An Unusual Aires

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by rick_drawbridge, Feb 4, 2017.

  1. I put in a minimum bid for this Aires camera on a local auction, and no-one else showed any interest, so it arrived yesterday.
  2. I'd expected a SLR but not a leaf shutter SLR. This very heavy camera was manufactured in the last days of the the Aires Camera Works in Japan for a period in 1959-60, shortly before the company folded. This copy bears the Penta 35 badge, but it was also known as the Reflex 35, and the Aires Ever, depending where in the world it was marketed. I'm well-acquainted with the fine Aires rangefinder cameras, but unfamiliar with the SLR models, and I wasn't aware that the company had produced a line of leaf shutter SLR's reminiscent of the Kowa or even Contaflex cameras. Additional 90mm and 36mm attachment lenses were available, and the lens on this example is a clean and clear 50mm Q Coral /2.8, a good quality 4 element lens I've encountered before.

    Surprisingly, this camera works perfectly; I've had about a 50% success rate with the similar Kowa cameras but this Aires camera is really well built with excellent finish, and the sheer weight of the brute suggests some quality components within. Unfortunately, the viewfinder is a mess, full of what look like rubber crumbs, with a practically opaque viewing screen. With the leaf shutter configuration there's no way of accessing the mirror and screen without quite some disassembly, and I'm wondering if it's worth the expense. Do any of our members have any opinions or information regarding these Aires models? There's not very much information available on the internet, and some hands-on accounts would be helpful.
  3. Hi Rick,
    I picked up one of these a few years back. Aires greatly simplified the operation of the leaf
    shutter SLR by using a rotating ring with studs mounted in it. Depressing the shutter release
    button caused the ring to rotate and the studs were so spaced they would hit the various
    levers for operating the film gate door, mirror, and shutter mechanisms at the proper time.
    The mirror/film gate door is a simple toggle operation. Very simple compared to a Retina
    Reflex for example. However, the light seals inside the camera are a nightmare to replace.
    It is a very capable camera and you will enjoy using it. I also have the telephoto and wide
    angle add-on lenses.
    Too bad Aires came out with an already obsolete design when the competition was already
    putting out the next generation of SLR.
  4. Rick, it should be reasonably straightforward to open the top of the camera, and remove the prism and focusing screen. That way you avoid the complicated shutter innards.
  5. When I was about 10 years old, I inherited much of my grandfathers photographic equipment, both darkroom equipment and cameras. I didn't inherit his favorite Topcon Auto 100, but did inherit an Aires camera that looked similar to that, but maybe a little older.
    The one I had, had the non-return SLR mirror, that came back down when you wind the film.
    Other than that, it worked pretty well. But over the years, I used my father's Canon VI more, until I bought my Nikon FM some years later. With the Canon, I have (still) 35mm, 50mm, and 135mm lenses.
    I also had some auxiliary lenses, wide angle and telephoto, that would mount on the filter ring of the Aires. They worked, but weren't quite the same as real lenses of the appropriate focal length.
    says $60 to $70 for average condition. You can add your price if you want.
  7. m42dave

    m42dave Dave E.

    This camera is listed in my McKeown's 97/98 guide with not much more information that what you have here already. Says it has a Seikosha SLV shutter, price $65-$100. None have sold on eBay recently, just Aires rangefinders. Nice looking little SLR, even if just for a display piece.
  8. m42dave

    m42dave Dave E.

    Here is also a Japanese page on repairing the Aires Penta 35 (will need Google translate):
  9. Malwarebytes blocks that site as malicious, Dave.
  10. m42dave

    m42dave Dave E.

    John, I checked the site with Norton Safe Web and it didn't indicate any threats. The entire site is dedicated to camera repair.
  11. Thanks for the very useful responses. I might pluck up my courage, John, and investigate a little in-house disassembly, since the rest of the camera seems to be fine and not in need of a CLA. Useful information, Rod; on looking over similar cameras in my possession the Penta bears strong resemblance to the Topcon Uni and Unirex cameras. And thanks Dave and Glen for your input; that site doesn't ring any alarm bells on my PC.
  12. I've wondered if the Penta 35 was what drove Aires Camera over the financial edge. Must have been expensive to develop their first SLR, and 35mm leaf-shutter SLR's were absolutely a dead end.

