The Halina 35X is a stout little rangefinder built by the Haking company in Hong Kong and released in 1959. It’s size and quite frankly it’s shininess are what attracted me to the camera initially and being built in Hong Kong put it over the top.
W. Haking Enterprises Ltd. is a Chinese company founded in 1956 in Hong Kong making cameras and binoculars primarily under the brand Halina, but they did sell cameras that were rebranded over the years. The Halina 35X was also sold as Micronta (possibly for Radio Shack as they own the Micronta brand) and Sunscope. Haking took ownership of the US camera brand Ansco and produced many private label cameras and still manufactures cameras today in the UK, Ireland and other countries.
Built out of brass and aluminum the Halina 35X is styled similarly to Leica and other 35mm rangefinders of the time. It’s also a pretty blatant copy of the Japanese Ranger 35. It bears a striking resemblance to the Leica IIIf, but that’s where the similarities stop. Even though it’s nearly a third smaller than the Leica, it is just about the same weight at 1.2 pounds, which seems heavy given it’s relatively small size. The range finder on the 35X is small but bright and is also a reverse Galilean finder, which means that the image you see in the finder is smaller than life. With the 35X it isn’t drastically smaller but it is noticeable, but then again many rangefinders are this way so it doesn’t really affect the way you use the camera.
The 35X has a 3 element Halina Anastigmat coated 44mm f/3.5 lens that has a focus range from 3 feet to infinity and apertures from f/3.5 to f/16. The actual aperture on the small end might actually be more like f/22 since the dial rotates beyond the f/16 mark, but it might also be somewhere in between which is less helpful.
The shutter is a 2 blade leaf shutter with only 5 speed options to choose from; Bulb, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, and 1/200. The shutter has a cocking lever on most of the models while on some later models it was built into the film advance mechanism. You can fire multiple exposures on the 35X easily, and as many times as you want. To create multiple exposures wind the film, then hold down the shutter release button as you cock the shutter, this fires the shutter. As long as you keep holding down the shutter release button, you can repeat this as many times as you want. You can also depress the shutter button without the shutter being cocked, which wastes the frame. These are such odd little beasts. The lens on the 35X is fixed.
Loading film is straight forward and again similar to many other cameras of the time. There is a lever on the bottom to lock the back and base of the camera in place, and you rotate it to the “O” position to open it, and to the “L” position to lock it. With the camera in two pieces, the film canister goes on the left, and the film leader attaches to the take-up spool on the right and off you go. This is another camera where keeping the film taught against the body will prevent the pressure plate from catching the film while closing it up.
My 35X is in great shape, and in fact I doubt it was used much, if at all. There’s no brassing on the top or bottom. No track marks on the pressure plate. Nothing. There is some oxidation on the corners of the pressure plate though, so it would need to be smoothed out if I wanted to actually use it.
Overall the construction is pretty poor. The top and bottom are thin metal and the stamping process has left it uneven. The back plate doesn’t fit that well and the lever tends to come just loose enough for the back to wiggle which would likely produce light leaks. The leatherette is very thin and plastic feeling, and the chrome, while shiny, isn’t overly smooth and adding all these little things up just makes the camera feel cheap. But that’s okay, it’s still a cool little camera. Oddly, this is the third camera that I have posted about recently that doesn’t have strap studs integrated into the body, so like the Bolsey and the Argus C33, if you want to use a strap you will need to have it in a case.
Given that the 35X is 61 years old (ish) it is holding up pretty well and I could make pictures with it if I wanted to. They are notoriously hard to focus due to the focus and aperture movements being stiff; which mine is as well, but they seem to be pretty durable due to their relative simple design and build. They produce pictures which are better than your typical Lomo but nowhere near as sharp as it’s inspiration; the Leica.
An interesting side note: while my Halina has “Made in Hong Kong” stamped into the base, other models have “Empire Made” stamped into them. No idea why they made the switch, but I kind of wish mine was one of the cameras stamped with “Empire Made”.
If you get one, try it out or just enjoy it for what it is; a fun little camera from a camera maker that has been making cameras in one form or another since the late fifties.
Type: Range Finder
Production: 1959 – 1960s
Shutter: 2 blade leaf shutter
Weight: 1.2 lbs
Flash: PC connection – M
Shutter speed: 1/25 sec – 1/200, B
Manual shutter release cable
Aperture: f/3.5 – f/16
Filter size: Series V
Focus range: 3ft – infinity
Elements: 3 (outer 2 are coated)