Arco was a Japanese camera maker in the 1950s, manufacturer of the Arco 35.
The company was founded in May 1946 under the name Asaka Seikō (アサカ精工), by Katō Shigeru (加藤繁) and Asami Katsuzō (浅見勝蔵), hence the name Asaka. It made various mechanical parts, and began to make tripods after a couple of years. The name was changed to Arco Shashin Kōgyō K.K. (アルコ写真工業㈱) in July 1949. The company continued making various tripod models and various camera accessories, such as Arco H.C. filters, an Arco rangefinder and the Apro close-up attachment. In 1950, the main address was Ōta-ku Yukigaya-chō (太田区雪ヶ谷町) 314, and the address of the sales department was Shinagawa-ku Gotanda (品川区五反田) 2–370, both in Tokyo. The address mentioned in the advertisements for the Arco 35 from 1952 to 1956 is that in Gotanda.
Camera and lens production
|Arco 35 (left) and Arco 35 Automat D (right)|
image by Foldinette (Image rights)
The company's involvement into cameras is early: it is said the president Katō Shigeru asked the designer Abe Masao (阿部正雄) to work on a camera design in 1947. The initial project was for a 6×6 SLR with focal-plane shutter and interchangeable lenses and backs, reportedly because Katō Shigeru was fond of SLR cameras. A patent was filed in 1950 for the shutter. However the project was abandoned because it was too difficult for a small company and it would hardly compete with the Hasselblad, released in 1951.
Abe Masao then worked on the design of the Arco 35 folder from autumn 1951. It is said that the choice of a bellows camera was made to allow close focusing down to 35cm. The company's interest in close-focusing devices was already apparent in the elaborated design of the Apro close-up attachment, and perhaps reflects Katō's photographic tastes.
The company also began the production of aftermarket lenses in Leica screw mount, Exakta mount and 42mm screw mount, under the Colinar and Snowva brands. These lenses were developed in parallel to the five-element Colinar 5cm f/2.8 lens of the Arco 35.
The Arco 35 was announced in late 1952 and delivered in early 1953. A special accessory called the View-Arco was released in 1954, which transforms the camera into a 35mm TLR: the device comprises a viewing lens and waist-level reflex viewfinder. The focusing screen and viewing hood mount in the camera's accessory shoe, and the lens is screwed to the lens standard, so that the finder follows the camera focus. The range was extended in 1955 and 1956 with the appearance of the cheaper Arco 35 Junior, with a four-element f/3.5 lens, and of the more advanced Arco 35 Automat, with lever advance and bright-frame finder and a choice of five-element an f/3.5 or f/2.8 lens. The two Automat models were superseded in mid 1956 by the Arco 35 Automat D, with a five-element Arco f/2.4 lens. This lens would be offered as a standard lens for some Miranda SLR models too.
Towards movie cameras and the end
The company reoriented its activities towards the production of 8mm cameras from 1955, reportedly after Katō Shigeru made a trip to the United States, from which he returned convinced he should enter the 8mm movie market. The first movie camera, called Arco Eight, was released in October 1956, and it would be followed by other models, most of them with a three-lens turret. The sales of still cameras stopped around late 1957. The company did not succeed to become a major contender of the movie camera market, it went bankrupt in late 1960 and closed its doors in January 1961. This bankruptcy precipitated the collapse of the company Zunow, which also disappeared in January 1961 (see Zunow).
See Arco lenses.
- Colinar 5cm f/2.8, on the Arco 35 and Arco 35 Automat f/2.8, also planned in Exakta mount
- Colinar 5cm f/3.5, on the Arco 35 Junior
- G-Colinar 5cm f/3.5, on the Arco 35 Automat f/3.5
- Arco 5cm f/2.4, on the Arco 35 Automat D and in Miranda mount
- Colinar 8.5cm f/2, sold in Leica screw mount and planned in Exakta mount
- Colinar 10.5cm f/4.5 lens head, for use with bellows in Exakta mount
- Colinar, Tele-Colinar or Tele-Snowva 13.5cm f/3.8, in Leica screw mount
- Tele-Colinar 13.5cm f/3.5, with preset diaphragm, in Exakta and 42mm screw mount
- View-Arco reflex finder for the Arco 35 (code AC-8)
- Parallax correcting finders for the Arco 35
- Apro and Apro II close-up attachment (codes AC-2 and AC-19)
- Arco auxiliary rangefinder (code AC-1)
- Arco filters
- Hood and filter holder for the Arco 35 (code AC-6)
- 35mm film cassettes (code AC-11)
- Bellows in Exakta, 42mm screw and Leica screw mounts (codes AC-3, 4 and 5)
- Hagiya, p.53 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
- Hagiya, pp.54–5 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
- All of these are pictured in Hagiya, pp.55 and 58 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari. There is also a list of product codes for all the Arco products on pp.56–7 of the same.
- Source: advertisement dated July 1950 reproduced in Hagiya, p.55 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
- Advertisements reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, pp.116 and 221.
- All the details of the 6×6 SLR project: Hagiya, p.59 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
- Hagiya, p.59 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
- Arco 35 serial no. 130138, with View-Arco reflex finder accessory, sold in the 20th Westlicht Photographica Auction, on 1 November 2011; the camera has the f/2.8 Colinar lens, and the finder an f/2.8 View-Colinar.
- Hagiya, pp.69–70 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
- Date: Hagiya, p.70 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
- The last advertisements for the Arco 35 Automat D listed in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.378, are dated October 1957.
- Hagiya, p.76 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari. Two different bankruptcy dates are given in Lewis: December 1959 on p.104 and January 1961 on p.97.
- All product codes: Hagiya, pp.56–7 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
- Asahi Camera (アサヒカメラ) editorial staff. Shōwa 10–40nen kōkoku ni miru kokusan kamera no rekishi (昭和10–40年広告にみる国産カメラの歴史, Japanese camera history as seen in advertisements, 1935–1965). Tokyo: Asahi Shinbunsha, 1994. ISBN 4-02-330312-7.
- Hagiya Takeshi (萩谷剛). "Aruko 35: Shashin-yōhin kara kamera soshite 8mm" (アルコ35:写真用品からカメラそして8mmへ, Arco 35: From photo supply to cameras to 8mm). Chapter 3 of Zunō kamera tanjō: Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari (ズノーカメラ誕生：戦後国産カメラ10物語, The birth of the Zunow camera: Ten stories of postwar Japanese camera makers). Tokyo: Asahi Sonorama, 1999. ISBN 4-257-12023-1. First published as an article in Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.16. This history of Arco is based on Hagiya's interviews with four people who had been key figures in the company.
- Lewis, Gordon, ed. The History of the Japanese Camera. Rochester, N.Y.: George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography & Film, 1991. ISBN 0-935398-17-1 (paper), 0-935398-16-3 (hard). Pp.97 and 104.