Camel, Comex 35, Kikuca 35 and Rolex 35 III

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The Camel, Comex 35, Kikuca 35 and Rolex 35 III are Japanese 35mm viewfinder cameras with a leaf shutter, made in the first half of the 1950s.

Common features

All the models share the same octagonal body. The back is removed together with the bottom plate for film loading. The viewfinder is contained in a short top housing, which also supports an accessory shoe on the right. The advance and rewind knob, exposure counter, shutter release and rewind unlock lever are shaped as on the early Leica or Canon rangefinder cameras. The film advance is not coupled to the shutter cocking. There is a metal plate at the front of the body, around the lens barrel, with a characteristic shape. The body release linkage probably runs through this casing, and an axis protrudes at the bottom to connect it with the shutter itself.

The Camel

The Camel has a focusing helix with a focusing tab at the base of the lens barrel. The distance is visible in a cut-out placed above the barrel, and the minimum distance is 1.25m.[1]

It was ostensibly made by a company called Tōhōkōken: the top housing is engraved Camel mode II and TōHōkōken camera, with a curious mix of lowercase and uppercase letters. There is a typo in the model name, and it is not known if the intended engraving was "model I" or "model II".

Two actual examples are known so far, presenting minor variations. On both cameras, the lens is a Camel Anastigmat 50mm f/3.5, the shutter has B, 1–200 speeds, a self-timer and an ASA synch post at the bottom right, and the aperture scale only goes from 3.5 to 11.

The earlier camera has the format 24X36 engraved on the front plate, at the top left.[2] The lens name is engraved as CAMEL Anastigmat 1:3.5 f=50mm C No.5113 on a chrome bezel (presumably with a red C). The shutter is engraved NIPPOL at the base of the speed rim. It seems from the layout of the controls that this Nippol shutter is the same as the Nipol shutter (single "p") of the Dolca 35. (The drawings published in the book 300 Leica Copies by Pont and Princelle show the shutter name written as NIPOL with a single "P"; it is not known if these are based on actual pictures of a different example, or if they contain a mistake.)[3]

The later camera has no indication of the format.[4] Its lens is now engraved CAMEL Anastigmat 1:3.5 F=50mm C No.5435 on a black bezel in white letters (with a red C). The shutter is inscribed N.S.K. on the rim, and might be a name variant of the former.

The Sanon 35 and Comex 35

The Sanon 35 and Comex 35 are name variants of the Camel. The Sanon 35 (サノン35) was announced in the April 1953 issue of Ars Camera by the distributor Takasago Shōkai.[5] The June 1953 issue of the same magazine says that the name was changed to Comex 35 (コメックス35), and the camera was advertised as such until October of the same year.[6] In an advertisement dated June 1953,[7] the camera is offered for ¥12,000 with a Comex 45/3.5 lens and a synchronized Purax shutter (B, 1–200, self-timer). The name PURAX is engraved at the base of the speed rim; this is an obvious rip-off of Durax, the name of a well known shutter by Konishiroku.

The only actual example of the Comex 35 observed so far is pictured in Sugiyama, where it is attributed to "Akimoto Co., Ltd." for an unknown reason.[8] Its body shows no apparent difference. The top housing is engraved Comex and mode II or model II.[9] The 24X36 engraving is absent. The lens is a Comex Anastigmat 45mm f/3.5. The shutter is engraved WACO at the base of the speed rim, it has the same features as the Nippol mounted on the Camel.

The name Comex was also used on a subminiature camera, see Comex.

The Kikuca 35

The Kikuca 35 is a rangefinder version of the Camel, attributed to Tōhōkōken by some sources.[10] The top housing contains a coupled rangefinder, with two additional round windows and a separate eyepiece on the left. The name Kikuca 35 and the serial number are engraved above.

