Monday, 27 November 2017

Ihagee Exa 6 (or 1.6)


Exa cameras were a cut-down version of Exakta cameras. The first Exa version was just called Exa with no numbers – the second version was called Exa I. This first version Exa was produced in six varieties and my camera is the sixth variety – hence my title above of Exa 6, but the makers, Ihagee, never called it Exa 6 (nor exa 1.6), it was just plain Exa.
P1040209lens:  n/a
focal length:  n/a
apertures:  n/a
focus range:  n/a
lens fitting:  Exakta bayonet
shutter:  guillotine 
speeds:  1/25 to 1/150
flash:  2x PC sockets
film size:  35 mm
Exa, and Exakta, cameras are unique in body shape, control layout and internal mechanisms. If you are used to a Japanese style SLR, Exa take a bit of getting used to. The most obvious difference is the shape. It is rhomboidal rather than rectangular and a lot thicker than other cameras.  Another obvious difference is the shutter speed selector which is a lever. The last obvious difference is that the camera is left-handed. The speed selector is left of the viewfinder and the shutter release button is left of the lens.
As this camera is so unusual, I am going to give a very detailed description.
P1040221The camera measures 130 mm by 48 mm by 85 mm including the viewfinder but excluding the lens. It weighs 528 g.
Looking at the top plate, the viewfinder is central. Most SLR cameras have the lens and viewfinder somewhat left of centre. This camera has them centrally. The viewfinder is removable and can be replaced by various models. My camera has a waist-level finder but several eye-level finders were available (all viewfinders and focus screens for Exakta and Exa models should fit apart from those for the Exakta RTL1000). To remove the finder, it is necessary to move a slide downwards to release the fitting. This slide is on the front panel above the lens and just below the name plate. To fit the viewfinder, it just pushes into place.
When not in use, the waist-level finder folds down which makes the camera significantly smaller and prevents dust from falling on the focus screen. To open the finder, there is a small chrome button on the back of the finder which needs to be pressed in. The finder then snaps into the open position.
To use the waist-level finder, you look down into the finder at the focus screen. My camera has a plain ground glass screen (actually, it is a plano-convex lens with the plane surface ground to form the image and the convex part providing some magnification) but, again, other options were available including one with a split-image centre. The screen is easy to remove and replace – detach the finder from the camera and the focus screen is at the bottom held in place but springs but not very securely – a gentle pull and out it comes.
The image in the waist-level finder is reversed left to right but it is the right way up. There is no pentaprism here to correct the image. At first, this makes composing the image awkward but one soon learns to use it easily. Having the camera away from the eye changes the perspective of the image and looking down at the image also alters your reaction to it. I find that this makes a significant difference to my composition, and, talking to other photographers, this is quite usual.
The big drawback to having the camera away from your eye is focusing. To aid this, Ihagee have supplied a folding magnifier to enlarge the finder image. Raising the camera towards the eye makes focusing easy and you can then lower the camera again to take the shot.
P1040211
On the right of the viewfinder is a nickel plated plate. Prominently, this carries the film advance knob. This requires one complete turn to advance the film one frame and to lower the mirror (more later as this part is seriously stranger). This knob is also nickel plated which I rather like. Nickel is bluer and softer than chrome plating and much more attractive in good condition. Unfortunately, nickel is prone to corrosion and on my camera is very corroded. When I cleaned the corrosion off, I was left with heavily pitted surfaces.
Beside the advance knob is the frame counter. The disc of this is also nickel plated and corroded. It is both hard to clean and cleaning has partially removed the numbers. This counter counts up and needs to be manually set to 1 when fresh film is loaded. There is a little serrated wheel to do this but this is hard to reach and turn.
Behind the frame counter is the button to release the film advance mechanism to allow the film to be rewound.
P1040212
On the left of the viewfinder is another corroded nickel plated plate. This carries the shutter speed selector. Unusually (apart from Exa being the only cameras I know with the speed selector on the left) this is a lever. Speeds are sparse – 1/25 to 1/150 seconds plus B. Asahi were offering 1/1000 on their Pentax cameras at this time. This speed selector is relatively stiff (my camera or by design?) and has very definite positions. Beside this lever is the film rewind knob. Again, a knob here was already old-fashioned at this time but I find it as easy to use as the more usual fold-out cranks.
