James's Light Meter Collection: Chou Electrical's Etalon Special Exposure Meter
Etalon Special Exposure Meter Japanclick for manual
Maker: Chou Electronic Co.
Model: Etalon Special
Circa: 1960s
Cell type: Selenium
Measure type: Reflecting / Averaging

Étalon is a french word meaning "standard of measurement. But here it's the brand name of a Japanese firm, Chou Electronic Co. (though I've also seen it badged as "CDK: Central Electronic Co."

There are more Etalons in the world than my reference information know of, and none of the good ones seem to be there. Here's a great photo of some beauties. The "Deluxe" appears to be based on a Weston Master (abliet without the dual-range baffle). The Special and Super and Weston Masters from the rear. The Lumar (or Lunar) is a Norwood Director/Sekonic Model S.

I don't know the circumstances behind any of these so it's all speculation: my guess is that these were made briefly in the late 1950s until the lawyers made them stop. But it's possible they had some sort of licensing agreement. Or maybe they licensed them, who knows? The front is different, but the back is virtually identical to the later Weston Masters--so much so that the 2nd generation invercone (the one that fits Masters IV and onward) fits this meter as if it were made by Etalon itself.

Two, in particular, appear to be nearly identical: my Special and the Super. I think they're the same except for the calculator dials: the Special's appears to be modelled after the Norwood Director's, the Super looks more like Weston's.

Before this arrived, I had expected it to be just some cheap Japanese knock-off, but it's actually quite a nice knock-off. It's physically attractive, and it's got the heft and seriousness of a Weston Master. It's a shame there aren't more of these around.

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