Oh No! Yet Another Obscure Japanese Rangefinder...

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by rick_drawbridge, Aug 12, 2010.

  1. Tiny camera, big pictures; another diminutive Japanese Rangefinder. Tony Lockerbie warned me about the seductive power of such cameras, but nevertheless I'm afraid I might have to retract a few of the harsh comments I've made about "mediocre Japanese rangefinders..." I present the Pax M4.
  2. Yamoto Koki Kogyo, better known as Yamoto Optical, produced a range of rangefinder cameras in the 1950's and '60's, priced in the low-to-medium range. Best known is probably the 1953 Pax M2, a little Leica look-alike with a 45mm Luminor Anastigmat f/3.5 lens, and especially the "Golden View" version of that camera, finished in faux gold with coloured leatherette trim. Despite the fact that there was nothing very Leica-like about the quality of the camera or it's images, the Golden View fetches four-figure prices at auction. This little Pax M4 is a later development from around 1960 and appeared under a bewildering variety of names. "Pal M4" was one common derivation, and I've seen it referred to as "Ricsor" and "Rex". A version was apparently imported into the US by the Trans-American Import Export Co., and branded
    the "TAC Deluxe Rangefinder".

    This is a nicely-made rangefinder, rather like a Braun Paxette in heft and construction. The viewfinder is bright-lined with parallax compensation marks, the coupled rangefinder is clear enough, the inaudible shutter trips sweetly and offers speeds of 1/10th to 1/300th plus B. It has a nice short and snappy film wind, orthodox film rewind, and a friendly internal film counter set below a magnifying lens on the top deck...Nice touch. The overall finish is excellent, with no plastic visible anywhere, a somewhat unusual feature for mid-range Japanese cameras of this era. The entire back and base detaches for film loading, European style, revealing some tidy all-metal engineering. As one can tell by comparing the camera with the size of the film cassettes in the photograph, it's a very small camera indeed.

    All the Yamoto lenses were named "Luminor", which makes researching their characteristics a little tedious. The earlier f/3.5 lens fitted to the M2 was a triplet design, but apparently capable of quite high-quality work. The 45mm f/2.8 LuminorAnastigmat fitted to the M4 is rumored to be a 4-element Tessar-like design, and a "reflection inspection" seems to confirm this, though I'm not adamant on the point. While it's marked "45mm", after handling the camera and viewing the images, I suspect it's actually a little wider, possibly nearer the 40mm mark. It's a very bright and clear lens with a light coating, and I have no criticism of it's performance. Indeed, I was actually very agreeably surprised, if not somewhat amazed. In the fashion of the day, auxiliary tele-and wide-angle attachments were available, along with supplementary viewfinders.

    The camera was fun to use, though it was a "finger-tips only" exercise which I find a little awkward. Complete with it's rather nice little leather case I can house the camera in the pocket of a winter jacket, so it accompanied me around for a week or so. Film was Fuji Superia 200, scans from the old Fuji Frontier.

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  7. .HMM,, Just when I thought I was over being envious of all those Nikon F's and other great old cameras, you Rick, now make want to go out and buy some of those old "cheap Japanese cameras."
    Shame on you Rick for tempting me.
  8. Very nice pics Rick! I envy your scanning abilities and possibly the scanner too. What make do you have. Your pictures have a kind of GLOSS [in addition to the sharpness] to them, which I cannot seem to get with my scanner. Is there a special trick or a trade secret? :) Thanks for the post. sp.
  9. I've always loved the PAX cameras, but never could afford one (at auction). Thanks for posting the pics. It takes great photos. Is it a LSM?
  10. Good shots! Blue Cars, Kanukas, and Woodside are particularly nice.
    The Pax is an interesting little camera. I suppose rarity has something to do with the four-figure auction prices; I've never seen one of those in person, just read about them.
    I've had it in mind to do a post about the 1957 Konica III MXL rangefinder that I bought not long ago, but I need to run some more film through it first.
  11. The f/2.8 Luminor actually is a four-element lens, I could clearly see the separation line on the circumference of the rear lens element when disassembling the lens/shutter unit completely.
    Once you got the shutter cleaned and the stiff grease in the focussing mechanism removed (the Pax have a similar reputation for "frozen focus" as old Agfa/Ansco cameras) they perform quite decent.
    There were a few predecessors of the Pax M4, the first one was the original Pax which looked like a miniature Leica. Avoid the ones with the YKK shutters going to 1/100 or 1/150 only, these are flimsy-made and shutter speed is regulated via spring tension. Later shutters with an extended speed range are escapement-controlled.
  12. Well, you were warned! I've never seen a Pax, now I have, and your pictures are great as always. The B&W shot of the Kanukas is really pleasing, you live in a very photgenic place, nearly as good as OZ!
    Nice to see that you have blue Fords over there too.....here's mine.
  13. Dustin McAmera

    Dustin McAmera Yorkshire, mostly on film.

