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

Exakta RTL1000

This is my sixth Exakta camera. The first five (Varex IIb, Exa IIb, Exa Ia, Exa 500 Exakta TL500) were made by the still independent Ihagee company in Dresden (the TL500 was made by Ihagee West in West Germany). Eventually, Ihagee was absorbed into the Pentacon combine with Zeiss Ikon, KW and some others. This fifth Exakta dates to the Pentacon period. The basic shape and the inside of the back are very reminiscent of a Praktica camera of the same period – also made by Pentacon.


lens: Meyer-Optik Oreston

focal length:  50 mm

apertures: f/1.8 to f/16

focus range: 0.33 m to infinity (13 inches to infinity)

lens fitting: Exakta bayonet

shutter: vertical metal shutter

speeds: 8 seconds to 1/1000

flash: PC socket

film size: 35 (135)

However, this is not a Praktica. There are some very definite differences. The first, and most obvious, is the retention of the Exakta bayonet mount. That means that my collection of Exakta lenses can be used as can any Exakta lens since the first Exakta in 1936. As a secondary feature of retaining the Exakta bayonet mount, the shutter can be fired with a left-hand shutter release button. This last has been very strangely implemented. On the original Exakta system, the shutter release button was fixed to the lens. Pressing this first closed the iris diaphragm and then tripped the shutter. With this later implementation, the release button on the lens does not quite reach the release button on the body. Why? The cost of extending the body button would have been very little. Instead, Pentacon sold an extension stud that screwed into the body buttoned reached to the lens shutter button. I suspect that the main reason for this is that the body is actually a Praktica TL series body with a lens-to-film distance that is shorter than the lens to film distance for the Exakta mount system, resulting in this left-hand release having to be too long for sensible use. This left-hand shutter release is threaded for a standard cable release.

P1030778The other Exakta feature that has been retained is a replaceable viewfinder. This gives the user a choice of a waist-levers finder, an eye-level pentaprism finder or an eye-level pentaprism with built-in light meter finder. Again, this has been strangely implemented. The viewfinders on the RTL1000 are slightly smaller than the finders on the original Exaktas. I cannot use my old waist-level finder with this newer camera. In 1970, Wallace Heaton (a photographic retailer in London) was offering this camera for £98-14-6.

Now is time for a description.

The body is a brick-like lump from 1969. It measures 145 x 90 x 50 mm and weighs xx g with no lens attached. Right of the viewfinder on the top plate is the film advance lever – all metal – which moves through nearly 180° to advance the film one frame. It is not on a ratchet so must advance the film in one sweep.

P1030779On the pivot point of the film advance lever is a film reminder disk. This offers the options of monochrome, daylight colour print, tungsten colour print, daylight colour reversal, tungsten colour reversal. This is merely a mnemonic and does not affect the working of the camera at all.

Behind the film advance lever is the frame counter. This should be reset when the back is opened. On my camera, this is entirely non-functional. It does not reset when the back is opened and does not count when the film is advanced.

Between the film advance lever and the viewfinder is the shutter speed selector. This runs from 1 second to 1/1000 seconds plus B (there is an additional slow speed selector – more later). There is also a flash setting beyond B for electronic flash. 1/30 seconds has an icon of a light bulb to indicate that this is the synchronisation speed for flash bulbs. The speed selector cannot be moved between B and 1/1000. The space between B and 1/1000 has a stud projecting vertically. This links to the light metering viewfinder if attached and allows the light meter controls to alter the shutter speed.

Viewfinder removed

As mentioned earlier, the viewfinder is exchangeable for various models . To remove the fitted viewfinder, it is necessary to find a stud on either side just blow the front of the viewfinder. These are pulled down with one hand while pulling the viewfinder up with the other hand. It is both easier and quicker to do than describe. To fit the new finder, just push it into the top of the camera.

Viewfinder after removal

Left of the viewfinder is the rewind crank. This is the standard small, fiddly, fold-out crank which is best suited to smaller hands than mine. Pulling this rewind crank upwards acts as the catch to release the back of the camera. Around the rewind crank is a moveable disk printed with film speeds in both DIN and ASA. Again, this is entirely a mnemonic and does not alter the working of the camera at all.

On the left-hand edge of the top plate is a PC socket for attaching a flash gun. There is no accessory shoe on this camera – a downside of having exchangeable viewfinders. An accessory shoe was available as an extra according to the manual. This fitted around the rewind crank with a cable that plugged into the PC socket.

The front of the camera, as always, is dominated by the lens mount. As already mentioned, the lens fitting is the Exakta bayonet mount retaining backwards compatibility with the entire range of Exakta lenses dating back to 1936. There is a slight variation in the mount which does not affect compatibility. This is the addition of a plunger just outside the bayonet at the bottom of the mount. This plunger moves out when the shutter release buttonis pressed and pushes a pin on the lens which closes the aperture. This is essentially the same as the system on automatic M42 cameras and lenses.

P1030784The lens is held in place by a lever which locates on a pin on the back of the lens. This is very sloppy on my camera although it is functionally fine.

To the left of the lens mount (left while using the camera) is the small shutter release button mentioned above. On the right of the lens mount is another (black plastic) shutter release button. This one is large (15 mm square and 10 mm deep). It presses down to actuate the shutter. On the side of this black plastic shutter release is a small knurled chrome disk with a red dot on it. Rotating this disk so that the red dot aligns with a red dot on the release button locks the shutter release to prevent accidental exposures. This has no effect at all on the left hand shutter release button. All Exakta models I have seen (five in all) have this feature which I wish had been more common – I frequently waste two or three frames on a film.

Below the right-hand shutter release button is a combined delay timer and slow shutter speed dial. In the 1940s and 50s, having two shutter speed controls was usual – with 1/30 or so and faster on one dial and those slower speeds on another. By the time this camera was introduced (1969) this was unheard of. Yet here it is!

P1030785To use this control as a delay timer, you set the required shutter speed on the main dial on the top plate, rotate the dial/lever below the shutter release clockwise as far as it will go. Pressing the centre chrome button will start the timer, giving you about eight seconds before the shutter fires.

Alternatively, you can use the same control to set the shutter speed to either two, four or eight seconds. To do this, you set the main shutter speed dial to B, and the slow shutter speed on the dial below the shutter release button. Next you need to turn the dial/lever clockwise as far as it will go. Release the shutter with either of the normal shutter release buttons (not the centre chrome button). This works well enough even if it is a bit antiquated.

As mentioned above, the lens mount is the Exakta bayonet mount with compatibility back to 1936. In fact, this is a double bayonet. There is the bayonet mount inside the throat of the mount for short focal length lenses (less than 180 mm according to Wrotniak) and a second bayonet mount outside the throat of the lens mount for longer focal length lenses (180 mm or longer).

The base of the camera is bare. There is no battery compartment and no motordrive attachment points. All there is is a standard 1/4 inch UNC tripod socket which is placed immediately below the lens mount for optimal balance. There is also the button to release the film advance to allow the film to be rewound.

P1030780To gain access to the inside of the camera, it is necessary to pull up the rewind crank to unlock the back. At first sight, the inside is fairly standard. The film cassette goes on the left, the shutter is in the middle, followed by the sprocket shaft and then the take-up spool.

The shutter is a metal shutter (described in the manual as a metal laminate) with three slats and travels vertically. this is pretty much standard for the time.

The take-up spool is very similar to those in Praktica cameras of the same period (the TL series).This is a quick load system which works very well. To load the film, you pull the film leader out of the cassette until it reaches the green square on the right by the take-up spool. The film needs to lodge behind a small plate at the base of the sprocket shaft. It is then a matter of closing the back and advancing the film a couple of times.

