Chinon Genesis III

The Chinon Genesis series seem relatively little in demand, and hence prices have remained quite low for what is a pretty sophisticated camera. Mine cost me £5 from Ebay. It truly is a beast of a camera and I love it!

About

This series of automatic Fixed lens SLRs ran from 1988 the the early 1990s. The primary selling point of the Genesis III was its Automatic Picture Composition System – subject to certain picture modes the camera would set an appropriate aperture and shutter speed combination, focus and even zoom for you, based on 3255 programmed image variations! Focusing is carried out by a dual mode system – an active IR beam and passive TTL phase differential detection.

The camera is large, looking more like a video camera than a stills camera, with a solid hand strap on the right side, and lugs for s neck strap. It looks rather like a spaceship if you ask me.

 

The large, auto-zoom lens has a focal length of 38-110mm and a maximum aperture of f/4.4-5.6. It has a 58mm filter thread.  To the right, front side of the lens is the autofocus beam emitter. To the left panel are the LCD display screen and the main control buttons for:

  • Zoom Mode: Selects whether to use the intelligent auto zoom, which frames the main foreground subject automatically, or the manual buttons located on the top plate.
  • Drive Mode: Selects between single frame, or continuous shooting
  • Program Mode: Selects between Standard (general program AE for snapshots), Landscape (smaller aperture, wide angle) and Action (wider aperture for faster shutter speed)

The side plate also has the recessed manual rewind button, and the exposure compensation button, which allows compensation of +/- 2EV in half EV steps.

On the top plate is the pop-up flash activation button, the spot AF button, which turns off the IR focus to use only the TTL system, and the manual zoom controls.

The viewfinder shows the frame (at 85% coverage, so be aware of things just outside your frame), the evaluative metering central area and the spot AF area. It also has indicators for focus confirmation and flash ready confirmation, and an indicator for when the exposure is outside of the available range in which case the camera switched to bulb mode.

As well as this bulb mode, fill in and slow sync flash, the camera also has an unlimited multi-exposure mode.  With me so far? Good.

As it will be becoming clear, this camera is pretty clever, but as with all things that are too clever for their own good it takes quite a lot of taming. The manual is, like an anything that has been translated from Japanese, convoluted at best, and at worst pretty incomprehensible. So, what follows is a bit of an attempt to delve deeper into the workings of the Genesis III and explain a bit about how to use it…

Focal Length

The wide end of the focal range is 38mm. This is actually not that wide having a field of view of 51° x 35° – to allow a full length portrait in Landscape orientation you would stand 3 metres away. The long end is about 19° x 13° field of view and to fill the same frame you would need to be 8.5 metres away.

Exposure

The exposure range (for ISO 100 film) is listed as EV 4.2-EV 18.8 (wide)  and EV 5-EV 20 (telephoto). The shutter speed is listed as 1/1000s to 1s. The lower value equates to 1s at f/4 and the higher value to 1000s at f/32.  An aperture of f/32 seems very small, but in the absence of anything else I think we must assume that is the smallest aperture.

This gives an effective exposure table as follows – I did not have space to put in the conditions, you will need to look them up.   Show Exposure Table

ISO Absolute Minimum
EV
Effective Minimum EV MaxEV Notes1,2,
Wide1s, f/4.4 Tele1s, f/5.6 Wide1/30s, f/4.4 Tele1/125s, f/5.6
25 6 7 13 14 20 3
50 5 6 12 13 20
100 4 5 11 12 20 4
200 4 5 10 11 19
400 4 5 9 10 18
800 4 5 8 9 17 5
1600 4 5 7 8 16
3200 4 5 6 7 15 6
Notes:

1) Minimums calculated using 1/s, but see bulb mode below.

2) Effective Minimums calculated using 1/f for shutter speed.

3) Actual figures for the wide values are 6.2 etc, but film latitude will probably allow this slight under exposure.

4) At this point the film could handle the lower light conditions with these exposure settings, but the meter would not be able to judge it.

5) Note that ISO 800 film is set as EI 1000 in the Genesis III, so be aware of this when working to tight parameters. The Exposure compensation function could help here, and most films actually benefit from slight over exposure.

6) Very bright sunny conditions will over expose here.

If the camera encounters conditions lower than the minimum it can expose for, it will switch to bulb mode. You need to guess the exposure here. You can use the flash in bulb mode for slow sync flash shots.

