Bolsey C22

Classic SLRs:
Classic Fixed Lens Rangefinders:

Bolsey C22

by Karen Nakamura

Overview and Personal Comments

The Bolsey C22 is a quirky little 35mm TLR + rangefinder camera distributed by the Bolsey Corporation in the 1950s. The outside design is definitely 1950s with a sort of art-deco meets modernism look. The unit is an absolutely tiny little jewel that nestles in the palm of your hand just so. It most probably did not sell well to macho photographers.

Now most of you are most probably scratching your head .. a twin-lens reflex and rangefinder?!?! Yes, the Bolsey C22 has both a small focusing lens with a waist level hood above the main taking lens as well as a small coupled rangefinder as well as optical viewfinder. This gal had it all. Using the text or images on this website without permission on an ebay auction or any other site is a violation of federal law.

I bought mine at an antique show at the Apache Mall in Minneapolis, MN (2002.11.2) for $70. The seller wanted $77 but I talked him down (he had originally priced it at the very start at $125). The camera was in excellent condition and came with the rare and wonderful Bolsey flash unit as well as the very feminine camera case. My camera's serial number is 70145x.

I have to say that I've surfed the web and havent' seen anyone with a Bolsey that's in as good condition as my one. Mine has a couple of very faint scratches around the tripod and flash mount, but that's it. It even has the little red Bolsey logo dot on the viewfinder, which has fallen off on most. Even the photo of the Bolsey in the Collector's Guide to Classic Cameras (1945-1985) is in pretty bad shape.

Interestingly, while the Bolsey has not attracted much attention in the U.S., it's very popular in Japan. Then again, we Japanese love cute little quirky things and the Bolsey has this in spades. Recently I've noticed a great increase of Bolsey B's and C's on eBay, American sellers with mostly Japanese buyers. Interesting. Using the text or images on this website without permission on an ebay auction or any other site is a violation of federal law.


Interesting quirks

Everything about this camera is quirky. Let's start from the top:

The twin-lens reflex waist level finder is just the cutest. It pops up and there's a small focusing screen on what looks like an optical lens. There's the tiniest focusing loupe (magnifier). Unless you have great eyesight, even with the loupe it's rather tough to focus a tiny 35mm image.That and the design of the TLR makes it easy for the Bolsey's focusing lensto fall out of coplanar with the taking lens makes it less than it could be.

The rangefinder is a simple coupled split-image type. There's a separate framing viewfinder. The rangefinder is much more acccurate that the TLR for close focusing. Using the text or images on this website without permission on an ebay auction or any other site is a violation of federal law.

The focusing lever is coupled to both the rangefinder as well as the TLR. It's on the left hand side and is totally inaccessible when the flash is mounted. The focus lever on the C22 can interlock with the aperture when the flash Set-O-Matic mode is engaged (don't you love the 50's-o-rama-naming style?). A sidenote: the distance-based Set-O-Matic is much more accurate than the reflective metering in modern camera/flash systems.

The wind/rewind levers are cute. You have to pull up slightly on the wind lever to disengage the frame stop gears to wind to the next frame. Winding the film causes a small stop rod to pull out from the front of the camera, releasing the shutter to the fully uncocked position. From there you can cock and fire the shutter in one smooth motion. Be careful when winding the camera! Too much force can strip the film off the cogs!

Rewinding the camera involves no interlocks, it's just friction based.

The shutter is from Wollensak and is self-energizing and has both T and B modes. The slowest shutter is 1/10 and the fastest is 1/200 so the camera is not that flexible in and outdoors. Then again, the top of the camera has a memory indicator for film speeds (from ASA 8 to a blazing ASA 100). Luckily there's a screw-in external shutter release button. Using the text or images on this website without permission on an ebay auction or any other site is a violation of federal law.

The taking lens is a 44mm Wollensack Anastigmat f/3.2. I believe the Anastigmats are 3 element / 3 group simple designs. The focusing lens appears to be an exact twin 44mm / f3.2.

Inside the camera. The film pressure plate is a shiny chrome. Wow, it's pretty! Why don't more cameras have chrome pressure plates? Well because with positive (slide) film, the light goes right through the film, then bounces off the film and you get double images! Bad! Negative films have anti-reflective coatings that don't have this problem. So stick with negative film in this camera.


Accessory Flash Units

The Accessory Flash Unit that I have looks like it takes either AG1 bulbs with the adaptor; or #5 bulbs without (thanks to Tom Krueger for helping me figure this out). There's room for two 22.5v Eveready No. 505 batteries inside that needed replacement. Tom sent me some bulbs, I got the batteries at Batteries Plus, and I'm raring to go. Flash Set-o-Matic here I come! Using the text or images on this website without permission on an ebay auction or any other site is a violation of federal law.

Now it looks like there were at least three different kind of Bolsey-made flash bulb units. All attach the same way, through a proprietary 1 prong, 1 screw flash mount on the rear of the camera. I'm not sure if all three flash types were produced at the same time, if they're for different series, or what the story is. Anyone help me?

  1. Mine is pictured above in my opening photo of my Bolsey, it's rectangular and about the same height as the camera, 3cm wide by 6cm tall, approximately. It's made out of black painted steel or zinc. It takes two of the Everready 505 batteries and #5/AG1 bulbs.
  2. As seen in the advertising picture above is a large cylindrical tube flash gun. It's much larger than the Bolsey. The following photo is courtesy of RayWWatch, an ebay seller. Thanks Ray!

  3. The third type I just noticed on eBay. It looks very similar to my rectangular unit, but is triangular or trapezoidal in shape. It can be seen in this photo here from an eBay auction (photo used courtesy of Chris, the seller):




Technical Details

Camera Name
Place of Manufacture

Rochester, NY

Date of Manufacture
Focusing System

Twin-lens reflex

Rangefinder focusing

Optical viewfinder (reverse Gallilean)

Fixed Lens

45mm f/3.2 Wollensak Anastigmat (Coated)


Wollensak Synchromatic (Alpha X) leaf shutter

T / B / 10 / 25/ 50 / 100 / 200

Metering System



f/3.2 - f/22


Bolsey C flash system mount

Film type / speeds

Type 135 film (35mm standard)

Battery type
Dimensions and weight
A (light aluminum) brick
Note: Using the text or images on this site in an ebay auction without permission is a violation of your ebay Terms of Service. I will report you to ebay if I discover such a violation taking place.



About Bolsey (Obex Camera)

Jacque Bolsky first started designing cameras in 1923 in Switzerland. The first unit was the Cinegraph Bol. He followed with the Bolec which was later renamed the Bolex. Then he designed the Bolca which became the Bolsey Reflex and then was sold to a Swisscompany to become the Alpa.

There's some argument over Bolsky's real name. Some have him as Ukranian and his real name as Bogopolsky.

Bolsey emigrated to the U.S. after the war, changed his name to Bolsey, and started designing cameras around the Wollensack lens/shutter. He wanted affordable, well made cameras. The Bolsey Model B and Model C's accomplished those goals handily. The first were made by Pignons SA (Alpa) but the later ones were made by the Obex Corporation of NY. Unfortunately the imports from Japan and Germany were too much for him and he closed his factory doors in 1956.

On the Net

The Bolsey C series is very popular in Japan (all pages Japanese):


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