History of The Single-lens Reflex Camera - Chronology - 1960s


Konica F (Japan): first SLR with 1/2000 second and 1/125 second flash X-synchronization focal-plane shutter. Modern focal-plane shutters are dual curtain traveling slit shutters. They provide faster shutter speeds by timing the second shutter curtain to close sooner after the first curtain opens and narrowing the slit "wiping" the exposure on the film, instead of moving the curtains faster across film gate, because they are too fragile to survive the necessary accelerative shocks. Long wipe times can cause cartoonish distortion of very fast moving objects instead of truly freezing their motion. (The use of leaning in illustration to give the impression of speed is a caricature of the distortion caused by the slow wiping FP shutters of Graflex large format SLRs from the first half of the 20th century.) Unacceptable distortion (as well as difficulties in precisely timing very narrow slits) had stalled traditional cloth horizontal-travel FP shutters for 35 mm cameras at 1/1000 sec. and 1/60 sec. X-sync for decades. The F's Hi-Synchro shutter provided faster speeds by having its metal blades travel vertically, i.e. along the shorter side of the 24×36 mm frame. In 1982, the Nikon FM2 (Japan) reached 1/4000 sec. (and 1/200 sec. flash X-sync) with a vertical-travel FP shutter using honeycomb pattern etched titanium foil blades, stronger and lighter than plain stainless steel. This allowed quicker shutter-curtain travel time (3.6 milliseconds, about half of earlier vertical, metal bladed shutters) and thereby truly faster shutter speeds. The Nikon FE2 (Japan), with an improved version of this shutter, boosted X-sync speed to 1/250 sec. (3.3 ms curtain travel time) in 1983. The fastest FP shutter ever used in a film camera was the 1/12,000 sec. (1/300 sec. X-sync; 1.8 ms curtain travel time) duralumin and carbon fiber bladed one introduced by the Minolta Maxxum 9xi (Japan) in 1992.
Royer Savoyflex Automatique (France): first autoexposure SLR. Had an unreliable mechanical shutter-priority autoexposure system controlled by an external selenium light meter, Prontor leaf shutter and fixed 50mm f/2.8 Som-Berthiot lens. The first autoexposure still camera was the non-SLR Kodak Super Kodak Six-20 (USA) of 1938 with a mechanical system controlling both aperture and shutter speed via trapped-needle method coupled to external selenium photoelectric cell.
Krasnogorsky Mekhanichesky Zavod (KMZ) Narciss (Soviet Union; Нарцисс): first subminiature SLR. Took 14×21 mm frames on unperforated, specially spooled 16 mm film. Compact design with interchangeable lenses and removable finder. Subminiature film format cameras (those using smaller than 135 film) require a very high degree of enlargement to make even small 3½×5 inch prints, magnifying image imperfections compared to larger formats; they are mostly used where the small camera size and weight are more important than image quality.
35 mm f/3.5 PC-Nikkor lens — the first perspective control lens for a 35 mm camera, permitting control of perspective in architectural photography.
Nikkorex Zoom 35 (Japan): first 35 mm SLR with fixed zoom lens (Zoom-Nikkor Auto 43–86mm f/3.5). Had non-pentaprism, four mirror reflex viewfinder and leaf shutter. Fixed lens SLRs have been an occasional phenomenon bridging simpler viewfinder cameras and more ambitious interchangeable lens SLRs. Presently, they are off-again with non-SLR electronic viewfinder (EVF) superzoom digital cameras occupying this market segment.
Topcon RE Super (Japan; called Super D in USA; name became Super D worldwide in 1972): first SLR with through-the-lens (TTL) light meter for convenient exposure control. Had internal cadmium sulfide (CdS) photoresistive cells mounted behind non-silvered slits in the reflex mirror for coupled center-the-needle, open aperture, full area averaging metering with auto-diaphragm lenses. Film is rated at a particular "speed" sensitivity. It needs a specific amount of light to form an image. The Weston Universal 617 (USA) helped introduce light exposure metering by a handheld selenium photoelectric device to sense the ambient light in 1932, but miniature light meters built into the camera that gave TTL readings were a great leap forward in convenience introduced by the Feinwerk Technik Mec 16SB (West Germany) non-SLR subminiature (10×14 mm frames on 16 mm film) camera in 1960. TTL metering became normal in virtually all 35 mm SLRs by the late 1960s. The durable and rugged RE Super had excellent interchangeable Exakta mount lenses and was the only pro level 35 mm SLR to compete with the Nikon F (see above) with any success. However, Topcons never progressed and Tokyo Kogaku (or Tokyo Optical) quit the consumer camera business circa 1980.
