The Wrayflex was England’s only attempt at manufacturing a 35mm single lens reflex. The first model, known now as the Wrayflex I, was made in 1951 to shoot 40-plus exposures on 35mm film, each one 24x32mm in size. In 1953 the Wrayflex Ia was launched, which adjusted the image size to the more traditional 24x36mm. The inherent fault in both the early Wrayflex cameras was that the viewfinder relied on the use of three mirrors. Light from the lens was bounced from the reflex mirror, up to a second mirror at the back of the viewfinder housing, forward to a third mirror at the front of the housing and back out through the viewfinder’s eyepiece. This system provided a correct way up image, but one that was laterally reversed when the camera was held conventionally, and which turned upside down when the camera was turned vertically.
In 1959, the Wrayflex II was introduced, complete with a pentaprism viewfinder that showed the image the right way round. Before that, however, the company built this unusual and very rare prototype that introduced a fourth mirror to the original design to correct the image problem. Light reflected by the mirror at the back of the body would now undergo a double reflection in the two new mirrors housed in a triangular-shaped hump on the front of the viewfinder housing before moving on to the viewfinder eyepiece as before. The result was a correctly orientated image.
A prototype using this system was first discovered around 2005 and thought to be the only one in existence, until a second one was found in 2015. Since the serial numbers of the two cameras are 3469 and 3471, it is likely that somewhere out there is serial number 3470 which is also a similar prototype. This one has yet to be discovered.
c. 1957: Wrayflex II prototype
Read a lot more about how the Wrayflex was designed and built, together with much more information about its lenses, accessories and other rare prototypes in my book The Wrayflex Story. Click here for more information.
The very rare Wrayflex II protototype, one of only two known to exist
Wrayflex I (Left) and Wrayflex Ia
Wrayflex II with 135mm telephoto lens
and special tripod adapter fitted