Classic Scale Focus Cameras:
Petri Color 35 / 35E

by Karen Nakamura


Overview and Personal Comments

The Petri Color 35 is a compact scale-focused leaf-shuttered 35mm camera that was introduced in 1968. It's a very high-quality camera that was also affordable, and it apparently sold like hot-cakes. These cameras are pretty common, so buy it for its use-value not the collector-value. Using the text or images on this website without permission on an ebay auction or any other site is a violation of federal law.

The lens is a 40mm f/2.8. I've been pleasantly surprised with the quality of the Petri optics, they are quite good. What's strange about my camera is that I've noticed every other Petri 35 on the web (as well as Baird's book) has a C.C. Petri lens - meaning its color corrected. My lens does not have the C.C. mark. It may be an early unit, but I doubt it means it's more collectible.

John Baird's Collectors Guide to Kuribayashi-Petri Cameras notes that the Petri Color 35 is famous for:

I'm very impressed with the Petri and share Stephen Gandy's high appraisal of it. My favorite points are:



Interesting quirks:

Previous Petri models (Petri 35MX; 2.8 CCS; 7s) were all rangefinders, so I was surprised that the Color 35 was scale focus. What is nice about the camera is that the viewfinder shows the scale focus distance in meters, feet, as well as icons (head-n-shoulders, people, mountains). There's also a nice projected framelines and a large + sign in the middle to help center the picture and orient horizontal and vertical lines. This viewfinder is gorgeous but without a rangefinder, it's kind of odd. Using the text or images on this website without permission on an ebay auction or any other site is a violation of federal law.

The match-needle system was called the "Circle-Eye System." Because the selenium cells circle the lens, they automatically compensate for any filters. The needle is only visible in the viewfinder unlike the Petri 7s where it is also visible on top.

The battery test is activated by putting the shutter to 'B' and the aperture to '22' (both marked in red) and pushing in the battery-test button on the far right. If the meter needle deflects above or onto the red bullseye, the battery is still good. If it's below, then you should replace the battery. Unfortunately, the mercury PX675 1.3V is not produced anymore, but you can use a silver-oxide SR44 instead without problems. You may have to compensate your ASA dial a bit.

The Petri Color 35 doesn't have the Kuribayashi name visible anywhere because the Kuribayashi Camera Company changed their name to the Petri Camera Company in 1962. This is quite sad as I was fond of the company name (see below).

The Color 35 has the nicest pop-up rewind lever that I have ever seen on a rangefinder. It's even cuter than the Canon P's. The frame counter is visible immediately below the flash shoe (which is indeed missing a screw). The focusing knob is visible to the immediate right of the viewfinder.




Petri Color 35E

The Petri Color 35E is two models after the Color 35 (there was a 35D). It featured a much simplified lens and metering. The 35E uses considerably more plastic in the lens barrel. The 35E also features aperture-priority automatic exposure. Using the text or images on this website without permission on an ebay auction or any other site is a violation of federal law.



Compact 35mm Full-frame Cameras of the 1960s and 1970s

In the late 1960s and 1970s, there was an "arms race" to see who could make the most compact 35mm full-frame camera (and there was a similar boom in half-frame cameras like the Olympus Pen F series). The three champions in my mind were the Petri Color 35 series (1968), the Rollei 35 series (1966), the Minox 35 series (1970s), and the Olympus XA series (1979). As you can see from the photos below, all were approximately the same size, minus a few millimeters and weighed about the same (the Olympus XA with its polycarbonate frame is the lightest). A Leica CL (1973) is a giant compared to these cameras. Using the text or images on this website without permission on an ebay auction or any other site is a violation of federal law.

The Petri, Rollei, and Olympus all had metering. The Petri Color 35 had a CdS cell in the lens mount, with coupled match-needle manual metering in the view finder. Very nice. The Rollei 35 series had CdS cells or selenium cells, with match-needle metering. The Olympus XA had aperture-priority automatic-exposure with a fully electronic shutter. Of course it had the advantage of being 10 years younger than the others.