Olympus Pen F (Japan): first single frame (also called half frame) 35 mm SLR. Took up to 72 exposures of vertical 18×24 mm frames on 135 film. Had flat-topped non-pentaprism porroprism reflex and optical relay viewfinder, and rotary focal-plane shutter. Well-integrated compact design with excellent interchangeable lenses and large accessory system. The original non-SLR Olympus Pen (Japan) of 1959 helped give 35 mm still cameras that used the standard motion picture frame size of 35 mm film a burst of popularity. It ended by the late 1960s. Although single frame cameras used standard 135 film, single frame photofinishing was always special-order. Kyocera/Yashica unsuccessfully attempted to revive the format as "Double 35" with their Yashica Samurai series (Japan) SLRs in 1988.
Asahi (Honeywell in USA) Pentax Spotmatic (Japan): second SLR with coupled center-the-needle TTL metering (stop-down aperture, full area averaging). Well-integrated, compact and reliable focal-plane shutter, instant return mirror and pentaprism design with excellent non-auto-diaphragm interchangeable lenses. Although the Spotmatic's stop-down (manual diaphragm lenses) system was less convenient than the RE Super's open aperture (auto-diaphragm lenses) system, the Spotmatic's two CdS cells on either side of the eyepiece reading off the focusing screen was less expensive and complex than the RE Super's system (see above), and thereby more popular. The Spotmatic's TTL system was (and is) very influential and widely imitated, often with open aperture. It (and rival TTL metering SLRs, including the Canon FT, Minolta SRT101 and Nikkormat FTN ; all from Japan) made the Japanese 35 mm SLR the dominant advanced amateur camera by the late 1960s.
Krasnogorsky Mekhanichesky Zavod (KMZ) Zenit 5 (Soviet Union; Зенит 5): first SLR with built-in electric motor drive. Had a Ni-Cd battery powered motor for automatic single-frame film advance with a backup film wind knob. In 1970, the Minolta SRM (Japan) was the first SLR with built-in electric sequential motor drive and first SLR with auto film-rewind. It was a modified Minolta SRT101 with a permanently bottom-mounted motor drive (eight AA batteries) and detachable handgrip for continuous three frames per second sequence shooting, but no light meter. Built-in motor drives did not become common in 35 mm SLRs until the mid 1980s when high-powered, energy efficient "coreless" micro-motors were perfected, but accessory drives or autowinders taking four to twelve AA (LR6) batteries were very popular in the 1970s. This is, of course, a non-issue in modern digital SLRs.
Kodak Retina Reflex IV (USA/West Germany): first SLR with standard ISO hot shoe atop the pentaprism housing for direct flash mounting and synchronization. Was a 35 mm, leaf shutter design. A flash is a necessary accessory for auxiliary or fill light in dim or high contrast conditions. The first camera with any kind of hot shoe connector was the Univex Mercury (USA) non-SLR half frame 35 mm in 1938 and many post World War 2 non-SLRs (such as the Bell & Howell Foton 35 mm rangefinder) had a Leica-type accessory shoe with added electrical contact (the present day ISO hot shoe). Although the Nikon F (see above) had a non-ISO hot shoe surrounding the film rewind crank in 1959, most 1960s 35 mm SLRs used screw-on accessory shoes attached to the eyepiece to mount flashes but a PC cable socket to sync them. The ISO hot shoe became a standard SLR feature feature in the early 1970s. However, in 1971, SLRs using "dedicated" electronic flashes with automatic flash exposure control began appearing with the Canon FTb (Japan). They used ISO-style shoes with extra electrical contacts. Each SLR brand used incompatible contact configurations and the time of use-any-flash-with-any-SLR passed by the late 1970s. Note, although the hot shoe had been de facto standardized in the 1950s, the International Organization for Standardization did not promulgate its ISO 518 hot shoe specification until 1977.
