Gakkenflex English Instruction Manual (Otona no Kagaku Magazine Volume 25)

Gakkenflex Closeup

Okay everyone, as I promised in my Gakkenflex review, here is an english version of the Gakkenflex instruction manual!  I’d just like to preface this by saying that these are not direct Japanese-English translations.  My amazing, awesome girlfriend did rough translations of the part names (thank you!!!) and I filled in the rest with my own instructions, based on my experiences.  I gave some of the parts my own names, because we had no idea how to translate them, but you should still know what I mean

I know that there are some Gakkenflex clones out there, but the one I got was the offical Otona no Kagaku Magazine, volume 25, which I bought when I was in Japan.  The images here are scanned from the magazine that came with it.  I hope this is useful!

Just reiterating what I said in my review, but it would be beneficial if you sorted out the different types of screws into bowls before you begin.  Also, you’ll want to set aside about an hour or two to do this.

Note: If the below images are too small, Click them for larger versions.

Before we begin, here is what you will see when you first open the box:

Also, to give you an idea of where the parts fit into the finished product:

Okay, now for the fun part!

Step 1: Assemblingthe right side

1.1: Installing the tripod hole
Grab the tripod hole screw, a nut, and use two normal screws to screw them onto the inside of the right side board.  The mose surefire way to tell between the left and right sideboards is by matching the inside of the board to the below diagram.

1.2: Installing the film rewind knob
Like the diagram says, make sure the film rewind knob and the film rewind spool are line up properly, as shown.  It is easier to insert the rewind spool into the board if you squeeze it a little bit, where the two black arrows are.  Use another normal screw to secure.

Step 2: Assembling the left side

2.1: Installing the film advance knob
With the film advance knob securer, you want to slot it through the spool holder as shown.  Make sure that the other hole on the spool holder goes through the labelled ‘bulge’.  Slot the film advance knob securer through the inside of the left side board and into the film advance knob.  Secure with another normal screw.

2.2: Installing the counter
Get one of those weird hat screws and thread that through the counter first, then thread both through the outside left side board.  On the other side, line up spring a and the counter gear.  When that’s done, grab a cloth or something to hold onto the counter gear as you screw the weird hat screw.  Just a note here: you don’t want to screw it too tightly – I made that mistake, and the counter wouldn’t turn when I needed it to.

2.3: Installing the sprockets
Simple step here – flip the board over, and carefully slip the sprocket onto the place indicated, next to the counter gear.

Step 3: Assembling the front of the camera

3.1: Putting together  the shutter front board
Grab the front board, and with two flat-top screws, screw the shutter front board onto it.  The ‘stopper’ pointed out in this diagram is where the shutter board should rest later on (it’ll make sense as you continue)

3.2: Putting together shutter board
This bit is a liiiittle bit tricky.  You’ll want to slip one end of spring B onto the little hook on the shutter board.  Then, lower the shutter board onto its shaft, whilst also securing the other end of spring B onto its shaft.  Secure all of this with another weird hat screw.  Don’t screw this one too tight either – y0u’ll want to leave about 1mm of the screw not screwed in, so that the ‘shutter board advance’ in the next step can catch onto it.

3.3: Installing ‘shutter board advance’
Okay, the right diagram is a guide to where everything goes, and the left bit (numbers 1 and 2) are the order in which to do things.  Firstly, slip spring C onto the shutter board advance, such that the hook part of the spring goes over the shorter bit of plastic on the shutter board advance.  Firstly, slip these onto the securing shaft as is.  In this configuration, the long part of the shutter board advance is resting on the partition board.  Next, you’ll want to turn the ‘shutter board advance’ anticlockwise, so that the long part of the spring is now resting against the partition board, and the long part of the shutter board advance is now on the shutter board.

