Halina 35X / 35X Super
In the post-war years, Japan was drawn into a cultural revision and economic and industrial rebound driven by General MacArthur’s reconstruction plan. Far from the scale of the Marshal Plan in Europe, but aggressive enough to set the wheels in motion to make Japan the superpower it is now. Under the occupying rules, Japan was barred from making military equipment, so they focused on high-value-added consumer goods, electronics, and later motor cars. I think the West kind of regrets that ban.
At the time, Japanese products were considered inferior to Western-made. Legend has it that they built a city named Usa, so they marked their products as “Made in USA”. The immediate market for consumer products was the contingent of half a million American soldiers stationed there, buying all they could get to bring back home.
A decade has passed by, products improved, and labor costs have risen. Japan began to outsource manufacturing to neighboring countries. British colonies Hong Kong and Singapore were close at hand. Both had some industrial infrastructure, and both were under Japanese rule in WWII. So, Japanese production began seeping there.
Hong Kong was a Western enclave in the mighty East and had already been ruled by the Brits for a hundred years by then. A class of traders and industrialists was mediating between China and the world, conveniently lasting till 1997.
Just as Japan had offered their wares to the West, so did Hong Kong, only on a smaller scale. Where Japan delved into high-end products, Hong Kong produced cheapies, basic electric appliances, textiles and clothing, toys, and houseware trinkets.
If the Japanese could build cameras there, so could the industrious Chinese. In 1956, Dr. Haking Wong banked on local manufacturing ability and the British links to the island and established a camera factory under the Halina name. Aspiration was high, but products were humble, if not meagre, what the French call Bon to pour Levant.
The first models were basic TLR models, made of bakelite or tin metal, with homemade shutters, say glorified box cameras. The first try for a serious camera was the 1959 Halina 35X, a copy of the Nihon Seiki Nescon 35, with a modified lens barrel. The Nescon was not a great camera, but the 35X did not even match that. This model was rebranded for Radio Shack in the US as Micronta 35X, which I think is what Mckeown mentions under Nihon Seiki. Another identical rebrand was the Sunscope, and I am unsure for which distributor. The Halina 6-4, a #120 viewfinder model capable of two image formats, came in 1962, with many TLRs and basic viewfinders in between.
A larger and heavier Halina 35X Super came in 1963. New technology development stopped about there. Later cameras, offered until the early 2000s, were a mix of low-end pocket, disc, point-and-shoot, instamatic type and novelty or incentive models under their brand or made for other distributors. Halina took the rights for the Ansco name, selling late models P&S under that brand, assumingly in the US. Similar to that, Halina sold several models under Samoca name.
For the collector, the Halina models are unimportant, perhaps a curiosity. They are offered on the cheap, and I am not sure how able they are as shooters.
A mantra that returns by all who look at this camera is its weight. It is heavy, at 500gr, but just 25gr heavier than the Nescon it is based upon. Its younger sister, the Halina 35X super, is 20% heavier at 600gr. It brings to mind the South African automotive industry. The manufacturers got government incentives per vehicle weight. So, the cars made there were heavier than their European / Japanese originals. This was a double-edged sword, as local parts would not fit the international models, so neither cars nor spares could be exported. Perhaps there was a similar incentive plan in Hong Kong as well.
The Halina 35X body clearly follows the Nescon / Soligor design. It is either a blatant copy or made under some agreement, which I doubt. Why copy that lackluster camera, I don’t know. Further, the Japanese would not have accepted such a scaled-down product if made under license.
The top housing is a trapezoid, whereas Nescon is square. Other than that, it is the same. The bottom wing lock is the same, as is the back cover. Only here does the pressure plate have a life of its own and need convincing to slide back in.
Where the Nescon metalwork is smooth and nicely satin chromed, the Halina metalwork is wavy and finished with shiny plating. The model name embossing is rough as if done by a trade school student. It does not affect the camera’s ability but hints at the production quality.
The lens assembly here slightly differs from the Nescon. The dial order is similar; closest to the body is the speed selector, then the focusing ring, with the aperture dial in front. Not a common order, which hints again at the similarity to the Nescon. The speed selector here is a dial, whereas, on the Nescon, it is a lever moving in a slot. It could have the same mechanism under the hood.
A lens-mounted shutter cocking lever is mounted at the NE side of the lens, the same as the Nescon. But, here, there is no double frame prevention, so you may cock the shutter without winding the film. Either oversight or making it simpler to produce. A modest speed selection B, 25-200 on a two-leaf shutter, with a 3.5/45 lens, completes the offering.
The camera tends to fall on its nose as the bottom lock is proud of the base, either bad design or poor workmanship. It could also be that the camera weight comes from the lens.
A later model marked Halina 35X Mark II came several years later, which is a rebrand of a Paulette. Marked “Made in Macau”, it shows that Hong Kong production has become too expensive, so it was contracted to mainland China.
Halina 35X Super
Four years after the Halina 35X, came the 35X Super, offering little over the earlier model. The body is similar, with the top cover on steroids. On the 35X, it was a flat, low profile base with a bulge housing the viewer, trigger and shoe; here, the whole top cover is elevated. The most pronounced improvement is the viewer, which is large and bright compared to the tiny keyhole of the earlier model. A top-mounted cocking lever that winds and cocks the shutter replaced the winding knob, and the lens-mounted cocking lever has gone. The frame counter is within the cocking lever base.
The shutter is a three-leaf, with the same speeds as before. The lens assembly is the same as the earlier model but a much larger barrel. Perhaps here is the additional 100gr buried. The protruding lock at the base is carried over, making the camera unstable just as the earlier model.
Finishes here are the same as at the 35X, with a comforting factor, the name embossing on top and front look decent, not as if made by an apprentice. An odd upgrade, where the earlier model states’ Made in Hong Kong’, here it is upgraded to “Epmire made’, for whatever it means.
|Camdex list number
|Micronta 35X, Sunscope 35X
|500 gr, Body with lens
|610 gr, Body with lens
|Class average weight
|475 gr, Body with lens
|475 gr, Body with lens
|Service / repair links
Halina 35X images
Halina 35X Super images