Canon Pellix (Japan): first pellicle reflex mirror SLR. Virtually all SLRs use fast moving reflex mirrors that swivel out of the way to take the picture, causing mirror shock vibration, blacking-out the viewfinder and delaying shutter firing. Camera shake can blur the image and the subject (which might have moved) cannot be seen at the instant of exposure. A fixed semi-transparent pellicle reflex mirror, reflecting 30% of the light to the viewfinder and transmitting 70% to the film, prevents camera shake and viewfinder blackout, and reduces shutter lag time at the costs of a dimmer viewfinder image, longer exposure times and possible image quality loss. Modern instant return mirrors are fast enough and have efficient enough shock damping systems that the trade offs are not usually considered worthwhile. Pellicle mirror SLRs are very rare and are usually specialized designs for ultra-high speed (10+ frames per second) sequence shooting.
Praktica Electronic (East Germany) first SLR with an electronically controlled shutter. Used electronic circuitry to time its focal-plane shutter instead of spring /gear/lever clockwork mechanisms.
Konica Autorex (Japan; called AutoReflex in USA): first 35 mm SLR with successful shutter-priority automation (first with a focal-plane shutter). The camera also had the rare ability to allow selection between frame sizes (horizontal 24×36 mm or vertical 18×24 mm) between frames on the same roll of film. The camera used a mechanical "trap-needle" autoexposure system controlled by an external CdS meter that read light directly (not through-the-lens).
Zeiss Ikon Contaflex 126 (West Germany): first Kodapak Instamatic 126 cartridge film SLR. Was a Voigtländer focal-plane shutter design unrelated to 35 mm Contaflexes (see above), accepting fully interchangeable lenses. Took up to twenty exposures of 28×28 mm frames on paper-backed, singly perforated, 35 mm wide film pre-threaded into double-ended cartridge with film supply and take-up spools. Drop-in loading 126 film was introduced in 1963 as Kodak's first attempt (of many) to solve the problem of amateurs' difficulty in loading 135 film manually. It was briefly an extremely popular non-SLR snapshot format, but almost dead by 1972.
Konica Autoreflex T (Japan): first SLR with internal open aperture TTL metering autoexposure (mechanical shutter-priority). Was an improved Konica AutoReflex (see above) with internal CdS centerweighted light meter and reduced shutter button travel, but without half frame capability.
OP Fisheye-Nikkor 10mm f/5.6 (Japan): first SLR lens with aspherical elements. Was a 180° orthographic projection fisheye lens for Nikon and Nikkormat 35 mm SLRs. Typical lens elements have spherically curved surfaces. However, this causes off-axis light to be focused closer to the lens than axial rays (spherical aberration) and degrading image sharpness; especially severe in very wide angle or aperture lenses. This can be prevented by using elements with convoluted aspheric curves. Although this was understood since the 17th century, the grinding of aspheric glass surfaces was extremely difficult and prevented their consumer use until the E. Leitz 50mm f/1.2 Noctilux (West Germany) in 1966; for Leica M-series 35 mm RFs. The Canon FD 55mm f/1.2 AL (Japan) of 1971 was the first rectilinear aspheric SLR lens; for FD mount Canon SLRs, and the Asahi SMC Takumar 15mm f/3.5 (Japan/West Germany) of 1975 was the first rectilinear aspheric wide angle SLR lens; for M42 screw mount Asahi Pentax SLRs (co-designed with Carl Zeiss ). The use of modern precision molded plastic or glass aspheric lens elements has made aspheric lenses common today.
Yashica TL Electro X (Japan): first SLR with all solid-state electronic light metering system. Had a stop-down aperture, full area averaging, CdS light meter linked via a four transistor circuit board to an extinguish-both-red-over-and-underexposure-lights exposure control system instead of a galvanometer meter needle. Also had another four transistor timing circuit to electronically control its metal-bladed Copal Square SE focal-plane shutter.
Asahi (Honeywell in USA) Pentax 6×7 (Japan; name shortened to Pentax 67 in 1990): first 67 medium format SLR. Took ten exposures of 2¼×2¾ inch (6×7 cm) nominal frames (56×69.5 mm actual frames) on 120 film. The 67 format is called "perfect" or "ideal," because its aspect ratio enlarges to an 8×10 inch print without cropping. The Pentax 6×7 resembled a greatly scaled-up 35 mm SLR.

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