Taiyodo Koki Beauty Canter 35 [1957 - 1959]

The "Beauty Canter 35" is often mistakenly referred to as the Canter Beauty, because the model/manufacturer names are engraved on the top-plate in that order. I've read a few Internet and printed magazine articles (e.g. December 1992 Popular Photography magazine) that almost mock the name "Canter", but according to some Japanese sources, it's a corruption/anglicisation of "Kanda", the name of the district where the camera was made. 

The Canter was launched on the domestic market on 15 February 1957(*), and was the last model produced by Taiyodo Koki before it became the Beauty Camera Company. It wasn't very different to the previous 35 Super. At first glance, the most obvious dissimilarity is the absence of the Beauty logo between the viewing windows, but the Canter had other more significant functional and styling changes. 

The Canter came in two models: one with a legacy f/2.8 Canter lens, and the other with a new and superior f/1.9 Canter S, which comprised 6 elements in 4 groups (a Double Gauss type), and was made using lanthanum glass (first discovered by Leitz laboratories). Lanthanum is a metallic element, the oxide of which was used to make high quality optical glass, because of its high refractive index and low dispersion. Lanthanum is not appreciably radioactive, and was generally used as an alternative to glass containing Thorium dioxide ... which is radioactive. The f/1.9 Canter S lens barrel was aesthetically different to the f/2.8 Canter's, with black painted focus, and shutter speed dials. The focusing scale was changed back to feet - perhaps for the American market.

Each Canter model had a newer version of the same Copal-MXV shutter as the Super 35, but with a higher 1/500th top speed (and the 1/300 step reduced to 1/250), plus a shutter set indicator stud was added to the film transport mechanism. This was located behind the shutter release button, and popped-up when the film was wound on.

With regard to styling, the rewind knob and wind lever cap were similar to, but not exactly the same as those found on the Super 35, but while the f/2.8 model retained silver hardware, on the f/1.9 these items were painted black and the film-type reminder dial was printed in colour (red and green). The top-plate was also slightly different on the f/2.8 model, and featured raised viewfinder and rangefinder window frames.

The focus handle was changed from a half-moon shape to a knurled knob on a back plate, as found on a few Super 35s. The flash sync-port was relocated from the lens housing to the rewind knob side of the top-plate.



There was a variation of the f/2.8 Canter with a small release catch on top of the rewind knob, which traps the wind-crank-arm in its folded position. Examination of Internet photos - where the serial number can also be seen - show that the "with-catch" are earlier than the "without" models, and the "without" are less common (accounting for <19% of production).


There was also a further variation where some (but not all) of these models had their distance scale engraved on the flat face of the focus dial, with lines on the bevelled edge to show alignment of distances against the DOF scale. Other models had the distance scale on the bevelled edge, making the lines unnecessary.


According to a press advertisement placed at the end of March 1957(*), Taiyodo planned three models, one of which would feature an f/1.9 lens. Obviously the plan changed, but this indicates that the f/1.9 was a later option.



The serial numbers I have collected suggest that something like 40,000 f/2.8 Canter 35s were made, and maybe 5,000 f/1.9s. However, that advertisement(*) I keep referring to said that Taiyodo Koki were discontinuing TLRs to concentrate exclusively on the 35mm market and develop the Beauty Canter, which was being produced at the rate of 7000 per month, of which 3000 were for export: so there may have been more Canters made than I have estimated.


Surviving Canters seem to be reasonably easy to find, although the f/1.9 is far less common.


In 1958, Olden Cameras & Lens Co., advertised the Canter, in the US magazine "Modern Photography", at the discounted prices of $39.95 for an f/2.8, and $54.95 for an f/1.9. The expected retail price proposed by Taiyodo Koki had been about $80(*).


This model was marketed in the USA, Sweden, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, South America and India as well as other Asian countries(*). The export cameras were marked "Made in Japan", and had a sticky label applied in a cut-out on the back release-catch leatherette. Cameras currently advertised for sale in Japan lack this detail. A maker's TKK mark was also absent. The Canter never made it into the UK, despite the 1957 introduction of a quota system for camera imports from Japan, which placed a value limit of £15,000 for the whole year and shared amongst all (according to Maurice Fisher's article Photographic Memorabilia). The larger manufacturers, such as Minolta and Olympus, will have undoubtedly grabbed the lion's share, if not all of this allowance.


Follow this link for a copy of the Beauty Canter 35 instruction manual for the f/1.9 model at Orphan Cameras.


A detailed strip-down of the camera can be seen at Camera Collecting and Restoration (pheugo.com).

(*) This information comes from an advertisement titled "Tokyo Firm Readies New 35 for Export" on page 38 of the 23rd March 1957 edition of "Army Times", which can be viewed online here.


Known serial numbers


f/1.9 Canter: 1967, 2636, 3854, 4060, 4084, 4176, 4234, 4336, 4891, 5294, 5346, 5435, 5606 (13 examples)


f/2.8 Canter by rewind crank arm type
with release catch: 80166, 80331, 80634, 81314, 82333, 86057, 86252, 87596, 88353, 88621, 89057, 89550, 90082, 90154, 90228, 90399, 95232, 95483, 95899, 96052, 96238, 96500, 97484, 97781, 97938, 98161, 100147, 100264, 100355, 100453, 100494, 101339, 101604, 101732, 102156, 102469, 102473, 103279, 103306, 104685, 104924, 106154, 106525, 106941, 107210, 107695, 107799, 107954, 108033, 108368, 108694, 108770, 108792, 109398, 109442, 109448, 109857, 109731, 109869, 109949, 109985, 110131, 110687, 111049, 111234 (64 examples)

without release catch: 107301*, 110984*, 112100, 112749, 112791, 113314, 113387, 113565, 113851, 113936, 114071, 114579, 114867, 115389, 115879, 116038, 116854, 117105, 117241, 117300, 118442, 119032, 119244, 119259 (24 examples)

Note that f/2.8 serial numbers appear to have started at 80000. * There seems to have been some production overlap between the two types of f/2.8 models.

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

Below: the f/2.8 Canter with styling differences highlighted.


Below: the more common variation of the f/2.8 Canter 35 has a small release catch on top of the rewind knob, which traps the rewind-crank- arm in its folded position (Internet image).


Below: the two different focus dial distance scale markings on the f/2.8 model with the rewind-crank-arm catch.


Below: an advertisement from a 1958 edition of Modern Photography, and a 1959 advertisement in Pacific Island Monthly.

1958 Beauty Canter 35 advertg
Beauty Canter 35 advert for Western Samoa
Taiyodo Koki Beauty Canter box

I have two Canters. I paid €14.50 (£12.20) for an f/2.8 (without a rewind-arm release catch) in April 2017. The camera was offered for sale in France, so I had to pay a bit more postage than I'm accustomed to. The focus adjustment is locked solid due to its grease setting rock hard. The overall condition of the camera is ... beautiful. I acquired an f/1.9 in May 2019, for the price of £7.99 (plus p&p). Sadly, the shutter does not trip, although the film advance interlock releases when the shutter button is pressed. The wind-arm cover is missing, and this area seems to have been repainted at some time. The focus dial works smoothly, but the rangefinder patch is barely visible.