The Chinon 358RZ Reflex Zoom, (or Genesis GS-7) is another ‘bridge’ type camera from the late 1980s, and is styled after the one-handed video cameras from the day, just like the Ricoh Murai, reviewed not long ago. This ‘bridge’ camera is actually an SLR, so you get ‘TTL’ through the lens metering, as well as being able to visibly confirm sharp focusing on the matte glass viewfinder screen, and it takes common 62mm filters with a plastic adapter. There are a few features that are missing on the Chinon that you’d get on a real SLR, like; capable of manual focusing, and the ability to change lenses, remote shutter control and a flash hot shoe, however, Chinon includes a small built-in flash, so that’s good.
The Chinon 358RZ Zoom Reflex is found more commonly under the name ‘Chinon Genesis GS-7,’ but both are the same, and feature a 35-80mm zoom lens, a pop-up flash, macro mode, single or continuous frame advance, multiple exposure mode, and backlight control (BLC) so you can add 1.5 stops of extra light to your exposures in certain situations.
Like many of these ‘bridge’ type cameras, the Chinon was expensive when it was first introduced, (I’d guess over $400) but the prices came way down towards the end of the run. My box was marked $199.00 at Kmart, and was probably purchased in the early 1990s.
So is the Chinon 358RZ Reflex Zoom a capable and useful bridge camera, or is it yet another dud from the 1980s? find out below!
Name; Chinon 358RZ Reflex Zoom; more commonly known as: Chinon Genesis, (GS-7).
Box contents; camera, owner’s manual, a wrist/hand strap and maybe a vinyl carrying case.
Manufactured by; Chinon Industries Inc, Tokyo, Japan.
Made in: Japan.
Date of manufacture; 1988-1990?
Price; Current ebay prices are around $20-$45 for a good used copy. I paid $24 for my copy at a thrift shop.
Build material; all plastic body, metal skeleton.
Weight; camera with batteries, 28.0oz (793g).
Dimensions; Size is 5.0″ (126mm) wide, 3.5″ (88mm) high, and 4.9″ (125mm) deep.
Focal length; 35-80mm.
Aperture; wide end; F/4.1, long end; F/6.4 but not user adjustable.
Focusing; motorized infrared active servo auto focus system, 33.5″ (0.85m) to infinity stepless. Macro range: 19.7″-33.5″ (0.5-0.85m) manually focused. Half press to lock AF.
Original print size; standard over-sized prints 4 x 6.″
Approximate resolution; will make excellent 8″x 10″ and larger prints.
Lens; Ricoh zoom lens 35-80mm, F/4.1-F/6.4, 8 elements in 7 groups design; has separate ‘macro’ setting and is able to use 62mm filters with the included? adapter ring.
Shutter and speed; 1/4s to 1/300s, not user adjustable. Four bladed, odd shaped shutter. Continuous mode about 1 frame per second for 3 shots. No cable release option.
Distortion; slightly wavy barrel type at 35mm, and nearly flat at 80mm. See examples below.
Color fringing; none noticeable.
Double exposure prevention; yes, but it can be over-ridden in ‘M.EXP’ mode with a three shot maximum on one frame.
Features; auto focus, TTL metering, 10 second timer, flash on-off and fill settings, exposure compensation, macro mode, continuous shooting, and more.
Flash. built-in GN-12 at ISO 100, range of 0.85m-4m wide, 0.5m-2.7m tele, at ISO 100, 3.0 second recharge time with fresh lithium battery. Flash settings: on-off-fill. Flash syncs at all shutter speeds.
Power; one 6 volt 2CR5 battery, very expensive, and probably not available at your local grocer or drug store, get them cheaper here. B&H, Amazon, eBay. It also has a condenser type memory back-up, but mine is apparently worn out, so if you change the main battery mid roll, the shot counter will go back to zero.
Viewfinder; fixed pentaprism type; 0.8 at 50mm inf, with a field of view of 85%. Shows autofocus frame, AF indicator, and flash charge indicator.
DX coding; automatically adjusted to: ISO 50, 100, 200, 400, 1000, and 1600. Defaults to ISO 100 when no DX code is detected.
Accessories for this model; Tele-converter X1.3. Extends the lens to 105mm.
Crippling features and omissions; flash must be in up position to use camera. 1/4s second minimum shutter speed not sufficient for good night shots. Camera is somewhat large, about the same size as an SLR with kit zoom lens.
Good features; fast and accurate focusing in bright light, self timer, multi-exposure mode, and back light exposure compensation of +1.5ev.
Other models; Genesis series II had the power button placed away from the flash, and III, IV series had a auto zoom lens and a much broader zoom range.
Go here for an owner’s manual, and be sure and tip the site owner.
Product shots with descriptions. Click for larger images.
The front of the Chinon Reflex Zoom has the stepless Infrared focusing system inside the plastic cover on the right side of the lens as you hold it for shooting. There is no way to manually focus the lens, but it does have a manually adjustable zoom lever on the left side with focal lengths marked at 35mm, 50mm, and 80mm. You can set it at any zoom length in between those marked lengths if you want.
