Olympus Flex

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The Olympus Flex is a series of 6×6 TLRs made by Olympus, during the great TLR vogue in Japan in the 1950s.

Olympus Flex and Olympus Flex BII

The original model has both the advance knob and the focus knob on the right-hand side. There are two wheels are the front, for speed and aperture settings, imitating the Rolleiflex controls. The shutter is a Seikosha-Rapid (B, 1–400), in #0 size. Both lenses are 7.5cm f/2.8 and have bayonet filter attachments; the taking lens is a six-element F Zuiko F.C. and the viewing lens is a Zuiko F.C.

The camera was released in 1952. At the time, it was merely called Olympus Flex, with no version name, as visible in various original advertisements.[1]

The Olympus Flex was initially released with eye-level focusing ability via a small mirror folding inside the hood. This feature was quickly abandoned because it was infringing a patent by Franke & Heidecke for the Rolleiflex. Other minor modifications occurred during the production of the camera. The ASA bayonet synch post was replaced by a PC socket, and the fine milling pattern on the advance and focus knobs of the earliest cameras was replaced by coarse knurls.

It seems that the original model was renamed Olympus Flex BII only after the release of the Olympus Flex A models (see below), to distinguish it from its less expensive counterparts. Today, the earliest examples — made before most modifications were applied — are called "Olympus Flex I" in retrospect. Some collectors do identify an "Olympus Flex B" or "Olympus Flex BI" with intermediate features, but no evidence has been found that this name was actually used by the company during the production of the camera. The name "BII" was possibly coined in contrast with "AI", a name briefly used for the model with lesser specifications. For example, the two names occur together in the October 1955 special issue of Photo Art, reproduced below.[2]

At least one example of the Olympus Flex BII was produced with an f/3.5 taking lens and f/2.8 viewing lens. It seems that this camera is currently held by the Olympus company,[3] and pictures of that particular example have been widely publicized.[4] On the basis of this single camera, some sources have wrongly claimed that the Olympus Flex BII has an f/3.5 lens,[5] but all the original documents mentioning the BII say that it has f/2.8 lenses[6] and no other example with f/3.5 lens has yet been observed. It is most probable that this f/3.5 BII was an isolated prototype.

Olympus Flex A

The Olympus Flex A is a simplified model, with the setting wheels replaced by ordinary levers.

The first version was announced in Japanese magazines dated May 1955.[7] It has f/3.5 taking and viewing lenses, and a Seikosha-Rapid shutter (B, 1–500) in #00 size. For some months, it was only called Olympus Flex A or Olympus Flex AI; it was renamed Olympus Flex A 3.5 after the release of the f/2.8 model.

The Olympus Flex A 2.8 has 7.5cm f/2.8 viewing and taking lenses, with bayonet filter attachments. The shutter is a Seikosha-Rapid in #0 size, to accomodate the bigger lens, and has 1/400 top speed. The position of the speed and aperture controls is inverted when compared with the A 3.5.

The A 2.8 was first advertised in the December 1955 issue of Asahi Camera, and was announced in the January 1956 issue of major Japanese photography magazines.[8]

The Olympus Flex A 3.5 II was the last version. It is similar to the A 3.5 with bayonet filter attachments and a #00 Seikosha-MX shutter (B, 1–500) with M/X synchro. It was announced in Japanese photography magazines dated September 1956, and was advertised for a brief period until November of the same year.[9]


  1. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.459. See for example (among many others) the 1954 advertisement reproduced in this page at Shashin-Bako.
  2. Column in Photo Art no.87, p.91.
  3. The camera was still owned by Olympus in the early 1980s, see the caption in Francesch, p.73.
  4. Pictures of that example are in Francesch, p.73, McKeown, p.749, this page by John Foster, this page and this page of the Olympus Photo Club.
  5. Francesch, p.73, and this page by John Foster.
  6. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, pp.349 and 380.
  7. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.349.
  8. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.349.
  9. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.380.


  • 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 459–61 and 1166–7. (See also the advertisement for item 446.)
  • Francesch, Dominique and Jean-Paul. Histoire de l'appareil photographique Olympus de 1936 à 1983. Paris: Dessain et Tolra, 1985. ISBN 2-249-27679-X. Pp.32–4 and 72–6.
  • 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). Pp.79, 85 and 87.
  • Matsuzaki Sōichirō (松崎惣一郎). "'Orinpasu kurōmu shikkusu' to sono koto domo" (「オリンパスクロームシックス」とその周辺のことども, "About the 'Olympus Chrome Six'"). 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.76, June 2005. ISBN 4-257-13078-4. Kurashikku kamera katachi to kinō 'supuringu kamera hen' (クラシックカメラ形と機能「スプリングカメラ編」, special issue on spring cameras). Pp.28–31. (The author worked for the Olympus company from July 1949.)
  • 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). Pp.748–9.
  • 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. "Kokusan kamera no hatten 3: Nigan-refu kamera" (国産カメラの祭典3・二眼レフカメラ), article on TLR cameras, pp.86–92.
  • 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 2202–5.
  • Watakushi no ni-gan-refu kamera-ten (私の二眼レフカメラ展, Exhibition of twin lens reflex cameras). Tokyo: JCII Camera Museum, 1992. (Exhibition catalogue, no ISBN number.) P.30.


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