Supreme lenses

Revision as of 16:43, 6 June 2009 by Rebollo fr (talk | contribs) (layout)
Jump to: navigation, search
This is a work in progress.

The Supreme (スープリーム or スュープリーム)[1] lenses were made by Orion Seiki, later Orion Camera then Miranda Camera.

Lenses in Leica screw mount

Universal Supreme 5cm f/3.5

The Universal Supreme 5cm f/3.5 is only known from an article by Orima Isamu in Kurashikku Kamera Senka.[2] In this document, it appears on a viewfinder-only Chiyoca 35, which was passed to the author by Ogihara Akira (荻原彰), founder of Orion. No other example is known, and the lens was perhaps a prototype. The serial number is 510418 — the two first digits might indicate that the lens was designed or produced in 1951 but this is unsure.

The lens is probably coupled to the rangefinder but this is not confirmed.[3] The lens owner reports that it has three elements, judging from the number of reflections;[4] this is however strange on a 5cm f/3.5 lens in Leica screw mount, where one would expect a Tessar formula with four elements.

The barrel is collapsible and has an all chrome finish. The rear part with the focusing ring is inspired by the Leitz Elmar 5cm f/3.5. Focus is driven by a tab with an infinity lock. The focusing scale is engraved in metres and goes down to 1.25m or closer.[5] The front part is inspired from the Elmar 5cm f/2.8, and has the aperture scale on the side, graduated from 3.5 to 16. The lens has two screw threads for filter or hood attachment: an inner one around the lens bezel and an outer one. The lens bezel is engraved Universal Supreme 1:3.5 f=5cm No.xxxxxx in black on a chrome background. The "Universal" brand is otherwise unknown, and there is no mention of Orion.

Orion Seiki Supreme 3.5cm f/3.5

The Orion Seiki Supreme 3.5cm f/3.5 is very rare too. It has an all chrome rigid barrel. The focus ring has a tab and an infinity lock, and is coupled to the rangefinder. The distance scale is engraved in feet, from ∞ to 3½ft. The front part of the barrel rotates when focusing. The aperture ring, graduated from 3.5 to 16, has two milled ears for prehension. The front rim is engraved Orion Seiki Supreme 1:3.5 f=3.5cm No.xxxxxx. The lens was sold in a dark red jewel box, with an ORION logo stamped at the top. It came with an external viewfinder, for which there is a space in the jewel box; the actual example pictured below has been found with an all chrome cylindrical finder, engraved 35mm at the top, which is certainly original.

An isolated example has been observed with a black bezel and white markings; its serial number may be in the 50xxxx range.[6] Other examples have black markings on a chrome bezel; the confirmed serial numbers are 510464 and 510603.[7] On lens no.510603, the aperture scale is repeated on the bottom side. This feature, which is lacking from the earlier examples, was certainly added to make the scale visible from above whatever the focusing distance. The 510xxx numbers are only slightly later than that of the Universal Supreme 5cm f/3.5 — the "51" prefix might indicate the design or production year.

Supreme 10.5cm f/2.8

The Supreme 10.5cm f/2.8 lens has four elements in four groups.[8] It was made by Orion itself, from an optical design by Mr. Koide (小出), who was working for the company Hokushin Denki (北辰電気) at the time.[9]

Manual lenses, for the Mirax and Focabell

The Supreme 10.5cm f/2.8 was first made with a manual diaphragm. All the versions have the 44mm screw mount used on the Mirax and Focabell, physically identical to that of the later Miranda SLR, but with a different film-to-flange distance. The Supreme-A fits the Mirax-A, for Leica screw mount cameras, and the Supreme-B fits the Mirax-B, for Contax or Nikon cameras. The lens head was sold alone as the Supreme-C, for the Focabell bellows unit.


The Supreme-C lens head is all chrome, with fine mills on the aperture ring, and has protruding rear elements. The lens name is engraved on the side, around the rim: Orion Camera Co. Supreme 1:2.8 f=10.5cm, and the serial number has six digits. The first two look like they might indicate the year of production, but this is certainly misleading (see Mirax).

