Nōman Flex

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The Nōman Flex[1] (ノーマン・フレックス) is a Japanese 6×6 TLR made in 1942 and 1943 by Ihara Kōgaku and distributed by Sugihara Shashinki-ten.[2]


The Nōman Flex is a copy of the Rolleicord. The whole front plate moves back and forth for focusing, and is driven by a knob on the photographer's right, surrounded by a plate with depth-of-field indications. The film is advanced by a knob on the right, with an auto-stop mechanism which is perhaps unlocked by pressing a button in the middle of the knob. There is a round window for an exposure counter at the top of the right-hand side, whose mechanism is certainly engaged by the small sliding button visible next to the advance knob. The back has a single red window towards the bottom, protected by a horizontally sliding cover and used to set the position of the first exposure.

The viewing hood is two-fold and contains a magnifying lens hinged to the front. The nameplate has a stepped frame and reads Nōman Flex (with a macron). The company name Ihara Kogaku is written below.

The lens is a K.O.L. 75mm f/3.5, perhaps inscribed K.O.L. Nōman Trion.[3] The shutter is a Nōman Model I (B, 1–300) made by Ihara itself.[4] The shutter plate is black with silver stripes and has the name Nōman Model I inscribed on the left (as seen from the front). The shutter casing is surrounded by a silver disc with the aperture scale, graduated from 3.5 to 25. There are two release levers, both on the photographer's right: one is sliding under the front standard and the other is on the side.[5] This configuration was advertised as completely suppressing motion blur.[6] Next to the release levers is a black part, shaped as a mushroom, whose use is unknown. The cocking lever is on the other side of the front standard.

The camera has an internal synchronization device and a U-shaped support for a flash gun on the left-hand side. The flash connection is presumably cordless: one of the advertising pictures shows the camera with a flash unit attached and no visible synch cord.[7]

Advertisements and other documents

The Nōman Flex was advertised in Japanese magazines from April 1942 to January 1943.[8] Advertisements dated May and October 1942 present the camera as a new model and give the price of ¥290 (a high price, the same as the Auto Semi Minolta).[9] The lens is mentioned as a K.O.L. f/3.5. The May advertisement says that the camera was the result of many years of research by the company Ihara Kōgaku (井原光学が多年研究の結果).

The camera also appears in the April 1943 government inquiry on Japanese camera production.[10] The lens is given as a three-element "K.O.L. Nōman Trio" 75/3.5 made by Gojō (the successor of Kajiro Kōgaku) and the shutter as a Nōman I (B, 1–300) made by Ihara.[11]

Surviving examples

Only three surviving examples are known so far: the one pictured in this page, another pictured in Sugiyama and in Noma, and a third pictured in Takasaki, with lens no.1000x (perhaps 10009).[12]


  1. The spelling "Norman Flex" found in Sugiyama, item 2018, and in this page (archive.org) at Japan Family Camera is a mistake.
  2. Dates: advertisements listed in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.338.
  3. The lens is reported as a "K.O.L. Norman Trion" in Sugiyama, item 2018, where the camera is wrongly called "Norman Flex". The word "Trion" is faintly legible on the picture published in Takasaki, p.69 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.49.
  4. Shutter made by Ihara: "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), shutter item 18-U-9.
  5. This is described in Noma, p.93 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.22.
  6. Advertisement reproduced in Inoue, p.132 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.14 (シャッター独創的レバーに依り震動絶無).
  7. Advertisement reproduced in Inoue, p.132 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.14.
  8. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.338.
  9. May 1942: advertisement reproduced in Inoue, p.132 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.14. (The advertisement's reproduction has a handwritten note reading SB 1942.5, certainly indicating that the advertisement was found in the May 1942 issue of Shashin Bunka.) October 1942: advertisement published in Shashin Bunka, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.81.
  10. "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), item 123.
  11. "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), lens item Lb30.
  12. Sugiyama, item 2018, Noma, p.93 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.22, Takasaki, p.69 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.49.