Japan 1954 – Compact – 35 mm – Rare.
The Kyoei-Sha Company was founded in 1938 in Tokyo and was renamed Showa as a reference to the reign of the current Emperor Hirohito.
After Canon, Showa was the oldest to start produce 35 mm cameras in Japan. They produced very nice copies of German cameras and particularly Leicas II and III.
Showa had excellent craftsmanship and produced small series of beautiful Leotax cameras in the early 40s. Around 1942 they even faced a law suit with Leica over a patent problem and were forced to separate the viewfinder and the rangefinder.
After the war (during which Showa participated to the war effort), they resumed production and mainly sold cameras to the US military troops then occupying Japan. The Leotax was a popular buy in the allied military post exchange stores. The production grew steadily and given the success of the camera, Showa ultimately changed its name to Leotax in 1956.
They produced Leica inspired cameras until 1961 when they finally went bankrupt. Their latest production was the Leotax G, a wonderful copycat of the Leica M.
Today, the Leotax are respected as some of the best Japanese Leica lookalikes and very thought after collectibles. Ironically, it is interesting to note that quite a few fake Leotax have been produced for collectors (mainly based on a Zorki body).