P1040209If we move to the front of the camera – the lens mount is on a nickel plated plate in the centre of the front. At the top of this plate is the name plate. This is painted black with the name “Exa” in script and bright metal. Beneath this is the slide catch for the viewfinder – also nickel plated. Either side of the slide the words “IHAGEE DRESDEN” are stamped in the metal.
On the left side of this plate (as in using the camera) is the shutter release button. This is threaded for a standard cable release. Beside this is a swivel cap which functions to block accidental pressing of the shutter release.
Central in this plate is the lens mount. This is a standard Exakta/Exa bayonet with three lugs inside the throat that connect with the lens. With my Exakta Varex II and my three other Exa cameras, there are three extra lugs on the outside of the mount throat. These are to connect longer focal length lenses as using the internal lugs caused vignetting with lenses over 100 mm focal length. These are missing on this camera so using lenses over 100 mm focal length would be problematical. On the left side of the mount is the lens release lever.
P1040214
This is probably a good place to talk about the lenses. The standard Exakta/Exa lenses are automatic in that the iris diaphragm automatically closes as the shutter release is pressed. The way this is achieved is very idiosyncratic. The lens has a shutter release button attached to one side which sits immediately over the shutter release button on the body.P1040222.jpg
When you press the release button on the lens, this pushes through the fitting on the lens and presses the release button on the body. It also closes the iris diaphragm in the lens at the same time.
On the right hand side of the lens mount are two PC sockets. These are chrome plated. The top socket is for F rated flash bulbs (F=fast) and will fire the flash bulb 12 milliseconds before the shutter is fully open. This is to allow the flash bulb to reach maximum brightness as the shutter fully opens. This requires a shutter speed of 1/25 seconds.
The lower socket is marked X and is for electronic flash (X=Xenon which is the gas which electronic flash tubes are filled with). With the X socket, the flash is fired as soon as the shutter is fully open and needs a shutter speed of 1/50 or 1/25 seconds.
P1040210
The back of this camera is hinged – on my other Exa cameras, the back is completely removed together with the base. When you open the back, the ends of the base come away with it, leaving the middle portion in place.  The reason for this is to allow easy insertion and removal of the film cassettes. As you can see from the photograph, the back of my camera is rather tatty. Leatherette frequently comes loose – it was stuck on with shellac – and is easy to refit. Unfortunately, the previous owner of my camera used a plastic type glue and the solvent has reacted with the leatherette and shrunk it.
In common with a lot of German cameras, it is possible to remove the take-up spool and replace it with an empty cassette. This removes the need to rewind the film and speeds up changing the film – it is necessary only to cut the film and remove both cassettes. In order to  make use of this fast film change, you need your new film to be already attached to an empty cassette. Quite doable but it would require more organisation than I am  really capable of. The down side of this system is that the detachable take-up spool gets lost resulting in  second hand cameras being hard to use. The inner from a standard cassette will fit fine but unless you do your own developing, can be hard to find.
P1040224
The base of the camera is plain apart from a tripod socket. This is a 1/4 inch Whitworth threaded socket.
Being a German camera, there are no light seals to deteriorate, the Germans preferring to achieve light-tightness by good engineering.
The shutter is worth describing – this is also unique to Exa cameras. This shutter is neither an in-lens leaf shutter nor a focal plane shutter. It is a guillotine shutter using the mirror as the first part of the mechanism. When the shutter release button is pressed, the mirror moves up through an arc, exposing the film. A curved blanking plate then swings up and finishes the exposure. Once the exposure is complete, the mirror stays raised until the film is wound on. This is the reason for the rather slow top speed of 1/150 seconds as it is not really possible to get the heavy mirror moving fast enough to get a faster exposure. Plus points are that it is cheap to make, keeping the cost of a new camera down, and has no need of lubricants and so can be used in very cold conditions.
P1040225
My Final WordThe Ihagee Exa 6 (or 1.6) camera is a unique camera. Controls are simple and the idiosyncratic. Once you are used to it, it is a delightful camera to use although the slow top shutter speed can be restricting. I like Exa cameras!
ImagesHandlingFeaturesView -finderFeel & BeautyHistoryAge
424434
Bonus +1 for the overall imaginative design.
Final Score22

