Tōkyō Kōgaku, later Topcon, is a Japanese optical manufacturer, previously a manufacturer of photographic equipment.

History[edit | edit source]

Foundation as an optical company[edit | edit source]

The company was founded in 1932 as Tōkyō Kōgaku Kikai K.K. (東京光学機械㈱, usually translated as Tokyo Optical Company). It resulted from the merger on 1 September 1932 of the measure instruments section of Seikōsha (the manufacturing branch of Hattori Tokei-ten) and Katsuma Kōgaku Kikai Seisakusho (勝間光学機械製作所), said to be a subcontractor or a dependent company.[1] As its name indicates, it was based in Tokyo.[2] It remained dependent of Hattori Tokei-ten until 1947.[3]

It was first an optical company, like Nippon Kōgaku (later Nikon). It was a supplier to the Imperial Japanese Army whereas Nippon Kōgaku was a supplier to the Navy.[4] The first lens was the State (ステート) triplet, made available in 1933.[5] It was followed in 1934[6] by the Toko (トーコー) triplet and in 1935[7] by the Simlar (シムラー) four-element lens. The name Toko certainly stands for Tokyo Kogaku, and it is said that the name Simlar (written shimurā in Japanese) comes from Shimura, the quarter where the company plant is located.[8] The company also made special purpose lenses, many of them for military use until 1945. It began producing 39mm screw lenses immediately after the war, notable mounted on the Leotax cameras.

First cameras[edit | edit source]

The company's first camera was the Lord, released in 1937, which was not a big success. It was followed in 1938 by the Minion 4×5cm folders. The company began the production of 35mm cameras in 1948 with the Minion 35 and of 6×6 TLR cameras in 1950 with the Topcoflex, mainly distributed as the Primoflex and Laurelflex. It was the first appearance of the "Topco" name, probably from Tokyo Optical Company. The Topcon brand name appeared in 1953 on the Topcon 35, successor of the Minion 35 series, and the Topcor lens name appeared in 1954, soon replacing all the previous lens names. (Topcon and Topcor were obviously modelled after Nikon and Nikkor.)

In 1953 and 1954, the dependent company Yamagata Kikai made the Semi Oscon that was advertised together with the company's own cameras.

Topcon SLRs[edit | edit source]

The company began the production of Topcon 35mm SLRs in 1957 (before either Nikon or Canon produced an SLR), and it very soon concentrated on these, stopping the production of all the other types. The Topcon RE Super, launched in 1963 at the Photokina, was the company's most innovative camera and one of its most rugged and versatile. It was the first SLR with a through-the-lens exposure meter. Pentax would follow the next year with the Spotmatic, and Nikon only in 1965 with the Nikkormat FT, and with the Photomic T prism for the Nikon F.

In parallel to the high end bodies, Tōkyō Kōgaku also manufactured simpler SLRs, at the beginning with a central shutter, later with a Copal Square focal-plane shutter.

The Topcon SLRs were imported in the USA by Beseler, which put its own name on the bodies. Some models were marked Hanimex when imported in the Commonwealth.

At the end of the 1960s, the company ceased to innovate on the SLRs, and produced variations on the same basic design until 1976. The bodies made after 1977 are not up to their predecessors, and the rumor says they were not designed by Tōkyō Kōgaku but elsewhere.

End of camera production[edit | edit source]

Tōkyō Kōgaku decided to stop the production of cameras in 1981. It thereafter concentrated on making specialist optical equipment of no direct relation to photography, and in 1989 took the name K.K. Topcon (㈱トプコン). It still (2018) exists.

Today the better Topcon models are eagerly collected in Japan. In 2003 Cosina designed and marketed an "Auto-Topcor" 58/1.4 lens (in Nikon F and M42 mounts) that externally resembles the genuine Tōkyō Kōgaku item and is even marked Tokyo Kogaku; it also created a variant of its M42-mount Bessaflex SLR whose distinctive pentaprism housing resembles that of the Topcon RE Super.

35mm film[edit | edit source]

SLR[edit | edit source]

Exakta lens mount[edit | edit source]

  • Topcon R = Beseler B Topcon (1957-1960)
  • Topcon RII = Beseler C Topcon (1960-1961)
  • Topcon RIII Automatic (1961-1963)
  • Topcon RS (1963), rare variant of the RE Super with no meter
  • Topcon RE Super = Beseler Topcon Super D (1963-1972)
  • Topcon RE-2 = Beseler Topcon D-1 = Hanimex Topcon RE-2 (1965-)
  • Topcon Super D = Beseler Topcon Super D (1972-1973)
  • Topcon Super DM (1973-1976)
  • Topcon RE200 = Exakta EDX2 = Carena KS1 (1977-)
  • Topcon RE300 = Exakta EDX3 = Carena KS2

All of these take Exakta lenses.

