| End of 1950's a
new star in camera business appeared and managed to come
form almost unknown into the top four within five years - Asahi
Optical Co. from Yokohama in Japan. How did they get it?
Pentax got a Synonym for a form, for SLR..just not to say, for cameras in general. They made the public thinking for three decades that a professional camera looks like a Pentax and nothing else!
So how they start, where they coming from? Since 1939 Asahi Optical made its name in manufacturing aerial cameras, after WW-II of Jupiter small binoculars (6x15) and coated lenses for micor cameras. Early factory history was described by the Italian Asahi Optical Historical Club. 1950 they looking for new ideas and the president ordered his two engineers Nobuyuki Yoshida (responsible for camera bodies) and Ryohei Suzuki (lenses) to build a compact high-performance 35mm film SLR camera competitive with the best Rangefinder cameras of the world like LEICA and CONTAX. In 1935 president Saburo Matsumoto had privately bought a German "Reflex-Korelle" (build by Franz Kochmann, Dresden, 6cm x 6 cm film SLR) which they used as a starting point for cosntruction. Some sources guess they also had known the "Praktiflex" of Kamera-Werkstätten Guthe & Thorsch in Niedersedlitz near to Dresden which was shown 1939 at the spring fair in Leipzig and build from 1940 in 14.000 numbers.. not a small number for third 35mm film SLR camera of the world und ancestry of the East-German Praktica.
Anyhow if the Praktiflex had influenced PENTAX or not, it was directly influenced by the pre-war camera industry of Dresden.
Asahi Pentax 1957 (Original)
Bottom: Asahi Pentax (1957) with Takumar 2.0/58mm - most uncommon, fastest and best of the three original standard lenses. Sonnar-Type
Above: The first pentaprism prototype, still engraved "Asahiflex" and similar looking to the Asahiflex II with the same M37 lens mount - but already with fast film advance - just invented by LEICA with its M3 - plus film rewind crank - this an Asahi Optical invention. This camera was shown 1954 at a japanese camera fair. It took three more years bringing it to serial production. In the first years, until 1959, the production of prisms was quite expensive.
Left: "Asahi Pentax" (1957) with the fastest Takumar lens available in 1957 - the lightweight and rare short telephoto 1.9/83mm. See seperate page for Pentax fast telephoto lenses.
|| Another "Original
Pentax" with a 2.4/58mm Takumar... this one (film chamber with
label of a Swedish dealer) has a German DIN (Deutsche Industrie
film speed memo ring unlike the above ASA-setting..! That is the
one I know of. In these years no Pentax were sold in Germany,
As can be seen, the shutter speeds are the "old-fashioned" arrangement: 1/500, 1/200, 1/100, 1/50, X, 1/25-1. And on the slow speed dial 1/25, 1/10, 1/5, 1/2, 1s and T This looks a bit crude on this modern looking camera body! The Asahi-Pentax 1957 shows a little bit more chrome than later models: film rewind crank and frame counter edge.
The case made of nice strong brown leather - typical for Pentax cameras until 1960 before they changed to black. The front part is removable (different kinds of connectors were used). I believe the version with the "AOCO" logo is the oldest type. Others have engraved "Pentax". Versions for the 1957-1958 cameras have the characteristic slow speed dial cut-off. Despite of the attached small straps, which in most cases becoming quite crumbly now - be carefull with it ! - most of my cases are in good usable shape - great tools when used as "half case" - and looking great together with the camera. If Stephen Gandy declaimed Voigtlander makes the best cases, I have to add that the 1950's Pentax are on the same quality level!
||1/3 of the area of the viewing field of a
Asahi-Pentax (1957) - one of the first SLR featuring Fresnel lens
screen - note the small concentric
rings around the darker inner circle which is the "regular" matt
If you stop-down the lens the darkness of the center increases, but the
outer erea keep good visible. It would be worse with matt screen in the
outer zones. In 1957 - with a lot of slow lenses without automatic
this was an important advantage. Pentax enhanced this this fresnel
until the Spotmatic and kept it for a long time.
For unknown reasons for my Pentax MX (1976) featuring changable screens this isn't an option!
Inventors of der Fresnell lens screens are Edgar Sauer and Dr. Hans Rühle, Zeiss-Ikon (Patent DE954970 of 12.Nov.1952, first camera Contaflex-I)
|Pentax S2/ H2
|Pentax S3/ H3
|Pentax S1/ H1
|Pentax S2 super