Miranda MS–3

A Cosina CT-( rebadged as a Miranda MS-3

While Miranda were never one of the top camera makers in Japan, they were a serious maker. In 1978, the company ceased trading and in the early 1980s the rights to the Miranda brand were brought by the Dixons group in the UK. This MS–3 dates to the Dixons period.

As I was perusing this camera after I bought it, I thought the top plate was very reminiscent of my Cosina CT–1. After a bit of research on the Interweb, it turns out this is one camera not based on the Cosina CT–1 – but it is a Cosina camera, and the CT range at that. It is a rebadged Cosina CT–9. Cosina is a major maker of cameras and lenses for other marques – they currently make many lenses under contract to Carl Zeiss of Germany.

The camera body measures 136 by 85 by 50 mm and weighs 425 g (body only, no lens). The main body is die-cast aluminium and the top and bottom plates are moulded plastic – an anti-slip finish is a part of the plastic finish so there is no need for a leatherette covering. This imparts a cheaper look and feel to the camera (although this type of finish soon became standard, even on top end cameras). After 40 years of use, the finish is much reduced.

As I usually do, I shall start by looking at the top plate. As I mentioned earlier, the top plate is moulded black plastic. On the far right is the window on to the frame counter. As is usual with Japanese SLR cameras, the frame counter is reset to ‘S’ by opening the back of the camera. ‘S’ is actually -2 (‘S’ stands for start) and is printed in red. All the even numbers are printed and the odd numbers are represented by dots. Numbers 12, 20, 24 and 36 are in red as these were the standard film lengths in the mid 1980s – all the other numbers are in white. The frame counter will count to 37 and then stop moving although you can still advance the film.

Right by the frame counter is the film advance lever. This lever is plated metal covered with black plastic. This lever moves through not quite 180º (165º according to the manual – 30º stand off plus 135º movement) to advance the film one frame. There is no ratchet here so the lever must be moved in one movement.

Hard by the film advance lever, at the front of the top plate, is the shutter release button. It was the design of this button together with the shape of the film advance lever that gave me the clue that this might be a Cosina camera. This shutter release button is a fairly broad and flat black plastic button with a central threaded hole for a standard cable release.

To the left of the shutter release button is a selector dial. This is where we would usually find the shutter speed selector – and that is one of the functions here. The outside of this selector dial is a three-way switch. In its central position, the camera is switched off and nothing works. Rotating this slightly anti-clockwise turns the camera to auto. In this position, the camera is turned on and the exposure system determines they exposure when the shutter release button is partially depressed. If the button is fully depressed, the shutter is fired – without power, the shutter can not be fired.

If this selector dial is rotated clockwise from the Off position, the camera is in manual exposure mode. Here, the exposure system still determines the ‘correct’ exposure and displays it in the viewfinder but does not control the actual shutter speed. Instead, the shutter speed is set by two buttons in the middle of the selector dial. The front button increases the shutter speed – if held down, the shutter speed continuously cycles through the range – the red LED in the viewfinder displays the changing shutter speed.

The rear button does the opposite –reducing the shutter speed – and, again, if held down cycles through the speed range but in the opposite direction. While you are using these manual controls, the exposure system displays its preferred shutter speed with a flashing red LED.

Next along the top plate is the pentaprism hump. On the front of this is the camera name – “MIRANDA” and the letter “M”. On the top of the hump is an ISO hot shoe. This is a plain vanilla hot shoe with no additional contacts.

To the left of the pentaprism hump is the rewind crank. This is a standard Japanese folding crank and, as is usual with Japanese SLR cameras, the crank doubles as the catch for the back – pulling up on the crank unlocks the back. Around this crank, there is a ring to set the film speed. This is entirely in ASA/ISO (it is actually marked as both ASA and ISO as this camera was made a the point when ISO took over from ASA). The speed range is from ASA 25 to ASA 1600 which is pretty standard for the day. The film speed can be altered in 1/3 stop increments, the thirds being represented by dots.

As always with SLR cameras, the front is dominated by the lens mount. This is a plain vanilla Pentax K mount with a twist. When Pentax introduced the K mount, it was a purely mechanical bayonet mount with a mechanical linkage to pass the aperture setting to the light meter. In time, Pentax added electrical contacts and a screwdriver link which were set into the bayonet mount. We have, over the years, ended up with quite a few official variants on the basic K mount.

This particular K mount is Cosina’s own, unofficial, variant. The lens mount ring has no electrical contacts or screwdriver link but it does have three electrical contacts inside the mount at the top. These are for Cosina’s own autofocus lens. This was a large and cumbersome affair containing its own batteries and electric motor – much like Pentax’s ME-F autofocus lens introduced a few years previously. Unfortunately, I do not have this lens.

So, looking into the mouth of the mount, on the left at about 9 o’clock, is a small lever. This latches onto a lever on the lens. When the shutter release button is pressed, this lever rises allowing the sprung lever on the lens to move, closing the iris diaphragm to its set value.

All around the inside of the mount is a rotating ring with a lug at around 2 o’clock. This lug latches onto a recessed lug on the lens. Changing the aperture setting on the lens will slightly rotate this ring, communicating the set aperture to the camera’s light meter.

Just to the left of the lens mount, near the top of the body, is a rectangular red light. This is the self timer button. If you press this in, it flashes for eight seconds and then flashes faster for two seconds and finally fires the shutter. On the far left of the body is a small grip for the photographer’s right hand.

The only feature on the back of the camera is the viewfinder eyepiece. The lens for this measures 15 by 10 mm. Inside the viewfinder is the focus screen. As this is a relatively cheap SLR the focus screen is plain ground glass rather than a Fresnel screen . It does, however, have focus aids. There is a ring of micro-prisms in the centre of the screen and in the centre of that is a split-image rangefinder.

On the left of the focus screen is the readout for the light meter. This consists of a list of shutter speeds with one second at the bottom and 1000 (for 1/1000 second) at the top. Above the shutter speeds are three more items. The first is the legend “OVER” and if the red LED next to this is lit the photograph will be overexposed. Above this is “M” and this will be lit when you have selected the mode to be manual. At the very top is the legend “AUTO” and this is lit when you have set the mode to automatic.

Below the shutter speeds are two more items. The first is “LT” which indicates that a shutter speed of between two and eight seconds has been chosen by the light meter (LT= long time?) or that the user has set two seconds manually. Below “LT” is “B” which is Bulb where the shutter stays open while the shutter release button is held down.

The base of the camera has four items on it. In line with the centre of the lens is a 1/4 inch UNC tripod socket. Just by the tripod socket is the battery chamber.

On my camera, this battery chamber is free from corrosion – far from a given on old cameras! Unfortunately, Cosina saw fit to use a soft plastic cap and the slot on this is now so damaged it is extremely hard to remove and replace.

At the other end of the base is the button to allow the film to be rewound. Pressing this in allows the sprocket shaft inside the camera to rotate backwards. Once pressed right in there is no need to hold it in. In front of this button is a small sticker with the word “RESET” on it. Beneath this sticker is a small hole. If the camera freezes up completely then you push a pin into this hole to reset the electronics and allow the camera to start working again.

Inside the camera is much as you might expect a Japanese 35mm SLR camera to be. In the middle of the door is a nice large pressure plate and to the right of that is a chrome spring to hold the film cassette snuggly.

The insides of the body are dominated by the film gate. The actual gate measures 36 by 24 mm which is standard for 35 mm photography. The surrounds are large enough to hold the film flat – the surrounds measure 65 by 35 mm. To the left of the film gate is the chamber for the film cassette. At this age there are no DX contacts. On the right of the film gate is the sprocket shaft. This measures the length of film required for one negative – eight holes passing over the sprocket shaft equals one frame. To the right of the sprocket shaft is the film take-up spool. There are six slots for attaching the new film.

Around the opening of the camera is a groove. When the back is closed, the edges of the back fit into this groove. To ensure light tightness, there is a strip of black foam plastic in this groove. After nearly 40 years, this foam has disintegrated into a sticky goo and needs to cleaning out and replacing with new foam – an easy DIY job.

When new, this camera came with a Cosina 50mm, ƒ/1.2 lens. My camera has a Topcon AM Topcor lens with a focal length of 55mm and a maximum aperture of ƒ/1.7. The lens is multi-coated. This is a cheapish lens – the mount is entirely plastic as, it would appear, is the rest of the lens. A search on the Interweb tells me this is probably a lens made by Cima Kogaku who made lenses for many smaller camera makers. The same interweb source also suggest that this lens has six elements arranged in four groups. As this is Interweb information, I cannot guarantee that it is correct.

The aperture has six blades and runs from ƒ/1.7 to ƒ/16 which is quite fast for a cheap lens. The absence of ƒ/22 might be a problem in bright light but many of my cameras have a minimum aperture of ƒ/16 and that has never been a real problem for me. The aperture ring has click stops at every marked aperture and also at the half-stops.

The focus ring is marked in both feet and meters and focuses from 2 feet or 0.6 meters to infinity. The throw on the focus ring (the amount by which it turns) is about 180º which means that critical focus is easy but fast focus is not – this is the opposite of modern auto-focus lenses which focus quickly but are difficult to focus manualy.

Canon AL-1

Canon’s AL-1 focus assist film SLR camera from 1982.

At first glance, this is a normal 1960s SLR camera from Japan and there is little to distinguish it from most of the other SLR cameras in my collection. Once the basic functionality and ergonomics of a SLR camera were worked out there was not much point in changing things. Electronics in the late 1980s did change things quite a bit, of course, but this camera was right at the start of the electronics revolution.

Canon’s AL-1 dates from 1982 and is a part of Canon’s A series of cameras: A-1, AE-1, AE-1 program, AT-1, AV-1, AL-1. I have another A series Canon — the AT-1. Later T series cameras formed a half-way house between 1960s style and the modern style which Canon introduced in 1986 with their EOS cameras.

This is an A series camera – A standing for Automatic. The camera provides fully automatic exposure (aperture priority only) with manual override if required.

The biggest breakthrough with this camera is the focus system. Gone are the usual helpmeets such as micro prisms and split-image rangefinder. The focus screen is plain ground glass with a circle in the centre containing two square brackets which indicate the area that the exposure system works on (the circle) and the smaller area that the focus system works on (the square brackets). This is still a manual focus camera but with focus confirmation to aid those with poor focusing skills. I learnt my photography using a Zenit E which also had no focus aids so I don’t think this system will be of much use to me – but we shall see.

Time for my description. This camera body measures 142 by 87 by 48 mm and weighs 490g. The camera chassis is made from die-cast aluminium alloy. The camera appears to have chromed metal top and base plates but these are painted polycarbonate plastic which looks much like chrome plated brass. The main part of the body is covered with black leatherette. The battery compartment is black plastic and doubles as a small grip for the user’s right hand. Eyelets on the front corners allow a neck strap to be attached.

The top plate is ‘standard’. The film advance lever is on the right. When the camera is not in use, the lever sits flush with the top plate. In use, the lever sits proud at an angle of 30˚. The lever moves through 120º to advance the film one frame. This lever is on a ratchet so a number of short movements will work as well as one long movement. The lever is made from one piece of flat metal with a soft plastic thumb guard at the tip.

Just in front of this lever is the window to the frame counter. This counts up to 38 but 36 is the highest number displayed – 37 and 38 are just dots. Numbers 1, 12, 20, 24, and 36 are in orange as these were the standard film lengths back in the day. Even numbers are numbers, odd numbers are dots. The counter is reset to ‘S’ by opening the camera back. ‘S’ is actually minus 2.

Left of the film advance lever and at the front of the top plate is the shutter release button. This is black  metal and is threaded for a standard Gauthier cable release. Around this button is a three position switch. ‘L’ locks the shutter release button to prevent accidental firing of the shutter but the shutter can still be fired using a cable release. ‘A’ is the usual working position and ‘S’ is the delay action setting. If you use the ‘S’ setting, you get a ten second delay between pressing the shutter release button and the shutter firing — and a flashing red LED which is visible from both infant and above the camera. The last two seconds, the LED flashes much faster. This LED is just to the left of the shutter release button.

