Index page Previous page Next page

Prinz 44

This is a curious - even oddball - story. I bought this camera in the UK on eBay. It was advertised as a Prinzflex 500 TLR for 127 film. I'd never heard of such a camera, but was sure that it was one of the various Japanese models (from several makers) which were rebadged under the Prinz brand for sale by Dixons Photographic in the UK between about 1953 and 1980 (it has "Japan" stamped on the base). Further comments on this are covered in the section on Halma TLRs in my "Other Japanese" page.

When the camera arrived, it looked like the picture on the left below. However, on inspection, I noticed that the plastic nameplate was stuck over a metal one built into the camera, stating "Prinz 44". Take a look at the pictures, and then follow my further researches below.
A search for "Prinzflex 500" turned up absolutely nothing about a TLR model, but lots of stuff about a rebadged Zenit B SLR which Dixons sold in the nineteen-sixties/seventies. The picture at right shows a close-up of one, and the badge for this is IDENTICAL to the one on my litle TLR. It seems improbable that Dixons used the same name for the two cameras, and the nameplate looks too late anyway, so I can only assume someone, for reasons hard to divine, deliberately transferred the nameplate from one of these SLRs to change the appearance of the TLR.
More details emerged from further searching. The lens make was a particular clue - I had not come across a Zunow lens before. From came the information that: "Zunow was a small independent Japanese lens company known for its brilliant designs, and their lack of financial backing. Zunow was a prominent maker of quality high speed optics in the middle to late 1950's."

A further search found this from "Some 4x4cm TLR cameras can also be found with Zunows. Tougo-Do offered the Halina 44 and the Walz Automat 44 through their respective marketing companies with a 60/2.8 Zunow in Copal MVX shutter. I doubt this list is complete. If anyone has other cameras with a Zunow lens, I'd like to hear about it."

This sounded a bit confused to me - there is no other mention of a Halina 44 anywhere else, and Halina generally sold cheap and grotty low-end pseudo-TLRs (which this one is not). I also don't know of any Tougodo camera which looks at all like this or the Walzflex 120 models. However, Walz DID make a Walz Automat 44 with the Zunow 2.8 lens, which is mentioned in McKeowns, and pictured in Sugiyama (in two variants). Both are crank-wound and look nothing like this Prinz 44. But I do notice that the frontal design of the Prinz, particularly the lens surround/escutcheon has some similarity to the later knob-wound Walzflex and Wagoflex. So, initially I thought that Walz (or their supplier) perhaps made this for Dixons around the mid-to-late 'fifties.

However, the situation has become a lot clearer with some valuable information from Terry Hardy, one of the UK's most expert TLR collectors, who emailed me to say: "How strange that someone, a retailer perhaps, has done a rebadge job on your Prinz 44. Pacific Rim's comments are misleading to say the least. They refer to a Tougo-do Halina 44 .... what they really mean is Halma 44 (identical to the Prinz 44) and made by Tohko of Osaka. Zunow made some fine lenses, as well as an SLR. I have examples fitted to my Auto Terras, they were apparently also fitted to the original Miranda T SLR .1960."

Chasing this up, I found the Halma 44 on page 111 of Sugiyama. It is apparently the same as the rebadged Prinz in every detail except the nameplate; so Dixons maintained a continuing relationship with Halma into 1959/60 for TLRs. The Prinz 44 is clearly fairly rare!

More (added August 2007): An email arrived from Jeff:

Saw your info about 4x4 Prinz and Halma 44 TLR's and had to comment...

1) There are two different Halma 44 variations:

A) Halma 44 with 1:3.5 6.0 cm Halmar Anastigmat
a) Simple, unnamed shutter - B, 25, 50, 100, 300 speeds
b) No bayonet filter mount provision on lenses (32 mm slip-on)
c) Neck strap mountings on body are round "T' posts
d) No frame counter, no double exposure prevention
e) Five horizontal rows of knurling on film spool knobs
f) Nameplate lettering unusual font, unusual shape
g) Body has no serial number, but viewing and objective lenses are numbered.
B) Halma 44 with 6 cm f2.8 Zunow

a) Copal -MXV Shutter; B, 1-500
b) B30 filter mounts on both lenses
c) Neck strap mountings are slots for leather straps.
d) Frame counter window, double exposure prevention on film wind knob, "0" reset button
e) Four horizontal rows of knurling on film spool knobs
f) Nameplate size, shape identical to Prinz 44, Tower 44B
g) Body not serial numbered, lenses are.

2) Both Halma versions (except as noted ablve) share certain characteristics with the Prinz 44 and the Tower 44B:
a) Flash Synch Terminal location
b) Upper right corner of front plate (facing camera)
c) Shutter release location
d) Extreme lower left corner of front plate (facing camera)
e) Neck Strap Connection Configuration
f) Slot for leather strap
g) Two long horizontal slots in plate attached to camera body
h) Dimensions and shape of focus knob, film advance knob, accessory shoe (including markings on shoe)
i) Shutter used (Copal-MXV)

The Prinz 44 box that I have also references Dixons (although I don't have it in front of me now), and yes, the people at Dixons were less than helpful. Never responded to me at all!

The Tower 44 that I own has a Citizen-MV shutter and Kinokkor lenses. The body configuration of strap lugs, film advance knob configuration, film counter window location, accessory shoe shape and configuration, film pressure plate, back opening knob and focus knob size and shape are completley different from that of the Tower 44B. They appear not to have been made by the same manufacturer. The Tower 44 has many similar characteristics to the Laqon 44, Kino 44 and Haco 44 models. As you noted the Walz Automat is totally different than anything else.

The bottom line of this is that the Tower 44 and Tower 44B are totally different animals, and need to be separated out in your chart. By the way, the Tower 44 appears to be identical to the Toyoca 44 which is pictured on your web site, except, of course, for the name.

Best Regards, Jeff

Interesting. I'm not sure where the Toyoca 44 is supposed to be on my site - I don't have one - but all the above makes a sensible pattern.  Just to confirm Jeff's input on the Tower 44 and Toyoca being the same camera - here are a couple of web-sourced photos:
Rather different from my Prinz 44.

As always, if any one out there knows better, please email me!