Cosina CSM

Cosina

Cosina is not a well known trademark among camera manufacturers, at least I have never heard of it before I got this camera. The fact is, this is an existing company which has produced over it’s history many truly nice cameras under their own name and surprisingly for many mainstream manufacturers like: Rollei, Canon, Nikon, Yashica, Olympus, Epson etc.

They are manufacturing the Zeiss Ikon camera bodies and many Leica mount Zeiss lenses today. Also Cosina is the owner of the brand and the company behind Voigtländer which represents a high standard of quality cameras and lenses indeed. All in all the name Cosina might not ring a bell, but it is almost 100% that they have built one of your favorites and they know how to design and build solid photographic tools by tradition.

Technical details

Data sheet

  • Produced 1978 (?)
  • Film type 135 (35mm)
  • Weight 540g (without lens)
  • Dimensions  136.5 (w) x 83.2 (h) x51 (d)
  • Stadard Lens Cosinon 55mm f/2.1
  • Lens mount M42 screw mount
  • Shutter cloth curtain (traveling horizontally), electronically controlled
  • Shutter speeds 4s, 2s, 1s, 1/2s, 1/4s, 1/8s, 1/15, 1/30s, 1/60s, 1/125s, 1/250s, 1/500s,1/100s, M, B
  • Sync speed 1/60
  • Viewfinder SLR w/coated window, micro-raster ring with split image aid
  • Exposure meter stopdown CdS TTL w/3 led lights, activated by half pressed shutter
  • Batteries   2x SR/LR44 or similar (AG13, A76)
  • Self-timer
  • Hot shoe, PC sync connection
  • Optional auto-exposure motor

This camera is very small and light especially with the kit lens. Not as small as the Olympus OM, but close to it (540g vs 510g). This is one of the main reasons I own one.

The body is well built, but it is plastic at the top plate and definitely not as solid as a professional camera. In fact this is all right to me because I use it for amateur purposes with great care. This is a really cheap camera and I suppose it was never a prestige product.

The shutter is controlled electronically, but it is working without batteries with the shutter speed of 1/60 of a second. The light-meter is center weighted, using 3 little LEDs in the viewfinder for readout and I have no complains so far.

The batteries are small, cheap and lasting for years (for me) and as I said you are not completely left on the side of the road if they ran out of power. The camera will work on a level (no metering, no self-timer, only 1 shutter speed).

Crazy accessory

The craziest thing about this camera is that it had an external auto exposure unit. It had to be mounted into the accessory shoe and wire it to the camera with some cables and plugs. It contained a motor which turned the shutter speed dial according to the values came from the light meter. Thus it featured aperture priority auto mode. Because the lens was not coupled to this device it had to be stopped down for metering.

It sounds very awkward to me, but it worked. I haven’t got this module but thanks to Jake Howe who was kind enough to allow me to use his photo, I can finally show the camera with the full featured auto exposure unit.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/gmjhowe/14153615784/sizes/l

Cosina CSM with auto shutter mechanism by Jake Howe

My Cosina CSM

This is really small indeed

Nowadays everybody is obsessed by the small size great capabilities cameras (thinking of the mirror-less madness) and it was not really different at any point of the time. Miniaturization was always a trend.

People from the country of the raising sun has created many very compact, yet capable SLR legends mainly in the 70s like the Olympus OM series. Actually these cameras are not much bigger than some mirror-less digital camera of the modern era, even though they use “full frame” size film and having a full mirror mechanism and usually a huge and bright viewfinder especially compare to entry level DSLRs.

As I love the design and style of these film cameras, I would rather got excited by a conventional mirror based DSLR with a “full frame” sensor, but in a compact body than anything else.

I know there are technical issues and probably it would be damn expensive, yet I hope someone will eventually come up with such a device.

If it was possible to squeeze the mirror, prism and in addition a roll of film into such a small camera, it seems unreasonable to not being able to do it with a digital sensor just like Leica did with the M9.

How did I get it

Back to my story, I always wanted a compact size SLR with a nice viewfinder and with an M42 screw lens-mount.

I have many nice M42 lenses and it is always good to have light alternative of the serious workhorse for casual shooting. But I had no idea which camera would be the best. Until one day, I have found a little shop of an old camera repairman in a small village, where among many cool classics I have seen a camera called Porst Compact-reflex. As I took it from the shelf and looked through the viewfinder I knew it was an exact match to my requirements.

I have found it a bit too expensive (at least according to my possibilities at the time, as I was student) so I did not buy it.

After some research I have figured out, that it was actually a COSINA CSM branded as Porst (a German photographic equipment distributor and retailer company). The next day I have purchased an instance on e-bay for a little less money and with an extra ever-ready-case.

The truth is, I could have gone for the PROST as my camera had some mechanical troubles and the repairing dismissed the price difference eventually.

Since than I had many great times with this little Cosina and it is certain that I will load some film into it time to time.

The way it looks

I have to say, it is not an easy task to take a good photo of such a black object with white and shine chrome parts.

