Most of the material on this page is taken from two articles by John Marriage, "The History of the 35mm twin lens reflex". They were published in Photographica World; Part 1 was published in issue 112, 2005/2 page 13-20; Part 2 in issue 113, 2005/3, page 5-14. Much more detail is presented in the original articles. An extended summary may be found at


This TLR camera was producted by Rothgiesser & Schlossman in 1930, the Rothschloss used a frame 18X24 on 35mm film. The lense was the Steinheil Triplar 2,8/5cm, sometime was equipped with the Rothschloss Anastigmat 3,5 50. The shutter Compur provided the max speed at 1/300 sec.


In 1935, Zeiss Ikon brought forth the most advanced – and one of the heaviest cameras – of the day: the Contaflex (860/24) twin-lens reflex that used 35mm film. Camera has been produced only to 1943. The camera boasted the first built-in selenium light meter. The Contaflex featured interchangeable lenses, a focal plane shutter and a van Albada sports viewfinder. The lenses were the same as those offered for the Contax II but in a Contaflex mount. This heavy camera was considered to be one of the greatest German engineer's cameras ever built. Contaflex had the first built-in selenium light meter, the first chrome finish and the first interchangeable lenses on a TLR. The viewing screen accommodates views for a range of lenses with concentric frames for them plus a very useful pop-up magnifier. The focusing screen is 2x the size of a 35mm neg and gives parallax correction for the 50mm standard lenses. The viewing lens is an 80mm or 8cm f2.8, which showed the same angle of view as the 50mm or 5cm f1.5 lens, but on a larger viewing screen and with shallower depth of field. The camera had interchangeable lenses with framelines in the finder for them all (except the wide angles) which required an auxiliary finder. The shutter is similar to the that used in the prewar Contax cameras, a vertically traveling focal plane shutter made of metal slats. It is heavy, 1.5kg, about twice as much as the Contax I. The lenses are also larger and heavier than their Contax counterparts, and are difficult to mount. The view through the finder isn't bright by today's standards, although it's not too bad when compared to some of the tiny viewfinders of the day. The magnifier is a necessity if you plan on focusing. Between the waist level viewing, with it's reversed image, and the need for a magnifier, the only way you can photograph anything moving is with the Albanda finder. But in doing that, you've just turned your overly expensive and heavy camera into a viewfinder camera. And if you think photographing action is bad, try taking a picture in portrait format (as opposed to landscape). You must hold the camera on it's side at eyelevel, parallel to the subject. Now, instead of everything being backwards, it is upside down! And the controls are in the most inconvenient places. This is a camera that sold in 1939 for $250 with the 50/2.8 Tessar, and $372 with the 1.5 Sonnar. With the 50/1.5, it was the tied for being the most expensive still camera in their catalog with the Contax III with it's 50/1.5. A range of accessories were offered for it, which are rarely seen today. They included a special lens shade which clips to the body, a cut film adapter back, a microscope adapter and an special arm for the copy stand.


There were many versions of the Rolleikin, which was a kit made for Rolleiflexes and Rolleicords to permit them to use 35mm film. Initially the film was transported between two Agfa-Rollei cartridges, and in that form (PR114) was available in 1933-34, two years before the Contaflex. So a Rolleiflex with Rolleikin was the first 35mm TLR by two years.


Tougodo's first 35mm TLR used their No Need Darkroom film-packet system, and Tougodo went on to become the most prolific producer of 35mm TLRs in the world, with a succession of models from the 1930s to the '50s (they made 127 and Bolta-film TLRs too, and of course 120 ones).

Their trademark is the horizontal or side-by-side layout which permits a 35mm TLR to be little bigger than an ordinary rangefinder camera. They started with the Meisupi and Meikai (1937 on) and this was the first appearance of the "Japanese side-by-side" TLR, which were all in fact Tougodo products. The Meisupi No2 and No3 were pre-war fixed focus side-by-side cameras. After the WWII, Tougodo was divided into two companies. One in Toyohashi and the other in Yamanashi. Tougodo in Toyohashi made better cameras like TOYOCA, TOYOCAFLEX and HOBIX.


The Tougodo Manufacturing Co. in Toyohashi produced miniature Hit-type, Hobix and Hobby toy cameras and also fairly high-grade real cameras — Toyocaflex, Toyoca, Hobiflex, etc. This company's name was eventually changed to Daishin Seiki and the last camera they produced was the Hobby Jr.

They now make parts for the Pioneer Electric Co. There were quite a few cameras called Hobix from the Toyohashi Tougodo company. Of these the Hobix DI, DII and SIII (last two are shown) look like vertical layout TLRs. All look similar, use Bolta-size film and are fixed focus except the 1952 DII which has front element focusing (but not coupled to the viewing lens). The 1954 SIII has a 40/4.5 Complete lens in synchronised 25/50/150/200/B shutter.


multiformat (18x24 24x24 o 24x36) projected by G.Bennet and manufactured by P.Bisch sold between 1947 and 1948 without success. LENSE: Berthiot 75/3.5, shutter from 1sec to 1/300, 30 meters of film. For other informations click on picture


The Luckyflex measures 125mm x 65mm x 75mm and weighs 750 grammes. The shutter has speeds from P (actually: B) and 1/20 to 1/300s. The diaphragm is adjustable from f/3.2 to f/18. The minimum focusing distance is "1.5 meters". Both the viewing and taking lenses are "Solar Anastigmat 50mm f/3.2" lenses. Marketed: 1948 , made in Milan by the GGS company from 1948. Only 2.000 examples of this camera have been built. These are quite uncommon. It is a vertical 35mm TLR, with vertically running film and portrait format. It is shaped like a small Rolleiflex but internally of rather agricultural construction.

