1other Kowa camera in my collection

Kowa E


JapanKowa SET [1967 - 1968]


Overview of Kowa SLR cameras


The Kowa SET

Kowa SET advertIn a nutshell, the Kowa SET is a leaf shutter equipped, fixed lens, open aperture TTL metering SLR with viewfinder centre-the-needle manual exposure control.

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 an April 1968 edition of Amateur Photographer magazine, the Kowa SET cost £55 - 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.

Kowa SET viewfinderFocus: 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.

EV range: 3 to 17 at 100 ASA.

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).

Weight: 780g.

Battery: 1.3v mercury cell.


My Camera

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).

  1. On pressing the shutter release, the film blind raises slowly, the diaphragm stop-down is sluggish, and the shutter fails to trip.
  2. Slightly opening the aperture setting trips the shutter.
  3. Slightly closing the aperture setting results in the film blind closing and the shutter and diagragm re-opening.
  4. 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.



Kowa SET

Kowa SET

The exposure event sequence of TTL metering leaf shutter SLRs required a few more steps than their focal-plane shutter equipped counterparts.

  1. Close the viewfinder blind
  2. Close the shutter
  3. Close the aperture leaves to the correct f-stop
  4. Raise the mirror
  5. Raise the film blind
  6. Open the shutter to expose the film
  7. Close the shutter
  8. Lower the film blind
  9. Drop the mirror
  10. Re-open the aperture leaves
  11. Re-open the shutter
  12. Re-open the viewfinder blind

Kowa SET

Kowa SET