P1030783The camera came with a kit lens: a Meyer Optik Oreston lens with a 50 mm focal length and an aperture range of f/1.8 to f/16. This is an impressive aperture range. f/1.8 is plenty wide enough for just about al uses and f/16 is just below the point where diffraction softening becomes noticable. The closest focus is 0.33 metres (or just over a foot). The swing on the focus ring between closest focus and infinity is nearly 340° (close to a complete revolution of the ring). This means that focusing can be slow but accuracy will be easy (and compares very well with my modern Canon lenses where the swing is a mere 30° to 40° making accurate manual focus nearly impossible). There is a red index mark to indicate the position of both focus and aperture. There is also a red dot to indicate the focus position for infra-red light if you are using infra-red film.

P1030782The focus ring is at the outside edge of the lens and is easy to grip and turn. The scale is printed in both metres (white) and imperial (red). The aperture ring is close to the lens mount but not close enough to cause problems adjusting the aperture. When the lens is fitted to the camera, there is a large button on the side of the lens inside of the aperture ring, close to the right-hand shutter release button. Pressing this closes the aperture to give you a depth of field preview – very useful and easy to use (easy compared to my Canon DSLRs).

P1030781At the bottom of the lens is a small slider that has two positions. Position one – with a green marking – is the auto setting. The aperture will stay wide open for ease of focusing until the shutter release button is pressed. Position two – with an orange marking – is the manual setting. The aperture will close to the set aperture as the aperture ring is turned making focusing difficult but means that the lens can be used with older Exakta cameras.

Technical information gleaned from the Interweb: this lens is made from six glass elements in four groups making it similar to a Carl Zeiss Planar lens. It seems to have a good reputation.

Final picture. The RTL1000 camera and Oreston lens being used with very old close-up tubes. This allows the user to take true macro shots. True macro being when the image on the negative is exactly the same size as the original object. This is an occasion when the lens must be set to the, orange, manual position mentioned above as the lens is too far away from the plunger mentioned above so the iris diaphragm will not get automatically closed when firing the shutter.


The following is an advert for this camera from the 1971/2 Wallace Heaton catalogue:

RTL 1972014.jpg

Test film.

My test film has been developed and scanned (by Snappy Snaps in Lincoln, as usual). I am very pleased. The camera is working well – no light leaks and shutter speeds are, at least, close to correct. Shutter blades are moving smoothly – no irregular exposures. I cannot show this here, but the negatives have around the density I would like on a negative – which is more a comment on my Leningrad light meter, but also shows the shutter speeds are ok.

The lens seems to perform well. I am not one of those photographers that examines the corners to make sure that they are “tack sharp” but the corners are plenty sharp enough. Contrast is good. Bokeh I do not understand but I have included a picture with plenty of out-of-focus areas so the gentle reader can assess the bokeh for theirselves.

My standard kid bike shot


Mamiya/Sekor 500DTL

A film 35mm camera from Mamiya in Japan.

This is my second Mamiya – my other is the Mamiya Korvette. The Korvette was a fixed lens SLR similar to the Zeiss Ikon Contaflex and Voigtlander Bessomatic. This 500 DTL is a more ‘standard’ SLR with an M42 (Praktica, Pentax) lens mount. Top plate layout is as you would expect: film advance, frame counter, shutter speed/film speed selector, pentaprism hump and rewind crank in that order (but no accessory shoe). In 1970, Wallace Heaton (a photographic retailer in London) was offering this 500DTL for £114-19-7 with a ƒ/2 kit lens.

Mamiyalens: none

focal length:  n/a

apertures: n/a

focus range: n/a

lens fitting: M42 (Praktica/Pentax)

shutter: cloth focal plane

speeds: 1 s to 1/500 s

flash: 2 x PC sockets

film size: 35 mm

Underneath the top plate, things are different. This is one of the very few cameras where I have needed to read the manual in order to suss out how things work. When not in use, the film advanced lever is against the camera body and the light meter is switched off. To use the camera, you need to pull out the film advance lever to its standby position – about 30° away from the body. At this point, the light meter electronics are live.

The meter needs a bit of discussion as it is very different to other cameras of its era. In the 21st century, we expect our cameras to have many options with a plethora of buttons and dials and menus. In the 1960s life was very different. You got a light meter (or not). It used one system for measuring the light. You were stuck with the ISO of the film you had in the camera. This meant that photography needed a lot more planning than we are used to today. The light meter in this camera has options – the first to offer these options as far as I know.

The first option is spot metering. Asahi’s Pentax Spotmatic implied that it used spot metering but it didn’t. This was probably the first SLR to offer spot metering. In the viewfinder there is a marked square in the middle of the bottom with an ‘S’ in it. This is the area of the spot meter uses – it is necessary to meter using the square over the critical area of the image and then recompose the image after setting the exposure. There is a single CdS sensor behind the mirror. If there are no critical areas in the image, you can use averaging metering. There are no defined areas for this – metering is by two CdS sensors, one on either side of the image in the pentaprism.

Once you have selected spot or averaging meeting metering, the process is the same. This is basically a shutter priority system merely because it is not easy to adjust shutter speed with the camera to your eye.

To activate the meter, you press the film advance lever in towards the body against a spring. Then you adjust the aperture until the needle is centred on the back-to-front C. At this age, the meter needs to have the aperture at the shooting value (stop-down metering) so the image in the viewfinder can get rather dark and the reversed C hard to see. This was a common fault with TTL metering at the time. The camera uses automatic lenses (automatic here means that the aperture closes down as you take the shot. Focus is still manual). When you press the film advance lever in, a plate just inside the lens mount moves forward and presses a pin on on the lens to close the aperture. I am testing the camera with a Russian Helios 44-2 lens which is a preset lens. To switch between spot and averaging metering, there is a switch on the lower left side of lens mount. When you switched to S, a pointer moves in the viewfinder to the S in the spot metering box and when you switch to A the pointer moves to the A on the right of the box.

P1030551The film advance lever has several functions. The obvious one is advancing the film. Secondly, it switches on the metering circuits by being pulled away from the body. Thirdly, it takes a meter reading when pushed towards the body. There is fourth function: fourthly, the centre of the film advance lever is an off switch – pressing this returns the film advance lever to its position close the body and switches off the electronics. Shutter speeds are selected by rotating the speed selector knob. This offers speeds for one second to 1/500 of a second (the sister model, 1000 DTL, had 1/1000 seconds as well). Film speed is selected by lifting the speed selector knob and turning. Speeds available are 15DIN/50ASA to 27DIN/400ASA. In the 1960s this was a sensible range. Kodak slide film was 64 ASA and only specialist film was faster than 400 ASA. Films film speed can be selected in 1/3 stop increments which is equal to 1 DIN steps.

The frame counter counts up from S – when you waste two frames to get to unexposed film it will be on 1. It will automatically be set to S when you open the back.

As I mentioned in my introduction, the lens mount is M42 threaded mount (M42 means 42 mm diameter and 1 mm thread pitch). This means that there are a vast number of lenses available from many makers. Downside is the variety. There are few M42 zoom lenses and those that were made were not very good. Same goes for long focal length lenses – they were made but are rare.

On the side of the lens mount are two PC sockets for flash. The top one is for ‘focal plane’ flashbulbs and is marked FP. The lower one is for electronic flash and is marked X. Both require the shutter speed to be set to 1/60th of a second. The reason a slow shutter speed is required is because the shutter opens as a travelling slit. In order for all the image to be exposed to the flash, the shutter must be completely open when the flash fires (i.e. the width of the slit is the width of the film gate). A speed slower than 1/60 of a second can also be used.

P1030550This camera could also be used with ‘M’ class flashbulbs but these take time to reach their full brightness. These have to be used at 1/30 of the second or slower. The flash will then be fired after 1/60th of the second and the bulb has a further 1/60 of a second to reach full brightness. This is academic as ‘M’ class bulbs are no longer available (as far as I know). Below the PC sockets is the switch to change between Spot and Averaging metering.

