SLR cameras

Single Lens Reflex cameras make up the majority and therefore a core area of my collection. I've grouped my SLR posts into 9 categories. This is their index page for easy access. Besides links to the respective posts of the single cameras, I've a chapter at the very bottom about production numbers of all SLR cameras ever produced for 135-film.

Besides SLR cameras I have two other pages covering "small & small format cameras", another core area of my collection, and of course all the others. Please have fun browsing around...


Early SLR

This is the first generation of SLR cameras for 35mm film and covers the time frame from 1936, when it all started with the Kine Exakta, to the late 50ies. The early cameras introduced features like fast advance lever, returning mirror, penta prism, or flash synchronization. However, none of the cameras below has all of them. If they had the complete basic feature set, I'll count them for generation 2, see below.

Kine Exakta
Praktiflex (Deutschland, 1939-1946)
Contax F (DDR, 1956)
Kine Exakta (Germany, 1936-1949). First SLR for 35mm film on the market. Praktiflex (Germany, 1939-1946). First SLR with returning mirror. Contax SLR (DDR, 1949-1962). Early SLR with Pentaprisma. Contax F (1956-1961)
Zenit-S
Exa
II
Praktica FX2
Zenit S (USSR, 1955-1961). Early Soviet SLR based on the Leica RF design. Ihaage Exa II (DDR, 1959-1963). Simple first-time-user SLR with basic features. Praktica F.X2 (DDR, 1955-1959). First camera with automatic open aperture control for M42



Mechanical SLR (2nd generation, ca. 1959-1979)

With the appearance of the first important Japanese SLR, namely the Nikon F, the style of the modern SLR was set. This second generation had all important features, but no battery. Everything was mechanical. Some models had the advantage of exchangeable prisms, which later included meters or even TTL meters (like the Nikon F). I also count cameras with built-in but uncoupled (Selenium) meters to that generation.

Nikon F


Minolta SR-2


Miranda F


Nikon F (Japan, 1959-1971). The SLR for professionals. Similar significance like the Kine Exakta and its worthy successor as a system SLR. Minolta SR-2 (Japan, 1958-1960). Most stylish and modern SLR of the late 50ies. Innovative SR bayonet mount. Quite rare. Miranda F (Japan, 1963-1967). One example of a less successful brand. Still a very solid SLR, though. Miranda's last purely mechanical model.
Nikkorex F
Edixa-Mat Reflex

Zenit E
Nikkorex F (Japan, 1962-1964). Nikon's first consumer SLR, toll produced by Mamiya. First camera with the new Copal Square shutter (vertical, metal blades) Wirgin Edixa-Mat Reflex Typ D (West Germany, 1961). Solid West-German M42 camera with focal plane shutter. Zenit E (USSR, 1965-1989). Most built SLR (ca. 12 million units) in the world. Also, longest production period.



Mechanical SLR with TTL-metering (3rd generation, 1965-1975)

Coupled TTL-meters was the next big thing and defined the 3rd generation. However, the shutters were still controlled mechanically and all these cameras could be operated without the battery (without metering, of course). In the beginning some cameras still had to be stopped down for correct metering. Open apperture metering was a feature to distinguish. I personally think, the general feature set of these cameras is totally sufficient to take great pictures, you have full controll of the image.