Next along the top plate is the shutter speed selector dial. This offers 1/15 to 1/1000 seconds plus B. The shutter is electronically controlled and will not work without good batteries. There is also an ‘A’ setting which is for automatic exposure. The speed selector dial moves freely between speeds including ‘A’ but to move out of ‘A’ necessitates pressing a button in the centre of the dial. This camera is intended to be used in ‘A’ where many more shutter speeds are available: from 2 seconds to 1/1000 second. 1/60 second is graced with a lightning flash as this is the flash synchronised speed. If using the camera in ‘A’ with a Canon flash, the shutter speed is automatically set to 1/60. The manually set speeds are exactly the set speed, but when in ‘A’ the camera can select the exact speed required, not just the marked speeds.

In the middle of the top plate, as usual, is the pentaprism hump. On the back of this is the viewfinder eyepiece. This measures 10 by 16 mm. Inside the viewfinder is the focus screen. As already mentioned, this screen is plain ground glass. As it is intended for the user to use the focus confirmation system, the established focus aids such as micro-prisms and split-image rangefinder are missing. In their place in the centre of the screen is a pair of square brackets to indicate the area that the focus confirmation system works on. As you manual focus the lens and approach good focus, one of the two red arrow LEDs at the bottom of the screen will light up. The arrows tell you which way to turn the lens in order to achieve good focus. Once good focus has been achieved, a circular green LED will light. This system works well but I, personally, would prefer either the micro-prisms or a split-image rangefinder.

On the right of the focus screen is a list of shutter speeds — 2 s at the bottom and 1/1000 s at the top. With the shutter speed dial set to ‘A’, a needle will point to the automatically selected speed – you need to press the shutter release button half-way to activate this. If you have the shutter speed dial set to anything but ‘A’, the needle will point to the camera’s preferred speed but you are free to ignore this if you want to. Along the left hand edge of the speed list is a red line from 2 s to 1/30 s which is there to alert you to the fact that camera shake is likely and you should consider using a tripod. This red line also double as a battery check scale. Pressing the battery check button, the needle should rise to a position above this line.

On top of the pentaprism hump is the accessory shoe. This is an ISO hotshot with a central electrical contact. There is also a single Canon-specific contact for when using Canon’s own flash guns.

Left of the pentaprism hump is the rewind crank. This is the usual small folding crank. This also doubles as the catch for the camera back — pulling up on the crank releases the back. Around the rewind crank is a selector wheel for setting the film speed. This is in ASA only (ASA is essentially ISO) and ranges from 25 ASA to 1600 ASA. 25 ASA might seem a bit slow in this Digital age but Kodachrome was always a slow film and was made at 25 ASA. In order to move this selector wheel you first need to press a small chrome button by the wheel at the rear of the top plate. Also by this wheel/crank is a small black button at the front of the top plate. This is the battery test button mention a bit earlier. When you press this, the pointer for the shutter speeds in the viewfinder should point to above 1/60 s if the batteries are good.

Moving to the front of the camera. As always with an SLR camera, this is dominated by the lens mount. This is Canon’s FD mount which is a breech-lock bayonet mount. There are three bayonet lugs which are on the outside of the mount with a locating notch on the top lug. The breech-lock part refers to a locking ring on the lens which is turned to lock the lens in place rather than turning the whole lens. This lens mount is partially compatible with Canon’s earlier R and FL mounts.

Inside the mount are the usual three components that connect to the lens. On the right hand side is a lever that communicates the set aperture value to the exposure metering system. At the bottom of the mount is a lever that moves sideways when the shutter release button is pressed — this closes the iris diaphragm to its set value. In the bottom right hand corner (at about 5 o’clock) is a sprung pin. This pin transmits the maximum aperture of the lens to the metering system so that full aperture metering can work.

Also on the mount, at about 8 o’clock, is a small hole. This is to accommodate a pin on the lens which protrudes when the lens aperture ring is moved to either ‘o’ or ‘A’ (those two are the same – some lenses have ‘o’ and some ‘A’). This is the automatic aperture setting which is not supported on this AL-1 camera but the pin needs to be accommodated in case someone sets the lens aperture to ‘o’ or ‘A’. The camera’s manual warns you against trying to use the camera with the aperture set to either ‘o’ or ‘A’. My test film will show me why, perhaps.

Of more interest with this camera is the reflex mirror. At a quick glance, it looks as though the silvering on the mirror has become damaged. There is a network of fine lines all over the mirror. The lines are actually a closely calculated design — the lines are only partially silvered and allow a part of the light striking the mirror to pass through the mirror to a sensor beneath. This sensor is the focus sensor. This uses phase detection technology ( or so I am told) — if you want to know more about this, Google is your friend.

This focus assist system works well so long as there is sufficient detail contrast in the centre of the image. If the image under the two square brackets has low contrast, the focus assist system does not work at all. While the image is very unfocussed the focus assist system also does not work. As you turn the focus ring on the lens and approach good focus, one of the two red arrow LEDs at the bottom of the viewfinder will light — the arrow points in the direction that the focus ring needs to be turned to improve focus. When accurate focus is achieved the red LEDs go out and a central circular green LED lights. For me, the biggest drawback of this system is that you need to partially depress the shutter release button — and keep it partially depressed — while focusing. This isn’t really difficult, I just find it annoying and my finger on the shutter release button keeps relaxing and stopping the focus assist system from working.

On the top left of the lens mount (left as in when using the camera) is a chrome button on a black plastic base. This button is an exposure compensation button — Canon call it back light compensation. Pressing this increases the exposure by, it would appear, 1.5 stops. This adjusts for very bright backgrounds which will usually confuse the metering system and cause under exposure. On the front, near this button, is a small plaque with the letters ‘qF’ —quick focus.

On the other side of the lens mount is the battery compartment. This takes two AAA batteries which are both readily available and cheap. This battery compartment protrudes slightly from the front of the camera ( by about 10 mm) providing a grip for the photographer’s right hand.

The base of the camera has connections for a power winder. These consist of two electrical contacts at one end and a mechanical connector to the film advance system at the other end. There is also a small locating hole at this end. The underneath of the battery compartment has the door which is poorly designed. The catch on my camera does not work at all and the door needs to be held shut with sticky tape. Looking at the Interweb, this would seem to be the usual case. Also on the base is a tripod socket — at this age it will be an ISO socket: 1/4 inch UNC thread. This is behind the lens mount — central on the base rather than in line with the centre of the lens. There is also a button in line with the internal sprocket shaft. This needs to be depressed to allow the film to be rewound into the film cassette. There is a white dot on this button which visibly moves so you can see the film being rewound — this is useful as you can stop rewinding as soon as the film leader has become detached from the take-up spool, leaving the leader outside the cassette. The downside to this is you need to keep your finger on the button while rewinding which makes seeing the dot difficult.

Opening the camera back is done by pulling up on the rewind crank. Inside, there are no surprises. The cassette chamber is on the left. There are no DX contacts here as Kodak did not introduce the DX system until the year after this AL-1 was introduced. The film gate is nice and large, helping to keep the film flat. Next along is the sprocket shaft which counts the sprocket holes in the film as the film is being advanced — eight holes equals one frame. At the right hand end is the take-up spool. This last has six slots for the film leader. The back has a good sized pressure plate to keep the film flat against the film gate. There is also a chrome roller to keep the film snug on the sprocket shaft.

Where the back fits the body, the join needs to be light tight. As this is a Japanese camera, the light tightness is achieved by having a flange on the back which fits into a groove on the body, with a black foam light seal in the groove. With time, these foam light seals degrade to a sticky goo. This has happened to my camera — these seals need to be replaced before I can use the camera. This is a fairly simple job to do and the foam can be bought cheaply on the Interweb. Also in this groove, at the top and between the sprocket shaft and take-up spool, is a very small button. When the back is closed, a small prong on the top flange of the back presses on this button and allow the frame counter to work. When the back is opened, this button is released and the frame counter resets to ‘S’.

The Lens

This camera came to me with a lens attached (not something that usually happens nowadays). It is not the kit lens that Canon supplied the camera with. It is a cheaper after-market lens from Sunagor. The focal length of the lens is 135 mm which is significantly longer than is usual for a walk-0about lens. I rather think that the person who sold me this camera sold the kit lens separately — a 50 mm ƒ/1.4 lens so would attract a good price — and attached a virtually worthless lens to sell the camera.

This lens looks to be well made — it is entirely made from aluminium alloy. When focusing, the entire lens more — no front cell focusing or internal focusing. The lens barrel does not turn when focusing so if you are using a graduated ND filter or a polarising filter, the filter does not need adjusting as you change focus —something many lenses fail at. I am aware that I just said that this is a worthless lens and then said how good the mechanics are. Unfortunately, the value of old lenses is mostly down to perceptions and Sunagor is not a well known or well respected maker of lenses – I could find nothing about their camera lenses on the Interweb — so they will not attract much attention from potential buyers. Actually, Sunagor do still exist and sell fairly cheap binoculars

Minimum focus is 1.5 m (or five feet) which is not too bad for a 135 mm lens and is close enough for nearly all amateur photography. The throw of the focus ring (the distance between 1.5 m and infinity) is around 220º which makes critical focus easy to achieve. This is why manually focusing a modern auto-focus lens is so hard — the focus throw on these modern lenses is about 30º making fine adjustments difficult.

Maximum aperture is ƒ/2.8 which is not extremely fast but certainly useable. I rarely go faster than ƒ/5.6 regardless of the maximum aperture available so a maximum aperture of ƒ/2.8 is not going to limit me at all. Minimum aperture is ƒ/16 which is more limiting but not very much so. If using the usual film speeds around in 1982 then the range of apertures and shutter speeds is fine for general use. There is an aperture setting on the aperture ring of ‘o’ which is for automatic exposure cameras which allows the camera to set the aperture. This ‘o’ setting will not work on this AL-1 camera and the manual warns you not to try to use it.

As camera lenses did at the time, there is a depth of field scale on the lens. As the camera has no depth of field preview facility, these scales are very useful. A nice feature is a built-in lens hood which can be pulled forward about 10 mm if required. Another feature that I have never noticed before is the angle of view of this lens is printed on the lens bezel: 18º diagonal field of view.

Canon FX

Canon FX film SLR camera from Japan.

For the last 18 months, I have been concentrating my collecting on Nikon and Canon SLR cameras. My latest acquisition is this Canon FX. It is not a professional camera but it is well designed and well made. It dates from 1964.

  • lens: n/a
  • focal length: n/a
  • apertures: n/a
  • focus range: n/a
  • lens fitting: Canon FL mount
  • shutter: Cloth focal plane
  • speeds: 1 second to 1/1000 second
  • flash: 1 x PC connector
  • film size: 35mm

The body is made from cast aluminium alloy with pressed brass top and base plates – these are satin chrome plated on my camera but a few were made with black enamelled top and base plates. The body is covered with black textured leatherette. This camera has been stored in very damp conditions – I suspect a garage – and the aluminium body has significant corrosion and there is quite a bit of mildew on the shutter curtains. Some collectors would reject this camera based solely on condition, but I like my cameras to be in used condition and this is all a part of the camera’s story.

The size of the camera is pretty normal for a 35mm SLR. It measures 142 by 91 by 86 mm and the body with no lens attached weighs 670g. While 670g is not light – it is heavier than any of my Japanese rangefinders – it is not as heavy as many SLR cameras: Nikon F2, 840g; Nikkormat FT, 754g; Canon FTb, 750g; Ricoh 500, 800g.

