3other Topcon cameras in my collection:


Topcon Unirex [1969 - 1973]



Topcon Unirex advertKnown as the Beseler Topcon Unirex in the USA, this is a very similar camera to the Topcon Uni, but packaged in an attractively restyled, less boxy body.

In a nutshell, it's an open aperture TTL metering, shutter priority auto exposure SLR, with a leaf shutter. It advanced the Uni specification by offering average metering switchable to spot metering for more demanding lighting situations. The spot metering area appears as a slightly darkened rectangle, within the fine focusing ring, and I suspect this is merely consequential to the mirror based CdS metering cell, rather than a design feature. The metering pattern switch is at the base of the rewind knob (which incidentally, doesn't also function as a back release - there's a separate release catch). Fully manual operation is also an option, either using - or ignoring - the viewfinder meter, which shows f-stop information for any selected shutter speed.

In common with the Uni there is a lens calibration dial, which is set when a lens is first fitted to the camera body, and this communicates the maximum possible aperture of the lens to the camera's metering system. On the Unirex, this simply requires the film speed setting to be aligned with a maximum aperture setting - from f/2 to f/5.6.

There is a slight difference between the Unirex and Uni exposure event sequence. While on the Uni, the mirror blocks the passage of light when the camera is not taking a picture, the Unirex employs an additional skirted film blind which folds and un-folds as the lens diaphragm closes and opens. Film blinds were quite common in early reflex cameras with leaf shutters. Due to all the bits that open, close and move, there's a quite noticeable blackout of the viewfinder when the shutter is tripped. Compared to other SLR cameras, it's a bit weird to see.

The standard 50mm lens has 6 elements (in an unknown number of groups), and a shiny chrome finish, matching the camera body. The camera additionally came in an all black finish, with a matching black lens body.

There is also companion model - the Unirex EE - which was produced between 1972 and 1974. This lacks the spot metering function, and came with a ubiquitous all black lens.

According to an advertisement in a 1971 edition of Amateur Photographer magazine, the Unirex had a list price of £119.71, but was on sale for £99.95.

Click here for an overview of Topcon leaf shutter 35mm SLR camera models.


correctionThere are two common bits of mis-information about the Topcon Unirex out there on the web: #1) production ceased in 1970, and #2) it was one of the first SLRs with full aperture CdS exposure metering. Unfortunately, the sites at the top of Google's search results provide this incorrect information, and so it keeps getting re-published (Woohoo ... it's 31/10/2015 and this page is top of the Google search results).

#1) More authoritative sites (like the Topcon Club of Japan) state this camera was produced until 1973, and the development of the replacement model - the IC-1 Auto introduced in 1974 - is rumoured to have been triggered by Seiko's cessation of the Seikosha SVL leaf shutter's production (used in the Unirex), which forced Topcon to modify the Unirex to accommodate a focal-plane shutter. You've only got to look at the two cameras to see the striking resemblance between the Unirex and the IC-1. Camera manufacturers just don't stop producing a camera until its replacement is ready for market, and leave gaps in their product range!

#2) The first SLR with open aperture metering was the 1963 Topcon RE Super - some six years before the Unirex. This was followed by the 1964 Topcon Uni, 1965 Nikon Nikkormat, 1966 Minolta SRT101 and Miranda Sensorex, 1967 Nikon Nikkormat FTN, and 1968 Konica Autoreflex T & A models. By 1969, even brands like Petri (FTEE) and Praktica (LLC) had open aperture metering. I don't think the Unirex qualifies as being one of the first.

Ironically, a claim to fame that doesn't seem to be stated anywhere is that the camera was one of the first SLRs to offer a dual metering facility, having been narrowly pipped to the post by the Mamiya DTL series of 1968. I guess the Unirex was the first 35mm SLR with open aperture dual metering?

The morale is, research should examine all the facts, cross-check them, and rationally eliminate the improbable claims. There's no value in blindly copying what someone-else has written.




