Focabell

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The Focabell (フォーカベル) is a bellows system, made by Orion Seiki, later Orion Camera then Miranda Camera. It originally formed a system with the Mirax reflex housing and Supreme lens head, but it was also offered for other SLR cameras, and finally became part of the Miranda SLR system. The name Focabell was surely derived from "Focusing Bellows".[1]

Contents

Dual-rail Focabell

Description

The original Focabell is a robust dual-rail bellows assembly, weighing about 800g.[2] Ogihara Akira (荻原彰), founder of the Orion company, said that use of light alloy for the rails and moving parts was rejected for durability reasons.[3]

The device has three sliding standards, individually locked by a lever or by a knob on the left. The rear standard holds the rear end of the bellows and the rear mount. The middle standard is for the tripod thread. The front standard holds a moveable stage, controlled by a knob on the right for fine adjustment, and supporting the front end of the bellows with the front lens mount.

Most examples of the Focabell have a nameplate screwed to the moveable stage, with the name Focabell and the company name Orion Camera Co. or Miranda Camera Co., and another plate screwed further to the rear, with the serial number and the words Made in Japan.[4] One version (Focabell “type 4”) lacks the rear plate and has different markings. Another has a simple Bell engraving on the front plate.[5] The serial number normally has six digits, of which the first two may be related to the year of design, except on the type 4, which has a four-digit number.

Early period

Versions

The early Focabell has Orion Camera Co. markings and lever locks on the left-hand side. It was made in many versions, for different camera types. These are recognized by a letter, which was certainly applied in the order of introduction of the different versions. Sources are conflicting on the meaning of some letters, certainly because of confusions between the letters G, I and J. The following list can be reconstructed:

The most common models are the Focabell-A and AII, made for the Mirax reflex housing, and suited for Miranda SLR cameras. They have a 44mm female screw mount at the front,[14] and take the Supreme-C 10.5cm f/2.8 lens head or other accessories made for the Mirax.

The original Focabell-A ("type 1")[15] has a 44mm male screw thread at the rear. This mount can rotate by 90° for vertical pictures, and is locked by a small lever at the top. Serial numbers for this version are known from 530727 to 531118.[16]

The first Focabell-AII ("type 2")[15] replaced the screw mount model A in 1954. (Some documents continued to use the name "Focabell-A" instead of "Focabell-AII".)[8][9] It has the new Mirax bayonet mount (later used on the Miranda SLR) at the rear only. The bayonet can be attached in either orientation, removing the need for a rotating mount.[14] It is still marked Orion Camera Co. The earliest serial number known for this version is 531020, revealing some overlap with the type 1; all the other examples have a number in the 541xxx range, from 541116 to 541729.[16]

The remaining small models, for 35mm cameras (Focabell-B, C, D, H, I), have the 44mm female screw mount at the front[14] and a different mount at the rear. It seems that an adapter was supplied with each version, to attach the lenses made for the corresponding camera mount.[14] (This is certainly true of the Focabell-C in Exakta mount, as shown by the above picture of the device with a Biotar 58mm f/2.) All have a rotating rear mount, with the corresponding locking lever, except for the Focabell-B (for PLOOT / Visoflex). The only confirmed serial number is no.531431, on a Focabell-C.[16]

The large models, for 6×6cm cameras, have larger bellows, larger front and rear standards, and a fixed rear mount.[14] The front lens mount is that of the Meister-Korelle, whatever the rear mount.[14] An adapter was certainly supplied to fit the camera's lens range.[14]

Orion offered to adapt various long-focus lenses to fit the Focabell.[6] Examples pictured in original documents include a Voigtländer Heliar 16.5cm, typical of the lenses used on prewar large format cameras, and a Konishiroku Tele-Hexar 40cm f/5.6, certainly taken from a wartime Japanese aerial camera.[17] A similar lens is visible in this page at Koujiya Camera on a Focabell-G.