So, now for a description of the camera starting with the top plate. The right hand side of the top plate is pretty much standard. Far right is the film advance lever. This is cut metal and plated (or anodised) to match the top plate. This has two rest positions – flush with the edge of the top plate or sticking out about 10 mm. The lever moves through 160º to advance one frame. The lever is on a ratchet so the film can be advanced with several short motions if required.

In front of the film advance lever is the window for the frame counter. This is reset by opening the camera back – it resets to S which is -2. Zero is in orange. Even numbered frames have numbers and odd numbered frames are just dots. Frames 20 and 36 are also in orange as these were the standard film lengths in 1964.

To the left of this frame counter window and still at the front of the top plate is the shutter release button. This is chrome plated metal and is threaded for a standard Gauthier cable release. Around the shutter release button is a rotating collar. This will rotate to one of two positions marked ‘A’ and ‘L’. ‘A’ is the working position and in this position the shutter can be fired. ‘L’ is the lock position and in this position the shutter release button cannot be depressed to fire the shutter but the shutter can still be fired by using a cable release. As well as functioning as a safety device to prevent accidental exposures, the ‘L’ position can be used with the B shutter speed setting to lock the shutter open for long exposures.

Left again is the combined shutter speed and film speed selector dial. Film speeds are selected by slightly lifting the selector dial and turning. There are two windows in the top of the dial to show the selected film speed – one for DIN and one for ASA. The film speeds available to be set range from 11 DIN/10 ASA to 30 DIN/800 ASA. The film speed numbers are in one stop increments but there are 1/3 stop increments available denoted by dots between the numbers. The numbers were originally painted in orange but the conditions that the camera has been stored in means that nearly all the orange paint has corroded away, making the setting hard to impossible to read.

Shutter speeds are selected by just turning the selector dial. Shutter speeds range from one second to 1/1000 second plus B and X. The index mark for the shutter speeds is to the left of the dial. The dial moves freely between speeds but not directly between B and X. B is ‘bulb’ and with this setting the shutter will remain open while the shutter release button is depressed. X is the electronic flash sync setting. The manual tells me that this is 1/60 seconds and I am not entirely sure why the user cannot just set the shutter speed to 1/60 as on all the other cameras I have seen but the manual is clear that the X setting should be used. It might be because the 1/60 sync speed is nominal and is actually slightly slower. 1/30 and slower can be used with electronic flash as well as X.

Towards the rear of the top plate, behind the shutter speed dial, is an engraved circle with a line through it. The line represents the position of the film plane inside the camera. This is intended for when the user is relying on measuring the focus distance rather than focusing by eye on the focus screen.

In the middle of the top plate is the pentaprism hump. Inside the hump is the focus screen. This is mostly a Fresnel screen with a central circle of ground glass for focusing. In the middle of this central circle is a split-image rangefinder. As there is no TTL meter, there is no information provided on the screen. My camera has been stored for a long time in damp conditions and this has had a deleterious effect on the silvering on the pentaprism. This silvering has peeled away from the edges. This makes the image on the focus screen less clear but will make no difference to the photographic image.

On the top of the pentaprism hump is the accessory shoe. This is a standard Barnack shoe – no electrical contacts so this is a cold shoe. The front of the pentaprism hump has the Canon logo engraved on it.

Left of the pentaprism hump, towards the front of the top plate, is the camera serial number. Behind this, by the back of the top plate, is the light meter readout. This works in a way that I have never seen before. First, you set your required shutter speed. As you rotate the shutter speed dial, the aperture scale in the readout moves – in fact, there are two aperture scales, both of which move. One scale is orange (for use in low light) and one scale is white (for use in bright light). Second, you set the meter sensitivity by a lever around the rewind crank. This lever has two settings: ‘L’ for low sensitivity (or bright light) and ‘H’ for high sensitivity (or low light). The meter needle should now point to the aperture value which you set on the lens aperture ring. this is an entirely manual camera even though it has a light meter and you can ignore the light meter altogether if you wish to.

On the left hand end of the top plate is the rewind crank. This is the usual small folding crank. Unusually, the crank has no other function – it does not unlock the camera back. Around the rewind crank is the meter sensitivity switch already mentioned.

On the rear of the top plate, behind the meter readout, is a dial to switch the light meter on or to check the battery condition. On the front of the top plate, in front of the rewind crank, ids a circular meter sensor. The remaining component of the meter is the battery chamber. This is on the left hand end of the camera. It is intended to take a type 625 mercury 1.3 volt battery which is no longer available. However, you can get 1.5 volt alkaline 625 batteries which will work but not accurately. On my camera, the meter does not work at all.

So, moving to the front of the camera. In line with the pentaprism hump is a raised portion containing the lens mount. This is a three pronged bayonet mount. Canon’s SLR cameras (before the modern EF mount) used three different bayonet mounts. The first was the R mount. Canon upgraded this to the FL mount – R mount lenses would fit. Later, the FL mount was upgraded to the FD mount – again, both R mount and FL mount lenses would fit. The reverse is also true – FD lenses will fit R mount and FL mount cameras and FL lenses will fit R mount cameras. These three, R, Fl and FD mounts were all breech lock mounts where there is a locking ring to fix the lens in place rather than having to turn the whole lens to lock them.

This camera uses the FL mount and this FX model was the first model to use the FL mount. The FL mount offers little apart from attaching the lens. There is a lever to close the aperture on the lens just prior to the shutter firing and that is it.

To the right of the lens mount, towards the top of the body, is a small rotating lever. Turning this anticlockwise 1/4 turn will raise the mirror. This is for use in critical photography as it removes the vibration caused when the mirror flips out of the way.

Below this is a PC connector for attaching a flash gun. On the left of the lens mount is another rotating lever. This one is the self-timer mechanism. Turning this a half turn anticlockwise gives a delay of ten seconds between pressing the shutter release button and the shutter firing. I timed this with my phone’s stop watch and it was just about exactly ten seconds as close as I could time it – not bad for a 57 year old mechanism. Turning this lever just over a quarter turn will give a delay of six seconds – this is as short as I could make it work.

Moving to the base of the camera, this is fairly sparse. There are no facilities for connecting a power winder and no battery compartment. Towards the front of the base plate, in line with the centre of the lens, is a tripod socket. This is a 1/4 inch Whitworth thread. Also on the base plate is the rewind button. This does not need to be held in once you start rewinding the film which makes life easier. There is a small dot on the rewind button. As you rewind the film, the rewind button rotates and this dot makes it easier to see the rotations. Once the rewind button stops rotating, you know that the film leader is clear of the take-up spool and you can stop rewinding. Stopping at this point means that the film leader is still protruding from the cassette. Not only does this make it easier to extract the film for developing, it also means that the film is blocking the felt light trap on the lips of the cassette, reducing the risk of light entering and fogging the film.

At the other end of the base plate is a folding recessed key. Lifting this and rotating it 1/4 turn anti-clockwise releases the camera back. Opening the back, there is a relatively small pressure plate. To the left of this is a chrome bar across the height of the back. This keeps the film snug against the sprocket shaft. On the right-hand end of the back is a slightly sprung plate which keeps the film cassette snug in its chamber.

The edges of the back form a flange that fits into a groove on the camera body. this flange is not big enough to fully render the joint between the back and body light tight so the groove on the body contains a foam light seal that the flange presses against. This camera is 57 years old and the foam light seal has degraded to a granular mess. I shall have to replace it before I can use this camera which is a simple enough job.

The inside of the body has the chamber for the film cassette on the left. Protruding into this is the fork for the rewind crank.This can be raised out of the way by raising the rewind crank. The film gate is central and gives on to the shutter curtains. This shutter has two horizontally travelling cloth curtains. With these focal plane shutters, the shutter always travels at the same speed – shutter speed is changed by altering the width of the gap between the two curtains. The narrower the gap, the fast the effective shutter speed. As mentioned earlier, my camera has been stored in very damp conditions and there is significant mildew on the shutter cloth.

To the right of the film gate is the sprocket shaft. This has teeth that engage in the holes on the edges of the film. When advancing the film, this sprocket shaft will stop once eight holes have moved passed the shaft – eight holes equals one frame. To the right of the sprocket shaft is the take-up spool. This has a single slot for attaching the film leader. The take-up spool turns clockwise. This means that is stores the film emulsion side outermost – doing this reduces the amount of curl in the film once it has been developed and aids the film lying flat when being printed from (or when being scanned in our digital world).

Nikon Nikkorex

Nikon’s first SLR camera was the professional Nikon F which introduced the F mount which is still (in modified form) in use today. In order to tap into the large enthusiast market, Nikon introduced the Nikkorex range. There were three models in the Nikkorex range. The first two models seem to have been modelled on the Zeiss Ikon Contaflex – fixed lens and complex leaf shutter in the lens. This third model in the range, the Nikkorex F, is a standard SLR with a removable lens and a focal plane shutter – this camera uses the same lens mount as the Nikon F and so also the same range of lenses. It dates from 1962. In fact, the Nikkorex F was supplied with the same lens as the Nikon F. (Initially, Nikon was the name of a range of SLR cameras, not the name of the company which was originally Nippon Kogaku.) This Nikkorex model was designed by and made by Mamiya for Nikon. After Nikon dispensed with this model (at the introduction of the Nikkormat range), Mamiya sold the design to Ricoh. I assume that the reason for Nikon choosing the same name – F – as their flagship Nikon F was to instil visions of quality into the customer’s mind.

  • lens: n/a
  • focal length: n/a
  • apertures: n/a
  • focus range: n/a
  • lens fitting: Nikon F mount
  • shutter: Copal Square focal plane
  • speeds: 1 second to 1/1000 second
  • flash: 2 x PC connector
  • film size: 35mm

I shall use my usual method of describing this camera, starting with the top plate. The top plate is made from pressed brass which has been satin chrome plated. On the far right is the film advance lever. This is pressed metal and also satin chrome plated apart from the tip which is bright plated. When not in use, this lever sits over the top plate out of the way. In use, it sits just proud of the top plate making it easier for the user’s thumb to move it.

In front of the film advance lever is the frame counter. This is reset to S (or -3) by opening the camera back. Left of this window is the shutter release button. This is metal and is threaded for a standard Prontor type cable release. Left of this, centrally on the top plate, is the shutter speed dial. This is pretty much as you might expect. The speed range is from one second to 1/1000 second plus B. The dial turns freely between speeds but not between B and 1/1000. As you move the dial to a faster speed you can hear the mechanism wind up. To move from 1/125 to 1/250 and faster requires significantly more effort than between the slower speeds. The speeds from 1 to 1/125 are printed in orange – these are the flash sync speeds. 1/250, 1/500 and 1/1000 are printed in green Between B and 1/1000, there is a small metal stud. This is used to connect the optional light meter – more later.

Just left of centre on the top plate is the pentaprism hump. My camera has a large dint on the top which seems to have no adverse effect on its function. The front of the pentaprism hump is an engraved capital ‘F’ which is the model name. The rear of the hump has the viewfinder eyepiece. This is circular and has a screw-in ring which can hold vision correction lenses for people who wear glasses.

Inside the viewfinder is the focus screen. Mostly this is a Fresnel lens which gives even illumination over the screen. In the centre of the screen is a disc of plain ground glass to ease focusing (the Fresnel lens part is hard to focus on). Inside this is a smaller circular split-image rangefinder spot. As this camera has no meter, there is no additional information in the viewfinder. Left of the pentaprism hump is the rewind crank. This is the very usual small folding crank. This only has the one function of rewinding the film – it doesn’t open the back as with many cranks.

The front of the camera is mostly as you would expect with one surprise – more later. In line with the pentaprism hump is a raised portion. At the top of this is the model name – Nikkorex – in capital letters. On the right of this raised portion (as when looking at the front), there is a small stud on the side in line with the model name. Again, more later. Further down this raised portion is the lens mount. This is Nikon’s F mount as introduced in 1959 – no electrical contacts and no AIS ring around the mount. On the left of the mount, on the side of the raised portion, is a chrome button. Pushing this down closes the lens aperture so you can gauge the depth of field of the image. On the front of the camera to the left of the raised portion is the self-timer lever. This winds about 90º anticlockwise and is activated by pressing the shutter release button.

