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Arco 35

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Japanese 35mm folding cameras (edit)
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The Arco 35 (アルコ35) is a series of Japanese 35mm folders with a coupled rangefinder, made by Arco from 1952 to 1957. There were two successive generations: the first one consists of the Arco 35 and Arco 35 Junior, made until 1956 and treated in this page; the second generation is the Arco 35 Automat with lever advance and bright-frame finder, dealt with in a separate article.

Description Edit

The Arco 35 is a horizontal folder, unlike most other 35mm folding cameras. The first generation of Arco 35 has a prismatic body with sharp edges. The lens and shutter assembly is mounted on a square plate, moved back and forth for focusing and driven by a knob at the top left, as seen by the photographer, an ergonomics similar to that of the 1951 Vito III. The focusing system is peculiar to the Arco 35: the front standard is mounted on a pair of scissor struts, itself attached to a metal frame sliding inside and out of the camera body and driven by a set of four rack-and-pinion devices.[1] Focusing the camera does not involve moving the scissor struts or further dropping the folding bed, unlike the Certo Dollina.[2] The close focusing distance of 35cm was quite an achievement for a leaf-shuttered camera. The focus knob is concentric to the rewind knob, which has an R in an arrow to indicate the turning direction. Only the top part of the rewind knob rotates; the intermediate section is fixed and has depth-of-field indications engraved on the rear.

The viewfinder and coupled rangefinder are contained in a casing placed in the middle of the top plate, above the folding bed and front standard. They are built as a functional unit, removable as a whole when the camera is dismantled, as opposed to bits and pieces directly attached to the top plate.[3] They share a common eyepiece on the right, and have two rectangular windows at the front: a large one on the right for the viewfinder and a smaller one on the left for the rangefinder's second image. The rangefinder is coupled all the way down to the minimal distance (35cm); this feature was unusual and often boasted in the advertisements.[4] The casing has an accessory shoe at the top and is engraved Arco 35 (on the original model) or Arco 35 J (on the Junior). The camera also has the serial number or a registered design number inscribed in small characters above the eyepiece, depending on the particular example (see the evolution below).

The film is advanced by a knob at the top right, surrounded by an exposure counter graduated from 0 to 39 and containing a film reminder.[5] The Arco 35 models have double exposure prevention, as most 35mm cameras. The sprocket shaft is free and the film is wound by the axis of the advance knob itself.[6] Next to the advance knob are the release button and the rewind unlock slider with A–R indications. The back is removable to load the film, and is locked in place by a latch on the left. There is a ¼" tripod thread at the bottom right (on the side of the advance knob). The original Arco 35 has strap lugs on both sides of the body, absent on the Junior.

The folding bed is opened by a button at the top, and it is closed by pushing two small levers, on either side of the lens standard. There is an Arco logo embossed in the leatherette of the folding bed. The lens standard has a threaded hole at the top, used to couple the View-Arco device (see below).

The shutter is a Seikosha-Rapid (B, 1–500, self-timer), cocked by a lever on the shutter housing itself. It was replaced by a Seikosha-MX on the last examples of the Arco 35 Junior. The lens is a five-element Colinar 5cm f/2.8 on the original Arco 35 and a four-element Colinar 5cm f/3.5 on the Junior.[7] The aperture is set by a thin dented ring, driving an index on a scale placed above the shutter.

Origin of the camera Edit

The Arco 35 was designed from autumn 1951 by a team led by Abe Masao, under the supervision of Katō Shigeru, founder and president of the Arco company.[8] It is said that the choice of a bellows camera was made to allow close focusing down to 35cm.[8] (The company had previously developed the Apro close-up attachment, of an elaborate design.) The Colinar five-element lens was designed by Hashida Kōji (橋田幸治).[9]

The first prototypes were completed in autumn 1952. The camera was first announced in Japanese magazines dated October and November 1952, and it is said that the mass production began in November.[10] The first series examples did not focus correctly through the full distance range, and this delayed their delivery. This was because a complex rangefinder-coupling cam specially calculated by Abe Masao was cut in the wrong direction.[11]

The earliest advertisements were published in December 1952, the one in Asahi Camera perhaps shows a prototype with a serial number ending in 001.[12] Its features are typical of the earliest examples, with the old type of film reminder, bed opening button and back latch. The lens engraving reads HC for Hard Coated instead of the red C. of the regular examples, the focus knob is perhaps graduated in metres and the lens number is perhaps 120002 or 130002. The price was not given in this early advertisement, it was later set at ¥27,700.[13] The original model is called "Arco 35 I" only in retrospect: it was advertised as Arco 35 or Arco 35 (f/2.8) after the release of the Junior. The internal product code was S-135-A.[14]

Evolution of the Arco 35 (I) Edit

An extremely early example is presented in Hagiya as a preseries model; it has a surrounding cup for the shutter release and the focus knob graduated in metres, all the remaining features being similar to the early Arco 35 described below.[15] On all the later examples until the Junior, the focus knob is graduated in feet and inches: from ∞ to 3ft then from 32in to 14in. The inch graduations are either red or black, the numbers in feet are always black.

