Scored a cheap Topcon Super D. How do I meter?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by ntenny, Aug 13, 2010.

  1. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    This post is partly to gloat, partly to request information.

    In the course of my annual tour of the antique stores of Florence, Oregon, I stumbled on a cluster of fairly neat mid-century 35mm cameras; there was a Petri rangefinder, a Bolsey of some sort (not a C22, unfortunately), some other compact rangefinder, and a Topcon Super D (the US version of the RE Super).

    Long story short: sixty bucks later, I have a Super D in what seems to be excellent condition overall, with the 58/1.8 lens. Now, I knew these things were tanks (or more properly battleships, since they're best known for being the US Navy's standard camera for a couple of decades), but I didn't really appreciate until I held the camera just *how* robust they are. This thing doesn't just feel like a big hunk of metal, it feels like it was carved from a single piece of granite or something like that!

    It had a clean PX625 in it; I swapped in an LR44, which seems to fit (I know about the voltage difference, but I'm just smoke-testing the camera so I'm not too worried about it).

    Everything seems to work, except that I'm not sure about the meter. I gather that the readout is in the bottom of the viewfinder, and that I should be positioning the black bar to "split" the two little peaks; however, if that's how it's supposed to work, it ain't. The black bar does move as I change the exposure or ASA, but it doesn't seem to be responsive to the amount of light---I can point it into bright sunlight, get the bar positioned (at about seven stops of overexposure), and if I then turn into a dark room the bar doesn't move.

    I think either (1) the meter is dead, (2) the battery isn't connecting properly, or (3) I don't know how to turn the meter on. (The "on/off" switch on the bottom seems to make no difference.) Is there a trick?

    Thanks

    -NT
     
  2. wiltw

    wiltw Subscriber

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  3. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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  4. Hexavalent

    Hexavalent Subscriber

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    Sweet Score!

    I have one of those stowed away - haven't used it in years. They are indeed built like tanks - I accidentally left on a beach in Atlantic Canada, it stayed there for a week, (ooooops), wiped the salt spray off and it was fine.
    Being able to slide the pentaprism off is neat feature too.

    Enjoy your find!

    -Ian
     
  5. agfarapid

    agfarapid Subscriber

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    I have a couple of these, both in working order. A Super DM and an older RE Super. If the needle doesn't move with changes in light, it means that the battery is probably at fault--either dead or the wrong type. I suggest you try a Wein cell battery (available at Freestyle). This button battery is a replacement for the PX625 and I use them in all my older cameras. Also, try cleaning the contacts and scraping out any corrosion. If this doesn't solve the problem, than your meter cells are probably dead. Get it CLA'd and at least your camera body & lens will work. it's a great shooter's camera and will give you years of enjoyment.
     
  6. George Collier

    George Collier Member

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    Cool find - I had one in the 60's - picked it up in a PX in Viet Nam, with a couple of lenses (the RE Super, as you point out). Eventually sold it all and got Leicas.
    I would try using the right battery, as agfarapid suggested, cheap, and you can eliminate the battery as the problem.
     
  7. gandolfi

    gandolfi Member

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    congrats - it's a great camera.
    I have several of those cameras, and more importantly I have almost all the lenses for it.... (missing some important ones, though..).

    Great lenses!! And I don't think it is a tank - it is like a VOLVO.. and I happen to like them too....
     
  8. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    Actually, on reflection, it reminds me a little bit of MechaGodzilla!

    Everything else is in such good shape that I'm inclined to think the meter problem is with the battery. The thing acts like it was just CLA'd; the slow speeds are spot on, self-timer works, focus on the lens is smooth, shutter curtain looks great and moves cleanly. The focussing screen is pretty scratched up but usable.

    I ran a roll of Superia 200 through it and gave it to a 1-hour minilab---the results look good, or would if the colour correction wasn't so wacked out. All the reds look purple and the skin tones are blown to hell---but it's very doubtful that the camera achieved that without some help from a minimum-wage staffer and a vat of sour chemicals. :smile:

    -NT
     
  9. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    I have a waist level finder for these cameras. Anyone wish to make an offer?
     
