TOWER 43 / NICCA 3-S


THE CAMERA:

My first camera of this type, a Leica III style camera. Some people call them "Leica Fakes" but this is more or less in the same style. A true Leica fake is made in Russia and even sports the Leica logo. This is made by the Nicca Camera Works of Japan in 1954 and badged for the Sears Tower line of fine cameras. Officially it's a "Tower 43" or model #43. Some fans would argue it is, in some ways, better than the Leica III it was modeled after. I wouldn't know but it is awesome to the senses none the less. (UPDATE: I've been inside both and the Leica is better) It takes any of the hundreds of LTM (Leica thread mount) lenses on the market.

Sears Roebuck & Co. used many fine camera makers in the late 40's, 50's and early 60's for their Tower line. This Tower 43 was offered with the finest at-the-time Nikkor lenses including the Nikkor HC 5cm 1:1.4 and the Nikkor HC 5cm 1:2, both with 1.5 foot close focus capabilities.

The rangefinder is like none I have ever seen, it has a 1.5 magnification, the focus spot is not as contrasty as some but it is so easy to see none the less. My version has a diopter adjust on the eyepiece for better focusing at different distances and a separate viewfinder eyepiece, a little spread apart, not sharing the same plastic frame as on earlier models. It has shutter speeds from T, B, 1-1/500 sec with 1/25 as the flash sync, using a cloth focal plane shutter.

This is probably an 8 or 9 out of 10 on cosmetic appearance. I haven't found any dents or scratches at all and no rusting. The shutter looks fine and works good except at the slower speeds (1-1/25) but I can live with that as I never use those settings. Also the original take-up spool is missing and the frame counter doesn't work. The Nikkor lens though, is smooth, clear and no gunk. I'm sure this camera set was well taken care of, I believe I got it from the original owners Nephew.

And why not? in 1954 it sold for $189 with the 50/1:2. lens, or $239 with the 50/1:1.4 lens. That's $1650 or $2043 in today's money!!. And unlike today, where we toss aside out-dated electronic devices costing hundreds or thousands after just a few years, people in those days cherished and held on to their expensive items and also, they were built to last 50-60 years.

FIXES:

I got a Kiev spool replacement, it is slightly shorter but the shaft diameter seems to be perfect. It took me a while to figure out what exactly was wrong with the frame counter but I believe I fixed the problem. Somebody removed the spindle and didn't put it back correctly. There is a high tensile steel spring that keeps the film advance spindle moving only in one direction. When they replaced the spindle, there was one tine of the spring caught between the spindle sprockets and the frame. This kept the spindle from seating properly and the bushing under the frame counter disc wouldn't seat properly. See photos of the repair.

Also the spindle would spin about a quarter turn in reverse before the spring would catch but even then, not tightly. This may be one of the reasons the film bunched up in the film chamber when past the half way point on a roll, then breaks when trying to advance or rewind the film.

With the spindle replaced properly, both the film advance problem and the frame counter were fixed. The spindle only turns one direction, there is not even a slight reverse of the spindle now. The counter works on a simple principal. When the knob/spindle is turned it only turns 39/40th's of a turn. The frame counter disc is divided into 40, 0 being 0 and 40. Also, a good exterior cleaning of the top and bottom plate, lens and the leatherette.

UPDATE: I recently tore into the thing and adjusted the shutter curtain tension springs it also helped the slower speeds. see the photos of the repair

 

HINTS:

Don't wear your favorite eye glasses while shooting, they will get scratched on the metal eye pieces.

Here's a photo from this camera

MANUAL:

Tower 43 Owners Manual (closest I could find) Part 1, Part 2


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