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Arco 35 Automat

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Japanese 35mm folding cameras (edit)
24×36 Arco 35 | Arco 35 Automat | Chest 35 | Fujica 35 | Makinette 35P | Neoca 35 | Pigeon 35 V | Auto Terra | Toyoca B35
30×36 Konilette
Folding 6×6, 4.5×6, 3×4 and 4×4, 4×5 and 4×6.5 ->

The Arco 35 Automat (アルコ35オートマット) are Japanese 35mm folders with a coupled rangefinder, made by Arco in 1956 and 1957. They are the successors of the first generation Arco 35, from which they are easily distinguished by the lever advance and bright-frame finder. They were the result of a radical redesign, and have almost no part in common with the earlier models, which are treated in a separate article.

Description Edit

The Arco 35 Automat is a horizontal folder, with rounded body ends. The focusing mechanism and the lens standard mounted on scissor struts are similar to those of the earlier Arco 35. The ergonomics is the same, with a focus knob on the top plate, actuated by the photographer's left hand. The turning part of the knob is chrome and the fixed part is black with depth-of-field indications in white. Concentric to the focus knob is a black and silver rewind crank, with an R in an arrow indicating the turning direction.

The viewfinder and coupled rangefinder are integrated into the top housing and share a common eyepiece on the left, surrounded by a black frame. The viewfinder is of the bright-frame type, and its design is completely different from that of the original Arco 35. There are two rectangular windows at the front: a large one on the right for the viewfinder and a smaller one on the right for the rangefinder's second image. The rangefinder is coupled all the way down to the minimal distance (35cm), a feature which was already one of the strong points of the previous model. There is an accessory shoe and an Arco 35 engraving above the camera, and a small film reminder at the rear, symmetrical to the viewfinder eyepiece.

The film is advanced by a black and silver lever at the top right. The film is wound by the sprocket shaft, as on most other 35mm cameras but unlike the previous Arco 35.[1] Next to the advance lever is an exposure counter, sunken beneath a small window and automatically reset to zero when the back is opened. The release button is surrounded by a cup and has a cable thread. The rewind unlock lever is on the back of the top housing, beneath the advance lever. The back is hinged to the right to load the film, and is locked in place by a latch on the left, consisting of a long sliding bar. The body serial number is engraved in the film gate above the exposure chamber. There are strap lugs on both sides of the body and a ¼" tripod thread at the bottom right (on the side of the advance lever).

The folding bed is opened by a sliding button at the top, and it is closed by pushing two small levers, on either side of the lens standard, the same as on the original Arco 35. The folding bed itself is different, and it was further modified on the Automat D; all have an Arco logo embossed in the leatherette. The lens standard does not have the threaded hole present on the first generation models, and the View-Arco device is coupled via an adapter (see below).

The shutter is a Seikosha-MX (B, 1–500, self-timer), cocked by the advance lever when the film is wound. The cocking lever of the Seikosha-MX is at the top of the shutter housing, and is pulled by a cam coupled to the advance lever via a rod running at the bottom of the bellows. The Seikosha-MX was replaced by a Seikosha-MXL on a handful of Automat D (see below). Three lens types were offered on the Automat: the G-Colinar 5cm f/3.5 and Colinar 5cm f/2.8, both with five elements in three groups, and the Arco 5cm f/2.4, with five elements in four groups.[2] The aperture is set by a thin dented ring, driving a red index on a silver-coloured scale placed behind the shutter.

The Arco 35 Automat f/3.5 Edit

The Arco 35 Automat was initially released with the G-Colinar 5cm f/3.5 lens and a distance scale in feet (product code S-135-C).[3] It was first announced and advertised in Japanese camera magazines dated January 1956.[4] The March 1956 advertisement in Asahi Camera gives the price of ¥23,000, including the case and parallax-correcting viewfinder, and mentions four patent numbers: 202086, 209601, 405529 and 411362.[5] The pictured camera has lens no.11422 and a parallax-correcting viewfinder of the bright-frame type.[6]

All the G-Colinar f/3.5 lenses have a five-digit number, in the 11xxx, 12xxx or 13xxx range.[7] The production of the f/3.5 model was of a couple of thousands, certainly no more than 3,000.

The Arco 35 Automat f/2.8 Edit

The decision to sell the new Automat model with an f/3.5 lens only, whereas the original Arco 35 had a five-element f/2.8, was probably unwise. The company soon released an f/2.8 version of the Automat (product code S-135-CII).[8] It is exactly similar to the f/3.5 except for the lens, which is the same as on the original Arco 35. It was featured in the April to June 1956 issues of Japanese magazines and the first advertisements are dated May.[9] The May advertisement in Shashin Salon[10] lists the camera for ¥26,000 (accessories included), alongside the f/3.5 version at an unchanged price. Three patent numbers are mentioned: 202086, 405529 and 212349.

The f/2.8 model seems rarer than the other two. The early examples have a lens number in the 152xxx range (lowest: 152068, highest: 152318),[11] in the same sequence as the f/2.8 lens of the original Arco 35 and the Colinar f/3.5 lens of the Arco 35 Junior. These were perhaps assembled with spare lenses made for the original model. Other examples have a seven-digit lens number in the 160xxxx range (lowest: 1600018, highest: 1601844),[12] probably after the production of the f/2.8 lens was resumed for the Automat. The production of the f/2.8 was of a few hundrers or a few thousands, probably no more than 2,500.

