Friday, February 10, 2012

The User’s Review: The "Wink Mirror" Topcon Uni/Hanimex Topcon RE Auto/Beseler Topcon Auto 100, The First TTL-AE SLR Camera, Released in 1964 and Priced Under USD 160

First of all, the price. USD 160 in 1964 should be worth more then USD 900 in 2010. Topcon The camera WAS NOT cheap by then. At the time of my blog on the model, the camera can be purchased at ~ USD 20 in USA. The relative value of the 20 from 2010 ranges from $0.91 - 3.52 in 1964, according to 

Next is about the names. Topcon is the body's manufacture in Japan, Hanimex and Beseler are the importers in Australia and USA.

Finally, comes to the tech. value of the camera. In terms of photographic technology, the model was markerly innovative when born in 1964. It is the first SLR camera with through-the-lens auto-exposure (TTL-AE, Topcon called it as full automatic with behind-the-lens meter). The light sensor, which can be seen through the lens mount and is like a spider net, is printed on the mirror, and the exposure is controlled by a leaf shutter. Based on the light sensor distribution on the mirror, I am pretty sure that it’s an average, not spot, metering.

The camera top is pretty simple, with only film transporting system. However, the lens mount section is more complicated, with extra rings for shutter and film speed settings. With the ASA settings, it seems to me that the model is compatible only with lenses that have the largest aperture 2, 3.5, or 4. As I know, the three lenses released with Auto 100 are of 1:2 53mm, 1:3.5 35mm, and 1:4 135mm.  The camera’s AE is in a shutter priority mode. On the other side of the camera, after opening the film door, you will see the back of the mirror, instead of shutter blades or curtains in most other SLR cameras.

The frame counter is on the left by the rewind crank. The counter location is not common, usually on the right side.

Due to the unique design, the Auto 100/Uni/RE Auto work only with Topcon UV lenses. With my Topcon Auto 100, I do not have many options for lenses. These lenses could be cheap or expensive, decided by the sellers.

Auto 100 is not very reliable. Common issues with an aging camera are non-working shutter and aperture.Basically, the problems are associated with the movements of the blades/leaves.

Opened battery chamber and film door release button on the right.

An unique design and site of shutter release button by the lens mount on right.

Rings of shutter speed, ASA and aperture are piled from the body to lens mount. Note that there are only three marks 2, 3.5 and 4 to set ASA. Does this mean that only lenses with these values of maximum aperture can be used? How to set teh ASA for Topcon 1:2.8 50mm lens, which I saw online?  

Light sensor is printed on the mirror. Meter needle and aperture scale are on the left side in the viewfinder.  

Topcon called it a MXV switch, which is used for M anx X flash synch, and  self-timer V.  X should be set for normal use as the manual says. It's the only switch that I can not figure out its functions on Auto 100 without reading its manual.

Topcon Auto 100 / Uni has a leaf shutter, which allows electronic flash synch at all speeds (up to 1/500 sec. on the body). However, with flash bulbs, the user has to know the bulb type and to match it to a suitable speed in a table in the manual.

It said that three lenses, 35, 52 and 135 mm were released with Auto 100. I have the first two. 

The front cover accepts only the 53mm lens that is the shortest among the available lenses. 

A leather case, well made.

The case has three colors, brown, dark brown or black.

This drawing comes from Topcon Auto 100 manual, showing how the camera works.

Topcon Uni

Hanimex Topcon RE Auto
As I observe, here is how the camera works. There are three items in the light pathway before the 35mm film: mirror with sensor, blade shutter behind the speed dial, and the blade aperture (the first two items are inside the body and the last one is inside the lens). In a idle status, the mirror is down to block film from exposure, shutter and aperture are widely open. When the shutter is pressed, a serial actions happen along the light pathway. The shutter makes the first close, aperture stops down and the mirror turns up; Once the mirror leaves the light pathway, the shutter opens  again for B - 1/500 sec, whatever the speed (time period) is set,  then closes again; The mirror falls down back to block the light pathway; Finally, both the shutter and aperture open to return to their idle positions. I am not sure the real stop-down phase of the aperture, but at least the stop-down during the shutter opening between its two closes in the process.

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