Names ending in Camera Works were used by various Japanese distributors from the 1910s to the 1950s. These names are written in Roman script or in katakana script only. They are found in advertisements and logos, ostensibly as the manufacturers of the cameras being distributed. Often the name of the actual manufacturer is known from other sources; if so, it is a different and more Japanese-sounding name. It seems that no actual Japanese company had a name ending in "Camera Works".
1910s and 1920s
The first "Camera Works" probably corresponded to the manufacturing branches of major distributors and were probably not independent companies. (In the same way, Rokuoh-sha was the manufacturing branch of the distributor Konishi — later Konishiroku, and still later Konica — and was not an independent company.) The earliest known example is "Star Camera Works", whose initials "S.C.W." are notably found on the Star watch camera, and which was probably the manufacturing branch of Ueda Shashinki-ten in the 1910s and 1920s. Another early example is "Tokyo Camera Works", which used the initials "T.C.W." and was the manufacturing branch of Sone Shunsuidō.
It seems that the later "Camera Works" were mere dummy names used by the distributors, sometimes corresponding to an independent company that actually had a different name. The reason for using these fake names is probably two-fold: on the one hand, a Western name was certainly thought to sound better in advertising than the true company name; on the other, it allowed the distributor to hide the true names of its various camera suppliers and to give the impression that all the cameras were made in its own factory.
The earliest known example is "First Camera Works", a name used by Minagawa Shōten after the introduction of the First plate folders, and actually corresponding to Kuribayashi. Other distributors would use the same trick, and the use of "Camera Works" dummy names reached a peak in the mid to late 1930s. The distributor Fukada Shōkai made much use of the name "Prince Camera Works", together with a P.C.W. logo, for cameras made by Fujimoto and perhaps other manufacturers. The old name "Star Camera Works" was even resuscitated by Ueda Shashinki-ten on advertisements for the Vero Four made by the small Kinshō company.
The use of "Camera Works" dummy names came to a halt with World War II, when the use of English words was discouraged by the Japanese authorities. Some isolated cases are found after 1945, such as the Dan Camera Works marking on the Dan 35 III and Super Dan 35. The last known example is the revival of the "Prince Camera Works" trademark and P.C.W. logo by the distributor Mima Shōkai for the Princeflex and Prince Junior 6×6 TLR in the 1950s.
It seems that a similar trick was continued in the 1950s in the form of dubious names ending in "Camera Company", such as "Chiyoca Camera Company, Ltd." or "Chiyotax Camera Company, Ltd." on the Chiyoca and Chiyotax made by Reise and distributed by Chiyoda Shōkai.
After 1945, genuine company names appeared with the word "camera" (カメラ, kamera, or 写真機, shashinki, a synonym). Some of these end in "Kamera Seisakusho" (カメラ製作所, meaning "Camera Works") or "Shashinki Seisakusho" (写真機製作所, meaning the same), such as Fujimoto Shashinki Seisakusho or Aires Shashinki Seisakusho. These are legitimate names, not to be confused with the dummy names described in this page.
List of "Camera Works"
This list is certainly incomplete. It only contains occurrences confirmed by original documents or markings on actual cameras, and does not list misattributions found in modern sources.
|Chiyoca Camera Company||Chiyoda Shōkai||Reise||Chiyoca|
|Chiyotax Camera Company||Chiyotax|
|Condor Camera Works||_||Motodori||Condor folders|
|Dan Camera Works||Dan Shashin-yōhin||either Hagimoto or Yamato Kōki||Dan 35 III and Super Dan 35|
|First Camera Works||Minagawa Shōten||Kuribayashi||many|
|Gelto Camera Werke||_||Tōa Kōki||Gelto|
|Green Camera Works||perhaps Kuwata Shōkai||Kigawa||Green|
|Jeicy Camera Works||probably none||Kumagai Genji (individual craftsman)||Jeicy|
|Mulber Camera Works||perhaps Kuwata Shōkai||unknown||Mulber (3×4)|
|National Camera Works||Eikōdō||Tōa Kōki||Semi National|
|Olympic Camera Works||Asahi Bussan||perhaps Asahi Bussan's own manufacturing branch||Olympic and Semi Olympic|
|Prince Camera Works||Fukada Shōkai
|Fujimoto||Semi Prince and Prince Flex|
|unknown||Prince plate folders and Prince Peerless|
|Tōyō Seiki Kōgaku, later Cosmo Camera Seisakusho||Princeflex and Prince Junior|
|Star Camera Works||Ueda Shashinki-ten||own manufacturing branch
(1910s and 1920s)
|Tokyo Camera Works||Sone Shunsuidō||own manufacturing branch
(1910s and 1920s)
|Top Camera Works||Asahi Shōten||Earth Kōgaku or a successor||Top|
|Victor Camera Works||_||Motodori||Victor folders and Auto Victor|
|Walz Camera Works||Nihon Shōkai||perhaps Okada Kōgaku||Walz (3×4)|
- In katakana, it is カメラ・ワークス, whose standard romanization would be kamera wākusu.
- The name The Olympic Camera Works appears on the cameras themselves, and mention of "O.C. Works" is found in an advertisement in The British Journal Photographic Almanac 1938, pp.694–5.
- The name TOP CAMERA WORKS appears on the camera itself, but not in the original documents seen so far.