Cameras have been made in Japan since the early 20th Century, the first lens factory opened in 1907. The First World War brought on a rapid growth in the optical industry through a military hungry for optical products of all kinds.
In 1917, Nippon Kogaku Kogyo Kabushikigaisha (Japan Optical Industries Co. Ltd.) was founded to design and produce lenses for a wide variety of equipment and devices. It eventually slid into the manufacturing of cameras having supplied lenses to several camera manufacturers, including Canon, and in 1988 it finally changed its name to the name its cameras were known by: the Nikon Corporation.
My collection started with my first Japanese camera, the Miranda F. Now I have various cameras, the oldest being a Leica copy, and several Minoltas, the favourite make of my late father.
After I sold my Reid I hankered after a low cost replacement, especially as I had a spare Leica Elmar lens. There were many Japanese Leica copies made after the last War (Nikon, Canon, Nicca, Leotax, Minolta etc.), and of these the Leotax F is one of the best, and examples can still be purchased for a fraction of the cost of a Leica or Reid.
The Showa Optical Works was started in 1938 by Nakagawa Kenzō, a former engineer of K.K. Konishiroku (later Konica). It was later renamed Leotax Camera Co. in 1957. Based on the Leica III, the Leotax -F as introduced in June 1954 and was the first Leotax to have flash sychronization, X or F being selected by the lever on the front. The shutter had fast speeds of 1/25th to 1/1000th and B, and slow speeds of 1 to 1/25th and T. As they offered lenses made by Topcon, Topcon eventually bought them out in the mid 1950s.
This example is fitted with a Leitz Elmar 50mm f=3.5 Lens, which has just been serviced by Newton Ellis & Co. of Liverpool. The lens number (544380) dates this to 1940 so it was made during the War. According to Ken Rockwell “The Leitz ELMAR 50mm f/3.5 is the lens that started 35mm photography. Even uncoated, it gives sharp, colorful, contrasty images. Better than the newest lenses, it weighs only half as much as a SUMMICRON, and far better than any SUMMILUX, has no distortion or finder blockage. Better than any current 50mm lens, it collapses almost completely into the camera and pokes out less than 10mm”.