Kalimar was a photographic equipment distributor in the US, selling cameras and related paraphernalia. It was established in 1938 by MOT brothers Bob and Abe Lipshitz. Whatever value the brand had was taken over by Tiffen in 1999, just in time before the digital trend took over.
The name appeared on many pieces of equipment; not much seemed to have survived. It seems to have little regard for quality. They sourced from any suppliers that would offer price-based deals. Kalimer was not a trendsetter or a leader in any field but sold what the market wanted: cameras that looked good, were of decent quality and matched what price the market would bear. Sources were in Japan, when those products were cheap, then Soviet and East German, ending with cameras made in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, not known as cameras hotbeds.
There is hardly anything online or else about Kalimar, which is odd. Information is so meagre that while searching, I bounced into my page about the Zenit rebrands, where the Klaimar brand is only mentioned as a co-distributor.
The models Kalimar offered were inconsistent, not of a constant lineage, where the same camera, here the Kalimar A, was sold in three consecutive versions: Taisei made the first and second, and Regula made the third. Yet all were marked Kalimar A. The suffixes I, II and III were added later by reference books.
Most cameras under the Kalimar banner fetch little today. The only exceptions are the Kalimae Reflex, AKA Kalimar Sixty Six, made by Fujita and also sold under Haco, Fodor and Soligor. This model was a Japanese answer to Hasselbald, considered a cheap substitute. Further, the Kalimar Reflex TLR by Seagull and Widelux by Panon could fetch a decent Penny if you ever find them.
The Kalmar A, also called the A I, is a sister to the Taisei Welmy 35, one year younger. It is the first Taisei model to feature the winged front breastplate. I am sure I saw the same feature on another brand, but I cannot remember which.
The top cover holds the large winder and the smaller rewind knobs, with a shy trigger button by the winder. In between, a frame counter dial with two pins and a cold shoe. The camera name, Kalimar A in Italics, is printed on a removable plate. I would assume Taisei had higher aspirations for this model, so they prepared it for more suitors. Some known rebrands are Welmy M2, Westomat, Exita A, and Classic II, although other than the Welmy M2 I do not know who the distributors were.
The bottom has the rewind release and another plate with the TKC brand. The hinged back opens via the legacy Taisei clasp.
The lens barrel is an odd mix. The aperture is controlled via a lever at the bottom, with the f value showing at a window on top of the barrel. The modest speed setting is via a large, dominant ring at the front of the barrel. The focusing ring is a smaller ring at the front end.
This camera already had US home customers in mind, as evidenced by the usable-sized viewer and a filter thread. A nice touch not often seen elsewhere is a fork-like arm that keeps the film cartridge in place.
Just like the Welmy 35, to fire the trigger, it takes winding the film, followed by pushing a lever at the shutter speed ring. The lever has a very short travel, so I think I missed something here. The manual refers to this lever as a “shutter tension lever”. I guess this is what it does, but it is still puzzling.
There is no information on how many Kalimart A were sold, but the lack of online references and the low prices they charge on eBay suggests that it was not a popular camera. It is an unimportant model for the collector unless you concentrate on the post-war Japanese models.
|Camdex list number
|Kalimar A I
Kalimar A II
Kalimar A III
|Westomat, Exita A, Classic II, Welmy M2
|USA / Japan
|500 gr, Body with lens
|Class average weight
|480 gr, Body with lens
|Service / repair links