The Guzzi was a copy of the German Ulca, and the Top was mostly identical. They take ten exposures on special paper backed rollfilm; the nominal exposure size is 20×20mm but the actual size is 18×18mm on 20mm wide film. The Guzzi was first released with a die-cast metal body (as the Ulca), but the company later switched to pressed metal for the late Guzzi and the Top (see below for the detail variations).
The lens and shutter assembly is mounted on a tube at the front. The lens is a fixed-focus meniscus; it has 30mm focal length and a single aperture, about f/8. The shutter has Bulb and Instant settings selected by a button on one side of the casing, and is tripped by a lever placed on the other side. The film is advanced by a knob at the top left, as seen by the photographer. The back is hinged to the right and contains a single uncovered red window to control the advance. The frame finder unit at the top is made of a bent sheet of metal; it also acts as a back latch, swiveling upwards to open the camera and holding the back shut when in normal position.
The early Guzzi
The Guzzi was first advertised and featured in the June 1938 issue of Asahi Camera. The column wrongly says that the camera is made of black bakelite and has T and B shutter settings, perhaps because the journalist didn't have access to an actual example. The camera is attributed to Earth Kōgaku, and the price is given as ¥5.50 — one roll of film costing ¥0.25. (This is an extremely low price, the Guzzi being perhaps the cheapest Japanese camera available at the time.)
The early Guzzi are actually made of die-cast metal, and have a metal advance knob. The earliest examples perhaps have GUZZI above the lens and EARTH KOHGAKU below, as illustrated in the August 1938 advertisement in Asahi Camera — no surviving example has been observed so far with these markings. At some time, the bottom marking became EARTH K.K. — at least one surviving example of the diecast version has this inscription. This variant is pictured in advertisements until April 1940, at the unchanged price of ¥5.50.
The late Guzzi or New Guzzi
The late Guzzi are made of pressed metal and have a black bakelite knob with the name GUZZI moulded at the top. These changes certainly occurred because of a shortage in raw materials. Most of the examples found today correspond to this late version. One of them has been found in its original box, marked "New Guzzi" in Japanese characters (新型グッチー); this name was perhaps used by the manufacturer for the late version, but does not appear on the advertisement in Asahi Camera May 1940 — the earliest to show the new model, still priced at ¥5.50.
The Guzzi appears in the official list of set prices compiled in October 1940 and published in January 1941. The rigid system of price categories theoretically results in a much higher price at ¥10; it is however reported that this price rise was not applied fully, and that the camera was sold for ¥6 in 1941 and ¥7 in 1942. The Guzzi is mentioned in the April 1943 government inquiry on Japanese camera production, and advertisements were reportedly placed in magazines as late as 1944.
The Top is only known from a few surviving examples, and appears in none of the documents observed so far. It only differs from the late Guzzi by its metal knob engraved TOP, and its markings on the shutter plate: TOP above the lens and TOP CAMERA WORKS below. The camera comes in a small box inscribed 20×20mm, TOP Camera and TOP CAMERA WORKS. It is supposed to date from the immediate postwar period, but nothing else is known about it and about the company Top Camera Works.
The Guzzi accessories and film
A few accessories were offered for the Guzzi. The case was priced at ¥0.85; it is made of brown leather and has the name GUZZI embossed at the front, with some variations. In February 1940, a filter was also offered for ¥0.85 and a hood for ¥2.
- 20×20mm: articles in Asahi Camera June 1938 and December 1940 and advertisement in Asahi Camera August 1938, reproduced in Awano, pp.4 and 7 of Camera Collectors' News no.277; advertisement in Asahi Camera February 1940 reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.71. 18×18mm: Awano, p.4 of Camera Collectors' News no.277.
- 30mm f/8: "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" (国産写真機ノ現状調査, Inquiry into Japanese cameras), listing Japanese camera production as of April 1943. Reproduced in Supuringu kamera de ikou: Zen 69 kishu no shōkai to tsukaikata (スプリングカメラでいこう: 全69機種の紹介と使い方, Let's try spring cameras: Presentation and use of 69 machines). Tokyo: Shashinkogyo Syuppan-sha, 2004. ISBN 4-87956-072-3. Pp.180–7., lens item I3.
- Advertisement reproduced in Awano, pp.4–5 of Camera Collectors' News no.277.
- Example pictured in Awano, Camera Collectors' News no.277.
- Advertisement in Asahi Camera February 1940 reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.67; advertisement in Asahi Camera April 1940 reproduced in Awano, pp.5–6 of Camera Collectors' News no.277.
- Advertisement reproduced in Awano, p.6 of Camera Collectors' News no.277.
- "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku", type 5, section 5.
- Awano, p.3 of Camera Collectors' News no.277.
- Awano, p.3 of Camera Collectors' News no.277.
- Examples pictured in Sugiyama, item 5149, and in this page at Submin.com.
- Advertisement in Asahi Camera August 1938 reproduced in Awano, p.4 of Camera Collectors' News no.277; advertisement in Asahi Camera February 1940 reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.67.
- Advertisement in Asahi Camera February 1940 reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.67.
- Column in Asahi Camera July 1939 reproduced in Awano, p.8 of Camera Collectors' News no.277; advertisement in Asahi Camera February 1940 reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.67.
- 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. Item 71.
- Awano Mikio (粟野幹男). "Gucchī" (グッチー, Guzzi). In Camera Collectors' News no.277 (July 2000). Nishinomiya: Camera Collectors News-sha.
- "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" (国産写真機ノ現状調査, Inquiry into Japanese cameras), listing Japanese camera production as of April 1943. Reproduced in Supuringu kamera de ikou: Zen 69 kishu no shōkai to tsukaikata (スプリングカメラでいこう: 全69機種の紹介と使い方, Let's try spring cameras: Presentation and use of 69 machines). Tokyo: Shashinkogyo Syuppan-sha, 2004. ISBN 4-87956-072-3. Pp.180–7. Item 188.
- "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku" (国産写真機の公定価格, Set prices of the Japanese cameras), listing Japanese camera production as of October 25, 1940 and setting the retail prices from December 10, 1940. Published in Asahi Camera January 1941 and reproduced in 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. Pp.108—9. Type 5, section 5.
- 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). P.55.
- 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.253.
- 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 5007 and 5149.