Chris's camera pages
Manufactured by Tokiwa Seiki Co. in 1955, this rare 35mm SLR camera has a Soligor Anastigmat 5.0cm f/3.5 bayonet mount lens. With this camera I was fortunate enough to also get the original leather case and lens cap.
The leaf-blade shutter must be cocked manually for each exposure, not just by simply advancing the film, and although pressing the shutter
release button unlocks the film advance mechanism so you can wind on for the next exposure, there is nothing to stop you making multiple exposures
by simply cocking the shutter, and then releasing it again without advancing the film.
The shutter speeds on this one are B,1,1/2,1/5,1/10,1/25,1/50,1/100,1/200 sec. Some examples have different shutter with a smaller range of speeds.
The shutter release button has quite a long stroke, as you depress the shutter release, first the shutter closes, then the mirror rises, and finally the shutter opens and closes for the set exposure time. The mirror drops into viewing position again under spring tension as you let the shutter release button rise, but the shutter remains closed until you re-cock it.
There is no separate capping plate like that used in the Zeiss Ikon Contaflex and later German 35mm leaf-blade shuttered SLR cameras, in the Firstflex-35 the mirror serves both functions.
The camera is fitted with a non-removable waist-level finder with built-in folding magnifier and "sports finder", and the focus screen is of a plain fine textured ground glass with a single vertical and a single horizontal clear line showing.
This model was also made with alternative names for various markets, and may be found with SOLIGOR-35, WINDSORFLEX-35 or LAFAYETTE-35 nameplates. The lenses may be also be marked "Neogon" or "First Anastigmat".
This camera doesn't appear to have any serial number. The lens is serial number 2760 and on the back of the lens mount the number 243 has been marked by hand with a sharp tool of some sort.
Here is a close-up of the rear of the lens, and another one of the lens mount of the body showing the three-claw bayonet mount.
And here is an example of the second type Firstflex 35. This model was made around 1958 and has an unusual mix of features. A nicely styled camera with what would have been "clean, modern lines" back at the tail end of the fifties.
The reflex mirror acts as the shutter on this camera and has only two shutter speeds available, 1/125 second and "B". The standard pc flash contact on the front plate has a prominent "M" sign beside it, which I would presume to mean that the synchronization is preset for bulbs rather than for electronic flash.
The lens mount is Exacta bayonet and the standard 45mm f/2.8 Auto Tokinon lens has an auto diaphragm mechanism closing down to the taking aperture with light pressure on the shutter release button. You can see the lens release lever clearly in the picture above.
Something is missing here, can you tell me what it was?.............. I think I've figured it out now that I've seen another
example, this threaded hole must have been used to mount an accessory shoe to allow you to use a flash on the camera.
Interestingly, there is no mention of an accessory shoe in the instruction manual.
Another 'undocumented feature' is the shutter release lock, the nicely-knurled collar underneath the shutter release button can be easily wound upwards to block unintended release of the shutter. Because the shutter release button has quite long travel, the collar does not have to be raised far to do the job very well.
List price was £24/19/6 according to the "British Journal of Photography Annual 1966" which lists new camera models for 1964 and 1965. In June 1964 this model was being sold at the knockdown price of £15/19/6 by Westminster Photographic in London, according to their advert in the "Amateur Photographer", the text of which you can see below.
|35 mm. Firstflex, single
lens eye level|
reflex, f/2.8 interchangeable lens with
Exakta mount. A reliable and attrac-
tively styled camera, new and fully
guaranteed. Complete with case. Listed
at £22/17/6, our reduced price only
£15/19/6. Deposit 49s 6d. and 8 further
monthly payments of 35s 6d. (Total
An improved version of this camera was being sold a year or so later in 1965 by a British photographic retail chain called "Paul Plus Ltd". The camera itself was branded as a "Plusflex 35" and it had a shutter with three speeds, 1/60 sec. and 1/125 sec. and "B". The 45mm f/2.8 lens on this variation was labeled"AUTOPLUSCARON". Price was £29/19/6.
As you can see from the photo below, the sliding switch for the shutter speeds has been replaced with a round knob and the camera has two flash synch ports on the front. One marked "X" for electronic flash and one marked"M" for using a bulb flash.
The original lens cap must rank as one of the cheapest ever produced. It is a VERY thin and shallow metal pressing with three little tabs providing just enough friction to keep the cap on the lens.
Serial numbers from my cameras.....
1st type Firstflex 35........Body No. no number present.......Lens No.2760
2nd type Firstflex 35...... Body No.65719.........Lens No.11352
2nd type Firstflex 35...... Body No.67021.........Lens No.12327
Plusflex 35......... Body No.69532...........Lens No.14735
Autopluscaron 45mm f/2.8 lens (for Plusflex 35)...... No.14229
I'd be interested to hear the serial number details of any of these cameras that you might have in your collection since it will help give me some idea of how many of these unusual cameras were made.
Here are the details of a second type Firstflex 35 courtesy of Reynald Carra of a camera he recently found in Australia.
Body No.66409......Lens No.11191
Firstflex 35 instruction manual for the second type Firstflex on Mike Butkus' excellent website.