Japanese pseudo TLR (edit)
Prewar and wartime models
4.5×6 Hansa Rollette Ref | Roll Light Ref | Union Ref
4×4 Pilot Ref (4×4)
3×4 Alma Baby Ref | Baby Ref | Baby Roll Ref | Chukon Ref | Clover Baby Ref | Mario Ref | Pilot Ref | Prince Baby Ref | Truth
Postwar models
6×6 Cometflex | Dox New Six | Elliotte | Flex-O-Cord | Honestflex | Koniken | Mikono Flex C | Oplen Junior | Palma Brilliant | Rionflex | Rosko Brilliant | Topflex | Vesterflex
4.5×6 Binox | Maruso Refe
4×4 Herlight
Japanese true TLR ->
Japanese 6×6, 4.5×6, 3×4 and 4×4, 4×5 and 4×6.5 ->

The Union Ref and Hansa Rollette Ref[1] are Japanese 4.5×6 pseudo TLR cameras. They seem to be the first Japanese cameras with the TLR shape.[2]

Both models are nearly identical and are certainly name variants of each other. Their actual maker is unknown.

General description[]

Both cameras are shaped like a twin lens reflex but the viewing lens is not used for focusing. The cheaper versions are fixed-focus, but this is perhaps not the case for the better ones.[3]

The camera takes horizontal 4.5×6cm pictures only. The film is advanced by a knob at the top of the right-hand sideplate, and there is a small film retaining flange at the bottom. The viewing hood has an "X"-shaped decorative rib, and a button towards the rear for opening.

The Union Ref[]

The Union Ref (ユニオンレフ) is only known from a leaflet dating c.1937, reproduced below,[4] where it is presented together with the Baby Ref as an affordable reflex camera. No company name is indicated.

In the document, three versions are listed:

  • f/8 lens, B, 25, 50 speeds (¥20 — case ¥6 extra);
  • Lucomar Anastigmat f/6.3 lens, B, 25, 50, 100 speeds (¥28);
  • Milittle[5] f/4.5 lens, T, B, 25, 50, 100, 200 speeds (¥48).

The advertising picture shows the model with Lucomar f/6.3. The lens appears to be fixed-focus but it is probable that the f/4.5 variant has front-cell focusing. The shutter plate is marked Optochrom at the top and something beginning with DUPL at the bottom (perhaps "Duplex"), with a logo in a circle on the right perhaps reading DK.

The Lucomar and Optochrom brand names indicate that the lens and shutter were made by Kigawa. The markings on the shutter plate are similar to those found on the original version of the Baby Chrome illustrated in the same leaflet.

The nameplate at the top reads Union Ref, and there is a YS logo in a circle in the middle of the viewing hood. This logo might stand for Yamashita Shōten but this is merely a guess.

The Hansa Rollette Ref[]

The Hansa Rollette Ref (ハンザ・ローレット・レフ) was distributed by Ōmiya Shashin-yōhin, owner of the "Hansa" brand. The nameplate is only marked Rollette Ref, and there is no YS logo.

The Hansa Rollette Ref was featured in the new products column of the February 1936 issue of Asahi Camera, reproduced above.[6] The document mentions a Triver[7] f/8 meniscus lens (単玉), and 100, 50, 25, B, T speeds. The dimensions are 12×9×8.5cm, and the price is ¥16.

The camera also appears in the catalogue of Yamashita Yūjirō Shōten dated April 20, 1937, together with the Hansa Semi Rollette 4.5×6cm folder.[8] In this document, the price is unchanged at ¥16 — case ¥4 extra. Nothing is said of the lens and shutter, and there is a picture showing three cameras.


  1. The name is spelled "Hanza Rollette Ref" in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.339, but this is a typo.
  2. The Japanese Historical Camera, p.23 (in Japanese and English); Japanese-only version in this page of the JCII.
  3. Fixed-focus: Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.339, about the Hansa Rollette Ref.
  4. Undated leaflet for the Victory, Semi Dymos, Reex, Baby Ref, Union Ref and Baby Chrome.
  5. Name inferred from the katakana ミリトル.
  6. Column in Asahi Camera February 1936, pp.329–30.
  7. The Triver spelling is inferred from the katakana トリバー and the Triver lens name found on a Ricohflex B.
  8. Extract of the catalogue reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.84.


Original documents[]

Recent sources[]

These cameras are not listed in Sugiyama.


In Japanese: