Scott's Photographica Collection

Clarus Camera Manufacturing Company
Clarus MS-35 Camera Serial Numbers

 

Clarus MS-35

 

Background

Soon after I began collecting Clarus cameras with abandon, I noticed that their serial numbers spanned a large range; too large, I thought, to account for the number of cameras manufactured.  Serial numbers in my collection range from a low of 7398 to a high of 494242.  

As I learned more about the chronology of MS-35 design changes, I realized that the highest serial numbers actually belonged to the earliest group of cameras.  Perhaps I should have seen this earlier, but eventually I noticed that on six digit cameras, the body and lens serial numbers matched!  It dawned on me that in the beginning, Clarus assigned Wollensak's lens serial numbers to their cameras.  Wollensak was the manufacturer of Clarus lenses.

My ultimate goal is to develop a chronology of Clarus design changes.  As I've added more cameras to the collection certain patterns are starting to emerge.  What was not at first obvious, but now seems so, is Clarus used at least three different sequences of serial numbers for the MS-35 camera.

Serial Number Table

A table of Clarus serial numbers appears below.  You'll notice the cameras have identifiers e.g. A1, A2, etc.  The identifiers were assigned arbitrarily.  Camera identifiers beginning with the letter K belong to other collectors who have generously offered assistance with this research project.  Identifiers with the letter A are in my collection. 

Serial Number Sequences

The table is divided into four sections, indicated by colored camera numbers.

For an illustrated explanation of the features and terms used in this table, see the Major Features page.

 
Table of Major Clarus Feature Variations Sequenced by Serial Number
Camera Body Serial Number Lens Mount Flash Synch. Access. Shoe Back Latch Finder Bezels Strap Lugs Speed Dial Lens Serial Number Lens Description  
K5 B5646 old yes sheet twist no no notched 705103 50mm f2.8
Anastigmat
K5
K6 B5980 new yes sheet twist no no notched 715524 50mm f2.8
Anastigmat
K6
A11 B6070 new yes sheet twist no no notched 705685 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
A11
K35  B6298 new yes sheet twist no no notched 702381 50mm f2.0 Raptar K35
K7 B7109 new yes sheet twist no no notched 719150 50mm f2.8
Anastigmat
K7
K8 B7540 new yes sheet twist no no notched 726105 35mm f3.5
Raptar
K8
K3 B7747 new yes sheet twist no no notched 765805 50mm f2.8
Clarus
K3
A16 B8181 new yes sheet twist no no notched 504772 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
A16
A1 B8294 new yes sheet twist no no notched 663644 50mm f2.0
Raptar
A1
Camera Body Serial Number Lens Mount Flash Synch. Access. Shoe Back Latch Finder Bezels Strap Lugs Speed Dial Lens Serial Number Lens Description  
A2 B8353 new yes sheet twist no no notched 535938 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
A2
K9 B8818 new yes sheet twist no unusual notched 774006 50mm f2.8
Clarus
K9
K10 5646 old yes cast twist yes yes notched 488817 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
K10
A4 7398 old no cast twist no no notched 516958 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
A4
K11 7544 old no sheet twist no no notched 701287 50mm f2.0
Raptar
K11
K12 7799 old no cast twist no no notched 517028 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
K12
K13 7801 old no cast twist no no notched 518526 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
K13
K14 8455 old no cast twist no no notched 521394 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
K14
Camera Body Serial Number Lens Mount Flash Synch. Access. Shoe Back Latch Finder Bezels Strap Lugs Speed Dial Lens Serial Number Lens Description  
A8 8473 old no cast twist no no notched 518513 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
A8
K15 9436 old no cast twist no no notched 528813 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
K15
A7 9636 old no cast twist no no notched 507761 50mm f2.0
Raptar
A7
A3 12149 old yes cast twist no no notched 547637 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
A3
A23 12234 old yes cast twist no no notched 544926 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
A23
K1 12800 old yes cast twist no no notched 549569 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
K1
K2 13084 old yes cast twist no no notched 547537 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
K2
A21 13122 old yes cast twist no no notched 548022 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
A21
Camera Body Serial Number Lens Mount Flash Synch. Access. Shoe Back Latch Finder Bezels Strap Lugs Speed Dial Lens Serial Number Lens Description  
K16 14127 old yes cast twist no no notched 549485 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
K16
K17 14977 old yes cast twist no no notched 559403 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
K17
A22 15906 old yes cast twist no no notched 559935 50mm f2.0
Raptar
A22
K36 16763 old yes cast twist no no notched 580277 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
K36
A20 16923 old yes cast twist no no notched 582031 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
A20
K32 17306 new yes cast twist no no notched 559952 50mm f2.0
Raptar
K32
K4 18378 new yes cast twist no no notched 592035 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
K4
K18 18746 new yes cast twist no no notched 547992 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
K18
K37 19885 old yes sheet twist no no notched 627578 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
K37
A25 22508 new yes sheet twist no no notched 663643  50mm f2.0 Raptar A25
Camera Body Serial Number Lens Mount Flash Synch. Access. Shoe Back Latch Finder Bezels Strap Lugs Speed Dial Lens Serial Number Lens Description  
K19 22551 new yes sheet twist no no notched 658290 50mm f2.8
Anastigmat
K19
A10 23647 old yes sheet twist no unusual notched 679268 50mm f2.8
Anastigmat
A10
K31 23658 new yes sheet twist no no notched 691024 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
K31
A24 24049 new yes sheet twist no no notched 692093 50mm f2.8
Anastigmat
A24
K20 24601 new yes sheet twist no no notched 554197 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
K20
K21 24875 old yes sheet twist no no notched 712945 101mm f3.5
Raptar
K21
A26 475537 old no solid slide yes yes Leica 559418 50mm f2.8 Velostigmat A26
K33 475885 old no solid slide yes yes Leica 475885 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
K33
A5 478323 old yes cast slide yes yes notched 478323 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
A5
Camera Body Serial Number Lens Mount Flash Synch. Access. Shoe Back Latch Finder Bezels Strap Lugs Speed Dial Lens Serial Number Lens Description  
A13 478339 old no solid slide yes yes Leica 478339 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
A13
A27 478371 old no solid slide yes yes Leica 478371 50mm f2.8 Velostigmat A27
A15 47965? old no solid slide yes yes Leica N/A NONE A15
K34 481137 old no solid slide yes yes Leica 481137 50 mm f2.8 Velostigmat K34
K22 482866 old yes cast slide yes yes notched 482866 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
K22
K23 483424 old no cast slide yes yes Leica 483424 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
K23
A14 485563 old no cast slide yes yes Leica 485563 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
A14
A12 486690 old no cast slide yes yes notched 486690 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
A12
A17 492849 old yes cast slide yes yes Leica 492849 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
A17
K24 492876 old no cast slide yes yes Leica 492876 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
K24
Camera Body Serial Number Lens Mount Flash Synch. Access. Shoe Back Latch Finder Bezels Strap Lugs Speed Dial Lens Serial Number Lens Description  
A18 492959 old no cast slide yes yes Leica 492959 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
A18
A9 494242 old no cast slide yes yes Leica 494242 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
A9
K25 496411 old no cast slide yes yes Leica 496411 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
K25
K26 500440 old no cast twist no no Leica 500440 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
K26
K27 504981 old no cast twist no no Leica 504981 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
K27
K28 726070 new yes sheet twist no no notched 764222 50mm f2.8
Clarus
K28
K30 NONE old yes cast twist no no notched 478296 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
K30
A6 NONE old no cast twist no no notched 501523 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
A6
A19 NONE old yes cast twist no no notched 521252 50mm f2.8
Velostigmat
A19
K29 NONE old yes cast twist no no notched 755276 50mm f2.8
Clarus
K29
Camera Body Serial Number Lens Mount Flash Synch. Access. Shoe Back Latch Finder Bezels Strap Lugs Speed Dial Lens Serial Number Lens Description  

Table Notes

Pattern and Paradox

In-depth information on Clarus cameras is sparse.  This can be explained in part by the fact they were manufactured for only six years, and also because Clarus has not attracted a large following of collectors.  Certainly a larger sampling of cameras would be helpful.  Yet even this small group of cameras reveals interesting information.  Organizing Clarus serial numbers into three or four groups brings some sense of order to chaos.

