By the early 70’s compact fixed lens rangefinders were pretty much top dog in the compact pool. Particular successful were auto-exposure cameras personified by the Legendary Konica C35 series which remains sought after these days. However for as little as 99p you can buy an almost identical camera with the likes of the Chinon 35EE.
Yup, you can get this underrated compact 70’s workhorse for peanuts. It suffers as most people who want into this class will rightly look to the C35 and then probably the likes of Ricoh or Vivitar models of this period. The Chinon is often overlooked but yet does pretty much the same job but cost a fraction of the £20 plus you’ll pay for a working Konica C35.
There is actual some speculation if the skew of 1970’s Japanese compact 35 rangefinders were actually much different and many seem to share common components and function. What is certain is that the Chinon was also sold by Dixons in the UK as the Prinz 35EE and in the US as the GAF memo 35EE but it is spookily similar many other compact rangefinders of the era like the Vivitar 35EE.
The Chinon 35EE is near identical in function to a Konica C35. Although the 38mm lens lacks the Hexanon glass and is comically slightly faster (f/2.7 compared to f/2.8), the rest of the spec is near identical. Both cameras have auto exposure systems that uses CdS metering. This is powered by the long gone PX675 mercury cell but cheap Zinc air 675 hearing aid batteries work well enough . Both have a copal shutter with speeds ranging from 1/30-1/650 sec plus an optional B mode with the lens wide open. The shutter/aperture speed is displayed with needle meter in viewfinder. The 35EE use the flashmatic system for flash setting like many other cameras of the era.
Both have cable point, timer and tripod slot. As well as the marginally ‘faster’ lens the 35EE also has another spinal tap-esque nod with the ASA film speeds dial going up to 500. The actual useful upper speed of 400 makes sense as in bright light with a f/16 & 1/650 minimal exposure anything more would struggle. The ASA dial is moved to the rim of the lens barrel creating a double ring which might cause issues with push on lens caps. It doesn’t stop you using 46mm filters and clip on lens caps. Body-wise there were subtle changes overtime and all black design appears later on and is more rugged. The rare but good scale focus Chinon 35 is based on that later version
In terms of issues watch out for the usual one of batteries being left in to corrode and knacker the electrics and you’ll probably need to re -light seal. As ever with vintage cameras I wouldn’t touch the mechanical timer unless serviced.
Shooting it works as well as the Konica from the exposure side and the viewfinder square is large and easy to visualise making it quite easy to focus. It is a fully auto exposure rangefinder so all you need do is focus and shoot. Both this and the Konica are not for you if you want more control of exposure, however at least you can lock exposure by half depressing shutter. The CdS cell on the lens barrel means the camera adjust for filters. The lens is sharp and good but just not as contrasty as the Konica but seems pretty good in all ranges.
The manual is available for both Chinon 35EE & Prinz 35EE at Mike Butkus’s site.
Ironically Konica sound the death knell for this class when the C35 AF arrived in 1977 and autofocus began.
I suspect I could write the same review with related cameras like the Vivitar 35EE but I’m not sure if you can quite get ’em as cheap (honestly mines was 99p plus postage). I also suspect there is very little difference. If you want more control to your compact rangefinder but don’t have the budget for a Olympus 35RC – I’d recommend the Ricoh 35RF & 500G which offer shutter priority & metered manual shooting in a compact package.
You can find more of my camera review on my own website – austerityphoto.co.uk
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15 thoughts on “Chinon 35EE Review – The Poundland Rangefinder – Guest review by Alan Duncan”
I really enjoy your website – so very happy to have you post here! Any time you fancy contributing again, you are very welcome…
I now must forward this to a mate who has the Vivitar – I don’t suppose you have any thoughts on freeing up a slow shutter in one?
Thank you Hamish. Not the man for detailed fixes I’m afraid (can do a light seal but that’s about it)
I have a Minolta AL-F, which a very similarly spec’d lens – 38/2.7, and I think a number of the later Hi-Matic range had the same. Maybe coincidence, or maybe there was a lot of sharing of components between manufacturers.
