Takane

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Takane Optical (高嶺光学株式会社, Takane Kōgaku Kabushiki Kaisha), was from 1953 to 1958 the maker of several folding roll-film cameras, most models of which had an integrated range/viewfinder and unit focusing and were sold as the Mine Six. The final model, the Super 66, is notable as the first Japanese folder to have a coupled exposure meter.

Contents

Early days

The manufacturer that became Takane was started by Mr Izawa (井沢広治)[1] in 1952, in suburban Takasaki (north from Tokyo), and more precisely in the garden of his father, a farmer, at 530 Hamajiri (高崎市浜尻町530). Izawa's factory produced components for other companies, among which was Mihama Seikō (三浜精工; very soon to be Suruga Seiki, 駿河精機), for whose Mihama Six it produced the body.

In 1953, Izawa determined to make his own camera. He obtained a loan from Gunma Daidō Bank,[2] and created a company that he gratefully named Daidō Seikō (大同精工, Daidō precision engineering) and, using bodies first designed for Mihama, produced folding viewfinder cameras, the Daido Six and Daido Semi.

The company would continue to manufacture cameras in the same place until its demise. (Sometimes operating as Takane Shashin Shōkai 高嶺写真商会, its sales arm would later have offices within Kita-ku, Tokyo, first at Ōji 3–6 (a residential house) and later at Higashi Jūjō 5–4.)

A change of company name to Takane Optical (Takane Kōgaku)[3] soon followed. ("Takane" means "lofty peak" — cf "Zenit" and "Olympus". It does not rhyme with "cane" but instead is pronounced as it would be in Italian; in US English, something like "tock" and "connect".)

Takane then brought out a new camera, the Sisley 1 (or Balm Six), which added a (non-coupled) rangefinder to the Daido Six.

The Mine Six

The Sisley was a solid camera, but not a remarkable one. Izawa realized that he needed a better product, which in turn would require specialist knowhow. He employed a new head of production, Machida Nobuyoshi (町田信義), and also had the good fortune to attract the attention of a well-heeled elderly enthusiast, the aristocratic local photographer Sakurai Ihei (桜井伊兵衛), who in turn encouraged Izawa to employ as designer Takamatsu Kingo (高松金吾), who had worked at Konishiroku during the war and was now a teacher of engineering in Takasaki and whose handmade TLR had impressed Sakurai. Takamatsu designed the first Mine Six, whose most obvious innovation was unit focussing (i.e. focussing by movement of the entire lens assembly, and not merely the frontmost element), but which also had an improved shutter and an S-Kominar lens from Nittō Kōgaku, whose president, Kaneko Sadamasa (金子定正), took a great interest in the camera and gave useful advice for collimation and other adjustments.

The next model, the Mine Six IIF, had a coupled rangefinder, but Takane still wanted improvements to keep its product competitive, so an improved version of the IIF was released with a Copal shutter and Asahi Takumar lens.

The next stage was the IIISB (or IIIS), which had two advances. First, "semi-automation": film advance stopped automatically, and thus there was no need for, or provision of, one or more red windows on the back. (The camera could not be used for 6×4.5.) Secondly, a larger finder with a brightline with marks for parallax (although not moving to adjust for parallax). (Oddly, the IIIS(B) seems to have come out slightly before the Takumar-equipped IIF.)

A third claimed advance was a lens that was advertised as by Zunow, famous for its fast lenses for 35mm cameras. While Zunow had no experience of lenses for purposes such as this, one of its new employees was Kunitomo Kenji (国友健司), who had designed the "Ofunar" lens for Ōfuna Kōgaku's Ofunaflex and Ofuna Six cameras, and an arrangement was made among Zunow, Ōfuna and Takane whereby Zunow would use the Ofunar design for the "Zuminor" lens of the Mine Six, and Takane would manufacture a batch of Mine Six IIF bodies for export as Ofuna Six cameras.

