Taiyodo Koki Beauty Super 35 [1956 - 1957]

The Super 35 was the first camera with a coupled-rangefinder produced by Taiyodo Koki. "Super" (or sometimes "S" for short) was a term commonly used by 1950s German camera manufacturers to indicate a rangefinder equipped model, but this camera was not simply the "35" with a rangefinder added; whilst based on the 35 and much the same size, it was a comprehensively revised design and would become the parent of future models (see the Glossary for more information on rangefinders).


The lens was a new Canter 45mm f/2.8, and because the camera body was not marked "Super 35", this model is often misidentified as a Canter. The lens is often assumed to be a four-element design, but was actually a five-element construction, as can be seen in a Japanese leaflet (half way down the page in the right column). The focus scale on Copal Super 35s is in meters - not the unit of choice of English speaking countries (but I note that the Synchro-Compur model was scaled in feet).

 

The diaphragm comprised ten blades, and closed to f/16, but was not click-stopped. The absence of aperture click-stops would become a common Beauty feature. The lens focus dial had a half-moon shaped handle on the majority of cameras. The frame counter reset automatically when the camera back was opened.

 

Variations


The Super 35 came with three shutter options: a Japanese Copal-MX (introduced in 1955) or later MXV with a maximum speed of 1/300th sec., or a German Synchro-Compur with a maximum speed of 1/500th sec. I am unable to offer specific (direct observation) insights into the Synchro-Compur model.

Internet images of Super 35s, where the serial number and shutter type are visible, show the Synchro-Compur and Copal-MX models came first, and their manufacture initially overlapped. 


Aside from the shutter, there were a few other differences between the MX and MXV models. Some later MX cameras lost their unique features, and gained the new MXV model specifications.

  • The MX camera had an "M/F" a flash-bulb speed synchronisation selector switch on the underside of the lens barrel, where F is Fast and M is Medium (see the Glossary for more information on flash synchronisation). On MXV models a self-timer setting lever occupied this space. 

  • The internal film guide rails of the MX were the same as those found on the earlier Beauty 35, but redesigned for later models and the MXV.

  • The MX had an additional large and proud screwhead, just below the film advance wind-arm tip (on the back of the top-plate). It's tempting to imagine this was for access to a rangefinder adjuster, but I can't say for sure without being hands-on with one of these models. This was absent on later MX and MXV cameras.

  • The MX viewfinder objective was mirrored at the top and bottom, while in later models and the MXV this was wholly mirrored.

  • The MXV and later MX cameras had a shorter wind-arm. 


These differences are illustrated here.

Versions and variants of models were typical in early cameras. Products tended to go to market rapidly, leading to necessary mid-production changes as and when "issues" emerged, which may have encompassed problems such as the need to re-source parts supplied by other manufacturers.

I've noticed a few Super 35s without a film-type reminder, but there's no rhyme or reason to these: one was an MX-type (#33912), while the others were MXV-types (#69151 & #71544), so they are simply inexplicable anomalies. A further aberration can be found on the lens focus dial handle. Some have a knob on a back-plate (#71544).

The very rare early version of the Super 35 can be seen in the manufacturer's 1956 Beauty Camera booklet (a free promotional item), a July 1956 advertisement in Asahi Camera (a Japanese monthly photographic magazine), and another from a 1956 edition of "the Illustrated Weekly of India".  I have only ever seen one example of this model "in the wild". It differs from later models via a fluted lens mount plate, a leatherette infilled rangefinder handle (visible in the booklet), and altered screw cover on the back-plate. Note that both the adverts say the Copal MX shutter has a top speed of 1/500th. This may well be accurate, since a newer version of the MX shutter, with a 1/500th top speed appeared in 1956.

Sales


The serial numbers I have collected suggest that somewhere in the order of 42,000 Super 35s were made, assuming that numbering started at 30,000. Of these, the "early version" seems to be extremely rare, followed by the still very rare Synchro-Compur model (maybe a few thousand were made). The Copal cameras are not uncommon, but the MX models are far more numerous than the MXVs.

 

I have little idea where the Super 35 was marketed outside of Japan (where it cost 14,000 Yen), and the USA. Although my example is not marked "made in Japan", a 1957 US Department of Commerce report (extract here) shows that the Beauty Super 35 was imported to the States (although the shutter speed is documented as 1-1/200). The f/2.8, 1-1/500, "Beauty" detailed at the bottom of the extract is probably the Canter 35, given the price quoted. The Super 35 definitely wasn't sold in the UK due to a ban on Japanese imports. My camera doesn't bare a maker's stamp: it isn't marked TKK.

 

Known serial numbers

 

A quick recap - there are 5 variants: the early version (with the fluted lens-mount plate), the Synchro-Compur, and Copal MX, the Copal MXV, and the transitional model between the MX and MXV.

 

Synchro-Compur: 32885, 35756, 38376 (3)


Copal-MX: 30014* (in advertising), 30062*, 32115, 33060, 33912, 34700, 35601, 35926, 37402, 37643, 38014, 38759, 40439, 41761, 43365, 43387, 43809, 44527, 45399, 46552, 47145, 47252, 47262, 47445. 48065, 49962, 50700, 51505, 52546, 55149, 56316, 59568. 59915, 61258, 61498, 62448, 62951, 63043, 6340863155, 63252, 63401, 63648, 65756, 6819471276 (2 + 42 examples)

* early versions late versions with MXV-like features (I've had to back track here, having only recently noticed these differences, and have been unable to re-locate all of the post 59915 serial number cameras recorded in the range 61498 to 65756.)


Copal-MXV: 64360, 67569, 67658, 67995, 69068, 69151, 69721, 70498, 70673, 70958, 71242, 71544, 71585 (13 examples)

Note that the Super 35 numbers seem to be sequential across all model variations, with some considerable overlap in the production of MX and MXV models. Canter 35 numbers started at 80,000.

I acquired my Copal-MXV model in November 2018. It was purchased from a seller in Japan for £31 - with free shipping. At the time, goods from outside the EU attracted 20% tax on any value over £15, making the duty on this purchase £3.10 - which is fine - but the UK Post Office charged an additional £8.00 to collect the Import Tax, taking the total price to £41.10. My Super 35 is in nice condition and FWO, with only the screw-fit shutter release finger rest missing.

Below: the 35 and Super 35 side-by-side.

transition.jpg
Taiyodo Koki Beauty Super 35
beauty super Taiyodo Koki Beauty Super 3535 2.jpg
Taiyodo Koki Beauty Super 35
Taiyodo Koki Beauty Super 35

Below: this leaflet shows the Canter lens is comprised of five elements (click here to view the entire leaflet).

Taiyodo Koki Canter and Super 35 advert

Below: a very rare early version Super 35 with a fluted lens-mount plate, and inset image of the adjustment screw cover on the back of the top-plate (Internet image).

Early version Taiyodo Koki Super 35

Below: the Beauty Super 35 with a Synchro-Compur shutter (Internet image). This model also has an adjustment screw cover on the back (like the MX), and a part silvered viewfinder objective (like the early MX).

Taiyodo Koki Super 35 with Synchro-Compur

Below: a Super 35 lacking a film-type reminder (Internet image). The camera has an MX-type shutter, with a differently styled "adjuster" screw cover to the "early" version model.

Taiyodo Koki Super 35 with Copal MX
Taiyodo Koki Super 35 box