Group 1 - Serial Numbers with a B Prefix

As with all things Clarus, the deeper one looks, the greater the mystery.  As I compared the cameras in my collection I thought it would be a sure bet to say that when Clarus introduced a new lens mount, it initiated B prefix serial numbers.  Not true.  Back to the drawing board.  I've now learned there are B prefix cameras with the old mount, and that new mount cameras without B prefix serial numbers exist.  Now I'm really curious why Clarus created the B series of serial numbers.  Perhaps the reason was not related to design change at all, but driven by marketing or sales considerations.

Cameras with B prefix serial numbers are a nearly homogenous group.  Cameras in this group may be the final MS-35 design, produced until Clarus ceased operations in the summer of 1952.  If so, its production life may have spanned four years.  This was the most reliable MS-35 design.  The variations discovered thus far among group 1 cameras are minor and mainly cosmetic.

Having mentioned the new Clarus lens mount, I'll tell what I've discovered so far.  I doubt it is well known that Clarus revised their lens mount, because the change is not obvious, and as far as I know, no mention of this was made in the literature.  Probably during 1948 standard 50mm Clarus lenses were changed from a rotating mount to a new helical mount.  Helical mount lenses are definitely superior to Clarus rotating mount lenses.  Rotating mount lenses have a tendency to jam when they are removed from the camera body.  The design of the helical mount eliminated this problem.

The original MS-35 lens mount is identical to the new mount, with the exception that Clarus engraved a vertical line on the camera body above the new mount.  This line serves as the lens distance-scale index mark.  Original mount cameras do not have this engraving.  Old lenses will fit new cameras and vice-versa.  The back focal distance is identical as well.  An incompatibility was caused by the mount change, but this was probably not a real-world problem.  If a helical lens is attached to an old-mount camera, the distance scale is unusable because there is no index mark.  The work-around in this situation is to focus the lens on infinity and make a pencil mark on the body adjacent to the infinity mark.  This pencil mark will not be in the same location (12 o'clock) as it is on new mount bodies, so it's not sufficient to just make a mark at 12 o'clock.

The earliest advertisement I have found showing a camera with the new lens mount appeared in the July, 1948 issue of Popular Photography magazine.

Group 2 - Serial Numbers to Five Digits

This group is earlier than group 1.  There are more interesting variations in this group than in group1, although this is not apparent in the table above.  I plan to publish a comprehensive table of feature variations in the future.  The comprehensive table reveals a lot of variation among group 2 cameras.  To-date this group comprises serial numbers of four and five digits.  I am not aware of serial numbers with less than four digits.

Group 3 - Serial Numbers with Six Digits

Group 3 cameras are, I think, the most fascinating of all; and great looking too.  Group 3 cameras are, with one exception, the earliest examples I have found to-date.

As my Clarus collection grew and I compared group 3 cameras to the others, I came to think of this group as paradoxical.  Obviously these cameras exhibited early features, yet their serial numbers were hundreds of thousands higher than late MS-35 cameras.  Now I know that these cameras were assigned serial numbers of their fitted Wollensak lenses.  Later, Clarus discontinued this practice, and body serial numbers started to make a little more sense.

An interesting six digit serial number variation is camera K28 with serial number 726070.  This camera has a new style lens mount and sheet metal accessory shoe.  It is obviously a late design.  As this research continues and similar cameras are found, it would make sense to breakout another serial number category that separates earliest from later designs.  But it is too soon to make the assumption that cameras in the four and five hundred thousands are all early and serial numbers in the seven hundred thousands represent later designs.  An obvious question arises - are there serial numbers in the six hundred thousand range?    

Group 4 - Missing Serial Numbers

I'm not sure that anything Clarus did would surprise me, but I can't imagine that serial numbers were intentionally left off these cameras.  The reason they are missing is an interesting mystery yet to be solved. 

Thanks

Thanks to Ken Locke for data on cameras K1 - K4, Bob Kelly for cameras K5 - K30, Steven Berkowitz for cameras K31 - K33, Michael Cleveland for cameras K34 - K35 and T. Okuyama for cameras K36 - K37.

If you have a Clarus camera I'd like to enter it into the serial number table.  Just send an email with information on its features to: scott@vintagephoto.tv

Additional Information

 

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This page was created June 16, 2003 and updated March 14, 2005