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Auto Terra II and Super

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The Auto Terra II and Super are Japanese 35mm cameras with a leaf shutter, a coupled rangefinder and a spring motor device, made by Teraoka Seikōjo in the second half of the 1950s. They were preceded by the folding Auto Terra, treated in a separate article.

General description Edit

All the Auto Terra II and Super share the same body with smooth edges. The viewfinder and rangefinder are integrated into the top housing and share a common eyepiece. The viewfinder is of the bright-frame type and has 1.0× magnification,[1] and the second image window is diamond-shaped. The smooth top plate has a name engraving, an accessory shoe and an exposure counter window, and it has a small film reminder disc on the back.

The main release is at the front of the body. Next to it is a thread for a cable release and a selector for the film advance. The body has strap lugs on both sides. The back is hinged to the right. The bottom plate has a tripod thread at the right end, and the motor winding key and rewind crank at the other end.

The Auto Terra II series Edit

Common features Edit

The Auto Terra II models have a separate lever on the lens barrel, actuated by the photographer's left hand, which both releases the spring-driven advance and cocks the shutter. Full loading of the spring motor allows for twelve exposures.[2] When the camera is operated fast enough, these twelve exposures can be taken in four seconds.[3]

Other common features of the Auto Terra II compared with the later Auto Terra Super are the separate windows for the viewfinder and rangefinder, the flush accessory shoe, the cable release thread placed under the main release and the separate compartments in the bottom plate for the spring loading key and rewind crank.

From back to front, the lens barrel has the focusing ring with a focus tab and depth-of-field indications on the rear, the speed ring with a tab, and the aperture ring.

The Auto Terra II Edit

The original Auto Terra II has automatical parallax correction in the viewfinder. It has a round exposure counter window at the top, and a silver-coloured selector under the main release, with three positions: D for double exposure, A for automatic advance and R for rewind. The lens barrel has a mixed black and chrome finish, and the advance release, focus tab and speed selector tab are light-coloured. The name is engraved on the top plate as AUTO Terra II and in front of the lens barrel as AUTO TERRA II.

The shutter is a Seikosha-MX (B, 1–500). The lens is a Plover 44/2.8, certainly the same as on the previous Auto Terra.

The Auto Terra II was featured in Japanese magazines from December 1956 and advertised from that month to October 1957.[4] The December 1956 advertisement in Asahi Camera has no price indicated and says that the camera was the "first Japanese auto-winding camera" (国産最初の独創的自動巻スナップカメラ), ignoring the previous Auto Terra, which probably remained at preseries level. Despite the long advertising period, it is not certain that the Auto Terra II was actually sold, and no surviving example is known.

The Auto Tera IIB Edit

The Auto Tera IIB mainly differs by the absence of the parallax correction feature. Other internal changes are reported, notably a more robust governor for the spring advance.[5] It has a crescent-shaped exposure counter window at the top. The lens barrel is all chrome, with a black speed selector tab. A presumably early example has a black advance release with a rounded shape, a black three-position advance selector and an all black lens rim.[6] Presumably late ones have a silver advance release with a triangular shape, a small silver knob replacing the advance selector (perhaps with no double exposure ability), and a lens rim with an external silver finish.[7]

The shutter and lens are the same as on the Auto Terra II. The name is engraved on the top plate as AUTO Tera IIB and in front of the lens barrel as AUTO TERA IIB, with a single 'R'. The logos in the advertisements also have the spelling "Tera". The company changed its mind again after some time, and all subsequent models are spelled "Terra".

The Auto Tera IIB was announced in December 1957, January and February 1958 issues of Japanese magazines, and it was advertised from November 1957 to October 1958.[8] The February 1958 advertisement in Asahi Camera gives the price of ¥21,500.