Either way Alan, you’ve got some very promising photographs with your Chinon, and the price to performance ratio is amazing!
The Chinon was a steal at the price (although over the years I still think my f55 body for 99p was the best bargain or my Espio as one of 6 cameras in a £1 job lot)
The Hi-matic thing is interesting. The rangefinders do seem subtly different from the Japanese 35 crowd but the Hi-matic G scalefocus model feels different more like the chinon 35EE and others. There is some suspicion it wasn’t actually made by Minolta but by someone else
I have a Chinon 35EE, and mine cost me £7.10 but came with the original box and instructions. I’ve only taken one film with it so far but it is a good camera and I printed some of that film to 12″ x 18″ and put them in my local camera club exhibitions/competitions – they did well too. I’ve read many times that the Konica C35 and this (and the other clones) were all made in the same factory – and that the lens is the same in all of them (a Tessar variant), the f2.7/2.8 versions actually being the same lens rebadged.
My cheapest camera was a fully working, hardly used Olympus Mju Zoom 80 for which I paid just 1p – it works fine. It is just odd when you have to pay 250 times the price of the camera for its battery!
Difficult to say for certainty and certainly I think parts are common between the 2 but IMHO there is a small but palpable difference in lens quality between the 2 (the Konica is just a bit more contrasty). Also there are functional differences such as the ISO setting ring (even Halina tended to use the same style as the C35 – the rim method on the 35ee is more like the Oly trip 35). Worth noting the soviet FED Mikron 2 is a close copy of the C35 and feels mechanically very similar but built in the USSR.
The battery comment is good-I too have a pile of modern era cameras where the battery come in for a multiple of the camera. My best steal though was a Nikon f55 body for 99p with a fresh lithium battery in !!
I still suspect that they are all, as near as makes no difference, similar enough to effectively be the same. I accept there are superficial differences. My favourite cheap camera without a doubt is my Voigtlander Vitomatic 11a – I paid £30 for a totally mint, perfectly working example – lovely build quality and fitted with the excellent Color Skopar lens – even the meter is accurate enough for slide film. I went on a Royal Navy submarine once with one and the Navy personnel thought it was a really neat camera!
Voigtländer made some beautiful cameras (I’ve a wonderful Vito b )
The SR/LR44 will fit but have a higher voltage. (1.5v v 1.35v of the 675) They will work but the meter will be over reading slightly somewhere between 0.5-1 stops out. With modern negative film you may not notice. Some folks adjust the iso setting for this. I would avoid using LR44 where possible as their voltage changes across use SR44 are much more constant
I’m a total novice to photography in general, never mind film photography. I’ve always preferred the images generated on old school film cameras, so when I stumbled across my aunties old Chinon 35ee camera I decided to give it a clean up and a try out. After researching film types I’ve bought some Agfaphoto vista plus 200 135/24 film, and I was wondering if there is any way to get the best out of this little camera, either from different lenses or certain conditions?
Any help is much appreciated
The same Camera was sold in Germany as Porst 135 L. Cheap, but i was unable to make proper photos with it.
I own the Gaf Memo 35EE with Memolite flash. Bought it around 2000 for $8 at a yard sale. It takes excellent photos. I’ve had to replace the battery compartment with parts from a Chinon and replace light seal. I love the portability and size, but being small, the viewfinder is also small for focusing. It does seem to be overall forgiving because most of my shots are very sharp.
I paid an extortionate £13 for my Chinon 35EE that gets it’s first outing tomorrow
I’m a big fan of those little things. I have Chinon EE (bought for 5 Euros) at a (the) local camera shop, i also have a Revue Electronic C which is a re-badged Cosina 35 and quite a few plastic ones which are most likely a tad later like the Voigtländer Vito C (Balda CA 35).
I’m not 40 years anymore and I learned that travelling light has its advantages.
I liked the review a lot, thanks for sharing your thoughts
I’ve a Chinon 35EE but mine seems to have been modified to accept (and works) with SR/LR44 battery.
It’s indeed a nice little camera capable to produce great picture.