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Kowa Kallo 140
Old 10-10-2018   #1
cassel
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Kowa Kallo 140

So I was thinking about a new camera with a fast lens option and remembering that rangefinder cameras with leaf shutters are nice. Not a whole lot of options in that arena. I also enjoy the true odd-balls of photographic history. For example, my Mamiya Magazine 35 collection is lots of fun...rare, weird, and good IQ without much money invested.

Admittedly, the Kallo is sort of big and heavy...kinda like the Minolta HiMatic 7S (that was a slick camera in black). I also had the Aires 35V many years ago- it too was big and heavy - but had great image quality if sort of odd ergonomics… The appeal of the Kowa for me is the fast f1.4 lens, the clean design, and the interesting history/rarity. So, after much hunting and researching I found one online and bought it.

The camera arrived on October 10th. It was pretty exciting to open the box from Tokyo! The camera was wrapped well and looks good at first
inspection.






Initial Impressions:
  • It IS heavy and pretty big - comparing online with available dimensions it is roughly the same size as a Leica M2 (closest competition), a bit taller but a bit shorter in length. Seems heavier but I haven’t confirmed with a good comparison - like, maybe, an M2 with the Summilux 50mm.
  • Seems well-made - sort of like the early Japanese SLRs but not nearly as nice as the M2/3. A relatively step-up from the contemporary fixed-lens offerings of this vintage.
  • The viewfinder has a nice design - the brightline projected frames are always visible (50 and 85mm) and are sort-of an orange color. Apparently it is also parallax-correcting! The RF patch is a fuzzy square (sort of like the Canon 7) but dim on my example. The viewfinder and rangefinder assembly is a little loose in my example and some separation is visible in the glass - but it seems accurate and entirely usable.
  • The leaf-shutter mechanism is accurate but sort of loud for a design of its type - a loud “ping” sound. Hopefully it will be quieter in operation! The shutter/aperture controls are pretty cool - there are tabs on either side...pushing the left tab in gently and THEN rotating it unlocks it from the EV system. Otherwise the two tabs change both together. Sort of like another take on the Retina method, but evolved!
  • Lens and aperture look good! This is an interchangeable lens system but since I only have the 50mm f1.4, I’m not gonna mess with taking it on and off. The focus is in meters - not my favorite - but this makes sense with a camera that was likely only sold in Japan. Focus is a little stiff on my example but OK.
  • The MXV setting to the left side of the lens is set to M and won’t move. I believe that’s flash and self timer setting - so I’m NOT messing with it.
  • The advance lever is on the top where it should be- pretty smooth but a LONG throw - clear around to the front with no ratcheting - Oh well. I like the frame counter in the lever. The shutter release is happier with a soft release. The film speed is on the top - looks good!
  • The rewind system is BIG and on the bottom. It is well-designed and robust and sits nicely flush when not in use. The rewind button doesn’t just unlock the spindle, it pops out the lever!
  • Tripod mount is in the middle-also sort of SLR-like and in addition to the rewind system is probably why this camera is a little taller than the M2.
Let’s put some film in it and give a go!
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Old 10-10-2018   #2
bmattock
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Very nice looking camera!
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Old 10-11-2018   #3
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Thanks-yeah- it sort of looks like the camera in your avatar!
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Old 10-11-2018   #4
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Hi Dave,
It's amazing how our tastes in collectible cameras seems to run parallel line. I have had the Kallo 140 with the 50/1.4 Prominar for probably ten years and was always on the lookout for the other lenses and accessories. I think what spurred my interest was getting the original manual for this camera, never thinking I'd ever come across any. It took me the past ten years to acquire the 85/3.5 and the extremely rare 35/3.8 Prominar aux lenses for this system. Somewheres along the way I also got a second body with a little plate "KOWA" which is glued over the Kallo name. Evidently, the company did this later on when they changed from Kallo to Kowa. I have only ever shot a few rolls through the camera, and the images in my mind are as good as any comparable rangefinder camera system from this time period. ( Yes, Nikon, Canon, and Leica ) The Prominar lenses are awesome, but you are right, the camera is somewhat heavy and not terribly well balanced. It is somewhat difficult to operate the shutter speed setting as it is close to the mount. I also have the Kallo W which has a built in 35/2.8 Prominar (Great small camera) with the same lens design as the aux 35/2.8 Prominar for the 140 system.

