Monday Mystery Camera: The Nicca 5L aka Tower 46

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The Nicca 5L/Tower 46 with the 5cm f/1.4 Nikkor in ltm mount. A rare combination!

The Nicca 5L is a rangefinder camera made by the Nicca Camera Company of Japan around circa 1957.

Nicca was one of several Japanese companies that brought Leica screwmount clones to the market. The most well known of these clone companies is Canon, but there were also many more companies from Japan and the USSR. Nicca is said to be the predecessor to the Canon company.

The camera pictured above is the Tower 46. It is the same camera as the Nicca 5L, but was sold in the USA by Sears Roebuck under their “Tower” brand.

NOTE: Special thanks to our readers and fellow bloggers at http://www.yashicasalorboy.wordpress.com for pointing out that the Nicca 5L and Type 5 are NOT the same camera! The article has been updated to reflect this. That’s why it’s a “Mystery Camera” to me! Thanks guys! By the way, their blog is awesome for camera fanatics! Check it out!! 🙂

AS A CAMERA

The Nicca 5L like most Leica screwmount cameras has two separate windows, one for framing and one for the rangefinder. The shutter speed range is 1/25 to 1/1000, plus B.

The Nicca’s main claim to fame is the winding lever and the Leica M type back, easier film loading than Leica’s screwmount bodies.

Stephen Gandy has a much more extensive write-up on his Camera Quest website, the online authority on rangefinder cameras. In his article, he says it “outshines Leica’s own renowned IIIg.”

I don’t have any experience with the IIIg, but compared to the IIIf I have, it is indeed better. The film loading, the winding lever, the beautiful, large and clear rangefinder all add up to a more pleasant user camera.

PRICE AND COLLECTIBILITY

The Nicca 5L is rare, but not ultra rare. Well, the Nicca version itself is quite rare. As I read on Camera Quest it’s “never been seen.” The Tower 46 (the one seen here) is the one you will usually encounter. If you ever see the Nicca version, let me know!

The Nicca is one of those cameras I bought but sold before I could use it. As I already had the IIIf, I preferred to keep the Leica, despite the Nicca being a much better user camera, as I stated above. Sold it when I needed to pay the bills. Of course, I regret it! 🙂

I got the Nicca/Tower 46 for about $130 body only, which was a bargain. I don’t see them often, but when I do, I usually see this camera on auction sites, usually paired with the 5cm f/2 Nikkor sell for around $350-500. The 5cm f/1.4 Nikkor in ltm mount is more uncommon and sells for around $300-400 by itself.

Sometimes, people will try to pull for a lot more on that auction site, but as the Leica IIIg (the apex of screwmount rangefinders) go for around $400-700 at legitimate dealers like KEH, I can only say that the Nicca should not sell for more than that.

The Nicca 5L/Tower 46 is an awesome camera to add to your collection and I’m sure, to use. Someday, I will find another and this time, I’ll keep it!

Note: Sorry for the placement of the “cameralegend.com” logo. I now put it closer to the photos because I had found some of the content of my pages used without authorization. I usually hate copyright logos, but it only takes one bad apple to ruin it for everyone and it only takes seeing your work copied to make you think twice about it.

15 thoughts on “Monday Mystery Camera: The Nicca 5L aka Tower 46

    1. Hi Jim, yes Tower was a Sears brand that they used when they imported items overseas for sale. I also had Sears Tower branded telescopes in the past, so they used this brand beyond just cameras.

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      1. Hi Sam,
        I have one that I found in my mom’s attic in a camera bag. It has the camera, lens, telephoto lens (forgot by whom), flash accessory. I can update you with names and model numbers of the accessories. Would you be able to let me know what a fair price would be to sell on Ebay? You can reach me at geoteter@gmail.com

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hi George, sorry for the late reply, been away for the summer. If your camera is the Nicca 5L or Tower 46 with the winding lever (very important) and it’s in good cosmetic and working condition then you could possibly sell the body alone for about $350-400. The lens and accessories, I’d need more details. Hope this helps!

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    1. Hi Victor! Thanks for the link, the price is about right I think. As I said in the article, the Tower version is not as rare as the Nicca version, though still more rare than other Niccas. I think the reason it doesn’t sell better is for almost the same price you might find the Leica IIIg and I think most people will want the Leica 🙂

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      1. You know this massive noise around Leica make me very curious what can i get with this camera ( more right with these lenses) but when I think more deep about this, i better will play with other photography formats and cameras than will wait for something magical 😉

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  1. Hi Sam,
    The Nicca Type-5 is a totally different camera from the Nicca 5L. The Type-5 was released in 1955 right after the Type-4 but before the 3-F.
    The biggest differences are that the film door on the Type-5 is hinged to open to the right and the 5L is hinged to open to the top.
    The Type-5 also has a distinctive black band along the top of the body just below the chrome top plate.

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    1. Hi Chris and Carol! Thanks for pointing this out to me. Yes the camera was a bit of a mystery to me, more so then than now. I went by a lot of information I got off the web. Thankfully the only reference I made to the Type 5, as far as I could see, was in the title but it could lead people to be confused so I thank you for the correction and I have updated the post to reflect this. I put a special note in the first part of the review as a thank you to you guys! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Sam! Thanks a bunch for the link and thank you for your very kind comments. The thing I enjoy most about collecting these little gems from the 1950s is discovering something new about them. I don’t believe we’ll ever know everything but the chase is sure fun!

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