The early Focabell was sold in a beautiful jewel case, similar to that of the Mirax and Supreme lenses, with FOCABELL and the name of the lens mount inscribed on the lid. At least some boxes for the Focabell-G are marked PRIMA REFLEX instead of "Primarflex" or "Primar Reflex".[18] The jewel case is itself contained in a reddish brown cardboard outer box.

Commercial life

The Focabell was released by Orion Seiki some time after the Mirax reflex housing. An article in the June 1952 issue of Shashin Kōgyō by Ogihara Akira says that a bellows system was planned for the near future.[19] The device was released in late 1952 or early 1953, and it is pictured in another article by Ogihara dated May 1953.[20]

The above Japanese brochure, dated c.1953, lists the Focabell-A to H, and gives the corresponding catalogue numbers 700A to 700H.[6] It offers to convert various lenses (from 100mm to 300mm) for use on the Mirax or Focabell.

The Focabell appears in advertisements placed by the distributor Summit Shōkai in the September to November 1953 issues of Asahi Camera.[21] They provide the same list of lens mounts, in a more condensed form.

In addition to the advertisement by Summit, the November 1953 issue of Asahi Camera also contains an advertisement by Matsushima,[22] perhaps indicating that Orion changed its main distributor. The document gives a short price list: ¥12,000 for the model A, ¥13,500 for the model B and ¥15,000 for the model C.

After Matsushima became the main distributor of the Focabell, Summit perhaps continued to sell Orion products under alternative names, and at least one advertisement by Summit is known to list a "Bellow" (ベロー) for ¥10,000.[23] This might explain the Bell marking (instead of "Focabell") found on an example with Primarflex mount.[24]

The article by Ogihara Akira in the May 1954 issue of Shashin Kōgyō is the first to show the Focabell-AII with Mirax bayonet mount at the rear.[7] It gives a detailed description, and contains pictures of various other versions. A contemporary brochure, reproduced above, has similar pictures.[8]

Matsushima continued to distribute the Mirax and Focabell for some time, and advertisements are found in the January to April 1955 issues of Asahi Camera, and again in August.[25]

The June 1955 special issue of Photo Art contains a full-page advertisement by Matsushima, which also mentions the manufacturer's name Orion Seiki, and describes the Focabell in two places, including a full price list (the models I and J were certainly swapped by mistake):[26]

Late 1950s

The production of the Focabell continued after the introduction of the Miranda SLR, for which it was the standard bellows system. The document below is an extract of the Miranda T user manual, describing the Focabell.

The device was still distributed by Matsushima, together with the Mirax, at least until 1958, as appears on advertisements reproduced below.[27]

With time, the Focabell became fully integrated into the Miranda system, and it seems that it was no longer offered for other camera mounts.

The Focabell "type 3"[15] was introduced some time after the company changed its name in 1957. It only differs from the type 2 by the Miranda Camera Co. marking, replacing Orion Camera Co. The remaining features are the same, notably the front screw mount and rear bayonet mount. This version was available until the early 1960s.[28] It was simply called "Focabell" in the documents published at the period, without any model name. (The name "AII" would be revived at a later period, and was perhaps still used as an internal code.) Serial numbers for the type 3 are known in the 542xxx range.[16]

After the introduction of bayonet mount lenses for the Miranda camera, the company offered an extension adapter — later called AU adapter[29] — to attach these lenses on screw-mount only accessories, such as the Focabell or extension tubes. The code name "AU" probably means "automatic", because auto diaphragm was first introduced on bayonet mount lenses (with external actuation).

Ephemeral wheel-locked model

Around 1960, a new version of the Miranda Focabell was released for a short period. This version ("type 4")[15] has wheel locks instead of levers, and an additional knob at the front left of the moveable stage, to lock the fine magnification adjustment. The nameplate is engraved Focabell AII with a four-digit serial number; it is bent to a right angle so that it hangs down over the front part of the moveable stage. The cross piece at the front end is shaped as a dumb-bell, unlike the elongated oval found on all other dual-rail models. There are three magnification scales directly engraved on the focusing rails: for 105mm on the outer right side, for 135mm on the inner left side and for 50mm on the outer left side. Finally, the device has a dual front mount (screw and bayonet), as on the Miranda SLR bodies.

