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Honor SL

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Japanese 35mm focal plane VF and RF (edit)
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Leica M mount Bessa R2/R3/R4 | Konica Hexar RF | Minolta CLE | Rollei 35 RF
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Other Bessa R2C | Kwanon | Tanack V3
Japanese TLR and pseudo TLR ->
Japanese 6×6, 4.5×6, 3×4 and 4×4 ->

The Honor SL (オーナーSL) is a Japanese 35mm rangefinder camera taking Leica screw mount lenses, made from 1959 by Zuihō Kōgaku. It is often described as a Leica copy, though its design was actually inspired from the Canon L1.

Description Edit

The die-cast body and removable back of the Honor SL are reportedly the same as those of the Honor S1,[1] certainly to avoid spending money on making new dies for the camera. There is an oval black spacer at the junction between the main body and the top cover,[1] pretending to be a part of the die-cast body and supporting the two strap lugs. The leatherette covering sometimes has two separate patches above the lens mount, outlining the top cover of the former Honor S1, perhaps an indication that the camera was assembled from unfinished S1 bodies.

The top cover is all new, and its design was blatantly copied on that of the Canon L1. It contains a viewfinder and rangefinder combined in a single rectangular eyepiece, offset to the left as seen by the photographer. The viewfinder contains a bright frame, certainly for 50mm focal length only, with fixed parallax indications. It is said that the full field of view outside the bright frame approximately corresponds to 35mm focal length.[2]

The film is advanced by a lever, containing a black decreasing[2] exposure counter. It is rewound by a folding crank at the opposite end. The sprocket shaft is disengaged for rewind by turning a collar around the release button, with A and R indications.

The focal plane shutter is operated by two separate dials; it is probably the same as that of the Honor S1, except for the slow speed governor. The top dial is black and has B, 30–1 (in yellow), 60, 125, 250, 500 positions. (Some sources report a version with 1/1000 top speed, but no picture has been observed and this is apparently a mistake.)[3] The front dial is black and chrome, and has T, 1, 2, 4 positions in one direction, and 8, 15, 30 (in yellow) in the other. Only the inside part of the main dial — with a red index — rotates during the exposure, allowing to set the speed before or after winding. That feature was introduced by Canon on the IVSb and was perhaps subject to a patent;[2] it is wondered if Zuihō made legitimate use of this by paying royalties to Canon, or simply copied the design.

The camera has a PC flash socket at the left end of the top plate. There is a sliding button switching from FP to X (in yellow), above the socket and next to the rewind crank. The accessory shoe is at its usual location between the viewfinder and speed dial.

The back, similar to that of the Honor S1, is removable together with the bottom plate for film loading. It is locked by two keys at the bottom, with O and C indications. The tripod thread is contained inside the right-hand key. The camera can take standard film cartridges or refillable Leica cassettes, as the Honor S1.

The name Honor and model name S.L are engraved above the viewfinder, together with a red film plane indicator. The company name Zuiho Opt. Co., Ltd. Japan is engraved at the rear of the top cover. Finally, the serial number is engraved in front of the accessory shoe: No.xxxxx.

The original case is brown with chrome fittings, and has the name Honor added to a brown plate at the front.

Announce and production Edit

The camera was announced in the new products column of the December 1959 issue of Nihon Camera.[4] It was not advertised in Japan, and was perhaps made for export only.[5]

Serial numbers are confirmed from 90135 to 90695.[6] The sequence certainly started at 90000 or 90001. The first digit "9" might correspond to year 1959, when the batch was started — a similar explanation seems to account for the 6xxx and 7xxxx numbers of the Honor S1. The total production of the Honor SL maybe reached little more than 700 units.

The camera was offered too late, at a time when major Japanese companies were switching to SLR designs. It appeared three years after corresponding Canon cameras, and some of its features were already antiquated when it was released, notably the dual speed dial with unevenly spaced settings, and the single bright frame in the viewfinder. This gave little hope to Zuihō to pursue camera development further, and the Honor SL was the last camera made by the company.

Notes Edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 Awano, p.57 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.37.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Nekogahora, p.15 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.45.
  3. 1/1000 speed is reported in Sugiyama, item 3275, for the camera owned by Awano and presented in Camera Collectors' News no.36, which actually has 1/500 top speed. It seems that the other sources mentioning a variant with 1/1000 speed are repeating this mistake: HPR, p.190, Pont / Princelle, p.202, McKeown, p.1064.
  4. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.379. This is the only document listed in that source.
  5. Awano, p.57 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.37; the author does not seem aware of the article in Nihon Camera December 1959.
  6. No.90135: example observed in an online auction. No.90695: example pictured in HPR, p.191, and sold as lot no.426 of Westlicht auction no.14.

Bibliography Edit

Links Edit

In English:

In German:


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