View Full Version : Does Anyone Know More About The Tomiyama Art-Flex

2-Jan-2008, 17:23
Not too long ago I stumbled across a set of photos on Flickr by one of my favourite Flickrites that were taken with a Tomiyama Art-Flex. It's a 4x5 TLR camera and ever since seeing the pictures taken by it, particularly this one (http://www.flickr.com/photos/clarice_e_simon/360256292/), I've been fascinated by the camera. I've done a lot of Googling but can't seem to pull up any decent information on it with the exception of this link. (http://www.cameraquest.com/4x5Mamiyaflex.htm)

And, while the link has some good photos of the camera, it doesn't really offer any information about the camera or its history. The search que "Tomiyama Art-Flex" on Google yields only 3 pages and I've been to just about all of the links. They all seem to link back to the CameraQuest page about the camera or to Clarice's Flickr shots. There are a few forum posts in archives of forums I've pulled up but none of them seem to give me any leads.

As far as I can figure out Tomiyama is a small Japanese company that is still in existence and up until around 2001 was producing panorama cameras under the "Tomiyama Art Panorama" name. I don't know when the Art Flex was produced, but I imagine it was sometime during the 50's or 60's. I've discovered that there was both an Art Flex 4x5 and an Art Color 4x5, though I don't know the difference if any. I've found a few web links citing that the Art Color retailed for less than the Art Flex but none of them have any explanation as to why. A search for the Art Color turned up naught.

So I figured it was worth a shot to ask you guys. Does anyone know anything about these cameras? Anyone have one? They really interest me, I love my 4x5 monorail and I love street photography especially with a TLR thus I am really wanting to combine the two. Shooting with my little 6x6 Yashica D is one of my favourite things however I often times find myself longing for a larger negative. I recently bought a Mamiya Press Universal to be able to have a hand holdable camera with a larger negative since hand holding my RB67 without a grip or a strap is a pain after more than 2 hours but even shooting 6x9 on the Press I still find myself missing large format. I'd love some more information about this camera if anyone has any, can find any, or at the very least point me in the right direction. Books, magazine articles, websites, people to email or write to or call. Anything really as I'd love to shoot some large format street work and would like to be different from the Graflex crowd. I respect the Graflex cameras and a Speed Graphic has tempted me more than once but there's something utterly and completely charming about this camera to me. I'd love to know more about it if you guys could help.


John Schneider
2-Jan-2008, 18:09
Very cool. The only other LF TLR like it that I can think of is the Gowlandflex (just bought one but haven't received it yet), as your second link suggested. I do know of another Gowlandflex for sale in a store; pm me if you're interested.

I also have a Art Panorama 624 (presumably by the same manufacturer), and I assure you that camera is anything but compact and lightweight.

Ernest Purdum
3-Jan-2008, 17:10
I can't tell you much and what little I do know is from the 1960's and '70's. At that time the Japanese LF camera makers were making a rapid transition from designs resembling British cameras circa 1905 to more versatile types. Tomiyama Seikusho produced several cameras during this period, all, I think, being designated "Art" whatever. The largest production must have been the Art-View, one of the early Japanese monorails. It went through several versions. Another product was the Art-Press. Like "Press" shutters, the name seems to have nothing to do with journalism. It was an 8 X 10, the structure of which was essentially an attache case.

I used to see the Art-Flex occasionally. I would guess there are still a few around somewhere. I have never seen a Color-Flex, but they are listed in the 1966 CamerArt Photo Trade Directory as a product of the Chiyoda Sankyo Co. The description is identical to that given for the Art-Flex in the 1970 Directory. There was some sort of close relationship between the two companies, Chiyoda being Tomiyama's export agent for awhile. My guess is that the Color-Flex was actually a Tomiyama product but sold under a Chiyoda tradename.

LF TLR,s aren't limited to the Art-Flex and the Gowland. Around 1900, several British makers turned them out, Ross and Newman & Guardia coming to mind. In the United States, more recently, portrait workers had available a rather huge 5 X 7 TLR with a racetrack-shaped body. I think the name was MacVan.

4-Jan-2008, 08:31
Thanks for the information guys.

John, thanks for the commentary and lead to the Gowlandflex. I knew about the camera and while I'm not really interested in the Gowlandflex I'm still interested to hear what you think about yours when you get it. Something I like about the Art Flex is how small it is and how simple it is. The Gowlandflex strikes me as rather fragile and not something I would want to be banging around. Not saying I abuse my equipment, just like something a bit less delicate. However, with that said, I've never handled one of these cameras so I'm just taking a guess. I'm curious as to what your impressions of the camera are, do let us know.

Ernest-Thanks a lot for that great information. It gave me some more stuff to search for. I've yet to find any more about the camera online but you certainly helped. And reading about/looking for some of those older TLRs was fun and I ended up spending a few hours yesterday looking through turn of the century cameras. Thanks.

Anybody else know anything about this camera? Also I've heard that there is a way to set up sort of a "perpetual search" on ebay. Ie you enter a search term and if that search query is ever met by a new item posted ebay will inform you of it. I can't seem to find this function on the advanced search page so maybe it doesn't really exist but if anyone knows about this that would be helpful as I could always have a search going for the Art Flex.

Thanks for the help so far guys, maybe I'll end up finding one.

Ted Harris
4-Jan-2008, 08:43
The Gowandflex is made by Peter Gowland in California. It is not fragile. It is't built like a tank but not far from it. Now nearly 92, Peter is no longer making cameras in any great quantity but he does have some 4x5 Gowandflexes available, or did a few months ago. I'll see him next week and will report back. You can see them at his website www.petergowland.com. I also did an article on Peter, his photography and his cameras, for View Camera. If memory serves it was the March 2006 issue.

4-Jan-2008, 08:53
I came across Clarice on a Japanese LF forum a year ago where she asked the same question after picking up the camera at a "recycling shop" (junk store). No one really knew about it, and the result of my Googling then was the same as yours--i.e. no, I don't know more about it. I asked her to let me know if/when she lets it go but haven't heard back since... Thought it's funny you found her and the camera.

4-Jan-2008, 09:22
Hiro-Clarice really is a great photographer, one of my favourites and she is who got me thinking about the camera. I've been thinking about asking her about the camera, I knew she had picked it up at a recycling shop and I've been looking through flea markets and garage sales and the like here in America but the likelihood of me finding one is probably really slim.
I imagine she still has the camera as she has pictures from it on her Flickr.
And yeah it is funny, small world isn't it?

31-Jan-2008, 11:37
I've been looking for one of these Art-Flex 4x5 TLR cameras for about 4 years. No luck.
I will buy one if anyone ever finds one for me.
Robert N.

Carsten Wolff
5-Feb-2008, 19:29
Making one isn't that hard either......

Emil Schildt
20-Nov-2010, 06:29
wow - I didn't know about this camera...

And just saw one 8x10 (!!) for sale on auction....

must be a beast....

see here (lot 518): http://www.westlicht-auction.com/index.php?id=197081&acat=197081&_ssl=off

Peter Gomena
20-Nov-2010, 16:21
Gosh, it even has a hand grip on the side. Better be sure that hand is backed by a large bicep.

Peter Gomena