3.4: Installing shutter lever
I actually had issues with this step myself, but I’ll try to explain it as best I can.  Firstly, you’ll want to thread spring D through the shutter lever  so that, once again, the hook part of the spring is resting on the other part.  Insert into the board as indicated.  Now, you’ll want to flip the board over to put the lever on.  To give you an idea of top and bottom, the shutter should end up protruding off the right side of the camera when completed.  You’ll want to just put the lever onto the shaft.  It might take some fiddling (as seen in diagram 2) to get it on, but once you do, secure with another weird hat screw.

Here’s where you can stop and marvel at how cameras work.  Also, it’s a good time to check if your shutter is working properly.  At rest, it should look like diagram 1.  When you pull down on the shutter lever (diagram 2), ‘the shutter board advance’ should shift, such that it moves over that little bump.  When the lever is triggered fully, the ‘shutter board advance’ should spring back to the way it is in diagram 1.  In that time, you should see the shutter open up a little bit, briefly.  Hold the whole thing up to a  light to see more clearly.  I had issues at this stage with the whole thing not returning to diagram 1.  Turns out I had the shutter board screwed on too tightly, so it would never return to its resting stage.

3.5: Installing the exposure mask

This one’s another easy one.  Just grab the exposure mask and screw it onto the board as shown, with two normal screws.

Step 4: Assembling the back door

This is a short, one part step.  Use two normal screws to secure the back board onto the bottom board, but a weird hat screw to secure the back door latch onto the back board.

Step 5: Putting it all together

5.1: Attaching frontboard to sideboards
Okay, I got this one completely wrong when I did it.  What this step wants you to do is only partially (about halfway) screw the six normal screws onto the front board, as indicated.  Then, slip the two sideboards on sideways.  Only fully tighten the two indicated end screws for now.  This is to give the whole camera some leeway as you attach more and more parts.  Don’t worry, you can tighten the other four screws later.

5.2: Installing ‘mirror securing board’
Okay, this step is a little bit fiddly. Have a look at the mirror before you do anything – there should be a side with blue film and a side with clear film.  Keep in mind that you want the blue side facing up.
Firstly, remove only one side of the 2-sided tape and stick firmly onto the rectangle on the mirror securing board.  When that’s done, remove the protective film on the clear (bottom) side of the mirror, as well as the remaining side of the 2-sided tape.  Carefully line up the mirror and stick the now exposed bottom of the mirror onto the tape.

Another note: The top (blue) side of the mirror actually has two layers of protective film – one blue and one clear.  You’ll want to remove both at this step, too.  The manual suggests using sticky tape:

5.3: Installing mirror securing board to main body
Okay, this can be a bit tricky, so don’t worry if it takes you some time to do.  You’ll want to slightly bend the sideboards outwards to give yourself some leeway here – this is why I said not to tighten all the screws earlier.  You want to slip the mirror securing board into the main body, such that it’s sitting snugly, as pictured:

5.4: Tightening the middle screws
Pretty self-explanatory, really.  Slip the screwdriver into the holes to tighen the middle two screws.

5.5: Installing take up spool
With the take up spool in hand, insert the top into the side board first, then the bottom into the left side board. Ensure that the notch on the bottom of the take up spool lines up with the corresponding notch on the film advance knob.

5.6: Securing back door to main body
Once again, flex the side boards out a bit to make things a bit easier here

5.7: Securing side boards
Here you tighten those last two screws from earlier.

Step 6: Putting together the (view)finder

6.1: Installing the ceiling
Before doing anything, make sure you’ve put the screen board into the ‘ceiling’ part.  Flip that over, and latch the kind of hooky part of the ceiling onto the ‘bulge’ of the main body.  On top of that, use two normal screws to secure where shown.

6.2: Putting together the finder hood
Just follow these diagrams, and you’ll be fine.  Except that with the side boards, make sure the ‘hook’/tab things are towards the back of the camera, rather than the front.  Idiot me had them the wrong way around for months, and it made it really, really hard to close the top.

6.3: Securing the body again.
Not much to say here
.  Use two normal screws (one on each side) to secure the body properly

Step 7 – Assembling the lenses

7.1: Putting together the finder lens
A Twin-Lens Reflex camera has two lenses – one for taking the photo and one for the viewfinder.  This is the one for the viewfinder.  Assemble it as shown, noting the orientation of the lens.