The Mine Six IIISB brought complaints from Konishiroku, Mamiya and Aires for infringing patents on rangefinder image, rangefinder linkage, and brightline respectively. (Takamatsu later acknowledged that the brightline came from the Aires 35II, saying that he simply adopted any innovation that he admired and that the matter of patents had not occurred to him.) A deal was struck with Aires whereby Takane would produce the body (but not the finder) of the Aires Viceroy, for export to India.

Takane learned from a local subsidiary of Kuwano Denki (桑野電気), a Tokyo-based electrical company, that Kuwano was producing selenium cells. It dispatched a young designer, Mr Nakazato (中里隆), to Kuwano to work out a way of incorporating a meter within a redesigned Mine Six. It proved impossible to do this together with the machinery of the IIIS(B), and the resulting Mine Six Super 66 therefore dropped semi-automation and returned to red windows.

The end

For a short time things looked good, as Takane was simultaneously selling the IIF, the IIISB and the Super 66, for a healthy demand. But the company suddenly received word that a major wholesaler in Osaka, previously rumored to be in difficulties, was unable to pay its debts. This was a major factor in Izawa's decision to close the company at the end of 1958: another was the company's awareness of the decline in appeal of roll-film folders in favor of 35mm cameras, for which it had prepared no designs.

Takamatsu returned to teaching, Nakazato moved to the nearby company Max (famous for staplers), and it is said that some employees went on to manufacture the Fuji 35. Hagiya Takeshi, author of the study of Takane from which most of the material above is derived, does not say what Izawa and Machida did, but describes them as among his informants in 1993.

Models

All are folding cameras for 120 film.

Notes

  1. In common with the names of some other people mentioned in this article, this has only been seen in Japanese script; while we may make educated guesses at the reading of the personal part of the name we can only be sure of the reading of the surname.
  2. Gunma Daidō Bank (群馬大同銀行), in 1955 renamed Gunma Bank. Source for the loan and gratitude: Hagiya, "Mine Shikkusu", p. 131; although Hagiya talks of Daidō Bank (大同銀行). Clarification of the bank names: Japanese Wikipedia article on Gunma Bank.
  3. In Japanese script, Takane is 高嶺 and the more obvious reading of this is Takamine. The Collector's Guide to Japanese Cameras gives the manufacturer as "Takamine Optical works", as does McKeown's price guide. However, the cameras are clearly inscribed Takane Optical, and the company consistently gave the English/romanized form of its name as Takane.

Sources / further reading

In English:

  • The Collector's Guide to Japanese Cameras. Tokyo: Asahi Sonorama. ISBN 4-257-03187-5. Items 1292, 1352–4, 1419

In Japanese:

  • Hagiya Takeshi (萩谷剛). "Mine Shikkusu: Gunma-ken Takasaki-shi no kameramēkā" (ミネシックス:群馬県高崎市のカメラメーカー, Mine Six: A camera-maker in Takasaki, Gunma). Chapter 7 of Zunō kamera tanjō: Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari (ズノーカメラ誕生:戦後国産カメラ10物語, The birth of the Zunow camera: Ten stories of postwar Japanese camera makers). Tokyo: Asahi Sonorama, 1999. ISBN 4-257-12023-1. This history of Takane is based on Hagiya's interviews with Machida, Izawa, Takamatsu and Nakazato.
  • Hagiya Takeshi (萩谷剛). "Ōfuna Kōgaku no kamera: Kamera kara kōgaku heiki e" (大船光学のカメラ:カメラから光学兵器へ, The cameras of Ōfuna Kōgaku: From cameras to military optics). Chapter 8 of Zunō kamera tanjō: Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari (ズノーカメラ誕生:戦後国産カメラ10物語, The birth of the Zunow camera: Ten stories of postwar Japanese camera makers). Tokyo: Asahi Sonorama, 1999. ISBN 4-257-12023-1.
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