This setup includes a window (key light),  a cheap lanterns from Ikea with an economical light-bulb (fill-light and color) and a sheet of black paper (background). Oh and I tried to use a silver reflector which was used in a windshield of car against overheating issues in it’s previous life. But this reflector does not work very well.

The button below the self timer is used to re-open the aperture blades after you stopped down the lens to meter. It could be needed when you change your mind and need to re-focus or frame, so the viewfinder brights up again.

The two plugs on the other side is for the optional auto-exposure unit.

You can lock the shutter release button. This is great to prevent accidental shoots and mark that you have actually cocked the camera, on the other hand it can be a problem when you can’t fire it in the big moment…

Repairs

Film advance mechanism

When I have received the package form the UK, I had to realize that the film advance mechanism was not quite working. I got it fixed quickly and I received the  instruction I need to advance the film with care. I do and I had no problems with it during the last couple of years.

Light-seals

The light-seals needed to be replaced as it is normal for a camera this age. It has to be said however that even without this fix there were no issues of light-leaks.

Advantages

  • Small and light
  • M42 mount (huge variety of cheap high quality lenses)
  • Works without batteries
  • Nice viewfinder with effective focusing aid
  • Extremely cheap

Disadvantages

  • Bit plastic (but still feels right)
  • It needs batteries
  • No mirror lookup (it is not a pro camera though)

Recommendation

The Cosina CSM or it’s siblings can be a good choice to anyone who is looking for a compact film SLR with manual focus and having nice M42 mount lenses. It is cheap, it is easy to focus with and won’t break your neck carrying around all times.

Links

Sample shoots

It has been over repeated  that the lens and the film is much more important factors than the camera body itself, but this is now a tradition to post some shoots taken with the reviewed camera (3rd post already).

You can find some shoots with the unique f2.1 kit lens, which might be interesting. Personally I think this is a nice optics in a very compact package. My other 50mm lenses are much bigger.

Light bulbs showcase, Cosina CSM, Pancolar 80mm f/1.8, Fuji superia, Cannoscan 9900F

Bike, (night-street shoot), Cosina CSM, Cosinon 55mm f2.1, Fuji superia, Cannosacan 9900F

Rent a bike, Cosina CSM, Cosinon 55mm, Fuji superia, Cannoscan 9900F

Nico (Girona, Catalonia), Cosina CSM, CZJ Pancolar 80mm, Fuji superia, Cannoscan 9900F

 

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11 comments

Leave a Reply

  1. Jason Howe · February 4, 2012

    Beautiful images, probably as much a testament to your skill with a camera as anything else. The Pancolar 80mm is very interesting, look forward to seeing more shots with that glass. I’m a big fan of the Fuji Superia its great film.

  2. Moop? · February 4, 2012

    HI I saw this ebay listing and thought you might be interested. It contains a Cosina CSM with 50mm f1.7 lens (looks to be in perfect condition) and the Cosina Aperture-preferred Automatic Exposure Control adapter.
    Hope you dont mind me bringing this to your attention 🙂

    • camerajunky · February 4, 2012

      Hi,

      Thank you for the info, I will have a look for sure. But actually I am considering to selling mine too.

      Gábor

  3. Bliss · February 4, 2012

    Hi,
    I just picked one of these up for $15 Australian. It has the AE controller and after an hour or so got everything working. The adapter is certainly a crazy accessory.
    Peter

    • camerajunky · February 4, 2012

      Hi,

      Great! Good to hear that there are other people still using these cameras. Hope you have a great fun and nice shoots with it!

      Gábor

  4. Sourish Pau · February 4, 2012

    Ah! I take a teensy cutoff from the blogging world and come
    back to find that you have a ton of followers?! Wow, times have changed!
    Keep up the fantastic work!

  5. darrenham · February 4, 2012

    What light seal material, and what thickness did you use to reseal your csm, I have one with gunky seals that I want to repair.

    • camerajunky · February 4, 2012

      I have got some sheets of foam like material which had a glued side just like a tape. It was about 2mm thick and I cut strips out of it. I have no idea how is it called, but I will try to figure out. Initially the sealing was a bit too thick which made it slightly had to close the back, but due to the foamy structure it adopted very quickly. I think there must be better ways to fix the seals but it was cheap and works perfectly since then. If I can find out the name or the source of the sheets, I will post it here.

  6. doug · February 4, 2012

    One of these was the first camera I ever owned, my dad bought it home one day. God only knows where he got it, probably from a man in a pub…

    Anyway, that was over thirty years ago and my photo career took me around the world, so I’ve got a lot of affection for this little camera. I’m still impressed with how modern it still looks, cameras at the time still looked really retro but the CSM looked super modern.

    Didn’t know about the special AE adaptor, bonkers and only proves my thing about modern.

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  8. Greig Clifford · February 4, 2012

    Here’s a video of the Auto Exposure Control unit in action.

    https://youtu.be/-EYYSWPz5x8

    You’ll notice it is rebranded as a Porst camera but it is the same model. Porst were a well known German distributor who occasionally rebranded cameras under their own name.