7.2: Putting together the photo lens
This is the lens used to expose onto the film.  Once again, assemble as pictured.  Note that the lens is flipped, compared to the finder lens.

7.3: Installing the lenses onto the main body
If you look closely at the lens frames, you’ll see a little ‘protruding bit’ on each.  Line this up on the two lenses, as in the closeup.  With them intertwined like that, place them onto the main body.  To install them, either turn the finder lens frame clockwise or the photo lens frame anticlockwise (or both).  If you value your fingers, use a cloth to do this.  You’ll hit a patch of resistance about halfway.  Keep turning until they’re fully retracted onto the main body

Step 8 – …. There is no step 8!

Give yourself a pat on the back, because you’ve just built yourself a Gakkenflex! 

Okay, so hopefully this guide is helpful to someone!  Let me know if you have any questions, and I’ll try my best to answer them.  Other than that, go out and have some fuuuuuuun!

EDIT: I forgot to mention this, but I added the watermark to the images a few months ago. I apologise about that and I hope it doesn’t get in the way, but I was kind of forced into it.  What happened was that I saw a banner ad for an online store that stole images from me to promote their store.  Imagine my shock when I saw that!  Thankfully, when I (and my girlfriend Tiff) emailed them and asked them to take it down, they did.   Anyway, it was a lot of work to watermark the images, but I tried to find a color and font that wouldn’t impede too much on the actual image and text.  Good luck with assembling your camera!

97 thoughts on “Gakkenflex English Instruction Manual (Otona no Kagaku Magazine Volume 25)

  1. Pingback: Gakkenflex Camera Review (Otona no Kagaku Volume 25) « Blinded By Light

    • No problem! I’m glad that you found it useful. Just a hint with finding film – you should go around your local photo-labs and ask if they have any expired film. Some give them away for free and others sell them a lot cheaper than regular film. All my film photos have been taken with expired film, so you shouldn’t have much issue. Plus, even if there’s graining issues, it just adds to the charm of the photos. Good luck in your photo-taking!


  2. I’m glad that I found this. I’ve had issues installing the rear finder piece. It fits in, but I can’t raise it without it detaching. For now I’m going to use it without the rear finder piece and hope it still works okay. One question, how many times do you turn the winder knob when you first install the film to get to the first frame?


    • With regards to the rear finder piece, what it sounds like is that you’ve only got it partially fitted in. Try taking the side finder boards out first and pushing the back piece right into the hook/latch part with some force. You should feel it ‘click’. Sometimes I get the same issue you do when I have it rolling around in my bag for a while. With regards to the film advancement, I usually turn it enough so that the counter goes around a half-circle, like you would normally. If you look around this site though, you’ll find that I’ve gotten it slightly wrong before, but it gave me a really cool photo. If you want to play it safe, you could wind it a little more, but I don’t like to waste film too much.


  3. THANK YOU! Just bought my Recesky (Gakkenflex clone) in Argentina. Can´t understand a thing in the instructions so this will be of great help. Thank you so much.


    • Yep, it should still be the same for the Recesky, but I obviously can’t guarantee that the parts are in the same places when you open up the box. It’s pretty cool that you can buy the Recesky in Argentina – down here in Australia, I can’t even find Gakkenflex clones, let alone the Gakkenflex itself. I managed to pick one up when I was on holiday in Japan, or else I’d have to rely on buying it online… 😦


  4. thanks heaps for the very detailed instructions. would have missed a whole bunch of stuff trying to figure out the japanese manual. i got a recesky and it looks like the only difference between the two (apart from name and design on the front and top) is that the recesky has a curved shutter lever and the gakk as a straight one. thanks again!