Topcon RE-Super (Japan, 1963-1971)
Spotmatic SP
Nikkormat FT-3
Topcon RE-Super (Japan, 1963-1971). First SLR with TTL metering, slightly upgraded Exakta mount for open aperture metering. Very solid premium camera, not very successfull, though. Pentax Spotmatic (Japan, 1964-1974). First SLR which sold more than 1 million units. First announcement of TTL-metering in 1960, but late market launch. Nikkormat FT-3 (Japan 1977). One of the most solid examples of the 3rd generation SLR. My 3rd Nikon, bought used in 1988
Canon Pellix (Japan, 1965)
Minolta SR-T 101
Praktica LLC
Canon Pellix (Japan, 1965). Canon's first TTL SLR, with a fixed semi transparnet mirror, not very successful though. Minolta SR-T 101
(Japan, 1966-1976). Very complete and successful camera of the area.
Praktica LLC (DDR, 1969-1975). First camera of the very successful East German L-line. First camera with electrical contacts between body and lens for open aperture TTL metering
King Regula Reflex
Olympus OM-1
Pentax Spotmatic F
King Regula Reflex 2000 CTL (West Germany, 1970-1975). Very rare SLR with a 1/2000 s fast shutter and a view myths around it. Olympus OM-1 (Japan, 1972-1987). Smallest SLR of its time, setting new design standards. Pentax Spotmatic F (Japan, 1973-1976). Continuation of the legendary Spotmatic with open aperture metering. Would later be continued by the K-1000.
Pentax K1000 (Japan, 1976)
Fujica ST801
Praktica LTL3 (DDR, 1975)
Pentax K-1000 (Japan, Hongkong, China, 1975-1997). A real longseller camera, continuing the technology from the Spotmatic. Fujica ST-801 (Japan, 1972-1978). First SLR using LED's in the finder for metering. A small milestone on the fast way to electronic cameras. Praktica LTL3 (DDR, 1975-1978). One of the many popular Praktica L-type cameras.
Cosina CT-1 (Japan, 1979)


Cosina CT-1 (Japan, 1979). The generic SLR and the basis for many distributor brand models.




SLR with electronic shutters and/or auto exposure modes
(4th generation, ca. 1975-1985)

This is the decade when SLR entered almost every home and consequently most SLR were sold ever. Automation, either with shutter or aperture priority enabled easy shooting. Competition was huge, Canon took over the market lead. Many cameras were at least partly build from ABS plastic instead of metal, althought it looked like. Electronic slowly took over control of the main function, many cameras would not even fire without a working battery.

Praktica PL electronic
Canon AE-1
Nikon FE2
Praktica PL electronic (1968). First camera with an electronically controlled shutter. No metering though, rest of feature set is more 2nd generation. Canon AE-1 (Japan, 1976-1984). First real electronic camera with a CPU. Shutter prio automation. A huge success, best selling SLR in the "SLR-decade". Nikon FE-2 (Japan, 1983-1987). First SLR with a 1/4000s and electronic shutter. My dream SLR, bought it 1986.
Nikon EM
Carena
SX-300
This is obviously a section, where I'm missing quite a number of milestone cameras. These are on my wih list:
Nikon EM (Japan, 1979-1985). Nikons entry into consumer level SLR's. Very compact design and no manual shutter control beside aperture priority auto. My first SLR, bought in 1982. Seagull DF-300/Carena SX-300 (China, 1991-199x). A late Minolta X-300 clone, which itself was a very successful camera with aperture prio AE. Produced under many brand names from distributors around the world. Pentax ES (first with electronic shutter and aperture priority AE), Minolta XD11 (first with both AE modes), Canon A-1 (first camera with additional "Program" AE), Nikon FA (matrix metering), ...



SLR with built-in motor drives and/or Autofocus (5th generation, ca. 1985-2005)

Here comes automation in almost every aspect of the camera. None of these cameras would function without (even multiple) batteries. Early models/prototypes in the late 70ies and early 80ies added built in motor drives or auto-focus. It was Minolta with the (Maxxum) 7000 AF to set a new standard of a fully integrated automized SLR. This was in 1985 and they took over the market lead until Nikon and especially Canon countered with own and later superior systems. In addition to automation it was also the period, where plastic eventually replaced metal for many aspects of construction. Even bayonet mounts and lens elements were made out of it, at least for the entry level consumer cameras, which sold millions. With built-in full automation, you just have press the shutter release button

Konica FS-1 (Japan, 1979) 
Pentax ME F (Japan, 1981)
Nikon N2000
Konica FS-1 (Japan, 1979-1983). First camera with built-in motor drive and easy film handling. Otherwise, a 4th generation feature set. Pentax ME-F (Japan, 1981-1984). First commercial AF-SLR with a passive TTL AF sensor. Only one AF-lens, though. Nikon F-301/N2000 (Japan, 1983-1990). Still without AF, Nikon's first camera of the 5th generation.
Minolta 7000 AF
Canon EOS 3000V

Minolta (Maxxum) 7000 AF (Japan, 1985-1988). First modern AF-SLR, archetype of this generation. Canon EOS 3000 V (Japan, 2003-2004). Canon's last entry-level consumer SLR for 135 film, with all automation features of its aera. Even built-in flash.



