Japan: KOWA: 1960-1973:

Kowa Optical was established in 1946 as a branch of a textile company founded in 1894. They produced their first camera in 1954 and their first PP SLR in 1960. That was the Kowa (Kowaflex in US.) That was a rather simple camera with fixed 50mm lens. Then came Kowa(flex) E in 1961, introducing an automatic diaphragm coupled with light metering from a selenium front panel under the prism top. Only the French camera Savoyflex Automatic had built something similar before, released in 1959. Uncommon for Japanese cameras, Kowas always came with leaf shutters, which means the shutter was built into the lens, not the camera. But the lens was still a fixed 50mm. Kowa never produced much, and the last camera was introduced in 1972, although they continued for a while with some 6x6 cameras, like the Kowa Six. The camera production ended in mid '70s. Presented here is an early Kowa H of 1963, and a late one, the SET R2 of 1970. The quality of later production may have been a problem for the reputation, as very few of the ones I have seen are still working. Kowa also made lenses for other cameras, such as the Prominar-Miranda for the Miranda B of 1959.

1963: Kowa H:

The Kowa H of 1963. A hybrid of a budget camera and building on a technological worlds second. (But first to work well!) Budget because it featured a fixed lens and shutter speeds of only 1/30 to 1/300. Building on Worlds number two automatic exposure camera, the Kowa E of 1961. Weight with lens: Size: Sn: 324625
The fixed 48/2,8 lens with built in shutter.
Fixed lens with wide angle and telephoto converters.
From left: rewinder, counter, window showing ASA value and the automatically chosen shutter speed and lastly shutter release button. But where is the winder?
Under the camera! No more successful than that of the Canonflex four years earlier.

1970: Kowa SE T R2:

One of only two leaf shutter PP SLRs from Japan, The Kowa. Here a model from 1970, the latest of the regular PP SLRs, the SE T R2. Sn. 964151.
A Kowa-R lens of leaf shutter type, 50/1,8. Sn. 3412899.
A simple layout, as shutter time setting was on the lens mount.

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Bosse | Svar 26.03.2021 20:19

Hi,
Yes, their first PPSLR was introduced in 1960. I will add that that was Kowa(flex). Then the Kowa(flex) E in 1961, introducing auto metering. Thanks!

Baard-Einar | Svar 25.03.2021 23:47

Kowa made one even earlier than this Kowa H, there seems to be one from 1959 (?) called Kowaflex. There is one on ebay now.

Bosse | Svar 23.02.2021 00:06

Hi Dave, When looking back I note that I have given the title to several cameras!
The Optima was not a SLR camera and not counting here. To be continued..

Dave Doty | Svar 22.02.2021 20:24

How is the 1963 Kowa H the first Selenium Electric Eye when you consider earlier releases inclusing the 1959 Agfa Optima, and the 1959 Royer Savoyflex Automatic

Bosse 23.02.2021 00:17

The Konica Autoreflex of 1968 was the first automatic system to measure light through the lens, TTL. I will rewrite things to make this more clear. Thank you!

Bosse 23.02.2021 00:14

Savoyflex was first, but not regarded as a very useful system. Then Kowa H in 1963. Then Kiev Avtomat in '64. But Konica got all the credit from 1965.....

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10.08 | 18:42

Hi Richard,
21.454 K models were produced between '58 and '59. But Pentax used the letter K for many other models, too. K-series in '75 and digital since 2006.

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09.08 | 07:35

How many Pentar K cameras were made please?

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28.07 | 11:46

I have a -50 and an -M along with an SF-X sadly all are scrap thanks to the poor quality motor BUT I do have a -5S which I have nothing but praise for

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11.07 | 02:00

Hi Henrik,
Interesting. But where is the source for this? I have read several articles on the K-mount history, but never saw that proved.

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