L shaped bracket for flash

Above the self-timer lever, on the front of the top plate, is the surprise I mentioned previously. This is a vertically mounted but otherwise standard Barnack accessory shoe. Being vertical, it is entirely useless for connecting a normal flash gun. However, that is not its intended function. It is there to attach the optional Nikon light meter. This light meter has three attachment points: 1) the vertical accessory shoe, 2) the stud on the shutter speed dial, 3) the pin on the side of the raised portion mentioned earlier. I do not have this optional flash gun so I can say no more about it. If you do want to connect a normal flash gun, Nikon provided an L shaped bracket which fits into the vertical accessory shoe to provide a horizontal accessory shoe.

The rear of the top plate has, on the right, the legend “Made in Japan” and the serial number – 356786 in the case of my camera. On the left of the rear of the top plate is the maker’s name – “Nippon Kogaku Tokyo” – this is the original name of the company that now calls itself Nikon (this ignores the fact that this camera was made by Mamiya for Nikon).

In the middle of the back is a circular memo. This allows the user to set the speed of the film in use – ASA only – and the length of the film. The options here are either 20 or 36 exposures and in either red or black (i.e. colour or monochrome).

The base plate of the camera is also made of brass which is satin chrome plated. In the middle of the base plate, in line with the centre of the lens, is the tripod socket. This has the 1/4 inch Whitworth thread – the international standard later changed to UNC threads but not in 1962. Also on the base is the rewind button.

On the left hand edge of the top plate are two PC connectors for flash. The front connector is marked with a green M and is for use with flash bulbs. The rear connector is marked with a red X and is for use with electronic flash. Below these two PC connectors is the sliding catch for the back.

Inside, the camera is just as you would expect. In the middle of the back is a nice large pressure plate which keeps the film flat against the film gate. Inside the body, there is a chamber on the left for the film cassette. – no DX contacts at this age. In the middle is the film gate which has a large surround to match the pressure plate.

To the right of the film gate is the sprocket shaft. For those readers new to film, this sprocket shaft counts the holes on the edges of the film and stops the film advance after eight holes have passed over the shaft – eight holes equals one frame. To the right of the sprocket shaft is the take-up spool. This has one slot to take the film leader – the slot is outlined in yellow to make it easier to find.

The camera came with a Nikkor-S lens. This has a maximum aperture of ƒ/2 and a minimum aperture of ƒ/16. Its focal length is 5cm – an old-fashioned designation for the 1960s, I would expect it to be 50mm which is the same size but consistent with industry standards. The lens bezel has the maker as Nippon Kogaku – the same as the camera. The focus range is from just short of two feet (about 500mm) to infinity. The “S” in the designation “Nikkor-S” stands for Septum which is Latin for seven. This indicates that the lens is made from seven glass elements. This is the same lens as was provided with Nikon’s flagship model Nikon F so this lens is no slouch.

As with all Nikkor lenses from before 1977 (that is, F mount lenses; the rangefinder S mount lenses were also called Nikkor), the lens has a pair of ‘rabbit ears’ protruding from the aperture ring at ƒ/5.6. These link to the light meter system to tell the electronics which aperture has been set. As this camera has no light meter, the rabbit ears do nothing. If you fit the optional light meter mentioned earlier, that meter has a prong which will engage with these rabbit ears.

At some point, the shutter on this camera has failed. It is clear from the state of the screws holding the base plate on, and the screws under the base plate, that someone has been inside the camera, presumably to repair the shutter. As the shutter is 60 years old, I doubt that it was ever going to be repairable. I am not going to be able to use this camera so I cannot comment on how well it works.

Petri Flex 7

Petri were a prolific maker of cameras in the 1950s, 60s and 70s — for themselves and for own-label resellers. I already have a Petri 7s rangefinder camera and a 2MTL made for Wirgin and sold as an Edixa 2MTL. It is possible that I have other Petri camera that I am not aware of.

lens: Petri anastigmatic
focal length: 55mm
apertures: ƒ/1.8 to ƒ/16
focus range: 0.6 m to infinity
lens fitting: Petri breech-lock bayonet
shutter: cloth focal plane
speeds: 1s to 1/1000s plus B
flash: PC connector
film size: 35 mm 

This Petri Flex 7 was introduced in 1964 and superficially looks like a Zeiss Ikon Contarex in its first incarnation. It is a sturdily made camera and quite heavy. It measures 151 by 98 by 91 mm and weighs 970 g which is heavier than most of my SLR cameras. Visually, the outstanding feature is the round exposure meter window above the lens — it is this feature that creates the similarity with the Zeiss Ikon Contarex.

In many ways, this is a ‘standard’ SLR camera. The layout of the top plate is much as you would expect with the film advance lever on the right. This is metal — anodised aluminium — and fairly straight. It has two rest positions, one flush with the edge of the top plate and the other standing proud about 5 mm which makes it easier to use.

In front of the film advance lever and slightly to the left is the window onto the frame counter. This is reset to ‘S’ when the back of the camera is opened — ‘S’ equates to ‘-3’. Next along is the shutter speed dial. This runs from one second to 1/100 seconds plus B. Speeds of 1 s to 1/60 s are marked by a red arc and the letter X. These are the shutter speeds suitable for electronic flash — this indicates that at these speeds the shutter is completely open as the flash fires. Faster shutter speeds can be used with flash bulbs as these give their maximum brightness for long enough for the shutter slit to move across the film gate.

Centrally on the top of plate is the pentaprism hump. This is bigger than you might expect as it holds the light meter as well as the pentaprism and focus screen. On top of the pentaprism hump is a Barnack accessory shoe. This has no electrical contacts so is a ‘cold shoe’.

On the rear of the pentaprism hump is the viewfinder eyepiece. This is large enough to be comfortable to use while wearing glasses. Inside the viewfinder is the focus screen. Most of this is a Fresnel lens which gives even illumination over the field of view. In the centre of the field of view is a circle of ground glass which the manual says is there to allow you to see the depth of field when the lens is stopped down. Fresnel lenses give nice even illumination but at the cost of fine detail. Mostly this does not matter but for critical focus (an judging depth of field) they are no good. Inside this circle is a rectangle of micro-prisms to aid accurate focus.

On the lower right of the focus screen is the light meter readout. This consists of a black rectangle with a gap on the left hand edge. To achieve a good exposure, you centre the needle in this gap by altering the lens aperture and shutter speed. It is intended to be used as a shutter priority system.

On the front of the pentaprism hump is the light meter sensor window. This is a CdS sensor and so requires a battery to work. The sensor window is circular and slightly recessed. Around the meter sensor window is a collar which rotates to set the film speed. This is in both DIN (red) and ASA (black). It is unusual for Japanese cameras to have film speeds in DIN but perhaps Petri were hoping for significant sales in Europe. Film speeds are from 11 DIN to 30 DIN or 10 ASA to 800 ASA. With modern digital photography, this range can seem a bit strange but, in 1964, films as slow as 10 ASA were available and films faster than 800 ASA were rare and niche. Just below the light meter sensor, to one side, is the camera serial number.

Left of the pentaprism is a signal to indicate whether the meter is switched on or not. When the flag is red, the meter is off — the meter is switched on by advancing the film so to conserve the battery you need to advance the film only when you are ready for the next shot. On the far left of the top plate is the rewind crank — this is the usual folding crank. Less usual, this crank only rewinds the film; it does not double up as a catch for the back and there is no memo function or any of the other functions that frequently appear here.

Now the front of the camera. At this point I usually mention that the front is dominated by the lens — and there is certainly a nice large lens sticking out of the front — but the eye is definitely drawn to the light meter sensor. It might not be as large as the lens but it is visually dominant.

The lens mount is Petri’s own three flange bayonet mount. This works much like any lens bayonet mount but instead of turning the lens to lock it you turn a locking ring — the lens itself remains stationary. This mount has an auto-indexing facility. The most prominent SLR camera at the time that this camera was produced was the Nikon F which had a curious requirement — on fitting a lens you had to turn the aperture ring from maximum to minimum to tell the light meter the aperture range of the lens. Petri have obviated the need for this by having a nodger which connects to a socket on a ring around the lens mount which is very similar to the AIS system introduced by Nikon in 1976. There is a small window at the top right of the lens mount which shows the set aperture. At first glance, this seems pointless as the aperture scale is clearly printed on the aperture ring of the lens. Unfortunately, the presence of the large bull’s eye light meter sensor means that you cannot read the set aperture off the aperture ring — hence this aperture window. If you remove the lens and move this indexing ring on on its own, it is apparent that this camera can only manage lenses with an aperture range of ƒ/1.8 to ƒ/16.

Inside the lens mount, my camera has a disaster. Just inside the mount there is a black steel plate with a negative sized rectangular hole. Someone has attacked this plate and bent and twisted it quite severely.This is obviously an attempt to repair the camera — the camera is quite jammed: the shutter will not fire and the advance lever will not move. The worry is what other damage has this person done in the futile attempts to repair this camera?

The locking ring for the breech lock is attached to the camera. In Canon’s FD mount, which is also a breech lock mount, the locking ring is attached to each lens. I find Petri’s version easier to use.

The lens is Petri’s own design and make (as far as I can ascertain). I am told that it is a seven element lens.It has a focal length of 55 mm and a maximum aperture of ƒ/1.8 which is quite wide for an amateur lens in 1964. Minimum aperture is ƒ/16 which is not as impressive.Focus is from 0.6 m (2 feet) to infinity. ƒ/11 is marked in red – with many cameras, this represents a Happy Snapper setting in conjunction with a red mark on the distance scale, but not here. I do not know the reason for ƒ/11 being in red. There is a switch on the lens for automatic diaphragm of manual diaphragm. If set to Auto, the diaphragm closes just before the shutter fires. If set to manual, the diaphragm is always closed to the set aperture. This aids in seeing the depth of field but gives a darker image which makes focusing harder.

Right of the lens mount, at the top right of the body, is the battery holder. This is intended to hold a PX625 cell which is a mercury cell and banned everywhere. However, I easily managed to find an alkaline alternative with the slight drawback that it gives 1.5 v instead of the 1.3 v intended.

Right of the lens mount, at the bottom of the body, is a PC connector for attaching a flash gun. The flash gun can be fitted to the accessory shoe for casual photography or mounted away from the camera for studio work.

On the left of the lens mount is the angled shutter release button. This was quite common on Praktica cameras from Germany and a similar system was used by Voigtländer and Zeiss Ikon in the 1960s but I have never been comfortable with it. The shutter release button, which is chromed metal, is not threaded for a shutter release cable. If you want to use a cable release, you need to unscrew a metal collar from around the button and screw a non-standard cable release onto those threads. A number of cameras have used a similar system but I fail to see the advantage of not using the more usual Gauthier tapered thread system.

Below the shutter release button is the self timer lever. To set this, you turn the lever anti-clockwise to wind the clockwork mechanism and then press a small chrome button that is revealed by moving the lever. Winding the lever through 180º gives a delay of eight seconds. Winding the lever through 90º gives a delay of two seconds — and between those two, a pro rata delay. Wind the lever less than 90º and the shutter will not be fired.

The base plate of the camera has little on it. In line with the lens is a standard tripod socket. This is the usual 1/4 inch socket and probably a Whitworth thread but the camera is recent enough that petri could have been early adopters of the modern UNC thread. Also on the base plate is the button to enable the film to be rewound.

The back of the camera is opened by a sliding catch on the left hand edge of the body. The inside of the back has a reasonably large pressure plate but none of the springs or rollers that are frequently found on the inside of 35 mm camera backs. However, there is a very small stud near to the catch which is intended to hold the film cassette steady.

