The Carlflex is a Japanese 6×6cm SLR prototype, certainly made by Carl Kōgaku around 1953. It is known from a single example, found by a Japanese collector in the 1980s and featured in an issue of Kurashikku Kamera Senka.
The Carlflex has the same configuration as the Reflex-Korelle. It takes 6×6cm or 4.5×6cm exposures on 120 film, and has a waist-level viewfinder. The viewing hood was missing on the surviving camera, and was replaced by that of a Kowa Six. The name CARLFLEX is engraved in a metal plate screwed to the front.
The film is advanced by a knob at the top left, as seen by the photographer. It has knurls on the side, and is similar to that of the Carl Six. The advance is wholly manual. The back is hinged to the right, and contains two red windows. These are protected by horizontally sliding covers, running under a metal plate marked Carl, 16.E.X. and 12.E.X., again the same as on the Carl Six.
The focal-plane shutter gives B, 10–500 speeds. It is wound by turning a knob at the top right, and the mirror is lowered at the same time, resulting in a rather stiff mechanism. The speeds are set on the same knob, by raising its outer part. The release button is at the front, and is pressed towards the user; it contains a thread for a cable release. The mirror and shutter mechanisms were not properly adjusted on the surviving camera: the first curtain was starting its course at the same time as the mirror, and a black portion was appearing on the pictures. This is an indication that the prototype was abandoned while it was not yet ready for production. The camera's owner modified the mechanism by uncoupling the mirror from the shutter knob, adding a separate button on the rear to lower the mirror, and properly adjusting the shutter button so that the shutter is fired only after the mirror is fully raised.
The surviving camera was found with no lens at all. It seems that the lens mount is a male thread, partly recessed inside the camera. The film to flange distance is high, and 75mm or 80mm could not be adapted to the camera, so the owner adapted a Meyer Primotar 85mm f/3.5, originally intended for the Primarflex.
Speculation on the history
No original document mentioning the Carlflex has been found yet. The camera shares some parts with the Carl Six, and was certainly made by the same company Carl Kōgaku, successor of Kigawa. It was perhaps the company's last project, before it disappeared in 1953. The design was not very advanced, and the separate film and shutter winding was outdated, reminding early inexpensive focal-plane shutter cameras, such as the Foth Derby. The specific lens mount is surprising too, and the camera would surely have met little success if it were released.
- Okabe, pp.22–3 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.11.
- Okabe Tsuyoshi (岡部毅). "Kārufurekkusu" (カールフレックス, Carlflex). 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.11, March 1988. No ISBN number. Shirarezaru kamera (知られざるカメラ, special issue on unknown cameras). Pp.22–3.