Arco lenses

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The Arco company, manufacturer of the Arco 35 and Arco 35 Automat, made some interchangeable lenses for third-party cameras from 1952 to 1957.

Leica screw mount

Colinar, Tele-Colinar and Tele-Snowva 13.5cm f/3.8

The first lens released by Arco was the Colinar 13.5cm f/3.8 in Leica screw mount. It appears with product code TZ-3 in a list owned by Abe Masao (阿部正雄), Arco's former camera designer, and was produced from January 1952.[1] It has an all chrome finish, a continuous aperture ring from 3.8 to 22 and a focus knob engraved in feet from ∞ down to 5ft. The base of the barrel is engraved MADE IN JAPAN. Most serial numbers have five digits in the 27xxx to 30xxx range, where the first two digits perhaps indicate the year in the Shōwa calendar, from Shōwa 27 (1952) to Shōwa 30 (1955); other numbers have six digits.

The early lenses are engraved Arco. COLINAR 1:3.8 f=13.5cm No.xxxxx and are made of chrome-plated brass. Numbers are known in the 27xxx and low 28xxx range. The Tele-Snowva 13.5cm f/3.8 is a name variant, engraved Arco Photo Co Anastigmat TELE–SNOWVA 1:3.8 f=13.5cm No.xxxxx. Lens numbers are also in the 27xxx range except for at least one isolated six-digit number in the 123xxx range.[2]

The later lenses, called Tele-Colinar 13.5cm f/3.8, were made of aluminium, except for the base of the barrel. The engraving became Tele-Colinar 1:3.8 f=13.5cm C. Arco Tokyo No.xxxxx, with a red C. At some point in the 28xxx range, the shape of the lens head was slightly altered.[3] The few six-digit serial numbers observed were certainly inserted in the number sequence of the 5cm lenses for the Arco 35.[4]

The Tele-Colinar 13.5cm f/3.8 was mainly made for export. It was available in the US for $66.95 in November 1953.[5] It was nonetheless advertised in Japan,[6] where it was priced at ¥24,000.[7][8] It was still available in that country in summer 1957, but was perhaps no longer produced.[8]

Colinar 8.5cm f/2

The Colinar 8.5cm f/2 (product code LE-3) was released in February 1954.[1] It is much scarcer and only two examples have been observed so far, one of which has a five-digit number in the 29xxx range.[9] It has an aluminium barrel, marked MADE IN JAPAN towards the base. It was still listed in a Japanese magazine dated June 1955, but was perhaps no longer produced.[10]

Exakta mount and 42mm screw mount

Tele-Colinar 13.5cm f/3.5

The most common Arco lens for SLR cameras is the preset Tele-Colinar 13.5cm f/3.5, available in Exakta mount or M42 mount. It certainly corresponds to item TZ-10 of Abe Masao's list, designed in May 1952 and produced from June.[11] It has an alloy barrel, heavy aperture and preset rings and depth-of-field indications placed in front of the focus ring, the reverse of the usual configuration. It is engraved MADE IN JAPAN under the lens head. The examples observed have a six-digit serial number in the 12xxxx or 13xxxx range. The number sequence might be shared with the Colinar 5cm f/2.8 and 5cm f/3.5 of the Arco 35 and Arco 35 Junior but this is unsure.

As the Leica mount lens, the Tele-Colinar 13.5cm f/3.5 was primarily an export product, but was advertised in Japan at some time.[12] It was offered in the US for $84.95 in 1953,[13] and was priced in Japan at ¥25,700;[7] it was still available in that country in 1957.[8]

Colinar 10.5cm f/4.5 lens head for Exakta

Arco also made a Colinar 10.5cm f/4.5 lens head in Exakta mount for use on bellows, with manual diaphragm. The barrel is all chrome, and the aperture scale goes from 4.5 to 25. The actual serial numbers known so far have six digits in the 520xxx range. The two first digits perhaps indicate that the lens was produced in 1952.

The lens head is mentioned in Abe Masao's list under product code Tr105-23.[1] In the document, the device is actually reported as a 105/4, perhaps by mistake, and the production is said to have begun in August 1953, despite the 52xxxx serial numbers. The lens was still listed in a magazine dated June 1955.[14]

Around 1953, Arco was also manufacturing a bellows called Bellowscope, in Exakta, Contax S (M42) and Leica screw mount (product codes AC-3, 4 and 5).[1]

Other lenses for Exakta

Abe Masao's list also contains two other Exakta lenses,[1] which were apparently never produced. The first one is a Colinar 50/2.8, with product code G-5028, designed in August 1953, probably a version of the lens of the Arco 35. (This lens is also listed in the June 1955 special issue of Photo Art.)[14] The second one is a Colinar 85/2, with product code LE-4, designed in October 1953, certainly similar to the lens produced from February 1954 in Leica screw mount.