On the left side of the inside is the film chamber which holds the 35 mm film cassette. The film gate surround is quite large which will help to keep the film flat over the film gate. To the right of the film gate is the sprocket shaft – this is there to count the number of sprocket holes that pass this point: eight holes equals one frame. Right of the sprocket shaft is the take-up spool. This has a single slot for the attaching the film leader.

The shutter is a cloth, horizontally moving, focal plane shutter. Shutter speeds are from one second to 1/1000 seconds plus the ubiquitous B. The flash synch speed for electronic flash is up to 1/60 seconds (which is the fastest shutter speed when the shutter is completely open) and the synch speed for flash bulbs is any shutter speed at all.

My camera does not work. Neither the film advance lever nor the shutter release button will mov e at all. As mentioned earlier, someone has viciously attacked the insides of the lens mount to the extent of seriously bending a steel baffle just inside the mount. What other repair attempts have they made? If someone has made such a crass attempt at a repair, I don’t think it worth my while attempting anything myself.

Chinon Genesis (GS7)

This is large and heavy SLR fillm camera from Chinon.

This camera is a child of the 1980s. Every part of its design shouts out that decade. It is big, black and cumbersome. The basic design concept seems to come from 1980s video cameras. In fact, this camera was introduced in 1988 and continued in production until late 1990. It is designed for one handed (right hand only) operation so is a disaster for the 10% of people who are left handed.

  • lens: Chinon zoom
  • focal length: 35 to 80 mm
  • apertures: ƒ/4.1 to ƒ/6.4
  • focus range: 0.85 to infinity
  • lens fitting: fixed
  • shutter: electromagnetic leaf
  • speeds: 1/4 s to 1/300 s
  • flash: pop-up
  • film size: 35 mm

The layout of controls on conventional mechanical cameras is determined by the position of the internal mechanisms. So, on SLR cameras, the film advance knob/lever is positioned above the take-up spool, the shutter release button is positioned above the part of the shutter that fires the shutter and the shutter speed selector is positioned above the part of the shutter crate that controls shutter slit width. The end result is that mechanical SLR cameras all have the controls in pretty much the same place.

This Genesis camera is an electrical/electronic camera and the controls are all electric switches. This means that the controls are positioned as suited the camera designer. In fact, as a fully automatic camera, there are few controls at all. This camera has no manual operation facility and so no manual controls. The camera measures 120 by 120 by 90 mm and it weighs 750 g.

The first thing that I need to mention is how you hold this camera. There is a horizontal hand strap on the right hand side. Your right hand slips up between the strap and the camera body, leaving your thumb around the back of the camera where there is a circular depression to aid your grip. The shutter release button should fall to the user’s index finger but I find this a bit awkward. Of course, the size of the user’s hand makes a difference here. Holding the camera one handed this way is quite comfortable and stable. The shutter button is nicely responsive.

In the centre of the top is the folding flash gun. In front of this flash gun is a grey slider. Pushing this forward both raises the flash gun and powers on the camera – the actual power switch is in the hinge of the flash cover. When using this camera, the flash gun is always raised and powered.

Behind the flash gun, on the top, is a small LCD screen. This displays sparse information. On the left is a battery power indicator. On the right is a frame counter. The frame count is maintained while the power is switched off (I assume a small amount of power is used for this) and is even maintained without the battery for a couple of hours using power held in a capacitor. Around the frame counter is a box. This box will flash when the multi-exposure mode is set. Between the battery indicator and the frame counter, at the top of the screen, is the self-timer indicator. Below this is an indicator for the Back Light Compensation system. Behind the flash gun on the top is a small LCD screen. This displays sparse information. On the left is a battery power indicator. On the right is a frame counter. The frame count is maintained while the power is switched off (I assume a small amount of power is used for this) and is even maintained without the battery for a couple of hours using power held in a capacitor. Around the frame counter is a box. This box will flash when the multi-exposure mode is set. Between the battery indicator and the frame counter, at the top of the screen, is the self-timer indicator. Below this is an indicator for the Back Light Compensation system.

To the left of the LCD screen are two banks of switches. The right hand bank has three buttons. These are labelled ‘M. EXP’, ‘SELF T’, and ‘BLC’. ‘M. EXP’ sets the multi-exposure mode. This will allow you to make up to three exposures without advancing the film. ‘SELF T’sets the self timer mode. With this set, there is a ten second delay between pressing the shutter release button and the shutter firing. ‘BLC’ sets the Back Light Compensation mode (and starts the square on the LCD screen flashing). In this mode, the camera allows for a strong backlight to achieve a good exposure.

The left hand bank is a sliding switch with two positions. In the forward position – single – the camera will take single shots only (or two in Multi Exposure mode) and in the backwards position – continuous – it will take up to three shots in succession.

Down the left side of the camera is a dark grey area. Thee are four items on this grey area. Near the top is a hole which is threaded. There is no indication as to what this is for. The manual says that it is to connect a flash slave unit. This is the electrical connection. Below that is a sprung slider. Sliding this upwards uses the flash as fill-in flash even in generally good light. Sliding this down switches the flash off. it is necessary to slide and hold this switch or it will default to off. Beside this switch second hole. Pushing a ball-point pen nib or such into this hole forces the camera to rewind the film even if it is not at the end. The fourth item is a small catch to open the camera back.

On the left, the main camera body is curved – it is basically the lens barrel. This has a vertical slider which zooms the lens. Three focal lengths are marked – 35, 50 and 80 mm. There is also a macro position for close focus. To achieve the macro position, it is necessary to depress a green button on the slider. This is not ‘true’ macro as it does not give a life size image on the negative.

Front, missing the plastic fascia over A/F lenses

The lens itself has eight elements in seven groups (information courtesy of the genesis manual). It is not a very fast lens – the maximum aperture is ƒ/4.1 at 35 mm and ƒ/6.4 at 80 mm. The lens focus is entirely automatic and there is no manual option. The autofocus works on infra-red light. There are two autofocus windows which are covered by a plastic fascia beside the lens. Looking into the lower of the two lenses (after removing the fascia) while operating the camera, you can see a flashing red LED. Looking into the top lens in the same way, there is a black sideways ‘H’ which I take to be a sensor of some sort.

The lens will focus from 0.85 m to infinity. If you use the inbuilt macro facility, the lens will focus down to 0.5 m. Chinon produced a 1.3X teleconvertor which extended the focal length to 105 mm. This fits onto a bayonet on the front of the lens and includes a secondary lens on the right which fits over one the two autofocus lenses mentioned above to recalibrate the autofocus system. If you try to use the teleconvertor below 65 mm focal length, the image is subject to severe vignetting.

The base of the camera is sparse. There is a 1/4 inch UNC thread tripod socket. This is right at the back of the camera and in line with the lens. Also on the base is the battery compartment. To open this you need to push a ball-point pen nib into the hole which allows the compartment lid to slide open. The required battery is a 2CR5 which is still available and rather expensive.

The back of the camera is also sparse. Above the opening back is the viewfinder eyepiece. This is a reasonable size. Inside the eyepiece is the focus screen. In the centre is a disc of micro-prisms. These have a dual purpose. Firstly, they indicate the area of the image that the autofocus system works on. Secondly, there is a small amount of manual focus possible when the zoom setting is on Macro.

To the left of the focus screen are two LEDs. On the top is a red lightning flash. While the flash gun is charging this LED flashes. When the LED is steady, the flash gun is ready for use. Below this are the letter AF in green. These appear when the lens is focused. When the lens is not focused, the AF LED is not lit and the shutter will not fire.

The opening back has a small window on the left. This is so that the user can see the film cassette as a memo of the film that is in use.

Inside is reminiscent of a Contaflex or Bessamatic from around 1960. The film cassette sits in a chamber on the left. This chamber has four pairs of electrical contacts which are there to read the DX code on the cassette. The DX code tells the camera about the film speed and film length. If you use a film cassette with no DX code (such as when you use bulk film), the camera assumes a film speed of 100 ISO.

In the centre is the film gate. This is the bit that is like a Contaflex – there is no focal plane shutter. Instead, there is the sloping reflex mirror. As well as reflecting the image up into the viewfinder, the mirror also acts as a light tight baffle to prevent fogging of the film while the actual shutter is open.

Shutter speeds available are from 1/4 seconds to 1/300 seconds – not a very large range for 1988! Below the film gate is a small sprocket whee. this takes the place of the more usual sprocket shaft and is there to count the sprocket holes in the film to measure one frame when advancing the film. Film loading is automatic. You pull out the film leader until it is just short of the hinge for the back, close the camera and switch it on. The leader will wind onto the take-up spool and the film will be advanced to the first frame. When the film has all been used, the film is automatically rewound into the cassette – all the way in with no leader protruding.

In Use.

This is an easy camera to use, even just one handed. It is, however, a bit on the large size and gets in the way if photography is not your main activity. I used it with the hand strap provided which meant that one hand was permanently occupied. There is provision for attaching a neck strap instead of the hand strap which would free your right hand but of the cost of a large weight around your neck.

This camera is just too big and too heavy for the casual user and too limited for a serious photographer.

Test Film.

I have run a test film through this camera and I am awaiting the return of the film. I will post results here when I can.

OK, I now have the test film back from then lab – Agfa Vista, as usual – and this camera is performing very well. Exposure is spot on as is focus. There are no light leaks.

Some images were shot in rather dull weather and others in bright March sunshine. The camera has coped with both of these quite well. The first image shows what happens if you use the supplied teleconverter with the cameras lens set to 35mm – Chinon recommend you use the teleconverter with the zoom set to between 65 and 80 mm to avoid this vignetting. The second image was shot using the lens’ macro facility.

Nikormat FTn

This article is about the Japanese Nikkormat FTn 35mm film SLR camera.

My fifth Nikon and my third quality metal Nikon. This is a pre-AI camera (in common with my other two metal Nikons) which means that it needs a lens with a ‘rabbit ears’ prong to communicate the lens’ aperture. Without the rabbit ears, the camera will still work but you must use the stopped down procedure to get the right exposure – or use a hand-held light meter. My other Nikon cameras are 1) the professional F2 Photomic, 2) high end amateur Nikkormat EL (both made from metal) 3) plastic F301 and 4) plastic F601. Only the F2 and Nikkormat EL are a joy to use. In 1970, Wallace Heaton (a photographic retailer in London) was offering this camera for £176-9-6 with the ƒ/2 kit lens. I was earning £18 per week at this time so this was ten weeks gross pay for me (which is why I did not buy one!)

  • lens: n/a
  • focal length: n/a
  • apertures: n/a
  • focus range: n/a
  • lens fitting: Nikon F mount (vanilla flavour)
  • shutter: vertical metal focal plane
  • speeds: 1 s to 1/1000 s + B
  • flash: 2 off PC sockets
  • film size: 35 mm

As is my wont, I shall describe the camera starting with general notes and then details starting with the top plate. The camera measures 146 by 95 by 45 mm and weighs 745g with no lens or film attached. The camera is covered with black leatherette with stainless steel top and base plates. The body is made form die cast aluminium.

The top plate is mostly as you would expect. On the far right is the film advance lever. This is cut metal and has a slight serration on the tip to provide grip. This lever has two rest positions. When parked on top of the top plate, the electronics are switched off. When pulled out by about 30º, a red dot is exposed and the electronics are switched on. The lever moves through around 130º to advance one frame. There is no ratchet involved so the lever must be moved in one go.

To the left of the film advance lever, near the front of the top plate, is the shutter release button. This is chromed metal and sits within a chromed metal collar. The shutter button is threaded for a standard cable release. In the centre of the right hand portion of the top plate is the frame counter window. This has nice, large, easy to read numbers. The counter is set to S in usual Japanese fashion by opening the back of the camera. The first three positions of the counter are in red. The initial position is S and is followed by a and 0. 0 is the sort position. For the rest of the counter, only even numbers are displayed with odd numbers represented by dashes. All of this is in black apart from 20 and 36 which are in red to indicate the common film lengths in use in the 1960s. After the frame counter reaches 36, the counter will move one more, unmarked, position where it will remain even if more frames are advanced.

