Chinon CE-4

Chino CE-4 film SLR camera from Japan. This camera uses the Pentax K mounty so there are very many lenses available.

Chinon do not have the good name and reputation of the big Japanese camera makers. Along with Cosina, they get thought of as cheap, bottom end of the market cameras. If truth be told, both Chinon and Cosina are excellent designers and manufacturers. In fact, Chinon were good enough for Kodak to buy the company in 2004. In its heyday, Chinon was at the forefront of camera technology.

lens: Chinon zoom
focal length: 28 – 50 mm
apertures: f/3.5 to f/16
focus range: 0.5 m to infinity
lens fitting: Pentax K mount
shutter: Seiko electronic metal focal plane
speeds: 8 seconds to 1/1000 seconds
flash: hot shoe for dedicated Chinon flash, PC connector
film size: 35 mm

P1030839This camera, the CE-4, is an electronic film SLR with both automatic and manual capability. It was introduced in, as far as I can ascertain, 1980 and uses the Pentax K mount although Chinon refer to this as a Chinon bayonet mount. This is the plain vanilla K mount for fully manual lenses, rather than one of the later versions with electrical contacts and focus drive shafts.

Top plate layout is pretty standard – film advance lever at the right, a frame counter on the right hand edge and a shutter speed selector dial between the film advance lever and the pentaprism hump. The shutter release button is in the centre of the shutter speed selector.


In front of the film advance lever is a small lever that is fairly unusual. Pulling this to the left while turning the film advance lever means that the shutter is cocked but the film is not moved. This allows you to have repeat exposures on one frame of film – no limit to how many exposures (other than the length of the film, of course). I have no idea why anyone would want to do this.

Just behind the shutter speed selector is a mark to indicate the position of the focal plane (i.e. the position of the film).


On top of the pentaprism hump is a hot-shoe accessory shoe. This is synchronised for electronic flash if you use Chino’s dedicated flash gun. This uses a second electrical contact to ‘talk’ to the camera and automatically sets the shutter speed to 1/60 seconds. For non-Chinon flash guns, the synch. speed must be set by hand – still 1/60 seconds for electronic flash and 1/30 seconds for flash bulbs.

P1030843To the left of the pentaprism hump is a standard fold-out rewind crank. This doubles as a door latch as pulling it up releases the back of the camera.

Around the rewind crank is the film speed selector. This is only in ASA (similar to ISO for younger readers). This also offers the facility to set exposure compensation by +1 or -1 stop in 1/3 stop steps. The ASA dial is locked in place and it is necessary to press a small chrome button while turning it.


On the left side of the lens mount are two items. The top one is a PC connector for flash guns that do not have hot-shoe connection (or for off-camera flash). The bottom item is a button for exposure memory. This is the oldest camera I know of to have this facility. To use this, you point the camera at something that has the tonality of your main subject and press this button. Keeping the button depressed, re-compose your shot and press the shutter release button. The main use for this is probably to avoid having the camera metering too much sky.


On the right hand side of the lens mount are a further two items. The top one is a depth of field preview button. Pressing this closes the iris diaphragm in the lens so the user can see the depth of filed of the final image. Below this is the lens relase button.

Close to the lens mount on the front of the camera is a delayed action control. This is entirely electronic. The user can select either a five second or ten second delay. Once set, it is actuated by the shutter release button. When actuated, the central red LED flashes – the speed of the flashes increases as it gets nearer to the shutter firing.

The back of the camera has one thing on it – a memo holder for the end of the film carton. This is an essential item that should be on every film camera.

P1030829The base plate (which, incidentally, is made from brass) is relatively busy. Right by the lens is a standard (1/4 inch UNC) tripod socket and beside this is the battery holder. This takes three LR44 (or equivalent ) bateries which are readily available. My camera currently has three hearing aid Wein cells which are cheap but not very long lasting.

Also on the base plate is the attachment for a power winder. This consists of a locating hole at either end, four electrical contacts and a mechanical connection to the film advance system. As I do not have a power winder available, I can say no more about this.

Inside, the camera is as you would expect from an early 1980s film SLR. Film cassette goes on the left, shutter and film gate are roughly central followed by the sprocket shaft and then the take-up spool. The shutter is a Seiko electronic shutter. Being electronic, it will not work at all with flat or missing batteries. The upside is that the shutter speed is continuously selectable from 8 seconds to 1/1000 seconds in Auto (but not when set manually when only the shutter speeds on the shutter speed dial are available).

My overall, initial, impression is that this will be an easy camera to use. I have loaded a cassette of Agfa Vista+ 200 film (which is really Fujifilm 200 film) and now we shall see how easy the camera actually is.

Test film:

I have now run a test film (Agfa Vista+ 200) through the camera and had it developed and scanned by Snappy Snaps in Lincoln. The camera is very easy to use on Auto – all the photographer has to do is compose, focus and press the shutter release button. I tried a few shots on manual – still using the built-in meter but adjusting the aperture until the meter was happy. This works fine as well as you might expect.

The meter is working well with the hearing aid batteries and the image density on the negatives is as I would expect a well exposed colour film to be.

The shutter is moving smoothly with no speed variation on either shutter curtain. The last two pictures below are with the lens at its closest focus position – again, focus is fine.

