Honeywell Pentax


I admit it – I am smitten by the black models of the old metal bodied manual cameras. Why black? In the old days BP (before plastic) black was the color of the “professional” model cameras. Why? I’m not exactly sure, since there are so many contradictions here… perhaps the black was less conspicuous than the shiny chrome bodies, perhaps they reflected less light. (but then, some of the BIG lenses were made in a white finish, ostensibly to keep them from heating up too much in the sun.)

The fact remains that black became associated with the “pro” as opposed to the chrome “consumer” models. Now some cameras were made exclusively in black, pro or not, but that’s an exception. For some reason, fewer black models seem to have been made as well, and that adds to the mystique.

Consider this… the black was usually enamel paint on the brass body, which did not hold up as well as the chrome finish – consequently, the likelihood of the black enamel wearing off and showing the metal underneath was high, as seen from the ubiquitous ‘brassing’ that is common on black body cameras. A black camera with a mint (read as no brassing) finish usually fetches a much higher price than its chrome counterpart because of its relative rarity.

I am not sure what the production ratios of chrome to black models were in the manufacturing mix – there are probably more black-bodied cameras out there than we realize. Taking the OM line for example – the OM-1 to OM-4 are considered the professional bodies, there are far more chrome versions than black, which gives the lie to the notion that black = professional.

Now consider the consumer version of the OM bodies, viz, the OM-10 through OM-40/PC). Since they are for the regular Joe Amateur, they should be all be chrome, right? But no – it turns out black versions were made for these cameras as well. The OM-40/PC

was made ONLY in a black version with rubber armored bodies, so we won’t take them into consideration.

Looking at the all the OM-10 cameras that regularly show up on eBay, I was lulled into thinking that they were only made in chrome – then Bam! I came across a BLACK OM-10. Never saw one of those before. It was in great condition too – not a bit of brassing.

Sheer chance plays a big part as well. The first Olympus camera I purchased was a black OM-1.

It wasn’t because it was black or anything. I was looking at manual cameras in a pawn shop one day, it was just that the shop had 2 Olys, an OM-1 and an OM-PC and I picked the OM-1. At that time I did not not know anything about the Olympus OM System, it was cheap, and looked much more sturdy than the OM-PC with its rubber body. That’s all.

Most of the old manual lenses were black. The black lenses looked great on black cameras and looked good on the chrome versions, since the leatherette on the chrome was black as well, the black lenses blended right in. Lots of AF lenses were made in chrome/silver plastic bodies though. They look fine on the chrome bodies, but look hokey on the all black bodies. But that’s just my opinion.

All the lenses I have for my Minolta Dynax 800si (late 90’s manufacture, so naturally, big black plastic body) are black. I resisted the impulse to purchase the silver/chrome Maxxum AF lenses. Anyway, the only Maxxum lenses I purchased new were a nice Maxxum AF 50mm f/1.7 when I bought the camera. The other new lenses were a black Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5-6 and a black Phoenix 28-105mm f/2.8-3.5. The rest of my Minolta AF lenses were bought used off of eBay and Craigslist. Hey, I’m Joe Amateur, remember? I have to go Cheap.

Now for anyone on the trail of a black body camera, please watch out for touched up or repainted ones. That is a strict no-no. Besides, they look so fake and terrible. I’d rather have a heavily brassed black camera than one which had a mint looking refinished paint job.

I’ve heard that Nikon had a program years ago where professional photographers working for the leading pictorial publications of the 70’s could send in their battered camera bodies (hey, they were out in the Amazon, Siberia, Australia, Sahara, the Himalayas… what can you expect?) to Nikon, and they would refurbish them and send them back. Even repaint them. I suppose that if the factory did the painting, one could not complain.

However, I have never heard of any of the other manufacturers having such a program, so I’d consider a new paint job on an OM as fake as a $3. bill. That said, an individual collector may decide to have one of his many bodies refinished with glossy black enamel and some jazzy leatherette. More power to them. A little brassing and paint loss, even a small ding or two never hurt a camera. Besides, they ARE from 30 years ago. And if one plans on using them as real shooters, a little wear and tear is to be expected.

Everything changed as manufacturers realized that they could make the bodies much more cheaply in plastic. One small glitch though – back then, the coating technology was not so advanced as now, and “chrome finish” on plastic looked awful and wore off really quickly. It was far easier to make all the bodies in black plastic. That became the new norm, and has stayed with us ever since.

Things changed again in the late 90’s – it became possible to make “chrome look” plastics, and lots of the later consumer model SLRS changed to the chrome/satin finish. Some point and shoots were even made in a “champagne” colored plastic body. With the coming of the digital point and shoot cameras, hard-wearing chrome plastic came into its own. So did colored plastics. But that’s another story.

Anyway. The ‘black’ bodies extended to the point-and-shoot cameras and the rangefinders as well. I have a black Olympus Trip (I love this one)
and a black Olympus 35 EC.

