The Taroflex is a 6×6 TLR. The focusing is done by moving the front plate back and forth. The film advance is semi-automatic, with a red window under the camera, only used to set the position of the first exposure. The focusing and film advance knobs are on the photographer's right, and there is a round exposure counter window at the top of the right-hand side plate. The focusing knob is surrounded by a depth-of-field plate. The shutter release button is at the bottom of the front, to the photographer's left.
On all the variants, the taking lens is a 7.5cm f/3.5 and has a serial number and the viewing lens is usually a 7.5cm f/3.2 with no serial number.
Advertisements and other documents
The Taroflex was advertised in Japanese magazines from March 1943. The May 1943 advertisement in Hōdō Shashin, placed by the distributors Nihon Shōkai and Honjō Shōkai, gives the officially set price of ¥378. The shutter is mentioned as an NKS (1–200, self-timer), and only the lens aperture is given. Another advertisement dated February 1944 gives the same price and shows the same picture. It boasts the large magnifying lens, which can be opened by one hand, and mentions the lenses as either K.O.L. Taro Anastigmat f/3.5 or Toa Anastigmat f/3.5.
The Taroflex also appears in the April 1943 government inquiry on Japanese camera production. The maker's name is unfortunately missing from the document. The lens is given as a four-element Toa 75/3.5 made by Riken and the shutter as an NKS (B, 1–200, self-timer) made by Nippon Kōsokki.
After the war, an article in Kohga Gekkan June 1947 says that the Taroflex was one of the better Japanese TLR cameras, and that its production would surely restart before the end of the year, but it seems that nothing came out of this.
An article written by Kitano Kunio in Kohga Gekkan June 1949 says that the Taroflex and Minoltaflex were the best two Japanese TLR cameras made during the war, but only a few dozen examples of the Taroflex made it to the market.
Variations and actual examples
The camera pictured in the May 1943 and February 1944 advertisements has a viewing hood inspired from the Ikoflex, with the shape of a truncated pyramid and a logo in the middle reading NKS TARO. There is a large viewing loupe hinged to the front part of the hood. It is not clear if the hood contains a sportsfinder or not. The nameplate has a stepped frame and reads TAROFLEX in capital letters, or perhaps TARO FLEX with a narrow space between the two words. The company name NIPPON KOSOKUKI SEISAKUSHO TOKIO is written under the nameplate in small capital letters. It seems that the serial number is engraved at the bottom, under the moving front standard. Both lens rims are black.
One of the two examples pictured in Sugiyama has Toa Anastigmat lenses and an NKS shutter (B, 1–200, self-timer) inscribed NKS–TOKIO on the speed rim. It is exactly similar to the advertised model, but for its silver lens rims.
One example has been observed with the truncated pyramid hood, stepped nameplate and company name engraving but no serial number at the bottom. It has Toa Anastigmat lenses, with taking lens no.2963 and silver lens rims. The shutter is a Ceres giving B, 1–300 speeds. This shutter is certainly postwar: if this fitting is original, this would mean that the production and sales of the Taroflex continued after 1945.
Two examples of the camera have been observed with a plain flat viewing hood and the stepped nameplate but no company name. Both have the serial number at the bottom and have the same NKS-Tokio shutter as previously described. One has Toa Anastigmat lenses, with silver rims. The other has a taking lens probably called K.O.L. Taro Anastigmat and a viewing lens whose name is unknown.
One example has been observed with a flat nameplate, shaped as on the 1936 Rolleicord models. The name Taroflex is inscribed in fancy script letters, and the company name is engraved below. This example has body no.2627. The shutter is an NKS-Tokio. The taking lens is engraved TOA and RIKEN KOGAKU on a black rim, and has no.2622. The viewing lens has an unknown name ending in "Anastigmat", again on a black rim, and has a serial number (in the same 26xx range), unlike the viewing lenses observed on the other Taroflex.
- Date: advertisements listed in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.337, run from 1943 to 1944.
- Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.337.
- Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.78.
- Advertisement on the second cover of Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin, February 15, 1944, reproduced on p.64 of Hyaku-gō goto jūkai no kiroku.
- "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), item 114, under the name "Taro Ref" (タローレフ).
- Column in Kohga Gekkan June 1947, reproduced in Awano, pp.5–6 of Camera Collectors' News no.254: 国産二眼レフレックスでは、過去の製品中ではタローフレックスが際立って良い製作振りを見せてくれた。このタローフレックスも年内には再び生産開始の運びとなるらしく[...].
- Kitano, p.49 of Kohga Gekkan June 1949: 特に優秀と認められるのはミノルタフレックス、タローフレックスの二種。この中タローフレックスは数十台が市場に流れ出ただけであり完全なロライコード型で、今日でも中古品は珍重されている。
- Example pictured in Sugiyama, item 2030.
- Example pictured in Watakushi no ni-gan-refu kamera-ten, p.25.
- Example pictured in Sugiyama, item 2031.
- Example observed in an online auction.
- Example pictured in Shunkan o torae-tsuzukeru shattā-ten, p.19.
- Kitano Kunio (北野邦雄). "Mittsu no kokusan ōtomāto" (三つの国産オートマート, Three Japanese Automat). In Kohga Gekkan vol.8 no.6, June 1949. Pp.48–53. (Briefly mentions the Taroflex.)
- "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" (国産写真機ノ現状調査, Inquiry into Japanese cameras), listing Japanese camera production as of April 1943. Reproduced in Supuringu kamera de ikou: Zen 69 kishu no shōkai to tsukaikata (スプリングカメラでいこう: 全69機種の紹介と使い方, Let's try spring cameras: Presentation and use of 69 machines). Tokyo: Shashinkogyo Syuppan-sha, 2004. ISBN 4-87956-072-3. Pp.180–7. Item 114.
- 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. Advertisement on p.64, corresponding to the second cover of the February 15, 1944 issue.
- 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. Item 141. (See also the interview of Tanimura Yoshihiko on p.440.)
- Awano Mikio (粟野幹男). "Minorutafurekkusu Ōtomatto Shisakuki" (ミノルタフレックスオートマット試作機, Minoltaflex Automat prototypes). In Camera Collectors' News no.254 (August 1998). Nishinomiya: Camera Collectors News-sha.
- Kamera no mekanizumu sono I: "Hai! Chīzu" Shunkan o torae-tsuzukeru shattā-ten (カメラのメカニズム・そのⅠ・「ハイ！チーズ」瞬間をとらえ続けるシャッター展, Camera mechanism, part 1 "Cheese!" Exhibition of instant taking shutters). Tokyo: JCII Camera Museum, 2002. (Exhibition catalogue, no ISBN number) P.19.
- 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). P.39 (brief mention only).
- 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). P.915.
- 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 2030–1.
- Tanimura Yoshihiko (谷村吉彦). "Senzen umare no maboroshi no kokusan nigan-refu: 6×6-han no Sakurafurekkusu" (戦前生まれの幻の国産二眼レフ6×6判のサクラフレックス, A Japanese phantom TLR born before the war: the 6×6 Sakura-flex). 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.27, December 1993. No ISBN number. Stereo World (ステレオワールド). Pp.122–4. The article has a front view of the Taroflex, showing the logo in the viewing hood.
- 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.25.