I’d never heard of Japanese camera maker Tougodo before this camera was donated to the Jim Grey Home for Wayward Cameras. I’ve since learned that they made cameras and other goods from 1930 through the early 1960s. Their cameras used several brand names over the years, Toyoca being but one of them. The Toyoca 35-S 35mm viewfinder camera was made in 1957 — and as far as anyone can tell, only in 1957.
The 35-S features a 45mm f/3.5 lens. Mine is a Tritor Anastigmat, but more commonly you’ll find these equipped with Tri-Lausar or Tri-Lausar Anastigmat lenses. I don’t know how any of these lenses are designed, but I’ve seen the Lausar name on lenses from other Japanese camera manufacturers and they are generally copies of the Tessar. There’s also a good chance that this lens was made by Tomioca. You can stop the lens down to f/16. It’s set in a manually cocked leaf shutter that operates at 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, and 1/300 second, plus bulb. There’s also a flash connector on the front.
Up top there are wind and rewind knobs, a cold shoe, a rewind release button (more on this in a minute), and a frame counter (which counts up). You can also see a pip into which you can screw a cable release. These specs and features are all typical of this camera’s era, and would have made this camera competitive.
None of those sites explain two things about my 35-S that I see on no other 35-S on the Internet. First is that Tritor Anastigmat lens. Second is the rewind-release mechanism. Mine is that little button on the front next to the winder. Every other 35-S I’ve seen on the Internet uses a lever on the back. If I ever learn more about these variations, I’ll update this review.
I thank the fellow who donated this Toyoca. He’s a longtime professional photographer and camera collector who retired several years ago and sent me a box full of goodies when he cleared out his studio.
If you like 35mm cameras of this era, see also my reviews of the Aires Viscount (here); Argus C3 (here); the Kodaks Automatic 35F (here), Pony 135 (here), Pony 135 Model B (here), Pony 135 Model C (here), Signet 40 (here), Retina Ia (here), Retina IIa (here); and Voigtländer Vito II (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.
My 35-S looked intact and complete, and the shutter worked and sounded right at all speeds. Yet something is loose and rattling around inside. As a result, I’ve dragged my feet for years on testing this camera.
Not long ago I finally gave this Toyoca 35-S a go. I loaded some Kodak T-Max 100 into it. The takeup spool doesn’t have the usual slot to insert the film. Rather, there’s a metal flap on the spool. You bend the film around toward it and insert it as far as it will go. Then wind until the film is secure.
It was a sunny day, so I set the shutter to 1/100 and the aperture to f/16 — classic Sunny 16. I also consulted a hyperfocal distance table to find the focus setting that would give me the greatest depth of field. Turns out it’s 13 feet and change. Setting the camera that way, I shot the whole roll aim-and-shoot on a single walk around my neighborhood. I made my neighbors’ street-parked cars the focus.
The camera operated smoothly. The cocking lever worked with just the right amount of resistance, the shutter button (the round, knurled knob on the front) operated smoothly, and the winder did its thing with no fuss.
To release the film for winding, you have to push that button on the back of the camera to the right first. There’s no double-exposure protection — you can cock and fire the shutter as many times as you want on a single frame.
I developed this film in Rodinal 1+50. The second I pulled the film off the developing reel I could see that there had been a wicked light leak at the left edge of every frame that obliterated about 15 percent of the image. I cropped these images to 4×5 to eliminate that portion of each frame.
I centered most of these cars in the frame. Cropping out the left edge put the cars at the left edge of the image when it should have placed it only a little off center. I think the viewfinder is off center. It’s small, and mine is missing the rear glass element, so framing was a guess anyway.
The Tritor Anastigmat lens appears to be reasonably sharp, but is by no means a stunning performer. Mine might have some internal haze or schmutz, as light areas came out extra bright, almost smeary. I toned it down a lot in Photoshop. Light is also leaking in, probably from weak seals.
Because I shot this whole roll in under 30 minutes, sometimes ripping off two or three shots in as many minutes, the effects of those bad seals was blunted.
When I finished the roll, I pressed down the rewind release button and began to turn the rewind knob. The knob gave a lot of resistance and shortly the film tore in two. D’oh. Into the dark bag the 35-S went. I rescued the film from the takeup spool, winding it into a spare black film canister until I could develop it.
See more from this camera in my Toyoca 35-S gallery.
I need to admit that cock-shutter viewfinder cameras aren’t my thing. I’ve enjoyed a couple of similarly specified Kodak Retinas, but it’s because they produce such delicious results. This Toyoca 35-S did not. To be fair, however, this one is not in terrific condition. I’m not sure I’ve seen all a 35-S can do.
That said, this 35-S was pleasant enough to use. This was a quality camera in its day.