The examples of the Auto Tera IIB observed so far have a four-digit lens number.[9]

The Auto Terra IIBS and IIL Edit

The Auto Terra IIBS and IIL are versions of the Auto Tera IIB with a Seikosha-MXL shutter and a Plover 4.5cm f/1.9 lens having six elements in four groups.[10] The shutter has a PC synch post at the bottom and the shutter name is written in front of the aperture ring. There is a light-value scale under the diaphragm ring, which is coupled to the speed ring by a small levern, a feature typical of the Seikosha-MXL. All the IIBS and IIL have an all chrome lens barrel, a silver triangular advance release and silver coloured focusing and shutter setting tabs. The advance selector is the same small silver knob as on the late IIB. The name is engraved above the top plate with a different font: Auto Terra IIBS or Auto Terra IIL.

The IIL has an additional uncoupled exposure meter, with a selenium cell covered by a hinged flap. This flap is spring-loaded and has three holes. There is a needle running under a window in the top plate, and a disc at the top, with ASA settings from 10 to 1600, and two light-value scales, to use with the flap closed in high-light situations and open in low light.

No advertisement for the Auto Terra IIBS is reported in any Japanese magazine, and this was probably an export model only.[11] The IIL was announced in Japanese magazines dated November 1958 to January 1959, and advertised from November 1958 to November 1959.[12] The November 1958 advertisement in Asahi Camera says that the camera was a "new model, available soon" (新製品・近日発売).

The observed examples of the IIBS and IIL have a five-digit lens number. At least some of them are in the 50xxx range, and they might share a common sequence with the Plover 4.4cm f/2.8 lens of the original Auto Terra.[13]

The Auto Terra Super series Edit

Common features Edit

The Auto Terra Super models have fully automatic advance, at last removing the need to press a special advance release after the shutter is tripped. They also have a long window covering both the viewfinder and second image windows, with an intermediate portion containing a brightline illuminating device. The viewfinder has parallax indications on the bright frame.[14] The range and viewfinder is built as a module attached by three screws under the top housing.[15]

The top housing has a raised line on both sides of the front window. The accessory shoe is raised above the top plate, and has the body serial number engraved on it. The name Auto Terra Super is engraved on the top plate, as well as a mark indicating the position of the film plane. The exposure counter is automatically reset to zero when the back door is opened, a feature which was probably already present on the Auto Terra II. The synch socket has moved to the left end of the top housing.

The cable release thread has moved to a new position above the main release. The advance selector is now black and silver, and has two positions: A for advance and S for stop, simply acting as a lock. The main release itself has a conical rather than hemispherical shape. The bottom plate has a single recessed compartment for the motor winding key and rewind crank, at the left end. The spring motor reportedly needs eight to nine turns of the key for full winding and allows for about ten successive exposures.[16] The rewind crank is unfolded and pulled out of the recessed compartment; this automatically disengages the advance mechanism and pulls down a shaft into the film cartridge, which is disengaged during normal operation.[17] Next to the rewind crank is a button to open the back. The back of the bottom plate is engraved TERAOKA SEIKOSHO Co., Ltd. and MADE IN JAPAN.

The lens barrel is black and chrome and the shutter is a Copal-SVL (B, 1–500) on the Super and Super L. These models have a black focusing ring with a chrome focus tab and depth-of-field indications at the front; the distance scale is engraved either in feet only or in metres and feet. There is an M/X selector on the side and a separate self-timer lever at the bottom. The silver aperture ring is graduated from 1.8 to 16, with the 11 setting in red. The shutter name is engraved on this ring, with SVL in red, and the shutter serial number is engraved on the fixed ring just behind.

The Auto Terra Super Edit

The original Auto Terra Super has no exposure meter. It has either a Plover 4.5cm f/2.8 lens, engraved Auto Terra Plover 1:2.8 f=4.5cm C. No.xxxxx, or a Zunow 4.5cm f/1.8 lens, engraved Auto Terra ZUNOW 1:1.8 f=4.5cm C No.xxxxxx. It was announced in Japanese magazines dated June and July 1959, and was advertised in Japan from December 1959 to April 1960.[18] It seems that these documents only mention the Plover lens, and the Zunow version was perhaps made for export only.[19]

In the December 1959 advertisement in Asahi Camera, the automatic advance is called "Touch-O-Matic", and it is described as "the world's first one-touch magic system, with internal spring motor" (世界最初のワンタッチマジックシステム!スプリングモーター内臓). This is of course not true, with the Robot and the Leningrad as obvious counter-examples. The advertisement also gives the price of ¥14,500 (case ¥1,300 extra), and mentions some accessories: a grip motor, tele and wide-angle conversion lenses, a lens hood and filters.