    Nice camera to find working! I have a couple of M4s, neither of which works. I had an M3 that was wonderful until I dropped it and bent the shaft of the winder, so thats waiting to be put back together.
    Is it a LSM?​
    These are fixed-lens cameras. There were wide- and tele auxiliary lens sets that fastened on the front, at least for the later models, complete with cute shoe-mounted viewfinders like this
    My understanding is that the Luminor is four-element on the M3 and M4. The original Pax has a triplet, still called a Luminor (but it's an f/3.5). I don't know about the M2 - never even seen one. My old Pax is my favourite rangefinder camera (the RF itself is tiny, and rather dim). I got it at a reasonable price because the focus was stuck. I managed to free it, but did some cosmetic damage in the process. There are some complete crooks out there trying to sell these as collector's pieces for hundreds.
    My Pax set on Flickr
  14. That is one sharp lens. Contrast looks good too. The coating must really be first rate since the front element is not very deeply recessed, yet image has lots of contrast. Thanks for sharing.
  15. Hi, Rick I've already become an afficianado of the Yamato cutie range, with six of them in the Trophy Cupboard at the last count. I can see you're heading in the same direction, mate! I'd hate to actually guess just how many variations on a Yamato theme there are, because not only did they make so many virtually identical models apart from different names, but there's the other aspect of the green and red leatherette variants too.
    The lens aspect seems to be fairly easy to describe. If it's got an F3.5, it's a triplet. If it's got an F2.8. it's a four-element Tessar clone. Frozen focussing is a common problem on all Yamatos as several folks have already mentioned, but it's usually easy to re-energize the gunked grease with CRC Aerosol Cleaner or similar stuff. I actually used a Pax M4 for a while out of interest and was very impressed with its results. Maybe its resemblance to a miniature Leica M3 was also a factor .......
    (Pete in Perth)
  16. Rick, obscure or not, looks like a fine example, and the results speak for themselves. Interesting that the back detaches like the Nikon F. I particularly like "Kanukas" and "The Blue Car".
  17. I really like the way you use light in your compositions. Great work.
  18. Amazing!
  19. Oh yes! What a delightful and informative post. Great images and presentation as usual. I like the egg crate idea! Really nice color from that lens.
  20. Add "Skymaster" to the list of Pax alternative names - mine is an Pax M3 clone. Looks like the difference between the M3 and the M4 is a few years, the brightline viewfinder and the rewind crank instead of knob (e.g. same body size/shape, lens and shutter.)
  21. Really nice images ! I want one too! In fact I think I had one once.. My Dad had a "backup" camera and gee was it small. I borrowed it for one of my first photo experiences. I'm still trying to correctly identify it! But I'm basing it on comments made here and in an older post! IT jammed and I tried to take it apart and realized I was in over my head and hid my shame in a box in the attic.. it will one day come to light! Sears Tower 55 sems to be the candidate. But I much prefer this model with a RF and a beuatiful little "red" button. Your photos are always tip-top Love the B&W work That second image Kanukas is great! I am keeping my eyes open! I want to learn more about these models!
  22. Thank you all for your responses. I'll try to get back to some proper cameras soon, but these little things just seem to keep turning up.

    Richard, go on, buy them, get them before my compulsion get any worse. I decided about a year ago that I had plenty of cameras to use for sensible photography, and that it might be more interesting, and certainly cheaper, to pick up some of the oddballs.

    SP, the scans are straight off a Fuji Frontier. They are the regular basic scans a customer receives, although I do ask for the default unsharp mask to be deactivated as I find it un-necessary. The file size averages about 1MB, and they are suitable for prints up to about 8 x12 inches. It's far quicker and easier than slaving over the Coolscan. If required, the Frontier can produce scans of a file size suitable for prints up to at least 20 x16 inches from a 35mm neg, but that's a special service as it slows the workflow down to a crawl. I just crop and make basic corrections and size them up for posting.

    Michael, your query about the lensmount has been answered ; it would be an interesting little camera with interchangeable lenses.