Miranda mount

The Arco 5cm f/2.4 lens of the Arco 35 Automat D, with five elements in four groups, was also offered in Miranda 44mm screw mount, as a standard lens for the Miranda bodies. The lens is silver finished and has a preset diaphragm. The barrel is certainly made of aluminium. The knurled focus knob is engraved in both metres and feet, down to 0.4m or 16in; close distances are sometimes engraved in red. The aperture scale goes from 2.4 to 22. The mention for MIRANDA is engraved on the outer side of the lens rim, at the bottom.

This lens is announced in the October 1957 issue of Shashin Kōgyō and appears in an advertisement for the Miranda T-I in the same magazine. This month coincides with the last known advertisements for the Arco 35 Automat (see the corresponding page); this perhaps indicates that the company adapted the lens to Miranda mount to use the surplus after it stopped still camera production.

The known lens numbers have four digits in the 10xx to 16xx range. The number sequence certainly started at 1000, and was probably not shared with the lenses mounted on the Arco 35 Automat D.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 List reproduced in Hagiya, pp.56–7 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
  2. Hagiya, p.65 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari, shows a picture of a Tele-Snowva reported as in "Praktica-mount". It indeed has a screw-thread at the base of the barrel, but this does not look like a genuine M42 mount, and rather corresponds to a lens whose mount was unscrewed.
  3. Compare the example pictured in this page with lens no.28xxx and old lens head with the example pictured here in Clickr100's Flickr space, with lens no.28959 and new lens head.
  4. No.130142 pictured in this article, no.155354 observed in an online auction, no.155360 sold as lot no.170 of the February 8, 2008 auction by Hammer Down Auction Services (see the link below).
  5. Advertisement in US Camera November 1953 reproduced in Hagiya, p.180 of Sekai no Raika renzu.
  6. Advertisement reproduced in Hagiya, p.64 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari and p.185 of Sekai no Raika renzu.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Tables of interchangeable lenses in special issues of Photo Art: June 1955, pp.78–9, and October 1955, pp.66–7.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Table of interchangeable lenses in Shashin Kōgyō Summer 1957, p.109.
  9. Example pictured in Hagiya, p.65 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari, and example observed in an online auction (no.29354 reported).
  10. Table of interchangeable lenses in the June 1955 special issue of Photo Art, pp.78–9. The lens appears as a 80/2, certainly by mistake.
  11. List reproduced in Hagiya, pp.56–7 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari. Item TZ-10 is listed as f/3.8, certainly by mistake.
  12. Advertised in Japan: advertisement reproduced in Hagiya, p.64 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari and p.185 of Sekai no Raika renzu.
  13. Advertisement in US Camera November 1953 reproduced in Hagiya, p.180 of Sekai no Raika renzu.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Table of interchangeable lenses in the June 1955 special issue of Photo Art, pp.78–9.


Original documents

  • Asahi Camera October 1953. "Renzu keimenzu-shū (15) Aruko Shashin Kōgyō" (レンズ断面図集[15]アルコ写真工業, Lens schemes [15] Arco Shashin Kōgyō). P.4.
  • Photo Art rinji zōkan: Kamera akusesarī zensho (フォトアート臨時増刊・カメラアクセサリー全書, Photo Art special issue: All the camera accessories). June 1955, no.80 of the magazine. "Naigai kōkan renzu sōran" (内外交換レンズ総覧, Table and Japanese and foreign interchangeable lenses). Pp.78–9. (The document mentions the 13.5cm f/3.5 lens in Contax and Exakta mount, a mistake for Contax S and Exakta.)
  • Photo Art rinji zōkan: Kamera no chishiki (フォトアート臨時増刊・カメラの知識, Photo Art special issue: Knowledge of cameras). October 1955, no.87 of the magazine. "Naigai hyōjun renzu oyobi kōkan renzu ichiranhyō" (内外標準レンズ及び交換レンズ一覧表, Table of Japan and foreign standard and interchangeable lenses). Pp.66–7. (The document makes the same mistake as that dated June.)
  • Shashin Kōgyō no.63, Summer 1957. "Nihon no kamera zenbō: Kōkan renzu ichiran" (日本のカメラ全貌・交換レンズ一らん, Compendium of Japanese cameras: Table of interchangeable lenses). Pp.108–9.
  • Shashin Kōgyō no.66 (October 1957).

Recent sources

  • "Exakta Lens List", available at
  • 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.
  • Hagiya Takeshi (萩谷剛). "Raika to sekai no raika-yō renzu" (ライカと世界のライカ用レンズ, Leica and other Leica-mount lenses). In Sekai no Raika renzu (世界のライカレンズ, Leica lenses of the world) Part 1. Tokyo: Shashinkogyo Syuppan-sha, 2003. ISBN 4-87956-061-8. Pp.178–88.
  • Wilkinson, M. and Glanfield, C. A lens collector's vade mecum. Version 07/05/2001. Distributed as a CD or PDF file.


In English:

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