Shinano Pigeon camera
Shinano began making cameras in Japan in 1951, with the wave of camera makers coming out of nowhere to cater to the GI contingent stationed in Japan. Most camera manufacturers of that era are just a historical footnote, with only a handful of brands that have survived. A detailed history of Shinano is described on Yashica TLR excellent site, so I would save energy rather than researching it all over again. I did not read this or Mick Eckman’s articles, but I will do so once I air my thoughts. Note that some of the Pigeon models were also sold under the Endo brand, and the model described here is sometimes called Pigeon I.
The early Pigeon model have on my desk is a 1951 model; I assume it is the earliest made. This model has several variants, as with most vintage cameras, where makers kept changing fringe specs on the fly. Variant names depend much on whom you read, so I will keep it simple and refer to this as just Pigeon. At first look, it resembles the Olympus 35 models of 1949 onwards, of which I have the Olympus 35 IV, or the Gelto DIII, of both I will write later. Its common appearance with these cameras is the superimposed square viewer, which seems like an afterthought object. Here, the similarities end.
This Pigeon is an amazing little camera, which should have survived longer than it had. It was very well built and survived the time burden with flying colours. Regrettably, the other Pigeons I have were not as lucky.
The camera I have is clean and free of any rust or blemishes, both body and skin. The lens is clear. The moving parts were stiff, but with minor cleaning, the mechanics now buzz like an eager bee. There was a lot of thought and craftsmanship to match vested here. It seems the engineers ran out of steam, so the later models, Lacon included, are less impressive.
The top has two nicely balanced knobs, wind and rewind, positioned at each end. The winder knob is adorned with a frame counter skirt. A prominent trigger button and a tiny rewind release button are by the Winder. A square viewer is in the middle with a cold accessory shoe that completes the top offering. The viewer lens is on the smaller size. The bottom has two bulges, one threaded for mounting, the other blind. It is a well-thought-out design; it is only too bad that the camera falls on its nose like the other Pigeons I have. The lens assembly is too heavy for the poor body to balance. The back opening lever is a neat sea shell shaped; you almost expect Venus to appear.
The lens assembly is over-engineered. On the right is a Guinness logo shaped arm, well protruding and easy to grasp. It is a thoughtful addition, where your finger may long search for the focusing lever in many other cameras. The depth of field markings are on the arm rather than on the camera body. The units are feet, hinting at the target market. On the opposite side is the trigger coupler, sheltered with a stationary bar, not as elaborate as on some German models, yet functional. The aperture setting lever is on top, easy to reach and read. The shutter speed dial is in front of it, set against a tiny chevron in the middle, above the lens. The trigger cocking lever is in between. Note that the Winder does not cock the trigger. A Guns of Navarone sized two-pin flash gun connector and the self-timer lever are at the front bottom of the lens barrel. A modest lens 3.5/50, no filter thread.
The back is fully removable, showing a delicate pressure plate and a pivot mounted cogs to regulate the film advance. The cogs operate by the Winder.
Good to know:
- The Winder does not cock the shutter but will stop at a single frame.
- It takes pressing the trigger to allow for the next winding to prevent double exposure.
- The shutter takes cocking lever is on top of the lens barrel.
- It can be triggered by pushing the round bulge protected by the side post.
|550 gr, Body with lens
|Class average weight
|450 gr, Body with lens
|Service / repair links
Pigeon 35 IIa
Pigeon J II