First plate folders

Jump to: navigation, search
Japanese plate cameras, folding bed (edit)
No.0 (4×5cm) Alpha | Sweet | Pony Sweet | Taishō-shiki
atom (4.5×6cm) Monarch | Need | Palma
meishi (5.5×8cm) Eagle | Idea A | Idea B | Idea Snap | Idea No.1 | Iris | Lily (horizontal) | Pearl No.3 | Special Camera | Venis | X
daimeishi (6.5×9cm) Apollo | Arcadia | Crite | Special East | Eaton | Elliotte | First | First Etui | Gold | Happy | Hope | Idea No.1 | Idea (metal) | Kinka | Kokka | Lily (horizontal) | Lily (metal) | Tropical Lily | Lloyd | Lomax | Masnette | Mikuni | Need | Nifca Klapp | Nifca Sport | Ohca | Palma | Peter | Prince | Prince Peerless | Proud | Romax | Rosen | Rubies | Sirius | Sun | Super | Tokiwa | Venus | Weha Idea | Weha Light
tefuda (8×10.5cm) Eagle | Idea A | Idea B | Idea No.1 | Idea (metal) | Iris | Lily (original) | Lily (horizontal) | Lily (metal) | Palma | Pearl No.3, No.4 | Minimum Pearl | Special Pearl | Sakura Palace | Sakura Pocket Prano | Star | Tokiwa | Weha
nimaigake (8×12cm) Eagle | Idea | Idea Binocular | Sakura Prano | Sakura Binocular Prano | Star Premo
hagaki (8×14cm) Eagle | Noble | Pearl No.3, No.4 | Star
kabine (12×16.5cm) Idea | Noble | Sakura Prano | Star Premo
Japanese plate film: monocular, box, strut-folding and SLR ->
3×4 and 4×4, 4×5 and 4×6.5, 4.5×6, 6×6 and 6×9 ->

The First or First Camera (ファーストカメラ) are Japanese 6.5×9cm plate folders, distributed by Minagawa in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and ostensibly made by "First Camera Works", another name for Kuribayashi.

Wooden models


The early First cameras have a wooden main body. The split folding struts are the same as on the Mikuni; they were perhaps copied on Contessa-Nettel designs, such as the Adoro. The First has single extension bellows, a focusing wheel on the photographer's right, a distance scale and a brilliant finder on the left. The attachments for the top handle are clover-shaped and are fixed by three rivets each.


The advertisements in Asahi Camera May, July, August and September 1929 were ostensibly placed by "First Camera Works". All four show the same illustration; the pictured camera has w Vario shutter, no wireframe finder, and the name FIRST is visible inside the folding bed, between the focusing rails.

The May and September advertisements are almost identical. They mention "Trimer Anastigmat" lenses, in f/3.5, f/4.5, f/6.3 and f/6.8 aperture, and Vario, Ibsor and Compur shutters. The spelling "Trimer" is surely a mistake for Trimar.[1] The camera was supplied with three plate holders and one film pack holder; the exact lens and shutter combinations and prices are not given.

The advertisements in Asahi Camera July and August 1929, again placed by "First Camera Works", show the same illustration.[2] Two versions are listed in July:

A third combination was added in August, consisting of a Trimar f/4.5 lens and a Vario, for ¥42.

The advertisement by Minagawa Kamera-ten in Asahi Camera February 1930 presents the First along with the Mikuni. The illustrated camera has a Vario shutter and a folding wireframe finder; the front wireframe has a complicated shape and there is a small pointed eyepiece on the rear. (One source says that the camera was available as the "First No.1" without the wireframe finder and as the "First No.2" with this device, for ¥4 extra, but this is not confirmed by this advertisement.)[3] The versions with Trimar f/6.3 and f/4.5 lenses are listed, respectively priced at ¥34 and ¥42. In the picture, the markings on the lens rim are faintly legible as Kerman–Dresden Nr134969 * Trimar–Anastigmat 1:4.5 f=10.5cm; this Kerman company is only known for these Trimar lenses.

Surviving examples

One surviving example of the First camera with wooden body is pictured in Lewis.[4] It is exactly similar to the illustration in the May to September 1929 advertisements reproduced above, has an f/6.3 lens and a Vario shutter.

One wooden plate folder is pictured as a "First Hand Camera" in Baird, Sugiyama and McKeown.[5] Its shape differs from the illustrations in the advertisements reproduced above. The folding struts and the U-shaped front standard are very different. It seems that the front standard is held in place by a clamp on one side only, and there are knobs controlling the vertical and horizontal movements. The camera has a Magna shutter by Seikōsha and a Toko-Anastigmat 105/6.3 lens by Tōkyō Kōgaku.

One example of the Trimar-Anastigmat 10.5cm f/6.3 lens is known with a dial-set Vario shutter.[6] It was reportedly mounted on the wreck of a First camera with wooden body.[7]

Metal models

Commercial life

The wooden First was replaced by all-metal models in 1932, and versions with Japanese lenses and shutters appeared around 1934.[8] Advertisements dated 1934 and 1935 list the First Camera (ファーストカメラ) and Special First (スペシャルファースト) as two different models. It seems that the First has single extension bellows and the Special First has double extension; the Special First thus replacing the Mikuni as the upper model in the Kuribayashi range.

