The various models are regular copies of the Rolleicord. The front plate is moved back and forth for focusing. The focusing and film advance knobs are on the photographer's right, and the focusing knob is surrounded by a depth-of-field scale. All the models have 80/3.5 viewing and taking lenses.
The first generation
The Eleger Reflex and Elegaflex (I)
What appears to be the original model has a nameplate inscribed Eleger Reflex, shaped as on the 1936 Rolleicord models. Film positioning is via a round red window near the bottom of the back, protected by a horizontally sliding cover. There is no sportsfinder in the viewing hood, but there is certainly a small magnifying lens.
The lens is an Eleger or perhaps Elega (エレガ) 80/3.5, said to have four elements. The shutter is a five-bladed Lustre-Rapid (B, 1–500), and the release lever is directly attached to the bottom of the shutter casing. The shutter is synchronized and the synch post seems to be at the top left of the shutter casing. There is a depression in the front plate at the bottom left of the shutter casing, facing the cable release thread. The shutter was certainly made by Lustre, and this was perhaps also true of the camera itself.
This original model was advertised in Japanese magazines with cover dates from September 1951 until December 1952. In an advertisement dated September 1951 the camera was referred to as "Elegaflex", although the nameplate still reads Eleger Reflex. It was described as an "Elega item" (ヱレガ製品, Erega seihin, using a somewhat archaic katakana for E), and as being distributed by Doi Shōten of Osaka (no manufacturer was specified). The price was ¥19,000 (including case).
The same camera has been observed with a new nameplate, reading Elegaflex. This version is not known from original advertisements, but it is probably the original Elegaflex or Elegaflex I.
The Elegaflex I-B and IBB
The Elegaflex I-B has the newer Elegaflex nameplate and a few changes. The viewing hood has a sportsfinder and a larger magnifying lens, hinged at the front. The synch post is buried in the front plate between the two lenses, and it is now of the ASA bayonet (Kodak) type. The advertisements for this model ran from February 1953 to June 1954 issues of Japanese magazines. In an advertisement dated April 1953, the distributor was Nittō Shashin Yōhin, the successor of Doi Shōten, and the price was ¥18,000 (including case).
Various examples of this model have been observed, all of them having the Luster-Rapid shutter and Eleger lenses.
It is said that the next model was called Elegaflex IBB. The differences between the I-B and the IBB are unclear, it seems that the depression at the bottom left of the shutter casing has disappeared. Advertisements for the newer model ran from July to October 1954 issues of Japanese magazines. In an advertisement dated July 1954, the camera was simply called "Elegaflex" with no model name, and the price was ¥15,000 (including case).
The second generation
Three more versions of the Elegaflex were announced between late 1954 and 1955. The Elegaflex IS is described as having a Prontor-type shutter (B, 1–200, with self-timer), and it was featured in the 1955 camera annual of Nihon Camera. The Elegaflex II adds semi-automatic film advance and has the Lustre-Rapid (B, 1–500) shutter. It was featured in the December 1954 and May 1955 issues of Sankei Camera. Finally the Elegaflex IIS, featured in the latter magazine article, is like the II but with the shutter of the IS.
The manual examples observed probably correspond to the Elegaflex IS. They have a revised body, similar to the body of the Elbowflex. They were perhaps made by the same company Tōyō Seiki Kōgaku. (This is probably why some sources attribute the Elegaflex to "Tōyō Kōki" (東洋光機) and one source says that the "upgraded Elegaflex" was introduced by "Toyo".)
The manual model has a rectangular red window near the bottom of the back, and the knobs are the same as on the Elbowflex (they differ from the knobs of the early Elegaflex). The shutter button is at the bottom of the front plate, actuated by the photographer's right fingers, and the synch post is buried in the left-hand plate.
All the examples observed so far have a TSK shutter (B, 1–200, self-timer), certainly made by Tōyō Seiki Kōgaku, and Eleger Anastigmat 80/3.5 lenses. Some have an accessory shoe on the left of the photographer and the company name NITTO SHASHIN YOHIN K.K. in small characters under the nameplate, others lack these two features. Variations are known in the shape of the back latch, as on the Elbowflex. Some examples have an E.L.G logo on the viewing hood.