The early Arco 35 have an ASA synch bayonet and a small button sliding back and forth to open the folding bed.[16] The advance knob has an A in an arrow to indicate the winding direction and a film reminder disc rotating underneath, visible under two windows. The body serial number is engraved on the top casing above the finder eyepiece.

The first examples have a round button in the middle of the back latch, probably used to open the back; this button soon disappeared and the regular examples have a long sliding bar instead.[17]

From some point, the accessory shoe received the engraving Reg. 103138, certainly the reference of a registered design; this was absent on the presumed prototype of the December 1952 advertisement.[18]

The intermediate Arco 35 have a modified film reminder: the enclosed disc was replaced by an external disc with EMPTY, ORTHO, PAN, H.S.PAN, COLOR and INFRARED indications.[19]

The late Arco 35 have a PC synch post and a larger opening button sliding to the side.[20] It is said that the PC synch post appeared in the advertisements in May 1954.[21] The serial number disappeared from the top casing and was transferred to the film gate, above the exposure chamber. At its former place, we find the Reg. 103138 indication moved from the accessory shoe, often mistaken for the serial number by current owners. At least one example is known with an EP diamond mark in the accessory shoe.[22] Another example of the late Arco 35 has been observed with more patent numbers: Pat. 405529, Pat. 202086 and the usual Reg. 103138. These patent numbers appear on advertisements for the later Arco 35 Automat and probably do not apply to the original model.[23] The mention of these patents was certainly short-lived, and the Arco 35 Junior do not have them.

The Arco 35 Junior Edit

The Arco 35 Junior (or "Arco 35J") was announced in the September 1955 issue of various Japanese magazines.[24] A list owned by the former chief designer Abe Masao says that the Junior (product code S-135-B) was designed in April and the production began in June.[25]

The distinguishing features of the Junior are the following:

  • the four-element Colinar f/3.5 lens, numbered in the same sequence as the previous f/2.8;[26]
  • the J engraving on the top cover;
  • the black finish and white engravings of the focus knob, top and rear of the rewind knob, exposure counter and film reminder (only the R in an arrow of the rewind knob is sometimes found in red);[27]
  • the black trimming of the folding bed and of the vertical edges along the bed's cutout;
  • the absence of strap lugs.

As said above, all the examples of the Junior known so far have no other patent number than Reg. 103138 on the top plate. At least one example is known with four patent numbers inscribed in yellow inside the back, on the advance side: 1953 – PAT No.202086, 1953 – PAT No.405529, 1954 – PAT No.411362 and 1954 – PAT No.209601.[28]

The Junior was first offered alongside the original Arco 35, and the sales of the two models overlapped until December 1955.[29] Advertisements in the September 1955 issue of Asahi Camera and in the October 1955 special issue of Photo Art[30] list the Junior for ¥19,000, including the parallax-correcting finder and the case (see the accessories below), along with the Arco 35 f/2.8 for ¥27,700. In both advertisements, the picture shows an Arco 35 Junior with the old type of auxiliary parallax-correcting finder. The focus knob has the same knurled border as on the original model, and it seems that the distance scale is engraved in metres; it is thus supposed that the finder is in metres too. At least one example of the Junior is known with the early focus knob, but it is not known if it is engraved in feet or metres.[31]

After the introduction of the Arco 35 Automat in January 1956, the Junior was still offered as a cheaper alternative. The focus knob was changed for a newer type with fine knurls probably around this time.[32] The Seikosha-Rapid shutter was replaced after some time by a Seikosha-MX, the same as on the Automat.[33] The Junior was advertised until November 1956,[34] and the August 1956 advertisement in Asahi Camera gives the price of ¥20,500.[35]

Accessories Edit

Parallax-correcting finder Edit

All the Arco 35 and Arco 35 Junior were sold in a case together with an external viewfinder. This viewfinder has a black cylindrical barrel and chrome fittings. It is attached into the accessory shoe and provides manual parallax correction, by a way of a knob surrounding the eyepiece. The Arco logo is engraved on the top, together with 5cm and the serial number. One of these finders is pictured in Hagiya with no.120001; it is graduated in metres and might be the very first prototype.[36] The regular examples have four or five-digit numbers. Some are graduated in feet and inches, and others are in metres, certainly to go with the Arco 35 Junior.[37] At a later time, the Junior were certainly supplied with the newer type of viewfinder developed for the Arco 35 Automat, known to exist in feet or in metres.