Saturday, 11 February 2017

new blog address


I have moved my Old Camera Blog over to Wordpress.com as I am finding their system easier to produce the results I want. The address is Oldcamera.blog.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Yashica 230-AF SLR camera


This camera dates from 1987 and was not very successful commercially. It is at the transition from the ‘standard’ manual SLR camera that was usual at the time to the later fully automatic cameras that were usual by the end of the 1980s. Unfortunately for Yashica, their approach to automation was a developmental dead-end – the future lay with the concepts used by Canon in their EOS range of cameras (which also made their appearance in 1987).

Yashica 230AF
There are no manual controls apart from focus. Shutter speed, aperture and film speed can all be set manually but only through the automatic systems. This is much slower and less intuitive than having a shutter speed dial and aperture ring. There are no dials, knobs or rings on this camera. All adjustments are made with a combination of buttons and sliders.

Really, this was the main design flaw here. Where the Canon EOS range introduced the general-purpose dial just behind the shutter release button (which has subsequently been adopted by all DSLR manufacturers), this camera has a slider. To make an adjustment, you repeatedly slide and release – either to the left (to reduce a value) or to the right (to increase a value). Frequently, this requires the left hand to simultaneously press a button which is not as fluid a motion as Canon’s system (I am going to reference the Canon EOS system quite a bit).

Lens mount showing 'screwdriver on lower right
Focus is achieved by a motor just inside the lens mount – this engages with the lens by a small ‘screwdriver’ much as Nikon still use on some DSLR bodies. This ‘screwdriver’ retracts when the focus is set to manual.

Time for a description:

The right-hand end of the top plate is dominated by a LCD display. This contains all the relevant information – not all of which is displayed all the tie. At the front of this display is the exposure mode: Program, Av, Tv or M. In the middle is the frame counter, shutter speed and aperture. Behind this is the drive mode (single, continuous or delayed) and focus mode (AF, CAF or M)

Main LCD
In front of this LCD is the mode selector slider. This is not marked as to its purpose making the manual very useful. In front of the selector slider is the shutter release button. This is a soft rubber. Beside this is a small grey button marked ‘P’ – this small grey button will set the exposure mode to program and turn on the beeper. This is very slightly easier than using the ‘mode’ button and selector slider. Behind the LCD on the back of the top plate is a threaded socket for a standard cable release. This fires the shutter as you release the cable release plunger rather than as you press it.

Cable release socket
In the centre of the top plate is the pentaprism hump. The top of this has a groove on either side to locate the dedicated flash unit – more later. On the front of the pentaprism hump there is a translucent window to provide light for the viewfinder LCD display. When the dedicated flash unit is in place, this window is covered and the LCD is illuminated by three small lights.

Hot shoe with grooves for fitting flash unit
On top of the pentaprism hump is the accessory shoe. This is a hot shoe – it has the standard central contact and so should work with any hot-shoe flash gun. In addition, there are five more contacts used specifically by the dedicated Yashica flash unit.

On the left of the pentaprism hump are the remainder of the controls. Right up to the pentaprism is the on/off slider. This moves all the way forward to switch the camera on and half-way for the AE-L setting – more later. The other controls are buttons, these are used in conjunction with the selector slider on the right of the top plate. They are: mode, AF, drive, +/- (exposure compensation), ISO and beeper. The ISO button is an override for the DX system that reads film speed off the cassette and sets it automatically. This is useful if you want to set your own EV for the film instead of rating the film at the manufacturer’s rating. Also if you are using bulk film loaded into black cassettes.

main control buttons
Just in front of these buttons, on the side of the lens mount, is an unmarked button. This is used in Manual mode to help set the aperture. In manual, the selector slider sets the shutter speed, and in conjunction with this button, sets the aperture. This is quite a clumsy arrangement, to say the least.

Continuing down the side of the lens mount, there is a large button with a red dot. This is the lens release button – when this is depressed, the lens can be rotated anti-clockwise 45 degrees and then removed. Below this is the auto/manual focus selector. Twisting this slightly anti-clockwise retracts the focus ‘screwdriver’ and allows the lens to be focussed manually.