Pentax K mount[edit | edit source]

  • Topcon RM300, the same body with minor modifications was sold under the names of Quantaray Delta 2-RZ, Carena KSM1, Exakta KE4 ,Exakta KE5 and edixa cx 5(GB only?)
  • Topcon AM-1, never sold, released in 1983 by Cima as Cimko LS-1

They take Pentax K lenses.

Topcon UV lens mount[edit | edit source]

  • Topcon Wink S (1963-1964)
  • Topcon Uni = Beseler Topcon Auto 100 = Hanimex Topcon RE Auto (1964-1969)
  • Topcon Unirex = Beseler Topcon Unirex (1969-1973)
  • Topcon Unirex EE (1972-1974)
  • Topcon IC-1 Auto (1974-1976)
  • Topcon New IC-1 Auto (1976-1978)

All of these take Topcon UV lenses.

Fixed lens[edit | edit source]

  • Topcon PR (1959-1960)
  • Topcon PRII = DeJur Dekon-SR (1960)
  • Topcon Wink Mirror (1960-1961)
  • Topcon Wink Mirror E = Beseler Topconette (1961-1963)

All had front element optical complements available.

Viewfinder[edit | edit source]

Rangefinder[edit | edit source]

120 film[edit | edit source]

6×6 TLR[edit | edit source]

4.5×6 telescopic[edit | edit source]

127 film[edit | edit source]

4×4 TLR[edit | edit source]

4×5 folding[edit | edit source]

Subminiature[edit | edit source]

The Mascot subminiature was produced by Shimura on behalf of Tōkyō Kōgaku.

Press camera[edit | edit source]

Military[edit | edit source]

Lenses[edit | edit source]

Interchangeable lenses[edit | edit source]

Fixed lenses on cameras from other makers[edit | edit source]

Not all examples of the cameras listed below have Tōkyō Kōgaku lenses. All the lenses below have three elements unless noted.

  • Toko 60mm f/3.5:
    • reported on the Auto Keef by Kokusaku (also reported as 50mm f/3.5, perhaps by mistake)
  • Kraft 60mm f/3.5:
    • on the Kraft by Echt, certainly a rebadged Toko (other Kraft lenses were made by Takahashi)

Unlike what is said by some sources, the Rotte Anastigmat lenses were not made by Tōkyō Kōgaku but by Tokiwa Kōgaku.[9] An original document attributes the Hit 7.5cm f/3.5 four-element lens of the Auto Semi First and First Reflex II to Tōkyō Kōgaku, but this is perhaps a mistake and the lens was perhaps made by Tokiwa Kōgaku as well.[10]

Miscellaneous[edit | edit source]

Other[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. See the FAQ of Topcon's website. The JCII exhibition catalogue Nihon no kamera o omoshiroku shita kyōshū no burando ten says the same and adds that Katsuma was a dependent company of Hattori. Lewis, p.184, says that it was a subcontractor. Baird, p.69, says that Tōkyō Kōgaku was formed by the optical section of Seikōsha and by Katsuma, a small binocular maker (perhaps by confusion with a later Katsuma company that made binoculars after the war), and that it bought the surveying instruments section of Seikōsha in 1933, but it seems that these are mistakes. Antonetto and Russo, p.21, repeats the same story as Baird.
  2. Its address in 1932 was Tōkyō-shi Kyōbashi-ku Ginza 4–2 (東京市京橋区銀座4丁目2番地), with plants in Toshima-ku (豊島区) and Takinogawa-ku (滝野川区). At the beginning of 1933, the company moved to its main plant in Tōkyō-shi Itabashi-ku Shimura Motohasunuma-chō 180-banchi (東京市板橋区志村本蓮沼町180番地), where it still resides (2007). Source: chronology of the official website. This address is confirmed for the year 1943 by the "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras").
  3. Baird, p.72.
  4. Baird, p.69.
  5. Baird, p.70; Antonetto and Russo, p.21.
  6. Baird, p.71; Antonetto and Russo, p.22.
  7. Various sources say that the Simlar was introduced in 1937, but the lens is already mentioned in advertisements dated 1935 for the First, First Etui and First Roll.
  8. See this page of the Topcon Club website.
  9. Mistake in Antonetto and Russo, p.25, and perhaps elsewhere as well.
  10. See the discussion in the page on the First Reflex.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Advertisements in Asahi Camera January and August 1955 and Shashin Salon November 1955, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.151. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "ACA 01-08/55" defined multiple times with different content
  12. 12.0 12.1 Picture in this page of the Topcon Club website.
  13. Advertisement in Asahi Camera June 1950, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.150.

Sources / further reading[edit | edit source]

Links[edit | edit source]

General links[edit | edit source]

In English:

In Japanese:

Miscellaneous links[edit | edit source]

In English:

In Japanese:

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