Recently, I found a black Yashica MG-1, a black Ricoh 500G (this is one case where the silver one looks cooler, but that just me). Rounding off the Black cameras are a Honeywell-Pentax Repronar Camera body with bellows,

and a black Ricoh CR-5.

I also have a black Yashica Dental Eye

( an FX3 type body, I believe).

The black models usually cost an average of 3 times the price of a regular chrome (and in some cases, where the camera is in excellent condition, much more.). Rounding off my black collection is an excellent Olympus OM-2n.

Keep in mind that the coating is just skin deep. Black or Chrome, it’s still the same camera. Don’t go out of the way or way over your budget to get one, unless you are comfortable with the price. Above all, make sure it’s a shooter. What good is a camera that’s only fit for a display case?



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This work by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

text and images © 2008 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting olympuszuiko.

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That’s because I’ve been busy with updating some of the other areas of the site that I meant to add to for a while now. I finally managed to finish the “Classics” section, and added the pictures of my older cameras – the solid Yashica TL Super (with Yashinon 50mm f/1.4), The Yashica Electro 35 GSN and the Yashica Dental Eye with its great big 50mm f/4 ring flash lens.

I also added pictures of the Fujica Fujicarex II and its peculiar interchangeable front elements. That was a lucky find, since I was able to get the 50mm f/4 element with the camera and the seller even had the 80mm f/2.8 and the 35mm f/3.5 front elements. I still need to add the pictures of the Yashikor screw-in lenses for the Electro 35.

In the Olympus camera section, I’ve added pictures of the Olympus PEN EE half frame camera. This is the early version camera – it says Olympus on the front and has the “leather” look leatherette instead of the “basketview” leatherette of the later models.

In the Non-Zuiko 3rd party lenses section, I’ve added pictures of the super telephoto Spiratone 400mm f/6.3 and the Toyo 5 Star 500mm f/8 long tube lenses, the Kitstar 200mm f/3.3 and the Vivitar 70-150mm f/3.8. I need to get some of the lens data in there as well for the Zuikos.

I still need to add pictures of the Vivitar 55mm f/2.8 and the Vivitar Series 1 28-90mm. The Zuiko section has some pictures added as well – the Zuiko 100-200mm f/5 and the Zuiko 100mm f/2.8. Yes, I finally got one. It wasn’t cheap as I would have liked, but it was a good price for a lens in fine condition. In the Minolta area, I have some pictures of the Maxxum 35-105mm lens.

The one area I haven’t gotten around to updating is the Macrophotography section – it looks so bare without any pictures of my equipment. I’ll be adding pictures of the Hoya 52mm screw-in macro lenses, the Vivitar extension tubes, and the Spiratone bellows assembly with the 35mm Macrotar, the 150mm Macrotel and the 75mm flatfield. These are dedicated Macro lenses. Of course, I still need to take some pictures of the Honeywell Repronar equipment. I managed to get the descriptions of all the Macro equipment done though.

Later this winter, when its too cold to do anything else, I’ll work on the Microphotography section and add pictures of my Wolf-Wetzlar and Propper Microscopes, the various Wetzlar, Vickers objectives, eyepieces and the microscope adapter stuff.

That will be a while, though. Fall beckons, clothed in her colorful leafy finery… her siren song fills a photographer’s soul with happiness. I need to be out there taking pictures.


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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The Honeywell Repronar 805A slide copier was made by the Heiland Division of Honeywell. The camera is an Asahi Pentax with fixed bellows lens 50mm f/4, mounted on a bellows rail with a rack and pinion mechanism for advancing the lens or the camera body. There’s more on the Honeywell Repronar in the Macro photography section.

Although the whole camera assembly is mounted on a vertical stand with the lens pointing down towards the stand base – there is a flash strobe built into the base for copying slides and such. Once upon a time, this was standard equipment for most professional labs and school photography departments.

These days, as schools and colleges close down their photography departments; I’ve been noticing these items come up on EBay and going pretty reasonably. This is a heavy beast, and the shipping will cost almost as much as the item itself.

The Repronar comes WITH the camera and lens, so what’s not to like? Also, the camera is a very early BLACK Pentax SLR without a prism. It comes with a waist-level viewfinder (actually, eye level, when the camera is mounted on the Repronar base.

The real beauty of this system is that it has a scale device attached to it which makes setting for different magnifications very easy – the magnification range is 1/2x, 2/3x 1x, 2x, 3x and 4x. Just set the required magnification, fine focus and fire away. Using the flash is simplicity itself. Turn on the flash switch in the base, make sure the camera sync cord is connected and fire. The camera assembly can also be dismounted from the base and used as a bellows mounted camera provided you can stabilize the system horizontally.

Although the system can be used for transparent and semi-transparent subjects (flower petals, insect wing details etc) with the built in flash, the Repronar really comes into its own as a Macro system if you can get enough external lighting to the mounting platform. The best way to do this is to take the whole thing outdoors and place it on a table in open (sky illumination or in sunny situation. Mornings are best. All that remains is to set the magnification and provide sufficient exposure.

