Any Topcon Uni fans in the house?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by eli griggs, Aug 9, 2007.

  1. eli griggs

    eli griggs Member

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    I have a chance to trade for a Topcon Uni and slow UV lenses in 35mm, 53mm and 135mm, plus a r.e.a.l.l.y slow 200mm, with nice Topcon lens cases, filters, etc. I've done a few searches here and elsewhere and come away with the impression that people either hate or love this stuff, so I'd like to know a bit more of other peoples opinions of the camera(s) and the lenses.

    I do understand the gear is not valuable, but as users for fun how do they rate?

    Eli
     
  2. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Such little Topcon gear as I've used (mostly from the 60s -- can't remember the age of the Uni, and I think the name varied with location anyway) is big, heavy, very nicely made and delivers excellent results.
     
  3. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Roger, are you thinking of Topcon SLRs with focal plane shutter and Exakta mount or of the ones with leaf shutter?
     
  4. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Dan,

    Focal plane. Until you mentioned them, I'd forgotten the others -- which is presumably what a UNI is? Personally I'd hesitate to go near ANY leaf-shutter 35mm SLR.

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  5. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Roger, the UNI has a leaf shutter.
     
  6. IloveTLRs

    IloveTLRs Member

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    Only Topcon experience I have is a Primoflex 1950s TLR. Great camera :smile:
     
  7. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Dan,

    Thanks. My advice in my first post is therefore worthless. Sorry.

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  8. cowanw

    cowanw Member

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    I started out with a Topcon Uni and the IC-!, back in the early 1970"s.
    They had Speed priority automation and a wide range of leaf lenses with excellent glass. (At the time the DM model was one of the US military's choice of camera. They also made large format lenses.)
    The pain in the ass peculiarity was that the camera had to be set manually to the max aperture of the lens.
    The main current problem would be to find a battery for the metre that would replace the mercury battery of the time, at the same power.
    I think the replacement would be a couple of points of and might, I am told, alter the meter reading.
    Although my complete set is worthless, It remains an excellent system. And the leaf shutter allows flash synch at all speeds.
    Roger
    Other than mechanical complexity in the lens, why would you avoid ANY leak shutter 35mm
    Regrds
    Bill
     
  9. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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  10. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Bill,

    Complexity certainly runs high -- they are bar stewards to repair if they break, and I'd hate to get too attached to a camera, only to have it die on me. But they also impose fearsome constraints on lens design, normally meaming low or very low speeds and a limited choice of focal lengths. Screens are normally pretty dark, a combination of old-technology screens and low lens speeds. Reponse time (between pressing the shutter and taking the picture) is necessarily quite slow. Controls on all the ones I've handled have been fiddly and distinctly vintage, and the Topcon does not sound like an exception.

    Apart from that I love them...They're technically interesting, I suppose, but hard work as picture taking machines.

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  11. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    I still have my Retina III C, had it for 42 years, but it is not a SLR. The Retina is quite, for rangefinder a leaf shutter is doable, but if the shutter needs to be tuned or repaired I dont even know who can work on it. As I recall Kowa also made a leaf shutter SLR in the 70, never used one, but at one time Kowas were real cheap in the Air Force BX, but folks who bought them quickly moved on to a focal plane shutter SLR.
     
  12. cowanw

    cowanw Member

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    Apologize for the poor editing of my post. I was rushing off a reply before work. I was excited to be able to post on something I still have in my hot little hands.
    Interesting to read your post Roger. Actually I had the distinct feel of medium or large format photography as I read it. And I think that that is very accurate. These are definitely 1960's cameras, distinctly vintage. But then so are hasselblad's and large format.
    I believe that Topcon had the first shutter priority system for consumer cameras and had a solid pro camera in the DM lineup( you could switch into it with an adaptor), with a huge lineup of accesories. Topcon was ?is big in opthamalogic equipment. They just got smushed in the nikon / canon accendancy.
    I used this system for 15 years until I got into Contax.( Everytime I buy into a system it goes belly up. I am waiting for Hasselblad and Linhof to go bankrupt now.) I had 35 f4, 50 f2.8, 55 f1.8, 100 f4, 135 f4 and a 200 f4 and a 2X tele adaptor.
    As far as I know and have read, the GLASS is the same as their high end products and was highly thought of at the time. At the time glass was not the limiting factor relative to film.
    There are undoubtably newer designs of lenses, but you could still make some pretty nice pictures and have a complete set of lenses for a couple of hundred dollars (Canadian at that!)
    My 55mm lens was a 1.8 and the 200mm lens was an f4. I thought that was pretty fast in those days.
    I would have imagined that a lens repair tech for large format would be able to handle a leaf lens. Certainly we have a great such person here in Hamilton (Camtech Photographic services, shameless plug for great people). But I have not had to use them for these lenses.
    And my second body was the Unirex which was a focal plane shutter camera that mounted the leaf shuttered lenses but lost the synch at all speeds.
    To force you learn photography from the basics, these were a great cheap choice.
    But they sure aren't modern.
    Just be real sure the battery issue can be solved.
    Regards
    Bill
     
  13. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Bill, without thinking about commercial issues -- competition on the high end from Nikon, on the low end from everyone else -- what Topcon could deliver was constrained by the Exakta mount. That mount's narrow throat was a major constraint on fast long lenses and on short lenses. That said, Topcon was a very strong competitor to Nikon for quite a while.
     
