Any first glance, this is a standard design 35mm SLR from the 1970s. It does, however, have a number of idiosyncrasies – I shall mention each in due course. I shall start with a general description.
lens: not supplied
focal length: n/a
focus range: n/a
lens fitting: M42
shutter: horizontal cloth focal plane
speeds: 1 second to 1/1000 seconds
flash: 2 x PC sockets
film size: 35 mm
The top plate layout is as you would expect from a Japanese SLR. Film advance lever is on the far right and is made from anodised metal with a black plastic tip. This sits almost flush with the body but is proud enough to allow the user’s thumb to easily move it. The lever moves through just over 180° to advance the film one frame. The lever is not on a ratchet so the lever has to move through its full arc to advance the film – not an issue for most people but might be for those with limited dexterity in their thumb. As well as advancing the film, this lever switches on the light meter. This means you need to leave the camera without having the film advanced in order to preserve battery life. I would find this awkward but no doubt I would adjust if this was my only camera.
Just to the left of the film advance lever is the window to the frame counter. This has a magnifying lens over it which I find makes it harder to read the numbers. This counter resets to S when the camera back is opened. The counter displays even numbers with the odd numbers as dots. Frames 20 and 36 are in red as these were the usual film lengths when this camera was made. Once 36 is reached, the frame counter will stop counting but the film can still be advanced.
At the front of the top plate, left of the frame counter window, is the shutter release button. This sits in a chrome collar and only protrudes a very small amount. The button is threaded for a standard cable release. Behind the shutter release button is the shutter speed/ film speed selector. This, again, is of a standard design. The selector turns to select shutter speeds from one second to 1/1000 seconds. This has the flash sync speed for electronic flash marked on it in red, between 1/30 and 1/60 seconds so around 1/45. To select film speed, the selector is lifted and turned. Film speeds are in ASA only (which is functionally the same as ISO even if not technically) and range from 25 ASA to 1600 ASA.
In the centre of the top plate is the pentaprism hump. This is slightly, but definitely, loose. It took me a while to work out how to remove the pentaprism viewfinder. It slides backwards but it is held in place by a catch. This catch is operated by a ring around the rewind crank which will move slightly anti-clockwise when the viewfinder is free to slide out. When the viewfinder is removed, the focus screen is exposed. This screen does not seem to be replaceable – at least not easily. On the top of the pentaprism hump is an accessory shoe. This shoe has no electrical contacts so it is cold shoe.
I assume that other viewfinders were available but being removable meant that I could clean the top of the focus screen which was rather dirty. On the other hand, if the viewfinder was fixed and sealed, the focus screen would have stayed clean.
To the left of the pentaprism hump is the rewind crank. This is of the small sold-out type and, again as usual, pulls up to release the catch for the back. Around the crank is a film type memo – the options are B &W, colour negative and colour positive. To help the hard of reading, ‘B&W’ is in black, ‘color’ is in red, ‘neg’ in green and ‘pos’ is in yellow. This has no function other than as a mnemonic. As already mentioned, there is a ring around the rewind crank which only moves slightly anti-clockwise and releases the viewfinder for removal.
The front of the camera is, of course, dominated by the lens mount. This is a M42 threaded mount (the thread is 42 mm in diameter with a 1 mm pitch) – the ‘TM’ in the camera name means Threaded Mount as the makers also made bayonet mount cameras. This mount is also known as a Pentax mount (not to be confused with Pentax’s K mount nor with the M43 mount which is the Micro Four Thirds mount) and Praktica mount. This mount was very widely used from the late 1940s to the mid 1980s (and occasionally since) so there are very many lenses available that will fit this camera.
This is the ‘automatic’ version of the M42 mount which means that a plate moves forward at the bottom of the mount when the shutter release is pressed. This plate pushes a pin on the lens to come the aperture in the lens just before the shutter opens.
To the left of the lens mount (on the right, looking at the lens) is a largish button.Pressing this closes the iris diaphragm in the lens which gives you a preview of the depth of field. It is also necessary for the light meter as the meter needs to measure the actual light entering the camera. The button operates on a toggle – pressing once closes the diaphragm; pressing again opens the diaphragm again. This allows you to continue to compose your picture after you have set the exposure. The meter is of the type where you centre the needle in the viewfinder. This suggests that the meter is based around a bridge circuit which, in turn, means that the exact voltage of the battery does not matter so long as it is not nearly flat – no worries about using the right type of battery as any that will fit will work.
The sensor for the meter (a CdS sensor) is behind the mirror and there is a definite half-silvered pattern on the mirror over the sensor. When looking through the viewfinder, this is not visible but if you remove the lens and look into the throat of the lens mount it can be easily seen. The sensor covers most of the middle and lower parts of the image except where the micro-prism focus aids are right in the centre (in the picture above, this sensor can be clearly seen. It is at the top of the mirror as cameras make the image upside down).
To the right of the lens mount (left when looking at the lens) are two PC sockets for flash connection. The top connector is marked FP and is for fast flash bulbs (FP=FocalPlane) and the bottom connector is marked X and is for electronic flash. For FP flash bulbs, any shutter speed can be used as the flash duration is long enough to properly expose all the picture at any shutter speed. For electronic flash, the shutter speed must be at the red marking (1/45th second) or slower. Other flash bulbs can be used but must be at 1/30th second or slower (that is mostly academic as flash bulbs are no longer available new).
The base plate of the camera has a standard (1/4 inch Whitworth or UNC) threaded tripod socket. This is immediately behind the lens so should balance well. Beside the tripod socket is the battery holder. This takes one SR44 battery – I have no idea if this is what the makers intended but it fits and works. Towards one end is the button to allow film rewind.
Inside, there are no surprises. The shutter is a horizontal focal p[lane shutter with cloth blinds. The blinds look to be in good condition – no wrinkles and no visible holes: the test film will show for sure. The take-up spool has multiple slots to make attaching the film leader easy, but to be honest, I have never had any trouble loading film into any camera. Being a Japanese camera, there are foam light seals in the groove that the back sits in when closed and these have now aged to a sticky goo so need replacing before I can test the camera.
|My Final Word||The Soligor TM is a no nonsense SLR from the mid 1970s. It is well designed and well made but has no innovative features. Easy to use, it would be a good work-horse of a camera for a keen amateur.|
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