The Lyrax (ライラックス) is a 4.5×6 rangefinder camera made by Fuji Kōgaku from 1939.
The Lyrax looks like an overgrown screw-mount Leica with collapsible lens. It has a metal telescopic tube supporting the lens and shutter assembly. The top and bottom plates are chrome finished. The bottom plate is removed for film loading, as on the [eica screwmount models. It has film flanges at both ends, one of which contains a tripod thread, and it is locked in position by a key. The back is fixed and contains two red windows to control the film advance, protected by a horizontally sliding cover. It also has a round metal patch in the middle, used by the factory and later repairers to adjust the lens infinity position. There is a film spool extractor on the advance side.
The folding optical viewfinder stands above a large housing containing the uncoupled rangefinder, with two round windows. There is a distance setting knob above the right end of the rangefinder housing, graduated from 1 meter to infinity, and looking like the advance knob of a 35mm camera. There is metal patch behind the rangefinder housing, removable with the proper tool for rangefinder adjustment.
The advance knob and body release are mounted on a small separate housing at the left of the top plate, looking like the one mounted on some Ikonta models. It contains a double exposure prevention mechanism, with a small red/white indicator. Once the release is pressed, the button is locked and the indicator turns red. The release is unlocked and the indicator turns white again when the advance knob is turned. The advance knob has two red arrows to indicate the winding direction.
The name Lyrax is engraved between the two rangefinder windows, in cursive style. A small plate inscribed FUJI KōGAKU is riveted under the base of the telescopic tube. The FUJI KōGAKU logo is embossed in the back leather at the bottom right.
The lens is a front-cell focusing Terionar 75mm on all the models.
The original model
The original model was released in mid-1939. The camera was presented as "the summit of Japanese optics" (光学日本の最高峰) in advertisements dated July to December 1939. Four versions are listed in Asahi Camera July and August 1939:
- f/4.5 lens, Fujikō B shutter, ¥185;
- f/4.5 lens, Fujikō A shutter, ¥195;
- f/3.5 lens, Fujikō B shutter, ¥200;
- f/3.5 lens, Fujikō A shutter, ¥210.
The Fujikō B shutter gives B, 5–250 speeds and the Fujikō A shutter gives B, 1–300. The shutters mounted on the Lyrax are the same as on the New Semi Lyra and Lyra Six III except that they lack the T setting. It was probably removed because it interfered with the operation of the double exposure prevention mechanism.
In the advertising pictures, the shutter plate is black with a white FUJIKŌ marking at the top. The three actual examples observed so far have the Terionar f/3.5 lens and the Fujikō B. They have a clear colored shutter plate with black markings at the top, reading FUJIKŌ in one word on one example and in two words FUJ and IKŌ on the two others, and no marking at the bottom..
The Lyrax F
The Lyrax F (ライラックスＦ型) was released in late 1940 or early 1941. It is equipped with the new Fujikō F shutter, also found on the Semi Lyra F, Lyra Six F and Lyra Flex F. The T setting was removed again and the shutter thus gives B, 1–200 speeds.
The list of set prices compiled in October 1940 and published in January 1941 mentions four versions of the Lyrax, called "Lyrax" (¥75), "Lyrax F" (¥75), "Lyrax F L" (¥89) and "Lyrax F Y" (¥110), with no further detail. These prices do not fit well with the prices observed in the advertisements, and the document is perhaps mistaken. A similar price list dated November 1941 has the "Lyrax", "Lyrax F" and "Lyrax J".
The May 1941 advertisement in Shashin Bunka lists the Lyrax F with the f/3.5 lens only, for ¥220. Kokusan kamera no rekishi says that this version was also available with the f/4.5 lens, but this has not been confirmed. The Lyrax F was reportedly advertised in Shashin Bunka until August 1942. It appears with the Terionar f/3.5 lens in the April 1943 government inquiry on Japanese camera production. It is also listed in an advertisement dated February 1944 placed by Banno Toyoji Shōten.
The only actual example observed so far is pictured in Sugiyama. The shutter plate is clear colored (certainly yellowish) with black markings, reading FUJ and IKŌ at the top, with an arrow in between, and certainly FUJIKŌGAKU at the bottom, and the lens engraving reads Fuji–kō Anastigmat Terionar. On the Lyra Six F and Lyra Flex F, the lens engraving was changed to Fuji–kō Terionar between lens no.120000 and no.126000 and the yellowish shutter plate was replaced by a black one at the same time. This perhaps also applied to the Lyrax F.
- Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.343, mentions automatic stop film advance but this is a mistake.
- The earliest advertisement listed in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.343, is dated June 1939. The same source says that the camera was featured in the September 1939 issue of Camera Club and in the December 1939 issue of Asahi Camera.
