Cameras have been made in Japan since the early 20th Century, the first lens factory opened in 1907. The First World War brought on a rapid growth in the optical industry through a military hungry for optical products of all kinds.
In 1917, Nippon Kogaku Kogyo Kabushikigaisha (Japan Optical Industries Co. Ltd.) was founded to design and produce lenses for a wide variety of equipment and devices. It eventually slid into the manufacturing of cameras having supplied lenses to several camera manufacturers, including Canon, and in 1988 it finally changed its name to the name its cameras were known by: the Nikon Corporation.
My collection started with my first Japanese camera, the Miranda F. Now I have various cameras, mainly Nikons and Minoltas, the favourite makes of my late father.
1957 Leotax F
There were many Japanese Leica copies made after the last War (Nikon, Canon, Nicca, Leotax, Minolta etc.), and of these the Leotax F is one of the best, examples can still be purchased for a fraction of the cost of a Leica.
The Showa Optical Works was started in 1938 by Nakagawa Kenzō, a former engineer of K.K. Konishiroku (later Konica). It was later renamed Leotax Camera Co. in 1957. Based on the Leica III, the Leotax -F as introduced in June 1954 was the first Leotax to have flash sychronization, X or F being selected by the lever on the front. The shutter had fast speeds of 1/25th to 1/1000th and B, and slow speeds of 1 to 1/25th and T. As they offered lenses made by Topcon, Topcon eventually bought them out in the mid 1950s.
This example is fitted with the legendary Jupiter-8 lens, a Russian copy of the pre-war Zeiss Sonnar. Zeiss as a company still exists and is at the forefront of optics in the manufacture of microchips!
1961 Canon 7
This is another camera given to my by Roger Dyson (it was fitted with the Leitz Elmar lens). I bought a more appropriate period Canon lens for it and fitted the Elmar to a Leica III.
The camera was in poor condition so I sent it to Newton Ellis of Liverpool for refurbishment. Although they had it for around a year, they did a really good job. I did intend to use it, but in the end my interest moved to other cameras.
The Canon 7 was a rangefinder system camera with an integrated selenium light meter introduced by Canon in September 1961, the last model compatible with the then ubiquitous Leica M39 lens mount. It competed head-on with the Leica M3, and in the end Canon (along with Nikon,Minolta, etc.) decided to concentrate on SLRs which Leitz weren’t then making.
1962 Nikon F
The Nikon F was Japans answer to the Leica rangefinder domination of the market. Nippon Kogaku had already imporoved the quality of their own rangefinder cameras culminating with the SP, but needed a product to beat the Germans. They came up with the then new genre of SLR, and the ‘F’ (from reFlex) was an adaptation of the existing SP body. What was groundbreaking about this camera was not only the very high quality of manufacture and the lenses, but also the combination of all the desirable features such as instant return mirror, 100% viewfinder, mirror lockup, interchangeable prisms, and self timer into one camera.
This example is an early example (3rd year of production) with the Nippon Kogaku brand left over from the original SP body from which this is derived.
The F became the mainstay of professional photographers the world over due to its legendary reliability and robustness. One famously saved the life of Don McCullion by stopping a bullet fired at him.
1967 Miranda Fm
In 1964 this camera was widely praised in by a test report in the AP (Amateur Photographer) by Neville Maude, particularly the quality of the f1.9 50mm lens. This lead to my buying this particular example in 1967 (I still have the original receipt). After Miranda closed down Dixons bought the name and remaining stock.
According to camera-wiki “The 1963 Miranda F was the first of the “modernised lever winders”, comprising the F/FM, G, and Fv. The models used the chassis of the previous DR (the last of the “lever winders” comprising the A, B, C, D/DR), and were designed to accept new lenses with an internal automatic diaphragm coupling. The camera body retained the previous series’ front of body shutter release button used in conjunction with earlier PAD lenses. The F also introduced a new speed selector dial, which did not have a separated high and low speed selection, and didn’t spin when the shutter was released. The F gained an optional screw-in, top-plate located shutter release button facility, via a cable release port”.
1960s Pentax S1a & SV
In the 1960s I was always very impressed by the advertising campaign with the unforgettable slogan “Just Hold a Pentax!” I now have two Pentaxes, a SV body and a S1a with f2 lens; now I can “hold” a Pentax myself – and it does feel special!
The SV was the top model. I bought this body very cheaply as the instant return mirror stuck in the “up” position. There are videos showing how to fix this, by removing the front and lubricating a couple of places. I did this, and it now works properly. It is a very early model (around 1962) denoted by a green “R” on the rewind knob. Later versions had a modified mirror mechanism to take the 1.4 lens – these can be identified by an orange ‘R’. Condition is excellent, better than my S1a, which has a couple of dinges on the pentaprism. The lesser S1a (1963-67) only has speeds to 1/500th and no self timer (although the higher speed is there, it just isn’t marked). The 55mm f2 lens is optically identical to the f1.8 usually fitted to the SV, so the S1a is a good buy.
The SR-T303 is an evolution of the legendary 1966 SR-T101, one of my Dads favourite cameras. Sadly it was stolen, so I was glad to buy this through Mike Williams of Ruthin. Changes include a re-designed and more modern body, an improved film advance lever and the ISO/DIN conversion table is moved to the back of the camera. Inside the viewfinder has seen two evolutions: first, the viewfinder now displays both the shutter speedand the f-stop number, and a split-image rangefinder was added to the centre of the microprism focusing area. The viewfinder of the SR-T303 shows the f-stop number on the top of the finder, the speeds on the bottom, and the two light meter needles are on the right side. Minolta made their own lenses and their quality was legendary! This camera was refurbished for me by Newton Ellis of Liverpool to take modern batteries. A similar camera to this was used by the legendary W Eugene Smith.