The base plate has a battery holder which takes one button battery size. I’m using a hearing aid battery which is working well. There is also the button to disengage the film advance mechanism to allow the film to be rewound into the cassette. There is a tripod socket – 1/4 inch UNC.

P1030552The back of the camera unlocks by a slide on the left side. Inside is as usual. The film cassette goes on the left and the (fixed) take up spool is on the right. This take-up spool rotates clockwise so the film is wound with the emulsion side outermost.

In use.

My first comment has to be that this is an old Japanese camera. This means that the openings rely on foam lights seals to keep the camera light-proof. These foam seals have long turned to a sticky black goo. Fortunately, this is a simple thing to rectify. First, I scraped out the bulk of the ex-foam from the channels it sits in. Then I removed the residue with a cotton bud soaked in naphtha. I have a stock of self-adhesive foam sheets from which I cut thin strips to fit into the channels the goo came from. The last bit is to replace the foam on the edge of the focus screen inside the lens mount. This last acts as a buffer for when the mirror flips out of the way as the picture is taken.

MamiyaHaving done this, I have loaded the camera with Agfa Vista+ film. When I bought the camera, the state of the outside strongly suggested that it was stored in a shed or garage for a few years. This part, the outside, is easy to clean (Brasso and ROR). Not so easy to clean are the electrical contacts in the meter system. These are in the film advance lever as you press it towards body to switch on the meter and also in the shutter speed selector to allow the meter to determine the set shutters speed. Both of these are a bit hit and mission my camera, and I have to repeatedly push the advance lever in and release it to get any life from the meter and also have to repeatedly change the shutter speed for the same reason.

Focusing is quite easy with the micro-prism centre. It would be easier if there was a split image centre but the focus screen as supplied is fine.

The following is an advert for this camera from the 1971/2 Wallace Heaton catalogue:

Mamiya 1972013.jpg

Test film.

The test film has been shot and developed. The lens was my old Helios 44 and has performed as expected. The test film shows that there are no light leaks and the focal plane shutter is working as intended. All the shots are evenly exposed.

I have used a mixture of spot and average metering and the film is properly exposed. You cannot actually tell this from the film scans as scanning will correct a multitude of sins, but looking at the negatives, the image density is what I would expect from a well exposed film.

I am well pleasaed with this camera. Here are a selection of images from the test film (the film is my usual Agfa Vista+ film, developed and scanned by Snappy Snaps in Lincoln):

Mamiya 500dtl-3Mamiya 500dtl-4Mamiya 500dtl-10Mamiya 500dtl-9Mamiya 500dtl-8Mamiya 500dtl-7Mamiya 500dtl-6Mamiya 500dtl-2Mamiya 500dtl-5Mamiya 500dtl

Mamiya Korvette (aka Family)

This is a heavy fixed lens SLR from Japan. It has a leaf shutter in the lens rather than the focal plane shutter most SLR cameras have. This uses the same system as used by Zeiss Ikon with their Contaflex cameras and Voigtlander with their Bessamatic cameras. In the case of the German cameras, they used complex shutter mechanisms from Compur and Prontor which had leaf shutters in the lens and a secondary shutter in the body. (This system was also used by Hasselblad, Mamiya and Bronica in their medium format cameras). This Mamiya Korvette uses a Copal shutter which works in essentially the same way as Compur and Prontor reflex shutters.

As with the Contaflex cameras, the lens is fixed. Later Contaflex cameras had a replaceable front element to the lens was allowed a small variation in focal length. The Bessamatics (And Kodak Retinaflexes) have a removable lens in front of the shutter which should have allowed greater flexibility in lenses but doesn’t seem to have done so in practice.

Korvette 1

lens: Mamiya-Sekor

focal length:  48 mm

apertures: f/2.8 to f/22

focus range: 1m to infinity

lens fitting: fixed

shutter: Copal

speeds: 1/15 to 1/250

flash: PC socket, no shoe.

film size: 35 mm (135)

The additional shutter mechanism makes the camera heavy and the action is relatively slow and clunky – but a deal better than the German equivalents.

As with most leaf shutter cameras, all the adjustments are by way of rings on the shutter/lens barrel. The inner most ring is the aperture ring. This offers apertures from f/2.8 to f/22 – a very usable range. The aperture numbers are coloured – these colours are repeated as dots by the distance scale to indicate depth of field.

The next ring out is the shutter speed ring. I find this very difficult to use as it is right against the aperture ring, is exactly the same diameter as the aperture ring and has the same milled grip. This makes it impossible to determine which ring you are turning By feel and it is hard to move the (stiffish) speed ring without moving the aperture ring at the same time. Speeds available are 1/15 to 1/250 seconds.

The outermost ring is the focus ring. This has a very heavily milled grip. The scale is in both feet and metres. Closest focus is 1 m or 3 feet. To use the depth of field scale, you focus the lens and set aperture. Each aperture is printed in a different colour, so you check the coloured dot that is in the same colour as your set aperture – there is a dot on either side of the distance index mark. The distances beside the dots give the range of distances that will be in focus. An example: you set the aperture of f/8 – printed in green – and focus on 5 metres. The left hand green dot is that about 2.5 m and the right-hand green dot is at infinity. This means that everything from 2.5 m to infinity will be in focus. A technical point: for this lens, the hyperfocal distance at f/8 is five metres.

Korvette 3

The lens is the Mamiya Sekor of 48 mm focal length. This lens is coated to avoid flare. The shutter is made by Copal. A nice addition to the shutter mechanism is a small lever on the right-hand side of the shutter which allows you to close the aperture manually to visually check the depth of field. Doing this while looking into the lens reveals a weak point. The aperture diaphragm consists of only two blades which gives a diamond shaped aperture. Worse, at larger aperture, the aperture is not symmetrical and is offset to one side. This will have implications for bokeh and probably for image quality.

Above the lens/shutter is the light meter sensor. This has a small, black, plastic sunshade which will help to improve the light readings in sunny weather. Unfortunately, this is glued to the metal of the top plate andon my camera has become unglued. 

Korvette 2The right hand side of the top plate is normal for a viewfinder camera. Most SLR cameras have the speed selector here but not with the Korvette(nor Contaflex nor Bessamatic nor Olympus OM1).

On the left of the top plate is the light meter read out and controls. It is very reminiscent of the light meter on my Yashica Minister D. ASA (ISO) can be set from 8 to 400 ASA (No DIN setting). You can treat this as either an aperture priority meter or a shutter priority meter. To use as an aperture priority meter– align your required f/stop with the red meter needle and read the shutter speed off in the window in the black part. Conversely, to use as a shutter priority meter, set your required shutter speed in the window and read off the required aperture against the meter needle.

The back is plain  –there is only the viewfinder eyepiece. While this is nice and large, the focus screen is a Fresnel lens screen with a central ground-glass spot to focus on. No microprisms or split image focusing aids.

The left hand end of the top plate has a small screw-in plug which is used to mount accessories, particularly a flashgun. There is no accessory/flash shoe on the pentaprism hump. There is a standard PC socket for the flash on the front of the camera.

Korvette 5
Secondary shutter

Inside is the most obvious difference to most SLR cameras. There is no focal plane shutter and there is a secondary shutter at an angle blocking off the lens (see photograph above). When you take a photograph, the leaf shutter in the lens has to close, this secondary shutter has to open, the mirror move out of the way, the leaf shutter has to open and close to expose the film, the secondary shutter has to close again, the mirror must return and the leaf shutter open again. A very complicated sequence! On my camwra, this is very sluggish but this is mostly down to the camera not having been used for a long time. My dry-firing the shutter a great many times is improving it. If the shutter becomes reliable, I shall risk a test film but not with then shutter as it is. 

