Japanese Oddities (Rare stuff)

(c) Frank Mechelhoff          (all pictures and text)                                                     New 30. May 2009          

Taika Harigon f=58mm 1:1.2 - Exakta mount (~ 1960)

The fastest SLR lens in the world 1960
Taika Harigon (c) Frank Mechelhoff
There is always a reason in market when there is no success in sale.

In case of the Taika Harigon, it was probably "too late, wrong mount".

In 1953 there was a Japanese lens maker ZUNOW which announced a 50/1.1 lens for the screw mount Leica - today a valuable collector's item
NIKON and CANON followed with f/1.1 and f/1.2 lenses. In 1961 there was the superfast CANON 50/0.95, the NIKON 50/1.1, Fuji and Konica 50/1.2 - all in Rangefinder mounts.
The fastest SLR lenses were the CARL ZEISS JENA Biotar (75/1.5) since 1948, ZEISS IKON Planar 55/1.4 1961 for the Contarex, and NIKKOR 58/1.4. Pentax and Minolta released their f/1.4 standard lenses as late as 1964.
SLR lenses were slower. Next, the optical developers had problems to create fast lenses with the well-known "standard" 50mm focal length - because of the longer back focus of SLR lenses compared to rangefinder. For that reason many fast SLR lenses were a bit longer (55 or 58mm) - which isn't bad after all, because 58mm is a very practicable "short telephoto" length...

The TAIKA HARIGON was by a margin the heaviest SLR standard lens but the fastest one. The company who made it was Taisei Kogaku Kogyo (Taisei Optical Industries) in Saitama (north of Tokyo) which later became TAMRON. So Taika wasn't a company, just a trade name for Taisei Kogaku.

Beside, there was a 58/1.2 for the ZUNOW SLR, but it is not known how many were build, when, or if it was earlier than the Harigon. It is even possible that it's the same lens whatsoever.
Tamron catalogue

Harigon Taika (c) Frank Mechelhoff
It was a complex design made of 8 elements in 6 groups, probably looking similar to the Miranda 55/1.4 design-wise. I haven't found a published lens diagram yet though Japanese companies mostly published them proudly for their superfast lenses. It was available solely in Exakta outer bayonet mount, introduced 1953. The EXAKTA was probably the best SLR camera in 1953 but soon left behind technically by PENTAX and NIKON, even by MIRANDA, KONICA and MINOLTA. In the 1960's Exakta went the sad, cheap way and virtually none of their buyers would buy a expensive superfast lens - in particular when the East German lenses which came with it were the best part of the whole camera...

Taika Harigon (c) Frank Mechelhoff

The handling with two aperture rings is a bit sedate (the preset ring has to be pressed down, and the closing ring misses f-stop markings)
But this wasn't uncommon in the late 1950's.
Besides that, the Harigon is excellent to handle on a heavy camera such as the Exakta, and build quality is impressive. The mounting is very delicate but bomb proof.

Back to my EXAKTA VAREX page

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