View-Arco Edit

Another viewing accessory was developed for the Arco 35, called View-Arco (product code AC-8)[38] and effectively converting the camera into a 35mm TLR. It consists of a mirror box, complete with viewing lens and hood. The device is attached onto the accessory shoe and is coupled to the focusing distance by way of a screw fitting into the hole at the top of the lens standard. The viewing lens, hood and ground-glass automatically tilt down to compensate for parallax. On the early View-Arco, contemporary to the first generation Arco 35, there is a VIEW–ARCO nameplate at the front of the hood, and the viewing lens is a View-Colinar 5cm f/2.8 with a black rim, a lens number[39] and a built-in diaphragm, which can be set from f/2.8 to f/22 for depth-of-field preview. The late version, at the time of the Arco 35 Automat, has an Arco View Lens 5cm f/2.4 with a silver rim, no lens number and perhaps no diaphragm. Some examples have the same VIEW–ARCO nameplate as on the early version, but others have ARCO–VIEW.[40] All the View-Arco, early or late, can be mounted directly on the original Arco 35 and via an adaptor on the Automat.

There were some precedents to the View-Arco, namely the reflex finder made by De Mornay Budd for Leica cameras or the Megoflex device made by Meyer for the Leica, Contax, Peggy or Pupille. Various former officers of the Arco company were asked by Hagiya if they were aware of these older designs when they made the View-Arco, and their answer was no.[41] This is plausible given that they were made in the 1930s in small quantities, probably never reached Japan and had long disappeared from the market at the time of the Arco.

The Arco 35 was certainly designed from the start with such an accessory in mind, hence the coupling hole, present from the very first examples. It is however said that the View-Arco was only available from 1954 or 1955.[42]

Other Edit

The Arco 35 also has a dedicated lens hood including a swivelling filter holder (product code AC-6, made from May 1953), and film cassettes were also sold for the camera (code AC-11, made from January 1955).[43]

One example of the Arco 35 was sold at auction with a View-Arco and some sort of shoe attached to the tripod thread and covering the whole bottom plate.[44] The only possible purpose is to allow the camera to stand upright on a flat surface instead of lying back. The commercial name of this accessory is unknown.

The September 1955 advertisement in Asahi Camera[45] has the following price list, giving a sample of the Arco accessories:

  • Arco 35 Junior (parallax correcting finder and case included): ¥19,000;
  • Arco 35 (f/2.8, same accessories included): ¥27,700;
  • View Arco (case included): ¥6,800;
  • Arco LF4 tripod: ¥5,500;
  • Apro special close-up attachment: ¥2,500;
  • Hood for Arco 35 (case included): ¥880;
  • Magazine for Arco 35 (case included): ¥580.

Production estimate Edit

The body number sequence certainly started at 120000: the preseries example mentioned above has body no.120189. The Colinar f/2.8 and the Colinar f/3.5 of the Junior have a common sequence, certainly starting at 130000: the same preseries example has lens no.130061. Except on this particular camera, the body and lens numbers are normally pretty close, offset by only a few thousand.[46] A warranty card was observed for body no.131432 and lens no.132065,[47] perhaps indicating that the body number sequence jumped at 130000 after the preseries examples.

The highest lens number observed is 158269, accounting for about 30,000 lenses.[48] From this total we should remove a few Colinar f/2.8 lenses mounted on the Arco 35 Automat f/2.8. Some of the Tele-Colinar 13.5cm lenses made in Leica screw mount, Exakta mount and 42mm screw mount have six-digit numbers in the 12xxxx and 13xxxx range, perhaps also sharing the same sequence.

The resulting rough estimate is about 25,000 or 30,000 of the first generation Arco 35, of which about 5,000 are Arco 35 Junior.

