The Kowa Kid (コウワキッド) is a Japanese inexpensive camera taking 4×6.5cm and 4×4cm exposures on 127 film, made in 1960 by Kowa.
The Kowa Kid has a grey coloured body, covered by grey imitation leather. The body looks like it is made of plastic, but the camera is actually all metal, except for smaller parts. The advance knob is at the left end of the top plate. The viewfinder is contained under a top housing that actually shows both the 4×4 and 4×6.5 fields of view if one looks carefully. There is also a fake rangefinder window, a fake exposure meter window and an accessory shoe. The latter probably allows to physically attach a flash unit, but has not much practical utility because the shutter is not synchronized. There are strap lugs on both sides. The back is hinged to the right and contains two red windows, one for each picture format, protected by a rotating plate which covers either one of the windows, or both. There are two removable walls inside the exposure chamber, used to take 4×4cm exposures.
The lens is mounted in a grey and black barrel, and it is marked prominar f=70mm and kowa optical works japan, all in lowercaps. There is a selector under the lens, with B and S positions Bulb or Instant exposures. Another control is provided for the aperture, with three colour-coded positions. The shutter release is on the side of the lens barrel.
The camera is normally called Kowa Kid and has Kowa and Kid markings on the front of the body. It was announced in Japanese camera magazines dated March or April 1960. The camera was sold in an orange box marked KK and it is said that it cost ¥1,900. At least one example is known with misplaced red windows, which do not match the numbers on the rollfilm paper backing, for some unknown reason.
The camera is also called Zen-99, perhaps for export. Three variations are known: one is marked Kowa and ZEN-99, another is marked Cragstan and ZEN-99, and the most common has SUPER-LARK and ZEN-99. Examples of the latter two have been observed in their original box, marked CRAGSTAN CORPORATION JAPAN and ZEN-99 4×4CM–127 FILM CAMERA, with no mention of 4×6.5cm exposures, perhaps because it sounded old-fashioned. The same company name is repeated on the front page of the user manual, together with the camera name Cragstan ZEN-99. The camera was certainly distributed by Cragstan, an importer of Japanese toys in the USA.
Yet another name variant, called Light Super, has a black body with metal-colour trimming. The name Light Super is written on the top housing. The fake exposure meter window is replaced either by a window inscribed Light Super, or by an opaque red nameplate inscribed HARMONY. The lens is marked uera f=70mm and light optical works japan in lowercaps. The Light Super also has a flash sync connection; a flash unit attached to the accessory shoe should not have a hot connection on the foot or the flash will be going off all the time, since the camera is all metal. The camera was sold in a red box, inscribed LIGHT SUPER 46-44.
- ↑ All metal: Nakajima, p.34.
- ↑ See for example Sugiyama, item 4153.
- ↑ Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.385.
- ↑ Price: Tanimura, p.29, and this page by Shihira (archived).
- ↑ Nakajima, pp.34 and 36.
- ↑ See for example McKeown, p.548.
- ↑ See this page at Asacame.
- ↑ See for example Sugiyama, item 4180.
- ↑ Examples observed in online auctions.
- ↑ Camera, box and manual observed in online auctions.
- ↑ Window inscribed Light Super: example pictured in McKeown, p.622. Red nameplate inscribed HARMONY: example observed in an online auction.
- 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 1258.
- 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). Pp.548 and 622.
- Nakajima Akitoshi (中島章年). "Mikansei no kamera 'Kōwa Kiddo'" (未完成のカメラ「コーワキッド」, The "Kowa Kid", an unfinished camera). Kamera Rebyū: Kurashikku Kamera Senka (カメラレビュー クラシックカメラ専科) / Camera Review: All about Historical Cameras no.40, December 1996. Kōwa no subete (特集：R型ライカのすべて, All of Kowa) and Roshia kamera korekushon (ロシアカメラコレクション, Russian camera collection). Pp.34–7.
- 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 4153 and 4180.
- Tanimura Yoshihiko (谷村吉彦). "Kōwa kamera no subete: 16mm kamera oyobi besuto-firumu kamera" (コーワカメラのすべて・16mmおよびベストフィルムカメラ, All of Kowa cameras: 16mm and Vest film cameras). Kamera Rebyū: Kurashikku Kamera Senka (カメラレビュー クラシックカメラ専科) / Camera Review: All about Historical Cameras no.40, December 1996. Kōwa no subete (特集：R型ライカのすべて, All of Kowa) and Roshia kamera korekushon (ロシアカメラコレクション, Russian camera collection). P.29.
- Pages at Asacame:
- Kowa Kid among cameras for children
- Cragstan Zen-99 in the A–Z 127 film cameras
- Kowa Kid and Super-Lark Zen-99 in the Kowa camera page (archived)
- Kowa camera specs in Shihira's Kowa page (archived)
- Sample pictures at Japan Family Camera (archived)
- Kowa Kid in a page of the AJCC website (with a link to this picture)