Korvette 4

Praktica B100 electronic

This is my second electronic Praktica – the other is the BC1. It has minimal controls – essentially the aperture – making it a very easy camera to use.


lens:  Prakticar MC
focal length:  50 mm
apertures:  f/2.4 to f/16
focus range: 0.45 m
lens fitting: Praktica bayonet
shutter: metal focal plane
speeds: 1 second to 1/1000 seconds
flash: hot shoe and PC socket
film size: 35 mmP1030499

The shutter speed dial has three options: automatic, flash and B. There is also a battery test position. The only other controls on the body are film speed (both DIN and ASA) and exposure compensation (-2 to +2 in half stop steps).

The lens mount is the Praktica bayonet. This has three electronic contacts to allow the exposure system to read the set aperture

There is a frame counter beside the film advance lever which automatically resets to zero when the back is opened. The accessory shoe has electrical contacts for flash and so is a hot shoe. It is marked with a red X indicating that it is synchronised for electronic flash. There is also a PC connector on the side of the lens mount – no indication of what type of synchronisation for this but the manual says it is for electronic flash. The synchronisation speed is 1/90 seconds – the shutter speed dial must be turned to the flash symbol – this provides fully mechanical operation of the shutter and will work with no battery.

The front of the pentaprism has a small window to allow the aperture to be read through the viewfinder. The lens mount is the Praktica bayonet. This has three electronic contacts to allow the exposure system to read the set aperture – three contacts allows for eight different apertures: this lens has seven apertures available. Metering is through the fully open aperture. Closing of the aperture during an exposure is by way of a lever. Also on the front of the camera is a delay timer lever.

The lens supplied with the camera is a Pentacon Prakticar 1:2.4 50 mm lens. It is, of course at this date, multi-coated

The base plate has the battery compartment (which takes one 4SR44 6.2 volt or one 4LR44 6 volt battery. Both are still readily available), a central tripod boss (1/4 inch UNC), and a button to free the mechanism for rewinding the film. There are also a physical connector, two electrical connectors and a locating hole for a motor wind.

The back of the camera has what every film camera should have – a memo holder for the end of the film carton to make it hard to forget what type of film is in the camera.

The viewfinder is large enough and has an indicator for the film speed in use. This consists of a vertical list of shutter speeds from one second to 1/1000 seconds. The speed in use is indicated by a meter needle. There is a mark by the 1/250 speed which is where the needle needs to rise to in order to show that the battery is good when using the battery test function. At the bottom of the viewfinder is a window to show the aperture in use.

Praktica B100
Viewfinder image showing the double split-image wedge

This camera goes one better – the split-image wedge splits the image into three rather than two, which makes it that bit easier to use

The film speed for the film in use needs to be set for the light meter ands this is done by gently lifting the ring around the rewind crank and turning it until the required speed is visible in the window. There are two windows – the one in front has ASA number and the one at the back has DIN numbers.

P1030503There is also an exposure compensation control here. To set this, you need to press the small chrome button and turn the ring around d the rewind crank.

The lens supplied with the camera is a Pentacon Prakticar 1:2.4 50 mm lens. It is, of course at this date, multi-coated. This is a very slim lens – only 25 mm from mount to end – entirely plastic but sturdy and nicely made. Maximum aperture is f/2.4 so not a very fast lens and minimum aperture is f/16. There are six aperture blades. Nothing outstanding but a good work-a-day lens.

P1030506The focus ring turns through out 330° so it is not a fast lens to focus but easy to get critical focus. For those used to trying to manually focus a modern DSLR lens, this is a doddle. To aid focussing, the focus screen has a ring of micro-prisms and a split-image wedge. It is worth saying a bit about this last. Split-image centres to focus screens were very common on film cameras and work by the user turning the focus ring until the two parts of the split-image are aligned. This camera goes one better – the split-image wedge splits the image into three rather than two, which makes it that bit easier to use. These split-image centres only work where there I a strong line in the image – usually there is – and this centre is at a 45° angle so it will work with horizontal or vertical lines equally. Where there is no strong linear component in the image, the ring of micro-prisms comes into its own. You merely focus until you can no longer see the micro-prisms.

P1030504There is not a lot more to say about this camera. The plastic body has soft ‘leatherette’ which makes holding the camera comfortable. There are eyelets on the front to connect a neck strap.

In use:

I have now tried this camera with a test film – Agfa Vista+ as usual – and the results are here. The camera iteself is comfortable to use and the necessary controls fall easily to my fingers. Colour rendition is good as is contrast. Focus using the double split-image wedge is spot-on. Several of the pictures were taken contre jour (i.e. into the sun) with no ugly flare – I quite like the star-burst in the first picture.






My standard test photo of the abandoned kid’s bike.B100-6B100-8B100-9B100-3



Olympus OM1n

I already have an Olympus OM camera – the OM10. The OM10 is an amateur camera – aperture priority exposure meter and very clumsy manual mode. This OM1 is a professional camera. It is entirely manual and entirely mechanical. That means it will work with no battery and will even work if the meter dies. The full name of the camera is the OM1N MD. The MD signifies that the camera is ready to accept a motor drive. The original OM1 needed the base plate to be replaced before the motor drive could be fitted. The N signifies that this is the second verion of the OM1. As far as I can ascertain, this second version was an entirely cosmetic upgrade.


lens:  G. Zuiko Auto-S 
focal length:  50 mm
apertures:  f/1.4 to f/16
focus range:  0.45 m to infinity
lens fitting:  OM bayonet
shutter:  cloth focal plane
speeds:  1 second to 1/1000 seconds
flash:  PC socket and contcts for optional hot shoe
film size:  35mm

Olympus cameras are easy to date. Open the back and carefully remove the film pressure plate (it is loosely held in place and is easy to remove). On the back of the pressure plate are four characters. The first is the code for the manufacturing factory (this might be in Kanji). The second is the year and the third is the month. The fourth character is the revision of the back plate. With my camera, the code is S9Y5. So, factory S (I have no idea which factory this is!), year is 9 (so 1979) and month is 11 (months are 1 to 9 and X,Y and Z giving twelve months) so November. Pressure plate revision is #5. We do not need more for the year as production started in 1972 and ended in 1987 so only one year 19×9. Don’t forget to put the pressure plate back! So, my camera was made in November 1979.


The layout of controls are idiosyncratic. With most focal plane equiped cameras, the shutter speed selector is on the top plate above the appropriate gummings in the shutter crate. Not here. The shutter speed selector harks back to leaf shutter layout and is a ring at the base of the lens barrel. This means that it is easier to change shutter speed with the camera at your eye. With the speed selector on the top plate, it is necessary to remove the camera from your eye to adjust speed. Where you might expect to find the shutter speed selector is a large knob with numbers, but this is the film speed selector.

As always, I shall give a description before describing using the camera. The camera weighs 505g without the lens but with a film inside. It measures 135 mm wide by 85 mm high and 50 mm deep (this is with no lens attached). The top plate looks normal (but see comments above) and is made from stainless steel. At the extreme right is the window to the frame counter. This resets to ‘S’ when the back is opened. ‘S’ is actually ‘-3’ as you need to wind three frames to get to ‘1’. Frames 12, 20, 24 and 36 are printed ingold (the rest are in white). These were the standard lengths of film that were available in the 1970s – just 24 and 36 frame films are available now. Frame 38 (should your film be that long) is a gold ‘E’ – the frame counter will not go beyond this but the film winder still works.


Next to the frame counter window is the film advance lever. This is metal with a black plastic tip. The lever has two positions when at rest. It has a park position flush with the edge of the top plate. In this position the lever cannot get in the wat but is more awkward to use. The lever’s natural position after advancing the film is to sit proud of the top plate. This makes it easier to use but leaves the lever rather close to your eye if you are right-eyed and possibly sticking in your right eye if you are left-eyed.  The lever works on a ratchet so the film can be advanced by repeated small strokes for those with limited mobility in their hands. If the film is advanced in one go, the lever will move through about 180°.

