|Advertisement by Taiyōdō in Ars Camera January and July 1946. (Image rights)|
|Advertisement by Taiyōdō in Ars Camera February 1949.  (Image rights)|
Taiyōdō was already active as a camera distributor in early 1946. It was based in Tokyo, at the Jinbōchō crossing. From 1948, its manufacturing branch Taiyōdō Kōki K.K. (太陽堂光機㈱), often referred to as Taiyo-Do Koki, made the Meteor subminiature camera taking 17.5mm film, soon followed by the Vestkam, Epochs and Beauty 14, and by the Spy 16 and Beauty 16 using 16mm film. At about the same time, Taiyōdō was distributing the Gelto 3×4cm camera , the Semi Gelto and other Gelto products, and was using the Planet brand for various accessories. Both the manufacturing and sales companies had an address in Jinbōchō (Tokyo); they would appear as separate companies until 1951.
In mid-1950, the company released the first Beauty Six model. This camera was released later the same year as the Frank Six by Tōsei Kōki; it is not known if the production was transferred to Tōsei or if it produced the camera from the start as a subcontractor of Taiyōdō. The Beautyflex TLR was released by Taiyōdō Kōki in late 1950 or early 1951.
From 1952 or 1953, the sales company was merged into the manufacturing company Taiyōdō Kōki K.K., and the factory was moved to Shimizuchō, the sales department remaining in Jinbōchō. In late 1953, the company released the second Beauty Six. (A very similar camera was later sold by Tougodo as the Toyoca Six; again it is not known if the camera was subcontracted to Tougodo from the start or if Tougodo bought the dies and toolings later.) In late 1954, Taiyōdō released the Reflex Beauty, a 6×6 SLR distantly inspired by the Reflex-Korelle. The bulk of the sales was provided by the TLR models, whose production continued in parallel. The company entered the 35mm camera market with the viewfinder-only Beauty 35 in mid 1955, followed by the rangefinder Beauty 35 Super then Beauty Canter 35.
Taiyōdō went bankrupt in September 1957. It was reorganized as Beauty Camera K.K. (ビューティカメラ㈱), and was active under that name by December 1957. Its address changed a number of times after that date: it was in Shimura Kiyomizuchō in late 1957, in Kayabachō Nihonbashi in 1958–9, in Edobashi in late 1960 and in Miyamotochō in 1962–3.
All trace of the company is lost after that date, however, largely anecdotal evidence, to be found in various individual Japanese camera collector's blogs, describes a long-established camera shop at the same Jinbōchō (Tokyo) address, dating back to 1920, and which was called "Camera Taiyodo". This outlet was apparently decorated with Beautyflex cameras, and is claimed to have once been the manufacturer of Taiyodo and Beauty cameras. The outlet closed in 2013; an event which catalysed bloggers to write about their favourite shop. It would therefore appear that Taiyōdō was selling photographic equipment long before evidence of the company was immortalised in printed advertising material, and reverted to its roots (as a retail seller) when the manufacturing side ceased activity in 1963.
It should also be noted that the translation of advertising material related to Taiyōdō, as shown on this and the Gelto pages (and cited as evidence of Taiyōdō operating as a distributor), reads "Camera (カメラ) + Taiyōdō (太陽堂)" and translates as offers of the highest payments in exchange for cameras (paraphrased). In other words, there is evidence of Taiyōdō being a simple camera shop, but no substantial evidence to show they were ever a distributor.
Taiyōdō Kōki 6×6 TLR
Taiyōdō Kōki 6×6 SLR
Taiyōdō Kōki 6×6 folders
Taiyōdō Kōki 35mm viewfinder and rangefinder
- Beauty 35 (1955) - rebadged as the Gen 35, Milo 35 and Ward 35
- Beauty 35 Super (1956)
- Beauty Canter (F2.8 and F1.9) (1957)
Beauty Camera Company 35mm rangefinder
- Beauty Super II and Varicon branded S II (1958)
- Beauty Super L and Varicon branded SL and Super L (1958)
- Beauty Lightomatic or Beauty LM (1959)
- Beauty Lightomatic II (1960)
- Beaumat (1960)
- Beauty Lightomatic III or Beauty Lite III (1962)
- Beauty Lightmatic SP (1963)
|Vestkam by Rick Soloway. (Image rights)|
Taiyōdō Kōki 17.5mm film
Taiyōdō Kōki 16mm film
As a Manufacturer
- Taiyōdō Kōki also made rebadged 6x6 TLRs sold under the names Fodorflex, USC Auto Fifty and Wardflex, plus a rebranded 6x6 Gen-flex TLR, and rebranded 35mm cameras under the names Gen, Photoflex and Varicon.
- 50 – 100mm f/3 Zoom-Biokor lens. This unusual and rare lens was one of the earliest Japanese zoom lenses built for still cameras. It was introduced at the 1962 Nippon Camera Show. The lens design includes 15 elements in 10 groups, and features an unusual direct lever zoom mechanism that is very different from conventional twist or push/pull zooms.
As a dealer
- Gelto flashgun
- Planet rollfilm holder (6×9cm and 6×6cm)
- Planet filters
- Planet lens caps
- According to the original text at Camerapedia.