The only item on the front of the camera is the lens mount. This is a three blade bayonet mount – pretty much standard from the 1930s to the present day – with the auto-focus ‘screwdriver’ on the lower right. In 1975, Yashica had joined forces with Zeiss to produce a series of Contax cameras with a new bayonet mount called the C/Y mount (not to be confused with Zeiss Ikon’s 1936 Contax cameras with a totally different bayonet mount). With this camera, Yashica decided to produce a new mount which is not compatible with the Contax mount and is only used on this camera.

Just inside the mount at the bottom is a lever which sets the required aperture on the lens. There is no aperture setting ring on the lenses for this camera – as is now usual for nerly all new cameras. At the top of the lens mount are five electrical contacts. As there are no electrically active components in the lens, I assume these contacts allow the camera’s processor to read zoom and focus positions.

Also worth noting is the fact that the focus screen is replaceable. There is a small catch at the front of the focus screen and when this is released, the frame holding the screen in place swings down and the screen can be pulled out. I am not aware of other screens being available but this facility might be for future development if this camera had sold well (it didn’t).

I only have one lens for this camera – a35-70 mm zoom. This is a fairly useful range on a 35 mm camera. It has a 52mm filter thread at the front. It claims to be a macro lens – many lenses falsely make this claim – and it certainly focusses down to about 200 mm at the 35 mm focal length and a bit closer at 70 mm. This does not give true macro (image size on the film/sensor the same as the subject size) as the smallest subject that will completely fill the 36 mm film frame is 180 mm but it certainly gives close close-ups.

bayonet on lens showing contacts
The lens has four focus indexes (yes, that should be indices) – one in white for normal focusing, one in red for focusing infra-red images at 70 mm, one for infra-red at 50 mm and one for infra-red at 35 mm. The way these indexes work is this: first focus the object normally and read the distance scale by the main white index mark. Next, move the focus ring until that distance is against one of the red infra-red indexes. The image will now appear to be out of focus to the human eye, but the image on infra-red film will now be in sharp focus.

Infra-red focusing indexes



















The last item is the dedicated flash unit. This slides onto the hot-shoe from the front (the opposite way to usual). When it is in position, you depress and slightly turn clockwise the red and black button on the rear of the flash unit. This locks it in place firmly and pushes all six of the electrical contacts down onto the corresponding contacts in the hot-shoe. There is a grey slider on the top of the flash unit – sliding this to the right turns on the unit. It is powered by the camera’s battery. At this point, operation is entirely automatic. There is no need to worry about the synch speed for the shutter or which aperture to use. This photo of the kid’s bike was taken with this flash unit with the camera set to Av mode (aperture priority mode).
dedicated flash unit

If you wish to use the camera in manual mode with this flash unit, there is an aperture guide on the top of the flash unit. To use this, you guesstimate the distance to your subject and read off the corresponding aperture. Even in manual mode, the shutter speed is automatically set to the synch speed which is 1/90 seconds.
flash unit in place
cassette chamber with DX contacts

Inside the camera holds no surprises. There is a vertically travelling metal focal-plane shutter. The cassette space is on the left. There is the standard row of six sprung electrical contacts to read film speed and length of the DX code on the cassette. To load the film, you pull the leader to the red line and close the back. When you switch the camera on, the film automatically advances to the first frame. When you want to rewind the film, there is a button and slider on the base – press the button and slide the slider to the right and the film will rewind.
yashica 230AF insides
What else? A couple of things. There is a clear window by the film cassette to you can both see if a film is loaded and if so, what type. On either end of the camera is a strap lug allowing the attachment of a neck strap - but what I have never seen before, there is a third strap lug on the left near the base. This will allow the camera to hang sideways or you could attach a shorter hand strap.

