The TLR cameras in this page

Contaflex   Meisupi Tougodo's   Hobix Tougodo's   Myriaflex   GGS Luckyflex   Bolsey C
Aires Yalluflex   Toyocaflex-35   Samocaflex 35   Agfa Flexilette   Agfa  Optima Reflex   CONCAVA Tessina





In 1935 Zeiss Ikon brought forth the most advanced cameras of his days: the Contaflex twin-lens reflex that used 35mm film. Camera has been produced only to 1943. The camera was innovative: the first built-in selenium light meter. Clic on the Contaflex picture for enter in the page Zeiss Contaflex Twin Lens Reflex cameras with story, lenses, tecnical specifications and more pictures on Contaflex.

   

This TLR camera was producted by Rothgiesser & Schlossman in 1930, the Rothschloss used a frame 18X24 on 35mm film. The lense was the Steinheil Triplar 2,8/5cm, sometime was equipped with the Rothschloss Anastigmat 3,5 50. The shutter Compur provided the max speed at 1/300 sec.

     

  

There were many versions of the Rolleikin, which was a kit made for Rolleiflexes and Rolleicords to permit them to use 35mm film.

Initially the film was transported between two Agfa-Rollei cartridges, and in that form (PR114) was available in 1933-34, two years before the Contaflex. So a Rolleiflex with Rolleikin was the first 35mm TLR by two years.

Meisupi Tougodo's first 35mm TLR used their No Need Darkroom film-packet system, and Tougodo went on to become the most prolific producer of 35mm TLRs in the world, with a succession of models from the 1930s to the '50s (they made 127 and Bolta-film TLRs too, and of course 120 ones).

Their trademark is the horizontal or side-by-side layout which permits a 35mm TLR to be little bigger than an ordinary rangefinder camera. They started with the Meisupi and Meikai (1937 on) and this was the first appearance of the "Japanese side-by-side" TLR, which were all in fact Tougodo products.  

The Meisupi No2 and No3 were pre-war fixed focus side-by-side cameras. After the WWII, Tougodo was divided into two companies. One in Toyohashi and the other in Yamanashi. Tougodo in Toyohashi made better cameras like TOYOCA, TOYOCAFLEX and HOBIX.   (clic here to go on top page)

The Tougodo Manufacturing Co. in Toyohashi produced miniature Hit-type, Hobix Tougodo and Hobby toy cameras and also fairly high-grade real cameras Toyocaflex, Toyoca, Hobiflex, etc. This company's name was eventually changed to Daishin Seiki and the last camera they produced was the Hobby Jr. They now make parts for the Pioneer Electric Co.

   

There were quite a few cameras called Hobix from the Toyohashi Tougodo company. Of these the Hobix DI, DII and SIII (last two are shown) look like vertical layout TLRs. All look similar, use Bolta-size film and are fixed focus except the 1952 DII which has front element focusing (but not coupled to the viewing lens). The 1954 SIII has a 40/4.5 Complete lens in synchronised 25/50/150/200/B shutter.   (clic here to go on top page)

Myriaflex multiformat (18x24 24x24 o 24x36) projected by G.Bennet and manufactured by P.Bisch sold between 1947 and 1948 without success. LENSE: Berthiot 75/3.5, shutter from 1sec to 1/300, 30 meters of film. The big tank film, builted in aluminium fusion, was the principal characteristic of this camera, inside it was loaded 30 meters of 35mm film, for shots in three frame format: 1500 shots on 18X24mm, 1200 shots on 24X24mm, 750 shots on 24X36mm.   (clic here to go on top page)

The Luckyflex marketed in 1948, was made in Milan by the GGS company. These are quite uncommon, only 2000 or so having been made, and as far as I know were never exported to England. It is a vertical 35mm TLR, with vertically running film and portrait format. It is shaped like a small Rolleiflex but internally of rather agricultural construction.

Film loading is excellent - unscrew the big knob to release the LHS panel, and the back/bottom cover comes off as well. The film wind is just like a KW Pilot Reflex - two strokes of a spring-loaded trigger. Rewind is engaged by turning a knob in the centre of the trigger pivot, which moves the trigger on an eccentric, so that it engages the reverse mechanism instead of forwards, so you rewind by a normal winding action.   (clic here to go on top page)

The Bolsey C was marketed from 1950 to 1956. This 35mm TLR still kept a range finder of previous model.It is changed to be a 35mm TLR when pick the pint hood up. You can see a file image on the bottom of hood and look the focus with the loope provided in the hood.

