Olympus Gastro Camera

The world's smallest ever TLR?

First, let me point the way to the best sites I've found for this unusual TLR. Cameraquest has a useful overview page. A full history is shown on Olympus' Global site. The latter has a comprehensive history, which I don't intend to regurgitate here.

The basic story is that Olympus began developing the leading range of medical gastroscopy cameras and endoscopes - for viewing into the human digestive system - as early as 1949. The capabilities of the technology were enhanced dramatically with the arrival of fibre optics in the 1960s, permitting the operator to see what they were photographing for the first time. When the camera shown here (from my collection) was produced - in the late 1960s - the technique still depended upon film photography. The tiny 12mm film canister was stored in the very tip of the camera and wound/rewound remotely. The lighting, viewing fibre and film control all had to operate down the half-inch-wide and 30-inch-long tube.

The pictures below show the main camera control unit (left) and the "business end", in which the viewing lens and taking lens can be see in the little oval window, with the light/flash unit above. The film sat in the screw-off tip.

The whole camera can be seen in the picture below, followed by a key to the parts on the control unit, and then a diagram of the sharp end, showing how the viewing and taking mechanism is laid out, and the film canister feeds the film under the taking lens.