Forward, and slightly to the left, of the film advance lever is the shutter release button. This is within a fairly large collar. The button is threaded for a standard cable release. The collar around the button has a recessed mark which is an index mark for the film speed selector.

This film speed selector is the largest control on the top plate. It has film speeds (all in ASA – essentially the same as the modern ISO) from 25 ASA to 1600 ASA. With most of my cameras, it is necessary to lift the film speed selector to turn it. Not here. There is a small and hard to reach button nestling between the film advance lever, the shutter release button and film speed selector. Once depressed, the film speed selector turns easily. The standard film speeds are printed in gold but between them are two speeds printed in white. These white speeds are 1/3 of a stop apart.

 Dominating the top plate, as is usual with SLR  cameras, is the pentaprism hump. There is no accessory shoe as standard but one was available as an optional extra. There are three contacts on the top of the pentaprism hump to connect the hot shoe contacts.


To the left of the pentaprism hump is the on/off switch for the light meter. On my camera, this switch ‘leaks’ What I mean is the light meter still works when the switch is in the off position but givs a reading that is about 4 stops greater than it does when in the on position. The reading when in the on position is roughly what I would expect if using the Sunny 16 rule.

On the far left of the top plate is the film rewind crank. This is the standard fold-out crank and doubles as the catch for the back – you pull up the crank to release the back.

In the centre of the front is the lens mount. This is Olympus’s bayonet mount. This mount has two mechanical linkages – one tells the light meter which aperture has been set. This allows the meediately before the shutter is released. At this date (1979), there are no electrical contacts.

p1020506Around the lens mount bayonet is the shutter speed selector. This has speeds from 1 second to 1/1000 seconds and B. There are two milled lugs on either side of the ring to aid both finding the ring by touch and also to aid turning it. Contrary to to usual usage, the lens release button is on the lens rather than on the body.

On the left side of the lens mount is a PC (ProntorCompur) socket for a flash gun.Around the PC socket is a selector for flash bulbs (FP) or electronic flash (X).

On the right side of the lens mount is a switch. There is no indication on the switch as to its purpose and it took me a while to work it out (I have no manual). When turned, the mirror is raised up against the focus screen, thus rendering the viewfinder useless. This is for use with a tripod, raising the mirror once the shot has been composed to prevent the slight vibration caused as the mirror snaps out of the way as the photograph is taken. This is important for critical use such as macros and copying. A nice feature to have even if I will never use it.

p1020505On the front of the camera to the right of the lens mount is a switch with a position marked ‘R’. Turning this to ‘R’ allows you to rewind the film.Below the rewind switch is the self delay lever. Turning this winds up the clockwork delay timer – turn the lever 170° anti-clockwise. This reveals a second small lever which you press sideways to start the timer.  This gives a delay of 12 seconds before the shutter is fired.

The only other item on the front is a strap lug on either front corner.

The rear of the camera only has the viewfinder eye-piece. The viewfinder image is large and bright – brightness will depend on the maximum aperture of the lens. In the centre is a ring of microprisms and a split-image centre – these two are aids to focussing – more later. On the lower left of the focus screen is the meter needle. When the exposure has been properly set, the needle is central. If the needle is across the corner of the middle part of the display, the exposure is either 1 stop over (by the +) or 1 stop under (by the -).

The base plate is ready for a motor drive (see my opening comments). This consists of a pair of electrical contacts, a locating hole and access to the film advance mechanism. This last is via a largish hole that is covered with a blanking plate when not in use. There is also a second similar blanking plate which gives access to the battery compartment. The battery should be a 1.35 v mercury battery but these are no longer available – see my later comments on using the camera. By the lens mount is a standard tripod boss – 1/4 inch UNC.


The Lens:

The lens I have is a G. Zuiko Auto-S lens. The G tells us that the lens has 7 glass elements (A=1, B=2, … F=6, G=7). The focal length is 50 mm wich is a normal lens for 35 mm photography (‘normal’ means it produces images close to that which the human eye produces) and its maximum aperture is f/1.4. Most ‘kit’ lenses that Olympus provided were f/1.8 so this is a fast lens for its day (and quite fast for the present day!).

Close to the bayonet mount on the lens is a silver ring. This has depth of field marking on it – standard fare at the time and very useful. On the top left of this ring is a button which releases the lens from the body. On the opposite side of the lens (i.e. lower right) is a similar button but this is a depth of field preview button.


The camera in use:

I found this camera  joy to use. Some aspects require learning – the shutter speed selector, for instance. There are two fairly large lugs which can be found by touch but I kept finding the lens relese button by mistake. I am sure practise will make this easier (I have only used the one film so far).

I kept forgetting the light meter switch. Leaving it on all the time will run thebattery down. Leaving it off will give me false readings (see my comments above re the switch leaking). The first 13 frames I shot at the box speed of 200 ASA/ISO and from frame 14 onwards, I shot at 400 ASA/ISO. This is essentially to test using the meter with the wrong battery (1.5 v instead of 1.35 v). I can look at the negatives to get a first idea of accuracy by looking at image desity. If the meter uses a bridge type circuit (such as the early Spotmatic cameras did), the change in voltage will have no effect. It is possible that the extra 0.15 v will affect the meter and give an over-exposure so the shots at 400 ASA/ISO might be better exposed. As the meter works by having the needle centred I am not expecting a difference. If the meter worked by the needle pointing at a shutter speed, rather than being centred, I would very much expect a difference. We shall see.

Test film results:

I have looked at the negatives very carefully and I can see no difference between the 200 ASA/ISO shots and the 400 ASA/ISO shots. My conclusion is that the meter is fine with the 1.5 v battery.

The shutter is working fine. One problem with old focal plane shutters is that the blinds no longer move smoothly giving uneven exposure. Also, there are no visible pinpricks of light which would indicate that the shutter blinds were no longer fully light proof.

The camera back closes against a foam plastic seal to keep light out. In cameras of this age, this is usually (always?) deteriorated. There are no signs of light leaks around the back.

The negatives are well exposed telling me that the meter is working fine

The lens is good. I have most of the shots at infinity but some deliberately closer – the kids bike for instance. Someone else can tell me about the bokeh as this is something I just cannot care about.

Click on the individual images to see them larger.

See here for details of the OM range.

Fujica ST605

This is a 35mm SLR film camera from 1977. It is very reminescent of an Asahi Pentax. Interestingly, Fuji (as Fujifilm) are one of the few companies to still make film cameras – the Fuji Instax.


So, this is an all manual film camera using the standard M42 lens mount thread introduced by eastern Zeiss Ikon in 1949. This is the standard adopted by Asahi for their Pentax cameras and is frequently known as the Pentax thread. You might also hear it called the universal lens thread. Use of this lens mounting thread means that there are thousands of top quality lenses available at low prices. Downside is there are virtually no zoom lenses or very long focal length lenses available.


The camera has a TTL (Through The Lens) lightmeter which is powered by two LR44 batteries. These are alkaline batteries (silver versions are available) and are readily available so this meter stills works as intended with no adjustments needed such as are required with meters designed for the obsolete mercury batteries. This meter is a stop-down meter which means that the viewfinder is rather dark as you are trying to centre the meter needle. The technique for doing this is to set your required shutter speed and adjust the aperture until the meter needle is centred. The background to the needle is stepped, allowing you to set the exposure at either + or – one or two stops if required.

Before using the meter, you need to tell it what speed film you are using. Film speed is measured in ASA (which is effectively, if not technically, the same as ISO speed). There is no DIN speed option. Film speed is set by lifting and rotating the shutter speed dial. Film speeds available are from 25 ASA to 3200 ASA.