Only the Olympus XA managed the feat of having a coupled-rangefinder. The baselength was very short and the optics were complex, which raised the price. Olympus ended up dropping the coupled-rangefinder when it released the less expensive Olympus XA2.

All three had different approaches to the question of how to make the lens compact enough to be pocketable. The Petri had a retractable, helical focus lens. The Rollei had a push-pull retractable head. And the Olympus XA used a telephoto design to make it fit within the shell without retracting. The Minox 35 which I no longer own and can't depict, has a retractable lens built into the door frame. Very nice.


While the Rollei looks and feels more "professional", the Petri is an easier camera to use because of its stellar viewfinder with built-in scale-focusing display and match-needle metering.

Technical Details

Camera Name
Petri Color 35 Color 35D Color 35E
Petri Camera Company
Place of Manufacture


Date of Manufacture
1968.7 1969.6 1971.8-
Focusing System

Scale focus
1 meter / 3' ~ infinity
Helical focusing using focusing wheel on camera rear
Viewfinder 0.46X magnification; 90% view
Projected bright frames


40mm f/2.8 (4 elements in 3 groups)
Angle-of-view 56°49'
"fully coated and color corrected"
40.5mm filter thread mount
42mm push-on lens cap

40mm f/2.8 (4 elements in 3 groups)
Angle-of-view 56°49'

Petri MS leaf (in-lens) shutter
1/15 - 1/250 + B

Petri MS leaf (in-lens) shutter
1/15 - 1/300 + B

Petri MS leaf (in-lens) shutter
1/30 - 1/200 auto exposure
Metering System

Around the lens (ATL) CdS manual metering cell. Match-needle meter visible in viewfinder.
EV7-17 (ASA100)

Around the lens (ATL) CdS metering cell. Automatic exposure only.
EV8-16.5 (ASA100)



Hot flash shoe
PC external flash connection

Film type / speeds

Standard 135 (35mm) film
ASA 25-800

Battery type
HC13/PX675 Mercury Oxide 1.3V battery
Dimensions and weight

101 x 64 x 43mm 390g

xx x xx x xx xxx
Retail price
$110 / ¥17000 ¥21,400 $80
Note: Using the text or images on this site in an ebay auction without permission is a violation of your ebay Terms of Service. I will report you to ebay if I discover such a violation taking place. This may result in your account being cancelled. I also reserve the right to file claim for civil penalties.


About Kuribayashi

The company name means "Acorn Grove" and they are actually one of the older Japanese camera manufacturers. They started up in 1907 making accessories and went bankrupt in 1977. They made a bunch of plate cameras, folding roll film cameras, rangefinders, and finally SLRs. Like the Miranda Camera Company, they couldn't make the step up to mass production and electronization and competition from Nikon and Canon.

The mid-fifties seems to have been a good time for Japanese camera manufacturers. The occupation had ended in 1952. One of the side-effects of Germany's defeat was that all of their camera patents and innovations were put in the public domain. Things like lens coating and specialized lens designs pioneered by Zeiss could now be used by everyone. Furthermore, the German camera industry was in disarray as the Zeiss factories in Jena were taken by the East Germans but the engineers and opticians had fled to West Germany. In the brief period from the 1950s to the mid 1970s, there were many small Japanese camera companies producing quality equipment.

Unfortunately in 1955, Leica came out with the M3 and changed the scene for rangefinder cameras. The M3 set such a high bar that most of the leading Japanese manufacturers (Canon and Nikon) abandoned their rangefinder lines and decided to compete with SLRs instead. Kuribayashi was actually the first Japanese companyu to come out with an SLR, but the smaller Japanese companies couldn't keep up with the rapid pace of innovation in the 1960s by the larger corporations like Asahi, Canon, and Minolta and died out. Kuribayashi filed for final bankruptcy in 1977.


On the Net


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