Notes Edit

  1. Konno, p.19; Suzuki, p.16.
  2. Hagiya, pp.59–60 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari, says that the Arco 35 was designed from scratch and was not inspired by any previously existing camera. The design team was certainly aware of the Vito III and Dollina, but the result is indeed original.
  3. See the pictures in this page of Fukucame's Rangefinder website.
  4. Advertisements reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.116, and advertisement reproduced in Hagiya, p.64 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
  5. Lewis, p.78, says that the exposure counter is descending but this is unconfirmed.
  6. Haigya, p.61 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
  7. Number of elements: advertisements reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.116.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Hagiya, p.59 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
  9. Hagiya, p.61 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
  10. Announce: Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.345. Beginning of mass production: Hagiya, p.61 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
  11. Anecdote reported by Hagiya, p.61 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
  12. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.116.
  13. Price: Hagiya, p.61 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari; Lewis, p.78; this page of the JCII. It is confirmed by an advertisement dated September 1955 reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.116, and an advertisement in the October 1955 special issue of Photo Art, p.155.
  14. Product code: list in Hagiya, pp.56–7 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
  15. Example pictured in Hagiya, p.52 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari, body no.120189, lens no.130061.
  16. See the example pictured in this page at Asacame.
  17. The button is visible on the pictures of the advertisements reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.116, and in Hagiya, p.64 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari, as well as on the example pictured in Yazawa, p.15 of Camera Collectors' News no.267, with lens no.131231. It is already absent on the example with lens no.131743 observed in an online auction.
  18. This marking is present on the example with body no.131432 observed in an online auction, originally assembled with lens no.132065 and later modified with lens no.150951 according to its warrant card. It is perhaps also present on the example with body no.120189 and lens no.130061 pictured in Hagiya, p.52 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
  19. The transition occurred between lens no.131231 (pictured in Yazawa, p.15 of Camera Collectors' News no.267) and no.132065 (observed in an online auction).
  20. The transition occurred between lens no.132065 (observed in an online auction) and no.142854 (pictured here by Auction Team Köln).
  21. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.345.
  22. Example observed in an online auction.
  23. Advertisements reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.221.
  24. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.345.
  25. List reproduced in Hagiya, pp.56–7 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
  26. The transition from the original model to the Junior occurred between lens no.151420 and no.154875 (both observed in online auctions).
  27. Red R and arrow: example observed in an online auction.
  28. Example observed in an online auction, lens no.155073.
  29. Date of the last advertisement for the original Arco 35 reported in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.345.
  30. Advertisement in Asahi Camera September 1955 reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.116; advertisement in the October 1955 special issue of Photo Art, p.155.
  31. Example observed in an online auction.
  32. The new focus knob was adopted before lens no.155073 (observed in an online auction).
  33. The transition occurred around lens no.156900 but did not strictly respect the order of the lens numbers: no.156847 is mounted on an MX whereas no.156970 is still mounted on a Seikosha-Rapid (both are pictured in Hagiya, p.68 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari).
  34. Date of the last advertisement for the Arco 35 Junior reported in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.345.
  35. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.221.
  36. Finder pictured in Hagiya, p.74 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
  37. Viewfinders pictured in this page, and observed in online auctions.
  38. Product code: list reproduced in Hagiya, pp.56–7 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
  39. The lowest known number is 460, on a preseries Arco 35 pictured in Hagiya, p.95 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.35 and in Suzuki, p.13 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.76. The highest is 1419, on a View-Arco observed in an online auction.
  40. VIEW–ARCO: example observed for sale at a dealer. ARCO–VIEW: example pictured in Supuringu kamera de ikou, p.65, and example pictured in Sugiyama, item 3098.
  41. Hagiya, p.63 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
  42. Hagiya, p.63 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari, says 1954, but the list reproduced on pp.56–7 of the same says that the View-Arco was produced from March 1955.
  43. Product codes and dates: list reproduced in Hagiya, pp.56–7 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
  44. Example pictured here by Auction Team Köln.
  45. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.116.
  46. Examples are lens no.145248 on body no.144590 (here at JLB Collection), and lens no.148725 on body no.150462 (pictured in this page).
  47. Warranty card observed in an online auction. It seems that the lens of this particular camera was later replaced by lens no.150951.
  48. Example of the Arco 35 Junior offered for sale by a dealer.

Bibliography Edit

Original documents Edit

  • Ozaki Kyōtarō (小崎恭太郎). "Faindā to sono shūhen [1]" (ファインダーとその周辺[1], About finders [1]). In Photo Art rinji zōkan: Kamera no chishiki (フォトアート臨時増刊・カメラの知識, Photo Art special issue: Knowledge of cameras). October 1955, no.87 of the magazine. Pp.110–2.
  • Photo Art rinji zōkan: Kamera no chishiki (フォトアート臨時増刊・カメラの知識, Photo Art special issue: Knowledge of cameras). October 1955, no.87 of the magazine. Advertisement by Arco Shashin Kōgyō on p.155.

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