The lens barrel is wider and the focusing helical has a more usual arrangement: the distance ring is fully visible and there are depth-of-field indications. The focusing tab has a different shape. The lens is a Kikuca Anastigmat 45mm f/3.5 and the shutter is engraved K.O.C. at the base of the speed rim. It has B, 1– 200 speeds, a self-timer and a PC synch post. The aperture is set by a lever at the top of the lens barrel.

Two actual examples have been observed so far.[11]

The Rolex 35 III

The Rolex 35 III is similar to the Camel, but it was ostensibly made by a company called Toyo Seiko. The helical at the base of the lens barrel is replaced by a rigid tube, and the lens is a front-cell focusing Luna Anastigmat 50mm f/2.8. (The lens has the same name as the Luna shutter made by Tōyō Seiki Kōgaku.) The name ROLEX–35 MODEL III is engraved on the top housing, together with the company name TOYO SEIKO Co.

Three actual examples have been observed, each with a different shutter type. The first example, pictured in Sugiyama, has a KOC shutter (B, 10–200), with an ASA synch post and no self-timer visible.[12] Unlike the two other cameras, it has no visible coupling arm for the body release, perhaps because the linkage runs inside the tube.

The second example, pictured in this page at Japan Family Camera, has an Orient II shutter made by Hachiyō. The name ORIENT II is engraved at the base of the speed rim, the shutter plate is black and is inscribed HACHIYO OPT. CO. at the bottom.

The third example, pictured in Sugiyama too, has an unmarked shutter giving B, 1–300 speeds, with a self-timer and an ASA synch post.[13] Unlike the other two, it has the aperture scale at the bottom.

A very strange feature of the second and third example is that they have the same lens number 2269. One possibility is that the camera is the same and the shutter was changed in the years between the publication of the picture in Sugiyama and in the Japan Family Camera website. Another possibility is that the lens numbers are fake and that more than one camera share the same number.

A completely different Rolex 35 is known, name variant of the Cosmo 35 made by Cosmo Camera, certainly the successor of the company Tōyō Seiki Kōgaku which was perhaps the same as Toyo Seiko.


  1. Picture in this page at Innovative Cameras.
  2. Example pictured in Sugiyama, item 3137.
  3. Drawings in Pont / Princelle, p.169.
  4. Example pictured in this page at Innovative Cameras.
  5. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.352.
  6. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.352.
  7. Advertisement published in Photo Art, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.138.
  8. Sugiyama, item 3224.
  9. The picture in Sugiyama, item 3224, is not legible enough.
  10. Sugiyama, item 3290, McKeown, p.922.
  11. Example pictured in Sugiyama, item 3290 (lens no.6141), example observed in an online auction (body no.5071, lens no.6024).
  12. Example pictured in Sugiyama, item 3736 (lens no.2159).
  13. Example pictured in Sugiyama, item 3737 (lens no.2269).


  • 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. Items 520 and 523.
  • McKeown, James M. and Joan C. McKeown's Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras, 12th Edition, 2005-2006. USA, Centennial Photo Service, 2004. ISBN 0-931838-40-1 (hardcover). ISBN 0-931838-41-X (softcover). Pp.44, 922 and 933.
  • Pont, P.-H., and Princelle, J.-L. 300 Leica Copies. Neuilly: Fotosaga, 1990. ISBN 2-906840-03-3. Pp.168–9. (The name "Rolex" is spelled "Rollex", and "Toyo Seiko" is spelled "Tokyo Seiko". The drawing of the Kikuca 35 is based on the picture in Sugiyama, item 3290, and those of the Camel might be based on the pictures of item 3137.)
  • Sugiyama, Kōichi (杉山浩一); Naoi, Hiroaki (直井浩明); Bullock, John R. The Collector's Guide to Japanese Cameras. 国産カメラ図鑑 (Kokusan kamera zukan). Tokyo: Asahi Sonorama, 1985. ISBN 4-257-03187-5. Items 3137, 3224, 3290 and 3736–7.


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