A Day Out With The Metra

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by kmac, Sep 9, 2018.

  1. The Mamiya Metra rangefinder fixed lens camera was released in 1958, made in an era when engineering with slide rules was approaching it's peak and built-in obsolescence hadn't yet taken hold. Precise machining and close tolerances were the order of the day, and they certainly show in the Metra

    I can't find any information about the Metra Mk1, so I can only describe the sample in front of me which I purchased online a little while ago. The Metra Mk1 may not be a rare camera but I haven't seen many others around, they may have been produced in low numbers or they are hidden in cupboard draws hardly ever seeing the light of day

    The sample I bought had a ceased focus helicoil, a light meter needle that would only reach halfway along the EV scale under any condition, it also needed the usual lens glass cleaning. The Helicoil was freed by heating in front of a fan heater and the light meter was brought back to full life by replacing the selenium cell

    Features of this Metra were common in those days and into the 1960s, a red indicator to show a film is in the camera, a frame counter, a red "Shutter Cocked" indicator, a large viewfinder and a "Film Type" indicator (set manually by rotating a quaint little chrome triangular pointer on the film advance handle hub). Two more features are a chrome plug in the back of the top plate which when removed gives access to zero the light meter needle, and a spring loaded parallax correction chrome steel frame that moves at a 45 degree angle activated by the focus movement. The frame has glass within it and a white rectangular image frame line on the glass. The chrome frame is behind the viewfinder but inside the top plate

    The Metra also has a novelty uncoupled light meter scaled in EV numbers which you transfer to the lens EV ring and then turn both the shutter speed and aperture rings together to have the same exposure evaluation for different speed or aperture settings

    What pleased me most about this Metra, was the silky smooth operation of all the controls. Everything has their right tension about them but at the same time smooth to move around or lift or slide, it didn't matter, whatever they are, all operations have an exceptionally nice feel about them

    The Sekor f1.9 48mm lens appears to be four element, coated and I'm sure is sharp, much sharper than what shows in my sample images from the test film to check shutter speeds, the light meter, focus and other general tests of this camera. The test revealed that only the rangefinder adjustment and infinity focus needs a little more attention

    The Metra is quite heavy, it's heavier than the larger Minolta 7s, but only a smidgen lighter than a Pentax KM SLR with it's 55mm lens fitted. The Metra will slip out of your hand if you don't place a few fingers under the camera and keep a good hold of it. I'd say most of the weight is in the bronze half of the helicoil, I could see it through an opening in the body housing when the light meter was removed, it looked thick, solid and chunky, quite heavy looking

    Good engineering and excellent finish were also evident in all others parts of the Metra I observed while doing the service. One change I made however was to make a clear plastic cover for the film counter numbers which were open to the breeze. Strangely, that clear cover I made fitted perfectly and works without interfering with other parts in the film winder handle hub, so it was a practical and workable inclusion to keep dust out of the film counter

    The light meter has a dual operation, the meter front cover open for low light conditions, and cover closed for bright conditions, but without an instruction manual to read I cant tell exactly when to open or close the cover. I opened the cover for all my sample test shots, but that's how I calibrated the meter after replacing the selenium cell, with every exposure, the cover is open, and so far it's been ok that way. For indoors, I don't use the meter at all, I only use flash, which the test included and passed with flying colors

    The Metra is a well made camera and with regular and proper maintenance, it should last quite a long time, centuries perhaps, It's strong, solid, well designed, engineered and finished. If there is a con, it would be adjusting the rangefinder, the adjustments appeared to be set in the factory with little chance of changing them afterwards, I tried but will probably have to bend or shim something to get it right

    A great 35mm camera of yester year, fixed lens and heavy, but proving reliable, smooth and easy to operate


    Metra CLA finished, still on workbench Metra on workbench.jpg
     
  2. (1) Look Out, People 45 copy.jpg
     
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  3. (4) Play Park cropped 23 copy.jpg
     
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  4. (5) Pendulum Swing 24a copy.jpg
     
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  5. (8) Cropped 2a 14 2000dpi copy 2.jpg
     
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  6. (9) Landscape 13c copy.jpg
     
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  7. Nice. That’s me off to eBay to search Mamiya Metra!

    Changing the selenium cell sounds like a challenge. Presumably you need a specific one?? Was it a difficult procedure?
     
  8. Not many for sale Stuart but keep watching they come up now and then

    The cell I used was from a Polaroid 625 light meter, I cut it to size using a needle three corner file, the base metal of that cell was brass. I used the piece that still had the wire on the front. I then soldered a new wire on the back. The voltage of the cell was too high so I masked the cell each end with black tape till the meter needle reading matched my other meters. Yep, tricky job to do but well worth it. The saving grace is you can just try again with another cell if the job goes pear shaped. Soldering irons get hot and can ruin the lacquer covering the selenium but generally won't ruin all of it, a spot is fine as long as 70-80percent of the selenium is ok
     
  9. Nice.

    I've speculated before that one reason these later rangefinders were so good is that they were made to be used for slide film that was shown on screen at large enlargements. Whether it's true or not, it makes sense?
     
  10. That must be very satisfying, getting it going again, great effort!
     
  11. A great job on the Metra, Kmac, and obviously well worthwhile. The Mamiya rangefinders I've come across have all been solid and well made, with the quality glass Mamiya has always had a reputation for. What film and process did you use to capture all that nice Aussie scenery? Love the old bottle image; I haven't sampled a "shandy" in years, thank goodness. Thanks for an interesting and informative post.
     
  12. I'd have no hesitation exposing slide film in the Metra JDM, but I would use a handheld meter. Perhaps the camera's light meter when new gave an accurate average reading and was ok for slides, but not today I'm afraid, the job I did on the meter gets me in the ball park but is still not too far off and I think I'll leave it the way it is for the time being

    The lens though is pretty good in my opinion and the shutter speed accuracy seems ok too. I don't have any 35mm slide film to put through it so my next film will be color negative. The film I like is Kodak Pro-Image 100, I have plenty of it so I'll try that next
     

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