Photographed 4/2018 with Superia 200


   2018 April 30    Film      Camera Reviews

Introduction


The company we now know as Chinon was founded by Hiroshi Chino in 1948.  Camera Wiki says that Chinon was called "Sanshin Optics Industrial" until 1973.  Chinon USA just says that Chinon Corporation has been around since 1962.  Whatever their naming sequence was, they made cameras and lenses for quite a while.

The Chinon CS is an all-manual 35mm SLR from the 1970's. 

So let's see if it's any good.




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In This Article



The 1970's Camera Market

Today

Batteries

Ergonomics & Controls

Film Speeds & Metering

Flash

Lenses

Price / Value

Shutter

Similar Cameras

Conclusion



The 1970's Camera Market


The Chinon CS has some design elements in common with the Pentax Spotmatic, which had been around since 1964.  By the mid-Seventies, the camera companies were starting to market cameras with more electronics.  It's easy to see how a mechanical camera-- especially one that's a bit bulky and made by a lesser-known brand-- would have been passed up in favor of a brand-new Canon, Minolta, or Nikon.

The term "second tier" is a rather nebulous and changeable classification, but it seems to have included Yashica, Ricoh, Konica, Mamiya, and Chinon.  All of these companies made great cameras at various times;  some of them even made pro medium-format gear. 

Chinon actually did OEM for some other brands.  They must have manufactured quite a few cameras and lenses.


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Today


Nowadays, film camera buyers want durability and simplicity.  There are many beginners looking for basic, manual cameras that work.

There's a whole pile of computerized film cameras made from about 1985-2005 which are tough to work on.  Some need specialized equipment to interface with on-board computer chips.  Many of them have intricate motor-drive mechanisms, molded plastic parts, etc.

With the return of film, all-manual cameras are no longer a hurried stage on the way to something else;  they're the destination.  Perhaps it took the paradoxical over-complication and dumbing-down of manufacturing to bring about this sort of appreciation. 

The Chinon CS is somewhat bulky and heavy.  However, because it has an M42 lens mount, there are many lenses that will fit it.  Some are temporarily on DSLR and mirrorless cameras with adapters, but many are going back onto the film cameras.


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Batteries


Originally this used a PX625 mercury battery.  Zinc-air hearing aid batteries will work, but get a multi-pack of them, because they last only a month or two.  Try a test roll;  see if you'll need to adjust the ASA/ISO down a bit because of the slight voltage difference.

If you have an external light meter, you can use this camera without the battery.


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Ergonomics & Controls


If you have big hands, this camera might be just the design you need.  It is bulky, though, and could even be thought of as clunky.

Without a lens, it's 756 grams:  almost 1 3/4 pounds. 

Control layout is similar to the better-known SLR's such as Nikon F and Pentax Spotmatic. 

In fact, the controls on top of the Chinon CS look almost identical to those of the Pentax Spotmatic.  The biggest difference is the stop-down metering switch on the Chinon CS.  This switch activates the light meter and also gives you a depth-of-field preview.  This probably won't put a drain on the battery when you're not using it, although zinc-air batteries auto-deplete after a while.


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Film Speeds & Metering


The CS supports ASA/ISO of 10 through 1600 (DIN 11 through 33). 

If you're willing to forego the use of the built-in metering, you can use any film speed you want (see Pushing Tri-X.)


Photographed with Superia 200



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Flash


The hot shoe says "X" which I presume to mean X-sync;  side of camera also has separate PC-cord sockets, one for X-sync and one for M-sync.


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Lenses


This camera will accept any of the M42 screw-mount lenses, of which there are many.  The Pentax SMC Super Takumar lenses are among the better-known. 

Many of the lenses you'll find with these are basic, Sears Roebuck types, possibly made by Chinon, possibly not.  They are basically what I'd call cheap lenses, and I like cheap lenses, but you know, they're just not premium lenses.

There were some Chinon-branded M42 lenses that are quite respectable.  Tomioka, which later became Kyocera, made some lenses for Chinon.  The one pictured on this page is the Tomioka Auto Chinon 55mm f/1.4, a nice sharp lens according to my experience with it so far.  Although it can have wiry bokeh at the widest apertures, it also depends on the scene. 

Though I haven't tried it, there's also the sought-after Tomioka 55mm f/1.2 if you can find one.  The 1.2's command a premium, but then f/1.2 lenses in general tend to be expensive.  It's always been that way. 


Nothing can really equal the lenses made today by Canon, Nikon, and Fuji, so there's not much point in using film lenses on digital cameras.  They can't make digital look more film-like.  For film cameras though, the Chinon and Tomioka lenses are great for the Chinon, GAF, Revueflex, and other M42 cameras. 



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Price / Value


Chinon was never a premium brand.  Generally, people who want these today are looking for a beginner SLR that works. 

The Chinon CS is similar to the Pentax Spotmatic and the Nikon Nikkormat;  these are not really collector cameras, because they're not sleek or graceful.  They're just basic user cameras.

The camera should have all the parts and function properly.  A camera with a better-quality lens is more desirable than a camera with a department-store lens.  That, in turn, is more desirable than no lens at all.  So, avoid that untested one that's all dinged-up, dusty, has no lens, and the lady wants $90 for it....

Many of these cameras have bad light seals;  a lot of them could use professional servicing. 

As I write this, these cameras go for $5 to $10 on Ebay quite often.  Even some with lenses can be had as low as $10 to $20.  Excellent condition, with accessories and a good lens, sometimes they go for $50. 


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Shutter


It's fully mechanical.  Shutter is a 3-part vertical curtain. 

Shutter speed range:  1/1000th to 1 second, plus Bulb.

At 1/4 second or slower, there's a red indicator that appears in the viewfinder between the "+" and "-".  Maybe it's a reminder to use a tripod. 


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Similar Cameras



There's not a lot of information on Chinon cameras, it seems.  If I can find more info about their SLR cameras I'll update this.


Chinonflex TTL (1966) - M42 mount, TTL metering. 

Chinon CX (1974) - very similar to the CS.

Revueflex 2000 CL (1972?) - almost identical to the Chinon CS but I believe it has at least two slight differences

Chinon CS (1976 or earlier?)

Chinon SLR (mid 1970s?)

GAF L-CS, a re-branded Chinon CS (1976 or earlier?)

GAF L-17 (1976?)


Chinon CS-4 (1980?) - M42 mount.  Similar to the CS, but has indicator LED's for the meter.  You can still use the camera without batteries.

Chinon CM-4 ( ) - Pentax K-Mount


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Conclusion


It's well-built, it's heavy, and it has almost no electronics to go bad. 

If you want a basic film camera that works, this would be a great choice.  These are not sleek or highly-sought-after;  they're just good, basic film SLR's.  Because they're well-made and all-mechanical, they're probably worth getting CLA'd and having them last for generations.  This is how cameras should be built.


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