At the front of the top plate, hard. by the pentaprism hump, is a metal button. This is a depth of field preview button. Pressing this closes down the lens’ aperture to its set value so that you can see the effect of the aperture.

In the centre of the top plate is the fixed pentaprism. The eyepiece for the viewfinder is at the rear and is round with a rectangular window measuring 14 by 10 mm. Inside is the focus screen. This is a matte Fresnel screen with a central disc of of micro-prisms. Around this is a larger circle which denotes the area used by the light meter for centre-weighted metering. There is no split-image focus aid with this camera.

At the bottom of the focus screen are three numbers – the central one is white and the other two are yellow. These are the set shutter speed (in white) and are illuminated by the light coming in the lens. On the right hand side of the focus screen is the light meter read-out. This is the centred needle type. If the aperture/shutter speed combination would result in under exposure, the needle will be above the centre and if the aperture/shutter speed combination would result in over exposure, the needle will be below the centre.

The image on the screen is reasonably bright and clear and focusing the image is quite easy – even in the absence of a split-image centre that most amateur SLR cameras seem to have.

Just to the left of the pentaprism hump is a small (8 by 4 mm) window which is a duplicate meter read-out – useful for when the camera is on a tripod. just behind this is the serial number. This starts with FT as it is Nikon’s habit to have separate serial number sequences for each camera model. In front of the meter window is an ‘N’ to indicate that this is the N version of the Nikkormat FTN. FTn serial numbers ran from 3500001 to 4700001 – that is a range of 1200000. Assuming steady production (not a good assumption) that is 150000 camera each year. The serial number of my camera is FT3531832 which would be in the first few months of production. Even allowing for my poor assumptions, this is an early production camera – made in 1967 or perhaps early 1968.

On the left end of the top plate is the film rewind crank. This is the usual small fold-out crank.This crank lifts up to facilitate loading or unloading film cassettes. Unexpectedly, lifting the crank further does not unlock the camera back as seems to be the case with most Japanese SLR cameras. There is a separate catch for that. On the left edge of the top plate are two PC sockets for flash. The front one is marked M in red and the rear one is marked X in black. The M socket is for flash bulbs. There is no synchronisation speed for the shutter – all speeds up to 1/1000 can be used. This is academic now as flash bulbs are no longer available but types M, FP and MF flash bulbs could be used with this PC socket. The X socket is for electronic flash. As the electronic flash is so brief, it is necessary to use a slow enough shutter speed that the shutter split is the whole frame. This means a shutter speed of 1/125 of slower. This will still freeze motion as the flash is brief enough.

The front of the camera has the lens mount. This is Nikon’s F mount as introduced in 1959. Later versions of the mount have adaptations such as electric contacts to control the lens and an autofocus ‘screwdriver’. This version of the mount only has the addition of a ring around the mount connect to ‘rabbit ears’ on the lens. This is to tell the camera’s metering system which aperture value has been set.

Index prong located in the lens’ rabbit ears

The way that this works is you rotate the ring clockwise as far as it will go and set the lens aperture to ƒ/5.6. On fitting the lens, the ‘rabbit ears’ will locate around the pin on the ring around the mount. The photographer must then set the lens’ aperture to its minimum (largest ƒ/number) and immediately to its maximum (smallest ƒ/number). This needs doing each time the lens is changed. On the right side of this ring is a short scale from 1.2 to 5.6. When this indexing process is carried out, a red dot beside this scale will point to the maximum aperture. this is not so much to show you the maximum aperture of your lens – looking at the aperture ring on the lens does this better – but more as a check that the lens has been ‘indexed’ correctly. If the indexing has not gone right, light metering will be off.

Just inside the lens mount, on the left, is a lever. The camera uses this lever to close the lens’ aperture just before the shutter opens.

Another aspect to this version of the mount is not really a part of the mount. Most SLR cameras have a shutter speed dial on the top plate but that is lacking on this camera. Instead, there is this ring around the mount which is rotated to set the shutter speed. There is a lug on the left side of this ring (as when using the camera) to aid in setting the shutter speed. The only other camera I have seen this on is my Olympus OM1. Available shutter speeds are from 1 second to 1/1000 seconds plus B. Speeds from 1 second to 1/125 seconds are in black and these are the speeds that you can use use with electronic flash. Speeds from 1/250 to 1/1000 are in red and can be used with flash bulbs, but not with electronic flash. The index mark for the shutter speed is on the top right of the mount is consists of a black dot. Also on this ring, at the bottom, is the film speed setting. This runs from 12 ASA to 1600 ASA. ASA is functionally the same as ISO speeds (but it is calculated differently) but older. This is set by a black slider.

Above the lens mount, the pentaprism hump protrudes forwards to be flush with the lens mount. This protuberance contains the mechanical linkage of the metering system which interacts with the pin on the ring around the lens mount.

On the right of the lens mount is the lens release button. This is circular and large enough to be accessible. Pressing this in retracts a small pin in the lens mount and allows the lens to rotate. Above this lens release button is a stepped rectangular slider. Pushing this down raises the mirror – mirror lock up or MLU – which is used when the camera is mounted on a tripod and is being used for critical purposes where the slight vibration caused by the mirror slapping up prior to an exposure cannot be tolerated.

On the other side of the lens mount is the self-timer. This is of a pretty standard design. To use, you rotate the lever anti-clockwise about 45º. When you then press the shutter release button, this timer winds down for eight seconds and the the shutter fires. This process automatically uses MLU (see above) without involving the slider mentioned earlier.

The base plate has a tripod socket. This is likely to be the 1/4 inch Whitworth standard – the modern ISO 1/4 inch UNC standard did not come in until 1973 (of course, the camera makers could have unilaterally used the modern standard before ISO formalised it). Also on the base plate is the battery compartment. This should take a mercury cell but these have been globally banned now. I have fitted an L1560F (LR9 or PX625A) alkaline cell which is 1.5 volt rather than the 1.3 volt cell intended. This will have an effect on exposure but I generally find the effect to be well within the exposure latitude of most films.

At the other end of the base plate is the button to allow rewinding of the film. Once you have started rewinding the film, there is no need to hold this button in. This might seem like a small thing but rewinding on those cameras where one hand holds the camera, one hand presses in the button and one hand winds the crank rapidly run out of hands.

The camera is opened by a sliding catch at the bottom of the left hand edge of the camera. Inside, the camera is as you would expect it to be.

The film cassette goes on the left. This camera was made many years before Kodak thought of DX coding so there are no electrical contacts in the cassette chamber. The shutter is in the centre. this is a vertical travel, metal bladed, shutter – the shutter blades move downwards. There are three blades in each curtain and these blades are connected to each other by pivoted straps. What is unusual is that these straps are on the inside of the camera, in the mirror box, and not visible from the open back. This makes no difference to the operation of the shutter but it is the first time I have seen this. This shutter is entirely mechanical and does not rely on battery power for its operation.

Right of the shutter is the sprocket shaft followed by the take-up spool. This spool is clear (unpigmented) polythene and has two slots for attaching the film leader. The inside of the back has the sprung pressure plate for keeping the film snug and a chromed spring to hold the film cassette steady. As a Japanese camera, light tightness of the join between camera body and camera back is achieved by the use of foam light seals. These have degraded to uselessness and need to be replaced before this camera can be used. This is a simple DIY job.

Using the camera:

This camera is heavy at 745g, not the heaviest but still heavy. This weight imparts stability and also means that a solid grip is essential. A good right hand grip is easy with the forefinger falling naturally to the shutter release button. The weak point for me is the film advance lever – this does not fall so easily to my thumb. For single shots, this does not really matter as you can, and probably will, advance the film once you have lowered the camera from your eye. But for shots with a moving subject you are likely to want to take several shots with the camera to your eye. Not easy with this camera.

The left hand has to cup the lens. While this is the usual photographic stance, it is critical here. The left hand alters the shutter speed via the lug on the ring around the lens mount. For hand held speeds – 1/125 to 1/1000 seconds – this is easily done with the left thumb. For slower speeds, the photographer is likely to be using a tripod so the awkwardness of selecting slower speeds will not matter. The left hand also has the job of selecting the aperture – again, assuming that the photographer is metering with the camera to their eye, this is quite easy to do. You get a visual display of shutter speed in the viewfinder, but not the set aperture. Setting a particular aperture this way is not possible but it works well for shutter speed priority metering where you set the shutter speed and then just adjust the aperture until the meter needle is centred.

While using the camera, I was not always sure I had achieved good focus. This is not helped by the fact that I wear bifocal glasses. Looking at some of the images from the test film, it is clear that I had not, indeed, achieved good focus. This is either a lens problem or, perhaps, the focus screen has become slightly displaced over the years. Yet some images are fine.

My test film was Agfa Vista 200 ISO film which is a couple of years past its best-before date. A couple of years should not really matter and in fact does not seem to be a problem here. The negatives are all rather thin which I will put down to the fact that I was using a 1.5v battery in a camera designed for a 1.3v battery. But they are not too thin to be useful as the images below show. I am including a few images from the test film, the first of which clearly shows the lack of good focus.

Poor focus around the white building.

Canon T70

Canons T70 automatic film SLR camera

Canon’s T series of cameras were Canon’s first attempts at computerised cameras. They took these as far as they could with existing design concepts. The cameras are computerised but the lenses and lens mount were not. To go further along this line, Canon could have adopted the route taken by Pentax and Nikon and added electrical contacts and auto-focus drive to the existing FD mount. What they in fact did do was very courageous and in 1987 they abandoned the FD mount and introduced the EF mount. This EF mount had no mechanical couplings – all communication between the camera and lens was electronic. However, this was still three years in the future and this T70 uses entirely mechanical linkages between camera and lens.

  • lens: n/a
  • focal length: n/a
  • apertures: n/a
  • focus range: n/a
  • lens fitting: FD bayonet mount
  • shutter: Electronic metal focal plane
  • speeds: 2 seconds to 1/1000 seconds plus B
  • flash: hot shoe with Canon dedicated electrodes
  • film size: 35 mm

Controlwise, this camera has done away with all the standard SLR controls. There is no film advance lever – film advance is via a built-in motor drive. There is no shutter speed dial – if you use Tv mode (shutter priority automatic exposure) you change the shutter speed by buttons. No film speed dial – the film speed is set by buttons and there is no DX system although Kodak had introduced DX cassettes the year before this camera was introduced. No film rewind crank – film rewind is motorised.

So, a description of what is there. The camera is fairly large – it measures 148 by 90 by 50 mm and weighs 580g including the batteries. Starting at the right hand end of the top plate, which is made from moulded black plastic, there is the shutter release button. This is black plastic and sits flush in a slightly raised plastic surround. The button is not threaded for any cable release – a horribly old-fashioned idea by 1984. Behind this button is the mark for the position of the film plane.

Between the shutter release button and the pentaprism hump is an LCD screen. This measures 22 by 15 mm. This contains a variety of information depending on the exposure mode you have selected. While the camera is switched off, this display continues to display the fact that a film is loaded and the number of frames used. When the camera is switched on, additional informations displayed. This is the exposure mode selected and, when the shutter release button is partially depressed, the shutter speed. For some reason, the aperture is not displayed.

In front of this display are two buttons marked down and up. most of the time, these do nothing but in conjunction with other buttons (more later) they are used to change settings. When the exposure mode is set to Tv (Time value, which means shutter priority exposure) these buttons alter the shutter speed.