Test film

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

hand-hells close-up in artificial light

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





indoors hand-held

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Voigtlander Brillant "TLR" camera


This is Voigtlander's attempt to cash in on the Rolleiflex design. As well as this cheaper model, they also produced a much more expensive model called the Superba. This camera looks exactly like a TLR (Twin Lens Reflex)  - and it is: it has two lenses and the viewing lens is reflex; it looks via a mirror. he big difference is focussing. Rolleiflex and their cousins focus by moving the front plate (with taking lens and viewing lens) back and forth and the user focusses via a ground glass screen which is missing on this model. Here, focussing is via a helical screw thread on the taking lens.  
Voigtlander Brillant, front view
This camera was produced in the early 1950s and the lens serial number dates from between 1947 and 1950 - and is probably from 1950. This camera cost, in 1952, £22/11/6 (old money) or £22.57 in decimal money. The case cost a further £2/17/9 (or £2.89). This was seriously expensive -  the UK average salary in 1950 was £100 per year which is £2.00 per week - the camera cost over ten week's pay for an average person. For comparison, the average salary in 2016 is nearly £28,000 which would make this camera worth £5,600 today.

This camera is made from Bakelite (an early plastic) which becomes brittle with age. My camera is in very good condition with no visible cracks. The only damage I can see is one of the strap lugs has snapped off.

My usual technique with this blog in describing cameras is to start with the top plate and work my way down. Right at the top is the maker's name 'Voigtlander' in Italic script. Below this in the front panel are two lenses. The top lens is the viewing lens (essentially the viewfinder) - the user looks down on the top of the camera and through this lens via a sloping mirror. There is no focussing screen and this lens is fixed (there was a more expensive version with a focussing screen).

Below the viewing lens is the shutter assembly with the taking lens. The shutter has the AGC logo telling us that this is a Gauthier shutter - in fact a Prontor II going by the range of shutter speeds.

Gauthier shutter (Prontor II)
As always with older clockwork shutters, it is necessary to cock the shutter before use. There is a lever at the top of the assembly for this purpose - the user pulls the lever down to the right (in use; to the left, in my photo of the shutter) where it stays until the shutter is fired. Just below this cocking lever is the shutter release lever. This release lever pushes down and in. Below this is a threaded socket for a standard cable release.

The shutter has two ranges of speeds operated by different parts of the shutter mechanism. The fast speeds - 1/25, 1/50, 11/100 and 1/175 seconds - are working well on my camera and seem to be close to the marked speed (test film will tell for sure). The slow speeds are usually hesitant or non-functional on old shutters. These are 1 second, 1/2, 1/5, and 1/10 seconds. These do not work  on this camera without the user forcing the cocking lever back to its normal position. In addition to the fast and slow shutter speeds, there are two more. B keeps the shutter open while the user keeps the release lever depressed (or more likely in practice, keeps the cable release depressed). T will open the shutter when the shutter release is pressed and the shutter will stay open until the shutter release is pressed a second time. B and T work well on this camera.

The taking lens is a Voigtlander Vaskar. This is Voigtlander's cheap triplet (a Crooke's triplet design as far as I can tell). Triplets usually perform very well if stopped down to f/8 - the test film will show for sure how well this lens performs. The focal length is 75 mm which is 'normal' for TLR cameras. The negative is square - nominally 6 cm per side. 'Normal' is the diagonal of the negative. Pythagorus gives us a diagonal of √(36+36) =  √72 = 8.5 cm so this lens is very slightly wide angle. Maximum aperture is f/4.5 (very respectable for a cheap camera in 1950) and the minimum aperture is f/16. The aperture is set by a lever on the shutter assembly on the photographer's left. At the base of the shutter assembly is the delay action lever. As with the slow shutter speeds, these rarely work well on old cameras and the standard advice is to never try them.


Below the shutter assembly is the camera's model name - Brillant (not Brilliant!).



The left side of the camera has a hinged door with space inside for two filters/close up lenses. My camera has one yellow filter in place - these are a push fit on the taking lens.



Left side showing the filter compartment





The right side of the camera has various controls. The most obvious is the film winder at the top. This winds the film on between shots. he lever to the right of that releases the frame counting mechanism while winding to the first frame.The lever in the middle sets the frame counter to 1 which is displayed in the small window. Detailed instructions on how these knobs and levers work can be seen in the instruction 'book' on my Google Drive (one small sheet of folded paper ).

