Muley

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The Muley is a Japanese Leica copy, made in the late 1940s or early 1950s, about which very little is known. No original document mentioning the camera has been found so far, and only two examples are known to survive. The two cameras have a Leica screw mount and a horizontally running focal-plane shutter, but have little else in common. The manufacturer or distributor is only known by its initials G.T.S., engraved on the cameras.

Contents

Viewfinder-only Muley

The viewfinder Muley is a copy of the Leica I (C) or of the Leica Standard. (The only other Japanese copy of the Leica Standard known so far is the Chiyoca 35 or Chiyoca I, which is probably not related to the Muley.) The model is known by a single example, with serial number 102, sold at auction in the USA in 2007, without a lens.[1] The numbering might have started at 101, and this camera might be the second example produced. The camera is marked as made in Occupied Japan, revealing that it was made in the late 1940s or early 1950s.

It seems that the construction is copied on the early Leica screw mount models, with a thin top plate attached by apparent screws: four at the front and perhaps three on the rear. The position of the controls — advance knob, exposure counter, release button, rewind lever, speed dial and rewind knob — is the same as on the Leica.

The rewind knob has a medium diameter, as on the Leica I and unlike the Standard; it is not known if it is extractable or not. The tubular viewfinder is similar to that of the Leica model, attached by four apparent screws. The speed dial is on a hump of the top plate, engraved Muley at the front and reportedly G.T.S. on the rear. There are no slow speeds, and the dial reportedly has the following positions: Z, 20, 30, 40, 60, 100, 200, 500. There is no flash synchronization. The accessory shoe is directly attached to the top plate, and the serial number is engraved immediately in front of it.

The bottom plate is removable for film loading, and is retained by a key on the left side, with O and C indications (presumably for Open and Close), the same system as on the Leica. The tripod thread is on the opposite side, to the photographer's right. The bottom plate is engraved MADE IN OCCUPIED JAPAN engraved towards the front, and has various apparent screws: three around the tripod attachment, two near the opening key, and two on the rear.

There is a round plug on the back, probably used for proper adjustment of the film to flange distance, perhaps an indication that the camera was made in a lightly tooled workshop, with no access to an autocollimator. The sides of the body have no strap lugs. The front of the body has four apparent screws. The quality of the chrome finish does not look stellar, and it has brassed on various places on example no.102.

Rangefinder Muley

The rangefinder Muley is known from a single example, with body no.456, pictured in various sources.[2] It is not known if the sequence of serial numbers was continuous from 102 to 456 — the latter might even be some sort of "lucky number", belonging to no particular sequence.

The camera has an integral top housing, as introduced by Leitz on the Leica IIIc. Together with the new back opening, this indicates that the camera has a completely different construction from the viewfinder Muley. At the front, the top housing has a rounded corner between the horizontal portion and the lens mount surroundings. This design feature is typical of the rangefinder Muley, the original Leica model and its various diecast copies having a right-angle corner instead. The screws attaching the top housing are at the top (instead of the front and rear on the Leica IIIc).

The position of the controls is similar to that of the Leica models. The cup surrounding the release button is slightly oversized. There is a small step under the rewind unlock lever (unlike the Leica IIIc), and another under the rewind knob (as on the IIIc). The rewind knob itself looks slightly undersized, and is certainly extractable.

The arrangement of the viewfinder and rangefinder is similar to that of older Leica models, with distant eyepieces, as on the IIIa and unlike the IIIb. The rangefinder eyepiece has a diopter correction lever. The viewfinder's front window has a separate rectangular frame, with three apparent screws. One source says that one of these is the rangefinder adjustment screw, but this is unconfirmed.[3]

The name Muley is engraved in the top cover, above the viewfinder, together with a G.T.S. CO. logo. The serial number N°xxx is engraved besides, just in front of the accessory shoe.

The main speed dial has B, 20–1, 30, 40, 60, 100, 200, 500 positions. The speed index is on the accessory shoe, as on the Leica IIIc. There is a slow speed dial at the front, with T, 1, 2, 4, 8, 20 positions. The camera has no flash synchronization. There are strap lugs at both ends of the body, attached by apparent screws.

The back opening mechanism is specific to the rangefinder Muley. It is described in the original text by Watanabe presenting the camera to Camera Collectors' News; here is an attempt at a translation: "The back can be opened: when you raise the metal parts at the body ends, the axis locking the back rotates, and the back opens. If you keep opening, the back detaches itself altogether."[4] The pictures show thick cylindrical parts at both ends, in an asymmetric arrangement: the part at the left end (as seen by the photographer) has some sort of crude latch towards the top, rotating on the vertical axis, whereas that on the right has no notable feature. The description seems to indicate that the back is detached when it is opened past some angle, and this might mean that the right cylinder contains a groove into which the back is engaged. It seems clear that the bottom plate is fixed. Other sources give different descriptions, probably inaccurately guessed from the pictures only.[5]

The dimensions of the body are 145×70×35mm, and the weight is 480g.[6]

On all the pictures, body no.456 has a Simlar 5cm f/3.5 lens by Tōkyō Kōgaku. This was perhaps not the lens originally intended for the Muley,[7] whose development perhaps did not go far enough to actually settle on a standard lens.

Notes

  1. Example sold as lot no.409 of the October 28, 2007 auction by Skinner.
  2. Example pictured in Sugiyama, item 3516, in Watanabe, pp.30–1 of Camera Collectors' News no.47, and in HPR, pp.250–1 (the pictures are the same as in Watanabe, but the quality of the reproduction is better). The drawing in Pont / Princelle, p.225, certainly represents the same camera with a wrong serial number.
  3. HPR, p.250. It seems that the author did not access the camera directly (see below for the back opening). The information is not mentioned in the letter by Watanabe in Camera Collectors' News no.47.
  4. Watanabe, p.30 of Camera Collectors' News no.47: 裏ぶた開閉式、ボディー脇の金具を起すと、裏ぶた止めの軸が回転し、開きます。そのまま開くと裏ぶたが完全にはずれます。
  5. HPR, p.250: "The back could be removed by drawing out two pins right and left." Pont / Princelle, p.225: "Hinged back. Large chromed hinge (wind side)." It seems that none of these authors had direct access to the camera.
  6. Watanabe, p.30 of Camera Collectors' News no.47.
  7. The camera's owner Watanabe says that the lens is probably not original on p.30 of Camera Collectors' News no.30, and this is repeated in Sugiyama, item 3516.

Bibliography

  • HPR. Leica Copies. London: Classic Collection Publications, 1994. ISBN 1-874485-05-4. Pp.250–1. (The pictures are the same as in Watanabe, pp.30–1 of Camera Collectors' News no.47, but the quality of the reproduction is better.)
  • Pont, P.-H., and Princelle, J.-L. 300 Leica Copies. Neuilly: Fotosaga, 1990. ISBN 2-906840-03-3. P.225. (The drawing is not specifically based on any of the pictures in Watanabe, pp.30–1 of Camera Collectors' News no.47, but nonetheless certainly represents the same camera with a wrong serial number.)
  • 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. Item 3516.
  • Watanabe Katsumi (渡辺勝美). "Letter to C.C.N.", and answer by Awano Mikio (粟野幹男). In Camera Collectors' News no.47 (May 1981). Nishinomiya: Camera Collectors News-sha. Pp.30–1. (Watanabe was the owner of the camera at the time.)

The Muley is not listed in Kokusan kamera no rekishi.

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