The camera is fairly heavy – the camera body is entirely metal – at xxxg with no lens. It measures 132 mm wide by 87 mm high and 50 mm deep. The top plate is entirely like an Asahi Pentax – see photograhs for comparison. The top plate is matt stainless steel. On the right is the film advance lever – metal with a black plastic tip. This is not on a ratchet so the film must be advanced with a full stroke of the lever – just over 180°. On the right of this is the frame counter. This counts up and is reset to ‘S’ (-2) when the back is opened. Only even numbers are shown – white in a black background.


Next along the top plate is the shutter speed selector dial. Again, this is very like the versionon the Pentax. Available speeds are normal with a strange anomaly. The range is from 1.2 second to 1/500 seconds in one stop steps. The anomaly is the fastest shutter speed which is 1/700 seconds – not quite half a stop faster than 1/500 seconds. I am sure Fujica had a good reason for this but it entirely escapes me. 1/60 seconds is printed in red as this is the flash synch speed (i.e. the fastest shutter speed where the shutter is completely open rather than just a travelling slit).

Between, and in front of, the film advance lever and the shutter speed selector is the shutter release button. This is chrome plated in a chrome plated collar. The button is threaded for a standard cable release – this is a tapered thread; the cable release will screw in just far enough to bind the threads. In the centre of the top plate is, as you might expect,  the pentaprism hump. This supports an accessory shoe which carries a standard electrical contact so is a hot shoe. It is marked with a ‘X’ indicating that it is synchronised for electronic flash.

Just to the left of the pentaprism hump is an engraved circle with a line through it – this denotes the position of the film in the camera for critical work. At the left hand end of the top plate is the rewind crank. This also doubles as the catch for the back – you pull it up to release the back.

As always, the front is dominated by the lens mount. This is a M42 thread (42 mm by 1 mm pitch) variously known as the Pentax thread, Praktica thread or universal thread – it was introduced by East German Zeiss Ikon in 1949. Just inside the mount, at the bottom is a curved plate that moves forward when the shutter release button is pressed – this closes the lens aperture for the exposure by depressing a pin on the lens.


On the left side of the mount is a PC socket (Prontor Compur, not computer) for off-camera flash. This is synchronised for electronic flash only. On the other side of the lens mount are two items. First, a button which both closes the diaphragm in the lens and also switches on the light meter. This can also be used as a depth of field preview button, if you wish. Below this is the self-delay lever. You rotate this nearly 180° to set it. This also reveals a small chrome button which you press to start the timer. On my camera, the delay for firing the shutter is about 8 seconds. The only other item on the front is a strap-lug on either front corner of the camera.

The rear of the camera has two items on it. First, the viewfinder eye-piece. The view is fairly large and bright – this will vary depending on the maximum aperture of the lens in use, f/2.2 in this case. On the lower right edge of the focus screen is the light meter needle. As mentioned above, this is turned on by depressing the large button by the lens mount. Unfortunately, this closes the aperture of the lens, and at f/16 the screen is rather dark and it is difficult to see the meter needle. The meter is set by adjusting shutter speed and aperture until the needle is centred in the display. Should you want to use exposure compensation, the background to the meter is stepped  – the first step is one stop away from ideal and the second step is two stops away from ideal.

To the left of the viewfinder eye-piece is the battery compartment. On most cameras, this is in the base plate but occasionally you will find them elsewhere. The required batteries are two 1.5v batteries- the camera is currently loaded with two LR44 batteries which are still widely available. The camera works just fine without the batteries but with no meter.

The base of the camera is sparse. There is the standard tripod boss – 1/4 inch UNC thread – and the rewind button – pressing this in uncouples the film advance mechanism allowing you to rewind the film.

The lens that came with the camera is Fuji Photo Film Co’s own Fujinon lens. Focal length is 55 mm and maximum aperture is f/2.2 (minimum aperture is f/16). The lens looks to be well made and the glass is clear with no trace of fungus or dust. Research on the Interweb suggests that this is a four element lens. It focuses up to 0.6 m (two feet in old money).

Cosina CT–1

This is an amazing little camera. It was introduced by Cosina in 1979/80 and, amazingly, is still available new (rebadged as a Nikon FM10) in 2017. In those years, (nearly 40!), that the Cosina CT–1 has been produced, it has been sold in the slightly updated form of the CT–1 Super as the Nikon FM10, Canon T60, Olympus OM 2000, Voigtlander Bessa R and the Zeiss Ikon rangefinder.

Cosina CT–1 plus kit lens

lens:  Cosinon  zoom
focal length:  35 – 70 mm
apertures: f/3.5 to f/22
focus range: 0.5 m to infinity
lens fitting: Pentax K mount
shutter: metal focal plane
speeds: 1 second to 1/1000 seconds
flash: hot shoe and PC connector
film size: 35 mm

For these various forms, the chassis, metering, shutter, etc is identical. What changes is the lens mount, front fascia and the presence/absence of either the pentaprism and mirror  (SLR models) or rangefinder (Bessa R and Zeiss Ikon). If you look down on the top plate, the shape and position of all the controls is the same.

CT–1 and K mount

The chassis of this camera is metal – presumably an aluminium alloy – as is the hinged back but the rest is plastic. The camera feels plasticky but my specimen has lasted well (I don’t actually know the age of my camera but the CT–1 Super was introduced in 1983 and I assume that my CT–1 dates from before then).

My other Cosina cameras – Cosina CSM, Cosina C1

A description:

The layout of the top plate is standard. The film advance lever is on the right and is metal with a plastic tip. This will rest flush with the camera body. In this position, the film advance lever will lock the shutter release button. It does this by having a small protrusion that slides into a slot on the side of the shutter release button. and stops it moving. At the same time, the light meter circuit is turned off, saving the battery (that last is from the manual, not my own observation). So, to use the camera, the film advance lever must be moved to its ready position which is at an angle of about 45° to the closed position. In front of the film advance lever is a window showing the frame counter. this is reset to ‘S’ when the back is opened and counts up from zero (zero appears in the counter window once the film is loaded and advanced a couple of frames).

As always, the front of the camera is dominated by the lens mount. This is Pentax’s K mount which is still in use today with Pentax’s digital SLR cameras.

Next along is the shutter release button. This is black plastic and is threaded for a standard cable release. Beside this is the shutter release speed selector. This has the standard range of speeds starting at 1 second and rising in one stop steps to 1/1000. On this dial, the 1/125 speed is printed in orange as this is the flash synch speed.

In the middle is the pentaprism hump. This supports the accessory shoe which is a hot shoe synched for electronic flash (denoted by a red ‘X’). To the left of the pentaprism hump is the film rewind knob. This is a fold-out crank as became usual in the 1950s. This also stands duty as the catch for the back – the back is released by pulling the rewind crank upwards. Around the rewind crank is a milled ring which sets the film speed for the light meter. This is only in ASA (the old version of ISO) and ranges from 25 ASA to 1600 ASA.


As always, the front of the camera is dominated by the lens mount. This is Pentax’s K mount which is still in use today with Pentax’s digital SLR cameras.

This is the plain, vanilla, K mount. Later variations have electrical contacts in various positions and an auto-focus ‘screwdriver’ to allow lenses to be focused. Not here – the lens mount allows a lens to be attached and nothing else.

CT1 shutter

On the left side of the mount is a PC connector for flash – as with the hot-shoe, it is X-synch. This PC connector is to allow the flash gun to be used away from the camera body for more artistic illumination.

On the right of the lens mount is the self-delay lever. This rotated by 90° and is activated by the shutter release button. The delay on mine is 10 seconds. On each corner of the front are strap lugs.

The back of the camera is uncluttered. There is the viewfinder at the top – this is hard, black, plastic but has a groove so presumably something softer could be attached. In the centre of the back is a holder for the end of the film carton to serve as a reminder as to which film is in use – an essential item to my mind. Printed inside this is a conversion table between DIN and ASA film speed ratings.