Right side showing controls

On the back there is the ubiquitous red window that medium format cameras usually have. This is covered by an internal blind to prevent the film being fogged while not in use. This is opened by a knurled ring below and to the right of the red window.  The blind has a large white cross on it to make it clear that the blind is in place. This red window is only used to position the first frame. Thereafter, the internal mechanism will move the film the right amount.



Brillant back with red window
The bottom of the camera has a 1/4 inch Whitworth tripod socket. This sits slightly proud of the  base, presumably to give enough plastic for strength. On the front edge of the base are two raised spots. Together with the raised tripod socket, these provide a stable base for the camera to sit on for long exposures or self-portraits.


Base of the camera with tripod socket and place of manufacture
The top of the camera has the viewfinder. In this style of camera, you look down into the viewfinder to compose the picture. In storage, the viewfinder folds down out of the way (see top two pictures above). To open, you lift the rear of the top piece - the other three pieces then  rise under spring power. 




















There is no focussing screen as there would be with a Rolleiflex (because the viewfinder is not used for focussing) - rather, you look through a large square lens via an angled mirror and through the top lens in the front. This is, basically, a giant brilliant finder. The image is very clear and bright but significantly smaller than the negative size. The image is the right way up but reversed left to right. This takes a bit of getting used to but soon becomes second nature. On the left side of the viewfinder panels is a depth of field table (referred to on the camera as a depth of focus table).
looking down the viewfinder


The front panel of the viewfinder has a fold-down section. This is to allow the camera to be used as an direct vision eye level finder. These were referred to as 'sport' finders as the direct view is not reversed left to right, making following motion much easier. this fold-down section is used in conjunction with a punch hole in the read panel.

The back of the camera is opened by pressing together two chrome buttons on the top of the back. The back then hinges down in one piece with the base. The new film goes in a recess in the base, held in place by a leaf spring.

inside the camera

The roll of film is a fairly snug fit in here. The film backing paper is pulled over a small roller, across the film gate, across a second small roller and into the take-up spool. On the right hand edge of the film gate is a recessed toothed wheel. This is rotated by the film moving over it and serves to measure how much film has been advanced between shots - the red window only being used for the first frame.

Film recess in the base
The take-up spool fits into a hinged carriage to make fitting easier.
raised carriage for the take-up spool

Test film to follow




Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Cosina CSM


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

Cosina CSM
This camera is a Cosina design sold under their own name. It is fairly basic but with an electronically controlled shutter. I can tell that the shutter is electronically controlled because it  works without batteries but at the same slow speed regardless of the speed setting (a fully electronic shutter will not work at all without batteries). With batteries the shutter speeds are clearly variable.

The top plate is standard for a camera made in the late 1970s (introduced in 1978, I think). Far right is a small window for the frame counter. This is reset to zero when the camera back is opened. Next is the film advance lever. This is a metal plate covered with a plastic casing. It sits just proud of the back and is easy to use. It moves through about 210 degrees to advance the film one frame.It is not on a racket so just be moved in one motion.

In front of the advance lever is the shutter release button. this is chrome plated and threaded for a standard cable release. Below the shutter release is a lock switch. It has two positions - A and L. A is the working position and L is the lock position. I quite approve of shutter locks as over the years I have wasted many hundreds of frames of film by accidentally tripping the shutter. This lever is black.

Cosina CSM - top plate
Next along is the shutter speed dial. This runs from 4 seconds through 1 second to 1/1000 seconds. 1/60 is marked in red and I am sure will be the flash synchronisation speed. There are also positions marked in green - M and B. I have no idea what the M position is for and it is not mentioned in the manual (available from Butkus's website). B is for Bulb and is the standard of the shutter remaining open whilst the the shutter release is depressed.

Nested in the tangle of the film advance lever is a small chrome button. Pressing this disconnects the film advance mechanism to allow the film to be rewound.

The pentaprism hump has the accessory shoe on it. This has electrical contacts (so a hot shoe) synchronised for electronic flash (indicated by a red X). Cosina made an automatic exposure device which sat on this accessory shoe and connected to the shutter speed dial - this dial has a raised pin to allow the auto exposure accessory device to turn the speed dial, giving the camera aperture priority automatic exposure.