The surviving examples observed so far with the Plover lens have a five-digit lens number in the 30xxx or 31xxx range, from 30190 to 31303,[20] for a probable production of less than 2,000 cameras. A few examples of the Super (without exposure meter) are known with the Zunow lens and a six-digit number in the 600xxx or 621xxx range,[21] whose first two digits might indicate the year of production.

The Optika Auto 35 Edit

The Optika Auto 35 is an export variant of the Auto Terra Super. It is only known with the Zunow lens. The top housing is engraved OPTIKA at the front and Auto 35 at the top, and the lens is engraved OPTIKA ZUNOW instead of Auto Terra ZUNOW. The distributor of the Optika Auto 35 is not known for sure, though the New York distributor Seymour's is known to have sold an Optika IIA, name variant of the 6×9 Rittreck, and was probably the owner of the Optika brand.

The Auto Terra Super L Edit

The Auto Terra Super L has an added uncoupled exposure meter, similar to the meter mounted on the Auto Terra IIL (see above). This meter is built as a module, attached by two screws under the top housing,[22] and was perhaps directly bought to a subcontractor. The low-light EV scale is engraved in yellow. There is a small tap screwed on the back of the top housing, covering the meter adjustment screw.

It seems that the Super L was not advertised in Japan and was made for export only.[23] The top plate is only engraved Auto Terra Super and the name "Super L" given by various sources is not completely certain.[24]

Most examples of the Super L have the Zunow 4.5cm f/1.8 lens, but at least one camera is known with the Plover 4.5cm f/2.8.[25] The Zunow lenses have six-digit numbers, mixed with those found on the Super. They have been observed in the 600xxx range, from 600142 to 600721,[26] or in the 621xxx range, from 621231 to 621301.[27] Again, the first two digits might indicate the year 1960 or 1962.

Accessories for the Super and Super L Edit

Teraoka provided an auxiliary spring motor for the Super and Super L, called Grip Motor. It consists of a baseplate screwed into the camera's bottom thread, a vertical cylindrical grip containing the spring motor itself and a hinged wireframe securing the motordrive to the body's top left side. The device is all black, except for the attaching screw and wireframe, and the baseplate is engraved Auto Terra Super GRIP MOTOR. The auxiliary motor allows for twenty exposures and is wound by turning the base of the grip, engraved MADE IN JAPAN underside.[28]

Telephoto and wide-angle conversion lenses were also advertised for the Auto Terra Super with Plover lens.[29] Some sources say that conversion lenses were also available for the Zunow lens but this is unconfirmed.[30] None of the conversion lenses has been observed so far.

A black vented lens hood engraved Auto Terra was also available, as well as 46mm diameter filters.[31]

The police versions Edit

The Auto Terra Super P is a version specially made for the Japanese police, where it was used to record traffic violations, the same way as some Robot were used by Western police departments.[32] It has black top and bottom covers and a black accessory shoe, probably for discretion purpose. The top plate has an additional P engraving in front of the accessory shoe.[33] The shutter is reported as a Copal-SLV (B, 1–500.[34] The lens is a Plover 3.6cm f/2.8, engraved Auto Terra Plover 1:2.8 f=3.6cm C. No.xxxxxx. The only surviving examples observed so far have lens no.617004 and 617033.[35] The six-digit numbering scheme is similar to that of Zunow lenses, and the two first digits might correspond to year 1961. (The same lens is mounted on the Terra 35 prototype, with no.617112.) There is a short focusing ring at the base of the lens barrel, with color-coded distances down to 2m.[36] It is not known if the camera still has a rangefinder or not. It has been found with a special leather half-case having a metal belt attachment at the rear, certainly for concealed photography.[37]

Another police version of the Auto Terra Super is reported, nearly identical to the commercial version but with an entirely black finish, not only of the top and bottom plate, but also of the various knobs, buttons and rings.[38] None of these has been observed so far.

