The Orion Six and Orion 66 are Japanese folding cameras, taking both 6×6cm and 4.5×6cm exposures.
No original document is known to mention the Orion folding cameras. The Orion Six was perhaps an evolution of the Kyowa Six RIII, a camera that was made by Kyōwa Kōki in 1954–5. The two cameras have a similar name, certainly the same body casting, and share some features, though the Orion Six is somewhat less advanced, lacking the ability to change the exposure format in midroll.
The later Orion 66 Super S was made by a company called Orion Seiki, perhaps the new name of Kyōwa Kōki. This Orion Seiki company was certainly unrelated to Miranda's predecessor, which used the same name "Orion Seiki" until 1955, when it was renamed "Orion Camera". It is probable that the manufacturer of the Orion folding cameras took this name to draw on the good reputation of Orion/Miranda products.
The Orion Six and Orion 66 have a horizontal folding body with smoothly tapered edges, apparently inherited from the Flora Six and Kyowa Six. The folding bed is opened by a sliding button, placed at the top of the door itself. The three-part folding struts are inspired by those of the 6×6 Ikonta.
The viewfinder and rangefinder are contained inside the top housing. They share a common eyepiece offset to the left — as seen by the photographer — whereas the rectangular second-image window is on the right. There are translucent strips on both sides of the viewfinder, indicating the field of view for 4.5×6cm exposures. There is an accessory shoe to the right of the viewfinder, and the shutter release is at its usual location on the right.
The film is advanced by a knob at the left end of the top plate, with an arrow to indicate the winding direction. There is a film flange at the right end of the top plate. The back is hinged to the right, and is locked by a sliding bar on the left. The film advance is controlled by two red windows, one for each format, protected by individual sliding covers marked 4.5X6 and 6X6, copied on those of the Olympus Chrome Six.
The name ORION–SIX is embossed under the red windows on all the models. There is also an ORION logo embossed in the leatherette of the front door, at least on the uncoupled rangefinder model. This logo is repeated at the front of the ever-ready case.
Orion Six, with uncoupled rangefinder
The Orion Six have an uncoupled rangefinder, controlled by a wheel falling under the right thumb. The selected distance is directly engraved on that wheel, and there is a decorative plate screwed to the rear of the top housing, with the word METER.
The name Orion Six is engraved above the top cover, together with the serial number and model name (e.g. MODEL RIII), situated above the viewfinder eyepiece.
The shutter gives B, 1–200 speeds, has a self-timer and is synchronized for flash. The lens is a front-cell focusing Rhythner 75mm f/3.2, supplied by an unknown company, engraved RHYTHNER LENS 1:3.2 f=75mm No.xxxxx.
Variations on actual cameras
Presumably early cameras have an ASA synch post and a chrome lens bezel with black engravings. At least one has been reported as an "Orion Six Model RII", but this name is unconfirmed.
Later cameras are confirmed as Orion Six Model RIII, and have MODEL RIII markings at the top. They have a PC socket and a black lens bezel with white engravings. Their shutter is a TSK, certainly supplied by Tōyō Seiki Kōgaku.
The known body numbers are 7361 and 7482 (both on Model RIII), probably indicating that at least a few hundred units were made.
Orion 66 Super S, with coupled rangefinder
The Orion 66 Super S has a focusing helix placed behind the lens and shutter unit, driven by a focusing tab and coupled to the rangefinder. The second image window is slightly larger than on the previous models, and the distance setting wheel on the rear is of course absent. The name Orion 66 is engraved above the top cover, together with the serial number and model name SUPER S above the viewfinder eyepiece.
Two presumably different surviving examples have been observed so far. One has a Mihama shutter (400–1, B, self-timer) synchronized via a PC socket, with a black front plate inscribed MIHAMA at the bottom, and a Techol Anastigmat 75mm f/3.5 lens (no.16096). (The lens name Techol is vaguely reminiscent of Techonar found on the Flora Six.) The other camera has body no.59002, and might have the same lens and shutter equipment.
Both cameras have a yellow and black original box inscribed ORION SIX and ORION SEIKI CO.
- The Orion Six is listed as the successor of the Kyowa Six in a page formerly shown by Terasaki Haruhisa.
- The name ORION SEIKI CO. appears on original boxes for the Orion 66 Super S, pictured in Furukawa, p.6 of Camera Collectors' News no.263, and observed in an online auction.
- Example pictured in this page by Koujiya (archived) (reported as "Model RII"), and example observed in an online auction (illegible markings).
- Example pictured in Sugiyama, item 1380, and example observed in an online auction (body no.7361, lens no.62254).
- Body no.7361, lens no.62254: example observed in an online auction. Body no.7482: example pictured in Furukawa, p.5 of Camera Collectors' News no.263 (the details of the shutter are unknown).
- Example observed in an online auction, with original case and box.
- Example pictured in Furukawa, pp.5–6 of Camera Collectors' News no.263, with original box. It seems that the lens and shutter unit is similar to the other camera, from what is visible in the small front picture.
- Furukawa Haruo (古川保男). "Orion 66 Super S: 'Naka kara patto hakuen ha denakatta'" (Orion 66 Super S・'中からパッと白煙は出なかった', Orion 66 Super S: 'no white smoke came out of it'). In Camera Collectors' News no.263 (May 1999). Nishinomiya: Camera Collectors News-sha. Pp.5–7.
- 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 1380.
The Orion Six and Orion 66 are not listed in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, and were perhaps not announced or advertised in Japanese photography magazines of the time.
- Orion Six in a page of sold-out cameras at Koujiya] (archived)