Bolex

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Japanese Bolta film cameras (edit)
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3×4 and 4×4, 4×5 and 4×6.5, 4.5×6, 6×6 and 6×9 ->

This page is about the Bolex still camera, which has no connection with the Bolex cine camera series made by Paillard.

The Bolex (ボレックス or ボレックスカメラ) is a Japanese camera taking 25×25mm pictures on Bolta film.[1]

Contents

Description

The Bolex is a copy of the German Sida camera.[2] Unlike the original German camera, the Bolex takes 12 exposures on Bolta film, which was made popular in Japan by the Boltax. The body is made of bakelite; it has the shape of a brick with large cylinders protruding at both ends and containing the film spools. There is an optical finder in the middle and the advance knob is at the top left, as seen by the photographer. Numbers are engraved around the advance knob, for a manual control of the film advance. The shutter is tripped by a lever on the side of the front plate, and has Bulb and Instant (1/25) settings switched by a lever on the left.[3] The lens is fixed-focus. The back is hinged to the right and contains a single red window in the middle, to set the position of the first exposure. The camera name is molded as BOLEX in the front plate above the lens, and as Bolex at the rear above the red window. Other words are inscribed below the red window, perhaps "Reg. Trademark in Japan".

Prewar and wartime documents

The Bolex was released in early 1940. The earliest reported advertisement is in the February issue of Asahi Camera.[4] It was placed by Nittō Shashin Kōgaku Kōgyōsha, mentioned as the manufacturer. The camera is said to be "newly available" (新発売). The lens is mentioned as a Nittō (ニットー) 35mm f/6.3, and the picture shows the words NITTOH OPTIC on the lens rim. The description says that there is a choice of three aperture settings, but no such control is visible in the picture. The body is made of "chocolate-coloured" bakelite, and the price is ¥9.50.

The October 1940 advertisement in Asahi Camera reportedly mentions a Nittō Helicon (ニットーヘリコン) 38mm f/6.3 lens and a choice of two colours: chocolate or black.[5]

The official list of set prices compiled in October 1940 and published in January 1941 mentions the Bolex for ¥10, in the same price category as the New Midget I and Guzzi subminiature cameras.[6]

During the war, the Bolex was advertised in Japanese magazines until late 1944.[7] The May 1944 advertisement in Shashin Kagaku presents the "latest Bolex camera" (最新型ボレックスカメラ) for ¥16.40.[8] The advertisement was placed by Teikoku Shashin Kōgaku Kōgyōsha, mentioned as the distributor. The colour of the camera is not mentioned. The lens is a Torta 35mm f/4.5, marked TORTA 3.5CM=4.5 on the rim. In the text, the lens name is written torita (トリタ) in katakana; the Japanese pronunciation is close to "Trita", certainly an imitation of names such as Trinar, Trionar or Triotar, faking a three-element lens. The people who decided of the actual lens marking were probably not aware of this allusion.

The same May 1944 advertisement gives a list of accessories:

  • luxury ever-ready case, ¥6.10;
  • ordinary ever-ready case, ¥4.10;
  • dedicated filter, ¥2.15;
  • close-up lens, ¥1.80;
  • film processing tank, ¥8.58.

The price of one roll of film was ¥1.30 for panchro emulsion and ¥1.08 for "chrome" emulsion.

The June 1944 advertisement in Nihon Shashin was placed by Fuji Shashin Kōgyōsha.[9] It mentions the lens as a Nittō (ニットー) f/4.5 and gives the price of ¥18.50. The October 1944 advertisement in Shashin Kagaku gives the price of ¥18.80, and is otherwise similar to the one published in May.[10]

Surviving example

The example pictured in Ōjima and in Takesaki is perhaps the same. It has the TORTA lens engraving and has no visible aperture control. The lens is said to have two elements, and one source reports that the actual aperture is closer to f/12.[11] The advance knob differs from the part shown in the advertising pictures.

Postwar period

One source says that the "Bolex New" (ボレックスカメラ新型) was released again in October 1946 by Nihon Shashin Kōgaku Kōgyōsha.[12] No further detail is known on this 1946 model.

The Bolex was reportedly advertised in the January to December 1948 issues of Shoho no Rajio.[13] The January advertisement was placed by Yamanashi Seisanbu.[14] It presents the "latest Bolex camera" (最新型ボレックスカメラ) in two versions, the model A for ¥470 and the model B for ¥420, but does not elaborate on the difference between the two. The ever-ready case is offered for ¥140, and the price of a film roll is given as ¥35. The text mentions B and 1/25 shutter speeds, and the picture shows a camera which markedly differs from the wartime model. The body has a rounded shape, with a cubic box protruding at the front and supporting the lens. The viewfinder is contained in a short top housing extending towards the right end of the top plate, and the advance knob is at the left.[15] The name BOLEX is inscribed above the lens, perhaps on a separate nameplate. No surviving example of this postwar Bolex has been observed so far.

Notes

  1. The film format is mentioned as 25×25mm in the February 1940 advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.93.
  2. The French Sidax camera presented in Ōjima is a later evolution of the Sida, made in France after 1945.
  3. 1/25 speed: advertisement dated February 1940 reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.93.
  4. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.93. It is the earliest reported on p.341 of the same source. However the date of January 1940 is given in the Nihon Shashin-shi nenpyō (日本写真史年表) quoted by Ōjima on p.2 of Camera Collectors' News no.172.
  5. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.341.
  6. "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku", type 5, section 5.
  7. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.341.
  8. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.93.
  9. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.88.
  10. Advertisement reproduced in Ōjima, p.4 of Camera Collectors' News no.172.
  11. Takesaki, p.90 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.51.
  12. Nihon Shashin-shi nenpyō (日本写真史年表) quoted by Ōjima on p.2 of Camera Collectors' News no.172.
  13. Ōjima, p.2 of Camera Collectors' News no.172.
  14. Advertisement reproduced in Ōjima, p.4 of Camera Collectors' News no.172.
  15. The top of the camera has some similarity with that of the Hobix pictured in Takesaki, p.90 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.51.

Bibliography

  • 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. Item 247. (See also the advertisement for item 217.)
  • "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku" (国産写真機の公定価格, Set prices of the Japanese cameras), listing Japanese camera production as of October 25, 1940 and setting the retail prices from December 10, 1940. Published in Asahi Camera January 1941 and reproduced in 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. Pp.108—9. Type 5, section 5.
  • Ōjima (大島毅). "Shidakkusu (futsu-sei) to Borekkusu (nihon-sei)" (シダックス[仏製]とボレックス[日本製], Sidax [made in France] and Bolex [made in Japan]). In Camera Collectors' News no.172 (October 1991). Nishinomiya: Camera Collectors News-sha.
  • Takesaki (竹崎春智). "Sonota no boruta-han katarogu" (その他のボルタ判カタログ, Catalogue of other Bolta-size cameras). Kamera Rebyū: Kurashikku Kamera Senka (カメラレビュー クラシックカメラ専科) / Camera Review: All about Historical Cameras no.51, June 1999. ISBN 4-257-13024-5. Kurashikku kamera supesharu (クラシックカメラスペシャル, issue about miscellaneous classic cameras). Pp.90–3.

The Bolex is not listed in Sugiyama.

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