  5. Hey there.. its kinda of a stupid qtn but i dont know if i’ve built mine correctly cos when i’ve put the film in and shoot pictures, i dont really know when to stop winding cos the counter gear doesnt turn! how much should i turn the film advance knob?? hope u guys can help 🙂 btw, i’m using the recesky TLR 🙂


    • Haha, I don’t even have that one :P. I live in Australia, so I don’t have access to the Otona no Kagaku series. I picked up my Gakken when I was in Japan for a holiday.


  6. THANK YOU for providing this. I tried to do a translate of the manual with Google Translate but this is a gazillion times better. Thank you so much for your effort! I worked out great and putting it together was not at all as difficult as I had imagined ^_^


  7. Pingback: Gakkenflex | Repetitive Measures

  8. Thank you! Can you translate the focusing part, or just explain it? With the lens fully retracted, is that for infinity? And with it fully extended, is that close up? And is fully extend the point where you reach some resistance? Or past that?



    • Sorry, I forgot to reply to this. I don’t have the time right now to be scanning and translating, but yes, the lens fully retracted is for infinity. Conversely, when you get to the resistance, that is for close up (within a few metres). Here’s a neat trick though: you can actually keep turning past the bit with the resistance, so that you can focuse even closer. You’ll want to grab a cloth or something when you do that though, or else it can really rip up your hands. Also, be careful that you don’t turn so far that the lenses fall out of the body. Hope that helped!


  9. Hi,

    First of all, these instructions in English are a life-saver, and second of all, I don’t think my shutter is opening all the way. It probably opens to about 75% before snapping shut. Do you have any ideas on how to solve this?

    thanks in advance!


    • Try going back to Step 3.2 and loosening the weird hat screw a little. Before reassembling the whole thing, you might want to test out the shutter. This is a really good way to see if everything’s functional because it’s all exposed. Good luck


  10. Hi there! I wanna get this so much and I want it to be unfix and I wanna assemble it myself!

    But the supplier told me now they only have the fixed one!
    The fixed one is Recesky?

    Anyone know where to get it in Malaysia??

    And David, how much you get it in Japan??

    I want it so so much. T_T


    • Oh hey, I’m so sorry I haven’t replied – I’ve been super busy. Hmm, if you find somewhere with the Recesky, I’ve heard that the photos turn out pretty much the same.

      I’m sorry that I don’t remember how much I paid for it, but I think it was around 2500 yen. If you buy it anywhere online, expect to pay a fair bit more than that. I still think it’s awesome value though. And sorry, but I don’t know where to get one in malaysia


  11. Hi! Your guide was so wonderful! My instructions were all in Chinese (which is fine) BUT didn’t come with detailed or clear instructions like yours did.

    One question – I have the film inserted and I wanted to know how much you need to turn the film advancing knob for the next exposure?…



  12. Hi, I have a question. In step 2, when screwing in the flat top screw together with the counter, counter gear and spring A, must the counter be tightly fitted in its place, or is it supposed to be a little loose? No matter how hard I try to tighten the weird top screw, the counter and counter gear doesn’t stay in place. Kindly advise.


    • Ah, sorry for the gigantic delay in replying. Um… I’m unsure what you mean, but I can try and guess? If you’re having the issue I think you’re having, you should try holding the counter gear in one hand while you screw it together with the other. Like I said in the guide, you don’t actually want it to be that tight, or else it won’t even spin. So yes, it is supposed to be a little loose.


  13. Thank you so much for the instructions!! I couldn’t have built my Recesky without it!

    However I have a question. I got stuck on step 7.2. I can’t figure out how everything in the photo lens holds together. I dont see any screws… Are the pieces supposed to snap together or something? For me, I can put them together but I can’t get them to stay together. I tried just screwing the whole thing on to the camera anyway but the photo lens just falls apart as soon as I pick it up.

    Thanks very much for your help!


    • Heh thanks! Hmmm let’s see. In 7.2, the parts marked as ‘lens holder’ should hold the lenses in place. Maybe you need to push the parts together with a bit more force. Make sure you’ve assembled them in the right order and orientation.