    But it could also have been the trend to much more compact 35mm rangefinder cameras. Cameras like the Canonet series, which were so much smaller and lighter. The Aires rangefinders were based on a husky main casting, nothing delicate or light about them.
  13. I agree with this. It's really the only way to go. If you removed the lens and shutter to reach the mirror box that way, you could clean the mirror and underneath of the focus screen, but guaranteed at least some of the crud would be on the top surface of the screen, Rick. Meaning the top cover would then have to come off to reach it anyway. Better just to take it off first, remove the prism and the screen for cleaning, and then, with either the shutter cocked or fired, (or in between, possibly, depending how much room you have when you get there) you should be able to reach all of the mirror surface for cleaning, from above. As a bonus, you'll then be able to clean the pentaprism and the inside surface of the eyepiece too, which will all help with the viewing experience in the long run. If needed, the rear of the lens should be accessible with the shutter released. In the unlikely event the capping plate descends immediately after exposure, select Bulb, and use a lockable cable release to keep everything open while you clean the back of the lens via the film gate. It's a clean and crisp design that I find very pleasing, aesthetically. With my weakness for lens shutter SLRs, I would own one. Good score, Rick. I'll look forward to seeing some images from it at some point. :) Cheers, Brett
  14. Thanks, John and Brett. I've had to reset email notifications of action on this thread, hence the delay in replying. I wonder if all the other threads for which I previously had email notifications are similarly now off my radar? From a quick look around it looks as if that could be the case... And a posting date for posts, rather than just "Today" or "Sunday" would be helpful, for international members in another time zone, particularly. Anyway, I may have a crack following the procedure you've kindly outlined, when I get a moment to spare. As for the demise of Aires; it's rather a mystery why they put their resources into such an outmoded concept, when the world was hungering for SLR's with interchangeable lenses.
  15. Rick,

    Sorry this is late. I found a full-page ad for this camera. It was in the May 1960 issue of Modern Photography. It was the only large ad I could find.

    stephen_morris|3 likes this.
  16. Thanks, Marc. I could find very little information on this Aires camera and you've turned up trumps, again. If you'll pardon the expression... I like the byline about picking up the Aires and feeling the quality; it's certainly a very heavy little camera.
  17. Hi there, I just joined the group so apologies for picking up on an old thread, however... I have 2 Aires Lens, the above-mentioned Tele Photo 90mm and the Wide-Attachment 36mm, still in their leather cases. My father had a knack for buying products which were quite short-lived, but I couldn't let go of these lenses when they came into my possession, and have been hunting for the correct Aires Camera to try and buy. Thank goodness you have helped solve the mystery. I am in Australia and have not come across any cameras on sale here, have tried bidding for US options, however a bit nervous to purchase sight unseen and I also get hit with the customs duty - could be an expensive white elephant.
    On other forums I have read that the shutter tends to die on the Aires, but not sure if that's just the rangefinder.
    Any feedback on that? Thanks in advance. It may determine if I continue to try to buy one, or just sell these lenses.

    A secondary question: would these screw on lenses fit any other model of camera out there, which may be easier to procure.
  18. Welcome to the forum, Jodiweb. Yes, I'm afraid that it's true that the shutter on the Penter 35 is prone to failure, as is the case with many leaf-shutter SLR's. The mechanical procedure involved in making an exposure is quite complex, and age renders things sticky and slow. If you intend to buy from an Ebay seller be sure to ask questions to get confirmation that the shutter is functioning correctly at all speeds, before you bid.

    Regarding the 90mm and 36mm lenses; they are just attachment lenses that screw into the standard lenses. They may fit other cameras with the same size thread but I have my doubts about them working correctly. There was an accessory viewfinder for each attachment that slid into the accessory shoe, which you may not have.

    Good luck!
  19. Well we can only speculate if the development costs drove Aires to the collapse. So many have commented on the lack of foresight with such a model, but let the numbers speak. The Contaflex was doing well and was still in production through the mid 1960s. Voigtländer had their own model and the Kodak "Reflex" series was selling well too... so I think their bet...or rather an investment might have seemed sensible at the time.
    We have the advantage of hindsight. The WYSIWYG of a SLR was very inviting to the photographer. The prices compared to say a Pentacon were light years away and the "buiuld as you go" with add-ons was equally tempting f to the'in for a penny' crowd!
    The demise of Aires was probably a bit more complicated than simply the tooling and failure of a fixed lens SLR. The market, big as it was ...was probably too competitive and the other guys had deeper pockets.... No sight like hindsight
  20. I guess cameras are like people. I swear age renders me sticky and slow;)
    This is such a pretty camera, I'd try to fix it, I think if you work slowly and take lots of reference pixelograms you should be fine.
    How are the gnomes by the way?

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