The problem with macro photography with the bellows and small apertures is getting sufficient image forming light. High magnification coupled with a reasonable depth of field means using extended bellows lengths, and small apertures. I was using Fuji 100 film for greater resolution and set aperture for f/16 for maximal depth of field.

There’s no light meter or TTL metering on the Repronar, so I tried to use a chart and then tried to figure out the exposure factor to compensate for the reciprocity failure. Finally I went with common sense, and the Sunny f/16 rule. Sunny 16 rule says that for 100 ASA, I’d need a 1/125 second shutter speed at f/16. Allowing for the light loss, for 1x magnification, I figured doubling the time to 1/60 second would give me the correct exposure.

Since the Repronar is designed to always work with the Flash, I figured it probably syncs at 1/60th second fixed, so the exposure would be correct for 1x magnification at least. For magnification greater than 1x, I decided that I’d set the Pentax camera to B and guesstimate the exposure length. Since at 1x magnification, the fixed 1/60 sec at f/16 would be sufficient exposure, I used 2 seconds for the 2x, 3 seconds for 3x and 4 to 5 seconds for 4x magnification. The guesstimates turned out fine, as can be seen from the images. Next time, I may use a Weston 6 Exposure meter. Or maybe not.


Tulip Tree leaf, Leafminer Trail 1:1, Flash mode
Tulip Tree leaf, 1:1, Flash mode
Dogwood leaf, 1:1, Flash Mode
Dogwood leaf, reversed, 1:1, Flash Mode
Carpenter Bee Wing, 2:1 (2x on film), Flash Mode
Pin Oak Acorn, 2:1 (2x on film), 2 sec at f/16, Daylight
Cucumber Flower, 2:1, Low Flash Mode
Cucumber Flower, 1:1, Flash Mode
Cucumber Flower, 2:1, Flash Mode
Crushed Chili Pepper, 1:1 (1x on film), 1/60th sec at f/16, Daylight
Crushed Chili Pepper, 2:1 (2x on film) 2 sec at f/16, Daylight
Crushed Chili Pepper, 3:1 (3x on film), 3 sec at f/16, Daylight
Crushed Chili Pepper, 4:1 (4x on film) 4 sec at f/16, Daylight
US Quarter, 1:1 (1x on film)1/60th sec at f/16, Daylight
US Quarter, 2:1 (2x on film), 2 sec at f/16, Daylight
US Quarter, 3:1 (3x on film) 3 sec at f/16, Daylight
US Quarter, 4:1 (4x on film) 4 sec at f/16, Daylight
US Quarter, Obverse 3:1 (3x), 3 sec at f/16, Daylight
US Quarter, Obverse, 4:1 (4x) 4 sec at f/16, Daylight
Ghostly Chile Pepper flower, 1:1 (1x) 2 sec at f/16
Nasturtium flower, 1:1 (1x) 2 sec at f/16

Photographed with a Honeywell Repronar Asahi Pentax Camera, 50mm f/4 Bellows lens, Fuji 100 film at f/16. Exposures as indicated in captions. Flash mode photographs used the built in Repronar flash in the base of the unit. Morning light was used for daylight pictures.


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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It’s been so hot and hazy all over Maryland, especially around DC – the humidity saps the strength, and the lighting just doesn’t inspire one to whip out the camera – I’ve been trying to shoot regularly though. I’ve been playing with an ancient Fujicarex II which I picked up recently on EBay in pristine condition in its original case, along with the instruction manual and – get this, 2 additional lenses. Turns out that this is one of the few cameras made with interchangeable front elements. I’ll have a post about this camera soon, just shot a roll of Fuji 100.

I feel guilty that I haven’t posted an entry to OlympusZuiko all of August – but I have been working on restructuring the site, adding a Macrophotography section and Classics section. The Macro section is to try and describe all the macro equipment that I seem to have picked up – from screw-in supplementary diopter lenses, extension tubes and macro lenses to bellows (with their neat dedicated bellows lenses).

In addition, I plan to have a subsection about special purpose cameras like the Honeywell Repronar 805/805A system with its modified early Pentax camera and the Yashica Dental Eye with it’s fixed 50mm ring flash macro lens. The Classic section will cover the few other cameras I have (this would be a good place for the Fujicarex) – the Yashica TL-Super, Yashica Electro 35 GSN rangefinder and of course, this will be the new home for the Ricoh Cameras.

Fall will be a busy time for photography – the quality of the light at any time of day makes it especially attractive, and I plan to make the most of it. I’ve also been working on cleaning up and restoring ( as far as I can manage) the Pentax Honeywell Repronar camera. I should be able to use it for macro pictures in a couple more days, as soon as I figure out how to stabilize the camera and bellows without the Repronar base.


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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