Well, all good things must, one day, come to an end… As for less-than-good things… well, some things just can’t end soon enough.
The Wardflex, a mid-1950s twin lens reflex camera that I acquired in a grab bag from my dad back in 2020 is one such thing.
If you read around various forums, you might find claims that the Wardflex has something to do with Leave it to Beaver. (“Ward Cleaver,” Ward-flex? Get it?) This is not so. Tlr-Cameras.com has a page on Taiyodo, who is perhaps most well known for the Beautyflex line of TLRs; scroll down most of the way and you’ll find two models of the Wardflex.
I have a first generation Wardflex, well-used and not-well-loved, and it has some problems.
If you saw my first mention of the Wardflex, in the series of posts on the FilmLab app, I mentioned that the mirror is wonky. I took the top off and messed around a bit, but couldn’t find a way to stick the mirror into place. It’s only held down by a single slim metal tab. If I cared more, if the Wardflex didn’t have another really unfortunate issue, I might solder it into place or something. But…
You can’t really see in the picture of the baby pear tree, but check the books. In the top center, One Day is fairly legible. In the lower left, Irving Penn is fairly legible, as is Highway Kind on the left. Other book spines on more or less the same plane are entirely illegible. I suppose this might be camera shake or something, but I can’t imagine how that would work. I suspect the lens is decentered, that one or more of the lens elements are out of whack. It works ok when stopped down, but forget about using it wide open and up close.
When I started writing this goodbye letter, I had no idea how many lens elements the Wardflex’s F.C Telmer 80mm f3.5 taking lens has or how they’re arranged or anything, so I started hunting around… Butkus has the manuals for the Beautyflex, Beautyflex D, and the Wardflex II, all which both claim 3 elements (presumably in 3 groups), but have the Biokor 80mm rather than the Telmer. And after another lengthy period of hunting around, I found an ad for the Wardflex at Collection Appareils, which mentions an “80 mm coated f/3.5 3-element lens.” So there we have it… a nice, probably sharp-enough triplet, under normal circumstances.
Looking at, for example, the pear tree above it seems fine-enough, seemed ok in my first test, though if you look close, there seems to be some variation across the frame in the picture of the rose bush, though to my eye it seems more like a loss of corner and edge sharpness, than what I see in the bookshelf picture.
Anyway. To be honest, I don’t much care. I have a competent twin lens reflex camera in the Yashica Mat-124, and really don’t need another one. Another kind of person might try to sell the Wardflex; yet another kind might turn it into a display piece of some sort. Me? I’ll probably throw it into the Goodwill pile with a note in the body about the problems. I might throw it in the camera parts drawer with the idea that I might one day do something with it, like disassemble it and recycle the glass and metal, but I know it’ll just sit in the drawer…
It’s not all bad, I suppose. I got a couple of nice-enough pictures of my niece and young nephew. They’re not at all in focus or anything, but they still look good.
And that’s the last word on the Wardflex. It’s a decent-enough, very, very basic camera, and I suspect there are decent copies out there. This isn’t one.