other Kowa cameras in my collection
Kowa E [1961 - 1964]
It's a fully manual camera, with an external selenium meter located on the penta-prism housing, and a centre-the-needle display in the viewfinder, along with a central split-image rangefinder. There's an instant return mirror, and what Kowa claimed (in the camera's instruction manual) to be the world's first
instantaneous return (automatic) diaphragm. So far as I know, it was not the first. The Zunow SLR, which went on sale in 1958, was the first 35mm SLR camera with an automatic diaphragm, which stopped down to the preselected aperture upon release of the shutter, and then reopened.
The lens is a fixed 50mm f/2, and the leaf shutter a Seikosha-SLV with speeds of B and 1-1/500th. The film speed, focus, aperture and shutter speed controls are all around the lens. The film speed ring is unlocked by pulling out a small sprung pin.
The Kowa was clearly aimed at the amateur photographer. In fact, it may well have been one of the first 35mm SLRs aimed at the mass-market? While Kowa may have enjoyed something of a reputation for their lenses (with various other applications), they never became renowned for their cameras.
The Kowa SE, was the 1964 successor to the E, with the main improvement being a CDS meter cell.
it is my understanding that the Kowa E - like
Beauty cameras (and probably many others) - was another 1960 Dixons' exclusive in the UK. At this point in time, I have no idea what the camera cost - here in the UK - when new.
Lens mount: Lens not removable. Fitted with a Kowa f/2 50mm (6 elements in 4 groups), with an f/4 86mm, and f/4 36mm conversion lenses available, and close-up lenses. In the USA, the conversion lenses appear to have been 71mm and 35mm options.
Focus: Penta-prism with condenser, Fresnel lens, and split image rangefinder.
Shutter: Seikosha SLV leaf shutter with a range of 1 sec to 1/500th plus B. Self-timer of about 8 seconds delay (the V setting on MXV switch).
Meter: External coupled selenium meter on penta-prism housing.
Exposure: Viewfinder match needle.
Film Speed: 10 to 1600 ASA (with separate DIN scale).
Flash: M and X contact, and an accessory shoe mounting port on the right side of (i.e. not on top of) the top plate (facing). This was an
L shaped bracket, that positioned a cold shoe above the rewind crank (see illustration). X sync at any speed.
Film Advance: 180° lever.
Frame Counter: Automatic count-up and reset.
Rewind: Via crank and bottom release button.
Size: 143 x 97 x 87mm (W x H x D).
I paid £8.49 for my Kowa E in May 2015, stuck the case back on eBay and got the minimum £1 bid for it, making a net cost of £7.49.
The Kowa is fairly typical of a breed of early 1960s SLRs - including some made by the big name manufactures - which coupled leaf shutters with fixed lenses and on-board light meters, and that's exactly why I wanted one for my collection. I picked the Kowa due to it's relative abundance and lower price. However, more than that (and it's just a personal opinion), I think Kowa's design was closest to the shape of future SLRs, with a far more modern look than it's German and Japanese counterparts.
Typically for a less well know manufacturer of this period, the instruction manual is cute, with its spelling mistakes, clumsy grammar, and boastful claims. Nevertheless, it's quite well done, and gets the principles of film camera operation across well. User manuals are a bit of a god-send for largely undocumented cameras like the Kowa, not so much in terms of their operation (which is pretty obvious to anyone who's used a camera or two), but for technical data. For example, I would never have known the lens composition but for the user manual (Haha ... OMG, I'm such a nerd!).
... this is a nice camera: it's well made and feels very solid. It's received a good clean, but I don't know how the hell I'm going to get into the dusty viewfinder screen to clean that? It also needs light seals (no problem). The lens seems clear, and everything works, although the meter needle is a bit jumpy. The camera is so simple - in terms of operation rather than mechanically - that there isn't much more I can say about it. I am quite amazed by the quality of some of these lower-end cameras. It's easy to think of them as trash, but this Kowa is really very smart. It's hard to believe the thing is over 50 years old.