Vesterflex, Topflex and Honestflex
The camera is shaped as a TLR and is made of bakelite, with a metal back. It has a simple viewing hood, with no protection against back light. The film is advanced by a knob on the photographer's right. The L-shaped back is removable for film loading, and contains an uncovered red window. There is a hinged spool holder for the bottom film spool, eliminating the need for an external flange.
|Hinged spool holder, from Asahi Camera January 1954. (Image rights)|
The Vesterflex has strap lugs and a Vesterflex nameplate. The taking lens is marked H.C. VESTER and the viewing lens has G.R.C. VESTER VIEW LENS. There is a B and I speed selector (for Bulb and Instant), and the aperture selector also has two positions: 8 and 11. The shutter plate is inscribed G.R.C. between the two lenses and GINREI OPTICAL CO. under the taking lens.
The Vesterflex was featured and advertised in the October 1953 issue of Ars Camera. The advertisement was placed by the distributor Tachibana Shōkai. It lists the camera for ¥3,000 (case extra ¥750), over-enthusiastically saying that the Vesterflex was "the biggest conversation topic of the postwar years" (戦後最大の話題). The camera was also featured as a new product in the January 1954 issue of Asahi Camera, reproduced below. The column inaccurately says that the Vesterflex was the first camera made by Ginrei. The camera was harshly criticized, for the fragile lightweight bakelite body, the single 1/25 shutter speed, the bad image quality at the corners, the dim viewfinder image or the absence of a red window cover. Even the novel film loading system was said to be inconvenient to use. All these comments certainly did little to improve the credibility of the camera among serious photographers.
|Vesterflex in Asahi Camera January 1954. (Image rights)|
One modern source mentions a "Vestaflex II" released in 1954, this might be a typo for a "Vesterflex II", about which nothing else is known.
The Topflex is similar to the Vesterflex but for the absence of strap lugs, the TOPFLEX nameplate, the TOP CAMERA Co. marking below the taking lens and the lens engravings: the lenses are engraved Kafu Seiko Co. Torhi Coated, with a serial number, which is perhaps a fake (see below). The camera is thus attributed to Top Camera Co., but it was probably made by Ginrei as well.
The Honestflex is similar to the Vesterflex and Topflex, except for the HONESTFLEX nameplate. The camera has no strap lugs. There is a film flange on the advance side, at the bottom, perhaps indicating that the film loading system was altered. Another film flange is visible on the other side, for the top spool. There is an aperture scale under the taking lens, going from 3.5 to 22, but the lens seems to have the same f/8 maximal aperture as the Vesterflex, and this scale is just a fake. There is also a scale of shutter speeds, with B, 25, 50, 100 positions, but this might be a fake too. The two lenses have the same markings: Kafu Seiko Co. Torhi Coated 80mm N°872728, with an identical serial number repeated on all the lenses. These markings are certainly the same as on the Topflex, and this is probably why the camera is attributed to Kafu Seiko Co. by Sugiyama; however this company name was perhaps just another fake.
- Column in Asahi Camera January 1954, p.215.
- The marking is visible on the picture in Takasaki, p.72 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.49.
- Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.363.
- Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.138.
- Lewis, p.88.
- Attribution to "Top Camera Co.": Sugiyama, item 4182.
- The marking is visible on the picture in Takasaki, p.67 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.49.
- Sugiyama, item 4150.
- Asahi Camera January 1954. "Shinseihin memo" (新製品, New products memo). Pp.214–5.
- 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 801. (See also the advertisement for item 521.)
- 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.82 and 88.
- 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 4150 and 4182–3.
- Takasaki Akio (高崎晶夫). "Kokusan 6×6cm-han nigan-refu A to Z" (国産6×6cm判二眼レフA to Z, Japanese 6×6cm TLR A to Z). 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.49, December 1998. ISBN 4-257-13022-9. Amerika-sei 35mm renzu-shattā kamera (アメリカ製35mmレンズシャッターカメラ, issue about American 35mm lens-shutter cameras). Pp.64–73.