This is a Chinese camera made by Seagull. The only Chinese camera I have come across before is my Hakin Halina 30 5X. This has been prejudicing my opinion of Chinese cameras. I have never heard of the Phenix brand before but looking at a Chinese auction site, it seems that they made a range of SLR and rangefinder cameras.
focal length: 50 mm
apertures: f/2.8 to f/22
focus range: 0.8 m to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
speeds: 1 second to 1/300 + B
flash: Hot shoe only
film size: 35 mm
This Phenix 205 DS is a rangefinder camera which is very reminiscent of Japanese rangefinder of the late 1950s and 1960s. The name Phenix is a Chinese attempt at Phoenix and that bird is used as a logo on the camera. It is solidly made and feels good in the hand. While the camera has a coupled rangefinder it lacks a light meter – coupled or uncoupled. This is no problem – sunny 16 works well with film and I have a number of handheld meters.
The top plate is made from a grey, fairly soft plastic which looks like anodised aluminium. On the far right is the window to the frame counter. This is reset when the back is opened and counts up. Only even numbers are displayed (except two for some reason) the odd numbers being represented by dots. 18 and 36 are in red, the rest are in black. After 36 are just dots.
Just left of the frame counter window is the film advance lever. This is black plastic and has a tendency to sit entirely over the top plate which makes it slightly harder to use that it could be. The winding action is just over 100°. To the left of the film advance lever – and forward of it – is the shutter release button. This is aluminium and is threaded for a standard cable release.
Almost in the middle is the accessory show. This has the standard flash contacts and so is a hot shoe. This will be synchronised for electronic flash. In front of the accessories shoe are two Kanji characters and the model number 205. To the left of the accessory show is the film plain marker. On the left of the top plate is the wind crank. This is the standard foldout type and it doubles as the catch for the back by being pulled up.
The front of the top plate has three windows. One is occupied with the camera name. The middle window is both the rangefinder window and the illumination for the bright lines in the viewfinder. The third window is the viewfinder. Below these is the lens/shutter housing. The shutter has no name but is very reminiscent of Japanese Copal/ Citizen/ Seiko shutter. Its use is basically as you would expect with one unique (as far as I know) feature.
Right by the camera body is the focus ring. This is calibrated in metres and has grips all the way around. This links to the rangefinder in the top plate. The central ring the aperture ring with the stops marked in a variety of colours – more on the colours in the “In Use” section. The outside ring is the shutter speed ring. This gives speeds from one second to 1/300 seconds. The lens is marked as a Phenix lens and has the serial number 942348. It has a focal length of 50 mm and a maximum aperture of f/2.8.
On the underside of the shutter is the delay timer lever. This gives a delay of about eight seconds. Strangely, it is marked with a V which has got to be an echo of the German shutters’ V which is short for Vorlaufwerk. The unique feature I mentioned is a second cocking mechanism.
Once upon a time it was necessary to cock the shutter by hand before it could be fired and a lever was provided for this function. During the nineteen fifties, shutter design changed so that the shutter would be cocked by an internal mechanism while advancing the film. After this, cocking levers disappeared. On this camera, the shutter is cocked internally by the film advance mechanism in the modern manner. However, it also has a cocking lever. This allows you to cock the shutter without advancing the film. This is only of any use if you want to deliberately produce a double exposure.
On the right end of the fun is a modest grip. This is mostly shaped and he’s holding the camera steadily.
The rear of the camera has the viewfinder eyepiece. This is nice and large and has a black plastic surround. Apart from this, the rear is featureless. The underside of the camera is similarly featureless – it just contains the tripod boss and the rewind button.
Inside the standard. The cassette chamber is on the left and the sprocket wheel and take-up spool are on the right.
The inside of the door is dominated by the pressure plate. This is firmly fixed and a sprung. By the hinge is a small roller which presses against the film as it goes on the take up small and helps to prevent scratches. By the catch is a chrome spring which keeps the cassette properly located.
It is easy to hold this camera steady with your right-hand while manipulating the shutter controls and focus with your left hand. One big weakness is the aperture ring which has no click stops and is easy to move unintentionally while focusing stop. It also has the advantage at intermediate apertures are available. As mentioned above, the aperture ring has the f/stops marked in different colours. There are also coloured markers for the distance scale so if you use the aperture f/8 (in yellow) the yellow distance markers give you the depth of field for that aperture.
The viewfinder produces a clear and bright image with clear bright lines for framing. The rangefinder spot is yellow (Indicating that the rangefinder mirror is silvered in gold) and not particularly distinct. However, the rangefinder image is bright and easy to see. There is sufficient separation between the viewfinder and rangefinder images to make focusing definite. The only negative here is that the rangefinder image is not vertically aligned with the viewfinder image. So long as the horizontal alignment is correct, it really doesn’t matter.
Having now uploaded a test film, I have a new problem. The rangefinder image has disappeared from the viewfinder. I can only suspects that the rangefinder has come loose inside the top plate. My test film has been done entirely with night with me guessing focus. For landscapes with infinity focus this is okay. Former close-up of the pushbike the focus is obviously out. Here is a selection of the test photographs: (all on Agfa Vista+ film)