Got the camera in a thrift store for $15. Looks all black and impressive, ready for a haka. Regrettably, it would not get anywhere close to Championship. After the first look, I liked it less and less. Not sure why, but it looks and feels sloppy. To begin with, the leatherette falls off, and where it still (sort of) glued, it shrunk to expose the metal underneath. Viewed images online, and quite a few are naked. This is a shame as even the Russian and East-German cameras of that crop used to keep their skin intact. Moreover, the exemplar I have prefers to go incognito as it is devoid of the nameplate. Even more cosmetic issues, the body is covered with some goo which I tried laboriously to clean so to expose the shiny metal underneath. At second thought, it could be an anti-glare coat. If so, it is haphazardly coated. So much for appearance.
The camera looks and behaves as an early ’80s camera, which it is, but lacks the heft and solid feel of its compatriots. Think it was meant to feel European, it doesn’t. Feature-wise, what I like most is the K-Mount, making it compatible with a wide range of lenses that are at all collectors’ drawers. The mirror slaps gently and the viewer is large and bright. Arcade-style lights flash at the viewer’s left to display speed. Vertical metal curtain clicks nicely, a dept of field activation lever at the root of the lens. The body is ready to accept a power winder. There is a tiny lever by the winding arm, to allow double exposure. Think this is a thing of the past, guess the ’80s are the past.
The self-timer probably attracted much attention at the time, with a dial and flashing red light. The speed dial is difficult to turn when winding arm at resting position, it takes moving the arm off the way to be able to control it. Unlike other cameras were pulling the leaver halfway out disables the lock feature, this one shoots with the winding lever folded all the way in. The camera is not smallish like other compact SLR’s, so I wonder why Chinon did not allow for more space there. There is an Off position on the said dial, assume to eliminate pocket dial or whatever it was called at that time and to preserve battery. It takes turning the dial all the way back to lock. Button on the bottom left of the barrel activated the meter.
Talking about the battery, it takes three LR44 button batteries set in a nifty holder. I removed and tested the batteries, all three showed life. The holder is clearly marked as to the batteries direction. Installed the battery holder, nothing. Checked again for polarity and voltage. Nothing. Cleaned the contacts, cover and thread, nothing. It took an ultrasonic toothbrush dipped in solvent to clean the threads on the cover and base to bring it back to life. Speeds are B to 1000, compatible with the period’s crop.
Till it’s demise, Chinon made cameras for various brands. Perhaps cameras made were purposely designed not to have a visual signature, but to be a vanilla camera that will fall under the brand it is sold under. Such cameras were made for Agfa, Argus, Prinz, GAF, Carena, Revu, Balda and others, none of them stands out. On my list, there are 115 models and variations thereof, where none of them fetches over $100 in the vintage camera world.