  10. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    Well, I dropped in a zinc-air battery (a 675 hearing-aid battery with a washer and an O-ring), and now the meter *works*, but it consistently indicates 5 stops of overexposure. I can compensate, of course, but that's a big enough error to be inconvenient---the meter seems to bottom out at a reading of about EV 8, which means I can't meter below EV 13. (The ASA dial only goes to 800, so I'm limited in how much I can compensate there too.)

    Calibrating this meter is fairly major surgery, isn't it? I found a few comments on it in a thread at kyphoto.com, and it sounds like to change the meter sensitivity I have to actually fiddle with the mechanical coupling between the body and the meter housing. Sounds intimidating.

    -NT
     
  11. Christopher Amati

    Christopher Amati Member

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    battery insert

    cris camera in chandler arizona- www.criscam.org I think- sells inserts you drop a 386D in and it steps down the voltage and fits perfectly. My Super DMs would be useless without them. About twenty bucks apiece I think- Im about to order a couple more
     
  12. Trask

    Trask Subscriber

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    I always liked the Super D, thought it a good design to have the shutter release on the front panel of the camera vice on the top plate where you may wind up jiggling the camera more. Like the Exactas in that regard -- and the Petri SLR!
     
  13. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    I think it was attacked with a small screwdriver at some time in its life. :blink:
     
  14. jpberger

    jpberger Member

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    You need to get a Wien mercury cell replacement cell. Other batteries like sr44s won't work properly.

    I can't vouch for this retailer-- they just came up first on google. Caveat emptor.

    http://www.myoldcamera.com/Wein Cell Page 3.25.06.html

    The other thing is that the meter is the only part of the camera that does not work without batteries so you can go ahead and shoot-- great camera, great lenses, love the super big and bright viewfinder- 1:1 at most distances with the 58. Just wish the wind and rewind levers did not have those nasty sharp edges. (at least they are on my RE)
     
  15. Sowers

    Sowers Member

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    I just picked up a Super D earlier this week and it seems like a marvelous hunk of metal. I can't wait to run a few rolls a film through it, especially with the Angenieux 28mm and other wonderful lens included in the briefcase of equipment I got for a ridiculously low price. (Sorry, had to gloat a bit) Thanks for the battery tips on getting the meter up and running again.
     
  16. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    The battery you need is a Wein Cell PX625 Zinc Air it will fit without the rubber ring and make electrical contact all round not a hearing aid battery, if you still get inaccurate meter readings I suggest you take it to a professional repairer and have the meter re-calibrated, because what would be a simple job for him could be a disaster if you attempt it, and since the Wein Cell is exactly the right voltage 1.35V if it's fitted in the camera he can adjust it to be absolutely correct.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 4, 2010
  17. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    I can only assume the cell is nearly dead, or something like that. I suppose the meter problem may have limited its use, partly explaining why it's in such good shape.

    It's OK---I can treat it as a meterless camera and so dodge the battery issues. Sure is a nice-feeling hunk of metal, once you get used to the sheer weight.

    -NT
     
  18. mhcfires

    mhcfires Subscriber

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    I bought my RE Super in 1968 in Japan. The meter does not work any more, but I use it with a hand held light meter and it works fine. I have the 58/1.4 lens which makes it even heavier. It is a brick, I would rather carry my Leica.
     
  19. photoncatcher

    photoncatcher Member

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    You've got one hell of a camera. Worse case with the meter problem is to fall back on the "sunny 16" rule.
     
  20. wiltw

    wiltw Subscriber

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    Reviving an old thread...

    I finally was able to satisfy my teen lust for the Topcon Super D, which has dwelled unknowingly in me for 46 years, when I found one this past weekend in a thrift store in a soft ever ready case. I doubted that it worked, but at $25 I simply did not care if it worked. Taking it home, it appears that there is no brassing, only a bit of minor pitting of some of the finish; the shutter works at all speeds properly; the self timer works; but the 58mm f/1.4 lens' aperture is sluggish and in need of CLA. Now I need to check out if the meter is working, once I put in the PX625 cell which I have been hoarding!