The Taron Camera Co. Ltd. emerged in post-war Japan out of a company that made shutters for other manufacturers, such as Mamiya and Fujica. In the mid 1950s they launched their own range of cameras, producing a number of distinctive designs, before closing in the late 1960s. The Eyemax is a well specified enthusiast’s camera, boasting a coupled range-finder and a built in, coupled Selenium exposure meter. The lens on mine is an f1.8 45mm Taronar, though some were sold with an f2.8 version.
Record keeping has never been one of my strong points, and with over forty years of camera acquisition, perhaps it’s no surprise that I can’t remember how I came by this unusual looking model, my best guess is that it was in a car boot sale in the 1990s. The original owner was more punctilious than I am however, as neatly folded up, and wedged into the every ready case, is the original import certificate, to prove that import duty and tax had been paid. It shows that the Eyemax arrived from Hong Kong at Stansted Airport on 27th August 1962, the camera’s value is shown as £9, with a further £6 15s in taxes. Today they crop up on eBay for anything between £10 and £50.
The most noticeable thing about this camera is the row of eight windows onto the Selenium cell which runs across the top, above the viewfinder and range-finder windows. To set the correct exposure, you first choose your shutter speed, and then rotate the aperture ring while watching a needle match display in the viewfinder, lining up the needle with an arrow. At over 50 years of age, the electrics are a bit flaky, and while the needle clearly responds to changes in light level, it tends to jump about erratically, so I opted instead to use a hand held meter to be on the safe side. Focussing is simple, with a nice bright range-finder spot, although as is often the case with this kind of range-finder, it can be a struggle to use in low light conditions, precisely when you want accuracy to allow the use of a wide aperture.
After years waiting in the wings, the Eyemax finally made centre stage in week 351 of my 52 cameras in 52 weeks project, I loaded it with some expired Ilford HP5+ black and white negative film, and off we went to Lincoln for the day. There’s plenty to photograph in Lincoln, and the aptly named “Steep Hill” up to the cathedral forces you to slow down and maybe spot subjects that you might otherwise miss, like this striking modern house which is just off the main tourist trail. I spotted the bright yellow roof while catching my breath, and set off down a side alley to take a closer look. There is quite a lot of grain from the old ISO400 film, but the lens seems generally pretty sharp, and I’d be happy to take the Eyemax out for another run.