The semi-automatic model has a round exposure counter window at the top right and a button behind the focus knob, certainly used to engage the advance mechanism after the film is set to a start mark. The back normally has no red window. The knobs and back latch are different from all the cameras previously described. There is an accessory shoe on the photographer's left, less sturdy than the shoe of the IS. The release button is at the bottom of the front plate, actuated by the photographer's right fingers, and a PC synch post is buried on the opposite side. The lenses are the usual Eleger Anastigmat. The shutter gives B, 1–200 or 1–300 speeds, has a self-timer and is either engraved CHIHAYA, ELEGAR or LUSTER (reportedly). The Luster or Lustre shutter was certainly made by Lustre, and the Chihaya is perhaps related to the CHY-FB shutter found on some late Lustreflex. The presumably late examples have bayonet filter attachments. At least one of them is known with an M/X selector near the aperture scale and a shutter name ending in "MX".
- Four elements: Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.347.
- Five-bladed: advertisement dated April 1953 reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.123 (item 419).
- Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.347.
- Advertisement published in Asahi Camera, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.122.
- More strictly Eregafurekkusu (エレガフレックス), but anyway the same katakana as was later used for cameras marked "Elegaflex".
- Example pictured in Sugiyama, item 2094, wrongly identified as an Elegaflex IB. Another example has been observed in an online auction, but it is unclear if it has a sportsfinder or not.
- Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.347.
- Advertisement published in Asahi Camera, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.419.
- Example pictured in this page at www.tlr-cameras.com, and examples observed in online auctions.
- Kokusan kamera no rekishi, pp.347–8.
- Advertisement published in Asahi Camera, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.123. A similar 1954 advertisement is reproduced here at Shashin-Bako.
- Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.348.
- Lewis, p.82, says that "Two Toyo cameras were introduced [in 1953], the Larkflex and the upgraded Elegaflex." Kanno gives Tōyō Kōki (東洋光機) as the manufacturer of the Elegaflex, distributed by Doi Shōten. Takeuchi gives Tōyō Kōki and Nittō Shashin Yōhin as the manufacturer (the latter is very improbable).
- Accessory shoe, company name and logo: example pictured in Sugiyama, item 2095, and example pictured here and here (archived) at Aya's Camera. These two differ by the back latch. No accessory shoe and no company name: example observed in an online auction.
- Chihaya to 1/200 reported in this page at tlr-cameras.com. Chihaya to 1/300 reported in Sugiyama, item 2096. Elegar to 1/300 observed in online auctions. Luster to 1/300 reported in this page at Bon's homepage.
- Examples observed in an online auction.
- Example observed in an online auction. This particular example has a different back containing two red windows covered by a horizontally sliding common cover, with yet another type of back latch. This back is similar to the part mounted on the dual-format original Princeflex, except that it has an additional exposure table. This part is probably not original, adapted as a repair.
Sources / further reading
- 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 418–23.
- Kanno Tsunetoshi (管野経敏). "A kara Z no kokusan niganrefu" (AからZの国産二眼レフ, Japanese TLRs from A to Z). In Miryoku saihakken: Nigan refu: Firumu kamera ha e no messēji (魅力再発見・二眼レフ：フィルムカメラ派へのメッセージ, Fascination rediscovery: TLRs: A message to film cameras). Tokyo: Shashinkogyo Syuppansha, 2006.
- Lewis, Gordon, ed. The History of the Japanese Camera. Rochester, N.Y.: George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography & Film, 1991. ISBN 0-935398-17-1 (paper), 0-935398-16-3 (hard). P.82 (brief mention only).
- 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). P.738.
- 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 2094–6.
- Takeuchi Jun'ichirō (竹内淳一郎). "Nihon kamera no hinshitsu kōjō to yushutsu kensa" (日本カメラの品質向上と輸出検査, The quality improvement and export testing of Japanese cameras). Keizaigakubu kenkyūjo kiyō (経済学部研究所紀要) 33 (Nihon University, 2003), 163–94. Available here.