- Advertisements in Asahi Camera July and August 1939 reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.101. Advertisement in Asahi Camera October 1939 reproduced in this page of the Heiki Seikatsu website. Advertisement on the front cover of Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin, December 15, 1939, reproduced on p.33 of Hyaku-gō goto jūkai no kiroku.
- FUJIKŌ: example pictured in this page of the JCII collection. FUJ and IKŌ: example pictured in McKeown, p.329, and example pictured in Sugiyama, item 3033.
- The first advertisements listed in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.343, are dated April 1941, but the Semi Lyra F and Lyra Six F equipped with the same shutter appeared at the end of 1940.
- "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku", type 4, sections 1, 5A and 6A. The Lyrax models are listed among 6×6 models, probably by mistake.
- "Kamera no kōtei kakaku kanpō happyō", November 1941, type 3, sections 9 and 10.
- Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.100.
- Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.343.
- Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.343
- "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), item 50.
- Advertisement on the back cover of Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin, February 15, 1944, reproduced on p.78 of Hyaku-gō goto jūkai no kiroku.
- Sugiyama, item 3034.
- Asahi Camera (アサヒカメラ) editorial staff. Shōwa 10–40nen kōkoku ni miru kokusan kamera no rekishi (昭和10–40年広告にみる国産カメラの歴史, Japanese camera history as seen in advertisements, 1935–1965). Tokyo: Asahi Shinbunsha, 1994. ISBN 4-02-330312-7. Items 296, 302, 303.
- The Japanese Historical Camera. 日本の歴史的カメラ (Nihon no rekishiteki kamera). 2nd ed. Tokyo: JCII Camera Museum, 2004. P.37. (Included for its rangefinder.)
- "Kamera no kōtei kakaku kanpō happyō" (カメラの公定価格官報発表, Official announcement of the set prices of the cameras), November 1941. Extract of a table listing Japanese camera production and setting the retail prices, reproduced in "Bebī Semi Fāsuto 'Kore ha bebī wo nanotta semi-ki da'" (ベビーセミファースト"これはベビーを名乗ったセミ機だ", Baby Semi First, 'this is a Semi camera called Baby'), an article by Furukawa Yasuo (古川保男) in Camera Collectors' News no. 277 (July 2000). Nishinomiya: Camera Collectors News-sha. P. 27. Type 3, sections 9 and 10.
- "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" (国産写真機ノ現状調査, Inquiry into Japanese cameras), listing Japanese camera production as of April 1943. Reproduced in Supuringu kamera de ikou: Zen 69 kishu no shōkai to tsukaikata (スプリングカメラでいこう: 全69機種の紹介と使い方, Let's try spring cameras: Presentation and use of 69 machines). Tokyo: Shashinkogyo Syuppan-sha, 2004. ISBN 4-87956-072-3. Pp.180–7. Item 50.
- "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku" (国産写真機の公定価格, Set prices of the Japanese cameras), listing Japanese camera production as of October 25, 1940 and setting the retail prices from December 10, 1940. Published in Asahi Camera January 1941 and reproduced in Shōwa 10—40nen kōkoku ni miru kokusan kamera no rekishi (昭和10〜40年広告にみる国産カメラの歴史, Japanese camera history as seen in advertisements, 1935—1965). Tokyo: Asahi Shinbunsha, 1994. ISBN 4-02-330312-7. Pp.108—9. Type 4, sections 1, 5A and 6A.
- Lewis, Gordon, ed. The History of the Japanese Camera. Rochester, N.Y.: George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography & Film, 1991. ISBN 0-935398-17-1 (paper), ISBN 0-935398-16-3 (hard). P.56 (brief mention only).
- Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin (日本写真興業通信). Hyaku-gō goto jūkai no kiroku (百号ごと十回の記録, Ten records, every hundred issues). Tokyo: Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin Sha (日本写真興業通信社), 1967. No ISBN number. Advertisements on p.33, corresponding to the front cover of the December 15, 1939 issue, and on p.78, corresponding to the back cover of the February 15, 1944 issue.
- McKeown, James M. and Joan C. McKeown's Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras, 12th Edition, 2005-2006. USA, Centennial Photo Service, 2004. ISBN 0-931838-40-1 (hardcover). ISBN 0-931838-41-X (softcover). P.329.
- Sugiyama, Kōichi (杉山浩一); Naoi, Hiroaki (直井浩明); Bullock, John R. The Collector's Guide to Japanese Cameras. 国産カメラ図鑑 (Kokusan kamera zukan). Tokyo: Asahi Sonorama, 1985. ISBN 4-257-03187-5. Items 3033–4.
- Lyrax in the Camera database of the Center of the History of Japanese Industrial Technology
- Advertisement for the Lyrax and Lyra Six published in the October 1939 issue of Asahi Camera, reproduced in a page of camera advertisements at the Heiki Seikatsu website