- The primary evidence of Taiyōdō acting as a distributor can be found on the Gelto page, where it says "the oldest post-war advertisement known so far to mention the Gelto is in Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin April 20, 1948. It was placed by Taiyōdō, which is presented as the distributor of Gelto products (ゲルト製品販売店). The quoted Japanese characters, which one must assume were copied from the advert, translate as "Gelto Product Dealers", or with the characters for Gelto removed, it reads Product Store. Distributors sell manufacturers' products to retailers. Retailers (or dealers) sell goods directly to the consumer.
- Note that the name "Meteor" is spelled correctly in advertisements until late 1948, but all later advertisements have the name "Meteall" instead. No actual camera has been observed with "Meteall" markings.
- Advertisement by Taiyōdō in the January 1946 issue of Ars Camera, p.11. Note that the text of this advertisement translates as a call to sell and exchange cameras, and does not indicate that Taiyōdō was acting as a distributor as stated in the preceding text, but rather as a merchant/shop. A distributor is an agent who supplies goods to retailers, but this is not achieved by advertising in magazines aimed at enthusiasts.
- The address was Tōkyō-to Kanda-ku Jinbōchō Kōsaten (東京都神田区神保町交差点). Source: advertisements in Ars Camera January 1946 (p.11) and July 1946 (p.1).
- See Note 2: there is no evidence of Taiyodo as a distributor.
- Advertisements on p.6 of Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin April 20, 1948, reproduced on p.84 of Hyaku-gō goto jūkai no kiroku, and advertisement in Kohga Gekkan May 1948, reproduced in Awano, p.5 of Camera Collectors' News no.239. However, the May 1948 date would appear to be incorrect, since the Camera-wiki page for Kohga Gekkan states that the first post-war issue was January 1949.
- The manufacturing company was at Chiyoda-ku Kanda Jinbōchō (千代田区神田神保町) 1–12, and the sales company was at the Jinbōchō crossing. Source: advertisements dated April 1948 to July 1951 reproduced in this page, in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, pp.166–7 and 200, in Hyaku-gō goto jūkai no kiroku, p.84, and in Awano, p.6 of Camera Collectors' News no.239. Note: The two "different" addresses are actual one and the same. The shop entrance was on the front of the building facing the Jinbōchō Crossing, but the "Camera Taiyōdō Building" (as it is still known today) is a four-story facility, with separate entrances to the upper levels where early manufacturing of cameras is believed to have taken place (hence the spread of address numbers from 1 to 12).
- The address was Itabashi-ku Shimura Shimizuchō (板橋区志村清水町) 366. Source: advertisements dated from July 1953 to December 1955 reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, pp.166–9.
- Lewis, p.104. There are Beauty collectors who doubt the accuracy of Lewis's claims, and believe the company reorganised around the name of its core product.
- Compare the advertisements dated April 1957 (Taiyōdō Kōki) and December 1957 (Beauty Camera) reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.269.
- The address was Itabashi Shimura Kiyomizuchō (板橋・志村清水町). Source: advertisement dated December 1957 reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.269.
- The address was Nihonbashi Kayabachō (日本橋茅場町) 1–18. Source: advertisements dated October and December 1958 and February 1959, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.270.
- The address was 日本橋江戸橋 1–15. Source: advertisement dated November 1960 reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.270.
- The address was 日本橋江戸橋 1–15. Source: advertisements dated July 1962 and September 1963, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.270.
- Details can be found on the Omocane World website (written in Japanese).
- Advertisement in Kohga Gekkan May 1948, reproduced in Awano, p.5 of Camera Collectors' News no.239. The date May 1948 appears to be incorrect - see Note 7.
- Advertisement on p.6 of Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin April 20, 1948, reproduced on p.84 of Hyaku-gō goto jūkai no kiroku, and advertisement in Kohga Gekkan May 1948, reproduced in Awano, p.5 of Camera Collectors' News no.239.
- Advertisement on p.6 of Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin April 20, 1948, reproduced on p.84 of Hyaku-gō goto jūkai no kiroku.
- Ars Camera. Advertisements by Taiyōdō in January 1946 (p.11), July 1946 (p.1) and February 1949 (p.2).
- 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.
- Awano Mikio (粟野幹男). "Meteōru, Besutokamu, Epokkusu" (メテオール、ベストカム、エポックス, Meteor, Vestkam, Epochs). In Camera Collectors' News no.239 (May 1997). Nishinomiya: Camera Collectors News-sha. (Shows reproductions of advertisements placed by Taiyōdō.)
- 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).
- Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin (日本写真興業通信). Hyaku-gō goto jūkai no kiroku (百号ごと十回の記録, Ten records, every hundred issues). Tokyo: Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin Sha (日本写真興業通信社), 1967. No ISBN number. Advertisements on p.84, corresponding to p.6 of the April 20, 1948 issue.
- Photo Art Advertisements by Taiyōdō in December 1949 (p.2) and May 1950 (p.2).
- Beauty cameras, instruction manuals in PDF format (English) from OrphanCameras.com website.
- 35mm cameras at Taiyodo Koki & the Beauty Camera Company
- Study on Taiyodo Koki TLR's at Barry Togoods TLR Cameras Website
- the Omocane World website for details of the 50 – 100mm f/3 Zoom-Biokor lens (at the bottom of the page)