Kowa had been at the rear end of the Japanese camera industry. I hold a camera that was made in 1964, so one would expect some reference about it in the printed guides. Not so. Kowa, an old established industrial company, branched into the camera trade in 1958 for a short 30-year period. Early models were compact viewfinders and rangefinders, with a line of compact SLR models between 1960 and 1972 and a few TLR and 6×6 SLR models. Like the East German makers, the models differed little, with minor variations over the same melody.
I have eight different Kowa cameras. Four are SLR, and neither came in in working order. Perhaps here is the reason for its meagre reputation.
The first of the Kowa SLR models, the Kowa / Kowaflex E, was a fixed lens, leaf shutter, with a mighty selenium meter on its forehead. In 1964, the Kowa H followed with a shutter priority option, else the same. The Kowa SE of the same year offered a CDS meter via a lens above the intake lens. The SW, again in 1964, offered a cheaper version with a 28mm lens.
The Kowa SER of 1965 offered an interchangeable lens over a leaf shutter, otherwise very similar to its predecessors. The Kowa SET of 1967 was the same as the SER, but with a fixed lens. The SET-R was back with an interchangeable lens, as did the SET-R2, only with a faster 1.8 lens. The last in this line was the Kowa UW190 of 1972, with a 19mm F4 fixed lens.
The only sought-after Kowa model, hence expensive, is the Kowa UW190, the last SLR made. The others are SLR models, which are found abundantly at dirt-cheap rates.
The Kowa SE is a straightforward camera with a needle match meter and a paddle that poops out at the viewer’s left need when the camera is unhappy. All controls are clustered at one side of the lens barrel and are challenging to reach. The ASA setting takes pulling out a mushroom-like button under the lens barrel, which takes agile finetres and strong nails.
|Mode||Manual, meter-assisted AP|
|Weight||875 gr, Body with lens|
|Class average weight||750 gr, Body with lens|
|Filter size||49 mm|
|Lens mount||Fixed lens|
|Shutter make||Seikosha SLV|
|Light meter||CdS, external uncoupled, match needle|
|Viewer||Fixed eye-level prism|
|Service / repair links||See camerlog.com|