|Prinz Auto TLR sold by Dixons|
image by Alvaro Munoz-Aycuens Mtnz. (Image rights)
Dixons was a major UK retailer of cameras and other photographic equipment and has a significant place in amateur photography due to its importation of lesser know Japanese cameras, and the development of low cost products made to Dixon's specifications for UK resale.
Dixons' origins can be traced to the 1930s, when Charles Kalms, a Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe, founded a portrait photography studio in London. In 1937 he and a friend decided to set up a photographic studio at Southend-on-Sea, not far from London. They incorporated the business as Dixon Studios Ltd., choosing the name Dixon out of a telephone directory in preference to their own. Kalms's friend gave up his share in the business within two years, and Kalms took full control, while continuing to run another business at the same time.
During World War II, when so many men and women were separated from their families, there was a great demand for portrait photographs, and the business flourished. By the end of the war the company had expanded to a chain of seven studios in the London area. After 1945, however, the market contracted as fast as it had grown, and Dixon was reduced to a single studio in the North London suburb of Edgware.
In an effort to boost sales, Charles Kalms began to sell cameras and other photographic equipment, and the studio gradually turned into a shop. This changeover gathered pace when Charles Kalms's son Stanley joined the business in 1948. Although only 17, he proved to be a natural salesman with remarkable ambitions. The retail side of the business grew quickly. By 1953 the company was able to start opening branches again, this time under the name Dixon Camera Centre.
In those early postwar years, few people in Britain could afford to spend much on their hobbies, but interest in photography grew fast. Dixon met this situation by selling new and used goods at attractive prices and by offering credit terms. At an early stage it started advertising, at first in photographic magazines and local papers, then in national newspapers. In this way it built up a large mail-order business as well as retail sales. By 1958 it had 60,000 mail-order customers, and the shop business had grown to six branches.
The company showed unusual enterprise in buying as well as selling. In the 1950s the photographic market in the United Kingdom was dominated by British, U.S., and German manufacturers, and the law at that time allowed manufacturers to dictate the prices at which their products were retailed. This did not suit Dixon's competitive style, and Stanley Kalms began to look elsewhere for manufacturers who would supply him directly at low prices. He began regular buying trips to the Far East and by hard bargaining and bulk buying was able to import goods at prices that enabled Dixon to offer unbeatable value to its customers. In Japan he found manufacturers willing to supply products made to Dixon's specifications. At that time Japanese goods were not highly regarded in Europe, so Dixon marketed the goods under the German-sounding name of Prinz.
By the end of the 1950s incomes in Britain were rising sharply, and the market for photographic goods doubled in value between 1958 and 1963. Camera design was improving, color film prices were falling, and a craze for home-movie kits (camera, projector, and screen) swelled demand. Dixon, having established a reputation for good value and quality, was one of the chief beneficiaries. Its profits rocketed from £6,800 in 1958 to £160,000 in 1962, and in that year the company went public under the new name of Dixons Photographic Ltd. The Kalms family retained voting control, with more than three-quarters of the shares in their hands at this time, but the shares released to the market proved highly popular.
At the time of the stock offering Dixons had only 16 shops, five of them in London, and with the help of the offering it acquired more. Two chains of camera shops, Ascotts, with 13 stores, and Bennetts, Dixons' largest specialty competitor, with 29 branches, were bought in the next two years. Dixons also opened more shops from scratch, including one on a prime site near Marble Arch, London. By the end of 1964 the company had 70 shops and by 1969 it had more than 100.
Growth in profits was more erratic. Retail sales were depressed in some years by government action to restrict credit, and some of the company's expansionary moves lost money in the short term. In 1967 a large color film processing plant at Stevenage was purchased, the most up-to-date one in Europe at the time; it operated at a loss for a while before making a profit. Dixons also began to manufacture photographic accessories and display material and made substantial losses on this business before abandoning it in 1970.
Although Dixons expanded into other markets, the details are somewhat irrelevant to this Wiki, since the "golden years" where those in which they brought affordable film photography to the UK public via their exclusive import deals, Prinz branded products, and the post 1976 recycled Miranda brand.
|original camera||sold as|
|Halma Flex I||Prinz Flex|
|Halma Flex IIB||Prinz Auto|
|Prinz 110 Eletro|
|Cosina 35||Prinz 35-E|
|Chinon 35EE||Prinz 35-EE (also see GAF Memo 35 EE)|
|Prinz 35 ER|
|Halma 44||Prinz 44|
|Prinz Candide 126|
|Prinz Junior 35|
|Prinz Lightmatic 110, 200 & 400 Tele|
|Regula Automatic L||Prinz Mastermatic|
|Halina Paulette Electric||Prinz Mastermatic III|
|Halina Paulette EE II||Prinz Mastermatic V|
|Vredeborch Felicette||Prinz Pilot|
|Regula Sprinty||Prinz Pilot II, Prinz Pilot E|
|Prinz Pilot III|
|Halina 35-600||Prinz Saturn 35 Auto (40/2.8, CdS meter, zone focus)|
|Zenit B||Prinzflex 500|
|Zenit E||Prinzflex 500E|
|Chinonflex TTL||Prinzflex TTL|
|Cosina Hi-Lite||Prinzflex Super TTL|
|Chinon M-1||Prinzflex M-1|
|Mamiya EE Merit||Vulcan EE|
See also: Miranda-badged SLRs
|Adams & Co. | Agilux | Aldis | APeM | Aptus | Artima | Barnet Ensign | Beard | Beck | Benetfink | Billcliff | Boots | British Ferrotype | Butcher | Chapman | Cooke | Corfield | Coronet | Dallmeyer | Dekko | De Vere | Dixons | Dollond | Elliott | Gandolfi | Gnome | Griffiths | G. Hare | Houghtons | Houghton-Butcher | Hunter | Ilford | Jackson | Johnson | Kentmere | Kershaw-Soho | Kodak Ltd. | Lancaster | Lejeune and Perken | Lizars | London & Paris Optic & Clock Company | Marion | Marlow | Meagher | MPP | Neville | Newman & Guardia | Pearson and Denham | Perken, Son and Company | Perken, Son & Rayment | Photopia | Purma | Reid & Sigrist | Reynolds and Branson | Ross | Ross Ensign | Sanderson | Sands & Hunter | Shackman | Shew | Soho | Standard Cameras Ltd | Taylor-Hobson | Thornton-Pickard | Underwood | United | Watkins | Watson | Wynne's Infallible | Wray|
Imported Camera Brands
- "TTL" in red (or white on black bodies), not "Super TTL" in black. Small "Chinon" badge is retained.
- 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).
- "History of Dixons Group" - Funding Universe