On the left of the pentaprism is the rewind crank. This is the usual fold-out type. The crank pulls up - to the first position to release the cassette in the camera and to the second position to unlock the hinged back. Between the pentaprism humpand the rewind crank is a white painted circle with e white line through it. The Lin represents the position of the film plane.

The front of the camera is fairly plain. most obvious is the lens mount. This is a 42 mm threaded mount - frequently known as the Pentax thread mount. This was the standard lens mount for several decades and so there are a vast number of lenses still available for this camera. The mount takes automatic aperture lenses (as well as older manual aperture lenses). There is a plunger at the base of the lens mount, just inside the thread. When the shutter release is pressed, this plunger moves forward and depresses a pin on the lens to close the aperture to the preset value. This ties in with the TTL light meter (TTL = Through The Lens). You focus and compose with the aperture wide open (and so with a bright image) and as the shutter release is half-way pressed, the aperture closes and the meter reads the light level. You then either adjust the aperture or shutter (or perhaps both) until the centre greed LED in the viewfinder is lit. Pressing the shutter release the rest of the way releases the shutter and takes the picture.
Cosina CSM - lens mount

Next to the lens mount at the bottom is a small chrome button. Pressing this allows the aperture to open again while the shutter release is partially depressed. You might think it easier to just take your finger off the shutter release button but the plunger does not return to its rest position if you do. If you want to re-compose or re-focus, you need this button.

On the right-hand side of the lens mount is a self-timer lever. This is turned through 90 degrees to set the mechanism.It is released by the shutter release in the usual way. On most cameras, These self-timers are clockwork and you can hear them ticking as the lever rotates back to its start position. Not here. This is an electronic device and the lever does not move back. Instead, a small red LED above the lever flashes once a second for ten seconds. After ten seconds, the shutter fires and the lever snaps back.

On the left of the lens mount are what at first glance appear to be two PC (Prontor Compur) sockets. In fact, only the lower one is - it is marked with a red X. This is for attaching an off-camera flash gun by a cable and is synchronised for electronic flash (by the late 1970s, bulb flashes were no longer usual and not catered for). The top connector is not quite the same as a PC connector and is designed for the automatic exposure device I mentioned above. It is marked with a green A.

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

The base of the camera has a battery compartment. It takes two LR44 (or SV44) batteries (which are still available). These power the light meter and the electronic shutter. There is also a standard tripod boss - 1/4 inch UNC thread. This is quite seriously offset from the centre of the camera which means the camera is likely to slope when on a tripod, particularly if a cheap tripod is used - this is a cheap camera so I don't supposed anyone would have used an expensive tripod.

Cosina CSM - base plate
Inside the back of the camera there is little to note. The shutter is a horizontally moving cloth shutter - absolutely standard at this time. The take-up spool has eight attachment positions of a fairly standard design so attaching the film leader would be easy enough.

Being Japanese, the camera relies on foam light seals to keep the film compartment light tight. This camera is 35-odd years old and the foam has long turned to sticky dust. The remains will need to be cleaned out and replaced with new foam before the camera can be used. This is a simple enough job, even for me.

Cosina CSM - inside the film chamber
Inside the viewfinder is uncluttered. There is a ground glass focussing screen with a horizontal split-image spot in the centre and around this is a circle of micro-prisms. The split-image centre works by placing it over a suitable vertical edge in the image. This edge will be split - part to the left and part to the right. When you focus the lens, these two parts move and line up with each other when the focus is correct.

In the absence of a suitable vertical edge, you use the micro-prism ring. When the image is unfocussed, this ring has a very granular appearance. As you get nearer to good focus, the granularity gets less and disappears at good focus.

At the top of the viewfinder are three LEDs. The central one is green and the other two are red arrows. While pressing the shutter release halfway, you adjust the aperture/shutter speed combination until the central green LED is lit steadily. The left hand red arrow lights up when you have too much exposure and the right hand arrow lights up when you have too little exposure. Very easy to use in practice.

The supplied lens - the kit lens if you will - is a Cosina made Cosinon lens - 50 mm focal length and maximum aperture of f/1.7 (and why not the industry standard of f/1.8?). The lens is multi-coated as you would expect from the late 1970s. This lens has an aluminium barrel and appears to be very well made.


Cosinon lens with six sided aperture


Cosinon lens - lens barrel