The February 1934 advertisement in Asahi Camera presents the Special First along with the First Roll, and does not mention the regular First Camera.[9] The text mentions double extension bellows and the picture shows an all-metal body. The folding struts and wireframe finder look the same as in the February 1930 advertisement, and are similar to that of the First Roll. Small knobs are visible, controlling the vertical and horizontal movements of the front standard. The Special First was offered in the following versions:

The advertisements in Asahi Camera dated May and July 1935 mention both the First Camera and the Special First.[10] Minor changes are visible: there is a bubble level added to the side of the brilliant finder, and the wireframe finder has a slightly different shape. The picture is taken from the left, and shows the rectangular eyepiece of the viewfinder. The following range is given:

The advertisement in Asahi Camera September 1935 shows a similar picture and lists the same range but adds new versions with a Simlar f/4.5 four-element lens by Tōkyō Kōgaku and a Seikosha shutter (1–250, self-timer).[13] This combination was priced at ¥81 on the First Camera and at ¥88 on the Special First.

The last known advertisement is dated October 1936, and only briefly mentions the First Camera and Special First.[14]

Surviving examples

One of the two all-metal plate cameras presented as "First Hand Camera" in Sugiyama has a very different body, and its identification as a First is problematic.[15] It has different folding struts, a focusing worm-screw on the right, a knob for vertical movements, and the eyepiece of the wireframe finder was apparently reversed by mistake. The shutter is a dial-set Vario shutter and the lens is an Amigo-Anastigmat 10.5cm f/4.5.

The other example pictured in Sugiyama[16] corresponds to the May to September 1935 advertising pictures, from which it only differs by the absence of the knobs controlling the movements of the front standard, and by the smaller viewfinder eyepiece. It has a Tenar 10.5cm f/4.5 lens and a Rulex A shutter (1–200, B, T).

An exactly similar camera is pictured in this page at Asacame, with a Magna shutter and a Toko-Anastigmat 10.5cm f/6.3 lens (no.5311).

A similar camera is also pictured in Baird and in McKeown,[17] with a Radionar 10.5cm f/3.5 lens by Neumann & Heilemann and a Rulex A shutter (1–200, B, T). This f/3.5 lens is not listed in the advertisements observed so far. The body only differs from the previous ones by the absence of the bubble level. The other camera pictured in Baird has a similar body and a Rulex shutter, but the other details are unknown.[18]


  1. Baird, pp.49–50, and McKeown, p.575, mention "Trinar" lenses. Rodenstock Trinar lenses are found on other Japanese cameras of the time, but these cannot correspond to the "Trimer" or トリマー (torimā) lenses mentioned in the advertisements.
  2. Advertisements in Asahi Camera July 1929 (p.A27) and August 1929 (p.A30).
  3. No.1 and No.2: Lewis, p.44.
  4. Lewis, p.44.
  5. Baird, pp.48 and 51, Sugiyama, item 1041, McKeown, p.575. The identification of the camera as a First is made on an unknown basis.
  6. Lens and shutter pictured in Yazawa, p.22 of Camera Collectors' News no.271, mounted on a different camera.
  7. Yazawa, p.21 of Camera Collectors' News no.271.
  8. Dates: Baird, p.50, who calls the metal model "New First Hand Camera".
  9. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.85.
  10. May 1935: advertisement reproduced in Baird, p.17 of Kuribayashi-Petri Cameras. July 1935: advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.72.
  11. The price of this version is omitted in the July 1935 advertisement, obviously by mistake.
  12. The name "Tenar" is inferred from the katakana テーナー.
  13. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.85.
  14. October 1936 supplement to Camera Club, second cover. It is later than the advertisements listed in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.339.
  15. Sugiyama, item 1042.
  16. Sugiyama, item 1043.
  17. Baird, pp.49–50 and 53 of Kuribayashi-Petri Cameras, McKeown, p.575.
  18. Example pictured in Baird, p.51 of Kuribayashi-Petri Cameras, perhaps owned by the Pentax Gallery.


  • Asahi Camera. Advertisements by "First Camera Works" in May 1929 (p.A29), July 1929 (p.A27), August 1929 (p.A30), September 1929 (p.A26), and by Minagawa Kamera-ten in February 1930 (p.A36).
  • Asahi Camera (アサヒカメラ) editorial staff. Shōwa 10–40nen kōkoku ni miru kokusan kamera no rekishi (昭和10–40年広告にみる国産カメラの歴史, Japanese camera history as seen in advertisements, 1935–1965). Tokyo: Asahi Shinbunsha, 1994. ISBN 4-02-330312-7. Items 193–4. (See also the advertisement for items 106–7.)
  • Baird, John R. Collectors guide to Kuribayashi-Petri Cameras. Grantsburg, WI (USA): Centennial Photo Service, 1991. ISBN 0-931838-16-9. Pp.15–9 and 48–53.
  • Camera Club. Saishin shashinki zenshū (最新写真機全集, Compendium of the latest cameras.) Supplement to the October 1936 issue. Advertisement on the second cover.
  • Lewis, Gordon, ed. The History of the Japanese Camera. Rochester, N.Y.: George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography & Film, 1991. ISBN 0-935398-17-1 (paper), 0-935398-16-3 (hard). Pp.44 and 46.
  • McKeown, James M. and Joan C. McKeown's Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras, 12th Edition, 2005-2006. USA, Centennial Photo Service, 2004. ISBN 0-931838-40-1 (hardcover). ISBN 0-931838-41-X (softcover). P.575.
  • Sugiyama, Kōichi (杉山浩一); Naoi, Hiroaki (直井浩明); Bullock, John R. The Collector's Guide to Japanese Cameras. 国産カメラ図鑑 (Kokusan kamera zukan). Tokyo: Asahi Sonorama, 1985. ISBN 4-257-03187-5. Items 1041–3.


In Japanese:

Kuribayashi prewar and wartime cameras (edit)
rollfilm folders
Eagle | Speed Pocket | First Roll | First Center | Semi First | First Six | Baby Semi First | Semi Rotte | Hokoku | Mizuho
plate folders rigid SLR TLR unknown
Mikuni | First | First Etui | Kokka | Romax | Tokiwa Molby Speed Reflex First Reflex Baby First