other Kowa camera in my collection
Kowa SET [1967 - 1968]
Overview of Kowa SLR cameras
- The 1960
Kowaflexhad no meter and a fixed lens. This model is fairly rare.
- The 1962
E/Kowaflex Efeatured a cross-coupled external Selenium meter and fixed lens.
- The 1963
Hwas an alternative model, which offered automatic exposure control, where both the shutter speed and aperture size were set by the camera according to the lighting intensity.
- The 1964
SEreplaced the E, and had an updated external CdS meter cell.
- The 1967
SERadded a removable (interchangeable) lens mounting to the SE design, while the
SETretained a fixed lens, but offered TTL metering.
- The 1968
SETRcombined features of the SER and SET to offer a removable lens mounting, with TTL metering.
- The 1970
SETR2was a modest update of the SETR,
- as was the 1972
SET II, while the very rare
UW190had a fixed ultra-wide-angle 19mm lens and TTL metering.
The Kowa SET
The model's idiosyncrasies are that is has a viewfinder blind, which closes when an exposure is made, and the meter pointer is - by modern standards - up-side-down: above centre is under exposed, and below centre is over exposed. Although it is possible to set intermediate shutter speeds, between the click-stops, the user manual recommends against this.
According to a Dixons' advert in a 1968 edition of Amateur Photographer magazine, the Kowa SRT cost £49 - 17s -6d, when the average UK pay was £124 per month.
The limited specification of the Kowa make it seem an odd purchase today, but these were times when different systems and film formats competed for the attention of the discerning amateur - while none dominated. In the £40/£50 35mm price bracket, options included well performing point & shoots - exemplified by the Olympus Trip, semi-automatic exposure rangefinders - such as the Konica Auto S2 EL, and old-school meter-less system SLRs - like the Praktica Nova. Entry level, TTL metering, system SLRs from newer manufacturers - such as Petri and Yashica - were significantly more expensive. The Kowa SET therefore successfully filled a niche, offering a taste of TTL metering SLR photography for the same price as alternative systems.
Lens mount: Lens not removable. Fitted with a Kowa f/1.8 50mm (6 elements in 4 groups), with wide angle and f/4 85mm, and f/4 37mm conversion lenses available, and close-up lenses.
Focus: Condenser, Fresnel lens, and micro-prism centre spot.
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: Open aperture, TTL, average brighness, twin CdS cells. The meter is activated when the film is advanced, and switches off once the shutter is tripped.
Exposure: Coupled viewfinder centre-the-needle.
Film Speed: 10 to 800 ASA (with separate DIN scale). At some aperture settings the full range of film speed settings cannot be accessed, so the aperture may need to be adjusted in order to make a particular section film speed scale available.
Flash: M and X contact switch, and removable accessory shoe mounting into a slot around the viewfinder eyepiece.
Film Advance: 180° lever with 15° off-set.
Frame Counter: Automatic count-up and reset.
Rewind: Via crank and bottom release button.
Size: 136 x 96 x 83mm (W x H x D).
Battery: 1.3v mercury cell.
Today it is easy to think of Kowa SLRs as cheap, nasty, insignificant blips in the history of photography, but ... they were actually quite advanced for their time, and affordable. While their complex shutter systems are prone to failure, the general build quality is good, especially considering that they were probably never envisaged to be working 50 years on.
I've been on the lookout for a TTL metering type for a while, but they're not too common, and therefore can be quite expensive. I got this model in August 2018 for £19.99. It was advertised as
tested and in good working order. The truth is, the camera sort-of works, but is not capable of taking pictures (take note seller brm-vintage).
- On pressing the shutter release, the film blind raises slowly, the diaphragm stop-down is sluggish, and the shutter fails to trip.
- Slightly opening the aperture setting trips the shutter.
- Slightly closing the aperture setting results in the film blind closing and the shutter and diagragm re-opening.
- Slightly opening the aperture setting again completes the sequence; the viewfinder blind opens, and the wind lock is released.
I didn't really expect it to be in FWO!
The meter responds to light very well. Externally, the camera is in lovely condition, with bright and clear optics. It's very easy to focus. The SET came with an accessory shoe, original lens cap, and a skylight filter fitted (always a good sign). Aside from the functional issues, I think it's a really nice camera.