As far as camera designs go, the Komaflex-S from Japanese camera manufacturer Kowa has to be one of the most interesting we've ever seen. It just looks unique from the get-go. It’s a small and compact 127 film format shooter with a glass focusing screen and only one lens. Even the name of the manufacturer makes you want to go and do a little bit of digging into its background.
The Kowa Komaflex-S was a single-lens reflex camera that was introduced to the market sometime around 1960. Although the Komaflex-S was made in Japan, it was an export product and was thus was only made available in foreign countries. It was designed to use VP 127 film — a format that was in between 35 mm and 120 films in terms of size. The VP 127 film was introduced by Kodak in 1912 and it yielded 4 cm x 4 cm sized images. However, the introduction of cartridge films led to the 127 format’s decline in popularity.
Kowa tagged their camera as “the world’s only Super slide single-lens reflex camera”, combining the features of conventional 35 mm and twin-lens reflex cameras although Kowa’s claim is debatable. Some sources point out that there were other 4 x 4 SLRs that were made prior to the introduction of the Komaflex-S, namely the Super Flex Baby and the Atomflex. Another interesting bit about the Komaflex-S was that it was originally intended to be named “Kowaflex-S” but an alleged mix up at the trademark registration in the US resulted in a misspelled name. Apparently, someone misread the “w” as an “m”.
Visually, the Komaflex-S was an appealing camera. It had that old-school vibe with its waist level finder setup but still had its own thing going on. It was like a mini TLR that had a surprisingly fresh-looking gray leatherette that gave it a military look. It also had different accessories that help spruced its look even further.
Features-wise, the Komaflex-S also had a few interesting things up its sleeve. It had a fixed Prominar lens that was able to capture clear and good quality images, a bright viewfinder for easy viewing, and an Exposure Value System or EVS that helped with proper exposure calculations. The EVS feature was quite helpful since it helped the user get more consistent exposures by having the camera automatically pick the necessary aperture for the chosen shutter speed. The Komaflex-S also accepted telephoto and wide-angle lenses attachments that made room for other creative applications.
The Komaflex-S did have some quirks beyond its interesting look and functions. Apparently, it had reliability issues and people where known to express disappointment over its build quality. Kowa advised users not to leave the shutter cocked when not in use as it may strain the mechanism. They also warned against forcing the shutter cocking lever without loading film into the camera. Doing so may result in damage caused by exerting pressure on the lever.
Kowa Komaflex-S Technical Specifications:
Film: Twelve exposures 1 ⅝″ × 1 ⅝″ on 127 roll film
Lens: Rare-earth 65 mm Prominar f/2.8, color corrected and hard coated
Shutter: New Seikosha-SLV (EVS) shutter fully-synchronized, cross-coupled for the Exposure Value System
Shutter Speed: 1 second, ½, ¼, ⅛, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500 second and B with built-in self-timer
Film Loading: Semi-automatic with an automatic exposure counter
Aperture: Automatic pre-set aperture diaphragm; the subject is always seen at full aperture on a bright focusing screen. The Fresnel field lens provides a clear bright image to the very edges of the picture. The magnifier is used for far critical focusing.
Body Construction: Die-cast body with hinged rear cover and attractive two-tone finish
Accessories: Telephoto and wide-angle auxiliary lenses are available