I know Kowa developed a somewhat bad reputation later on with their SLR's which were never terribly reliable, but I don't think anyone ever thought the lenses weren't anything but first rate.

Congrats on the buy and after all this time, I still keep my eye on these cameras when they show up on Ebay, especially now that many collectibles seem to be freeing up in Japan.

Gary Hill
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Old 10-11-2018   #5
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Looks very nice. Kowa made some interesting cameras.

I have always wanted a Kowa Komaflex-S, an SLR that uses 127 film,
but I never found a clean working example.

Their novelty "Ramera" combined a radio and camera.
Though these are two of my passions I have steered clear of this collectible.
FWIW I don't like Swiss Army knives, either.

Kowa wisely stopped making cameras but is still in business:
https://www.kowa-usa.com/

Chris
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Old 10-11-2018   #6
Sarcophilus Harrisii
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Nice score but surprisingly expensive. Those Kowa lenses really do seem to be something special though. Id have a Kalloflex, for instance, having seen what they can do. I expect you to be well pleased with the performance from your new rangefinder, and I am looking forward to seeing your photographs from it. Congratulations.
Cheers
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Old 10-11-2018   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hilltime View Post
Hi Dave,
It's amazing how our tastes in collectible cameras seems to run parallel line. I have had the Kallo 140 with the 50/1.4 Prominar for probably ten years and was always on the lookout for the other lenses and accessories. I think what spurred my interest was getting the original manual for this camera, never thinking I'd ever come across any. It took me the past ten years to acquire the 85/3.5 and the extremely rare 35/3.8 Prominar aux lenses for this system. Somewheres along the way I also got a second body with a little plate "KOWA" which is glued over the Kallo name. Evidently, the company did this later on when they changed from Kallo to Kowa. I have only ever shot a few rolls through the camera, and the images in my mind are as good as any comparable rangefinder camera system from this time period. ( Yes, Nikon, Canon, and Leica ) The Prominar lenses are awesome, but you are right, the camera is somewhat heavy and not terribly well balanced. It is somewhat difficult to operate the shutter speed setting as it is close to the mount. I also have the Kallo W which has a built in 35/2.8 Prominar (Great small camera) with the same lens design as the aux 35/2.8 Prominar for the 140 system.

I know Kowa developed a somewhat bad reputation later on with their SLR's which were never terribly reliable, but I don't think anyone ever thought the lenses weren't anything but first rate.

Congrats on the buy and after all this time, I still keep my eye on these cameras when they show up on Ebay, especially now that many collectibles seem to be freeing up in Japan.

Gary Hill
Hey Gary-
It is pretty funny how similar our collecting habits are - I'm always just a step or two behind
The 85mm lens is tough to find! I found one but it was about $1000

Still watching out for the Auto Terra Super with the Zunow
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Old 10-11-2018   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sarcophilus Harrisii View Post
Nice score but surprisingly expensive. Those Kowa lenses really do seem to be something special though. Id have a Kalloflex, for instance, having seen what they can do. I expect you to be well pleased with the performance from your new rangefinder, and I am looking forward to seeing your photographs from it. Congratulations.
Cheers
Brett
Loaded it with some old Kodak Gold 200 this morning and I'm already on frame 8 of 24! The weird rewinding crank makes it an odd camera to load. Luckily, it has a spinning reminder window that confirms film travel as you advance (like the Canon 7 and Mamiya Magazine)
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Old 10-12-2018   #9
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And to think, when I was searching for these aux lenses, somehow I ended up finding two sets of them within a years time. I think I sold one set with their original cases, for a little over $500 for the 85/3.5 and 35/2.8. Didn't see any reason to horde the only ones I had ever come across, so someone else was the lucky buyer. Wish I had them now, we'd no doubt be "talking". Seems like a number of these Japanese oddities are starting to increase in value. I know I bought my 140's for around $200 each.
Yup, the Auto Terra Supers are still on my radar. Haven't seen any in quite awhile.