The Focabell type 4 is rarely encountered, and the only serial number confirmed so far is no.7098. The device comes in a red wooden case, reminiscent of those of earlier products of the Orion period, but with orange and gold decals labeled FOCABELL AII and Miranda.[30]

The type 4 rarely appears in the original documents. The instruction manual of the Miranda Automex, released in 1960, says that "the Focabell truck is engraved with magnification scale", certainly an allusion to the type 4, but shows a picture of the type 3.[31] This document is also the earliest to mention the Soligor Miranda 135mm f/3.5 short barrel lens, which replaced the Supreme-C 10.5cm f/2.8. The simultaneous release of the 135mm lens head and Focabell type 4 was certainly not coincidental, and surely aimed at renewing the extreme close-up offerings for the Miranda SLR.

The Focabell type 4 is pictured in Miranda price lists dated 1961 to Fall 1965, and in the book New Miranda Eye-Level Reflex Guide by Kenneth Tydings, first published in 1962.[32] It is nonetheless likely that the version was withdrawn in 1962, and that later price lists show an outdated picture.

Incompatibility with the Automex

Neither the type 3 nor the type 4 is fully compatible with the Automex, whose protruding prism housing prevents direct attachment. The instruction manuals of the Automex and Automex II show pictures of a Focabell type 3 attached to the body via an AU adapter.[31][33] Price lists dated 1960 and 1961 say that the client should specify the intended camera model when buying a Focabell;[32] this might mean that the Focabell sold for the Automex were supplied with the AU adapter, but this is not known for sure.

Back to the lever locks

The Focabell type 4 with wheel locks was abandoned for an unknown reason, and Miranda issued a slightly revised edition of the previous model, with lever locks and no magnification scale (type 5).[15] The type 5 only differs from the type 3 by the addition of a robust dual mount at the front, much thicker than on the four-digit Focabell and on Miranda SLR bodies, and by a small cut-out at the top left of the rear section, allowing direct attachment to the Automex. Serial numbers for this version are known in the 62xxxx range, from 620210 to 621384.[16]

The type 5 was likely introduced in 1962, and the two first digits of the serial numbers probably correspond to the release year. It is known to appear in documents dated 1963 and 1964.[34] At the period, the red jewel case was replaced by a two-piece red cardboard box, inscribed FOCABELL and MIRANDA CAMERA CO. LTD., TOKYO on the lid.

Central magnification scale

The Focabell "type 6"[15] is similar to the type 5 but has a sliding rod between the two rails, with scales on each side. The scales give both the magnifying ratio and the distance in feet, for a 50mm standard lens on one side, and for the short barrel 135mm f/3.5 on the other side (inscribed f=135mm Short Barrel).

The Focabell type 6 appears in documents dated 1965 to c.1968–9, from the Miranda G to the Sensomat, where it is always called Focabell AII.[35]

Serial numbers for the type 6 are known in the 62xxxx range, from 620541 to 622259, and in the 63xxxx range, from 630225 to 631397[16] — no difference has been found between the two batches. The early numbers partly overlap those of the type 5, for some unknown reason. During the production of the type 6, the box was replaced by a blue cardboard box with clouds and stars, inscribed MIRANDA FOCABELL and MIRANDA CAMERA CO., LTD. TOKYO.

The unit pictured above corresponds to a type 6. It is much later than the Mirax-B and Supreme lens head pictured with it.

