Reflexa (a rebadged Mamiya Prismat NP)

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by jdm_von_weinberg, Jan 3, 2010.

  1. Reflexa 35mm SLR with Canon 50mm f/1.9 lens in a modified Exakta mount

    This is a complex story.

    Mamiya is an Japanese company whose manufacture of cameras goes back into the 1950s, and they are known today mostly for their medium-format cameras. They discontinued manufacture of 35mm cameras in the 1980s, and their current website has essentially no information about those cameras.

    The Prismat
    However, way back in 1961, Mamiya decided that they would try to break into the developing 35mm SLR market. Their first (?, although note the Sears Tower 37 of 1960 mentioned below) 35mm SLR product was a camera called the Prismat NP. It had a fixed prism, no meter, and a cloth focal-plane shutter.


    Its house brand lens was a Mamiya-Sekor semi-automatic 58mm f/1.7 in (get this) an Exakta bayonet mount. Non-automatic Exakta lenses will mount and function on the Prismat. Automatic Exakta mount lenses (typically with an external aperture will mount, but the automatic aperture mechanism of the Prismat is located at a different part of the lens, so the Exakta lenses will not stop down automatically on the Prismat. The Prismat lenses will not mount at all on an Exakta without removing the semi-auto aperture connection.

    To add prestige to their line, the higher-quality lens for the Prismat was a "Canon OM 50mm f/1.9" semi-automatic lens. In 1961, according to Bob Shell's Canon Compendium, Canon had a minority share in Mamiya and shared a distributor.

    More background

    This is where I come into the story. I collect old DDR SLRs and other cameras, and this involves Exakta, naturally. I was intrigued when I read about a Canon lens in this mount, so I cast upon the waters, and found, not a Prismat with the Exakta-mount Canon lens, but something called a Reflexa. It turns out that the Prismat was rebranded and sold under the Reflexa name in Great Britain, where the eBay vendor was located. It was also sold in the United States as a Tower 32B (and something that looks similar is the Sears Tower 37 in 1960). I don't have a catalog with the 32B in it so I am not sure if the Canon lens was available on the Sears model.

    The Story Proper
    Anyway, the Reflexa was honestly described as pretty beat up, but the Canon lens on it was in good shape. At some point, the camera had been bounced or dribbled down a stone staircase or some such, and the top of the camera looks much worse in person than it does in the photographs below. There is a repair shop label on the inside, and the camera appeared to fire its shutter, etc. when I got it. I was very disappointed to learn that the lens could not be mounted on a Exakta body, so I let this one sit for a while before testing it. I finally got some of my 1990-expired Tri-X into it (which has worked just like new film in a number of cameras). It sat for a while after some initial shots (sometimes it takes a long time to shoot up 36 exposures). Finally, on New Year's Day, we had a patch of sun and I got out into what turned out to be a very cold day. After shooting a few shots in the cold, the shutter started to make funny sounds, but I shot on since I thought I was near the end of the roll (the frame counter was a casualty of the drop-kick).

    Not to leave a mystery-- apparently the funny sound was the shutter or whatever actually starting to work, since those were nearly the only pictures on the roll that came out, aside from a few at the start (that looked like there had been a light leak or perhaps the speeds were way off.

    When I examined the pictures that did come out, it was also clear that the focus shown from the mirror/viewfinder was no longer "exactly right". The lens seems to be OK, but perhaps the mirror is off ? Regardless, what I had focused on, was not what was in sharpest focus.