Also on the back is the camera’s serial number which is over 90,000,000 – an indication of how successful Cosina have been. The base of the camera is also uncluttered. There is a standard tripod boss – 1/4 inch UNC thread – and a battery compartment for a single H-C 1.35v battery to power the light meter. These batteries are no longer available (they contain mercury) but a LR44 or similar should work fairly well. The meter does not work at all on my camera but fortunately this is an entirely mechanical camera and works just fine without batteries.

The lens the came with the camera has lost its front bezel so I do not know its designation. Having said that; the lens is Cosina’s own make and is a 35-70 mm zoom lens. It has an aperture range from f/3.5 to f/22 with 1/2 stop clicks. Apart from the glass, it appears to be made entirely from plastic. All the controls work well and smoothly. The lens claims a macro ability which offers 1.5 magnification which is not ‘true’ macro but not a bad facility either.

What haven’t I mentioned? Inside the viewfinder. Main thing you see is the focus screen. in most SLR cameras of this era you get a split image disc in the centre of the viewfinder to ease focussing. Not here. What you do get is a disc of micro-prisms which also help achieving close focus but in a different way.

Also, in the viewfinder is the light meter display. This is a needle which needs to be centred in the display. As mine does not work, I cannot really say much more about it.

Yashica 230-AF SLR camera

This camera dates from 1987 and was not very successful commercially. It is at the transition from the ‘standard’ manual SLR camera that was usual at the time to the later fully automatic cameras that were usual by the end of the 1980s. Unfortunately for Yashica, their approach to automation was a developmental dead-end – the future lay with the concepts used by Canon in their EOS range of cameras (which also made their appearance in 1987).
Yashica 230-AF SLR camera
Yashica 230AF
There are no manual controls apart from focus. Shutter speed, aperture and film speed can all be set manually but only through the automatic systems. This is much slower and less intuitive than having a shutter speed dial and aperture ring. There are no dials, knobs or rings on this camera. All adjustments are made with a combination of buttons and sliders.
Really, this was the main design flaw here. Where the Canon EOS range introduced the general-purpose dial just behind the shutter release button (which has subsequently been adopted by all DSLR manufacturers), this camera has a slider. To make an adjustment, you repeatedly slide and release – either to the left (to reduce a value) or to the right (to increase a value). Frequently, this requires the left hand to simultaneously press a button which is not as fluid a motion as Canon’s system (I am going to reference the Canon EOS system quite a bit).
Lens mount showing ‘screwdriver on lower right
Focus is achieved by a motor just inside the lens mount – this engages with the lens by a small ‘screwdriver’ much as Nikon still use on some DSLR bodies. This ‘screwdriver’ retracts when the focus is set to manual.
Time for a description:
The right-hand end of the top plate is dominated by a LCD display. This contains all the relevant information – not all of which is displayed all the tie. At the front of this display is the exposure mode: Program, Av, Tv or M. In the middle is the frame counter, shutter speed and aperture. Behind this is the drive mode (single, continuous or delayed) and focus mode (AF, CAF or M)
Main LCD
In front of this LCD is the mode selector slider. This is not marked as to its purpose making the manual very useful. In front of the selector slider is the shutter release button. This is a soft rubber. Beside this is a small grey button marked ‘P’ – this small grey button will set the exposure mode to program and turn on the beeper. This is very slightly easier than using the ‘mode’ button and selector slider. Behind the LCD on the back of the top plate is a threaded socket for a standard cable release. This fires the shutter as you release the cable release plunger rather than as you press it.
Cable release socket
In the centre of the top plate is the pentaprism hump. The top of this has a groove on either side to locate the dedicated flash unit – more later. On the front of the pentaprism hump there is a translucent window to provide light for the viewfinder LCD display. When the dedicated flash unit is in place, this window is covered and the LCD is illuminated by three small lights.
Hot shoe with grooves for fitting flash unit
On top of the pentaprism hump is the accessory shoe. This is a hot shoe – it has the standard central contact and so should work with any hot-shoe flash gun. In addition, there are five more contacts used specifically by the dedicated Yashica flash unit.
On the left of the pentaprism hump are the remainder of the controls. Right up to the pentaprism is the on/off slider. This moves all the way forward to switch the camera on and half-way for the AE-L setting – more later. The other controls are buttons, these are used in conjunction with the selector slider on the right of the top plate. They are: mode, AF, drive, +/- (exposure compensation), ISO and beeper. The ISO button is an override for the DX system that reads film speed off the cassette and sets it automatically. This is useful if you want to set your own EV for the film instead of rating the film at the manufacturer’s rating. Also if you are using bulk film loaded into black cassettes.
main control buttons
Just in front of these buttons, on the side of the lens mount, is an unmarked button. This is used in Manual mode to help set the aperture. In manual, the selector slider sets the shutter speed, and in conjunction with this button, sets the aperture. This is quite a clumsy arrangement, to say the least.
Continuing down the side of the lens mount, there is a large button with a red dot. This is the lens release button – when this is depressed, the lens can be rotated anti-clockwise 45 degrees and then removed. Below this is the auto/manual focus selector. Twisting this slightly anti-clockwise retracts the focus ‘screwdriver’ and allows the lens to be focussed manually.
The only item on the front of the camera is the lens mount. This is a three blade bayonet mount – pretty much standard from the 1930s to the present day – with the auto-focus ‘screwdriver’ on the lower right. In 1975, Yashica had joined forces with Zeiss to produce a series of Contax cameras with a new bayonet mount called the C/Y mount (not to be confused with Zeiss Ikon’s 1936 Contax cameras with a totally different bayonet mount). With this camera, Yashica decided to produce a new mount which is not compatible with the Contax mount and is only used on this camera.
Just inside the mount at the bottom is a lever which sets the required aperture on the lens. There is no aperture setting ring on the lenses for this camera – as is now usual for nearly all new cameras. At the top of the lens mount are five electrical contacts. As there are no electrically active components in the lens, I assume these contacts allow the camera’s processor to read zoom and focus positions.
Also worth noting is the fact that the focus screen is replaceable. There is a small catch at the front of the focus screen and when this is released, the frame holding the screen in place swings down and the screen can be pulled out. I am not aware of other screens being available but this facility might be for future development if this camera had sold well (it didn’t).
I only have one lens for this camera – a 35-70 mm zoom. This is a fairly useful range on a 35 mm camera. It has a 52mm filter thread at the front. It claims to be a macro lens – many lenses falsely make this claim – and it certainly focusses down to about 200 mm at the 35 mm focal length and a bit closer at 70 mm. This does not give true macro (image size on the film/sensor the same as the subject size) as the smallest subject that will completely fill the 36 mm film frame is 180 mm but it certainly gives close close-ups.
bayonet on lens showing contacts
The lens has four focus indexes (yes, that should be indices) – one in white for normal focusing, one in red for focusing infra-red images at 70 mm, one for infra-red at 50 mm and one for infra-red at 35 mm. The way these indexes work is this: first focus the object normally and read the distance scale by the main white index mark. Next, move the focus ring until that distance is against one of the red infra-red indexes. The image will now appear to be out of focus to the human eye, but the image on infra-red film will now be in sharp focus.
Infra-red focusing indexes
The last item is the dedicated flash unit. This slides onto the hot-shoe from the front (the opposite way to usual). When it is in position, you depress and slightly turn clockwise the red and black button on the rear of the flash unit. This locks it in place firmly and pushes all six of the electrical contacts down onto the corresponding contacts in the hot-shoe. There is a grey slider on the top of the flash unit – sliding this to the right turns on the unit. It is powered by the camera’s battery. At this point, operation is entirely automatic. There is no need to worry about the synch speed for the shutter or which aperture to use. This photo of the kid’s bike was taken with this flash unit with the camera set to Av mode (aperture priority mode).
dedicated flash unit
If you wish to use the camera in manual mode with this flash unit, there is an aperture guide on the top of the flash unit. To use this, you guesstimate the distance to your subject and read off the corresponding aperture. Even in manual mode, the shutter speed is automatically set to the synch speed which is 1/90 seconds.
flash unit in place
cassette chamber with DX contacts
Inside the camera holds no surprises. There is a vertically travelling metal focal-plane shutter. The cassette space is on the left. There is the standard row of six sprung electrical contacts to read film speed and length of the DX code on the cassette. To load the film, you pull the leader to the red line and close the back. When you switch the camera on, the film automatically advances to the first frame. When you want to rewind the film, there is a button and slider on the base – press the button and slide the slider to the right and the film will rewind.
yashica 230AF insides
What else? A couple of things. There is a clear window by the film cassette to you can both see if a film is loaded and if so, what type. On either end of the camera is a strap lug allowing the attachment of a neck strap – but what I have never seen before, there is a third strap lug on the left near the base. This will allow the camera to hang sideways or you could attach a shorter hand strap.