Return of the wheel locks

The final version of the dual-rail Focabell ("type 7")[15] has wheels instead of levers on the left-hand side, to lock the three sliding standards.[36] It always has the sliding scale rod in the middle. It appears in documents dated 1970 to 1975, where it is called Focabell AIII.[37] Serial numbers are confirmed for this version from 634147 to 636570.[16]

The Focabell type 7 has been repeatedly observed in a light blue cardboard box with clouds all over, inscribed World's Finest MIRANDA FOCABELL DELUXE, or in a medium blue cardboard box with a light blue oval pattern, inscribed MIRANDA FOCABELL DELUXE, but the name "Focabell Deluxe" has not been observed in any printed document.

At some point in the early 1970s, the company introduced an Automatic adapter ring, for automatic diaphragm actuation with a dual cable release.[38] It has a bayonet mount at the rear and a dual mount at the front. The cable release is plugged into the adapter, and its movement is transmitted to the diaphragm lever of the internal auto-diaphragm lenses.

Single-rail bellows

Bellox Jr

From the early 1960s, Miranda offered a cheaper bellows unit for its range of SLR cameras, in parallel to the dual-rail Focabell. The first low-cost alternative was the Bellox Jr, available from 1960 to 1963[39] under the Miranda or Alpex brands (the latter was surely sold by Allied Impex). The Alpex version was available in other mounts too (Exakta, 42mm screw mount, etc.). This bellows was a name variant of the Kopil Folding Bellowscope, made by Kobayashi Seiki. (The original Folding Bellowscope was available in various mounts, also including the Miranda bayonet.)

Focabell-S and SII

The Focabell-S, which replaced the Bellox Jr around 1963 or 1964,[40] has a folding rail with a rectangular section, and is much flimsier than the dual-rail models. It has a dual magnification scale engraved on the rail: for the short barrel 13.5cm lens on the left, and for standard 50mm lenses on the right. It comes in a sky blue cardboard box with a pattern of clouds, inscribed MIRANDA FOCABELL–S and MIRANDA CAMERA CO., LTD. TOKYO, JAPAN. Minor variations are reported, some of which are pictured in this page of the Miranda Historical Society. The device was still available in 1972,[41] and the very similar Focabell SII was offered in 1975 for the Miranda RE-II.[42]

Focabell Auto-S

The Focabell Auto-S has a rigid rail with a round section, and seems to transmit the auto diaphragm control.[43] It was made c.1976, at the time of the Miranda EE-2.[44]

Focabell A4

The Focabell A4 is a robust single-rail model, offered at the same time as the Auto-S.[45] It replaced the Focabell AIII, the last of the dual-rail Focabells. It has a robust construction, and it is very similar or identical to the Soligor Multiflex which was available in various mounts, including the Miranda mount. It was probably not made by Miranda itself.

