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Aires Camera Co. TLRs

My primary sources for information here are Gordon Lewis' The History of the Japanese Camera and a Japanese website - http://www.cameraguild.jp/nekosan/992.htm - described as the NEKOGAHORA CAMERA COLLECTION within the Camera Guild of Japan. They differ slightly as to dates, although the essential story is the same.

Aires Camera Co. (sometimes Aires Camera Industries Co.) was established in 1949 as Yallu Optical Co. to manufacture a 35mm twin lens reflex camera based closely in general configuration upon the pre-war Zeiss Ikon 35mm Contaflex TLR. The Yallu had a more stylised detailed design than the Contaflex, but the relationship is obvious in the picture at right. The Yallu was well-specified and regarded as a quality product, but failed to sell, possibly because of its price or because less cumbersome 35mm models were more in vogue. Whatever the reason, the company changed its name by mid-1950 to Aires and switched to producing 6x6 TLRs and cheaper 35mm cameras. The Aires TLRs became popular; the series included later models with Nikkor lenses and (more rarely) Olympus Zuiko ones.
The picture at right of a user manual (actually supplied with an Airesflex Z) illustrates one interesting aspect; in the heyday of TLR production around 1954, Aires produced several camera models simultaneously with minor variations under different model names, but close enough in style to permit a single version manual.
The Aires Automat was rated one of the better Japanese TLR cameras, although it is rather crude in operation compared to the best German competition. In 1954, Aires diversified and then switched fully into 35mm rangefinders. The company hit financial difficulties in the late 'fifties and closed in 1960.

Sugiyama and McKeown both have some suspect dates in my opinion. The U models are shown as 1953, with the Z ones from 1952. This seems improbable, since the latter adopted the Rollei-style bayonet I filter mounts, normally a later development in Japanese TLR ranges, and which Aires continued to use in its late-model Automats. I think the dates might be reversed?

Airesreflex YII

This is the earliest Aires 120 TLR recorded in any of the literature, from 1951. Sugiyama and McKeown both identify it as the YII model, with a later "Airesflex" YIII model shown as from 1952. The only odd thing is that they show this camera with an NKK shutter, but the Wester shutter on my YII matches that on the later YIII (see below). This indicates to me that it's a late one in the run, close to the transition to the YIII.
Taking lens Aires Excelsior 75mm F3.5
Shutter is Wester 1 to 1/200

Airesflex U(S)

The Airesflex U(S) is the better-specced of the two U models, with a faster shutter. It is particularly unusual in having an Olympus Zuiko lens, which Sugiyama records as only available on the Z model (bay 1 filter mount - see below). Aires TLRs with Olympus lenses aren't quite as sought-after by collectors as the Nikkor ones, for reasons I'm not entirely clear on.

Taking lens Olympus Zuiko 75mm F3.5
Shutter is Seikosha Rapid 1 to 1/500

Airesreflex YIII

This is apparently the successor to the YII above, with a fairly basic - but functional - shutter and lenses. Interestingly, both the lenses on this are misspelt - as Aires "Excellsior" - presumably an operator error.

Taking lens Aires Excelsior 75mm F3.5
Shutter is Wester 1 to 1/200

Airesflex U(T)

This is the lower-grade of the two "U" models per Sugiyama, who says it's fairly rare. I have some doubts about Sugiyama's dating of the U series, which I think must precede the Z's - see my notes above.

Taking lens Coral AC 75mm F3.5
Shutter is Copal 1 to 1/300

Airesflex Z (later model)

All the Z models have Seikosha Rapid shutters and Rollei Bay I filter mounts, but the lenses vary. This one has the basic Showa Koki Coral lens.
Taking lens is Coral 75mm f3.5
Shutter is Seikosha Rapid 1 to 1/500

Aires Airesflex Z (Nikkor)

This is one of the coveted Nikkor-lens models. To what extent the difference in lens really affects performance is a question, but Nikkor collectors prize them.

Taking lens is Nikkor QC 75mm f3.5
Shutter is Seikosha Rapid 1 to 1/500

Airesflex IV

This is one easily identifiable camera - it has "Model IV" in tiny letters below the name on the top plate. Sugiyama shows two Model IVs, both from 1954, differing only in the shutters and surrounding bodywork to accommodate them. This is the better of the pair, with a Seikosha Rapid shutter.
Taking lens is Aires Coral 75mm f3.5
Shutter is Seikosha Rapid 1 to 1/500

Airesflex IV variant(?)

Bit of an oddball this - I'm not that sure I've got the right model designation - it's similar to the Seikosha-Rapid Model IV, but without the sculpted cut-out for a remote release. Not in any of the reference works in this configuration.

Taking lens is Aires Trinox 75mm f3.5
Shutter is Seikosha 1/10 to 1/300

Aires Reflex

This doesn't appear in any of the reference works, but is very similar to the Automat (see next), with the same nameplate style, but it has knob wind. Perhaps intended as the Rolleicord equivalent?

Taking lens is Olympus Zuiko 75mm f3.5
Shutter is Seikosha Rapid 1 to 1/500

Aires Automat

This model is more common than the previous one, and was clearly Aires' attempt at a Rolleiflex rival. This one has the cheaper Coral lens, although Nikkor and Olympus Zuiko were also options. The lever wind sounds a lot rougher than a Rolleiflex would!

Taking lens is Aires Coral 75mm f3.5
Shutter is Seikosha Rapid 1 to 1/500