The Alma Four has a rounded metal body. There is a telescopic tube supporting the lens and shutter assembly. The top plate is removed for film loading, a practice that is common in Japanese 3×4 and 4×4 cameras and initiated by the Picny and Gelto.
The whole top plate is covered by a top housing containing the viewfinder, slightly offset to the left. This housing also supports the advance knob at the right end, an accessory shoe and a knob at the left end that looks like the rewind knob of a 35mm camera. This knob is perhaps used to open and close the top plate.
There is a small window in front of the accessory shoe, probably displaying an exposure counter. A lever placed behind the top plate perhaps interacts with this exposure counter. The back contains a single red window, protected by a horizontally sliding cover. It is certainly used to set the first exposure. There is a tripod thread in the bottom plate, offset to the right.
The name ALMA FOUR is engraved above the viewfinder and it is sometimes embossed in the back leather.
Advertisements and original documents
The Alma Four was first advertised in the December 1939 issue of Asahi Camera, and was featured as a new product in the January 1940 issue of magazine. The advertisement placed in the April and May 1940 issues, reproduced below, describes the "Alma 4×4 camera" (アルマ4×4カメラ) as a new model, with no further details. The documents shows a picture of the camera with Selon shutter. The shutter plate is marked ALMA at the top and probably SELON at the bottom.
|Advertisement in Asahi Camera April and May 1940. (Image rights)|
Later advertisements in the same magazine, dated November 1940, January and April 1941, give more details. The three documents are nearly identical, except for the absence of any price in the earliest one. They show the same picture as in Spring 1940, and list two versions of the Alma Four (アルマ・フォアー), both with a U.L.L. f/4.5 lens:
|Advertisement in Asahi Camera April 1941. (Image rights)|
The camera appears in the list of set prices compiled in October 1940 and published in January 1941, under the names "Alma Four Junior" (¥60), "Alma Four" (¥77) and "Alma Four III" (¥125), with no further details. The Alma Four III probably has a better lens and shutter combination, but it is otherwise unknown.
The Alma Four and Alma Four Junior are also mentioned in the April 1943 government inquiry on Japanese camera production.
In an advertisement dated May 1943, the camera is offered as the Alma Four New (アルマ・フォアー新型), but the picture is exactly the same as in the previous advertisements. Two versions are offered, priced at ¥77.70 with 1/25 low speed and ¥89.80 with 1/5 low speed. Both have the same U.L.L. f/4.5 lens. The shutters are probably the Kerio and Selon but their names and top speeds are not mentioned. The document is the last to mention the camera.
Various examples of the Alma Four are known with the everset Kerio shutter (T, B, 150, 100, 50, 25) and the U.L.L. Anastigmat 5.0cm f/4.5 lens. The shutter plate is marked KERIO at the top, and the aperture scale is at the bottom. These cameras correspond to the Alma Four Junior listed in the advertisements.
One example has been observed with a U.L.L. Anastigmat 5.0cm f/4.5 lens and an unknown shutter giving 5–300, B, T speeds. (The shutter has no visible markings, and the speed range does not correspond to the Selon, which has T, B, 5–300 speeds in that order instead.) The aperture is set by an index above the shutter housing.
- Dates: advertisements mentioned in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.334. Attribution to Miyoshi: Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.334 and "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), items 149–50.
- Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.334.
- Advertisements in Asahi Camera April 1940, p.A13, and May 1940, p.A13.
- Advertisements in Asahi Camera November 1940, visible in this page of Xylocopal's photolog, in Asahi Camera January 1941, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.58, and in April 1941, before p.465.
- "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku", type 1, sections 5, 7 and 10.
- "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), items 149–50.
- Advertisement in Shashin Shinpō, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.59.
- Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.334.
- Example pictured in McKeown, p.111, example pictured in Sugiyama, item 3002, and example observed in an online auction.
- Examples observed in a website which is now dead, and in an online auction.
- Example observed in an online auction.
- Asahi Camera. Advertisements by Banno Bōeki:
- April 1940, p.A13;
- May 1940, p.A13;
- April 1941, before p.465.
- "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. Items 149–50.
- "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 1, sections 5, 7 and 10.
- 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 12–4.
- 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.111.
- 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. Item 3002.