The Arco 35 Automat D Edit

The Arco 35 Automat D (product code S-135-D)[13] is an evolution of the Automat with the new Arco 5cm f/2.4 lens. The shutter is the same Seikosha-MX but the shutter face is modified: the black shutter plate and silver rim is replaced by an all-silver conical plate, with the speed scale engraved in the reversed order 500–1, B. The folding bed has a different smoother shape. The rangefinder second-image window is shaped as a diamond instead of a rectangle and the distance scale is engraved in metres.

The Automat D was first announced and advertised in June 1956.[14] It is said that the first advertisements have the name "Automat f/2.4" instead of the letter D (indicating the fourth body version, after the Arco 35, Junior and Automat).[15] The August 1956 advertisement in Asahi Camera emphasizes the new lens design, said to be achieved thanks to a new type of lens glass, and lists a range of four models:[16]

The pictured camera has lens no.5600004 and is certainly a prototype. Lens no.5600006 has also been observed in the reproduction of an original document.[17] All the other known examples of the Automat D have a four-digit lens number, in a sequence certainly starting at 1000.

Five examples of the Automat D received a Seikosha-MXL instead of the MX before the development was stopped.[18] The shutter face is accordingly altered: the speed scale is on the side of the shutter rim and there is a light-value scale on the other side, with a locking index setting the aperture according to the selected light-value. The only surviving example known so far has lens no.42xx and is pictured in Hagiya.[19]

The company concentrated on movie cameras from 1956. The October 1957 advertisement in Shashin Kōgyō lists the Arco 35 Automat D for ¥26,000, including the leather case but without the accessory finder, sold separately at ¥3,000.[20] The last reported advertisements for the Arco 35 Automat D are dated that month,[21] and the sales of Arco still cameras certainly stopped around that date. The Arco 5cm f/2.4 lens was announced in Miranda mount the same month, perhaps indicating that this was a way to use the surplus lenses after the production of the camera was stopped.

Today, the Automat D is more common than the other Automat. The only body number known so far is 1607292,[22] and the sequence perhaps started at 1600000 for all the Automat bodies. After the preseries lenses in the 56000xx range, the lens number sequence certainly started at 1000. The numbers observed so far run from 1227 to 5702.[23] (It seems that the Arco 5cm f/2.4 lenses in Miranda mount have a separate numbering sequence.) A rough estimate would be 4,000 to 5,000 Automat D, and a grand total of less than 45,000 Arco cameras.

Accessories Edit

The Arco 35 Automat was sold together with an external parallax-correcting viewfinder. This finder has a bright-frame and is shorter than the older type supplied with the previous Arco 35. The barrel is black and has the Arco logo at the top. It tilts down to correct the parallax; this movement is controlled by a knob surrounding the eyepiece, with a distance scale in feet for the Automat f/3.5 and f/2.8, or in metres for the Automat D.[24]

The View-Arco reflex finder attachment, described in the page about the Arco 35, was also offered for the Automat. The late View-Arco sold at the time of the 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.[25] All the View-Arco, early or late, can be mounted directly on the original Arco 35 and via an adaptor on the Automat. This adaptor consists of a fork, clasped on the lens standard and holding the lens and shutter assembly, with a threaded hole on the top for the finder's coupling screw. This is needed on the Automat because the camera has no threaded hole in the lens standard, unlike the previous model.

The dedicated lens hood, including a swivelling filter holder, and the film cassettes offered for the Arco 35 were also offered for the Automat, in unchanged form.

Notes Edit

  1. Haigya, pp.66–7 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
  2. Number of elements and groups: lens schemes reproduced in Hagiya, p. of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
  3. Product code: list reproduced in Hagiya, pp.56–7 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
  4. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.378. Hagiya, p.66 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari, gives 1955 as the release date and reproduces an advertisement on p.69 supposedly dated 1956, but this is certainly a mistake.
  5. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.221.
  6. The same lens no.11422 is also pictured in the reproduction of a document giving the lens scheme in Hagiya, p.68 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
  7. Examples observed in online auctions (no.1324x and 13589) and example pictured in Hagiya, p.67 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
  8. Product code: list reproduced in Hagiya, pp.56–7 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
  9. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.378.
  10. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.221.
  11. No.152068: example pictured in Sugiyama, item 3097. No.152318: lens and shutter unit pictured in the reproduction of a document giving the lens scheme in Hagiya, p.68 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
  12. Examples pictured in this page at Mediajoy's Guide to Classic Cameras (no.1600018), and in an online auction (no.1601844).
  13. Product code: list reproduced in Hagiya, pp.56–7 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
  14. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.378.
  15. "Automat f/2.4": Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.378.
  16. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.221.
  17. Reproduction of an original document showing the lens scheme and a picture of the lens, in Hagiya, p.68 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
  18. Five examples: Hagiya, p.70 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
  19. Example pictured in Hagiya, p.74 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
  20. Advertisement in Shashin Kōgyō October 1957, pp.392–3.
  21. Advertisements listed in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.378.
  22. Example pictured in this page.
  23. No.1227: observed in an online auction. No.5702: pictured in Fujishima, p.24 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.8.
  24. Finder in feet observed in an online auction. Finder in metres pictured in Hagiya, p.74 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
  25. 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.

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