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  15. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    [.
    I believe that Topcon had the first shutter priority system for consumer cameras .


    I think the Konica A or T was the first consumer with shutter priority.
     
  16. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    First auto exposure: Durst Automatica and Optima 1 (1959/60), Ricoh Auto 35, then Canonet, Savoyflex Automatique, Focaflex (all 1960), Contaflex Super B (1963), Contaflex Super BC/Voigtlander Ultramatic CS (1965), Konica Autoreflex (1967 -- first with FP shutter), Konica Autoreflex T (though-lens) announced 1967, on sale 1968.

    Topcon (Super D/RE Super) brought the first through-lens meter to market in 1963, though the Pentax Spotmatic was announced earlier (1960, introduced 1964, just after the Alpa 9d) and Zeiss through-lens metering patents go back to the early 20th century. There was also an Exakta through-lens system in (I believe) the 1950s but it was an accessory for close-ups.
     
  17. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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  18. cowanw

    cowanw Member

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    There you go. a great summary.
    thanks
    Bill
     
  19. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Optima, fixed shutter speed/variable aperture per film speed, Automatica, fixed aperture/variable shutter speed per film speed. The Canonet seems to have been the first with variable shutter speeds and automatically controlled diaphragm, and to quote my History of the 35mm Still Camera, 'this shutter-priority automation rapidly became the standard'. First aperture-priority SLR, Contarex Super Electronic in 1969 but you needed a bolt-on accessory to do it.
     
  20. eli griggs

    eli griggs Member

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    Thanks for all the replies, lots of good stuff here.

    Are there non-Topcon cameras that will take these lenses?

    As far as leaf shutters vs focal I, having never had to go to great expensive to have a Hasselblad lens repaired, am somewhat fond of leaf shutters. I always have thought of them as a sign of craftsmanship. It might be an outdated concept, but someone had to put them together, no mater how inexpensive the resulting product might be.

    Perhaps I'm cracked or maybe it's the magic of the mechanized dance of photographic collaboration that must occur for a fleeting image to be captured through such a lens, but for me, a working leaf shutter is the cat's meow!

    Eli
     
  21. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    No. What's the point of having a proprietary mount that isn't proprietary?

    [/QUOTE]As far as leaf shutters vs focal I, having never had to go to great expensive to have a Hasselblad lens repaired, am somewhat fond of leaf shutters. I always have thought of them as a sign of craftsmanship. It might be an outdated concept, but someone had to put them together, no mater how inexpensive the resulting product might be.[/QUOTE]

    In most 35 mm cameras made since around 1950, the Kodak Retina and Agfa Karat perhaps excepted, the leaf shutter is a sign of a low-end camera. And they weren't all well-made and reliable, even ones from that technically highly backwards country Germany.
     
  22. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Don't forget Voigtlander: some of the best-made 35mm cameras (and best lenses) ever to be graced by leaf shutters. Prominent, Vitessa...
     
  23. eli griggs

    eli griggs Member

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    Isn't the Leica M mount an example of a once proprietary mount shared by any number of camera and lens makers?

    How about all those after-market Vivitar, Tamaron, Sigma, etc lenses and cameras that work with what was/is major camera maker's top of the line products?

    It may be that I'm wrong, but there seems to have been a lot of cross over manufacture of photographic gear, yesteryear and today and asking questions like
    is a good way to find out what might be out there.

    Eli
     
  24. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    How about all those after-market Vivitar, Tamaron, Sigma, etc lenses and cameras that work with what was/is major camera maker's top of the line products?

    My guess is that both Topcon and Kowa were not made in large numbers and making a lens for leaf shutter 35mm was very differnt form a lens designed for a focal plane shutter. As a result they were unable to use a common lens that could be mounted on many differnt camera mounts or use a T 2 or T 4 adaptor. I think there were aftermarket lens made for the D and Super D.
     
  25. eli griggs

    eli griggs Member

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    Thanks Paul. I was using these simply as an example and as I'm still learning about Topcon 35mm kit, I am still learning about the Exakta mount cameras, etc, all of which is new to me.

    By-the-way, I do own one Topcon leaf shutter camera already, a Sawyer's Mark IV but that little gem is 127, not 35mm format.

    Eli
     
  26. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Yeah, Eli, and the Primo Jr. is a fixed lens TLR, not an interchangeable lens SLR. Not comparable at all in any sense. The Primo Jr. is a gem, Topcon's leaf-shutter SLRs are at best undistinguished. Every bit as sorry as, say, Contaflexes and Voigtlaender's SLRs.

    About proprietary, well, good luck finding a T-mount lens or a TX- or a T4- or an Adaptall-mount that will work on a Uni. These lenses are in barrel, have their own diaphragms. Back when there many have been a little demand for foul alien unclean non-Topcon lenses for the Uni but there was no supply. As I said, good luck.

    Basically no one made lenses in M-mount to be used on Leica M cameras. Not enough of 'em. There are now alternative M-mount bodies and alternative lenses for them, but this is a new development made possible, I believe and could be mistaken, by the expiration of Leica patents.

    Paul, Exakta made few, if any, lenses. The focal plane shutter Topcon SLRs are in Exakta mount. There are zillions of old lenses, mainly German but some "third party" Japanese, that will fit them. Given how good Topcors are, if I had a Topcon reflex I'd stick with them unless I had a special need that no Topcor could meet.