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

This humble little camera was the first and only 35mm viewfinder made by Taiyodo. 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. 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.


* I have strived to use the correct terminology here. 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 make 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.


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. 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 two: one in Hungary, and the other in Canada (where this 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, 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 most especially the Milo variant (I have found only 3 examples on the Internet), and the Gen 35 (2 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. Strangely, neither did the camera bear the TKK maker's mark.

  • 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.

  • Follow this link to view the instruction manual for the Milo 35.

 

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.

1beauty35.jpg

Below: Ward 35 top-plate (Internet image) compared to the Beauty 35. Note (left to right) the different rewind knob, frame-counter resetting knob which is also the accessory shoe stop, increased range of lens aperture settings, film wind-arm, and film-type reminder dial.

Taiyodo Koki Ward 35 top-plate
Taiyodo Koki Beauty 35

The image below shows how the Ward 35's viewfinder objective lens is not completely mirrored like the Beauty, Gen and Milo's.

wardview.jpg

Below: the Milo 35 (Internet image) is almost identical to the Beauty 35.

Taiyodo Koki Milo 35

Below: the Gen 35 (more images). I am grateful to Alan  Bradshaw for bringing this model to my attention.

gen35.jpg

Below: the badges of the four 35 models.

35badges.jpg