Photographica Pages

An online guide to collectable cameras and related stuff

The Zunow SLR

In 1959 Nippon Kogaku released the Nikon F, which changed the way the world looked at 35mm cameras. It was equipped with an instant return mirror, fully automatic diaphragm, a wide selection of quality optics and an electric motor drive. These features helped make it an overwhelming success. The funny thing is, Zunow built a comparable 1958!

The Zunow offered all of the above features, although the motor never made it into production. They also offered a removable prism finder with 100% coverage and interchangeable focusing screens. A waist level finder was also available. A red indicator in the viewfinder warned if the film had not been wound. The camera used a breech lens mount, and lenses of 35/2.8, 50/1.8, 58/1.2, 100/2, 200/4, 400/5.6, 800/8 were offered. Only the lenses 100mm and shorter had auto diaphragms. Lens mount adapters were offered to allow the use of 42mm Universal thread (Pentax/Pentacon), Exakta and Leica 39mm thread (most likely bellows use only), increasing the range of lenses you could use. The 58/1.2 was the fastest lens offered by any camera manufacturer at that time for an SLR. The 58/1.2 Harrigon from Taika may have been earlier, but it was an aftermarket lens for Exakta.

In addition to the motor drive, a 400 exposure bulk film back was announced, but like the motor, it never reached production. There was a copy stand, filters and a flash bracket that did reach production.

The camera was styled very conventionally, well, what would be conventionally after everyone else got their cameras to market, except for two things. The shutter release was front mounted in the tradition of the Exakta and Miranda. Perhaps this would allow the use of the automatic diaphragm when using automatic Exakta lenses with the adapter. The other is the speed dial underneath the wind lever, a design which popped up on a much later, very popular camera, the Canon AE-1.

I don't know how good the fit and finish is, as I have yet to be privileged to hold one. Based on the Zunow products I own, and those I have handled in the past, it would surprise me if the quality was lacking in their camera. I have not heard of any finished in black, I would assume they were all chrome. In theory developing and marketing such an advanced system should have made them a household name. They should have taken the spot in history occupied by the Nikon F. Instead it likely drove them in oblivion and obscurity. Like most attempts to produce an ambitious design with inadequate capital it failed. Most likely all of their resources were expended designing and tooling up for production. The would be nothing left over for promotion, and few cameras would make it off of the assembly line.

As far as I know, the camera was only sold in the home market in 1958 and 1959, and was not exported. It is rare in Japan, and almost unknown elsewhere.

If anyone out there has further information, I would like to here about it. If you have a camera, accessories or even literature, I would appreciate photos. If you have a camera you would be interested in selling, we would be very interested in purchasing it.