Side by Side
A recent purchase by my good friend and colleague John Wade (www.johnwade.org) brought back to mind a camera I'm quite fond of, and mentioned here - the Toyocaflex-35. The Tougo-do company split in two during the war, leaving two different Tougo-do companies for a while thereafter. In 1955 the Toyohashi Tougo-do factory launched the Toyocaflex-35. This is one of the very few designs anywhere of 35mm twin-lens reflex. It is clearly a descendant of the wartime Meikai, but better made and now using standard 35mm cassettes instead of little packets of sheet film in the No-Need-Darkroom system. It is 60% heavier than its predecessor and works quite smoothly. The taking and viewing lenses are both Owla Anastigmat 4.5cm f/3.5 (taking lens in NKS shutter, 1-200 & B, which looks just like a Compur rimset). And sadly the Meikai's top-plate magnetic compass has gone. To compensate for this, a neat feature is the matching lens caps, the larger one embossed “Toyoca” and the small one “35”.
When I got it I had to do a thorough service - complete strip, replaced leatherette, cleaned all optics and outside, replaced the reflex mirror. Reattached A/R knob which had fallen off. It has knob wind, a body release, and is interlocked in such a way that if you forget to cock the shutter before firing, the body release is locked, and you have to fire it from the lens. Focusing is by a quadrant lever that moves both lenses in and out. Loading and winding film is easy, and the frame counter is clear. The direct finder is actually rather poor, but the reflex finder is quite good as a finder. There is now a focusing magnifier, but it’s not really much easier to focus than the old Meikai - fine focusing is impossible. I find it easiest to set the distance scale as usual. Rewinding is straightforward, if a bit tedious. The shutter is quiet, and the quadrant lever focusing is quite nice to use. The camera produces good sharp usable negatives.
What brought all this to mind is that John bought a Hulda 35, which is the same camera but with a different and much less common nameplate. Compare the pictures and you will see they are more or less identical. Why there were two names I don't know, perhaps for different retailers. It is something Tougo-do did with many other models too.
A small puzzle revolves around the various serial numbers:
Body Taking Lens Viewing lens
Toyoca 55430 542210 55053
Hulda 56631 55200 55380
See, the Toyoca taking lens has an extra digit in what is obviously a common numbering series across both name badges. I suppose it must be an engraving error!
Sugiyama's Collector's Guide to Japanese Cameras gives the Toyoca 4 stars for rarity (5 stars is the maximum) and doesn't mention the Hulda at all - these are not common cameras!
An occasional and irregular blog, mostly of photographic experimentation and photographic history.
Copyright © 2023 by John Marriage