   

The lens equipped with is Wollensak 44mm F3.2 Anastigmat and the same lens is equipped as view lens. The Synch is flashmatic and needs a special socket for the strobe unit or gun. The shutter is B, T, 1/10 - 1/200 sec. made by Wollensak. In the years between 1953-56 was produced also the Bolsey C22 Set-O-Matic, absolutely similar to the first but which links aperture to focused distance for flash. The C22 has Set-o-Matic, which links aperture to focused distance for flash purposes. There are flash exposure instructions instead of the d.o.f. plate on the back cover. The viewing screen is now a lens, presumably to try to brighten the corners of the field (the C2 has a flat screen).   (clic here to go on top page)

The Yalluflex was marketed in 1950. The Aires Camera co. had been established in 1949 as Yallu Optical co. Their first camera was the Yallu (named for some reason after the river in northern Korea). It is said to have been a prototype given to camera stores as samples, but which excited little interest. The company by 1951 had become the Aires Camera Co, who then made a range of good quality  cameras before closing their doors in 1960.

   

The Yalluflex has distinctive curved body, and some unusual design features. The focusing wheel is built into the back, and film is wound by a trigger in the base. The lens is a 50/3.5 Hexar in a Seikosha-Rapid shutter, 1-500 & B. Viewing lens a Yallu Excella 50/2.8. Film advance cocks shutter. Unusual design, one of the rarest and most sought-after Japanese cameras . The total production of this spectacular camera ran to not more than 50 examples, only few are known to still exist.   (clic here to go on top page)

Toyocaflex-35. In 1955 the Toyohashi Tougodo factory launched this camera (also known but rare with a Hulda badge). It is clearly a descendant of the wartime Meikai, but better made and now using standard 35mm cassettes. It is 60% heavier than its predecessor and works quite smoothly. Lens is an Owla Anastigmat 4.5cm f/3.5 in NKS shutter, 1-200 & B (which looks just like a Compur rimset) with F and X sync.

There is now a focusing magnifier, but its not really much easier to focus than the Meikai. And the compass has gone. The Toyocaflex or Toyoca 35 was manufactured in c1955 by the Tougodo Optical Co. of Toyohashi, Japan. Direct and Reflex finders, this camera operated as a twin-lens-reflex.   (clic here to go on top page)

  

Samocaflex 35, by Sanei Sangyo, Year: 1955. One of the few 35 mm TLR. Ezumar 2,8/50. There were two versions both of 1955 with minor shutter differences (Seikosha-Rapid, Seikosha-MX).

It is uncommon. A 35mm TLR rather similar in appearance to the Bolsey. The lens is a D Ezumar  2.8/50 in Seikosha-Rapid 1-500 & B. Waist-level reflex  focusing with a magnifier. The shutter is cocked by winding the film, and released from the body.   (clic here to go on top page)

Flexilette, Year: 1960-63. Agfa produced the Flexilette with a design apparently based on the Silette body upside down, so the lever wind is on the bottom left. The Flexilette has waist level viewing like all the cameras we have been looking at, and manual controls.

   

However, unlike almost any of the others the viewing screen is  bright, sharp and easy to focus, and has a split-image circle. You need to use the sports finder for vertical shots. The Flexilette has the distance information on top where you can read it. Lens: Color-Apotar 2.8/45, Shutter: Prontor /500.   (clic here to go on top page)

Optima Reflex made by: Agfa, Country: Munich, Germany. Year: 1961. The Optima Reflex is transformed by having a pentaprism viewing system like an SLR. The viewfinder is really excellent - big, bright, and clear. It also has built-in automation. On Auto it does its own thing; you can also have an aperture of your choice plus B, and on the yellow aperture scale you use flash and a fixed 1/30th. You have no direct control over the shutter speed, it depends entirely on the light meter.

   

The viewfinder has clear indications of whether the film is wound, and if the light is sufficient for an exposure. Focusing information on the Optima is by zone symbols, though if you turn the camera upside down you can see scales of feet and metres. Lens: Color-Apotar 2.8/45, Shutter: Agfa.   (clic here to go on top page)

Tessina made by: CONCAVA. Year: 1960. Concava introduced the Tessina in the early 1960's, and near as I can tell, it's still being built in small quantities. This small camera uses 35mm film, spooled into special small cassettes.

   

The Tessina is a half frame format, 14x21mm, spring motor driven camera, that projects the image dowmward with a mirror onto the film. It has a waist level finder, as well as an optional prism finder. Also available are slip on meters, a wrist strap, the obligatory daylight film loader, and a watch face to disguise your Tessina as the worlds clumsiest looking watch. This camera was made in some variants, click on picture to see all, The Tessina is an elegant camera, built with the precision of a fine watch. Most are finished in bright chrome, but a few are finished in red, gold or black. Lens: Tessinon 2.8/25, Shutter: between the lens.   (clic here to go on top page)

Sassuolo, 16 Gennaio 2006

 
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Most of the material on this page is taken from two articles by John Marriage, "The History of the 35mm twin lens reflex". They were published in Photographica World; Part 1 was published in issue 112, 2005/2 page 13-20; Part 2 in issue 113, 2005/3, page 5-14. Much more detail is presented in the original articles. An extended summary may be found at http://www.tapestry.org.uk/html/35tlr.html