See also the Japanese Rectaflex TLR.
The Rectaflex 35mm SLR is the brainchild of the Roman lawyer and industrialist Telemaco Corsi. After having had a prototype built, based on his ideas, he established the Rectaflex enterprise in Rome. A wooden prototype was shown in early summer of 1947, and again in late spring of 1948, this time fully functional. So, it was worlds first publically presented and first produced penta rism slr. However, the venture was rather loosely organised and after some troubled years, the company was sold in 1955.
The original Rectaflex
The Rectaflex is a 35mm SLR camera with a focal plane shutter, having interchangeable lenses and a pentaprism eye-level finder. It was the first SLR camera to be equipped with a pentaprism, market ready in September 1948. It also had a wide diameter bayonet mount. The chief designer was Telemaco Corsi.
The first prototype of the Rectaflex was a wooden mock-up, with a mirror eye-level finder, giving a left to right inverted image. For vertical pictures, the image was upside down which was a major drawback. The pre-series model was called Rectaflex Standard 947, and it had the pentaprism as well as a focal plane shutter from 1s to 1/1000, synchronised at 1/25.
The first production model, market ready from September 1948, was the Rectaflex series A.1000 (serial number 1000 to 2130), quite similar to the preseries model. The Rectaflex series B.2000 (s/n 2230 to 2999) has the split-image device added to the focusing screen. It has no film cutter. Note that Rectaflex series 1000 and Rectaflex series 2000 were not official designations, but is a way to recognize the variants by way of their serial number.
The Rectaflex B.3000 series was produced from September 1949, just as Contax S started their first production. The B.3000 series had an improved and brighter penta prism, giving it a slightly bigger prism house.
The Rectaflex series B.4000 (s/n 4000 to 4480) was called Duo Focus for its refined split image focusing. The Rectaflex series B.16000 (s/n 16000 to 16860) has a triple sync plug and a film reminder under the rewind knob. The Rectaflex series 20000 B (s/n 21000 to 2350) has an internally modified shutter and a reinforced bayonet mount.
The Rectaflex series 25000 B and 25000 (s/n 25000 to 29500) had a modified shutter to 1/1300, and two sync plugs only. From s/n 29500 to the last known s/n around 31500, they were called the 30000 series due to some design details like a new flattened release button. From 25000 B series and on, they were sometimes called Rectaflex 1300, because of its shutter speed, the previous series being called Rectaflex 1000.
The special variants
Picture by Paspey. (Image rights)
The Rectaflex Junior was a Rectaflex series 1000 transformed with a simplified focal plane shutter from 1/25 to 1/500. The Rectaflex series 1000 had reliability trouble, so an important number (between 500 and 1000) were converted.
The Rectaflex Gold was a Rectaflex series 25000 with gold-plated finish and lizard body covering. All were offered to VIPs, among which the Pope Pius XII, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Winston Churchill.
The Rectaflex Rotor was a Rectaflex series 25000 with a three lens turret. The estimated production was 200 to 300. In addition, some Rectaflex from various series were independently converted to the Rectaflex Rotor specifications.
A special version of the Rectaflex series 25000 existed with 24x32 format and a microscope adapter, for scientific use.
The Rectaflex Liechtenstein
Picture by Willboy2010. (Image rights)
After the Rectaflex 25000 the original Rectaflex company went down, and a new Rectaflex company was formed, partly controlled by the Prince of Liechtenstein. Telemaco Corsi did not play any role in it. They launched a Rectaflex 40000, often called Rectaflex Liechtenstein. It had a reshaped pentaprism cover, with the Liechtenstein blason, and other minor changes. The number produced is unknown and it seemed to be plagued by design faults. Some prototypes are known with internal diaphragm preselection.
The Recta was a prototype rangefinder camera based on the Rectaflex. It had a focal plane shutter from 1s to 1/1000 and a 39mm Leica mount. Six were produced, with serial number 1001 to 1006. The known standard lens was the Isco Westar 50/3.5.
The Recta was designed by Telemaco Corsi in 1953, before the demise of Rectaflex.
The Rectamatic was the project of an advanced 35mm SLR camera, designed by Telemaco Corsi at the beginning of the 1960s, as a successor of the Rectaflex.
The Rectaflex lenses
- Dallmeyer Dalrac 13.5cm/4.5, chrome with black mount (sold at lp-foto auction #4)
- Marco Antonetto:Rectaflex, La Reflex Magica, Nassa Watch Gallery 2002.
Patrice-Hervé Pont, Ed. Fotosaga
- Rectaflex patents
- Rectaflex repair notes at Robert Ian Axford's Camera Works
- Rectaflex instruction manual at Butkus.org
- Rectaflex history at pentax-slr