SLR for cartridge film formats

This is a kind of bizzare section, because film cartridges (Instamatic, both 126 and 110) with their entry-level, easy to handle approach do not really fit to the mostly complex SLR technology. But in the late 60ies, when the 126 cartridge was launched by Kodak none of the below camera makers wanted to miss the opportunity to be the first with a SLR in this growing market. It was a relatively short experiment and none of the cameras probably earned its development costs. Interestingly history repeats itself, with the 110 cartridge in the late 70ies....   

126 type Instamatic
Kodak Instamatic Reflex
Keyston K 1020
I'm proud to own the entire set of SLR cameras built for the 126 cartridge ("Instamatic"). For a comparison of the 5, please click here. Kodak Instamatic Reflex (West Germany, 1968-1974). Based on the Retina Reflex know-how. Most successful and versatile of the five Instamatic SLR. Keystone K-1020 (Japan, 1966-?). First of the five Instamatic SLR. Fixed Lens, simple and somehow cheap design.

Rolleiflex SL26
Zeiss Ikon Contaflex 126
Ricoh 126C-Flex
Rolleiflex SL26 (West Germany, 1968-1973). Most beatiful, compact and expensive of the five Instamatic SLR. Leave shutter and set-lenses. Zeiss Ikon Contaflex 126 (West Germany, 1967-1971). Most solid of the five Instamatic SLR. Focal plane shutter! Ricoh 126C-flex (Japan, 1969-1972). Last and somehow weird Instamatic SLR. As large as a standard 135 film SLR.
110 type instamatic
Pentax auto-110
Minolta 110 Zoom
Even for the small 110-cartridge there were SLR cameras. The Pentax was even a system with a range of lenses. Minolta produced two versions, I own the first. Pentax auto-110 (Japan, 1978-?). The smallest system SLR with exchangeable lenses ever made. Minolta 110 Zoom (Japan 1976-1979). First SLR for 110 cartridge. Not very small, though. Was succeeded by a more compact version, the last 110 SLR!



Leaf Shutter SLR

Leaf shutter vs. focal plane shutter sometimes seemed a question of faith. While leaf shutters are the natural choice for fixed lens (range-)finder cameras, they are tricky to implement in a SLR, especially for exchangeable lenses. In my opionion there are more disadvantages then advantages for them in SLRs. However, especially West German SLRs of the 50ies and early 60ies were based around the then new Compur Reflex shutter from Zeiss' Deckel company. But even East Germany built one as well as the Japanese (some), with own shutter developments. The Japanese actually utilized the leaf shutter to implement early auto exposure concepts, which seemed to be easier with a leaf shutter.

Contaflex II
Retina Reflex S
Voigtländer
Bessamatic
Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II (West Germany, 1954). First leaf shutter SLR design, version II with an uncoupled Se-meter. Fixed lens with the option of a 1.7x tele set-lens. Kodak Retina Reflex S (West Germany, 1959-1960). First leaf shutter SLR with real exchangeable lenses using the DKL mount. Advanced and easy to use coupled selenium meter. Voigtländer Bessamatic (West Germany, 1959-1962). Direct competitor to the Retina Reflex S, almost (!) same DKL-mount, slightly more modern and solid.
Sears SL9 (Ricoh 35 Flex)
Pentina
There were a few more leaf shutter cameras. Especially on my wish list for the future is...
Sears SL9 (Ricoh 35 Flex, Japan 1963-1966). Example of an early Japanese fixed lens leaf shutter SLR. Automatic exposure control and extra set-lenses. VEB Pentacon Pentina (DDR, 1961-1965). The only DDR-SLR with a leaf shutter. Unusual design and an advanced feature set for its time. ...Nikon's Nikkorex Auto 35 or the Nikkorex Zoom.  I would not mind other Japanese as well, like a Kowa E or a Mamiya.



