Topcon RE Auto 35mm camera

This post is about a new camera in the second line of cameras I’ve decided to concentrate on – a Topcon RE Auto which was also sold as a Topcon Uni. It is one of a set of cameras with a quite complex design for an SLR, because it has a leaf shutter fitted between the lens and the mirror rather than the more usual focal plane shutter after the mirror.

Topcon RE Auto Images

My Topcon RE Auto camera

I said in the introduction that this camera is know by two different names. In fact this camera is in some ways a bit of both models – let me explain.

I saw a Topcon Uni on ebay with a starting bid of £5 but it was a bit of a mess because the top cover had been bashed in at the corner and was creased. Now a crease in any part of the case would be almost impossible to remove and in a corner would be even worse so I passed it by, but every time I did a search for a Topcon SLR, this unit came up.

So I started to look to see if I could find another one which I could use for parts and when I did a bit of research on the model I found that it had also been sold as the Hanimex RE Auto and I remembered another Topcon which I’d bought in bits with a view to putting it all together again. When I dug that unit out of the box it was sitting in It turned out that it was a Hanimex Topcon RE Auto and the top plate was in pretty good condition, so I put a bid on the Uni and got it for £8.

One thing I have discovered since I decided to concentrate my camera collecting on Miranda and Topcon, is that Topcon models seem to command a higher price than Miranda on eBay – certainly when viewing the ‘buy it now’ price. I don’t yet know if that is also reflected in the auction price for all Topcon models because although I haven’t had to pay more than about £30 for any of my Topcon cameras, I’ve only bought the bottom end of the Topcon range. I guess I’ll discover more as I move up the range. However, all that said. I think £8 was a pretty good price for this unit.

The top plate on this camera was easy to remove. There are four screws which hold it in place, the top of the rewind crank needs to unscrew and then unscrew the plastic round tray it sits in, and the film advance lever needs to be removed by peeling off the cover and unscrewing it. Once they are all off the top plate just lifts off.

When I bought the camera, the seller reported is as basically working apart from the meter and the damage to the corner of the top plate. I think that is essentially correct, but I did notice a fair amount of dirt in the viewfinder, and since I had the top plate off the camera I took the opportunity to use a puffer to blow as much of that dirt away as I could. Most of it seemed to come from the sticky material which was used to hold the prism in place, and it took a few gentle puffs to remove it from the focusing screen (be careful if you repeat this since the meter needle is exposed and doesn’t like to be blown about too much!).

Once all the muck and debris was all clear I replaced the top plate and re-assembled the camera.

I suspected the meter not working was simply the fact that it is difficult to get a battery. Originally it would have had the PX625A mercury battery fitted, but of course they are not available any more. There are modern replacement available however, and I had one of them, a Varta V625U fitted to my Unirex, so I took that out and tried it in the Uni. Sure enough the meter started to work. The voltage of the modern battery is a little higher than the mercury battery so I may have to adjust the meter circuit to work properly.

The other small item which seemed to be damaged was the bottom plate of the camera which had a small depression in it. I started to replace that with the one from the camera I bought in bits, only to find that the screws which hold it in place were fitted in a slightly different location so it wouldn’t fit.

So I just pressed the depression out with my fingers and re-fitted the original bottom. The one remaining task is to replace the light seals which are a gooey mess.

Topcon RE Auto Description

So to the camera itself. In many ways this camera is similar to the Topcon Unirex. It has a leaf shutter fitted behind the lens which covers the same range as the Unirex, 1 sec to 1/500sec.

The camera handles exposure with shutter priority auto mode and manual mode but it doesn’t have the switchable averaging and spot metering modes of the Unirex. Instead  the metering is averaged, with the light meter built into the mirror in the same way the Miranda Sensomat works. When you look at the pattern on the mirror which the light sensor makes you would think it would be obvious in the viewfinder, but it’s not possible to see it at all.

Speaking of the viewfinder, the display is a simple one by today’s standards but shows everything which it was possible for the camera to know about the exposure at the time. There is a centre microprism focusing aid and the lens f stop the camera will use in auto mode is shown on the left hand side of the screen, with red areas and the top and bottom indicating over and under exposure. If the camera is being operated in manual mode this value could be transferred to the lens aperture to achieve the correct exposure.

There is a ‘cold’ accessory shoe and a flash socket which can be switched to X of FP sync with a small switch mounted on the bottom of the lens mount. In a similar fashion to the unirex the shutter speed adjustment also has a pull out lever which allows you to set the maximum aperture of the lens fitted for metering purposes.

The shutter release is mounted on the front plate on this camera.

The lens supplied is a Topcor UV 53mm f/2.0 which, as with all the topcor UV series has the aperture control mounted on the camera lens mount rather than on the lens itself. This makes for a very odd situation, because when you fit a lens with a different aperture there are ‘dead spots’ on the aperture control. For example, if I fit a 28mm f/4.0 lens the aperture control does nothing between f/2.0 to f/4.0.

All in all this seems to be a fairly unsophisticated ‘consumer’ camera with auto exposure. A bit like todays ‘point n shoot’ cameras with the ability to change lenses.

