Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2001/11/29

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Subject: Re: [Leica] To cheer up: now in praise of Leica
Date: Thu, 29 Nov 2001 19:43:00 +0800

Well I'm no expert on Topcon, but old specimens are still regarded
highly in Japan (and you know when it comes to Leica, how fanatical
the Japanese are), especially the lenses.

As far as build quality is concerned, Nikon does not make things like
the venerable Nippon Kogaku KK used to.  I had been a Nikon user for
years and starting from the Ai-S and E-series, the cost-cutting has
been very noticeable. Yet in comparison with all those wobbly AF zooms
and filmsy current bodies, Ai-S and E are still vastly more solid.
Nippon Kogaku used to pride themselves on making *only* the top-grade
professional equipment (hence offering nothing like the Canonets for
the amateur market) but sadly those days are long gone.

Here's several usenet messages which tell the Topcon/Navy story much
better than I can manage.  I'd think that Topcon was chosen because of
its innovations and tough build, as well as great lenses.


From: DBaker9128 (
Subject: Re: Nikon vs Topcon for the US Navy 
Date: 2001-08-31 18:27:35 PST 
Leon wrote:
"Sometime around 1965, the US Navy chose a 35mm SLR camera for use
throughout the fleet. Their selection was the Beseler Topcon Super D."

Yes Leon, I remember the Super D and the RE Super. They were massive,
well designed and beautifully built cameras, as tough as they came!
They made the 1st generation Canon F1 look like a delicate toy. In
1971 I was just getting serious about photography and I looked at the
Topcon Super D real hard but I opted for a Nikon FTN (which I still
have) because of market strength and lens portfolio. Deep down though,
I knew the Super D was the tough guy of SLRs.
That's probably why the Navy went for them. Super Ds would hold up
better than the rest in that close quartered, rough handed, salt water
The 1970's were a tough time for camera companies. Along with Topcon
we said goodby to Petri, Miranda, Mamiya (in 35mm), Kowa (6X6), Zeiss
Ikon, and almost Leica! We haven't had that kind of a shakeout since.
I wonder if the digital demon will soon take away some of our great
camera names of today?

Doug from Tumwater

From: ShadCat11 (
Subject: Re: Nikon vs Topcon for the US Navy 

Date: 2001-09-01 10:31:04 PST 
Topcon was chosen by the navy over its worthy competitors because it
was the only high quality camera in its class that had a light meter
built into the camera body rather than the prism finder, as did Nikon.
That allowed some adaptations ( in connecting to a submarine
periscope, or something of the sort) not possible with the others when
used with finders other than eye level prism.
The navy  thought the Topcon system allowed for greater
mixing/matching components.  The FBI also went with Topcon at the same
time, possibly for the same reason

I got this information In Los Angeles, 1974, from the director of a
lab engaged by the FBI to compare camera optics during their selection
process.  According to him, BTW, there were at that time more optical
variations between individual lens samples than manufacturers. 

Allen Zak

From: John Bateson (
Subject: Re: Nikon vs Topcon for the US Navy 
Date: 2001-10-03 22:49:58 PST 
Chris Ward wrote:
 I think the Super D also had diagonal slits cut into the mirror,
behind which was the meter cell.  This ws as close as you could get to
"off the film plane" metering, with little interference from the
eyepiece, and there was no need for a circular polarizer instead of a
regular one as a semi-silvered meter patch would have required.  But I
may be wrong, and it was a LONG time ago I remember reading it...

Chris:  It's been a very long time since I've thought about the Topcon
Super D, though I once knew a man who was a fanatic about them.  (He
bought a Canon F-1 when Topcon got out of the 35mm camera business).
You are correct though about the meter cell reading light from slits
in the mirror.  Also, Topcon Super D's had open aperture metering.

Kind regards,
John Bateson

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