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02-19-2017, 07:27 AM - 6 Likes   #1
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Asahiflex - Collecting a gem

Dear Forum Members,

This past year, the early cameras produced by Asahi Optical Company has caught my attention and admiration. Therefore, I really do hope that we can start this thread to gather information about these early cameras. I hope we can show off both the gears collected, information that this huge forum has collected thru out the years, and also to show photographs taken with these gems.

The following text is based on the text by D.C. Shepard and on my own collection.

Saburo Matsumoto had a dream back in 1932 to develop Asahi Opt Co to deliver more than “just” high quality optical systems. Mr. Matsumoto looked toward Europa and companies like Leica for what they were up to. Nikon and Canon were already developing range finder cameras. In 1935, Mr. Matsumoto acquired for his personal use a Dresden made camera, the Reflex-Korell equipped with a 7,5cm f2.8 lens.

The Second World War put a pause on his dreams, but after the war, using the pre-war established factory to the north west of Tokyo, the work with a prototype started up in 1949. Already in 1951 a fully functioning prototype was finished, and they went to market in 1952 with the first Asahiflex.

The camera marked the start of a long era of producing cameras with a small footprint, new and ground breaking features. It had a waist level finder, a Galileo finder for “action” shots, semi-automatic mirror and one single X-connector for flash. It was equipped with Asahi-Kogaku 50mm f3.5 Tessar design lens. The same lens design was also found on the Leica Elmar lenses. The lens mount was the really unusual m37x1. From what I know, the camera was only sold on the Japanese market in the period May 1952 until October 1953.

All of the models were marked Asahiflex without any model designation. But they are known as the Asahiflex I, IA, IIB and IIA. In the American market, the Sears department store sold them under the name as Tower with model designations Tower 22, 23 and 24.

Collecting them is fun. There are some variants out there, so there is never a reason not to buy another Asahiflex body; The rotation and placement of the neck strap lugs, the colors on the various dials, the marking on the dials, cross-hairs on the focusing screens, and even some discussions if a m42x1 version was made in the factory or if it was made afterwards.

Lenses that were available was the mentioned 50mm. This tiny lens had 12-blades aperture and came in 3 different versions as well as feet or meters on the scale. Then a bit later, the 58mm f2.4 was made available. The aperture was really round with 13 blades. Its Hellar-design was unique; it was the fastest lens with this design. Then there was the 83mm f1.9 in a modified Sonnar-design, 100mm f3.5 in a simple triplet design and a really well made 135mm f3.5 round off with a 500mm f5.

My collection is growing but a 83mm and the 135mm would be really nice to add to the collection. And of course the Asahiflex I would also be fun to have. Eric still services these cameras; he even makes new shutter curtains.

Below are three of the cameras in my collection. Behind Aashiflex IA with 100mm f3.5 and the original lens hood, on the left Asahiflex IIB version I with 58mm f2.4 and Asahiflex IIB version II. The second and third photo show closeups of the Asahiflex IIB version I. Both the IA and version I of IIB have been serviced by Eric.

So please share photos of your collection, your stories and also some photos taken with either the cameras or some of these great lenses.

---------- Post added 02-19-2017 at 03:39 PM ----------

Here are some older threads that might be of interest:

The 500/5 takumar - PentaxForums.com
Asahiflex unusual model - PentaxForums.com

Asahiflex and its viewfinder - PentaxForums.com

Lens hood Asahi Kogaku - PentaxForums.com

Asahiflex M42 - how rare? - PentaxForums.com

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02-19-2017, 10:16 AM - 1 Like   #2
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Thanks for the interesting background story. All I have is a IIB and I've never run film through it. I'm concerned that the shutter might turn to dust should I attempt to use it!

You may want to take a look at this thread on a similar topic. However, there are not many, if any, photographs posted taken with these old cameras.