In the middle of the top plate is the pentaprism hump. On top is the accessory shoe. This is an ISO hot shoe with a central contact and should work with any ISO standard flash gun. There are also a couple of extra contacts which are for controlling Canon’s own flash guns. On the back of the pentaprism hump is the viewfinder eyepiece. This is rectangular and measures 15 by 9 mm. Inside the viewfinder is the focus screen. In the middle of this screen are three concentric circles. Outside of these circles, the screen is matte ground glass. The outer circle signifies the area of the image used for partial AE metering.. The middle circle is a ring or micro-prisms which act as a focusing aid. Inside the these micro-prisms is a split-image disc.

On the right of the focus screen are a number of information LEDs. At the top is a green P to indicate that a the camera is in Program mode. This P flashes when when the selected shutter speed is too slow to reliably avoid camera shake. At the bottom is a red number which is the selected aperture when the lens aperture ring is set to ‘A’ – if the lens aperture ring is set to an actual aperture value, the red number is the suggested aperture as is the case when the exposure mode is set to Tv. You are not obliged to use the suggested aperture value. There are other options here for when you are not using FD lenses. Just as the aperture value is not displayed on the LCD screen on the top of the camera, the shutter speed is not displayed in the viewfinder.

Left of the pentaprism hump are three more buttons and a sliding switch. The rear button is a batter check button and is marked BC. This only works while the camera is switched on (as do the other buttons). Pressing this blanks the LCD screen and up to three bars are displayed at the bottom of the LCD screen. Three bars means battery power is good, two bars means battery power is low but still usable, one bar or no bars means that the batteries are exhausted and need replacing.

The middle button of the three sets the film speed. 1984 is recent enough that the film speeds are in ISO rather than ASA and this button is marked accordingly. While holding this button down, you need to press one of the two buttons marked down or up over on the right of the camera. Film speeds available range from 25 ISO to 1600 ISO and can be altered in 1/3 stop increments.

The front button of the the three is marked MODE and is used, again in conjunction with the down and up buttons, to switch between the three Program modes and shutter priority (Tv) mode. Here might be a good place to talk a bit about the five modes available.

First, program mode. This controls both shutter and aperture to get the ‘best’ exposure – the lens’ aperture ring must be set to ‘A’. The next mode is Program Tele which is much the same as Program but will choose the fastest possible shutter speed commiserate with a good exposure. Program Wide selects the smallest lens aperture commiserate with a good exposure , thus ensuring a good depth of field.

The next mode is Tv or Time value. This allows you to set your preferred shutter speed. This has two sub-modes. If the lens aperture ring is set to ‘A’, you get shutter priority automatic exposure. Alternatively, you can directly set the aperture – full manual mode and an M appears both on the LCD screen and in the viewfinder.

If you are using an old FL mount lens (they will fit just fine) or if you are using close-up rings or bellows, there is a fifth mode which is stop-down automatic exposure mode.This mode is aperture priority automatic exposure. You set the lens aperture, which will close down giving you a dim viewfinder image. When you press the shutter release button, the camera will select a suitable shutter speed. In this case, the camera will not display the shutter speed but the camera will display either HL (1/125, 1/180, 1/250, or 1/350) or HH (1/500, 1/750 or 1/1000). This last mode will not work if an FD mount lens is used.

On the left of the three buttons is a sliding switch. This has four positions: Off, Average, Partial (AE L) and Self Timer. Off is self-explanatory – in this position, the electronics are switched off and nothing works. The next position of Average is how this camera is intended to work. Average refers to the metering of the light – the meter works out the average illumination over the whole image with emphasis the centre.

Then third position is Partial where metering only occurs in the marked circle in the viewfinder. In this mode, partially depressing the shutter button will lock the exposure and allow you to meter a critical portion of the image and then recompose. The fourth position of this slider is the self-timer. This gives a ten second delay between pressing the shutter buttonand the shutter firing. The camera beeps during this delay and the beeping is faster during the last two seconds.

This is all the controls on the top plate – now for the front of the camera.

As always, the main thing on the front of the camera is the lens mount. This is the Canon FD mount (Have no idea as to what FD stands for, if anything). I am using my older breech-lock lenses on this camera and they fit and work vey well. Breech-lock lenses attach by fitting the lens to the mount and turning a ring on the lens to fasten. Newer FD lenses fit by turning the whole lens. This mount is entirely mechanical and has no electrical contacts at all. The flange distance is 42 mm (the distance between the surface of the lens mount and the film). On the camera side of the mount, there are two mechanical sensors and two mechanical actuating levers. Looking air the camera, there is a button just inside the mount at about five o’clock. This is pressed in when attaching a lens It would seem to tell the camera that a lens is attached but it might be to allow the camera to distinguish between FD and the older FL lenses which used the same three pronged bayonet.

On the other side of the mount, at around eight o’clock, is a hole with a recessed button in it. This allows the camera to sense when the lens’ aperture ring is set to “A” (automatic). This recessed button is missing from the FD mount on my older Canon AT-1. Right at the bottom of the mount, just inside the mounting ring, is a lever which moves to the left when the shutter release button is pressed. This closes the the lens’ aperture to its set value just prior to the shutter opening. The second actuating lever is at about two o’clock. This lever sets the aperture when the lens’ aperture ring is set to “A”. Because of the way that Canon chose to fit lenses to this camera, the mounting surfaces of the camera touch but do not move past each other so no lens release button is required.

To the left of the lens mount, near the top of the body, is a combination switch and button. The button is an automatic exposure lock button. Pressing this while in Partial (AE L) mode allows you to fix the exposure with the critical portion of the image in the centre of the focus screen by pressing and holding this button and then reimposing the image artistically. The same thing can be achieved by partialy pressing the shutter release button.

The switch is a ring around the exposure preview button. The purpose of this switch is to lock the shutter speed. This is required because in situations where the displayed shutter speed is too slow for safe hand holding, the camera will increase the shutter speed from the displayed value. Turning this switch to “L” prevents this from happening.

On the bottom left of the body (while looking at the front of the camera) there is a socket for an electric cables release. The only thing left to mention on the front of the camera is the presence of strap lugs on each top corner.

The base of the camera has a tripod socket. This is an ISO socket with 1/4 inch UNC thread. This socket is in line with the lens. Also on the base is the hinged cover to the battery compartment. This compartment holds two AA batteries which are both readily available and cheap. The only other thing on the base is the film rewind button. This film rewind button is motorised so the is a sliding release as well as the rewind button – this is to prevent accidental rewinding of the film before it is complete. To rewind the film, you slide the release and then press the button. It is not necessary to hold the button in once the film has started rewinding. The film will be would completely into the cassette. The camera needs to be switched on for the rewind to work but switching the camera off will not stop rewinding once it has started. If you want to stop rewinding before all the film is in the cassette, you can stop rewinding by pressing the BC (Battery Check) button. If you do this as soon as the the number 1 disappears from the frame counter, you will be left with the film leader still outside the cassette (which I prefer).

Inside, the camera is fairly normal. To open the back, there is a catch on the left hand edge of the camera. There is a button to press while sliding the catch down – this is to prevent accidental opening of the back with film inside. The back is sturdy moulded plastic with good flanges to make the joint light tight – no manky foam seals to replace!

The cassette chamber is on the left. This contains a printed code – Y10-09 in the case of my camera – I suspect that this is a date code for the camera’s manufacture.

The shutter is in the centre as usual. This is a vertically travelling metal bladed shutter. The shutter is an electromagnetic shutter, according to the manual. This is entirely dependent on battery power. Many cameras of this time have a default shutter speed that will work mechanically if the batteries run out, but not here.

This camera automatically loads film. The new film goes in the chamber on the left, you pull the film leader across the film gate until it reaches the large orange mark on the right. You then close the camera and turn the power on. The camera will pull four frames across and latch them onto the take-up spool. Four frames is more than I would use if manually loading a camera – I would usually waste two frames only. So, this camera will give me a couple of frames less per roll of film but will still give the required number of frames for each roll – I just like the extra ‘free’ frames.

In use:

I have no light seals to replace, so the camera is loaded with Kodak Gold Ultra 400 ISO colour film. This is about 15 years past its use-by date so I might get a colour cast but I find this is rather rare. In any case, I am more interested in the mechanical behaviour of the camera and its metering capability.

What I am finding, which is annoying if nothing more, is that the shutter release button needs a very firm press. For an electronic button, this is surprising – I would expect a light touch to be sufficient. There is also a noticeable delay between pressing the shutter button and the shutter firing – about a second, which does not sound long but is much more than is comfortable. I have had a comment from a long-term user who states that his camera never had a noticeable delay between pressing the shutter and the shutter firing. I wouldn’t really expect there to be on such a camera but mine is old, 35 years old, and this age will explain much.

I have had the test film back from Ag-Photo. Looking at the negatives, they all seem to be well exposed – the image density is around what I would want. Also, the shutter is working smoothly and film advance is regular. Downside – this is entirely due to me using very old film. I regularly use film beyond its best-before date with no problems – as much as 40 years past with Black and White film – but 15 years for colour film is asking for problems and I have some. So, there is no colour cast (a frequent problem with old colour films) but there is much grain, far more than is comfortable. I also have very high contrast, the shadow areas lacking much detail. I cannot blame the camera for this.

The images:

High contrasty!

Minolta Riva 90

Bestbeloved bought this camera new somewhere around 2000 – she cannot remember exactly when but the printed instructions are dated 1999 so not before then and she was using the camera in 2001. She remembers one problem, though – the long delay between pressing the shutter release button and the shutter actually firing. When Bestbeloved gave me the camera this morning, there was a new spare battery in a bubble card. When I inserted this battery into the camera all I got was a low charge warning. The BBE date on the battery was 2011 – and it was already flat by 2020!

This is a compact camera suitable for either a pocket or handbag, the camera weighs 225g. The construction is entirely plastic – it appears that this includes the lens. The camera is almost entirely automatic – you still have to compose the image and press the shutter release button yourself but the camera does everything else.

The camera measures 120 by 70 by 50 mm when closed and the lens extends to 55mm when open for use – this goes as far as 95 mm with the extreme telephoto setting .

Such controls as there are are on top of the camera. To the right is a chrome shutter release button. This is 10 mm diameter and is a bit too close to the edge of the camera for my comfort but still is eminently useful. Behind this is a rocker switch to adjust the focal length. Pressing the right hand edge of this switch extends the lens for a longer focal length – up to 90mm. Pressing the left hand edge of this switch retracts the lens for a wider angle focal length – down to 38 mm. This does not appear to be continuously variable but rather has five steps. When you first switch on the camera, the lens is set to its widest – 38 mm.

To the left of the shutter release is an LED screen. This measures 18 by 8 mm. This tells you the current state of the camera. There is an indication that there is a film loaded, the frame numbers and the flash setting. Behind this display are two grey buttons. The right hand button sets the delay timer. Setting this gives you a 10 s delay between pressing the shutter release button and the shutter firing. The other button sets the flash mode. There are five modes: off, on, auto, fill and night landscape.

To the left of the top are a further two buttons. The larger one is marked on/off and is exactly that. The smaller button is recessed and needs a pen nib or such to press. This button forces the camera to rewind the film mid-roll. Rewind is usually automatic at the end of the roll.

The front of the camera has the lens. While the camera is switched off, the lens is retracted to be flush with its surround and is covered by a guillotine cover. When the camera is switched on, the guillotine cover retracts and the lens comes forward to the 38 mm position, ready for use. The lens itself is moulded plastic and has a green tint. Above the lens are a number of windows – six, to be precise.

On the left, looking at the front of the camera, is a red-eye reduction lamp. This works by shining a red light into the subject’s eyes causing their irises to contract. This allows less flash light to enter their eyes and then reflect off their retinas and out again. Above this is the light meter window. The meter is a CdS meter – there is no readout for the meter as the camera ‘s exposure is fully automatic. To the right is one of a pair of autofocus windows. Next is the viewfinder followed by the second autofocus window. Finally, on the right, is the flash gun.

