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08-10-2018, 01:16 PM - 7 Likes   #1
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Why do I collect film cameras from Asahi Opt Co?

Hello Forum,
I ask myself this question every now and then, why do I collect these old cameras. A few reasons:

1) The beauty of the design and the physical feeling of holding the camera.
2) Fascination of the quality and the quirkiness of these machines produced by Asahi Opt. Co.
3) The admiration of the innovation behind these early models.
4) The sheer number of variants within the same model range in the early days.

A good example of variants is with the S2 model. Introduced in May 1959 and some variants in production until August 1968, a long-lived model name. According to van Oosten, about 180 000 were made. From various source, I have found that these variants were available:

Common for Model I and II: Shutter speed range: 1sec – 1/500sec B and T, and back door opens by pulling the level on the side of the door down.

Model I:
Manufactured May 1959 – April 1961
Manual reset of exposure counter. Both black and chrome bodies available. There are even some variants on the bottom plate and the recess holding the rewind button.
Names: Asahi Pentax S2, Asahi Pentax H2, Asahiflex H2, Penta Asahiflex H2, Asahi Pentax SB, Honeywell Heiland Pentax H2 and Honeywell Heiland Pentax H2 engraved “Store Demonstrator”.
The Asahi Pentax S2 was for the most parts sold in Japan and Europe, but you will also find Asahi Pentax H2 sold in Europe, a bit odd since the H is associated with the Heiland brand.
The Asahiflex name, as you all know, was the name engraved on the early non-pentaprism SLRs. Due to some disagreements with Pentacon in some markets, the camera S2 was sold as Asahiflex H2 or Penta Asahiflex H2. See the enclosed photos to illustrate the manuals for these cameras.
In Japanese defense stores, the S2 was sold designated as Asahi Pentax SB. If I recall correctly, there are even some models sold in US overseas military stores that made it over to the US with some manual changes to the name, or they were engraved with No-Tax.
For sale in the US, Asahi Opt Co cooperated with Honeywell, thus the cameras for sale there was marked Honeywell Heiland Pentax H2. Around 1000 cameras were engraved “store demonstrators”, for resellers to demonstrate the camera to potential customers. Fun fact, only S2 (H2) and S3 (H3) used the Heiland name, H1, H3v and H1a used just Honeywell Pentax.

Model II:
Manufactured April 1961 – December 1963
Identical to model 1 except for the now automatic reset of the exposure counter and a notch in the speed dial to accommodate the clip-on exposure meter that came to market in 1961, called model I, with the oval dial.

Model IIIa:
Manufactured from July 1962 – August 1968
Not really called model III, but rather S2 Super. This camera was only sold in the Japanese market. Like the S1a/H1a sold in other markets. Shutter speed was now 1/1000 sec. The exposure counter needs manual resetting.
The camera body did not have the word Super engraved, just Asahi Pentax S2. For the Japanese defense, a Asahi Pentax SB2 was available.

Modell IIIb:
Identical to the IIIa model, expect for the now automatic reset of the exposure counter. There is even a variant without the two screws on each side of the viewfinder window.

Rare?
The Asahi Pentax S2 is not rare, but some of the name variants are hard to find, maybe even impossible. I would put them in this order, with the rarest first: Penta Asahiflex H2, Asahi Pentax SB/SB2, Honeywell Heiland Pentax H2 engraved “Store Demonstrator”, Asahiflex H2 and Asahi Pentax S2 Super. The most common are Asahi Pentax S2/H2 and Honeywell Heiland Pentax H2. Black is more rare than chrome, about 10% were made black.

With all of these variants, you never run out of new cameras to add to the collection.

Why do you collect?

Cheers,
Baard-Einar.

PS: the two first photos of the Asahiflex manual is borrowed from eBay.

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Last edited by Baard-Einar; 08-10-2018 at 03:58 PM. Reason: added the PS.
08-10-2018, 01:18 PM - 1 Like   #2
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Why ask why? If it's enjoyable, and within your means, go for it!

I'm starting my own collection of classic film cameras, but going a bit outside the Pentax brand. For example, I just picked up a lovely Yashica Lynx-14 rangefinder ...
08-10-2018, 01:51 PM - 1 Like   #3
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Thanks for sharing this. I never knew the name Asahiflex.

35mm single lense reflex camera? It seems that the special spelling of lens has been around for a long time, not invented by clueless avant garde modern day internet sellers.
08-10-2018, 02:31 PM   #4
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Do you Facebook? There are some great groups that can feed you addiction

Vintage Camera Collectors Public Group | Facebook

08-10-2018, 02:35 PM - 1 Like   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wasp Quote
I never knew the name Asahiflex.
Asahi did not have the rights to the Pentax trademark in South Africa. Pentax was a trademark of Zeiss Ikon (a combination of pentaprism and Contax). The Allies declared all German patents and trademarks void at the end of WWII, but South Africa did not recognize that action. So Pentax remained a German trademark there. And when Asahi released the Asahi Pentax and its successors it remained Asahiflex in South Africa.
08-10-2018, 02:57 PM   #6
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A wonderful addiction to have and nice starting piece to entice others.

