First a Baldax copy
The original Zeitax is a copy of the large Baldax model. The body is identical to the New Semi Condor, also made by Motodori. It has a body release on the left of the viewfinder, as seen by the photographer holding the camera horizontally. The back is hinged to the left and contains a single red window at the bottom left, protected by a vertically sliding cover. There is an exposure table on the back, written in Japanese. The name ZEITAX is embossed in the front leather in uppercase letters.
The official list of set prices compiled in October 1940 and published in January 1941 mentions a Semi Zeitax for ¥74, with no further detail. The camera is called Zeitax I in an advertisement dated March 1941, inserted by the distributor Matsuzaki Shashinki-ten. In the document, it is offered for ¥73 with a Zeitax Anastigmat 7.5cm f/4.5 lens and a Zeitax C shutter (T, B, 5–200).The description curiously says that the camera takes 17 exposures on 120 film (see an explanation given in an advertisement for the Condor folders that probably applies here as well). The pictured camera has lens no.10001 and is certainly the first built. It has an accessory shoe to the right of the viewfinder, a feature which has not yet been observed on actual examples.
According to a later document, the Zeitax f/4.5 lens has three elements and was made by Yachiyo. The Zeitax shutter was perhaps made by Earth or by Mars; it looks too small for the body, designed for #0 size shutters.
The model with tubular finder has been observed with no accessory shoe and an unmarked shutter (T, B, 5–200), certainly corresponding to the Zeitax C. One example is known with a Shinko shutter (T, B, 5–200) made by Shinkō Seiki. The shutter plate is inscribed SHINKO at the top and SHINKO SEIKI in small letters at the bottom.
|Zeitax, folding finder, Zeitax Anastigmat 7.5cm f/3.5 lens no.13646, Koho shutter (1–200, B, T).|
Pictures courtesy of Dan Orton. (Image rights)
|Zeitax f/3.5 lens and Koho shutter. (Image rights)|
The presumably late version has a folding optical finder. Only the marking and lens name can distinguish it from the New Semi Condor.
The official price list dated November 1941 has a plain Semi Zeitax and a Semi Zeitax I, II and III, all attributed to Motodori Kōgaku, with no further detail. These presumably correspond to different versions of the Baldax copy.
An advertisement by the distributor Sanwa Shōkai dated March 1942 offers a Semi Zeitax together with the New Semi Condor. The Semi Zeitax is listed with an f/4.5 lens and a Rulex B shutter (T, B, 5–200) by Neumann & Heilemann, for ¥84, but no picture is provided.
Various examples are known with a folding finder, a Zeitax Anastigmat 7.5cm f/3.5 three-element lens made by Yachiyo, and a Koho shutter (1–200, B, T, self-timer) made by Takachiho. The variant of the Koho is adapted for a body release and is the same as on the Olympus Six (unlike the Koho shutter observed on a New Semi Condor). The front plate is similar to that of the Semi Olympus II: it has the words OLYMPUS–TOKYO–N at the top and a blank portion at the bottom, normally meant for an aperture scale but left unused. The infinity stop is offset on one side, and partly overlaps the metal stripes placed on either side of the lens. The aperture scale is at the top and has a duplicate copy of the speed scale, visible from the above; it is the same as on the Olympus Six.
|Zeitax, dual finder, Zeitax Anastigmat 7.5cm f/3.5 lens no.12860, Koho shutter (1–200, B, T).|
Picture by Henk. (Image rights)
Various examples of the Zeitax are known with a dual finder unit, grouping an eye-level and a waist-level finder under a small L-shaped casing. Except for the ZEITAX logo engraved at the top, this part looks identical to the finder unit of the late BB Semi First, BB Semi Rotte and BB Baby Semi First by Kuribayashi.
Some of the cameras, such as that pictured above, have the same Koho and Zeitax f/3.5 equipment as described for the version with folding finder. Another has a Zeitax Anastigmat f/3.5 lens and a different shutter, inscribed KOKUSAKU at the bottom of the shutter plate, surely made by Kokusaku Seikō. Yet another is known with the same lens and a Mizuho shutter (T, B, 1–300), certainly the same as on the Mizuho folder by Kuribayashi.
Then a Nettar copy
The Zeitax II and III have a completely different body, copied on the Nettar, with straight diagonal struts. The position of the controls is about the same, with the body release on the left of the viewfinder, the folding bed release on the right and an advance key at the bottom right. The back is hinged to the left, and contains a single red window at the bottom left, protected by a horizontally sliding cover. The name Zeitax is embossed in the front leather in lowercase letters.
The Nettar copy was advertised from September 1942 to early 1944. An advertisement dated September 1942 lists a Zeitax II with f/4.5 lens at ¥132 and a Zeitax III with f/3.5 lens at ¥150. The picture shows the model III, with a dual finder similar to that described above for the Baldax copy. The text mentions a four-element Rifax Anastigmat lens, a Convex-Rapid shutter (T, B, 1–300), a body release and both eye-level and waist-level finders. It is not entirely clear if the description applies to both models or only to the Zeitax III.
No other document is known to mention the Zeitax II. An advertisement dated February 1943 lists the Zeitax III alone, at an unchanged price. The description and picture are the same too. The January 1944 advertisement reproduced below is similar, except for the price raised to ¥169.
|Advertisement in Shashin Kagaku January 1944. (Image rights)|
The government inquiry compiled in April 1943 mentions three versions of the Zeitax; it is not known if they correspond to the Baldax copy or to the Nettar copy. One has the Zeitax shutter (T, B, 5–200) and the Zeitax f/4.5 lens, another has the Koho shutter and Zeitax f/3.5 lens, the third has a Patent Mars shutter (T, B, 1–250) and a Rifax f/3.5 lens. The Patent Mars was made by Mars; the Rifax is attributed to Motodori and said to have three elements, but this is contradictory with the advertisements boasting a four-element lens.