Film loading is excellent - unscrew the big knob to release the LHS panel, and the back/bottom cover

comes off as well. The film wind is just like a KW Pilot Reflex - two strokes of a spring-loaded trigger. Rewind is engaged by turning a knob in the centre of the trigger pivot, which moves the trigger on an eccentric, so that it engages the reverse mechanism instead of forwards, so you rewind by a normal winding action.

Bolsey C

Marketed: 1950 to 1956. This 35mm TLR still kept a range finder of previous model.It is changed to be a 35mm TLR when pick the pint hood up. You can see a file image on the bottom of hood and look the focus with the loope provided in the hood. The lens equipped with is Wollensak 44mm F3.2 Anastigmat and the same lens is equipped as view lens. The Synch is flashmatic and needs a special socket for the strobe unit

or gun.The shutter is B, T, 1/10 - 1/200 sec. made by Wollensak. In the years between 1953-56 was

produced also the Bolsey C22 Set-O-Matic, absolutely similar to the first but which links aperture to focused distance for flash. The C22 has "Set-o-Matic", which links aperture to focused distance for flash purposes. There are flash exposure instructions instead of the d.o.f. plate on the back cover. The viewing screen is now a lens, presumably to try to brighten the corners of the field (the C2 has a flat screen).


Marketed: 1950. The Aires Camera co. had been established in 1949 as Yallu Optical co. Their first camera was the Yallu (named for some reason after the river in northern Korea). It is said to have been a prototype given to camera stores as samples, but which excited little interest. The company by 1951 had become the Aires Camera Co, who then made a range of good quality cameras before closing their doors in 1960.

The Yalluflex has distinctive curved body, and some unusual design features. The focusing wheel is built into the

back, and film is wound by a trigger in the base. The lens is a 50/3.5 Hexar in a Seikosha-Rapid shutter, 1-500 & B. Viewing lens a Yallu Excella 50/2.8. Film advance cocks shutter. Unusual design, one of the rarest and most sought-after Japanese cameras . The total production of this spectacular camera ran to not more than 50 examples, only few are known to still exist.


In 1955 the Toyohashi Tougodo factory launched this camera (also known but rare with a Hulda badge). It is clearly a descendant of the wartime Meikai, but better made and now using standard 35mm cassettes. It is 60% heavier than its predecessor and works quite smoothly. Lens is an Owla Anastigmat 4.5cm f/3.5 in NKS shutter, 1-200 & B (which looks just like a Compur rimset) with F and X sync.

There is now a focusing magnifier, but it’s not really much easier to focus than

the Meikai. And the compass has gone. The Toyocaflex or Toyoca 35 was manufactured in c1955 by the Tougodo Optical Co. of Toyohashi, Japan. Direct and Reflex finders, this camera operated as a twin-lens-reflex. It was made also under logo "Hulda".

Samocaflex 35

by Sanei Sangyo, Year: 1955. One of the few 35 mm TLR. Ezumar 2,8/50. There were two versions both of 1955 with minor shutter differences (Seikosha-Rapid, Seikosha-MX). It is uncommon. A 35mm TLR rather similar in appearance to the Bolsey. The lens is a D Ezumar 2.8/50 in Seikosha-Rapid 1-500 & B.

Waist-level reflex focusing with a magnifier. The shutter is cocked by winding the film, and released from the body.

Agfa Flexilette

Year: 1960-63. Agfa produced the Flexilette with a design apparently based on the Silette body upside down, so the lever wind is on the bottom left. The Flexilette has waist level viewing like all the cameras we have been looking at, and manual controls.

However, unlike almost any of the others the viewing screen is bright, sharp and easy to focus, and has a

split-image circle. You need to use the sports finder for vertical shots. The Flexilette has the distance information on top where you can read it. Lens: Color-Apotar 2.8/45, Shutter: Prontor /500

Agfa Optima Reflex

Made by: AGFA, Country: Munich, Germany. Year: 1961. The Optima Reflex is transformed by having a pentaprism viewing system like an SLR. The viewfinder is really excellent - big, bright, and clear. It also has built-in automation. On Auto it does its own thing; you can also have an aperture of your choice plus B, and on the yellow aperture scale you use flash and a fixed 1/30th. You have no direct control over the shutter speed, it depends entirely on the light meter. Made under two names: Optima Reflex and Agfamatic Reflex, but the camera is the same.

The viewfinder has clear indications of whether the film is wound, and if the light is sufficient for an exposure. Focusing information on the Optima is by zone symbols, though if you turn the camera upside down you can see scales of feet and metres. Lens: Color-Apotar 2.8/45, Shutter: Agfa


Tessina CONCAVA AG. introduced the Tessina in the early 1960's, and it's still being built in small quantities. This small camera uses 35mm film, spooled into special small cassettes.

Tessina is an half frame format, 14x21mm, spring motor driven camera, that projects the image dowmward with a mirror onto the film. It has a waist level finder, as well as an optional prism finder. Also available are slip on meters, a wrist strap, the obligatory daylight film loader, and a watch face to disguise your Tessina as the worlds clumsiest looking watch. This camera was made in some variants, click on picture to see all, The Tessina is an elegant camera, built with the precision of a fine watch. Most are finished in bright chrome, but a few are finished in red, gold or black. Lens: Tessinon 2.8/25, Shutter: between the lens.

Sassuolo, 16 Gennaio 2006,

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