The viewfinder is rather good. It is not the largest – it measures 20 by 15 mm. Inside are bright lines that delineate the image area with a bright circle in the centre which indicates the area to be focused. As you use the zoom control to alter the focal lengthy of the lens, the focal length of the viewfinder changes to match so you see the final image.

The back of the camera has little on it. At the top, in the centre, is the viewfinder eyepiece. This is not the largest – 6 by 4 mm – but is adequate. Beside the viewfinder eyepiece is a green LED. This flashes while the flash gun is charging and remains steady when the flash gun is charged. It is not possible to take a photograph while this LED is flashing.

Below the eyepiece is the hinged back. This is opened by a small catch on the left edge of the camera. On the right hand end of the back is a small clear window which allows you to see the film cassette in case you forget what type of film is in there.

Inside, the film cassette sits on the right which is unusual but certainly not unknown. To load the film, you insert the cassette on the right and pull the film leader to the left edge of the inside. When the back is closed, the film is automatically fitted to the take-up spool.

The chamber for the cassette has two DX contacts. The DX system allows the camera to determine the film speed, film length and exposure latitude. To read the DX barcode on the film cassette requires six electrical contacts. This camera only has two contacts and so can only partially read the film speeds – the camera can detect 100, 200 or 400 ISO film film speeds. This means that 100, 125 or 160 ISO films will all be seen as 100 ISO; 200, 250, 320 or 3200 ISO films will be seen as 200 ISO films and 400, 500 or 640 ISO films will be seen as 400 ISO films. This does not really matter in practice as most of these film speeds are not made. If 125 ISO film is used, it will be very slightly over-exposed but still within the latitude of the film. The only possible problem would be using 3200 ISO film which is made but is very unlikely to be used by an owner of this camera – if used, 3200 ISO film will be exposed as 200 ISO film which will not work.

The right hand edge of the camera has the battery compartment. This takes a single CR123 battery which are still readily available. The base of the camera has the serial number and a 1/4 inch UNC tripod socket.

Canon AT-1

I have a current Canon EOS Digital camera and a few Canon EOS film cameras (EOS 5,  EOS 50, EOS 650) but they are all a bit too modern and plasticky for my taste. I have been on the look-out for one of the Canon FD mount cameras for a few years but they are either too expensive or have not aged well. When this camera came along, I was not sure what it was – I had never heard of the AT-1. It turns out that it is a Canon AE-1 without the automatic exposure system. As I do not like automatic exposure, this made the camera ideal for me.

P1010769
  • lens: Tefnon by Kobori
  • focal length: 35-200 mm
  • apertures: ƒ/3.5 to ƒ/22
  • focus range: 1.7 m to infinity
  • lens fitting: Canon FD breech-lock bayonet mount
  • shutter: cloth focal plane
  • speeds: 2 seconds to 1/1000
  • flash: hot shoe plus PC socket
  • film size: 35 mm

 This camera was advertised on that auction site for parts or spares. The seller stated that the camera was completely untested. The camera also came with a lens so if the camera was completely U/S I would still have a FD mount lens and could then take a punt on one of the many FD mount cameras around with no lens. Well, the camera is in excellent condition and works just fine. The only fault is that the foam light seals have expired and need replacing. As the camera is forty three years old, I had taken this as read! I also have the original manual which is a rare bonus.

P1010783At first glance, this is a very standard Japanese SLR. It is a similar size and shape to the Asahi Pentax Spotmatic series and slightly bigger than the (then) current Pentax ME Super or Olympus OM1n. The general lines of the camera are significantly cleaner than either the Spotmatic, ME Super or OM1 models. I like uncluttered so this appeals to me.

P1010765

The top plate feels like metalised plastic. On the far right of the top plate is the film advance lever. This is anodised metal with a black plastic end. The lever is on a ratchet so the film can be advanced by a series of short movements. When not in use, the film advance lever sits over the top plate out of the way but when using the camera, the lever sits proud by 30º. The lever moves through 120º to advance the film one frame. This is both easy and fast.

Under the film advance lever is the shutter speed dial. This runs from two seconds to 1/1000 seconds plus B. 1/60 seconds is marked with a lightning flash to indicate that it is the flash synchronising speed. Beneath the shutter speed dial is the film speed dial. The is accessed by slightly lifting the shutter speed dial and turning. This is a bit awkward but doable with my large fingers. Film speeds are in ASA (which is effectively the same as ISO speeds)  and run from 25 ASA to 3200 ASA. This was a normal speed range in the mid 1970s and reflected the speeds of films in normal use. It is also a very usable range today.

To the left of the film advance lever is the shutter release button. According to the manual, this is a magnetic release so there is no mechanical link to the shutter mechanism (which is entirely electronic) so there should be less camera shake compared to those cameras with mechanically linked buttons. This button is a fairly large, black, metal button which is threaded for a standard cable release. This is showing some signs of wear as at times it does not work and sometimes it needs a very definite press. It has slightly improved with me dry-firing the shutter over the last few days.

P1010768Around the shutter release button is a three-position switch. In the A position, the camera is in its standard mode. In the L position, the shutter release button is locked so you cannot accidentally trip the shutter (this is more useful than you might think). There is also an S position. In the S position, the delay timer is activated. A red LED is exposed. When the shutter release button is pressed while in the S position, the red LED flashes for ten seconds before the shutter fires.

Behind this switch is the window for the frame counter. This counter resets to zero when the camera back is opened. It starts as S and when you have wound on the fogged part of the new film it will be at zero which is in red – all other numbers (just even numbers are displayed) are white apart from 20 and 36 which are also red. These (20 and 36) were the most common film sizes in the 1970s.

As is usual, the centre of the top plate is dominated by the pentaprism hump. On top of this is the accessory shoe. This is a hot shoe with an ISO standard central contact plus a single auxiliary contract specific to Canon’s range of speed light flashguns.

On the back of the pentaprism hump is the viewfinder eyepiece. This is rectangular, 16 by 10 mm, and has a grove on the outside which can accept an eyecup or auxiliary lenses for glasses wearers. Inside the viewfinder is the matt focus screen. In the centre is a ring of micro-prisms to aid focusing. In the middle of the micro-prisms is a split-image spot. These work by splitting vertical lines in the image. The more out of focus the image, the further apart the parts of the split image. As you focus, the parts come together and when the two parts are fully aligned the image is in focus. If there are no strong vertical lines in the image, that is when you use the micro-prisms.

On the right hand edge of the focus screen is the light meter readout. This is coupled to both shutter speed and aperture. The meter needle is a straight line and there is also  another needle which has a ring on top. To use the meter, you adjust the shutter speed and/or aperture until the meter needle is in the centre of the ring. There is no indication in the viewfinder of either shutter speed nor aperture.

Left of the pentaprism hump is the film rewind crank. This is a standard small folding crank. Around the rewind crank is the on/off switch. This has three positions – on, off and C. The first two are self-explanatory  – C is the battery check position. In this position, the meter needle in the viewfinder should be right at the top of its travel. If it is not, you need to replace the battery. The shutter is electronic so will not work without battery power.

mouthIn the middle of the front of the camera is the lens mount. This lens mount is the Canon FD mount. This is a three flange bayonet mount. It is unusual in that the flanges are outside the mount throat. The only other mount that I have seen like this is the Ihagee Exakta mount which has both internal and external flanges. The big advantage of external flanges is that it allows larger apertures for a given throat diameter. At the time that this camera was made, the FD mount was a breech-lock mount. What this means is that you place the lens in the mount and turn a locking ring to fix the lens in place. With most lens mounts, you turn the lens to lock it, rather than just a locking ring. Not turning the lens means that there is less (or no) wear on the linkages. Later on, Canon changed the mount so that there was no longer a locking ring and the lens turned instead as on other cameras.

P1010789The lens mount has to transmit information from the lens to the camera – and actions from the camera to the lens. At this age, the information is transmitted by levers and pins. What follows here comes from the AT-1 manual.

  1. there is a screw which does nothing but is reserved for use in future developments.
  2. a lever on the lens which transmits the set aperture to the light meter – this is mechanically connected to the lens aperture ring.
  3. a pin on the lens which transmits the lens’ maximum aperture to the light meter.
  4. a lever on the lens that closes the aperture when the shutter is fired. This is matched by a lever on the camera side of the mount which doubles as a depth of field preview.

The camera lever in 4 above can also be used with older lenses (FL series lenses which also fit this camera) or with close-up bellows or lens reversal rings. For these the meter cannot be used as intended  and using this sliding lever enables you to use stop-down metering.

Also on the right of the lens mount is a PC socket for flash. This enables you to use off-camera flash if you want to. On the left of the lens mount is the battery compartment. Opening this requires you to press a very small button recessed on the left of the battery compartment cover. This is quite awkward to do which is a fault on the good side. On either side of the camera, on the top plate, are strap lugs.

P1010771The rear of the camera has the opening back. The catch for this is released by pulling up the rewind crank. In the centre of the back, on the outside, is a holder for the end of the film carton so you can remember which type of film is in the camera. I do not understand why all film cameras did not do this. Also on the base is the button to allow the film to be rewound. This only needs to be pressed in as you start to rewind – there is no need to keep pressing it in. Also here is the tripod socket – 1/4 inch – either Whitworth or UNC, I am not sure of which was current in 1977.

P1010770
P1010773

The lens.

This camera did not came with the original Canon kit lens. Instead, the previous owner had replaced the kit lens with a zoom lens. This lens is marked as being a Tefnon lens. This is one of the brand names used by the lens maker Kobori. They are a mature Japanese company, founded in 1923 and still going in 2020. They have made lenses for Minolta, Sanyo, Nikon and Vivitar – that is, made the lenses for those companies, not lenses to fit their cameras. If the likes of Nikon are happy for Kobori to make Nikon brand lenses, they must be a good manufacturer.

The use of Tefnon as a lens brand dates from 1982 and, although Kobori are still making SLR camera lenses, the name Tefnon is now redundant. The serial number of my lens is 100785.

P1010784This lens is 35 to 200 mm zoom. with a maximum aperture at 35 mm of ƒ/3.5 and at 200 mm of ƒ/4.8. The minimum aperture if ƒ/22. The iris diaphragm has six blades giving a hexagonal aperture. The is a small button at the end of the aperture scale – pressing this allows you to turn the aperture ring a bit further to engage the auto-exposure setting. On a Canon AE-1 camera, this setting will allow the camera to select the aperture rather than just stop down to the user set aperture. As the AT-1 does not have any auto-exposure ability, it is not possible to set this lens to the automatic aperture setting.

P1010789The lens is multicoated and has a ‘macro’ ability. This ‘macro’ ability offers a 1:5 reproduction ratio so an object that is 25 mm across will for an image that is 5 mm across. This is far from real macro – purists would expect a 1:1 reproduction ratio – but the lens does focus down to around 600 mm.

P1010785At the moment, the camera is not useable as I need to replace the foam light seals (not a hard job) but when I have have done so, I shall be testing this camera and lens and reporting the results here.

First Film Test.

Above, I stated that the foam light seals need replacing. In an ideal world, I would have replaced these before testing the camera with film. I got impatient and tried the camera with the old, sticky, foam seals in place. On some cameras this does work well, but not on this one. There are rampant light leaks and on a roll of 24 exposures, only three were any good. I am displaying a selection of these below. It would seem that the main light leak comes from the hinge of the back – the foam here has degenerated to virtually nothing. The evidence for this is that the light flare on the film extends vertically from one edge of the film to the other. If the light was leaking from the top or bottom edges of the back, the light flare would be horizontal.

What I can say at this point is that the lens works well, the light meter is at least reasonably accurate, the shutter moves smoothly with no sticking or juddering and, in general, all seems to be well apart from the light seals. My next job is to actually replace the seals with the foam I have on hand (it is readily available on the auction site and probably elsewhere) and test the camera again.

I have now replaced the light seals and run a second film through the camera. Everything is now working well. Here are a few of the test pictures with good light seals.

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