The exposure compensation button allows you to set the exposure compensation by +/- 2 stops, in half stop increments.  This can be used for the normal uses, i.e. compensating for brighter or darker scenes. It can also be used when shooting multi-exposures, or to compensate for less common film speeds.

Focusing

The Genesis has two focusing methods, an active Infra Red beam, and a passive Through the Lens (TTL) phase difference system. These are normally selected according to the conditions, but you can turn off the IR beam and just use the TTL. The promo claims that this dual method will pick up off centre subjects, focus in near total dark, focus through glass and so on. To force the Spot AF mode, you press the spot AF button on the top plate. In either mode, you use the standard procedure of half pressing the shutter to focus, and then (after recomposing if needed) press fully to shoot.

Flash

The built in flash is listed as having a guide number of 14. The published flash range for wide angle at ISO 100 is 5.1m. Using the equation of fstop=GN/distance, this would give an aperture of 2.74, or 3.5 in tele mode. So we must assume that the published ranges are absolutes ranges and not optimum ranges. But using this guide figure of f/2.74 or f/3.5 equivalent, and increasing the GN by a factor of 1.4 for each stop of ISO, we can create a table of optimum and absolute limits like this:  Show Flash Distance Table

ISO GN Optimum Wide (m) Optimum Tele (m) Absolute Wide (m) Absolute Tele (m)
(GN/4.4) (GN/5.6) (GN/2.7) (GN/3.5)
25 7 1.59 1.25 2.59 2.00
50 10 2.27 1.79 3.70 2.86
100 14 3.18 2.50 5.19 4.00
200 20 4.55 3.57 7.41 5.71
400 28 6.36 5.00 10.37 8.00
800 38 8.64 6.79 14.07 10.86
1600 54 12.27 9.64 20.00 15.43
3200 75 17.05 13.39 27.78 21.43

The minimum range is the minimum focal range of 0.85, as the flash automatically adjusts using TTL metering

Tips and Tricks

To compliment the slightly convoluted manual, here is my outline of how to use the Genesis for different effects and modes.

General Shooting

If you want the Genesis to do it all for you, you select the Program Mode. This sets a medium apeture and medium shutter speed for general pictures. With the auto zoom selected it will focus in on what it considers to be the subject – i.e. what is close in the frame.

Portraits

Select the sport mode. This selects for a fast shutter speed, but it does this by selecting a wide aperture, which will blur the background, provided your subject is a reasonable distance from it. If you select auto-zoom it will favour a longer zoom to enhance this effect and fill the frame with the subject.

Landscapes

Select the Landscape Mode. This will set a smaller aperture in order to provide a greater depth of field. This will slow the shutter speed, so in lower light conditions use a tripod.

Action

Normally, use the sports mode. This will favour a fast shutter speed. But if you want to blur the background you can use landscape (or program) mode and pan to follow the subject, or set landscape mode and use the slow sync flash to freeze the action if the subject is close enough.

Blurring movement, for example water

Use landscape mode for a slow shutter speed. The metering is through the lens, so ND filters can be used can be used to slow this further.

Slow Sync Flash – night portraits

Use portrait mode for a wide aperture which will blur the background, and keep shutter speeds as fast as possible. Press and hold the flash button. While holding the flash button down half press the shutter and compose. When the flash ready indicator lights, press the shutter button fully. This will expose for the background using a suitable shutter speed, and will light the foreground with the flash.

Trippy clubbing shots

Use landscape mode for a slow shutter speed for maximum crazy effect. Press and hold the flash button. While holding the flash button down half press the shutter and compose. When the flash ready indicator lights, press the shutter button fully. This will expose for the background using a suitable shutter speed, and will light the foreground with the flash. Try and avoid pointing right at a light when you expose for the background.

Close-ups

Use spot AF mode and sports mode. If the subject is between 0.85m (the close focus limit) and 1m the camera will auto-zoom to a focal length of 110mm if in auto mode and favour a wide aperture for shallow depth of field. You can use close up magnifiers.

Auxiliary Lenses

The Genesis range had an optional screw on telephoto adapter. To use a telephoto adapter in auto zoom mode you can switch on a special tele-converter mode by pressing the spot AF and Zoom Mode buttons together. This limits the zoom to longer focal lengths to avoid vignetting. When using a wide angle filter it would be as well to use manual zoom and keep it low. Using a 0.35x converter would create a super-wide 13.3mm effective focal length. Use Spot AF in both these situations.