Have fun!
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Old 10-12-2018   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cassel View Post
Thanks-yeah- it sort of looks like the camera in your avatar!
There is a certain resemblance, that's for sure. My avatar photo is a Mamiya Super Deluxe fixed-lens rangefinder. I found it to produce very nice results, but in the end, it was uncomfortable to carry and to use; too many sharp angles. I also discovered that it had a tendency to suffer from the usual issues with leaf-shutters of a certain age - sticktion. I have moved on, but I still like the avatar.
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Old 10-12-2018   #11
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Looked through my stash and found a decent heavy duty strap (more of an SLR strap) which works well with this camera.... Ordered a cheap, vented hood in 52mm. Just about done with the test roll. Seems to work just fine - the main negatives so far are the weight, the stiff focus of this example and the somewhat dim finder. We shall see what the positives are
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Old 10-12-2018   #12
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I quite liked the Yashica Lynx 14 but the RF mirror on mine was dim and it hardly seemed worth replacing it, the more so given that I had a 50/1.2 Canon for my Leicas... At which point I sort of lost interest in the Kowa.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 10-12-2018   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
I quite liked the Yashica Lynx 14 but the RF mirror on mine was dim and it hardly seemed worth replacing it, the more so given that I had a 50/1.2 Canon for my Leicas... At which point I sort of lost interest in the Kowa.

Cheers,
R.
I had the Lynx 14 about 20 years ago - it was cool but- kinda' cheap feeling- I didn't keep it for long.

I find the Kowa 140 better so far, but not much. As a collector/user, it's more of a collector interest so far. Hoping the results are decent! But for me, it does check the "unusual and/or rare" box. It's fun that these cameras I've only ever read about are a just a bit easier to find in 2018.

Roger- How's the 50mm f1.2? Always curious about that one versus, say, the 50mm f1.4. I've only had the Canon 50mm f1.8 (old and new versions)...
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Old 10-12-2018   #14
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That's a cool one, Cassel. I passed on one a few years ago because it looked like it had been a basement dweller for a long time. Always liked those big, solid, leaf shuttered cameras.

BTW, M is for Bulb Flash Sync, X is for Electronic Flash Sync, and V is for Self Timer. So if you use a flash, better stock up on some A1B's (or fix the switch). You would also need an adapter if using a hot shoe type flash.

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Old 10-24-2018   #15
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1st Test Roll results are in!
The camera seems to work FINE... It must be said that the film used was OLD expired Kodak Gold 200 24exp with an unknown storage history (bought it for $1 at a flea market). The result are a little flat and mushy but decent.
I first tested the camera at close focus @f1.4 and 1/60 --not easy to nail the focus but OK- here's an example:




Most of the rest the roll was outdoors at middle-ish settings like f8 to f16 @1/125 or around there. Here's a couple of examples:












Rotating function wasn't working on my image software - so you only get horizontals I'm happy with the results and look forward to shooting with GOOD film, a decent filter and hood!
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Old 10-25-2018   #16
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Here we go-

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Old 11-13-2018   #17
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Hey Guys-
Three more rolls on the way soon- it's an enjoyable camera to shoot and I'm hoping with better film/development I will have even better results
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Old 02-15-2019   #18
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Found a copy of the mega-rare 85mm Prominar for the Kallo 140

Just arrived today and it's a beauty! Looks un-used - perfect - complete with case and front and rear caps!

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Old 02-16-2019   #19
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Slowly re-building the image posting in this thread - just gonna repost and not delete the old links for now...
Here's some of the previously posted color work from the Kowa Kallo 140 in the last few months. Looking forward to trying out the 85mm lens.













