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  1. #1
    Alan Klein's Avatar
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    Kowa Super 66 Medium Format

    My friend just gave me his to test out. Anyone familiar with its qualities and quirks? How are its lenses? This one has a "normal" 85mm. Thanks Alan.

  2. #2
    CGW
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    Frankly? Get a Bronica SQ-A/Ai/B kit. With Kowa, you're looking at repair/parts access issues I'd rather skip.

  3. #3

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    The Kowa 66 was in its day a very competent system with very fine lenses but, seemed a bit fragile or QC was weak. If you got a good one it was a defintie keeper but if DOA, it seemed no amount of rework would get it reliable. If it is still working and has not been abused and you treat it gently, it probably will continue to please.

    In the NYC area in the '60s and '70s they were quite popular for shooters looking for good quality, low price entry into MF. It was a popular seller with the NYC mail order sellers.

    You do not mention the why of the testing; whether you are thinking of buying or just interested in seeing how the system works quality wise. If thinking of buying, prices probably not much as today you can get a high quality Bronica that is more modern and reliable with a more extensive selection of components for not much more than a mid-range 35mm Nikon.

  4. #4

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    I have the Kowa 66 (without "super") and I'm very happy with it. Got it for 300€ (400$) with 55mm, 85mm and 200mm lenses. It's got some dents and scratches, but works extremely well. I specifically looked for a camera that looked well used... the ones that look like new were never used - probably because they didn't work very well from the beginning. If it did its job for for 30 years, it'll probably do another 30.
    The lenses are very good and the camera is pretty solid. It can't compare to HaBla or Rollei, but for that price it's pretty nice. The handling needs some practice, but once I got used to it, I find it great. Keep in mind that it's very heavy, which is a curse and blessing in one. Wouldn't want to lug it around all day, but with a bit of practice it won't shake a bit at 1/60sec.

    The only real quirk is the very light shutter release and awkward shutter lock. With mine, the lock is very hard to turn but once it's off, the thing will fire at the slightest touch. My first few rolls with this camera have a lot of unsharp pictures of the ground and sky

    You should definitely try the camera, but if you're serious about medium format and want to keep a camera for a long time, there are probably better choices. I think, there are no competent Kowa specialists anymore. As an alternative, Bronicas are pretty cheap and if you don't insist on a SLR, the Rollei TLRs are worth looking into.

  5. #5

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    If looking for alternatives, you can not beat a Rolleiflex. Only limitation for many used to interchangeable lens cameras is the fixed lens but, as history has shown, it is a limitation in only in the hands of persons not willing to let their feet do the walking.

    These are virtually bulletproof, reliable beyond belief. Iwas recently asked whether a Rolleiflex or Leica was more reliable and after thinking for some time, had to agree the Rolleiflex was probably the more reliable. As for repairs, there are a number of very good reliable Rolleiflex techs and seems to be a lot of repair parts available. I suspect with the final(?) death of Rolleiflex production, even more will be available and as it is mecahnical, I can see aftermarket parts manufacturing even popping up. My Bronica will probably hit the for sale shelf before my Rolleiflex.

    The Yashicamat 124G is a virtual knockoff of the Rolleiflex at a lesser price and has an very good lens. Shutter and winding not as refined and seem to be not as reliable and it seems parts are more difficult to find. However, reliability is very good and unless really banged about most are still working. They are newer than most Rolleiflex models and the shutters are fairly easy to work on being leaf shutters.

    If you need interchangeable lenses, and not willing to accept the auxilary lenses for wide angle and telephoto for the Rolleiflex and Yashinca, then look for a Maymia C series tlr. They were issued in 2 series and several models in each series. Both take the same lenses with some exceptions. These are a bit heavy to carry around but a number of owners do it.

    As for the type of mf design, rangefinder vs slr vs tlr, it is personal choice and none are lesser or bad. I've used all 3 formats and all work well once you get used to the feel and controls. Though my main system is an slr and I've never regretted owning it for about 20 years, my choice por a favorite is the Rolleiflex which I've accumualted items for over the years and to me is Rollei. Not a versitile in some types of shooting such as close focus and macro, wild life and similar. But for general shooting that most due, I used the Rolleiflex more.

  6. #6
    Alan Klein's Avatar
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    Well I just shot a roll of Portra 160NC with it. We'll see how it comes out. I already have an RB67. My friend was going through his attic and found this camera he used to shoot models. He would then use the prints as the models to paint into his professional oil paintings. I thought I'd try it out for a lark and he was curious to see if it still works. It is built like a tank like the RB. Of course it's square format unlike the RB 6x7. Everything seems to work but we'll see when I get the processing done. My big problem was the magnifier (-2 diopter) doesn't work with my eyesight and eye glasses so I don't know how well the focusing went. Plus I was shooting my dog which isn't the best subject to test a camera with as he was bouncing all over the place.

    Where does its 85mm lens fit in with other cameras as far as IQ?

    Thanks for your input. Alan.

  7. #7
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    I bought one and it's been great for a first foray into MF. I agree that it is cheaper in terms of general construction, but it's well designed and has worked great so far. I have heard that you should wind very gently as the cogs are plastic and can wear out. So no rapid fire, oK!

  8. #8
    PDH
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    There have been a number of recents posts concerning Kowa. I have a couple of bodies and a four lens kit. Bought mine from a working pro, who shot a lot of weddings, in the late 70s, thought I would use until I could afford a Rollie SL66. 30 years later still have the kit. In general Kowa has not been made in over 30 years and only few repair shops will work on Kowa. Lens are good not Ziess good, for most work will do well. Overall build quaility is fair, the only issue that has annoyed me is that for some reason one of my bodies will not advance Iflord HP 5. No problem with any other speed of Iford film, or any other band for that matter. For the money I would consider a 645 system.

  9. #9
    ChristopherCoy's Avatar
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    Here is a thread that I started when I was looking at a Kowa Six. Its good good information in it.

    http://www.apug.org/forums/forum51/96541-kowa-six.html

  10. #10

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    Will not advance HP-5; very odd. Maybe it just likes Tri-x better?

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