Olympus Auto Eye

I think this is possibly the cheapest camera I have ever bought. Look at that sticker, 100 yen! That is about £0.75 at the time of writing. Absolute bargain for a piece of history, it can’t possibly work?!

It looked fine, why so cheap? The only things I could see wrong was the rewind crank was missing and the seal was rotten. So I replaced the hinge seal and plonked in a film. I would worry about the crank later.

I am still on summer holiday right now so decided to go for a drive and see a shrine. I chose one a little further away so I could give my car a run after I abandoned it for a month. It started first time so off I trotted to Washinomiya Shrine. I simply typed in ‘shrine’ to google maps and went to one the right distance away. Turns out this is a nerdy type shrine, which was perfect for testing a camera.

And now to the camera. I know when I first picked this one up I was a little confused as to how it worked. I then found the manual at Butkus.org, which is a godsend for people like me. I donated a little to buy the site owner a drink. So, you set the ASA on the side of the lens barrel, then the speed you want at the top. The ‘Auto Eye’ then sets the aperture for you. There is a small dial on the lens barrel near the body which should be set to ‘A’ for automatic. You can override the auto eye by turning this dial then you can use the camera in full manual mode. The camera is powered by a solar cell, which you can see on the front. Inside the viewfinder there is a display of the selected aperture. At each end of the selections are circular arrows to let you know if there is too little or too much light. There is also an exposure lock or ‘Pre-Vu’ button on the front. When taking photos I found my fingers would automatically rest here and jam this button as it moves when the shutter is pressed. Watch out for that. It is a rangefinder so you bring two images together to focus the image. The second image was quite faint on this one as was the viewfinder dial at times.

Surely the solar cell can’t still be working, after all camerawiki says this camera is from the early 1960s and the very first with the auto eye feature. It was the precursor to the Olympus Trip. I put in my cheapest roll of film and tried it out. I went to Akihabara before going to the shrine, just because I can 😉

Ha!!! Not bad for a 50 year old camera that cost less than a quid and film that cost exactly a quid. It is not as sharp as I would like, but still quite good. As for the auto eye exposure, spot on every time. It even coped with bright skies and dark buildings.

I decided as it was so cheap I would try to fix the crank. I watched a few videos and read some websites about removing the rewind crank stem and managed to do that with relative ease. I have found another example of this camera selling for parts on eBay for less than $4 and in Japan where I am right now, unfortunately he is charging $20 to ship it which is ridiculous – we are negotiating. In the mean time I tried to put the crank stem back on….crap, that is much harder. There is a small, metal spring that sits into a groove. This stops the rewind crank from making loose, upward motions. In the video you can see the man used a dentist tool to get the spring back in. I didn’t have one and tried toothpicks and force…I broke it and now my rewind crank flops about like a fish out of water. Hopefully the person with the cheap parts camera changes his mind on the shipping fee.

Keep or sell: If I fix it I will keep it, just for history’s sake. If I don’t fix it I will take it apart piece by piece and laugh manically at the horror!

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