Unusual SLR cameras, and modern digital examples

This is my miscellaneous section of SLR cameras. The two Olympus Pen SLR are half format models and would officialy belong to the 2nd and 3rd generation, respectively. The Chinese clone SLR is not really intriguing from a technology standpoint, but historically quite interesting. And there is a camera I built myself from a DIY kit. Last but not least the two digital SLR bought, but not for a collecting purpose.

Pearl River S-201
PEN F
PEN FT
Pearl River S-201 (China 1974-1986). China's attempt to built an high-end SLR as a hybrid between Minolta SR2 and Nikon F. Therefore a very late 2nd generation camera. Olympus Pen F (Japan, 1963-1966). Most unusal SLR for 135 film, half format (18x24), though. Specially designed rotary shutter as well as porro prism finder. Very compact and beautiful, excellent lenses. Olympus Pen FT (Japan, 1966-1972). Consequent improvement of the Pen F in the same body, adding TTL-metering and a self timer.
Lomography Konstruktor (2013 ff)
Lumix L1 Olympus E-420
Lomography Konstruktor (2013). A simple SLR DIY-kit camera. Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1 (Japan, 2006-2007). My first digital SLR. Unusual design, 7.5 MP (3136x2352) FT sensor. Olympus E-420 (Japan, 2008-2010). Smallest and lightest DSLR.  10 MP (3648x2736) FT sensor. Gift to my wife.



SLR production numbers

In 2013 I started to collect information about production numbers of 135 film SLR's. In a first step I only looked at classical designs, meaning no Autofocus and no built-in motor drives. Therefore, the relevant time frame is between 1937 (Kine Exakta) to about 1985. Some classical SLR have been built after this date. However, no major improvements or new developments have been implemented.
Some production numbers are easily available and can be found in books or the internet. I always try to cite my sources, however, in many cases you cannot be sure, whether there is truth in the information or not. Therefore I developed an advanced method to assess production figures from serial numbers. I used it either to cross check found information or to give a number, where none can be found elsewhere. Below is a list of all articles I have published so far. Have fun reading...

Global production
Global Production by Countries
One important source is CIPA (the Japanese "Camera & Imaging Products Association"), which enabled me to give a comprehensive overview, even without having details available. The drilldown by producing country I have published in late 2017.
German 135 film SLR production
12.3 million SLR units have ever been produced for the 135 film in Germany. The by far most of them in Dresden. How this distributes over 21 camera series can be read in my very first article of this series. The one, all begun with...
Nikon SLR production
Over decades Nikon has been regarded the Japanese SLR producer with the highest reputation. In addition, from the SLR start in 1959 until 1983 they only produced SLR cameras! How the different camera series contributed to their success can be read here.
Minolta SLR production
Minolta's success on the SLR market based on a few very modern and innovative designs. Unlike Nikon they always focused on the needs of the average amateur photographer. Most of their camera series have been a success.
Asahi Pentax SLR production
Asahi were the first to produce a SLR in Japan. In addition with their fabulous Spotmatic SP they ruled the market in the late '60ies and early '70ies. The SP was the first SLR which sold more than 1 million times.
Canon SLR production
Canon's start into the SLR market was not as successful as their dominance they gained after the launch of the AE-1. Read here, how they developed themselves to the market leader.
Miranda SLR production
Today Miranda is a rather unknown Japanese camera manufacturer. During the early days of 135 SLR development they quite succesfully competed against Nikon and others. However, they missed out to find a way into mass production and went bankrupt.
Chinese 135 film SLR's
The Chinese started relatively late in copying German, then Russian, and eventually Japanese SLRs. When the political conditions were right production took off in the late 80ies and China produced about 25 million 35mm film SLR.
Soviet (and post-Soviet) 135 film SLR's
Zenit is the most important brand name for SLR cameras produced in the USSR and the following post-Soviet states. Only two production sites produced about 17 million units...




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