Beseler made SLRs!?!

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by Max Power, Feb 11, 2005.

  1. Max Power

    Max Power Member

    Messages:
    598
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2004
    Location:
    Aylmer, QC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I went to my local photo shop yesterday morning to pick up some stuff. Next door is a pawn shop. I decided to peek in to see if there was anything interesting.

    They had a Beseler SLR in one of the cabinets. I didn't know that Beseler had made anything but enlargers. I did a google search, but came up with very little.

    Anyone have any information or anecdotes about this beast?

    Cheers,
    Kent
     
  2. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

    Messages:
    3,221
    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2002
    Location:
    S.E. New Yor
    The Beseler Topcon was a sytem camera back when 35mm SLRs were in their hayday. As I remember that along with Mirandas and those newer-style Exactas and a few others, they formed a second tier under the Nikkormats and Ftbs. They were less expensive but their systems while pretty extensive didn't extend into the Pro high-end like Nikon with the F or Canon with the F1.
     
  3. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

    Messages:
    1,325
    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2004
    Location:
    Louisiana, U
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Back in the 1970's, Beseler imported Topcon's and put their name on them, like Honeywell imported the Pentax and called it "Honeywell Pentax". The Topcons had a lot of professional features such as fast motor drives and (I think) interchangeable viewfinders. They were highly regarded camera systems but they faded away.

    The rebranding of photo equipment is still being done. When I went shopping for a new enlarger, I tried to find a Saunders/LPL but discovered it was no longer called "Saunders". It's now imported by Omega and is called an Omega/LPL. Same enlargers, made in Japan by LPL.
     
  4. mysuzuki2

    mysuzuki2 Member

    Messages:
    47
    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2004
    Location:
    Milwaukee WI
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Rebranding can be confusing - I have a Cosina slr with a Pentax K-mount which is branded as a Miranda. A nice camera, but a Miranda it is not!
     
  5. Max Power

    Max Power Member

    Messages:
    598
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2004
    Location:
    Aylmer, QC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    So if I understand all of this, the Beseler is originally a Japanese camera called a Topcon?

    What happened to Topcon?

    Kent
     
  6. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

    Messages:
    1,325
    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2004
    Location:
    Louisiana, U
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    As far as I know, Topcon went out of business years ago. It was probably due to business considerations.

    When I bought my first 35mm camera in the early 70's, the camera store I went to had three brands I looked at, all of them well respected and well known--Minolta, Miranda and Mamiya-Sekor. I bought a Mamiya-Sekor. Now Minolta and is Konica-Minolta, Mamiya no longer makes 35mm and Miranda is long gone.
     
  7. mysuzuki2

    mysuzuki2 Member

    Messages:
    47
    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2004
    Location:
    Milwaukee WI
    Shooter:
    35mm
    The Topcon company is still around. They manufacture various optical devices but no cameras.
     
  8. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

    Messages:
    2,659
    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2004
    Location:
    Phoeinx Ariz
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The top of the line Topcon was the Navy's 35 mm camera from the early 70s to the mid 70's, lots of nice features for the day, but less expensive than Nikon or Canon. From what what I recall Topcon did not hold up under daily use and by the late 70s the Navy moved to Canon. the Topcons that are engraved U.S Navy are very collectable, the other are not.

    Regards

    Paul
     
  9. gandolfi

    gandolfi Member

    Messages:
    1,804
    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2005
    Location:
    Denmark
    Shooter:
    Large Format Pan
    hmmm
    I'm kind'a offended here...
    I had a Nikon, but as soon as I tried the Topcon I was sold. It was so much better than any nikon I had tried.....

    as said the Topcon is still around. making among other stuff, LF lenses that are some of the very best around..

    I currently have three Topcons and allmost all the (fantastic) lenses..
    who needs more?

    have a quick look at this:
    http://home.att.net/~topconcollection/Main-Page/


    you can still get theese cameras SO cheap. ex Topcon Super DM (with winder and possibillity to get a huge motor) with 58mm F1.4 for about 200$
    that's cheap compared to the quality.
     
  10. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

    Messages:
    2,659
    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2004
    Location:
    Phoeinx Ariz
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    No offense intended. I have no real experience with Topcon, I was an Air Force photographer, but I was stationed near several Navy bases and talked with Navy photographer mates. Lens were very good, but no matter how well a camera handles it must hold up in hard daily use. The military is very hard on equipment which is why you don't see much around. When I worked for the wire services I did not know any photojournalists who shot with Topcon, maybe by that time, early 80s, Topcon had already stoped production of its 35 mm line.

    Regards
     
  11. gandolfi

    gandolfi Member

    Messages:
    1,804
    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2005
    Location:
    Denmark
    Shooter:
    Large Format Pan
    yes I think that was about the time they stopped.
    some say it was because the eletronic wirerings needed was too complicated as Topcon has that quite small opening (from Exata).. I don't know.
    in the end they tried to make cheap cameras - they was unfortunately not good at all....

    I agree that airforce would treat camera roughly. Never the less it is amazing how good they still work, and how high quality the lenses (still ) have..
    Gotta love it
     
  12. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

    Messages:
    2,894
    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2003
    Location:
    Kansas, USA
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I was familiar with the Topcon from the Navy. Ours was seldom used so I don't know about its reliability. Out of curiosity where they came from, I found an article on the Web about them, from a Topcon collector's site. Someone in the US Government considered them to be the most rugged and reliable 35mm SLR available in the late 1960's. Not only did the US Navy buy a large quantity, but so did the FBI.

    Basicaly, if a ship was built when the Topcon system was being issued, the camera stayed with the ship until it was decommissioned, unless the camera developed a problem and had to be refurbished.

    Around 1980, the Canon F1 came out and had a mean cycles between shutter failures that was double the industry standard. Ships built from that time on were issued the F1. Don't know when its contract ran out nor what replaced it.

    It seems the Topcon wound up as sort of an oddity. Someone, somewhere in the Government thought they were great, but maybe that greatness didn't pan out.
     
  13. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

    Messages:
    19,971
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2003
    Location:
    local
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    they also made a camera just like the speed graphic ...
     
  14. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

    Messages:
    2,894
    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2003
    Location:
    Kansas, USA
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Googled for Topcon camera and found this interesting tidbit.

    "A popular story at the time was Topcon got the Navy contract because a Navy purchasing agent thought Beseler was an American made camera!" http://www.cameraquest.com/nikonmil.htm

    Don't know how credible that statement is, but things like that happened.
     
  15. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

    Messages:
    2,659
    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2004
    Location:
    Phoeinx Ariz
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I heard the same story, the Air Force purchased the medium format Graphic XL system to replace the Konica Rapid because it was made in the US. I know that in the in 70s there were federal laws that required the DOD to buy American even if the product cost more or not as good as imported products. In the late 60s the Nikon F was just making a name for it's self, but by the mid 70's Nikon and Canon had become the pro brands although Leica, Alpha, Pentex and other brands were quality systems. I think the Army and the Air Force still use Nikon and the Navy Canon, but I guessing.

    Paul
     
  16. dreilly

    dreilly Member

    Messages:
    5
    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2005
    Location:
    The Finger L
    Shooter:
    35mm
    By the way, the Secret Service also purchased Topcons. My D-1 came from them. It was in my dad's (an agent) office, unopened in the box. This was mid-1980s. Great camera.