Posts Tagged ‘Aki-Asahi’

A Comparison Of Replacement Camera Covers

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

I have recently had the opportunity to use a new camera cover manufacturing service: Aki-Asahi Camera Coverings. Based in Nagoya, Japan and operating for the last 12 months I was lured in by their cheap prices and decided to give their Spotmatic kit a go. I originally ordered a Spotmatic kit from cameraleather.com, but after 2 months of waiting it hadn’t arrived. I e-mailed them several times and recieved no response and eventually got a refund through Paypal as I thought they had done a runner. As I found out just recently there was flooding in the area at the time that apparently caused the breakdown in communication, and eventually did recieve the Cameraleather kit. This gave me a good excuse to compare the two services.

One of the major issues I had with my Pentax Spotmatic after cleaning and repairing it was the condition of the leatherette. Rather than being the clean, rich and textured black it was supposed to be, it was dull and worn with corners lifting from degraded adhesive and it was incredibly stiff and wouldn’t stick back down onto the body. I am the first to admit that as a restoration of my Spotmatic effort isn’t a perfect effort. The aluminium housing was in poor condition to start with, the curtain tension isn’t right, and the light meter is in desperate need of calibration. My aim with this camera wasn’t to restore it to perfect condition, but rather to bring it back to life to use alongside my digital slr. And for that, I want something eye-catching to give it a bit of character. If I’m going to the trouble of recovering it then I may as well go the rest of the way and recover it with something exciting and relatively unique.

I decided on a nice crimson colour for my camera as it will also make the camera stand out quite a bit compared to the blacks and greys that people are accustomed to seeing on a camera. It should also mean that this cover will last longer than the original leatherette and will be less susceptible to degradation from sunlight and the elements. The adhesive is an important factor, in particular the longevity and whether or not it will hold up to any potential removals and reapplications of the cover for maintainence, adjustment or cleaning of the internal mechanisms and how well it will last over time with normal use.

I chose a goat kid leather kit from cameraleather.com as it’s soft to the touch and will really make the camera unique. Aki Asahi do not offer a Spotmatic SP kit in red kid leather, so I had to settle for cowhide which is harder wearing but not as pleasant to the touch and does not feel as grippy. I would have liked to see more kid leather colour choices from Aki Asahi. They also offer synthetic leathers for people aiming for a more original cover or who don’t want to use animal leather on their camera.

Both kits are well made, come attached to a backing sheet and are self-adhesive which saves a lot of time and mess when compared to gluing them yourself. The cameraleather.com kit has a natural texture that is very nice to the touch, as well as being very soft and a rich, deep red with a matte finish. The Aki Asahi kit is much glossier red, like polished leather and when I ordered it (and as of writing this post) is only available in lizard or crocodile embossing. Neither of these textures really appeal to me, I would have liked a more classic pebbled texture in the red leather. One really cool thing that Aki-Asahi included was an identical leather kit with a little stamp identifying it as a “Free Practice Kit”. A cursory inspection shows some minor imperfections in one corner of this extra kit, so it may simply be a way to offload a reject that they don’t want to sell as it is not up to their standards. I am not sure if they do this for all of their kits, but if they do then it is definitely a cheap way to cover multiple cameras. I can even see some enthusiasts swapping or selling their practice kits to other members of the restoration community, very cool.

Thickness is an important attribute that is mentioned only in passing on both cameraleather.com and Aki-Asahi on one or two pages. Depending on personal preference one might want a thicker leather to give a slightly more substantial grip or a thinner leather to fit under low controls or for another reason. I found that the Aki-Asahi kit gives you a nice and meaty 0.7mm thick kit, while the cameraleather.com kit was around 0.5mm. Now these don’t sound terribly far apart but combined with the differences in hardness of the kits you can certainly feel a difference.

Then there is the price. This was where the two kits diverge the most. When I ordered my kit from cameraleather.com, I paid $US44.00 with an additional $US3.60 postage for a total cost of $US47.60. The Aki-Asahi kit? A mere $US13.00, plus $US4.00 shipping. Sure, the Aki-Asahi kit was only cowhide leather, but they charge the same price for a Pentax Spotmatic SP/SPII kit regardless of whether you order cowhide, kid leather, lizard embossing, snake embossing, leica embossing or whatever. That is a huge price difference for a kit that is of comparable quality to one that costs almost thrice the price.

Living in Australia it takes forever for anything to get here from outside Asia, particularly from the US and Europe, while those places in Asia tend to be fairly quick, so it wouldn’t be fair of me to compare just how fast my kits took to arrive. Aki-Asahi had my kit out the door within two days, and for $US4.00 they register it as well which is excellent. A large portion of people ordering these kits will be based out of the US, so naturally cameraleather.com will be the much faster option. My first kit from cameraleather.com was posted within a week, still a very reasonable time frame.

Ultimately it all boils down to personal choice. Aki-Asahi are faster, much cheaper and their instructions are well documented with lots of pictures walking you through your first recovering. Cameraleather.com have a much wider range of choices in terms of colours and leather kits and will be significantly faster getting their kits to people living in or near the United States. In the end they both make excellent kits, and I would be happy having either on my camera. Larger images of all three kits are available by following the links below to the gallery. I will post again later with some photos of my camera with its new cover.

CameraLeather.com – Fine Leathers For Classic Cameras
Aki-Asahi Custom Camera Coverings

Cameraleather.com Pentax Spotmatic SP Kit

Aki-Asahi Pentax Spotmatic SP/SPII Kit

Aki-Asahi Pentax Spotmatic SP/SPII Free Practice Kit