- Produced circa 1971-5, Cosina Co. Ltd., Japan
- Film type 135 (35mm)
- Picture size 24 x 36mm
- Weight 26.2oz (742.8g) body only; with 1.8 Cosinon lens 2lbs, 1.8oz (958.2g)
- Lens M42 screw-mount Cosinon 1.8/50mm (6 elements, 4 groups)
- Filter size 49mm screw-in, 52mm slip-on
- Shutter Copal metal square
- Shutter speeds B-1000
- Viewfinder SLR (fresnel, split image, microprism)
- Exposure meter CdS with match needle, stop-down metering
- ASA settings 25-1600
- Battery originally 675 1.3v mercury
- PC X and M Sync terminals, optional accessory shoe
- Fast wind lever
Solid all-metal mechanical SLR right in there with its contemporary Ricoh, Mamiya, Fujica and Yashica M42-mount SLRs in terms of features and quality. Nicer than some, in fact — rugged, well-designed and well-made, quite a bargain in my opinion. Generally found with either a fast sharp Cosinon or ‘Argus Sekor’ normal lens depending on the date of manufacture. Most impressive feature: strong metal focal plane shutter like Praktica and Konica.
Caution: History Lesson Ahead, Wild Speculation Included
My original detective work didn’t get all that far so I enlisted the help of the kind folks at the Argus Collectors’ Group. They call themselves the ACG for short and have been unbelieveably helpful and informative whenever I’ve asked them a question. They’re still spec-ing out the ‘lost years’ but here’s what we know so far: during the 1966-1995 period Argus changed hands several times and somewhere along the way was cobranded with Cosina, well-known behind-the-scenes maker of camera equipment for other companies (including other camera companies) since the 60s.
According to a particularly helpful ACG member (thanks Ron!) there are multiple variations of the STL 1000, in three types: the first Petri-made model, the later Cosina-made model that is virtually the same as the Cosina Hi-Lite with the ASA dial on the front (suspiciously similar to the Ricoh Singlex) and the name “Argus” on the faceplate. Then this version (ASA dial on top), which apparently itself came in several flavors, but was essentially an upgrade to the Cosina Hi-Lite (and very like the Singlex II). It shares some unique stylings with the Hi-Lite body, notably the bottom relesase lever, unique match needle marks in the viewfinder, and ‘film type reminder ring’ around the rewind knob. The ones sporting an Argus Sekor lens are a little different, they have a hot shoe instead of the optional accessory shoe, are possibly made by Mamiya but have the same unique body stlyings of the Hi-Lite so it’s hard to say. I know that Mamiya made a version of their MSX for Sears as the TLS 1000 MXB, maybe it’s the same camera? At any rate, there is certainly speculation as to who was an OEM for whom back in the day, as Cosina, Mamiya and Ricoh were known to manufacture equipment for other brands, see Sears and Vivitar SLRs for examples (among others). One thread from my ACG source: Mamiya was an OEM in the early 60s making cameras for Argus, Sears and others, then sold the dies and tools to Ricoh who tweaked the design to come up with the Singlex and its Sears version. The very similar Cosina Hi-Lite came after that and at this point there’s no telling who really made what. I’ve even seen the Ricoh TLS with a Mamiya lens.
Come to think of it, the nice velvet-lined case is almost identical to the one on my Autoreflex T…!
[ As an aside, you may want to visit http://www.butkus.org/chinon for info on and manuals for many classic screw- and K-mount cameras of the day. Toss him a Paypal bone while you’re there, he provides a great service and doesn’t ask much in return. ]
Body manufacturer notwithstanding, one of the most impressive things about the camera is the strong Copal metal square shutter, the same found on early Konica SLRs and others. A little surprising, you say, to have such a nice shutter on a midrange camera. Well, at the time this camera was made, Copal’s revolutionary Square S metal focal plane shutter was relatively new and Copal spent considerable effort shopping it around to OEMs looking for buyers (including some in USSR, according to Copal, I believe a variation became the renowned Praktica shutter) . Konica was one. Cosina and Argus/Cosina were others.
As for the rest of it, black is nice, the silver version is possibly more popular and though I’ve seen it with various lenses (Cosinon, Lentar), it’s most frequently seen with a Mamiya-made ‘Argus Sekor’ lens. I happen to have enough silver SLRs that I thought another black one would be kewl. And it is, I’m quite impressed. By the way, the 1.8/50mm 6-element, 4-group coated Cosinon is nothing to sneeze at, it’s an excellent performer.
Here’s a funny – the lens has a typo! it says ‘Cosina Co. Ltd., Japa’ Does that make it more collectible? 🙂
Dirty. Had some grit in and around the lens mount like something may have spilled on it long ago, hard to say but it cleaned up nice. Beautiful glass, strong shutter, the only real detriment besides the paint loss in spots is a pretty major ding by the wind lever that was preventing the frame counter from returning to zero. To fix it, I removed the top cap, cleaning as I went, and pounded the ding out as much as I could on my workbench with a dowel and a hammer. While I had the cap off I removed the pentaprism and blew out some debris that had collected there. Generally as you know if you have specks in your viewfinder it’s more trouble than it’s worth to clean and doesn’t affect picture quality anyway, but since I was there… I should note at this point that having taken it apart allows me to say that this camera is solidly engineered on a par with Konica Autoreflex or K1000. More rugged than Praktica. An example that tells much: the leads for the sync terminals are not soldered to the top cap, they are connected with screws to make it easier to service.
The other thing that needed urgent attention was the foam mirror bumper which was disintegrating. Bits were getting on the rear of the lens, so I did the same as I had done with my K1000: carefully scraped out the foam with a little screwdriver, blew out all the debris, cleaned up the residue with Windex, and glued in a strip of felt from a film canister. Better than new.
Tips & Tricks
Back door release is a swing lever underneath the camera next to the battery compartment, not the ususal rewind-lever release. Match needle meter is operated by switch like on my TL-Super. Strangely the switch turns itself off when the shutter is tripped, saving battery but requiring you to turn it on each time you need it.
The optional accessory shoe on this version of the STL 1000 (I’ve seen it on the silver model too) must be some kind of standard size, mine didn’t come with one so the one in the picture is the one from my Yashica J-7, which fit perfectly.