Notes

  1. "Focusing" is written フォーカシング, fōkashingu in Japanese, pronounced "focashing".
  2. Ogihara, p.346 of Shashin Kōgyō May 1954.
  3. Ogihara, p.347 of Shashin Kōgyō May 1954. The author criticizes the quality of the recently introduced Novoflex bellows with light alloy rails, and of lens barrels made of alloy.
  4. The Orion Focabell-A pictured in this page of the Miranda Historical Society seems to lack the rear plate, for an unknown reason.
  5. Focabell-G for Primarflex pictured in this page of Koujiya Camera's blog.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 6.8 6.9 Brochure Mirax & Focabell, Orion Camera's Product's.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 Ogihara, pp.344–8 of Shashin Kōgyō May 1954.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 8.7 8.8 Brochure Reflex Box for Copy, Close-up, Micro and Tele-photography: Mirax & Focabell.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 9.8 June 1955 special issue of Photo Art, advertisement on p.22 and article on pp.119–20.
  10. The article by Ogihara, pp.344–8 of Shashin Kōgyō May 1954, mentions the Focabell-FII for Meister-Korelle in a caption, mistakenly placed next to a picture of a Reflex-Korelle.
  11. The Focabell-G is listed as "for Hasselblad", surely by mistake, in the brochure Reflex Box for Copy, Close-up, Micro and Tele-photography: Mirax & Focabell.
  12. The Focabell-I is mentioned as "for Hasselblad", perhaps by mistake, in the advertisement on p.22 and article on pp.119–20 of the June 1955 special issue of Photo Art.
  13. The Focabell-J is mentioned as "for Rectaflex", perhaps by mistake, in the advertisement on p.22 and article on pp.119–20 of the June 1955 special issue of Photo Art.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 14.6 Ogihara, p.348 of Shashin Kōgyō May 1954.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 15.5 15.6 The type numbers used in this article were not officially used by the Orion or Miranda companies, but reflect the current state of research.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 16.5 16.6 Serial numbers communicated by Jeffrey Felton.
  17. Modified lenses pictured in Ogihara, p.347 of Shashin Kōgyō May 1954, and in the brochure Reflex Box for Copy, Close-up, Micro and Tele-photography: Mirax & Focabell.
  18. Pictures of a Focabell-G with original box in this page at Koujiya Camera's blog.
  19. Ogihara, p.27 of Shashin Kōgyō no.1: 近く蛇腹も製作される予定である.
  20. Ogihara, pp.275–7 of Shashin Kōgyō May 1953.
  21. Advertisements in Asahi Camera September 1953 (p.190), October 1953 (p.217) and November 1953 (p.194).
  22. Advertisement in Asahi Camera November 1953 (p.59).
  23. Advertisement communicated by Jeffrey Felton, date unknown.
  24. Pictures of a Focabell-G marked Bell, in this page at Koujiya Camera's blog.
  25. Advertisement in Asahi Camera January 1955, p.229, February 1955, p.190, March 1955, p.180, April 1955, p.211, and August 1955, p.206.
  26. June 1955 special issue of Photo Art, advertisement on p.22 and articles on pp.51 and 119–20.
  27. Advertisement in Shashin Kōgyō April 1958, p.317; advertisements in Asahi Camera May 1958, p.221, and July 1958, p.213.
  28. Pictures of this version appear in the instruction manuals of the Miranda C (1959, p.25), Miranda S (1959, p.19), Miranda ST (1960), Miranda Automex (1960, pp.43 and 45), Miranda D (1960, pp.17 and 23), Miranda DR 1.9 (1961, pp.21 and 27) and Miranda Automex II (1963, p.39).
  29. The name "extension adapter" is used in the instruction manuals of the Miranda C (1959, pp.22–3), Miranda Automex (1960, pp.40–1), Miranda DR 1.9 (1961, pp.24–5), Miranda Automex III (1964, pp.36–7). The name "AU adapter" appears in the instruction manual of the Miranda DR 1.9 (1961, p.28) and most later cameras, from the Miranda G (1965, pp.54–5) to the Miranda RE-II (1975).
  30. Features communicated by Jeffrey Felton.
  31. 31.0 31.1 Instruction manual of the Miranda Automex, p.43.
  32. 32.0 32.1 Documents communicated by Jeffrey Felton.
  33. Instruction manual of the Miranda Automex II, p.39.
  34. Instruction manuals of the Miranda Automex II (1963, p.41), Miranda early F (1963, pp.31 and 33) and Miranda Automex III (1964, pp.39 and 41).
  35. Instruction manuals of the Miranda G (1965, pp.52–3), Miranda late F (c.1965–7, pp.6 and 48–9), Miranda Sensorex (1966), Miranda Fv (c.1966–7, pp.48–9) and Miranda Sensomat (c.1968–9, pp.34 and 49).
  36. This version is visible in this page of the Miranda Society Japan.
  37. Instruction manuals of the Miranda Sensorex C (1970, pp.50–1), Miranda Sensomat RE (c.1970–1, pp.44–5), Miranda Auto Sensorex EE (c.1971–2), Miranda Sensorex II (1972, p.35) and Miranda RE-II (1975, pp.22–3).
  38. Instruction manuals of the Miranda Auto Sensorex EE (c.1971–2) and Miranda Sensorex II (1972, p.39).
  39. Price lists dated 1960 to 1963, communicated by J. Felton, and instruction manual of the Miranda DR f/1.9 (1962, p.28).
  40. A picture of the Focabell-S appears in the instruction manuals of the Miranda early F (1963, p.28) and Miranda Automex II (1963, p.41). A price list dated 1963 has the Bellox Jr, whereas another dated 1964 has the Focabell-S.
  41. Instruction manuals of the Miranda Auto Sensorex EE (1972) and Miranda Sensorex II (1972, p.35).
  42. Instruction manual of the Miranda RE-II (1975, pp.22–3).
  43. Example pictured in Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.64, p.45.
  44. Instruction manual of the Miranda EE-2.
  45. Instruction manual of the Miranda EE-2, p.49.