    • I’m glad that you found it easy to follow. And yeah, the gakkenflex is definitely one of my favourite cameras! I was actually quite pleasantly surprised as to just how small it is, too. I think I was expecting something more rolleiflex-sized.


  14. Thanks for these instructions in English. I was pulling my hair out before but have now finally put it together! One urgent question about the lens that connects to the viewfinder; mine keeps popping out into the viewfinder area. Any suggestions?


    • You look at the ‘counter dial’ when you turn the knob. The amount you turn the knob will change as you go through your roll of film, but you always want the ‘counter dial’ to turn have a circle (180 degrees)


      • the instructions are fabulous!! i have the chinese version only and would’ve made a whole lot of mistakes if i hadn’t found this site after putting together the first two panels (the easy part). i’m not sure if i’m rotating the film correctly, but fingers crossed that the pics will come out alright!!! many, many thanks for this!!


  15. Hye, i sent my film few days ago to the shop but it turned out that it was all blank,no pictures at all.. is it because maybe i assembled it wrongly? i mean some part of it?


    • That depends on what exactly you mean by ‘blank’. If ‘blank’ means that everything is white, then that means that the shutter isn’t closing properly. If the photos are all black, then it means your shutter isn’t opening at all.

      What you should do is open up the back of your Gakken/Recesky, point it at a light source and click the shutter a few times. If the shutter is working properly, you should see a very brief flicker of light and the shutter should close again. If you’re able to see the light for more than that, then your shutter isn’t closing properly. If that’s the case, then go back to Step 3.2 and loosen the weird hat screw thing. if the shutter just isn’t opening, then I’d encourage you to go through steps 3.2-3.4 carefully and make sure the springs are doing their job properly.

      It’s hard to tell what the issue is without seeing it myself, but good luck!


  16. Btw, do you use a case to carry the camera or do you just dump it in your bag? will dust get on the lens? how do we clean it? sorry for the barrage of questions……:p


    • I personally just dump in in my bag. I haven’t really had any issues with anything on the lens, but I guess if it ever gets really dirty, you could just wipe it down? Though, I wouldn’t think that dust would make much difference. On the contrary, it might add an extra layer of unpredictability to the photos, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing!


  17. Thanks! I just bought the Japanese Gakkenflex with the magazine from a craft store today for retail price. Building it now with your translations since my Japanese is…not so good. There’s one more Japanese Gakkenflex kit with magazine if anyone is interested 🙂


    • Hey, at least you’re in Japan! I was lucky enough to go there for a holiday and picked it up while I was there. Part of me hopes that Gakken don’t put out anything super-cool for a while, because I won’t be able to buy it 😦
      Well, good luck with building the Gakkenflex – you’ll need some space, time and a healthy dose of patience, but I found it really fun!
      In fact, I had so much fun building the Gakkenflex, I’m almost half-tempted to buy your extra one, but I won’t because that’s redundant and stupid.


  18. Pingback: The Recesky TLR has arrived : Whitedash

  19. hi,
    i just finished building my camera. but the lens isn’t able to get screwed in all the way. will this affect the pictures? or can i just leave it?

    btw, your instructions are amazing! 🙂


    • Hmmmm,
      Well, it’d be best if you could get the lens screwed in. What exactly is the issue? Maybe I can try and help? If you’re meeting resistance when you try to screw it in, that’s normal (provided you lined them up properly).

      Otherwise, your photos will probably be out of focus, but if you’re into that kind of thing, then you’ll be fine 😛


  20. OMG… When I bought the mook, I was prepared to go on the Japanese instructions. When I opened the mook and SAW the Japanese instructions, I nearly died. I thought I would have to give up on this lovely camera. I had to google for English instructions and chanced upon yours… AMAZING INSTRUCTIONS. So clear and detailing the parts where I really needed to take note. I managed to create it (never thought I could) in ONE NIGHT!!! I’m all ready to go out and take some photosss!!

    Thank you (and your gf) x 1000 !!

