5 Frames With an Aires 35-IIIL – By Arran Saunders

Now almost a forgotten and fairly unknown brand, Aires was once a promising Japanese camera manufacturer, operating in the 1950s and making a number of 35mm rangefinder cameras. By 1960, however, its factory doors had shut and production halted after a myriad of poor-selling models. It’s generally accepted that a failed attempt to transition into SLR style cameras whilst being overshadowed by larger companies led to this unfortunate ending.

I managed to purchase my Aires 35-IIIL from eBay for around 60USD. Equipped with the H Coral lens (4.5cm, f1.9), it’s a fixed lens rangefinder. While evidently inspired by contemporaneous Leica models, most Aires cameras have a particular charm to their design. I found myself fascinated by the company’s history and began to trawl the Internet for more information. I read that while earlier models generally had slower lenses, the 35-IIIL sat somewhere in the middle with more advanced models such as the 35-IIIS even including a selenium bulb light meter, and the 35-V adding a system of interchangeable lenses.

Despite the company’s short-lived history, the 35-IIIL is not only is built extraordinarily well but also has a lens that produces images of stunning sharpness and effect. After putting a couple rolls of film through it I began to appreciate more the virtues of using a fixed lens camera; something I was initially apprehensive of. Being relatively new to film photography, I struggled at first with the rangefinder style focussing, primarily because age had significantly dimmed the rangefinders lines. However with some practise I really started to enjoy and develop a fondness for this unique camera.

These 5 photos were taken in either my home city Hong Kong or on a brief holiday to
Hanoi on Fuji C200 or Fuji 100 film.

Arran Saunders


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9 thoughts on “5 Frames With an Aires 35-IIIL – By Arran Saunders”

  1. Steve Scarlett

    Nice shots, Arran. I have the Aires Viscount with the same lens. Unfortunately the rangefinder patch has vanished so I only use it rarely nowadays as a zone focus machine. It is an excellent lens though! I think Aires made some TLRs too.

    1. arransaunders

      Hi Steve,

      I had the same problem with both of my Aires rangefinders. I found a neat little trick to help solve the issue almost entirely though – if you put a small black patch of tape or something in the centre of the viewfinder, right where the rangefinder patch shows up, it makes it a lot more clear. Basically the rangefinder patch which would otherwise be too dim to compete with the viewfinder now has no light behind it, and it becomes a lot more clear. You can actually see my small patch in the photo of the camera.

    2. Hi Arran, thanks for the tip — but when I move the focus my rangefinder patch (when I can make it out !) just doesn’t move the image at all. I guess something inside is disconnected. May get a technician to look at it sometime, but too many cameras for it to be near the top of my to-do list !
      Cheers, Steve.

  2. Larry Posavad

    Those are very loooong images. Is this a half frame camera?
    Great pictures. The train track would make a great poster.

  3. I remember Aires as a good camera in the mid 50s. They got overtaken by Nikon, Canon, and Asahi Pentax SLRs. Nice Hanoi rail photo. Been there but didn’t see that.

  4. Photo of the train tracks: Saw this in a Smithsonian Channel MIGHTY TRAINS episode. A couple times a day the passenger trains come through there at about 50 MPH. I wonder if all the buildings shake and things fall off the shelves?

    I’m well aware of the Aries 35mm cameras. Very good and hard to find a GOOD one today. A couple shops who work on fixed lens 35mm cameras. Ain’t cheap.

    Just sayin’ …

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