The lens is susceptible to flare when shooting into the light. None of the pictures were unusable and a lens hood might well have prevented any flare.

Chinon CE4-2
Chinon CE4-4
Chinon CE4-11
Chinon CE4-14
Chinon CE4-17
Chinon CE4-19
Chinon CE4-26
Chinon CE4-25

Author: John Margetts

I am a keen photographer who also collects cameras. I am retired with about 50 years photography experience.

18 thoughts on “Chinon CE-4”

  1. Thank you! Just got this camera from a relative and was concerned about its obscurity. Your article was posted on the very day I received this camera!

    Love your blog 🙂


  2. Спасибо – всё очень подробно и добросовестно описано!
    (Thank you – all very detailed and faithfully described – my translation)


  3. I bought one new in 1979 mail order from New York shot thousands of photos through it never had a malfunction fine camera multitude of lenses up to 500 mm the only issue I have is at present the foam Around The Mirror Has degraded to where it it mechanically bangs so I can’t use it at present wondering if parts are available


    1. Sheets of suitable self-adhesive foam are readily available. You are in the USA so I cannot comment on sources over there but I buy my foam from eBay – search for “light seal foam”. It is a simple job to remove the old foam – scrap off carefully, clean with naphtha and stick the new foam on.


  4. Hi John,

    Thanks for posting this just bought one ‘as seen’ off eBay. These cameras made pre-digital and photoshop. The double exposure switch allows you to get creative and arty overlaying one image on another which used to be popular back in the day.


  5. Super article. I’ve just inherited one of these and looking forward to using it! I nrmally use a Fuji XT-2 and already have a some other PK lenses which I use with my Fuji. I’m also looking forward to trying out the double exposure feature. I also have this feature on my Fuji so will be good to try out on film.


  6. Nice write up.
    I used to repair these for Dixons back in the 80’s at Stevenage repair centre. The Chinon engineer in UK Aki was a great teacher. I believe he has his own camera design company in Japan now but I remember something about designs for Kodak cameras.
    Thanks for the memories. I will have to dig out my own CE4s with 1.4 50mm lens sometime. Fantastic lens.


    1. Hi Mike, I was very interested to see that you used to repair Chinon SLRs at BR 385! So, you may have fixed some that I sent you when I managed Glasgow 66, Edinburgh 126 & Glasgow 305 back in the 80s before becoming an ASM. Wind forward 40 years and I now have a large collection of 70s & 80s SLRs (on display in my house!). One issue I have though is that i have a very nice CE4s / 50mm f1.4 which has a very wobbly film advance lever. I cant see how to detach it in order to tighten or replace screw underneath it. Can you remember how the film advance lever is removed on the CE-4? Kind regards, David Abercrombie


  7. The Chinon CE4 and better still the CE4s are two of the most underrated 35mm cameras out there. A lot of younger people who are new to film photography get so starry eyed obout the Canon AE1 for some odd reason. My advice to anyone new to film photography would be, forget the AE1 and go for a CE-4 or CE4s. Why? Here are a few reasons. 1. A CE4 is about £20 with a chinon 50mm 1.7 on Ebay. A Canon AE1 is between £50 to £75 with a 50mm 1.8. 2. The CE-4 has more features, Multiple exposure button, Two speed self timer , exposure lock button, Aperture as opposed to shutter priority mode. The CE4S also has 2000th top shutter speed. 3. I have used not just the Canon AE1 but numerous other models extensively over the years and are all excellent in their own way and although I own numerous models from Canon, Nikon, Minolta, Pentax, which to reiterate are all excellent, I can honestly say my all time favourite is the humble but brilliantly simple Chinon CE4/CE4S. Its size, handling, and just it’s general feel when operating have always helped me enjoy my photography when I shoot with it. They are now over 40 years old but there are still many good ones to be had for the price of a decent pub lunch, you literally can’t go wrong.


      1. Completely agree. The fact that many of these models the CE-4/ CE-4S, CE-5, CM-4, CG-5 were back in the day considered cheap budget models and are still working today, is testament to just how well they were manufactured and in truth, were every bit as good as most of their contemporaries.


    1. I wholeheartedly agree, Dean. I too have used a vast variety of cameras but it is these unsung Chinons that I always seem to use the most. I have a CX, CXII, CE-3 Memotron, CM-4s, CE-4 and CE-4s and all are vastly better than the entire Canon A or T series combined. Chinons are straightforward yet feature-laden, steadfastly reliable cameras with a plethora of high quality lenses available. I call them my ‘Dark Horses’.


      1. Hi Rauli, Glad you mentioned the m42 Chinons. I have a CS , CX, CE Memotron, and Prinxflex M1 ( the forerunner to the CX). Along with a plethora of Chinon M42 glass. Stop down metering but extremely well manufactured and reliable, far superior in my view to the east German Practicas. I have a Practica MTL 3 and although a good camera in it’s own right, doesn’t come close to the Chinons in terms of build quality. These really are hidden gems in Every sense of the word.


        1. Hi Dean, it is indeed the Chinon glass that are truly the hidden gems, both amazing optically and exquisite in construction particularly the earlier M42 versions. I agree with you on the Praktica MTL-3, I adore the Praktica L series in their concept, design and style but quality of assembly was very inconsistent. Chinon had none of these issues. However if your lucky to get a good Praktica, they are great.


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