The S2/H2 is a great place to start for new comers. It has that diversity needed to create the intrigue with plenty still around to buy and try. Once hooked, you can start looking for the rarer ones. For me, I am half way through those and perhaps will now find it harder following Baard-Einar's post

Once people are done with the S2/H2 line then it is a simply process to slip over into the S/H and S3/H3 lines. Stepping out further, the early three (AP, S and K) and the latter (Spotmatic, SP, SPII, ES, ESII, F). They are all a delight, but admittedly, the S2/H2 line is particularly special.

I will have to check, but I present a small variation in thought regarding the SB2. I believe this is actually an S3 under the hood, but is rightly aggregated with the S2 cohort through naming protocols.
08-10-2018, 03:47 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wild Mark Quote

I will have to check, but I present a small variation in thought regarding the SB2. I believe this is actually an S3 under the hood, but is rightly aggregated with the S2 cohort through naming protocols.
The S1a has the same exposure counter as the S2 Super, but it only, on the dial, goes to 1/500. But rumours is that 1/1000 is there, under the hood and that it can be selected by turning the speed dial one step above 1/500. I don't think that the S3 ever came with the automatic resetting exposure counter?
08-10-2018, 03:48 PM - 5 Likes   #8
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I love it when you find early Pentax's with their packaging intact - they had some fantastic graphic designers back in the day.

This was a Macro-Tak I picked up through local classifieds a little while back.



08-11-2018, 02:11 AM - 2 Likes   #9
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I only have three film era Pentaxes.
An SV because this was the first Pentax I ever handled, it belonged to a friend's father, and it revealed the greater world of photography to me. It only took me 50 years to get one of my own.
An MX bought because it's what I should have bought when I bought an ME
And a Spotmatic given to me by another friend whose father had bought it new.

They all share that special Pentax DNA of handle-ability, precision and quality
08-11-2018, 08:31 AM - 3 Likes   #10
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It is no coincidence that 1957 was a turning point in 35mm camera industry because it was the year that Asahi Pentax released the first SLR that didn't blackout the viewfinder. Prior to this innovation, if you take a shot, the viewfinder would remain dark as the mirror would not go back down until you advance the film. Notice the Exakta camera ad.



With this release, the flood gates were opened and SLR releases quickly began to outnumber those of rangefinders.

The beauty of the design and the physical feeling of holding the original Asahi Pentax in 2018 is just so amazing that I may have taken more pictures of it then I have with it. Here's one taken on medium format 6X7 Fuji 160S - 4000dpi huge file.



I found this listed in non-working condition - honest disclosure at fair price, and totally rejuvenated by Eric's skills.
08-11-2018, 09:38 AM - 1 Like   #11
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I collect them because I love to use them. They are built to last and still hold up in terms of design... they still 'look good' and are an absolute joy to shoot with. That said, my collection (half dozen SP's, one SP1000, one SPII and one H1a) is more accurately described as an 'armory', as they are ready to roll, though I do have just two or so that are in more steady rotation. If there is any one camera in my possession that I would consider 'collectible', it would be the H1a... I bought it because it undoubtedly had an interesting history and still carries proof of provenance. I'll post a photo or two below.
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08-11-2018, 09:45 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by boriscleto Quote
Asahi did not have the rights to the Pentax trademark in South Africa. Pentax was a trademark of Zeiss Ikon (a combination of pentaprism and Contax). The Allies declared all German patents and trademarks void at the end of WWII, but South Africa did not recognize that action. So Pentax remained a German trademark there. And when Asahi released the Asahi Pentax and its successors it remained Asahiflex in South Africa.
That's interesting - never knew that
08-11-2018, 01:43 PM - 1 Like   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Driftwood Quote
If there is any one camera in my possession that I would consider 'collectible', it would be the H1a... I bought it because it undoubtedly had an interesting history and still carries proof of provenance. I'll post a photo or two below.
Very cool! I wonder where the agency was deployed? Find anything about the agency?
08-11-2018, 09:39 PM - 1 Like   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Driftwood Quote
I would consider 'collectible', it would be the H1a... I bought it because it undoubtedly had an interesting history and still carries proof of provenance. I'll post a photo or two below
Nice camera. Doesn't look like it was ever used either - if it were a camera used in a comparable Australian agency it wouldn't look so good
08-12-2018, 04:30 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by LesDMess Quote
It is no coincidence that 1957 was a turning point in 35mm camera industry because it was the year that Asahi Pentax released the first SLR that didn't blackout the viewfinder. Prior to this innovation, if you take a shot, the viewfinder would remain dark as the mirror would not go back down until you advance the film. Notice the Exakta camera ad.
Well, that isn't really true since the Asahiflex Ia also had viewfinder that didn't black out after exposing the picture. The Asahiflex I had the mirror attached to the shutter, pressing down on the shutter, flips the mirror up, releasing the shutter, brings the mirror down, so important to keep the finger on the shutter long enough for the exporsure to complete.

The AP was the first with a pentaprism with an automatic returning mirror some claims, I am not sure that is really true when looking at the Asahiflex 1a.
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