Topcon Uni / Hanimex RE Auto Specifications

  • Topcon Uni / Hanimex Topcon RE Auto
  • Leaf shutter 1 sec to 1/500 + B
  • Front shutter release with cable release thread
  • Bayonet lens mount
  • Exposure averaging via cell printed on mirror
  • Auto and Manual exposure
  • 10 sec selftimer
  • X and M flash sync
  • ‘Cold’ accessory shoe with flash sync socket
  • UV coated 53mm f/2.0 Topcor lens
  • Flash sync (with electronic flash) up to 1/500 sec
  • Body Ser No 5409119 (uni) / 54118913 (RE Auto)
  • Lens Ser No 5495533
  • Manual available on-line here

16 Replies to “Topcon RE Auto 35mm camera”

  1. The camera may seem unsophisticated, but you have to remember is was way head of it’s time. The Uni came out in 1964 with TTL open aperture metering, and Pentax didn’t get there until the Spotmatic F of 1973. The “dead spots” on the camera aperture selector are normal, since some lenses will have a smaller maximum aperture that the camera will accommodate (e.g. they may only be f/4, so f/2 can’t be selected). Well done on the repairs, but please post if you have a go at replacing the mirror damper: I think it’s almost impossible to get to. Regarding price, yes you are going to find that the first division Topcons are expensive. Good luck.

    1. Thanks for the comment – I’ve a feeling that the other camera Topcon RE Auto I have (which became the donor for this unit) may have had an attempted repair in that region. The hinge which the mirror pivots on is off it’s mount point at one end and is broken and bent.

  2. Very interesting indeed to see your comments on the Haminex Topcon re Auto camera. I have one from my late Father who brought it new and enjoyed using it for many years into his eighties. In fact it was a rare occasion when he would be without it. I also have the topcor 135mm lens. All I may add in pristine condition except for the fact that the camera battery is now flat so thanks very much for the info on the battery. I have been a professional photographer most of my working life, now retired so I am looking forward to putting a roll of film through my Dad’s old camera.

  3. Simon, thanks for posting this. I recently bought three boxes of old cameras, including a Topcon Uni and the Hanimex version, along with four Topcor lenses (35, 53, 135, 200). I’d never heard of them. Everything seems to work fine, but the viewfinder has a wide black band of crud running across it, obscuring the view. Your post will help me see what’s going on in there and clean it up.

    1. Paul B., the black band seen in the wievfinder is the deteriorated silver layer on the front face of the prism, the one you see in the wiev. The silver, and its coating, is transformed glue, used to fasten a thin strip of foam to cushion the prism.

      I repaired it, by first removing the mass on the prism, then placing a piece of metalized plate, used for giving photos a glossy surface when placed in a dryer, in front of the prism (you will need a media with the reflecting substance ‘on the top, normal glass mirror don´t work).
      The little metal plate can be placed in the frame for the prism, and is held in place by the prism.
      The result is of course not a perfect image, but the camera can be used again.

  4. I found this blog by accident. I bought a Topcon Uni in 1968 at a PX in South Viet Nam. It came with a 53mm lens. I purchased a 100mm and 200mm lens for it. sometime ago it stopped working. When you would move the film winding lever nothing would happen. A friend of mine said the cocking pinion was broken and nobody could repair it. He said I should trash the whole collection (camera, lens, and carrying case). couldn’t bring myself to do that. Is there anybody talented enough with the parts and equipment to repair my old friend. I’m not sold on digital. Still like the film in a can.

    1. I have struggled to remove a Topcon Uni top plate. Specifically the film advance lever. When you say the top plate comes off easily by “peeling” the cover to the lever off and simply unscrewing you make it sound like it’s a produce sticker on a ripe pear. Nothing I am using is coming close to removing anything that looks remotely peelable. Nothing online regarding the removal of top plates comes close to your description-so thanks for posting but could you be more accurate? Thanks,!!! Jim

      1. Hi Jim
        I’m sorry the description I posted didn’t help you. If you look at the pictures of the camera on the post you can see that the black disc on the top of the film advance is slightly lifted on the edge. All I had to do was push the blade of a scalpel under the edge and the disc came off. Your camera may be different but it’s difficult for me to be more accurate and try to describe other people’s cameras. Possibly there were different versions made ?

        1. Thanks Simon! Now it makes sense- It wasn’t your description, it’s my eye sight. Now I can see the cover on the RE sits on top of the film advance lever. I have an Uni and the cover sits under a bevel- and appears to not be intended or able to come off. I found a repair manual for a Topcon Auto 100 with similar lever as Uni. It requires a special wrench to be slipped under the lever to loosen a small pin which limits the winding rotation. Once removed it slips right off. Now on to fix the real problems- dirty viewfinder prism and shutter cocking. Thanks for your outstanding blog!!

    1. Hi Don

      I’m really sorry if the article is misleading. It was written based on my experience of my camera, so it sounds as if different versions of the camera use different assembly techniques – hopefully anyone reading this comment will realise that some versions don’t peel off.

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