The History of Penta Prism SLR.

Asahi Pentax, the original from 1957.

These pages show a camera collection covering the following:
-Pentaprism SLR: origin and early history to the beginning of the digital era.
-The Pentax PP SLR history.
-The Takumar lens story. 
-The Lost Brands.

Pentaprism SLR (PP SLR) is to be understood as single lens eye level pentaprism mirror reflex camera made for 135-size film. Included are also the penta mirror cameras, a simpler version of the pentaprism.

-In the first part of the chapter of the PP SLR history, I present the very beginning of this history by going through the timeline of the first cameras, thus showing who was first. This chapter is called World's first PP SLR. After that I aim at presenting the first model of every brand that produced a PP SLR during the first years, from late 1948 through 1959. Some of the cameras presented are very first models, some are among the first. In that case I try to explain the possible differences from the first edition. I do so to give you a better understanding of the variety of cameras. Presenting only first editions would have left too many holes in the story as they are sometimes almost impossible to get and/or extremely expensive.
From the 60s to the digital takeover, I present models that are of importance to the history, decade by decade. This is my selection. Others might have chosen other cameras. 
-The Pentax collection, which is the base of the collection and giving name to the site, consists of all 61 international film PP SLR models plus most local variants and some special models. This is very close to a complete collection. From digital takeover, only main models are presented.
-Takumar lenses are presented in four chapters Takumar, Auto-Takumar, Super-Takumar and SMC (Super-Multi-Coated) Takumar.
-In the Lost Brands chapter I present most brands that are not making PP SLRs anymore, giving an impression of the variety of cameras once used around the world. House brands and non producing brand names are not included. There are also some Chinese brands that have made copies or close to copies of other brands, that are not presented. Seagull, Pearl River and Mingca are among these. Their status may change if I find independent models among them. (There is a Mingca camera presented, though, together with its twin, the Pentax K1000.) 
The lost brands are presented decade by decade, according to the year they produced their last PP SLR. All brands are also given a page of their own. The time zone given is for years of PP SLR production, from the first to the last. It is not the life span of the producer. The company usually is older and may have lived longer, but producing other cameras or other products. For instance, Minolta was founded in 1928 and is still operating as a company, but the production of pentaprism slr cameras started in 1958 and ended in 2006.

Unless otherwise stated, all cameras and lenses shown are of my collection.

Please note that this collection is not about mint or never used objects. Some are heavily used, but may have contributed to wonderful photos, while others are almost like new. Hopefully, both categories will show the beauty of older craftsmanship.

Pictures are high resolution but come up reduced. To get a sharper version, just click them. Different machines will show different colour tones due to well known screen calibration problems. 

Pages are preliminary and are constantly being developed.

The information given here is collected from books, magazines and from the internet, and may be disputable. On the question of which PP SLR was the first, there is obviously a lot of misunderstanding around. The "fact" that Contax S was first and Rectaflex right behind on second place can be read everywhere. You can read a hundred pages or more all repeating this. So, it ends up on Wikipedia and Camerapedia as The Truth. However, when reading first hand information from photo historians in Dresden, Germany, where the Contax were produced, and holding it against the Italian sources with very detailed information, it becomes clear that the "Wikipedia Truth" is false! From what I have found after some studies, truth is that those claiming the Italian Rectaflex as being first are right! And by a very clear margin. Read more in chapter PP SLR 1948-1954, in chapter 1949-1962: Contax, in chapter 1948-1955: Rectaflex, and in the very central chapter called World's first PP SLR. (It must be added, however, that some central articles on Wikipedia and Camerapedia have admitted these facts and have been rewritten during the last years. (2016-2018). Marco Antonetto's book, or even this very site may have contributed to this welcomed change.)
But the final word is probably not said yet. Therefore, I am happy to receive information that can clarify or contradict my version of the history of PP SLR cameras. And there may even be cameras that I have overlooked. There is a lot of knowledge out there.
Please give feedback!

