Taiyodo Koki Beauty/Gen/Milo/Ward 35 [1955]

This humble little camera was the first and only 35mm viewfinder made by Taiyodo Koki. It was rebadged* as the Milo 35 (or Mil-O 35) for Miller Outcalt (a photographic equipment seller based in Santa Monica, USA), and the Ward 35 for Montgomery Ward (a Chicago based department store chain which is reputed to be the first mail order catalogue operator).  It was also rebranded* by Taiyodo as the Gen 35 (I'll come back to this model and focus on the other three first). The quadruple identity of the 35 is arguably the most interesting thing about it, because there were a significant number differences between the three main variants.


* Rebadged equipment is produced by the original manufacturer, sometimes with cosmetic or specification changes to meet the distributors' requirements, but the product or model names are changed by the maker. Rebranded equipment is an identical camera made to be sold by the manufacturer themselves in different markets.

a) Different lenses. The Ward was fitted with a "Ward" branded, f/2.8, four-element, 45mm lens (which stopped-down to f/22) with a minimum focusing distance of 3 feet. The Milo and Beauty had a "Beauty" branded, f/3.2, 45mm lens (which stopped-down to f/16) with a minimum focusing distance of 3.5 feet, but the Beauty's was four-element like the Ward's, while the Milo's was a triplet.


b) Different shutters. The Ward had a German five speed Prontor shutter (1/10, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/300 +B). The Milo had a Japanese NKS-FB Prontor-type shutter (made by Taron) with eight speeds (1 sec., 1/2, 1/5, 1/10, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/300, +B). The Beauty shutter resembles the Milo specification, but the shutter maker was unidentified.


c) Different features. The Beauty and Milo both had a self-timer, while the Ward did not. The viewfinders were also different, with the objective lens of the Beauty and Milo being mirrored, while the Ward's was clear with a larger eyepiece. None of the models had a self-resetting frame counter. The Ward and Milo featured a knurled end-stop for the accessory shoe, which was actually a rotatable frame-counter setting wheel, deployed after film had been loaded. However, on the Beauty, the stop on the accessory shoe was merely a fixed post, and the frame-counter had to be wound to zero (minus 2), using the film advance lever, before a film was loaded. However, it appears that some Beauty 35s had the Ward/Milo frame-counter setting accessory shoe end-stop, as can be seen here (thanks to Brian Parkin for bringing this detail to my notice).  


d) Different designs. The Beauty and Milo shared a two-piece wind-arm with a knurled tip and inset leatherette panel, plus a matching black leatherette trimmed rewind knob, while the Ward's wind-arm was a smooth, unclad, one-piece construction, and its rewind control was similarly naked. The Ward's film-type reminder had red and yellow ASA film speed options, while the Beauty and Milo's were black and white film-type segments.

 

The Gen 35 shared the features of the Milo 35, but for a Ward 35 style film-type reminder, a viewfinder objective that appears not to be mirrored, and a unique black overlaid lens barrel plate showing the shutter speed scale (thanks to Alan Bradshaw for bringing this model to my notice). Presumably this model was made at a later date and for another market, and exploited the features introduced in the USA models. I've only ever seen three: one here, a second on a Hungarian auction site (listing since deleted), and Alan's which was found in Canada (where an advertisement appeared in a July 1957 edition of the Saskatchewan Leader-Post newspaper, offering the Gen 35 for $56.95 with a clip-on light meter, flash gun and gadget bag). Taiyodo did something similar with their 1955 Gen-flex TLR, which was a rebranded copy of the Wardflex made for Montgomery Ward, and based on a Beautyflex T, but with some specification changes.

 

Sales


35s do not have camera body serial numbers (and lens numbers are unreliable), so I cannot offer any guess as to the numbers made. Unsurprisingly, the 35 is best known under its Ward badge, in which guise it sold for $29.95.

 

The 35 is a rare camera in all its guises, but especially the Milo variant (I have found only 3 examples on the Internet), and the Gen 35 (also 3 examples).

 

Prior to 1957, no Japanese cameras were imported into the UK, but it's interesting to note that the English spelling of "colour" (as opposed to the American "color") was used on the film-type reminder for the Beauty and Milo. While the Gen, Milo and Ward 35s were marked "made in Japan", the Beauty was not, indicating that it was made for the home market.

 

I own a Beauty 35, which was added to my collection in March 2019 at the cost of £9.00 (plus p&p). It's not in great condition and has many mechanical issues. The focus adjustment turns without altering the focus. The shutter speed selection dial is very stiff. The film transport winds-on, but the shutter release disengages the interlock without tripping the shutter. The film receiving spool is gummed-up with what looks like contact adhesive. The rewind knob turns but will not retract (for film cassette insertion). The self-timer setting arm is seized, and the viewfinder reflecting frame lines are out of alignment and almost invisible.

Below: the Taiyodo Koki Beauty 35.

Taiyodo Koki Beauty 35
Taiyodo Koki Beauty 35
Taiyodo Koki Beauty 35
Taiyodo Koki Beauty 35

Below: the badges of the four 35 models.

Beauty 35, Gen 35, Milo 35 ans Ward 35 badges

Below - differences between the Beauty and Ward 35 (enlargeable image). Note (left to right) the different rewind knobs; the frame-counter resetting knob doubles as the accessory shoe stop on the Ward; the increased range of lens aperture settings of the Ward; film wind-arms; and film-type reminder dials.

Beauty and Ward 35 cameras

Below: the very rare Gen 35 (internet auction site image) - a copy of the Milo 35, but for the Ward-style film-type reminder dial, and black overlaid lens barrel shutter speed plate, which was unique to the Gen.

Taiyodo Koki Gen 35

Follow this link to view a copy of the 1956 Montgomery Ward Catalogue description.

 

Follow this link to view the instruction manual for the Ward 35 at Orphan Cameras.

 

Follow this link to view the instruction manual for the Milo 35 at Orphan Cameras.

 

Follow this link for a copy of the Gen 35 advert. which appeared in a July 1957 edition of the Saskatchewan Leader-Post.

ward and milo 35 boxes