The Supreme-A and B have an all chrome barrel, assorted to the head, with fine mills on the base and focus ring. The distance scale in engraved in feet, down to 5ft. The barrel is inscribed for Mirax–A (or presumably for Mirax–B) in front of the focus ring. They presumably only differ by the length of the barrel, because the film register of the Mirax-B is longer than that of the Mirax-A. When detached, the lens head is indistinguishable from the Supreme-C.


Small changes were applied during the production of the manual model. On the early lenses, the aperture ring goes from 2.8 to 16 in the clockwise direction (as seen from the front), and the protrusion at the rear of the lens head is all chrome. Serial numbers are known in the 53xxxx range, from 530208 to 531249.

On intermediate lenses, the aperture ring goes from 2.8 to 22 — in the same direction — and the rear protrusion is black finished, certainly to avoid internal reflections. Serial numbers are confirmed in the 54xxxx and 56xxxx range, from 542018 to 561020.

Late lenses only differ by the direction of the aperture ring, which is turned counter-clockwise to close the diaphragm. The only confirmed serial numbers are 561056 and 561099.

Commercial life

The Supreme-A and B were certainly released at the same time as the Mirax. The lens is pictured in the June 1952 issue of Shashin Kōgyō, with an ORION lens cap.[10] The same picture appears on a carbon-copied typewritten sheet issued by Orion Seiki at a very early period, listing the Mirax features.[11] It shows a Supreme-A with serial number 510808; this is the only lens known so far in the 51xxxx range.

The Focabell bellows was not yet available at the time, and was only mentioned as "planned for release soon",[10] but the detachable lens head in 44mm screw mount was certainly integrated from the start in the lens barrel design. It seems that both the Focabell and Supreme-C were released in 1953.

The above Japanese brochure, dated c.1953, shows the Supreme-A and C, and lists a number of accessories.[12] It gives various catalogue numbers, which are otherwise unheard of. Those for the Supreme-A, B and C 10.5cm f/2.8 are respectively 200A, 200B and 200C.

The lens head appears for ¥18,700 in an advertisement by Matsushima in Asahi Camera November 1953. All three lenses are listed in the June 1955 special issue of Photo Art, both in the main text and in the advertisement placed by the distributor Matsushima; the price for the Supreme-A and B is given as ¥25,000, and that of the Supreme-C is ¥18,800.[13]

Box and accessories

The Supreme-A and B were sold in a red jewel case, inscribed MIRAX–A (or certainly MIRAX–B) and TELEPHOTO LENS SUPREME 1:2.8 F=10.5cm, with the company name ORION CAMERA CO., LTD., TOKYO. The Supreme-C came in a smaller red jewel case, inscribed FOCABELL TELE–PHOTO LENS SUPREME 1:2.8 F=10.5cm ORION CAMERA CO., LTD., TOKYO, contained in a reddish brown cardboard box.

All the lenses have an all chrome push-on front cap. Early ones are simply engraved ORION; later ones have SUPREME and Orion Camera Co. markings. The Supreme-C was supplied with a long rear cap, inscribed Focabell Lens on the side, to protect the protruding rear elements.

An adapter was offered as a separate accessory (catalogue number 1020), to attach the Supreme-A on the Exakta camera.

Supreme-D, for the Miranda

The Supreme-D is a version for SLR cameras, sold at ¥28,000.[14][8] In the October 1955 special issue of Photo Art, it is reported to have an Asahiflex mount, perhaps by mistake.[14] The Summer 1957 issue of Shashin Kōgyō mentions the lens in Miranda mount, which seems more plausible.[8]

The page on tele lenses of the Miranda Society Japan shows a lens reported as a Supreme 10.5cm f/2.8 in Miranda mount. That lens has an alloy barrel instead of the chromed brass barrel of the previous Supreme. Four knurled rows are visible: at the base, on the focus ring, and on either side of the aperture scale, apparently for a preset diaphragm. The lens comes in a box inscribed MIRANDA INTERCHANGEABLE LENS, unmistakably indicating that it was made for the Miranda SLR.