    First the camera, lens, and the Actina Super-Scru filter (yes, really). Apparently this little filter gave nearly its all to protect the lens when the camera was dropped, as shown in the pictures. It is the strongest argument for a protective filter that I have personally experienced.
  2. Second, there is a picture of the lens mount and the rear of the lens, showing the oddly placed aperture trigger that works from the inside of the camera but trips the lens on the exterior ( but why ?).
  3. Here are some of the pictures that turned out--after the shutter started "sounding funny" - which turned out to mean that it was finally working properly. The first picture shows the damage remaining from our "derecho" (read, inland hurricane) of last spring. It didn't look so bad until the leaves were off.
    The second image is a 100% crop full size of a section of that image scanned at 4800 dpi on a Canoscan 9950F.
    The bottom image shows the focus problem clearly. Actual focus in the viewfinder was farther down the path.
  4. Here are two more views taken. A weather measuring device of some sort, and a footbridge at the Campus Lake (where all of these were taken Jan 1).
  5. There are two footnotes.
    At the same time that Canon was making this lens for the Mamiya Prismat (something not ever mentioned in the Canon official history that I can find), Mamiya was also collaborating with Nikon to make a "consumer grade" camera called the Nikkorex. This is the "lost camera" also for Nikon, since it does not exist, really, in their official histories. Oddly enough, the three Prismat lenses in an Exakta mount that Mamiya made were also available in Nikon F mount.
    The Mamiya Prismat was not officially imported into the USA except for at least one mail-order house, and the rebadged Sears version(s) already mentioned (we don' need no steenking bahges!)
  6. Here's a copy of an ad from Modern Photography in December of 1962. I think this is your camera, sans the accessory shoe.
  7. Fascinating story and write up. Is there perhaps some adjustment to the angle of the mirror? On a Fujica ST701 (early model) I owned there was a screw that was off by a turn or so that let the mirror rested too low. I suppose every camera is different though. The later Mamiya TL and DTL series seemed to be fairly decent bodies if a little large compared to the contemporary Pentax Spotmatics. Didn't Topcon also use the Exakta mount, but turned to a different angle than Exakta bodies?
  8. Yes, Olden was (one of, the) the "unofficial" importers. The shoe on mine looks like it was made for the camera, but it is an add-on, not built on. Thanks for posting the ad.
    Given the other problems with the camera, I probably won't worry about the focus problem. I didn't mention that when I opened up the camera to remove the film, the back, together with the strap piece fell off the camera (the back is NOT supposed to be removeable). There were at least some indications of light leaks (probably at the corner holding the back on, too).
  9. A very interesting story. The position of the f-stop trigger looks somewhat like the Russian START. But I guess the mechanism was reversed in this one [from the body to the lens]. Thanks you, regards, sp.
  10. JDM von Weinberg: you may wish to visit Ron Herron's Mamiya site for more interesting history of these unusual cameras.
  11. I've got to hand it to you for persistence JDM! That is one obscure and Cranky Classic. So it's lineage includes Nikon, Canon, and Exakta? I guess you have to hand it to the Mamiya designers for having good taste through associations. I was working at a camera store "Fox Stanley Photo" when the 35mm Mamiya line went dead. I recall it being very sudden, and there were rumors that the CEO absconded with all of the money, and that's why Mamiya's medium format group wanted NO association with the the 35mm line.
  12. Thanks paul- the link for the Mamiya Collector's is (link ). It still leaves the very similar Sears Tower 37 of 1960 somewhat of a mystery.
    Here's the Sears Camera Catalog (Copyright 1960) page with what looks to be an earlier (?) version of the Prismat with a different speed dial and a different frame counter, as well as the ill-fated Nikkorex, also made by Mamiya.
  13. While I don't have the Mamiya Prismat NP, I have two Sears 32B, a Tower 37 and two Nikkorex F but you've neglected the Ricoh Singlex version and the Argus (I have three) version. Also if you use Exakta you'll like the Firstflex 35 which is a simple SLR that uses the Exakta mount too. Mine came with a Tokina 45mm f2.8 in Exakta mount.
  14. Curt,
    I think I may have discovered someone even more "involved," shall we say, than I. ;)
    My main interest was seeing if I could get a Canon lens that would work on my old Exaktas, but got led down the path following up on the Reflexa.
    A little reading on the collector's page for Mamiya suggests that the Sears Tower 37 is based on the very earliest Prismat NP bodies, but could even have been the first Mamiya camera to bear the rectangular name tag characteristic of the later Prismats.
  15. By the way your camera looks just like an Argus SLR ca. 1965, only made one year. The lens was a Sekor and the mount looked like an upside down Nikkor mount although they are not one bit interchangeable as the reach is different. My friend had a t mount for this camera so he now owns the camera, lens and t mount through some swap deal that escapes both of us! The camera did not have any internal metering circuitry. If I think of it, I'll photograph the camera next time I see my friend and post it here.
  16. With this shape, these controls, and this layout, it's a dead ringer for my Nikkorex F.
  17. Luke, if you check the Wallace Heaton Blue Book for 1965-66, you'll find two versions of this camera one above the other. These are the Nikkorex F, retailing at £103-11-8d with a f2.0 Nikkor and the Ricoh Singlex at a much more reasonable £89-16-1d with a f1.4 lens (it has a Nikon mount as well). Both have early versions of the Copal Square shutter and a mount for a coupled meter.
    The story I was told, by a Rank Organisation rep (Rank Imported Nikon into the UK in the 'sixties and 'seventies) was that Ricoh made the Nikkorex under a deal that allowed them also to sell the camera, under their own name, in territories where Nippon Kogaku didn't have a sales office. Because Britain was served by Rank, rather than Nikon themselves, Ricoh contended that they had a right to sell the Singlex here; an argument that, I was told, didn't go down well with Nippon Kogaku's management. As a result, the planned successor to the Nikkorex, also to be made by Ricoh, was dropped and the Nikkormat was developed in-house.
  18. Paul Wheatland said : "By the way your camera looks just like an Argus SLR ca. 1965, only made one year. The lens was a Sekor and the mount looked like an upside down Nikkor mount although they are not one bit interchangeable as the reach is different. My friend had a t mount for this camera so he now owns the camera, lens and t mount through some swap deal that escapes both of us! The camera did not have any internal metering circuitry. If I think of it, I'll photograph the camera next time I see my friend and post it here."

    I have one of these Argus SLRs, by Mamiya, based on the Prismat. I also have the original Sekor 'normal' lens, and was able to find an adapter to use Pentax screwmount lenses on the camera. It came with a meter that fit on top of the prism. This is quite a hefty machine.
  19. When I sardonically "re-animated" an old post of mine a while back, I did it to protest the tendency of the new defaults to take ancient posts and make them (to the unobservant) look like recent ones.

    However, some people actually seemed to like the idea, so this is a "JDM's Greatest HIts" reanimation while I'm house breaking the new puppy and trying to find time for some new posts on my early digital cameras.

    If this is not appreciated or "liked", let me know and I'll stop doing it. :|
    John Farrell, AJG and marc_bergman|1 like this.
  20. I for one enjoy this. We can't index our articles so this is the next best thing.

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