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Old 02-17-2019   #20
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Five more in color - rebuilding the post













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Old 02-18-2019   #21
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And... here's a few of the Tri-X shots:








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Old 05-07-2019   #22
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Gonna try posting more work from the Kallo 140 -these are with the 85mm











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Old 05-07-2019   #23
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More with 85mm - the camera has decent built-in framelines for this focal length. It's a big, heavy lens and not all that fast at 3.5 but seems to perform pretty well though better stopped down for sure. Here's a few more day light shots:













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Old 05-07-2019   #24
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This last set is all with the standard Prominar 50mm f1.4 lens.
I like it













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Old 05-07-2019   #25
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That camera has turned out to be quite the find, Cassel. Excellent compositions too.


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Old 05-07-2019   #26
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Many thanks!
It is a very competent camera - hard to argue with the 50mm lens.

Somewhere out there in the world...someone has the 35mm lens for this system. Not sure I need it
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Old 05-08-2019   #27
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Much more difficult to find than even the 85/3.5. I just acquired a Kallo WF rangefinder camera from Japan with the same configuration 35/F2.8 Prominar, that was made for the 140, although built in. This camera differs from the standard Kallo W, in that it has a built in light meter and bottom lever advance. Been looking for one of those for 10+ yrs. I find this lens to be really good, and Dave, you can't have mine for the 140!

I remember back in the day checking out a 35/2.8 Prominar for LTM in the box w/finder on Ebay and I was thinking about spending maybe $300, as I had never seen one. It ended up going for about $1200 and found there were only maybe 100 or so ever made with that mount.

Good luck in your search. It only took me again about 10 yrs to find the 85/3.5 and the 35/2.8 and as I had said before, bought two sets within a very short time and eventually resold one set at a decent profit.

You just never know what'll pop up if you keep looking.

Gary Hill
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Old 05-08-2019   #28
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Gary-
I remember now that you have the set

I've seen a couple of 35mm lenses for sale but only in Japan and requiring a proxy bidding service or buying in person! (Not to mention a hefty price). Seems like historically (searching finished auctions) the 35mm also is sometimes found paired with the camera and has been a cheaper (slightly) way to acquire.

The hunt is fun! I'm pretty happy with just the 50 and the 85
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Old 05-08-2019   #29
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The Kallo WF sounds interesting- I'm going to look it up
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Old 05-09-2019   #30
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I think no matter what you collect, the hunt is half the fun...

I have two of the regular Kallo W's and now I have finally found the WF version, I'll no doubt be putting one of the W's up for sale. Maybe on this forum, which I've found I like better than EBay.
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Old 05-10-2019   #31
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Here is the Kallo WF and Kallo W with the same Prominar 35/F2.8 lenses
designed for the 140. I believe they are 6 element in 4 groups.

The Kallo WF being the later design with built in meter, Seikosha MXL, B-500 shutter and bottom advance lever. They are very competitive IMHO to the Olympus wide angle 35mm cameras of the same generation, although the last Olympus Wide-S Super is legendary with it's F2 lens.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Kallo W.jpg (33.9 KB, 7 views)
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Old 08-31-2019   #32
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Thumbs up

Summertime Car Show Shots!
All of these are with the 85mm Prominar and Kodak Portra - seems like a good combo!














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Old 3 Weeks Ago   #33
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Looks like a scene from "American Pickers". All the thinks Mike and Frank love. Beautiful, lush drippy color. I've got to break my 140 out!
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Old 1 Week Ago   #34
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I gotta re-load this camera and shoot more!

BTW - there is one for sale on the bay right now - ends on Sunday. I made an offer and the seller didn't like it so I made a ridiculous counter-offer as a joke and I think I made him mad If the seller was one of you--- I apologize! JK

Anyway- these are great cameras! Recommended
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Old 3 Days Ago   #35
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It's not in the best of condition for $249 if that's the one you're referring to.
I was watching to see if the price dropped, but do I really need three???
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