    From Singapore


  21. Hey there! I recently bought a DIY TLR kit of a Recesky/Gakkenflex analog and the manufacturer forgot to include assembly instructions. I found a few tutorials plus a few YouTube videos but this article of yours has been the most helpful because of its detail. I am glad to have found your blog and also happy to now have a newly-built TLR camera. Thank you!


    • Thanks for that. I thought that people might prefer videos so I regretted not filming any, but it’s nice to hear that at least one person out there likes it in text form


  22. like someone else previously asked, I’m having trouble getting my viewfinder lens to stay together? like even when I put the “finder lens holder” on top of the lens, it’ll stay like that for a little, but will fall out soon later…should I just take a chance and glue it? I’m not even completely sure if I’m orienting my lenses the right way /:


    • You shouldn’t need to glue it at all. It’s been a while since I assembled it, but triple-check that you have the orientation of all the parts the right way, especially the lens. Maybe try pushing the finder lens holder with a little bit more force (not too much! We don’t want any broken parts). The grooves in the ‘finder lens frame’ should hold everything in place.


  23. Pingback: building a recesky tlr | cloudplasma

  24. wow, thanks for replying so quickly! There don’t seem to be any grooves in the finder lens frame that would help, I’ve tried orienting the lens both ways (since I find the pictures a bit confusing, frankly) but it still falls out? /: maybe mine just has a few minor defects and that’s why it’s not staying?


  25. I reallllllly hope you can help me. My niece pushed in the viewfinder lens and after popping it back in , it doesn’t seem to stay. The lens doesn’t go all the way (maybe it never did) and the lens holder will push in only so deep that its flush with the edge of where you’ve just inserted the holder. Unfortunately my friend built it for me so i have no idea if its ruined or was the lens that unstable to begin with. Should i follow your instructions and use some glue to keep it in place (and of course never let nieces touch camera EVER AGAIN!!)

    Many thanks, especially since you actually posted the instructions for us all =D


  26. I’m impressed 🙂 I found this on Yahoo searching for something completely unrelated, now I’m gonna have to go the old posts 🙂 Good bye free time this morning, but this was a really awesome find 😀


  27. Hmm it seems like your blog ate my first comment (it was extremely
    long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I submitted and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I as well am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to everything. Do you have any points for newbie blog writers? I’d genuinely appreciate it.


  28. thank you so much for this instruction. the instruction book i have is completely useless, it even tell us to use the wrong screw. well anyway, i have something to ask you,
    can i focus by turning the lens?? why is my lens so tight? it cant even turn.. and everything i see inside my viewfinder is blurry.. is it natural to see it BLUR? haha
    most of all i want to know whether i can FOCUS on an object by turning the front lens, or is it something wrong with my camera, because i cant turn my two front lens to adjust my pictures. even if i do, the picture still remain BLURRY at the viewfinder. i havent taken any pictures though. 🙂


  29. Pingback: The Nightmare/Adventure Begins… « What? Why Bother?

  30. Pingback: My DIY Gakkenflex TLR | chue on it

  31. thanks for this wonderful manual!!!! just one question: when i look inside i see the image inside a circle and not in the hole rectangle? what did i do wrong?


  32. Thanks for the great instructions, had a lot of fun putting this camera together, and couldn’t have done it without your help! I bought the camera a couple of years ago on a trip to Japan, and only just now got around to building it. Looking forward to seeing how the pictures turn out! Any advice on most successful light scenarios/film speeds to get started with?


    • Yeah, no worries. I’m glad you found it useful. ISO 400 film is a good go-to versatile film. Obviously, your best bet is to take photos in well-lit situations, but it gives you a bit of leeway and should still take decent shots in overcast/late afternoon conditions. Have fun!


  33. Just wanted to let you know that seven+ years later, this post is still helpful! I just bought a clone of a clone of a clone of a Gakkenflex off eBay. It only had Chinese instructions, dark images, and didn’t match any online English manuals. I could not have muddled through and got it assembled without your post! Thanks!


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