Supreme-H lens head for the Focabell

The same page of the Miranda Society Japan also quotes a catalogue for the Miranda T mentioning the Supreme lens, which says that "the lens head can be removed, transforming the lens into a Supreme H for use on the Focabell". The October 1955 table entry reproduced above also has a Supreme-H, but gives no indication of the price or lens mount.[14] This might plausibly correspond to the lens head of the newer version of the lens, renamed to distinguish it from the former Supreme-C (with H for Head instead of the alphabetical order previously used).

The page on macro lenses of the same website shows the detached lens head, with the two knurled rows surrounding the aperture scale, mounted on a Focabell bellows. This lens head is longer than the former Supreme-C, and perhaps does not have protruding rear elements. It certainly corresponds to the Supreme-H.

Cine lenses

Various cine lenses are listed in a Japanese brochure dated about 1953 (reproduced above for the 10.5cm f/2.8).

The Supreme 3in f/2.8 exists for 16mm cameras only, presumably in C-mount (catalogue number 600). The barrel has the same finish as that of the Supreme-A 10.5cm f/2.8.

The Supreme 2in f/3.5 is offered for 8mm or 16mm cameras — presumably D-mount and C-mount (catalogue numbers 100A and 100B).

Finally, the Cine Noctar (or "Cine Noktar", シネノクター) 1in f/1.5 is listed for 8mm or 16mm cameras too (catalogue numbers 300A and 300B).


  1. The katakana spelling スープリーム is found in all the original advertisements, but the article by Ogihara Akira, p.27 of Shashin Kōgyō no.1, has スュープリーム instead.
  2. Orima, pp.104–6 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.24.
  3. The lens was found on a viewfinder-only camera, hence the doubt.
  4. Orima, pp.105 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.24.
  5. In the available pictures, the focusing tab perhaps hides the minimum distance.
  6. Lens pictured in Awano, p.124 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.32.
  7. Lens no.510464 sold as lot no.397 of Westlicht auction no.14; lens no.510603 observed in an online auction. Lens no.510465 has been reported too, but is unconfirmed.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Table of interchangeable lenses in Shashin Kōgyō Summer 1957, p.109.
  9. Hagiya, p.10 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.64. Hokushin Denki was a produced of electric equipment, see the Japanese Wikipedia page on the company.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Ogihara, p.27 of Shashin Kōgyō no.1.
  11. Typewritten sheet Special features of Mirax, c.1952.
  12. Brochure Mirax & Focabell, Orion Camera's Product's.
  13. June 1955 special issue of Photo Art, advertisement on p.22 and column on p.119.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Table in the October 1955 special issue of Photo Art, pp.66–7. This document contains various mistakes.


Original documents

  • Asahi Camera. Advertisement by the photo department of Matsushima in November 1953 (p.59).
  • Ogihara Akira (荻原彰). "Mirakkusu ni tsuite" (ミラックスについて, About the Mirax). In Shashin Kōgyō no.1, June 1952. Pp.26–7.
  • Orion Seiki (presumably). Special features of Mirax. Typewritten sheet, English language, c.1952.
  • Orion Camera Co., Ltd. and Summit Camera Co., Ltd. Photography with Mirax. Instruction manual, English language, c.1953.
  • Orion Camera. Mirax & Focabell, Orion Camera's Product's. (ミラックスとフォーカベル, Orion Camera's product's.) Brochure in Japanese language, c.1953.
  • 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.
    • Advertisement by the photo department of Matsushima Megane-ten on p.22.
    • "Shashin no kaimi wa sessha to bōen satsuei kara: Purokusā, Ōtoappu, Refubokkusu, sonota." (写真の快味は接写と望遠撮影から・プロクサー・オートアップ・レフボックス・その他, Because the appeal of photography comes with close-up and telephoto pictures: Proxar, Auto-Up, reflex housing, etc.) Pp.118–20.
  • 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.
  • Shashin Kōgyō no.26, July 1954. Picture on the front cover.
  • 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.

Recent sources


In English:

In Japanese: