See also the wartime Tanaka, maker of the Mulix, and Tanaka Shōkai, an unrelated distributor.

Tanaka Kōgaku (田中光学, meaning Tanaka Optical) was a Japanese camera and lens maker.


Tanaka Kōgaku K.K. (田中光学㈱)[1] was initially based in Kawasaki, Kanagawa (a distant suburb of Tokyo).[2] The company started to work on a Leica copy called Tanack 35 in 1952,[3] and released the camera in 1953. It was designed by a former employee of Kōgaku Seiki (predecessor of Nicca), who worked under Kumagai Genji on the Nippon Leica copy.[4] It is not known if this was the company's first product, or if it was already making screw lenses or camera accessories.[5]

In 1954, the company installed its headquarters in Ginza,[6] perhaps to carry out the distribution of the Tanack itself, whereas the factory remained in Kawasaki. The camera was improved the same year as the Tanack IIIS and in 1955 as the Tanack IV-S. The latter model met some success and was produced until 1958. At the same time, Tanaka was making a series of Tanar lenses in Leica mount, to equip the Tanack cameras.

From 1956 onwards, the cameras were advertised by Tanack Camera K.K. (タナックカメラ㈱), new name of the Ginza commercial branch.[7] Documents dated 1956 show the company name "Tanaka Kōgaku Kōgyō K.K." (田中光学工業㈱, meaning Tanaka Optical Industries),[8] but they might be mistaken, and later ones have "Tanaka Kōgaku K.K." (田中光学㈱) again.[9]

In 1957, Tanaka released an ambitious rangefinder camera called Tanack SD, inspired by the Nikon S2 but taking Leica mount lenses. The camera was produced until 1959 but met very limited success.

In early 1959, the company released the Tanack V3 in an attempt to give a successor to the Tanack IV-S. The camera had a specific bayonet mount, but was only sold with Leica screw mount lenses fitted via an adaptor. Tanaka finally developed the Tanack VP, an evolution of the V3 turning back to the Leica screw mount, but it lacked the resource and time to release the camera before its failure in December 1959, though it seems that a few cameras were assembled and reached the market after that date.[10]

Camera list[]

Lens list[]

  • Tanar lenses in Leica screw mount:
    • Tanar 50mm f/3.5 and 5cm f/3.5
    • Tanar 50mm f/2.8 and 5cm f/2.8
    • Tanar 5cm f/2
    • Tanar 5cm f/1.9
    • Tanar 5cm f/1.8
    • Tanar 5cm f/1.5
    • Tanar 50/1.2 (perhaps never sold or in limited quantities only)
    • W Tanar 35mm f/3.5
    • W Tanar 35mm f/2.8
    • Tele-Tanar 85/2 (surely never sold)
    • Tele-Tanar 10cm f/3.5 (probably sold in limited quantities only)
    • Tele-Tanar 13.5cm f/3.5
    • Tele-Tanar 135/2.8 (surely never sold)
  • Tanar lenses in Nikon S and Contax mount:
    • W Tanar 35mm f/2.8 (indifferently fitting the Nikon and Contax)
    • Tele-Tanar 13.5cm f/3.5 (with a small N at the rear end for Nikon, or a small C for Contax)
  • tele lenses for 16mm and 8mm movie cameras (announced in mid 1953)[11]


  • accessory finders for the Tanar lenses
  • Universal zoom finder for 35mm cameras (announced in mid 1953)[11]


  1. Full name confirmed by advertisements dated May 1953 to May 1955 reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, pp.145–6.
  2. The address was Kanagawa-ken Kawasaki-shi Noborito 2828 (神奈川県川崎市登戸2828). Source: advertisements dated May 1953 to May 1955 reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, pp.145–6.
  3. Saitō, p.348 of Shashin Kōgyō November 1955.
  4. Shirai, pp.25–6 of Maboroshi no kamera o otte: 熊谷氏の会社の職人だった人々が作ったカメラに、やはりライカそっくりの「タナック」、「チヨタックス」、「メルコン」があるという.
  5. Awano, p.52 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.37, says that it was already producing screw lenses and camera accessories, but this is unconfirmed by the original documents observed so far. Such products are mentioned in the advertisement for the Tanack 35 in Ars Camera May 1953, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.145.
  6. The address was Tōkyō-to Chūō-ku Ginza 3–5 (東京都中央区銀座3丁目5) in late 1954, then Ginza 1–3 in mid-1955. Source: advertisements dated December 1954 to May 1955 reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.146.
  7. The address of that company is that in Ginza 1–3. Source: advertisements dated December 1956 to January 1959 reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, pp.146 and 253.
  8. Column in Shashin Kōgyō September 1956, p.217, and article in Shashin Kōgyō October 1956, p.259.
  9. Saitō, p.249 of Shashin Kōgyō March 1959.
  10. Teranishi, p.26 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.45.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Advertisement in Ars Camera May 1953, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.145.