The Beseler Topcon Super D — A Battle Camera


Here we have a US Navy Beseler Topcon Super D. If you can find any version of this camera, from the Topcon RE Super to the Topcon Super Dm (last version) at anything resembling a reasonable price, buy it immediately! It doesn't get any better than this!

Beseler Topcon Super D © open-arms, Courtesy Flickr

The Beseler Topcon Super D was the combat camera for the US Navy and the US Airforce from the 1960s to the 1980s after winning a competitive test with the Nikon F and several other Japanese and German cameras. It won for much stouter construction and better ergonomics. The US Army and US Marines went with Leica for silence. It fits to your hand like a perfect weapon, with the front-facing shutter button right under your right forefinger. Also, that huge, 5.8 cm f/1.4 lens is one of the sharpest ever honed and does not vignette, even when shot wide open. At this late date, not even Nikon manages this because it's much too expensive. The case is also real, made of pebble grain leather.

This is the camera to take to the football stadium, especially if one of the teams is Manchester United. It handles very quickly in use, it is a great metal shield you can hide behind when the drunken riot starts or you can beat off attackers with it. If you are small enough, you can even hide inside it. (Hahaha!)

I bought this camera in 1970 at a charity shop in Oxnard, California with six lenses, two extension rings, an extra different focusing screen, an angled critical focus magnifier, the pain in the bum hot shoe fixture, and a huge plug-in-the-wall type flash (went up in flames decades ago) all in a cardboard box for 300 USD. The camera body is engraved "US Navy" on the bottom cover. I have a feeling that the US Navy is still looking for this stuff (except the flash, it was an explosive fire hazard!). The Topcon Super D is THAT good.

This is a review submitted by Community Member herbert-4.

written by herbert-4 on 2009-03-27 #gear #people #review #camera #sharp #topcon #us-airforcebeseler #combat #usnavy


  1. stouf
    stouf ·

    Wow cool looking camera ! nice gallery !

  2. herbert-4
    herbert-4 ·

    They seem to have edited out my specification paragraph so, here's the specifications:
    Shutter: 1/1000s to 1s and B, X-sync @ 1/60s, M-sync @ 1/30s, non-rotating shutter speed dial.
    One of the first coupled TTL light meters, EV2 to EV16 @ ISO 100, and done right! Match needle.
    Interchangeable viewfinders and focusing screens.
    Exacta bayonet lens mount. Lots of old lenses out there, some very weird ond Lomographic.
    Hot shoe and PC socket are by a removable fixture, a pain in the bopbop, but done for indestructability.
    A covered socket for a dedicated motor drive.
    And lastly, chrome plating that would do justice to a 1954 Buick!!

  3. frankbob
    frankbob ·

    Appreciate the info on the Super D. I have one with the same (close) lens but I have lost the manual somewhere along the way. I would like to know what battery to get for the light meter since mine is missing. I also have a Canon FT SLR that took the old PX-13 mercury battery and they no longer make those so I have to explore some more for a work-around on that camera which is a real winner. I love the TOPCON though, and have taken many great photos with it.
    Hope you can help on the battery.

  4. darryl1208
    darryl1208 ·

    the german translation of this article you can find here:…

  5. simon-hedge
    simon-hedge ·

    I want one!

  6. stickyvinny
    stickyvinny ·

    Great review, Herb! Very kool camera and a very nice gallery too!
    Looks like I have another one to add to the list! Haha

  7. stickyvinny
    stickyvinny ·

    Great review, Herb! Very kool camera and a very nice gallery too!
    Looks like I have another one to add to the list! Haha

  8. gianni50
    gianni50 ·

    i have one for sale message me!

  9. zorki
    zorki ·

    Nice review. I always thought that the Nikon F was the main camera on the battlefield in the 60s.

  10. herbert-4
    herbert-4 ·

    @zorki Reporters and combat photographers bought their own Nikon F's, and, over time, the military began to buy them, too. Better marketing by Paillard in US. Beseler US was just too industrially oriented, and eventually got crowded out of market. However, Nikon F's were fragile in the pentaprism, less accurate in light meter and noisy compared to Topcon and never matched that Topcor 5.8cm f/1.4 sharpness, bokeh, and even illumination, even now. Find one of these...

  11. billyfoto
    billyfoto ·

    As a Navy Photographer from 1974 -1986, I had the pleasure of using this camera model. Although by 1977 when I had access to the Super DM we were calling them "Slopcon". Probably due to the loosey-goosey film advance lever and the propensity for prisms to detach without warning. However, I will agree 100% with the evaluation of the metering system and the quality of the lens. It might have been a somewhat unfair nickname for the camera, but they put up with a lot of use over the years and not a lot of tender loving care, except by the camera repair technicians. I also has a very nice Leica RF kit at my disposal, which I preferred. A Tank among 35mm cameras, and as fine a piece of glass that you could put on one. Lucky you for having it. KEH presently has a 87-205 f 4.7 lens available in EX condition for less than $200. Funny set of parameters for a lens in that range, but it probably worked out to the best quality that the engineers could put in a lens like that.

  12. herbert-4
    herbert-4 ·

    @billyfoto I was a Corpsman in the Navy from '68 to '72. I never used the Dm, just the Super D and RE Super. They were both very tight, secure and stout in their parts. LSI wouldn't use my photo of the camera because of brown blanket...…… My examples are better than than their photo.

  13. swmpykee
    swmpykee ·

    I love this story and review, and the pics. I just happened upon one at a good price, and I can confirm. Holy cow, what a sweet camera.
    Thanks for this.

  14. eepug
    eepug ·

    I bought this camera in 1968 after my Contaflex was stolen. I dragged that Super D through Hong Kong and Maylasia in 1969...including a night in an animal hide in the jungle. got some great shots. I also loved that lens for shooting production shots in the Off Off Broadway theater I worked with in New great in low light and for capturing the moment. Still have it. Loved your piece.

  15. herbert-4
    herbert-4 ·

    @eepug Thanks!!

  16. teeh
    teeh ·

    I really like way the last few came out. Very adventuresome

  17. herbert-4
    herbert-4 ·

    @teeh Thanks!!

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