Bibliography

Original documents

  • Asahi Camera. Advertisements by Summit Shōkai:
    • September 1953, p.190;
    • October 1953, p.217;
    • November 1953, p.194.
  • Asahi Camera. Advertisements by the photo department of Matsushima or Matsushima Megane-ten:
    • November 1953, p.59;
    • January 1955, p.229;
    • February 1955, p.190;
    • March 1955, p.180;
    • April 1955, p.211;
    • August 1955, p.206.
  • Asahi Camera. Advertisements by Matsushima Shashin-yōhin:
    • May 1958, p.221;
    • July 1958, p.213.
  • Kitano Kunio (北野邦雄). "Orijinaru kokusan kamera 3: Asahifurekkusu." (オリジナル国産カメラ・3・アサヒフレックス, Original Japanese cameras 3: the Asahiflex). In Shashin Kōgyō no.35, May 1955. Pp.369–72. (This article is mainly on the Asahiflex, but mentions the Focabell and contains various pictures of the Focabell-H.)
  • Miranda Camera. User manuals:
  • 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. (Briefly mentions a bellows system under development.)
  • Ogihara Akira (荻原彰). "Mirakkusu no kōzō to tokusei" (ミラックスの構造と特性, Construction and special features of the Mirax). In Shashin Kōgyō no.12, May 1953. Pp.275–7.
  • Ogihara Akira (荻原彰). "Mirakkusu to Fōkaberu ni tsuite" (ミラックスとフォーカベルについて, On the Mirax and Focabell). In Shashin Kōgyō no.24, May 1954. Pp.344–8.
  • Ogihara Akira (荻原彰). "Purizumu refu Miranda" (プリズムレフ・ミランダ, Miranda prism reflex). In Shashin Kōgyō no.39, September 1955. Pp.160–4.
  • 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.
  • Orion Camera. Reflex Box for Copy, Close-up, Micro and Tele-photography: Mirax & Focabell. Brochure in English language, c.1954.
  • Orion Camera Co., Ltd. Miranda. User manual of the Miranda T, c.1955. Reproduced in this Flickr set.
  • 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.
    • "Zukai: Akusesarī no mekanikku. 12: Bōen, sessha, fukusha sōchi. Mirakkusu to Fōkaberu." (図解・アクセサリーのメカニック・12・望遠・接写・複写装置・ミラックスとフォーカベル. Drawings: accessory mechanisms. 12: Telephoto, close-up and reproduction devices. Mirax and Focabell.) P.51.
    • "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. "Kakubu no kikō to sono sōsa. 14: Kamera ni toritsukeru akusesarī no chishiki. Renzu zenmen ni. b: Hojo satsuei kigu, renzu." (各部の機構とその操作・14・カメラに取付けるアクセサリーの知識・レンズ前面に・b・補助撮影器具・レンズ. Mechanism and operation of all the parts. 14: Knowledge of the accessories attached to the camera. In front of the lens. b: Accessory photographic instruments, lenses.) P.47. (Short mention only, with a small picture.)
  • Shashin Kōgyō no.26, July 1954. Picture on the front cover.
  • Shashin Kōgyō no.72, April 1958. Advertisement by Matsushima Shashin-yōhin, p.317.

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