Chinon 35EE Review : Cheap as Chips Rangefinder Fun

The 1970s were the heyday of consumer compact rangefinder. Many models such as the Konica C35 or the Olympus 35 RC are rightly hailed as classics but that means other models are often overlooked that were rivals at the time. The good news is that you can get crackers like the 35EE for a song.

Prinz 35-EE
Chinon 35EE Rangefinder with Prinz rebadging


The Chinon was pretty successful in the day and was sold under other brands like  Prinz 35EE & GAF Memo  35EE and with variation as Cosina 35 Compact E, vivitar 35EE and others. The 35EE was long running and had minor variations over the time giving you a choice of styling from  70s chrome & black to 80’s rugged matt black. Later the scale focus Chinon 35 appeared essentially lacking the rangefinder but otherwise mechanically identical. The later models are a bit more stylish IMHO.

Later still Chinon made the 35EE ii which although a compact rangefinder is more like a Yashica Electro with LED exposure lights.

Low pressure
Carlisle 2014, Chinon 35EE with Ilford XP2

In function it’s all pretty good if not earth shattering. its spec is indistinguishable from its rivals. The lens is sharp perhaps just not quite as sharp and contrasty as the Konica IMHO. Matt Denton on his Blog has queried if the 35EE was based on the Konica C35

Chinon 35EE Specs

  • Lens:  Chinonex 38mm 1:2.7
  • Focus: Rangefinder
  • Metering: CdS
  • Aperture: f/2.7-f/16
  • ASA range : 25-500
  • Shutter: 1/30-1/650 + B
  • EV 100asa: 7-17+
  • Filter-Thread:  46mm
  • Battery : PX675
3 Compact Rangefinders
(L-R) Fed Mikron 2, Konica C35 Automatic & Chinon 35EE

Exposure system is accurate and you can lock by half depressing the shutter. This is a fully automatic camera. The exposure dial only allows for you to move from auto mode to either  a flashmatic setting using Guide numbers for flash or Bulb (B). In bulb the aperture is fully open at f/2.7.

Awaiting the Dusk
Carlisle, March 2014. Chinon 35EE with Fujicolor C200

Like most of the cameras of the day on the right side of the viewfinder is a needle meter showing exposure in a series of shutter/aperture combos. The focus zone is a clear to see yellow rectangle that you can visualise well even under relative low light.

Prinz 35EE lens barrel details
lens barrel details on the Prinz rebadged Chinon 35EE

The camera has a timer and is threaded for cable release unlike the Chinon 35. It also has both hotshoe and PC sync for flash. The electrics depend on a defunct 1.35v mercury px675 cell, but there are loads of modern equivalents including the cheap 1.4v 675za zinc air batteries for hearing aids which don’t require adjusting the film speed.

Holding the spiral
Hamilton, 2014. Chinon 35EE with Ilford XP2 at stock speed

I like this camera a lot.  For an auto only compact rangefinder it gives a good account and usually can be sourced for much less than the Konica (in the UK the Prinz rebadge can be very cheap – I got one for 99p). Watch out for batteries left in for a couple of decades which have leaked and caused corrosion of the electrics. The camera uses a common 46mm filter thread but irritatingly there is second ridge preventing the use of push on lens caps although a 46mm clip on are fine and cheap.

The watery road to Glenridding III
Ullswater, 2014. Chinon 35EE with Ilford XP2

Alternatives

  • Konica C35 series – The classic benchmark compact rangefinder
  • FED Mikron 2 – Soviet take on 1970’s rangefinders
  • Ricoh 500RF or 500G – With Shutter priority or full manual
  • Chinon 35 – The excellent but paired back P&S version

Helpful links

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