Lens mount: Topcon UV bayonet. The mount included a locking facility when Topcor UV lenses are attached.

Topcon viewfinderFocus: Fresnel screen with central mirco-prism focusing spot, and a fine focusing ring around this. Magnification x 0.75.

Shutter: Seikosha SVL leaf shutter in camera body. Speeds 1 sec to 1/500th plus B and self-timer. 1/15th to 1/500th available for auto-exposure (in red: lower speeds in black). 10 sec self-timer (set MVX switch to V, and press shutter release).

Meter: Open aperture needle based (f stop shown) TTL dual metering system. Two CdS cells are located either side of the viewfinder, and a third - used alone for spot metering - is located behind the mirror (Uni style). Average brightness using all three CdS cells. Includes under and over exposure warning zones (but the shutter will still fire).

Exposure: Automatic shutter speed priority, or fully manual. Lens aperture setting ring is part of the camera body, so maximum lens aperture has to be dialled-in using a separate control.

Film Speed: 25 to 1600 ASA (selector dial has a locking lever). There is also a DIN scale on the opposite side of the dial.

Flash: Cold shoe and PC terminal. M and X sync (set to X for daylight photography). The X setting would have also been used for class F and S flash bulbs.

Film Advance: Single long stroke lever (180° with 20° offset).

Frame Counter: Automatic count-up and reset.

Rewind: Via crank and bottom release button.

Size: 141 x 93 x 59mm (W x H x D).

Weight: ?

Battery: 1 x 1.35v PX625 mercury battery (use the equivalent WeinCELL MRB625 zinc air cell).



My Camera

I paid £16.10 for my Unirex complete with an f/2 50mm lens in March 2015. I have waited a long time to get hold of one of these cameras at a reasonable price: mine was affordable because it was advertised as having a non-working meter, and its condition was described as a little worn in places.

Salma HayekMy camera is in much better order than expected, with very few signs of use. The marks were just dirt, and it needed a really good clean. This camera is so pretty ... I've given it a name ... I've called it Salma.

The leather cover was lifting a bit, and I couldn't resist the temptation to replace it. I used a burgundy red snakeskin synthetic from Milly's Cameras. The panels are simple shapes - easy to cut - and the old cover peeled off with little resistance (see last photo). The only thing to watch for is the two small metal plates that shield access ports on the front left side of the body (facing), which are held in place by the cover - so don't accidentally throw them away with the old skin.

Operationally, the mirror and film blind were sticking badly when I first tripped the shutter. Happily, after a few dozen fires it started to move more freely, and after a few dozen more, everything was working properly. I popped an old mercury cell in the battery compartment, and found that the meter needle pointer was responding to light, although not providing accurate readings. Hopefully, once all the contacts are cleaned, with a fresh battery it might actually work. All in all, I'm pretty damn pleased with my new Topcon.

For me, this is one of those cameras that holds a nostalgic appeal. I can remember seeing a second-hand one in the window of my local photographic equipment shop (in about 1974 - back in the days when most high streets had an independent camera retailer), and wondering what it was? It certainly looked nice (enough to leave an enduring impression on a young boy), but I had never heard the name before - indeed, it was not until we got the Interweb that I learned what Topcons were.



Topcon Unirex

Topcon Unirex - images pending

Topcon Unirex

Topcon Unirex

Topcon Unirex

Topcon Unirex

I carelessly dropped Salma on a hard floor, after which the lens looked like a total car crash. Happily in August 2015 I now found a replacement lens that came with another Unirex attached. The second camera body is in fab condition, but for a badly cracked prism (with no signs of damage on the outside: how do you do that?), and a non-incrementing frame counter. The new lens set me back a modest £11.10 (reduced to £8.10 after re-sale of the second Unirex body), but it was worth it to make Snakeskin Salma whole again. It's the silver lens that makes this camera standout from the crowd.