My father owned a camera identical to this (although his was the European named XD-7). Unfortunately it was stolen in 1988 together with his SR-T 101.
According to the Rokkor Files ” the Minolta XD is a magnificent manual focus camera, and a tribute to what engineers were able to create prior to the start of the “disposable plastic” era. The camera was released as the XD11 in the North American market, but as with many of the Minolta models it had different designations in other markets, being known as the XD7 in Europe and the XD in Japan. The camera was developed by Minolta in conjunction with Leica, and the body became the basis for the Leica R4, and later, as the chassis for the the Leica R5, R6 and R7. Leica introduced a more advanced metering system into the body (including spot metering), but most of the other features of the camera are evident in both bodies. When the XD was released in 1977 it was the top of the line Minolta camera of its era, with the exception of the XK Motor, a motorised version of the 1972 XK camera. The XD was highly praised by critics of the time, and is still regarded by many to be the best manual focus body made by Minolta”.
1980 Nikon EM
This interesting camera was introduced for “women” in that it is supposed to be easy to use!
Introduced in 1979, it has aperture priority only. The aperture is selected on the lens, and the shutter is selected by the camera. If the battery fails, the shutter has a default of 1/90th.
It is very small and light, but was eclipsed by the Pentax MX and Olympus OM1, and lasted until 1982.
They are inexpensive to buy, although this is a mint example. Only AI lenses work, the current lens is a Nikon Series E. These were made of plastic rather than metal, but the image quality is still up to usual Nikon standards, therefore they are much sought after! Currently there are a lot of YouTube videos extolling the virtues of this neat camera, still built to Nikon’s usual quality standards.
1984 Nikon FM2n
My Dad bought this camera as a backup during a visit to Antarctica (he was worried his other camera might freeze up). He bought it without a lens so I have fitted the legendary 35mm F2 AI (Automatic Indexing) OC lens (O stands for ‘Oct’ i.e. 8 elements and C stands for coated).
It is an advanced semi-professional, interchangeable lens, 35 mm film, single-lens reflex (SLR) camera. The FM2 used an advanced Nikon-design, metal-bladed, bearing-mounted, vertical-travel focal plane shutter with a (then unheard-of) speed range of 1 to 1/4000th second plus Bulb, plus a fast flash X-sync of 1/200th second (1/250th on theFM2n). The FM2 is a member of the classic Nikon compact F-series SLRs and was built using the same material – copper-aluminium-silicon (copper-silumin) alloy – as the earlier Nikon FM (introduced in 1977) and FE (1978) cameras. The improved titanium-bladed shutter from the Nikon FE2 was adapted to the FM2n in 1984 and X-sync increased to 1/250th second. The FM2 was used by Steve McCurry to take his iconic portrait of Sharbat Gula for the National Geographic.
The FG is similar but has an electronic shutter.
1988 Minolta 7000
This revolutionary camera was the first to feature both integrated autofocus (AF) and motorised film advance. Other autofocus cameras had the mechanism in the lens, not the body as in this camera. Ironically the autofocus system was initially developed by E Leitz (who had a relationship with Minolta). Leitz didn’t think the system had a future so they sold it to Minolta. Now nearly all cameras have autofocus!
Minolta, now Konica Minolta, no longer make cameras. However their technology was bought by Sony, so their current Alpha range was developed from Minolta designs.
2000 Canon EOS300
The Canon EOS 300 is a consumer-level 35mm single-lens reflex camera, produced by Canon of Japan from April 1999 until September 2002. Designed under the supervision of Yasuhiro Morishita, the camera was intended as a replacement for the Canon EOS 500N. The Canon EOS 300 won the European Imaging and Sound Association Award 1999-2000. Like other low-priced SLRs of the time, the EOS 300 used a pentamirror viewfinder instead of a pentaprism, and had a polycarbonate body. The autofocus capabilities of this camera were identical to Canon’s much more expensive Elan 7 with six single-line CMOS sensors surrounding a central cross-type sensor. This camera also belonged to my Artist mother who refused to change lenses, instead carrying around two cameras with different lenses!
2003 Nikon F100
This 35mm Single Lens Reflex belonged to my father, for a long time it sat on a tripod in his study. Unfortunately, although in perfect condition mechanically, the rubber covering has gone sticky!
The F100, which came out in 1999, was considered a scaled down version of the F5, and as a precursor to the Nikon F6. It was discontinued, along with most other Nikon film cameras, in 2006.
The F100’s metering system is a development of Nikon’s matrix metering technology introduced in 1983 on the Nikon FA. The meter in the F100 uses a 10 segment light sensor and uses distance information from Nikon D-type and G-type lenses for more accurate exposure calculations when using direct flash. In addition to matrix metering, the F100 also offers standard center-weighted and spot metering modes.
Also incorporated into the camera is Nikon’s Dynamic Autofocus system and a 4.5 frame per second motor drive with automatic rewind. The top motor drive speed can be boosted to 5 frames per second with the addition of the Nikon MB-15 battery pack.
The F100 also provides many features which are common among high-end 35mm SLR cameras, such as automatic bracketing modes, DX film speed sensing, and custom functions that allow photographers to tailor certain aspects of the camera’s operation to the way they work.
During its production run, Nikon replaced the film rewind spool for these cameras due to a manufacturing defect.