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An overview of Topcon leaf shutter 35mm SLR camera models

 

The following is not intended to be comprehensive; itís just a quick walk-through. To avoid repetition, I have described only changes between camera models, since features where otherwise carried forward from the old to the new (e.g. the continued use of the SLV shutter).

Images used on this page have been obtained from Topcon Club. The contents of that site have been of great help in researching this marque.

 


 

Topcon PRThe first model was the 1959 PR. It had a fixed Tessa-type 50mm f/2.8 lens (4 elements in 3 groups), with a manual pre-set diaphragm (in other words, there is a pre-exposure stop-down switch), and a non-return mirror, which was interlinked to a viewfinder blind to prevent light entry via the viewfinder. The shutter was a Citizen MV, with German-style steps (i.e. 1/25th, 1/50th, etc.). The most exceptional thing about the PR was its diminutive size; it was a tiny bit smaller than a Pentax ME, a model commonly (and incorrectly) regarded as the smallest 35mm SLR. There were early and late versions of the PR, with modest differences between the two.

 

Topcon PR IIThe PR II was introduced in 1960, and produced for just six months. It looked much the same as the PR, but many of the finer details were altered. Most noticeably the lens was made from a different type of glass, had an automatic diaphragm, and the shutter was changed to a Seiko SLV (with more conventional steps). This camera was also sold in the USA as the DeJur Dekon-SR.

 

Topcon Wink MirrorLater in 1960, the Wink Mirror replaced the PR II. Whilst the camera bore a strong resemblance to the PR II, there were significant differences, and it was a tiny bit bigger. The key functional improvements were the addition of an instant return mirror (which led to the Wink name, because at the moment of exposure, the camera was supposed to look like it was winking). The fixed lens was also upgraded to Gauss-type* 48mm f/2, comprising 6 elements in 4 groups, and the viewfinder gained a split image focusing aide.

* Briefly, a Gauss-type is the combination of two lenses with a positive and a negative meniscus, such that the positive element predominates, but the negative element corrects for chromatic aberration.

 

Topcon Wink Mirror EIn 1961 the Wink Mirror was upgraded to become the Wink Mirror E. It gained a coupled exposure meter, powered by a Selenium cell placed on the front of the prism housing. This protruded further forward, and the mirror box/lens mount housing was similarly made deeper. These changes gave the camera quite a different look to its predecessor, although it was otherwise built from the same chassis. Exposure setting was the viewfinder centre-the-needle type. The Wink Mirror E was also equipped with the first UV lens, which at this point was one incorporating an ultra violet filtering coating. This model was sold as the Beseler Topconette in the USA.

 

Topcon Wink Mirror SThe Wink Mirror S followed in 1963. The exposure system was shutter priority automatic (with full manual override). A viewfinder needle pointer indicated the aperture the camera would select (or the user should consider when on manual control). The lens was removable, and employed a new UV mount (with lenses maintaining a UV coating). The standard lens was a 53mm f/2. The look of the camera was significantly different to its predecessors: it was far more square, with the shutter release moved to the front of the body. In my opinion, the S was as ugly as the PR/PR II/Wink Mirror were cute. In Europe, this camera was sold as the Porst Reflex S.

 

Topcon UniIn 1964 the Uni was introduced. It was clearly based on the Wink Mirror S chassis, but used an internal CdS plate, mounted on the back of a reflex mirror with slits cut in it, to provided TTL metering, and offered the same automatic (and manual) exposure control. The internal light measuring system allowed the top plate to be restyled. The camera was sold as the Beseler Topcon Auto 100 in the USA, and Hanimex Topcon RE Auto across the British Empire. The Uni was also available with a black finish.

 

Topcon UnirexThe Uni was replaced by the Unirex in 1969. It advanced the Uni specification by offering switchable average or spot metering for more demanding lighting situations, within a restyled body that more resembled the original Wink Mirror model. The standard lens was changed to a 50mm f/2.0 in a white metal finish (although there was black version to match the black finish Unirex). In the USA, the camera was badged as the Beseler Unirex.

 

Topcon Unirex EEThe last Topcon leaf shutter SLR was the 1972 Unirex EE. It was a cut-down version of the Unirex, and lacked the spot metering option. It also has lesser 4 element 50mm f/2.8 standard lens, finished in black only.

 

Available UV lenses were as follows. All lenses were 6 elements in 4 groups, except for the 50mm f/2.8 [2] supplied with the Unirex EE.

  • 28mm f/4
  • 35mm f/3.5
  • 50mm f/2 [1]
  • 50mm f/2.8 [2]
  • 53mm f/2
  • 100mm f/4
  • 135mm f/4
  • 200mm f/4

[1] produced for the Unirex

 

All Topcon leaf shutter SLRs appear to be highly susceptible to mechanical faults. The transport mechanisms are weak, and the shutter/mirror systems prone to failure. These cameras need to be regularly exercised to help prevent this mechanism ceasing. Repairs are extremely difficult ... bordering on the impossible.

Models from the Wink Mirror S onwards are relatively abundant. Those that pre-date the S are in very short supply.