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02-19-2017, 10:33 AM - 1 Like   #3
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I believe I have all the standard versions plus the tower versions and some variants.
As for the lenses I am missing the 83, the second version of the 50 3.5 and the 500. I have also noticed a lot of variation when it comes to the scales and the engravings (meters, feet, numbers, etc)
I will upload a picture when I have a chance
02-19-2017, 11:45 AM - 3 Likes   #4
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This is an old picture. I think I have another 2 or 3 extra bodies that are a bit different.
Notice the different letter fonts for some of the tower versions. Also the different flash exits (F FP X) and the leather covered circles (instead of real dials in the front)

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02-19-2017, 05:48 PM - 1 Like   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Baard-Einar Quote
So please share photos of your collection, your stories and also some photos taken with either the cameras or some of these great lenses.
Your collection is something to admire, and something I don't yet have. My earliest Pentaxs are the K, H2, S3 and S1, so sorry, no photos.
02-21-2017, 07:59 AM - 1 Like   #6
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Here are some close-ups of Asahiflex IA. The second version of the Asahiflex. Note the arrows on the top plate, and the embossed Asahi Opt Co in the leatherette on the rear door and focusing screen with engraved cross hairs.

The text in the review section here in the Pentaxforums, state that the viewfinder blacks out until you wind up the shutter. That is not correct, the mirror is semi-automatic, it returns when you release the shutter button.
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03-14-2017, 06:50 AM - 2 Likes   #7
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I have these past weeks been in dialog with Fred Sherfy. Fred used to collect and use Asahiflex cameras and he even wrote a book that is a guide to all who collect Asahiflex cameras: Asahiflex and the pre-1959 Asahi Pentax cameras : a guide to identification and collection.

I asked Fred about some more details around the gear and add-ons found for the camera, specifially the fact that I've never seen a a lens hood for the 50mm f3,5 Asahi-Kogaku Takumar lens. Here is what Fred replied:
(Fred has approved that I share this with the Forum).

"I never did see a lens hood for the 50mm. It is a great question - As there were many of the 50 f/3.5 out there, you would think that the lens hood would pop up occasionally if there ever was one. Wonder why they didn't? Seems like that would have been an easy sell. My impression of the Asahiflex is it was like an experiment that actually worked and then they were haphazard about what to do next - lenses? Accessories? etc. Then along came the pentaprism and that was all in the past. When they first started to sell the camera, they worked with a guy in NY - George Gilbert. They flew over, went to the NY trade show and it was almost like they were figuring it out as the went. Then, once the penta prism came along and they got to the model S2, then Heiland/Honeywell became the road. Such an interesting start. I spent years shooting the early models for fun. "
03-14-2017, 12:10 PM   #8
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Thanks for sharing! Do you happen to have a copy of the book or do you know if there are any available?

03-14-2017, 12:14 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by sergysergy Quote
Thanks for sharing! Do you happen to have a copy of the book or do you know if there are any available?
Hello
I don't have a copy, and I asked Fred if he considered to publish more copies of it. Fred said that he might reissue it electronically at some time. I did see a copy on Amazon earlier today.
03-14-2017, 12:20 PM   #10
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Thanks again!
03-14-2017, 12:50 PM   #11
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Yikes!! That's the same price as a nice lens.

Last edited by monochrome; 03-20-2017 at 04:25 AM.
03-14-2017, 12:55 PM - 1 Like   #12
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Nice post.

I'm looking for an AP User Guide (I have the PDF)
03-14-2017, 04:06 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Baard-Einar Quote
Fred Sherfy
Thanks for the update.

Good to hear that Fred is doing well, I haven't heard his name mentioned in years, bought a mint black Pentax KX from him back in 2009.

Phil.
03-19-2017, 09:02 AM   #14
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Hi all,

I have come across a real nice ad for the Ashiflex IA. It shows all the accessories available at that time.

Does anyone have any ads laying around that they want to share? Or sell? :-)

---------- Post added 03-19-2017 at 05:03 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by monochrome Quote
Nice post.

I'm looking for an AP User Guide (I have the PDF)
I have a copy in not the best shape. Would love to have one for the AP and for the S as well as user guides for the Asahiflex.
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03-19-2017, 09:34 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Baard-Einar Quote
I have a copy in not the best shape. Would love to have one for the AP and for the S as well as user guides for the Asahiflex.
I PM'ed you a link for the S manual.

Last edited by monochrome; 03-19-2017 at 10:03 AM.
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