You can either go to My Guestbook at the bottom of the Menu, or write a comment on the page that you want to comment. (It says "skriv en kommentar", which is Norwegian for "write a comment".) Then fill in your name under "Ditt navn", and the e-post address to the right. (Addresses will not be shown.) 
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Note: Text and photos on these pages are protected under Norwegian law against any kind of copying and use without written permission.

Site opened 2013-01-22

Worlds first series produced Penta Prism SLR (PP SLR):

The Rectaflex of Italy - 1948.

The book that adds new chapters to the history of the Penta Prism SLR:
Marco Antonetto, Rectaflex - The Magic Reflex. To be found on the internet.

David 03.02.2022 11:19

I just discovered this great site. Lots of information, keep up the good work!

Bosse 03.02.2022 11:47

Thank you, David!

Bosse 01.01.2020 11:24

That sure is a historic camera! Have you taken any pucture wigh IT?

Lee Braden 28.12.2019 06:49

I have one of the IIB , I think. It was my dad's and is in excellent working condition. Seral No. 76771, Lens No. 89421
Been sitting in a drawer for decades

Bosse 02.12.2019 09:51

Wow, I wish it was me who just "picked up" that one! May I ask from where? About how rare: Read more about it under Asahi Pentax 1957-64.

Michael 30.11.2019 23:29

I picked up a 'Penta Asahiflex H2' serial#230415, seems in pretty good condition with a couple of lenses and accessories. Apparently these are rare?

Roger Phillips 03.01.2018 18:41

OK, think I've got it. I resent the photos to:

R. Phillips 02.01.2018 22:53

I sent a return email to kundeservice , with photos. Did you receive them OK?

Roger Phillips 03.01.2018 18:24

I do not know how to send photos to you. Is this your email address:, ? I cannot put the photos in this comment box.

bosse 03.01.2018 12:44

No, I didn't. Please try the given address.

Roger Phillips 02.01.2018 20:54

Thank you for your section covering the Zunow SLR. I currently own two of these beautiful cameras, plus some acc, and can send some photos if you are interested

Bosse 02.01.2018 21:57

Interesting. Do they work? What are the serial numbers? Do you have more information? Yes, please send photos.

Frank 23.01.2017 13:54

I saw in the last days a SV model with a red logo or better brand
from Pentax.On the top Asahi in black and than Pentax in red.
Collectors model or fake ?
Pls l

Bosse 23.01.2017 21:30

Never seen, never heard of. Most certainly done by some previous owner to personalize it.

Christopher K. 15.04.2016 09:19

Well done! Thank you very much for this work! It helps me about lost Brands.

EVA 05.03.2016 17:48


Jennifer Arnold (United States) 13.12.2015 23:20

Thank you for this facinating information. I have a Rectaflex and am grateful for the detailed history you have provided.

Bosse 13.12.2015 23:32

Thank you! Most of it due to Marco Antonettos very detailed research.
But yes, I have done some research myself. And purchased some cameras..

Doug Barrow 08.07.2015 03:25

Wonderful site on Asahi Pentax cameras and lenses. I enjoyed the extensive history of Pentax along with the other camera brands. Very detailed information.

Stephen Kling 30.01.2015 17:38

Your website is marvelous, one of the best camera histories I've seen. Heartfelt congratulations.
I offer my help in fixing typos and English usage, if wanted.

Jørgen Fr. Tandberg 20.03.2014 10:05

Odd - kameraer har jeg ikke greie på, men det er bra noen følger med. Alt er morsomt når man går skikkelig i dybden! Helt fantastisk.

Satisfashion!!! 30.07.2013 05:43

Great pics!!! love them!!! anyway, come visit my site at: www.Dreamy
Hope to see U there!!! !

| Svar

Nyeste kommentarer

02.11 | 16:32

Thank you! I should have said around 500000. Also remember that sometimes a top plate was broken and had to replace it with a spare one numbered differently.

01.11 | 20:18

I think your SN indications for the S1 may be a little off. I just picked up a chrome one with SN 527384.

09.08 | 09:58

I do not know that model code. Please check for model name.

08.08 | 20:58

Hi I have a Konica Minolta code 3739740 please advise if there are film strips available for this camera? I'd appreciate the help. Thank you