Test film

I have run a roll of Agfa Vista+ colour film through the camera with no hassles at all. The camera turns out to be quite easy to use even if not intuitive. I am quite impressed with the results.
hand-hells close-up in artificial light


Child’s bike taken in dark using the dedicated flash unit










indoors hand-held


Cosina CSM

As I have mentioned elsewhere in this blog, Cosina have an undeservedly poor reputation. In fact, in addition to their own designs made under their own name, they make cameras for the big-name camera companies. The Zeiss Ikon rangefinder was made by Cosina as are many Carl Zeiss and Voigtlander lenses.

My other Cosina cameras – Cosina CT1, Cosina C1

Cosina CSM
This camera is a Cosina design sold under their own name. It is fairly basic but with an electronically controlled shutter. I can tell that the shutter is electronically controlled because it  works without batteries but at the same slow speed regardless of the speed setting (a fully electronic shutter would not work at all without batteries). With batteries the shutter speeds are clearly variable.
The top plate is standard for a camera made in the late 1970s (introduced in 1978, I think). Far right is a small window for the frame counter. This is reset to zero when the camera back is opened. Next is the film advance lever. This is a metal plate covered with a plastic casing. It sits just proud of the back and is easy to use. It moves through about 210 degrees to advance the film one frame.It is not on a racket so just be moved in one motion.
In front of the advance lever is the shutter release button. this is chrome plated and threaded for a standard cable release. Below the shutter release is a lock switch. It has two positions – A and L. A is the working position and L is the lock position. I quite approve of shutter locks as over the years I have wasted many hundreds of frames of film by accidentally tripping the shutter. This lever is black.
Cosina CSM – top plate
Next along is the shutter speed dial. This runs from 4 seconds through 1 second to 1/1000 seconds. 1/60 is marked in red and I am sure will be the flash synchronisation speed. There are also positions marked in green – M and B. I have no idea what the M position is for and it is not mentioned in the manual (available from Butkus’s website). B is for Bulb and is the standard of the shutter remaining open whilst the the shutter release is depressed.
Nested in the tangle of the film advance lever is a small chrome button. Pressing this disconnects the film advance mechanism to allow the film to be rewound.
The pentaprism hump has the accessory shoe on it. This has electrical contacts (so a hot shoe) synchronised for electronic flash (indicated by a red X). Cosina made an automatic exposure device which sat on this accessory shoe and connected to the shutter speed dial – this dial has a raised pin to allow the auto exposure accessory device to turn the speed dial, giving the camera aperture priority automatic exposure.
On the left of the pentaprism is the rewind crank. This is the usual fold-out type. The crank pulls up – to the first position to release the cassette in the camera and to the second position to unlock the hinged back. Between the pentaprism hump and the rewind crank is a white painted circle with a white line through it. The line represents the position of the film plane.
The front of the camera is fairly plain. most obvious is the lens mount. This is a 42 mm threaded mount – frequently known as the Pentax thread mount. This was the standard lens mount for several decades and so there are a vast number of lenses still available for this camera. The mount takes automatic aperture lenses (as well as older manual aperture lenses). There is a plunger at the base of the lens mount, just inside the thread. When the shutter release is pressed, this plunger moves forward and depresses a pin on the lens to close the aperture to the preset value. This ties in with the TTL light meter (TTL = Through The Lens). You focus and compose with the aperture wide open (and so with a bright image) and as the shutter release is half-way pressed, the aperture closes and the meter reads the light level. You then either adjust the aperture or shutter (or perhaps both) until the centre greed LED in the viewfinder is lit. Pressing the shutter release the rest of the way releases the shutter and takes the picture.
Cosina CSM – lens mount
Next to the lens mount at the bottom is a small chrome button. Pressing this allows the aperture to open again while the shutter release is partially depressed. You might think it easier to just take your finger off the shutter release button but the plunger does not return to its rest position if you do. If you want to re-compose or re-focus, you need this button.
On the right-hand side of the lens mount is a self-timer lever. This is turned through 90 degrees to set the mechanism.It is released by the shutter release in the usual way. On most cameras, These self-timers are clockwork and you can hear them ticking as the lever rotates back to its start position. Not here. This is an electronic device and the lever does not move back. Instead, a small red LED above the lever flashes once a second for ten seconds. After ten seconds, the shutter fires and the lever snaps back.
On the left of the lens mount are what at first glance appear to be two PC (Prontor Compur) sockets. In fact, only the lower one is – it is marked with a red X. This is for attaching an off-camera flash gun by a cable and is synchronised for electronic flash (by the late 1970s, bulb flashes were no longer usual and not catered for). The top connector is not quite the same as a PC connector and is designed for the automatic exposure device I mentioned above. It is marked with a green A. (Is this what the M setting on the shutter speed dial is for?)

On either side of the front of the camera are strap lugs – a small but very important feature to me.

The base of the camera has a battery compartment. It takes two LR44 (or SV44) batteries (which are still available). These power the light meter and the electronic shutter. There is also a standard tripod boss – 1/4 inch UNC thread. This is quite aeriously offset from the centre of the camera which means the camera is likely to slope when on a tripod, particularly if a cheap tripod is used – this is a cheap camera so I don’t supposed anyone would have used an expensive tripod.
Cosina CSM – base plate
Inside the back of the camera there is little to note. The shutter is a horizontally moving cloth shutter – absolutely standard at this time. The take-up spool has eight attachment positions of a fairly standard design so attaching the film leader would be easy enough.
Being Japanese, the camera relies on foam light seals to keep the film compartment light tight. This camera is 35-odd years old and the foam has long turned to sticky dust. The remains will need to be cleaned out and replaced with new foam before the camera can be used. This is a simple enough job, even for me.
Cosina CSM – inside the film chamber
Inside the viewfinder is uncluttered. There is a ground glass focussing screen with a horizontal split-image spot in the centre and around this is a circle of micro-prisms. The split-image centre works by placing it over a suitable vertical edge in the image. This edge will be split – part to the left and part to the right. When you focus the lens, these two parts move and line up with each other when the focus is correct.
In the absence of a suitable vertical edge, you use the micro-prism ring. When the image is unfocussed, this ring has a very granular appearance. As you get nearer to good focus, the granularity gets less and disappears at good focus.
At the top of the viewfinder are three LEDs. The central one is green and the other two are red arrows. While pressing the shutter release halfway, you adjust the aperture/shutter speed combination until the central green LED is lit steadily. The left hand red arrow lights up when you have too much exposure and the right hand arrow lights up when you have too little exposure. Very easy to use in practice.
The supplied lens – the kit lens if you will – is a Cosina made Cosinon lens – 50 mm focal length and maximum aperture of f/1.7 (and why not the industry standard of f/1.8?). The lens is multi-coated as you would expect from the late 1970s. This lens has an aluminium barrel and appears to be very well made.
Cosinon lens with six sided aperture
Cosinon lens – lens barrel


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