Taisei Koki Welmy 35
One language is understood worldwide, with no need for translation over cultures or borders. This is the decimal number system. The characters will be differently pronounced but will always carry the same value. To compliment that, keeping spelling within the Latin-based languages is straightforward; keep it as it is and pronounce it as you wish, per the culture you dwell in. There is a step-up challenge with languages using Cyrillic characters, where character shapes can resemble Latin ones, with comic results, such as Zopkuu and Kneb cameras. Further, Arabic and Hebrew characters have nothing to do with Latin script, yet pronunciation is bearable to the Western ears.
In the East, both characters and pronunciation are foreign to the West. This was not an issue till about the mid-last century, but with Japan, China and the other Asian Tigers taking over the world, it has become a subject to reckon with.
Japanese-based multinationals have taken several naming conventions. Some, I would suggest a minority, kept the original name, such as Mitsubishi or Subaru, and made the world to accept it. More corporations have anglicized/shortened the names, such as Nihon Sangyo, which has become Nissan; Nippon Kogaku, which has become Nikon; and Konishiroku, which has become Konica. Others dropped the original name altogether and adopted western-sounding names, such as Kuribayashi to Petri, Hayakawa to Sharp, Matsushita to National/Panasonic, and Orinpasu Kabushiki-Gaisha to Olympus.
To make it a tad more complex, the West used company names in a mixed fashion in the camera trade. For Example, Earth Kogaku means Earth Optical, so it could appear in both versions.
The question to be asked is, did the name affect the company’s performance? Alternatively, why did all the post-war Japanese industrial startups vanish? Was it company size, performance or else?
A long list of such camera makers flourished in the 1950s; I would peg it at about 500. The few that survived past that time are the Fuji, Konica, Nikon, Minolta, Panon, Pentax and so on; all names are easy on the Western palette.
All this is for the camera in focus.
According to a Camera-Wiki article, Taisei Koki was named differently throughout its brief history. This may explain why so little information is found about it. Further, it could be spelled as Taisei, Teisai, Teisay, Koki, Kouki, etc. As mentioned above, the majors have established a standard spelling convention; here, it is an open season. I am not sure how to spell it, so I used both ways.
Taisei Koki had a short run under this name, with the earliest model introduced in 1951 and the last in 1958. As with most camera makers that mushroomed then, early models were klapp, aptly Welmy Six and variants, as were other 313 such Japanese models. The Welmy 35, reviewed here, is the first of 35mm viewfinder models, followed closely by the Welmy M2, AKA Kalimar A.
A mixed bag of viewfinder/rangefinder cameras followed, with one TLR, the Welmyflex, and one 127 format, the hardly ever seen Welmy 44. From what I gathered, similar models were differently named, guess for either markets or distributors, meaning that the many models registered were only a small number of different models. The known distributor was Kalimar, with Airequipt mentioned on the fly. Not many Taisei cameras have survived until now, and the few offered or changed hands do not attract high prices.
The Welmy 35 on my desk is a no-nonsense, no-frills camera. A compact, utilitarian body, where you find each control where you expect it to be. The square front style predates the winged breastplate offered at the M2 / Kalimar A, Westomat, Super Westomat and the Welmy 44, and has none of the elaborate arms of that era, such as the Pigeon and similar models.
The stepped top holds the prominent winder and the smaller rewind knobs, the trigger and the rewind release lever. The latter is marked R & A, assuming Rewind and Advance. The viewer is housed in the middle of the top cover, and as with other cameras of that crop, is tiny. The frame counter skirts the winder, with a pin to reset.
The cold shoe is stamped E.P. within a diamond; it is evident that this unit was sold in the U.S. commissary shops. It is unclear what the E.P. means or what initials it stands for. This marking was used with CPO and P.X., marking controlled sales at authorized outlets only. The hinged back opens via a typical Welmy clasp, easy on the fingers.
The lens barrel is designed by an engineer, practical to a fault. The lens assembly is proud of the body to achieve the focal length. An easy-to-miss and challenging-to-grip aperture dial is in front of it. A speed selector dial of the same diameter is at the front, making purchase easier. The focusing ring, smaller in size, is at the front end, marked in feet. The aperture and shutter markings are tiny, faint, and challenging to read in dim light. A synch port at the N.E. corner complements the offerings.
The shutter make is not marked; it is two leaves (Leafs for Canadians), B, 25-150. It could be homemade, although I don’t think that the local industry of the time, mostly glorified cottage industry, was up to that. The lens is Terimar, which is shared with other Japanese brands.
No manual is available, so I am out on a limb here. The winder just winds the film, and the trigger also releases the winder for the next frame. However, it seems not to cock the shutter, which takes pushing an arm above the lens barrel. It is common in cameras of that time, but here, the arm travel is very short compared to what I am used to. Either there is a longer lever inside, or the winder does cock the shutter, and this arm just enables the trigger. Postscript: The Kalimar A, made by Taisei, shares a similar arrangement and does have a user manual. It refers to this lever as “shutter tension lever”.
I have several Taisei Koki cameras, and as with other post-war Japanese models, they are well-preserved but stiff like a frozen skeleton. Same here. The body is immaculate, but it took a good cleaning and convincing to make it work. Nonetheless, once it does, it is a pleasure to use.
For the collector, the Teisai cameras pass by often at a reasonable price. It is not a groundbreaking camera line but a typical product of post-war Japan. I would have added one or two to the shelf.
|Camdex list number
|465 gr, Body with lens
|Class average weight
|480 gr, Body with lens
|Two leaves scissors type
|Service / repair links