Growing up with the surname Chinnock I've spent most of my life enjoying the nickname of 'Chin' and/or 'Chinny' an air of inevitability therefore surrounds my latest acquisition - a camera that rejoices in the name of Chinon! (unless of course this is an exercise in demonstrating how far someone will go to justify purchasing something that they dont really need - in which case, i digress)
Having chanced upon the existence of the now defunct camera manufacturer Chinon it was really only a matter of time before one of these devices came into my possession, a Chinon CE4s......so what do i make of it......aside from it being (sort of) my namesake - which of course I think is awesome! :)
The Chinon CE4S is an early 80's SLR camera made in Japan, this version sports the Chinon made 50mm 1.7 prime lens, First impressions are actually very good - the fit and finish are above what i was expecting to be honest and as the following advert confirms - this thing is brim full with features....
My particular Camera is the CE4 'S' with the S standing for 'Sport' which means it has some more 'sporty' features than the lathergic and lazy plain old CE4..... that's right, you guessed it - the ability to show me what aperture setting through the viewfinder! of course the camera being from the early 1980's you'd expect some kind of LCD heads up display or something but no - it's a much more analogue solution..... just a little window with a mirror that reflects the aperture number up from the top of the lens into the viewfinder.....love it!
In practice the camera holds up very well and whilst it doesn't quite feel as well constructed as my Olympus OM2n (because it isn't) it also doesn't feel like a cheap piece of crap either (because it isn't) it is very well spec'd - an ISO range from 25 up to 3200, a top shutter speed of 1/2000 and a 1.7 max aperture lens makes for a really flexible camera in all sorts of lighting situations, it has a self timer and a lever to allow multiple exposures which is an nice added touch - when Chinon said it has "more features than any in it's class" they really meant it! in fact the only thing missing IMHO is perhaps an exposure compensation dial for aperture priority shooting, but then full manual operation is easy and the light meter is accurate so it's no biggy.
On arrival i realised that my copy needed the light seals replacing pretty badly which i wasn't too bothered about becuase of the low price i paid (£19 secured me the camera, lens, hard case in mint condition, shoulder strap, batteries, instruction manual, a larger camera bag and a flash unit with batteries and a HOYA sky filter) so a bit of a bargain really. Having duly replaced the seals i loaded it up with a roll of Rollei Retro 80S film - which is something else I've been looking forward to trying it out - and took it for a spin around the block
The controls are generally well laid out although my only gripe being that changing shutter speed is not quite as ergonomically pleasing as with my Olympus Cameras but this isn't an issue unique to the Chinon and in practice it's a very simple and easy camera to use in either manual or aperture priority modes.
The view finder is large and bright with exposure readings displayed on an LED scale to one side and the tiny reflection of the aperture setting at the top. The return spring on the film advance lever is such that you can easily real off a few rapid fire shots without taking your eye away from the viewfinder (a more practical reason for the 'S' sport designation of the CE4-S I guess)
The Chinon CE4s has a Pentax K Mount which means it is able to use a huge range of lenses out there and is another plus point as i already had a K-Mount Hannimex 80-300 mm lens knocking around that was very kindly given to me ages ago - so I've had chance to shoot with this lens too, in practice the size and weight of the Hannimex makes the camera a bit more awkward to hold, it is not a fast lens either with a maximum aperture of f4.5 it suffers from pretty woeful vignetting and is not particulalry sharp either......however i did manage the following shot wide open at f4.5 and 300mm at full stretch which (despite it's technical short comings) i actually quite like .... I'll be experimenting with the Hannimex again for sure!
The 'Auto-Chinon' 50mm 1.7 on the other hand is a real hidden gem - it is SHARP!! well built it gives nice contrast and details on the images it is a fantastic little lens. Chinon made two versions of it, this faster version and a slower 1.9 - both can be picked up for very little money these days maybe £10 or something so if you already have a Pentax K Mount camera body then it's certainly worth a look and you wont be dissapointed.
I can now officially state that i also LOVE Rollei Retro 80s film - I'd been looking for something a bit different to try and was also keen to explore lower ISO films and the 80s seemeed like a good starting point, it's got a lovely smooth grain and is actually relatively cheap to purchase (I've got another two rolls safely hybernating in the freezer) really nice tones and overall it feels like a well balanced film - I'm going to try it out with some portraits next as i think it would work really well. I developed the Rollie Retro 80s at home in Kodak HC-110 developer - dilution 'H'.
I bought my Rollei Retro 80s from Nick & Trick Photographic they stock loads of unusual films and it's good to support an independent film supplier so i buy most of my film from them.
Overall then I really like this camera - the shutter action is silky smooth, the viewfinder is large and bright, broad range of ISO and shutter speeds, build quality is good (in fact better than expected), the Chinon 50mm lens is fast, sharp and contrasty and the body is able to accomodate any/all of the millions of Pentax K Mount lenses out there - plus it has an analogue heads up display(!) weighing up the price vs the features and quality you get it's a no brainer really - if you are looking for a way into 35mm film photography or just want to try something new for a laugh then i absolutey would recommend this camera - I definitely wont be getting rid of mine, not by the hair on my chinny chin chin.....