    Craig, hurry up and put a film through the Konica. I'll be interested to see how it performs

    Thanks Winfried, Pete, Erik and Peter for the additional information. This sort of input makes Photo.net a valuable repository of knowledge.

    Yes, Mike, the lens is surprisingly good. I did have a little lens shade that fitted, but the lens is remarkably flare-free.

    Thanks, Shash, Gerry, Louis, Chuck and John, your comments are always appreciated and valued. Nice to know you're another "Red Button" fan, Chuck!

    And Tony, well, what can I say? Is that really you with the blue car? The background doesn't look like that scrub you Australians call bush, and there's not a kangaroo or drop-bear or even a feral Fosters in sight...Thanks for the compliments, mate.
  23. Hi Rick, that is my wife and my son is in the car. Shot taken at a garden in Daylesford in Victoria, famous for it's mineral springs.
    The area is quite high, and very cold in Autumn when this was taken. As you can see, the gardens are very Anglicised, as is the whole area really.
  24. Thanks Tony; I must curb this tendency to be flippant with my trans-Tasman neighbours. I've actually traveled through that part of Victoria, and very beautiful it is. And I certainly didn't mean to imply that it was you leaning on the car; I assumed you were the handsome chap behind the wheel! Lovely Ford; I don't recall having seen exactly that model on our roads.
  25. Keep those posts comming on the obscure cameras, Rick. Your research on their history is
    very informative.
  26. Great series of pictures, I love the kanuka shot and the red chairs. Rick your photography has style and attracts interest regardless of camera shot with. You have been using a lot of these classic cameras lately, do you actually keep them or do you just put them on for sale after you have had your fun?
  27. No worries Rick, I don't appear in photos for a very good reason, I have a good face for radio!
    The car is a FPV F6, based on the Falcon in your photo. I don't know if Ford Performance Vehicles are in NZ, it's a turbo six, 310KW.
  28. Thanks Rod, I'm glad you find something interesting in these posts; it's not the most useful of information but I just find most things to do with old cameras kind of fascinating. And Ralf, I do try to hold on to these old cameras, though if I find a better example I sell off the poorer one. The old rangefinders don't represent a large investment, compared to the system cameras such as Canon or Nikon SLR's, or the classic folders. I'm pleased you enjoy the images.
  29. Gee, it looks and sounds a lot like the Canter Beauty SuperII I have on the bench here. The focusing was as described but after I attended to that the RF beamsplitter mirror has fallen/been rubbed off and I'm trying to think of a replacement.
    The Flash socket is on the front next the shutter, not sticking out from it.
    Nice shots, too. Especially with gloves on! <VBG> I spent 6 years in Dunedin so I sympathise. Fortunately a long ago and not missed winter experience here in Brisbane.
  30. Envious am I of yet another fabulous post, Rick. I am most jealous, of course, of what I imagine are the vast amounts of leisure time you have to play with your new toys and stroll about the countryside and town centers. Gear Acquisition Syndrome or not, you get the most mileage out of any camera you run film through.
    Splendid work, even if it's not a "proper" camera.
  31. Well, as everyone has said, this is yet another superb post. I've heard of Pax cameras but I didn't realize they had such nice lenses. This one is really sharp! As usual I like all of these photos but my favorite is actually "Switch". It always amazes me how you can take the most ordinary subject and make an artistic photograph from it. That's when you know that the person behind the camera is truly a master of the art. I enjoyed reading the information associated with the camera as well. Thanks for another informative and first-class post, Rick.
  32. Andy, I should have expected it, but it's interesting that you chose "Switch" as a favourite; it's the only pic in the series I felt enthusiastic about, and I'm still considering making a decent print from the neg. Les did, too; obviously we're gentlemen of refined tastes! Thank you both for your comments. I don't know how you survived six years in Dunedin, Murray, and Brisbane seems a much better idea. Those Beautys are nice cameras. And Gabor, pleas don't imagine me swanning around the countryside wondering what I'll photograph next; I actually have to fit my Photo.net time into a reasonably busy schedule, though life in the country is not quite as demanding as city life. Could I interest you in the upbringing of a couple of orphan lambs?
  33. Nice camera and nice pictures.
    I'm just wondering why there are 3 windows on the front (instead of 2 like Erik's camera)
  34. A frosted window is usually to illuminate extra viewfinder information. It seems they added bright frame lines to the M4 viewfinder (the M3/Skymaster doesn't have this.)

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