Multi- Exposures

You can set the multi exposure mode by pressing the spot-AF and the Drive Mode buttons together. This allows unlimited multiple exposures on one frame. When using this is it worth using the Exposure Compensation – if shooting two exposures, reduce by one stop, if shooting three exposures reduce by 2 stops.

Film Speed and ISO Settings

The genesis III, although it sets the film speed automatically has a limited set of actual ISO settings that it uses. For films outside of these it usually over exposes, which is best as many films benefit from slight over exposure anyway. Below is a table showing how the film settings and camera settings match up, and the best way to use the exposure compensation to adjust for this – this still errs on the side of over exposure, but addresses it where the over exposure is greatest.  Show Exposure Compensation Table

Film Speed Camera ISO Setting Difference EV Compensation
25 25
32 25 +1/3
40 25 +2/3 -1/2
50 50
64 50 +1/3
80 50 +2/3 -1/2
100 100
125 100 +1/3
160 100 +2/3 -1/2
200 200
250 200 +1/3
320 200 +2/3 -1/2
400 400
500 400 +1/3
640 400 +2/3 -1/2
800 1000 -1/3 +1/2
1000 1000
1250 1000 +1/3
1600 1600
2000 1600 +1/3
2500 1600 +2/3 -1/2
3200 3200

Having said this, as the image above shows I have shot ISO 160 film (rated by the camera at 100) and achieved lovely results.

Gallery

Vital Statistics

Type:  Fully automatic 35 mm Fixed Lens SLR.
Lens:  Chinon Zoom lens, 38-110 mm, f/4.4 -5.6, 12 elements in 11 groups, macro enabled 1:5.5 at 0.85 m distance and 110 mm.
Viewfinder:  TTL fine matte screen finder, 0.73x magnification, 85% coverage, -1.0 diopter adjustment. Indicators for AF confirm, Flash charge confirm, bulb setting, AF point, metering area.
Mirror: Motorized quick return mirror.
Focussing: 0.85m to infinity; Combination AF: TTL phase differential detection/Multi AF; focus lock.
Shutter: Electromagnetic vertical running focal plane shutter.
Shutter Speed: 1s-1/1000s; Bulb.
Metering: Two divided SPD TTL metering system, EV 4.2 – EV 18.8 (wide), EV 5 – EV 20 (Tele).
ISO Range: ISO 25-3200, partial.
Exposure Compensation: +/- 2 EV (0.5 EV step).
Exposure Modes: Normal (program), Action (Wide aperture preferred), Landscape (Small aperture preferred), Flash, Slow Sync Flash, Macro.
Transport: Automatic Motor Wind; single or continuous (1.5fps) modes; LCD frame counter; multiple exposure mode.
Flash: Built in retractable sensor flash, GN 14m at ISO 100; Effective range (ISO 100) 0.85 m-5.1 m (wide), 0.85 m-4.0 m (tele), auto recharging (4s); sync speed 1/38s-1/100s or slow sync.
Self-timer: Built-in: approx. 10 sec. Cancelable.
Accessories: Tripod Bush, Hand Strap, Neck Strap, Lens Cap.
Filter Thread: 58mm.
Power: Lithium battery pack (2CR5).
Auto power shut off: approx. 60 sec.
Display: monochrome LCD.
Controls: Mode buttons: exposure mode, photography mode, programmed zoom mode; Function buttons: main switch, rewind button, exposure compensation button, zoom button, flash switch, central spot button.
Dimensions: 126.5 x 84.5 x1 26.5mm; 710g (without battery).

Links

View my sets on Flickr taken with the Geneis III
Genesis series on Camera-Wiki
Review from the Chicago Tribune
Chinon Genesis III Promotional Booklet on Butkus.org
Chinon Genesis III Manual on Butkus.org
Chinon Genesis Group on Flickr
General Chinon Group on Flickr

2 Responses to Chinon Genesis III

  1. Geoff Anthony says:

    Genesis 3: I bought one of these cameras Autumn 2015. No case or instructions but I was able to shoot a 36 exp colour print film using my experience including much loved Chinon CE series SLRs. Results were very good and the camera surprisingly easy to handle. I think Chinon cameras are somewhat underrated in UK; I recommend you try an example if you come across one. GEA 14:01:2016

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