The end Edit

The Auto Terra models were not a commercial success. The production was definitively stopped in 1962.[39] It is said that Hayashi Yukinobu (林幸信), one of the engineers working on the Terra, was hired by another company working on spring-driven cameras (certainly Canon) but resigned when the project drifted from an expensive feature-laden camera to a cheaper mass-production model (probably the Canon Dial 35).[40]

Notes Edit

  1. 1.0× magnification: advertisement for the Auto Terra II reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.256.
  2. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.390, Shirai, p.124.
  3. Shirai, p.124.
  4. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.390.
  5. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.390.
  6. Example pictured in Sugiyama, item 3787.
  7. Examples pictured in Shirai, p.125, and in McKeown, p.917.
  8. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, pp.390–1.
  9. Lens numbers observed: 137x (pictured in Sugiyama, item 3787), 3124 (pictured in McKeown, p.917).
  10. Six elements in four groups: advertisement for the Auto Terra IIL reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.256.
  11. No advertisement or article is listed in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.391.
  12. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.391.
  13. An Auto Terra IIL observed in an online auction has lens no.50395. The IIBS pictured in Sugiyama, item 3788, perhaps has lens no.50494, and the IIL pictured in the same, item 3789, perhaps has no.50x4x.
  14. Parallax indications: Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.391.
  15. See this page by Carlo Colombo.
  16. Hattori, p.121 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.35, says eight to nine turns for seven or eight exposures. Carlo Colombo, in this page, says eight turns for nine advance movements and ten exposures.
  17. Operation of the rewind crank: see this page by Carlo Colombo.
  18. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.391.
  19. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.391, does not mention the Zunow version, presumably because it does not appear in the listed articles and advertisements.
  20. Lens no.30191: example pictured in this page and this page of the Topcon Club website. Lens no.31303: example observedin an online auction.
  21. Known lens numbers: 600039 (online auction), 600649 (pictured in McKeown, p.917), 621001 (pictured in Shirai, p.125).
  22. See this page by Carlo Colombo.
  23. The Auto Terra Super L is not listed in Kokusan kamera no rekishi.
  24. "Super L": Sugiyama, item 3792, McKeown, p.917, Shirai, p.125.
  25. Example pictured in Shirai, p.125.
  26. Lens no.600142: example sold by the Chartres auction gallery on April 4, 2009. Lens no.600721: example pictured in Sugiyama, item 3792.
  27. Lens no.621231: example pictured in Nakamura, p.27 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.53. Lens no.621301: example observed in an online auction.
  28. Twenty exposures: advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.256.
  29. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.256.
  30. Sugiyama mentions conversion lenses for item 3790 with Plover lens and item 3792 with Zunow lens.
  31. Hood observed in an online auction. Filters are mentioned in the advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.256. Diameter: Hattori, p.121 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.35.
  32. Used for traffic violations: Shirai, p.125.
  33. Sugiyama, item 3791, calls the camera "Auto Terra P" but the top plate is engraved Auto Terra Super P.
  34. Sugiyama, item 3791.
  35. Example pictured in Sugiyama, item 3791 (lens no.617004), and example observed in an online auction (lens no.617033).
  36. Hattori, p.121 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.35, says that the Super P is fixed-focus but this is surely a mistake, or corresponds to a different version of the Super P than that observed so far.
  37. Example observed in an online auction.
  38. Hattori, p.121 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.35.
  39. Shirai, p.126.
  40. Shirai, p.126. The company is only named by its first letter "C", and Canon is the only plausible candidate.

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