5 frames with...

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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  • Avatar
    March 9, 2019 at 9:14 am

    Great images, especially the railway line.

  • Avatar
    Thorsten Wulff
    March 9, 2019 at 9:37 am

    Very nice, thank you Arran!
    Never heard of Aires before.

  • Avatar
    Steve Scarlett
    March 9, 2019 at 4:49 pm

    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.

    • Avatar
      March 9, 2019 at 5:05 pm

      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.

    • Avatar
      steve scarlett
      March 15, 2019 at 10:37 am

      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.

  • Avatar
    Larry Posavad
    March 9, 2019 at 5:24 pm

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

    • Avatar
      March 9, 2019 at 5:39 pm

      Thanks! Nope its regular full frame

  • Avatar
    March 9, 2019 at 7:01 pm

    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.

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