Only two actual examples of the Nettar copy have been observed so far, both with a folding optical finder. The camera pictured in Sugiyama has a Zeitax Anastigmat 7.5cm f/3.5 lens and a Shinko shutter (T, B, 1–300) made by Shinkō Seiki. The shutter is engraved YNK on the speed rim; its front plate is inscribed SHINKO at the top, SHINKO SEIKI at the bottom and has a logo on the right. The other camera has the same lens and a Convex shutter (B, 1–300), engraved CONVEX on the rim.
- Zeitax is written ザイタックス (zaitakkusu) and pronounced "zaitax" (zai as in "xylophone", not "tsai"). The first part is certainly modeled after "Zeiss", while the "-ax" final is common (Contax, Baldax, etc.). Maybe the name is also reminiscent of the German word Zeit (time).
- The attribution to Motoshima Optical Works in Sugiyama, item 1268, and in McKeown, p.701, certainly originates from a confusion between 本鳥 (Motodori) and 本島 (Motoshima or Motojima), during the translation process. The name "Zeitax Camera Works" (ザイタックスカメラワークス) reported in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.337, and in this page at Japan Family Camera (archived), is certainly a dummy name used for advertising purpose only (see Camera Works).
- McKeown, p.701, says that it is the early version dated 1939, but the date is too early.
- "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku", type 3, section 4A.
- Advertisement in Shashin Bunka, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.73.
- "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), lens item Lc8.
- "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), shutter item 18-U-3. The available reproduction of the document says アース (Earth), but it could be a typo for マース (Mars).
- Examples pictured in McKeown, p.701 (lens no.16091, reported as f/3.5 by mistake), in this page at Japan Family Camera (archived) (lens no.10731), and examples observed in online auctions (including lens no.11013).
- Example pictured in this page at Japan Family Camera (archived) (lens no.12068). The "Chiuko" shutter name reported in this page is a misreading of the actual marking.
- "Kamera no kōtei kakaku kanpō happyō", November 1941, type 3, sections 4A, 6B, 7B.
- Advertisement in Hōdō Shashin, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.73.
- Zeitax f/3.5 lens made by Yachiyo: "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), lens item Lb2.
- Examples pictured at Chromesix   and  (lens no.12973, finder not original).
- Examples pictured in this article (lens no.12860) and observed in an online auction (lens no.13297).
- Example pictured in Tanaka, p.79 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.8 (lens no.13064).
- Example pictured in Fujishima, p.23 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.8 (lens no.13928).
- Online sale of Zeitax dual windows model confirmed by Don@Eastwestphoto on 3-12-2014 with Rifax Anastigmat 7.5cm F:3.5 four element lens and RARE Mars Patent Shutter. This is a correct configuration for the 1943 version of the Zeitax camera.
- Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.337.
- Advertisement in Asahi Graph, 23 September 1942, formerly reproduced at Gochamaze (archived).
- The Roman spelling "Rifax" is inferred from the katakana リフアツクス, found in later documents. The document has the katakana spelling リアックス instead, certainly a misprint.
- The shutter name is written コンベックス・ラピツド in the September 1942 advertisement and コンベツクス・デピット in the February 1943 advertisement. The latter is certainly a misprint, and the Roman spelling CONVEX-RAPID is legible on the picture.
- Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.337, does not mention the Zeitax II at all.
- "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), items 37–9.
- "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), lens items Lb2, Lb24 and Lc8, shutter items 18-U-3, 18-U-12 and 24-P-4.
- Example pictured in Sugiyama, item 1268 (lens no.x3485). The camera is called "Zeitax I" by mistake.
- Example observed in an online auction (lens no.42580).
- 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. Items 117–9.
- Fujishima Kōichi (藤島広一). "Shattā ni yoru nendai shibetsu" (シャッターによる年代識別, Dating a camera from its shutter). 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.8, September 1986. No ISBN number. Supuringu kamera (スプリングカメラ, special issue on spring cameras). Pp.21–4.
- "Kamera no kōtei kakaku kanpō happyō" (カメラの公定価格官報発表, Official announcement of the set prices of the cameras), November 1941. Extract of a table listing Japanese camera production and setting the retail prices, reproduced in "Bebī Semi Fāsuto 'Kore ha bebī wo nanotta semi-ki da'" (ベビーセミファースト"これはベビーを名乗ったセミ機だ", Baby Semi First, 'this is a Semi camera called Baby'), an article by Furukawa Yasuo (古川保男) in Camera Collectors' News no. 277 (July 2000). Nishinomiya: Camera Collectors News-sha. P. 27. Type 3, sections 4A, 6B, 7B.
- "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. Items 37–9.
- "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku" (国産写真機の公定価格, Set prices of the Japanese cameras), listing Japanese camera production as of October 25, 1940 and setting the retail prices from December 10, 1940. Published in Asahi Camera January 1941 and reproduced in 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. Pp.108—9. Type 3, section 4A.
- 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.701.
- 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 1268.
- Tanaka Masao (田中政雄). "Sonota no nihon no supuringu-kamera" (その他の日本のスプリングカメラ, "Other Japanese folding cameras"). 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.8, September 1986. No ISBN number. Supuringu kamera (スプリングカメラ, special issue on spring cameras). Pp.76–80.
- Pictures of a Zeitax with Koho shutter    at Chromesix (the camera is mistakenly presented as a "Tynax")