On the left side of the camera we have a flash switch that when pushed up and held, will fire the fill flash even in bright light. In the middle neutral position the flash will go off in low light at the cameras discretion; and by holding the switch down, it will keep the flash from firing. The little recessed button next to the flash switch is for mid-roll rewind; and the square switch is for opening the back cover. The round hole near the top is a 1/4-20 tripod socket, (most likely for holding an accessory cold shoe), there’s also another one on the bottom of the camera.
All the important switches are in green. The lever on top is for popping up the flash, and is also the power button, yes, you have to use the camera with the flash in the up position for the camera to work. The small narrow green rectangle on the zoom switch is for extending it to the macro position, more on that later. The large rectangular switch is for setting the drive mode, either single or continuous shooting, but it only goes to about 1 frame per second, for a total of three frames.
The three black buttons are pretty much self explanatory; M.EXP. is for multiple exposures, you can set it for either two exposures on one frame using the single advance setting, or three exposures on a frame in the continuous setting. The next button is for setting the self timer; it takes 10 seconds to trip the shutter. The BLC button enables ‘backlight correction’ and will give you about +1.5ev above your normal exposures; this is very useful for shooting towards the sun or anywhere you want the shadows to be a bit brighter.
The camera is about as long as it is wide. The handstrap is quite helpful in keeping it in your hand while you hold it. Another important green item is the shutter button in the lower right. There is a small LCD that shows the battery check, multiple exposure mode, BLC, self timer and frame counter.
Not much to see on the bottom except the plastic ¼-20 tripod socket, and the 2CR5 battery compartment, in which you need a small pointed object to push down on a pin to open the cover.
The back of the camera has the usual items that you’d see in most any good 35mm camera. The DX code reader is on the left inside the supply cavity, there is a leaf shutter in the lens, but no traversing type shutter that you normally see at the back of the film gate, but it does have a ‘quick return mirror’ for seeing what’s coming through the lens in the viewfinder. Rounding out the back is a spring steel film tensioner, and a film pressure plate. There is moltoprene (foam) around the film reminder slit, and a short strip along the back cover hinge area.
Here’s a better view of the front of the camera with the AF system and lens front element. Underneath the AF cover you’ll find an IR emitter and receiver, though I’m not sure which one is upper or lower. The green ring around the lens barrel is soft, and is probably a seal of some sort.
A closer look at the macro setting after you push in the green button and move the lever past 80mm. You have to manually focus the lens in macro mode and there is only a small amount of travel before the lens pops back to the 80mm spot. Also, when you have the Chinon Teleconverter mounted, you have to move the lens to the indicated position for proper focusing.
The inside of the lens cap has two small protrusions for sliding it over the viewfinder and keeping stray light out of your pictures. The ring on the right attaches to the front of the lens, and will accept 62mm filters.
In this view the Chinon Tele converter 1.3x has been mounted to the front of the lens. Make sure to move the zoom position to the correct mark before taking pictures.
Here are some boring test images scanned on a Pacific Image PrimeFilm XAs SE. All are 3500 pixels wide; there is no additional resolution from scanning at a higher sample rate. Kodak Ultramax 400 used for all shots. Click for larger images.
Mountain trail at 35mm.
Close focus macro shot of some deeeelicious bracken fern, don’t eat these little buggers when they’re this big though.
Barrel distortion at 35mm along the window line is not very noticeable unless straight lines are near the edges like this. This is the actual coverage you get when you compose exactly for the window frame as I did here.
At 80mm, distortion is almost flat. As I said above, this is the coverage you get when you fill the window frame in the viewfinder.
Crooked tree at 50mm?
Our normal Mountain scene at 35mm, this time in the morning.
Zoomed to 80mm. The image looks pretty sharp, even out to the sides.
As it turns out, the goofy one-handed Chinon 358RZ Reflex Zoom (or Genesis GS-7) turned in a good review, although my trial was only of a single roll of Kodak Ultramax 400. The fully automatic metering system produced properly exposed negatives, and the the AF was quite accurate under good lighting conditions. The lens seems evenly sharp at both the wide and long ends, and by that I mean it produces what I consider mediocre results, about the same as really cheap prime lenses at the same focal lengths. There isn’t anything extraordinary or surprising about the camera, the technical quality of the images is just average for a fixed zoom lens camera from the era; so I guess what I’m trying to say is; it’s a bit boring. For a little excitement, and much better quality in the same type of camera see the excellent Olympus models I’ve reviewed, the IS-30, or IS-5.
One might ask; is the Chinon 358RZ Reflex Zoom something that you’d take on vacation or a hike? My answer would be, not really, it’s too big and heavy, I’d much rather take the pocketable Canon Zoom 85, which is much smaller and has a better lens with almost the same zoom length. The Chinon at this point is all about nostalgia, but it was fun taking the old gal for a run.
That’s it for this review, thanks for visiting! Check eBay prices on the Chinon Reflex Zoom here.
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