica. Over the last 30 years, it’s become a cult classic point and shoot camera, thanks to its sharp 35mm f3.5 lens. No doubt helping this reputation was the fact that 10-15 years ago, you could easily pick one up for around $20USD.
Although its reputation has grown since then, time has not been kind to the Big Mini. Perhaps more than any other compact camera, it has a reputation for dying. So is the Big Mini still worth buying in 2020 and beyond? Keep reading and find out.
You can also listen to my podcast review of the Konica Big Mini BM-201 by pressing play in the header of this page, or by searching Matt Loves Cameras in your favourite podcast app.
Konica Big Mini models
The Big Mini is not just one camera, but a whole lineup of compact cameras from Konica. Some good, some not so good.
- A4 – what looks like a Big Mini but isn’t a Big Mini? The Konica A4! This was the predecessor of the lineup introduced in 1989.
- BM-200 Ex
- BM-201 – the classic Big Mini, this is the model I’ve reviewed in this article.
- Konica Big mini BM-300 – a new take on the Big Mini, the 300 series featured a circular lens housing instead of the square / rectangular lens housing. Konica 35mm f3.5 lens.
- Konica Big Mini BM-300s – same model as the BM-300 but with different colours
- Konica Big mini BM-301 features a data back
- Konica Big mini BM-302
- Konica Big Mini F – a premium Big Mini with a fast f2.8 lens.
- Konica Big mini BM-310Z / 311Z / 411Z / 510 Z / 610 Z – zoom models, not as highly coveted as fixed lens models.
- Konica Big Mini VX BM-701 – why was the Big Mini name slapped on this model? Fixed lens piece of cheap plastic.
- Konica Big mini Neo-R – another zoom model.
Konica Big Mini BM-201 specifications
Launched in 1990, the Konica Big Mini BM-201 is a a compact 35mm point and shoot film camera that originally sold for around $200 AUD / $130 USD. Here’s a run down of all the Big Mini specs:
- Konica 35mm f3.5 lens, 4 elements in 4 groups, with a built-in skylight filter.
- CDS centre weighted metering, exposure controlled automatically – no aperture or shutter controls.
- Automatic DX code recognition: ISO25 to ISO3200. Non DX films rated at ISO25.
- Auto film advance and rewind.
- Nice, bright viewfinder.
- LCD panel on the back showing the mode the camera is in, frame counter, and battery indicator.
- Mode button cycles through flash modes (Auto flash, flash on, flash off) and exposure compensation (+1.5 aperture, -1.5 aperture)
- Weighs just 200 grams with a CR123A battery.
Konica Big Mini manuals
You can find two Konica Big Mini manuals on the excellent camera manuals website from Mr Buktus. Make sure you throw him a few bucks if you find the manuals useful, which I’m sure you will.
Using the Big Mini
I loved using the Big Mini. I only shot two rolls of film through it before I sadly had to send it back to the eBay seller I bought it off. They said it was in perfect working condition, but sadly the flash modes didn’t work, I suspect the exposure compensation also didn’t work, and the shutter was very hard to press.
The Big Mini has a reputation for having a hard to press shutter, but often I would have to press it four or five times quite firmly before it would take an image, marring an otherwise fun shooting experience.
The camera makes a lovely sound as it turns on, the square / rectangular lens housing popping out of the sleek, stylish body, ready for action.
It has a nice bright viewfinder and I found it a pleasure to compose images with. When I was able to press the shutter, I really liked the noise it made. Some say it’s noisy, but I thought it was fine.
A mode button on the back cycles through flash and exposure compensation modes: Auto flash / Flash on / Flash off / Flash off +1.5 aperture / Flash off -1.5 aperture. The ability to alter exposure with these modes is a feature not usually seen on point and shoots other than high end models.
Also on the back is a frame counter and a battery level indicator. There’s also a self-timer button, a rewind film button, and on the base of the camera there’s a tripod socket.
It has a really stylish design for a mid-range compact camera – when it’s turned off, it’s a really nice light, compact size that easily fits in my pocket.
I’m really happy with the images I took with the camera on Fujifilm C200 and Agfa Vista 400 film. The images look sharp, are well exposed, and have fantastic colour and contrast.
I really loved my two rolls with this much-admired point and shoot, and I’m on the look out for a replacement.
Big Mini Pros and Cons
- Sleek, compact, light and stylish.
- Great image quality thanks to that Konica 35mm f3.5 lens.
- Exposure compensation – a feature not usually seen in mid-range point and shoots.
- Super fun to use.
- Reliability: the Big Mini is sadly a byword for unreliability. Even 10-15 years ago, many internet forums were awash with people talking about their cameras dying.
- Price: with stocks dwindling and its reputation rising, you can no longer pick these up cheap, unless you’re very, very lucky.
- Shutter button needs to be pressed quite firm on some models, marring what is otherwise a pleasant shooting experience.
Is the Big Mini a good buy in 2020?
It’s maybe not a good buy compared to so many other good mid-range point and shoots out there that can be picked up for $100USD or less (the Olympus MJU 1 and Olympus LT-1 spring to mind), but it’s a camera that has a certain “je ne sais quoi” about it. I will definitely try and pick another up, if I’m able to for a decent price.